Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
People in the grocery store always ask me the same thing: "Is it exciting being a big-shot newspaper columnist with naturally curly hair and steely blue eyes?"
I always give them the same answer: "Yes, it is very exciting." At least that’s what I used to say back in the days when it was possible to go to the grocery store without first slipping into a hazmat suit and disinfecting your entire body with hand sanitizer.
Back in the days before the pandemic began, my exciting life as a newspaper columnist consisted mostly of staying at home and staring at a computer screen while my two dogs snored at my feet and occasionally released noxious fumes into the atmosphere.
Now, as we struggle to cope with the "new normal," my exciting columnist’s life consists ENTIRELY of staying at home and staring at a computer screen while my two dogs snore at my feet and release eye-watering fumes into the air.
Don’t get me wrong. Occasionally I get to break the monotony by wandering into the kitchen to make a grilled cheese sandwich or fetch a Diet Coke or scratch myself, but mostly the more things change, the more they remain the same.
My wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, works at a local high school and has been able to visit her office every day, which means the dogs and I are left to fend for ourselves.
Fortunately, we have developed a system, which I believe is similar to the one employed by some of the world’s great writers, including Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling and the guy who came up with "It was a dark and stormy night."
Our two-pronged work-at-home-without-killing-each-other system has unfolded in the following manner:
Prong No. 1 — I call someone on the phone and attempt to ask them questions about how they have been going the extra mile to help others during the health crisis;
Prong No. 2 — The second I begin talking on the phone, the dogs begin barking at the decibel level of a nuclear explosion.
This system would be workable if the barking was brief in nature, but it is typically more violent and longer lasting than a (bad word) drum solo at a heavy metal concert. Consider an interview I did recently:
Me: "Hi, tell me about the wonderful things you have been doing?"
The interviewee: "Sure, I’ve been …"
My dogs: "BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!"
If this was the only problem in our dog-master quarantine relationship, I probably would not be complaining. But there have been other issues putting a strain on our home workplace.
For instance, in the good old days, when I would occasionally visit the office to interact with other humans, the dogs would have to stay at home and do whatever it is dogs do when we are not around, such as ringing up huge long-distance bills and chewing computer cables.
With me home all day, every day, however, the dogs have decided that, just like Hobbits, they need to eat something every 15 minutes, which they convey by sitting beside me at the computer and staring into my eyes with the sort of laser-like concentration required when you are watching a movie with subtitles.
The dogs will continue staring until I give them a treat, by which I mean an insanely expensive "soft" dog treat, because they have only about four teeth between them and are not able to eat inexpensive crunchy treats.
Which means that, every other day, we run out of chewy dog treats, forcing me to physically leave our home, drive to the pet store up the street, where I have to observe physical distancing protocols and disinfect my hands, to replenish our stock of pricey dog snacks.
(For the record, I don’t mind doing this, but some jittery customers have become so unhinged by the safety protocols they have picked up squeaky dog toys and thrown them at the pet store clerks’ heads.)
If they are not eating or barking, the dogs are demanding to go out in our backyard, which for the past couple of months has resembled a bog, because it has been damper than usual.
When I put them out back, our dogs resemble furry little cotton swabs or throw pillows, with marginally more teeth. When it’s time to come back in the house, however, they resemble Mucky Bog Creatures From Hell, because they are liberally coated with thick layers of muck from running around in the yard, which contains far more soggy dirt than grass.
My wife does not appreciate it if I allow the mud-slathered dogs to leave mucky footprints along our hardwood floors, so I have been forced to bathe them up to five times each day, which can be disruptive when you are trying to form professionally amusing thoughts in your brain.
Which is why my wife bought (this is true) a Pet Paw Washer, which is essentially a large plastic cup lined with silicone bristles. You put warm, soapy water in the cup, stick your dog’s paw into it, wiggle it around, and — POOF! — the paw is slightly less filthy than it was before.
So, yes, these are exciting times to be a newspaper columnist. My canine writing companions and I are committed to maintaining our routine until we’ve beaten this virus into submission.
For the moment, however, I need to slip into my hazmat suit and buy more chewy treats. I’d advise you to stay at least two metres away — unless you want to get beaned in the forehead with a squeaky toy.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.
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