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Little old lady in the sun

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Link: America’s love affair with the car more of a forced marriage?

No Impact Man has a good post, which includes the above-mentioned article as well as some other observations. There is a lot of good discussion in the comments as well. We’d heard about the GM antitrust prosecution before, in The End of Suburbia. GM was also responsible for killing the EV-1 electric car.  The auto industry has blocked the implementation of emissions and fuel economy regulation, resisted any attempt at regulation, seemingly deliberately stalled on developing alternative fuel vehicles, and of course lets not forget GM gave us the Hummer. And now they want a handout. If it wasn’t for the sheer number of people who would be jobless if the automakers folded, I would say let them rot; as it is I am not sure what the best solution would be. A no-questions-asked handout to bail out their sorry asses is NOT it.

Last One Out is a Rotten Egg

This story is in memory of Lilly, who passed away at the ripe old age of 15 a few years back. We still think of her whenever we see rubber rat Halloween toys…

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Sometimes even bad situations have their amusing side. A good example of this would be the time our house was broken into and ransacked when we were living in Tucson, AZ.

A bit of back-story is necessary for this one, mainly involving our dog Lilly and a game that we had gotten for Christmas a few months before the break-in. Lilly, for those who never got to meet her, was a forty-five pound white and brindle Pit Bull who had two gears: sloth mode, which is how she spent 98% of her time, and ‘berserk’. Berserk mode was generally triggered by squeaky toys or rubber Halloween decorations and involved bloodcurdling wails and the attempted annihilation of the offending object. This probably sounds more menacing than it actually was; Lilly was good-natured with people, dogs, and cats, and her kamikaze attacks upon items such as two-foot rubber rats were actually a great source of amusement, for the most part. The fact that she also was bent on ridding the planet of lizards, toads, and other small wildlife was not so much fun… but that’s another story altogether.

OK, so it was perhaps immature on our part, but we’d often bring one of her squeaky-toy mortal enemies out of it’s hiding spot, show it to her and then make it disappear again, just to see her come hurtling across the room with an enraged shriek, and then we’d giggle as she’d stomp all over the house with her brow crinkled up, snorting like a bull. She’d be on full alert for a good ten minutes before returning to her previous sun-drunk stupor, and hey — it was a more entertaining way to ascertain if she was actually still breathing than, say, holding a mirror under her nostrils. (actually the loud snoring usually gave away the fact that she was sleeping rather than dead).

Enter the Rotten Egg. This was a game we got from our friends Chris and Paul as a Christmas gift. If I recall correctly, once the batteries were inserted, you passed the egg around the room, recorded your names into it, then had to quickly toss it back and forth to whichever person whose name it played back. Of course, the real use for the Rotten Egg quickly became evident (ok, let’s be totally honest, it was bought with Lilly in mind) the first time we tried to play with it around Lilly. Let’s see, large rubber object with glaring goggly eyes that four humans are excitedly tossing back and forth, that has the nerve to actually be making noise… it was quickly determined by our resident monster-slayer that the Rotten Egg Must Die.

And so after we’d gotten as much mileage as we could out of tormenting Lilly with the egg (yes, the fun of having a good sized dog try to run up the side of your body shrieking like a banshee does lose it’s amusement value after a few moments)  the Rotten Egg had to be permanently banished to the back of the top shelf of the coat closet by the front door, lest it be reduced to bite-sized colorful shreds. Every now and then, we’d show it to her briefly and then quickly shut the closet door; after a few times all we had to do was rattle the doorknob to bring her running at full speed. And then eventually, we mostly forgot about it.

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Back in the spring of 2000, we were living in a rental house in east Tucson in what was maybe not the greatest neighborhood. I was working at an animal clinic, and worked half days on Saturdays. I arrived home around one o’clock in the afternoon and noticed as soon as I came home that I could hear Lilly barking her head off. Joy was working at a different vet clinic and had taken Lindsy to work with her to give her a bath, so it was just Lilly, the Chihuahuas (who were crated in the kitchen during the day) and the cats in the house at the time.

The house was shaped rather odd, with two of the three entrances on the front — one being a door into the utility room of the kitchen, where we usually entered, and the other a few feet beside that being the front door, which had a screen door that I was currently hearing Lilly barking through. I thought to myself, “Joy must have left the front door open when she left,” (we often did this when we were home, so that the cats could look out the screen door) but was puzzled as to why Lilly was barking — that was unusual for her. I entered through the kitchen door as usual, still wondering about this.

As I came into the kitchen the first thing I saw was sugar cane disks (which we kept as a treat for Merlin, our pet rat at that time) scattered all over the kitchen floor. The sugar cane had been in the refrigerator, and I was confused as to how it got all over the floor. Next, I realized that Mouse and Igor, the Chihuahuas, were being unusually quiet in their crates, and when I looked over to that area I saw that the large picture window beside them had been smashed! My first thought, of the many I could have had when faced with the evidence at hand, was “holy crap, Lilly has finally gone completely nuts and tried to jump through a window.” This brought my focus back to the still-barking dog in the living room…

Exhibit # 3 was spotted on the way into the living room: one glass jar that formerly held about two pounds of dog cookies, now empty on it’s side. I revised the scenario I had been building in my head, which involved Lilly both opening the fridge door and smashing a window, to include her getting the jar off the counter and eating all the cookies (the fact that this would have required opposable thumbs and a stepstool didn’t ever cross my mind) and I went to see what other destruction had been carried out…

Lilly was standing in the front hallway looking wild-eyed, though she had stopped barking when she saw me walk into the living room. She was surrounded by a pile of coats and jackets that had been hanging on the coat tree, and the coat tree itself was now laying on it’s side blocking the hallway. What the hell had gone on here!? I was still in a sort of confused daze, trying to piece together the bizarre scene I had walked into, as I walked down the hall to locate all of the feline household members and make sure everyone was OK, since in addition to the other chaos and calamity all of the cats were noticeably absent.

