Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A sick soul and Jessica

 [written 3-23-16]

I had the thought long ago that I might get a pup after losing Susan.  I didn't think about it seriously, but it was still there; so when I began checking to see what was out there -- not thinking I was especially serious, I found a breeder in Missouri who was selling Irish Terriers as pets.  She seemed to fit my interests exactly.  She doesn't seem associated with the AKC; which I had come to mistrust.  She is a bit like an Airedale breeder Larry Jr has been interested in.  These breeders get a lot of criticism from AKC purists, but they aren't tempted to breed for contest winning -- maybe their lines will be a bit healthier.  I can only hope.  They can't be any worse than what I got recently from the Ginger and Sage AKC breeder in Arizona.  The New York AKC breeder of Ben predicts Ben will be healthy and live a long time, but he has been wearing out on recent hikes -- worrying me a little.  He stops in the shade with his tongue hanging and then comes running, huffing and puffing, to catch up.  Meanwhile Duffy, who came from a breeder similar to the Irish Terrier breeder, runs up and back, up and back with inexhaustible energy.  Duffy will be six in May.  He's six months older than Ben.

Ben is probably okay.  He runs about the study from time to time -- runs down stairs and out into the back yard where he fence-fights with the backyard neighbor's dogs for a few seconds, his booming basso-profundo contrasting to the little yips of the min-pins, and then dashes back upstairs expecting a treat.  That sounds healthy enough but he ought to be able to hike further than I can.

I haven't felt much like writing poetry the last couple of months.  Maybe that is too strongly associated with Susan at present.  I resolved to concentrate on poetry and I will most likely go back to it, but I have an idea for another novel and I am not functioning under anyone's rules or expectations at the present time.  I had resolved to work on novels after I retired.  It was something I was looking forward to, but after about seven of them I burned out.  Larry Jr is collecting them and believes he will do something with them one day.  He was hoping I'd write another (I guess that is an expectation but not an unpleasant one).  And then there is a novel I was half-way through before I decided to give up and do other things -- none of that taking time away from worrying about and taking care of Susan, but I discover that in thinking about and working on the novel -- as well as thinking about the arrival of a pup in a few months I am cheering up.

The American philosopher William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience classified people as "sick souls" and "healthy souls."  I read this book years ago and think the data he had was mostly about Catholics, nuns, monks, priests -- religious people notable enough to be written about, and I might not be remembering correctly.  But if I am, the "sick soul" is one who can't let go of his sin.  He dwells upon it and continues to ask for forgiveness but he doesn't seem to really expect it.  I have read the biographies of Calvinists who were in this category as well.  The "healthy soul" on the other hand accepts God's grace, accepts that God has truly cast his sin as far as the east is from the west, and since it is gone, has a cheerful outlook and functions well in the world.  Susan and I for most of our marriage seemed to be in the "healthy soul" category, and even when she was getting sicker her attitude was very good.  I think though that I may have slipped into the "sick soul" category -- not about sin; just my attitude.

A bad attitude is sinful but I wasn't thinking in those terms.  I was unhappy with the way life had turned out, as though with the end of Susan I was at loose ends as well.  Of course I had responsibilities.  I needed to look out for Larry Jr.  He needed and still needs a lot of financial care.  Then, of course, there are the dogs, Ben and Duffy, but they are approaching the ages at which I lost Sage (age 7).  Did I really want to wait until I lost Ben or Duffy before getting another dog?  Also, maybe I'd feel too sad at the loss to think clearly about it.  Would I really want a sad dog from the pound?  There are (sick souls?) who urge people to get pound dogs and the dog won't necessarily be a sick soul itself, but sometimes it will.   I found two Airedales at the local pound at different times and bought both of them for Larry Jr.  The first, Winston, had a very good attitude, but there was something physically wrong with him and after a few years he died suddenly.  The other Airedale, Samson, was a sick soul sort.  He had been abused by his previous owner and it took Larry Jr a very long time to win him over.  Then after a relatively brief time of their being happy with each other Samson died.

Of all the breeds I've studied, at least the ones I thought I might under some circumstances be happy with, the Irish Terrier was far and away the healthiest (according to the statistics I had at hand).  it was the smallest breed that would still (in my opinion) be a first class hiking dog able to deal with any sort of wild animal, especially coyotes.  I first read about Irish Terriers when I was researching the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  The Irish Terrier is one of the breeds believed to be part of the foundation stock of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  It was a popular hunting breed in South Africa.  Hunters would use it to go after lions, but like the Airedale the Irish Terrier would eventually get pissed at the Lion and take it on.  This resulted in a rapid turnover of Irish Terriers and Airedales, but it is a good indication of the Irish Terrier character, and from what I understand not as much has been done to alter the character of the Irish Terrier.

Larry Jr knew of an Irish Terrier that lived near him in Apple Valley who was attacked by a pack of coyotes in his yard and killed two of them before the rest ran bleeding off.  He wasn't impressed with it however.  I asked if the Irish Terrier looked beat up, and he said he didn't.  He just lay in his yard looking surly.  I expect though that my little female Irish Terrier will be much more cheerful.  We do cheerful things.  I don't leave our dogs out in the yard to fend for themselves.  At least I am expecting Jessica to be cheerful.

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