First stop was the master bedroom… every dresser drawer was open, clothes were strewn about, the closet door was open, and on the bed was an open — and empty — gun case. It took about two seconds for the puzzle pieces to all fit together, finally: WE HAD BEEN ROBBED!!! And on the heels of that thought came ‘they could still be in the house, and they have the gun!’ I quietly backed out of the room, grabbed Lilly by the collar and the cordless phone from the end table as I went back through the living room, and hurried back to my car. I locked Lilly and myself in the car, called 911, and waited anxiously for the police to arrive; I knew it was not safe to go in the house before they got there but I was frantically worried about the rest of the animals.

It seemed like an hour before the police arrived, but in reality it was pretty quick. After they had deemed that the perpetrator(s?) were no longer on the scene, I was allowed back inside, and determined that all four cats were present and unharmed, as were the Chihuahuas, (there was glass all over their crates but thankfully they didn’t get cut), the snakes, and the rat.

There were a few funny points in this, like finding the little wooden ‘treasure chest’ where Joy kept her collection of coins and paper money from around the world, overturned on a bed but nothing missing — someone must have briefly thought they’d hit the mother lode before realizing it wasn’t anything they could spend. Another amusing moment was when the officer opened the door to the room we were using as an office, saw the Gateway computer I’d been working on trying to fix sitting in the middle of the room with it’s motherboard, hard drive, and other inner workings spread out around it, and said “oh, sorry it looks like they vandalized your computer!” and I had to respond, “uh, no… actually I did that.”

Someone had carefully jimmied open the tiny window of the enclosed back porch and crawled through it, then smashed the picture window between that room and the kitchen to get in. And nothing, other than the aforementioned handgun, was missing. Apparently they’d had time to go through the entire house at their leisure (while Lilly ate two pounds of dog biscuits) but then appeared to have left out the front door in a hurry without taking anything else. The police said that it was probably kids, and they dusted for fingerprints but didn’t anticipate anything would come of that.

I was very shook up over the whole thing; it’s hard to describe the violated feeling of having someone invade your house like that, but mostly I was very, very relieved that things hadn’t gone much worse. I could have surprised the burglar or burglars while they were still here, and made myself into the latest advertisement for why having a gun in the house is dangerous by getting shot with my own handgun (which had been given to me years ago as a gift, for ‘self protection’). Lilly could have been shot, or the screen door, which had a broken spring closure and a sticky latch, could have been left wide open and Lilly or the cats could have gotten out and been killed on the busy road. Having the house broken into was horrible, but it could have been much worse.

Of course, the irony  was that, on the other hand, if Lindsy had not been with Joy they probably never would have gotten in to begin with. Lilly was not what you’d call an alert watchdog, and probably was asleep on the couch when they broke in, whereas Lindsy would have been on the spot barking right when they first started fiddling with that window, and my guess is that they would have decided to back off and try an easier house rather than face a seventy pound snarling dog.

After they left and we were cleaning up (Joy had come home as soon as I called and arrived shortly after the police did) we tried to puzzle out how things had happened. The cats must have taken off and hid when the window was smashed, and the Chis probably barked (though they’d clearly been scared silly and were unusually quiet when I first arrived) but really couldn’t do much from inside their crates. Lilly was most likely asleep on the couch when they smashed the window, and then wandered into the kitchen to see what the noise was. We figure they must have been trying to feed her things from the refrigerator to pacify her (hence the sugar cane and cookie jar) while they cased the house. Judging from the empty cookie jar and the bloated, farting dog, this strategy had been at least somewhat successful, but Lilly was definitely agitated when I arrived, and when I checked her over I found dirty shoe-prints on her ribcage. Apparently there had been some sort of scuffle with her and we figured that they had thrown coats at her and used the coat tree to keep her at bay while they took off out the front door.

As I stood the coat tree back up and started hanging the coats back on it, I realized that we’d had way too many coats on it, and I might as well take the time move a few to the hall closet while I was at it. Then I noticed the hall closet was slightly ajar… and the stuff we’d had on the shelf in front of the Rotten Egg had been moved, exposing the toy. Hmmmm…

We began to see a scenario unfold as to how things might have gone: one or more kids break into the house, confronted by a wary — but not particularly aggressive — dog. She probably wasn’t happy to see them, but had no problem chowing down on the cookies they fed her while they wandered about the house opening drawers and closets deciding what to take. Everything probably went pretty well until they got to that hall closet…

I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the complacently cookie-crunching pooch suddenly turned into a screaming, raving monster bent on what they had to have assumed was their imminent slaughter.  The coat tree was probably used as a shield until they managed to unlock the front door, open it, and throw themselves out the screen door, closing it securely to keep the maniac hell-hound trapped on the other side! Again, we’ll always be thankful that they didn’t use the gun on her, but I suspect that her sudden Jekyll and Hyde impersonation probably caught them so off guard they just took off in a panic.

Of course this is just a theory, but the white head that popped up, scowling and bug-eyed, over the arm of the love seat when I fiddled with the closet door (between the bellyache from the cookie overdose, and the sore ribs, she didn’t actually get off the couch but she was on alert the minute she heard that door) seemed to support the scenario we came up with.

I guess the moral of this story, if there is one, is that as far as home security measures go, I’d definitely rate a Rotten Egg higher than a handgun.

This is going to give me nightmares

And since I’m already posting bizarre cat videos…

…here’s another one, for those who might have missed it linked in our comments recently.