Bela

belaAnnie and I euthanized our dog, Bela, on January 2nd of this year. I still think about her every day. It probably seems strange to some people that an adult man can get so attached to a pet — when I was in high school the ‘cool kids’ made fun of me because they would see me walking the family dog (instead of, I suppose, hanging out with them — but I like more animals than people). Perhaps Bela’s end seemed so sad because her last weeks were not happy ones and I feel responsible for that. Bela didn’t want to go to the vet… the veins in her legs had collapsed because of her bad circulation and both the vet and the technician had a very had time injecting the solution that they used to euthanize her. The whole time they were working on her, she was looking up at me and crying; it was clear that she wanted to leave… even though she could barely walk any more. I held her head in my hands, in part because I thought it comforted her and in part because I was worried that she would try to bite the doctor or the technician.

Bela originally came to us with the name ‘Bella,’ but ‘Bella’ seemed a presumptuous name for a clumsy white puppy that liked to hide under our bed and nip at ankles as people walked by. As she grew, she became more graceful, but she also became extremely protective. When she saw strangers or dogs she didn’t know, her hackles rose up and she would snap and snarl. Although she liked our other dog, Gretel (who died of cancer 6 months before Bela was put down), she hated almost all other dogs and even once attacked a neighbor’s dog as it was walking by (resulting in an expensive vet bill for us, a gift basket for the owner and reduced privileges for Bela). Annie couldn’t walk Bela because the dog’s behavior made Annie nervous. Bela became my responsibility and Gretel was Annie’s dog.

I liked walking Bela even though she was what most animal behaviorists would describe as ‘difficult.’ When we saw other dogs on the path, I would keep Bela on a short leash and make her sit and wait as the other dog and its owner passed by. Bela didn’t like having to trust strangers not to attack us, but she learned to trust me to handle these situations; part of what I learned from working with Bela was what I came to call ‘the anxiety loop.’ When Bela saw other dogs, it made her anxious. Her anxiety led to aggression… so when I saw other dogs on the walks, I would begin to tense up, thinking that I was going to have to struggle to maintain control of Bela (especially when the other owner did not have control of their animal). Bela interpreted my anxiety as me being worried about being attacked and would try to defend me. This was the ‘anxiety loop.’ As I learned to remain calm when I saw another animal approaching, Bela found it easier to maintain her composure as well. I find it difficult to describe how satisfying I found it to work with Bela over time and gradually see her behavior improve. Bela had imprinted upon me and would have given her life for me, but had also become a very valued friend to me. In the evenings, when I was sitting and reading or working on the computer, she would lay in the hall or on the bed nearby. When we watched TV, she would sometimes climb up and sit in my lap (yes, I had a 50 pound dog that liked to sit in my lap). She was never a ‘friendly dog’ to strangers or other dogs, but she was fiercely loyal and protective. We used to leave the doors unlocked because Bela kept careful watch.

Last Christmas, we had made reservations at our kennel to keep Bela over the holidays. We were driving down to Saint Louis to see my family and would be away for a week. Stays at the kennel had started to get harder on Bela as she got older. Even though she had her own compartment and run, she didn’t like being in close proximity to so many other dogs and hated being away from home. I think time at the kennel had gotten harder for Bela after her friend Gretel died. Her hearing and eyesight were failing, her legs were arthritic and probably painful and her kidneys and liver were failing as well. Her walks got shorter and shorter. After we picked her up from the kennel just after Christmas, she seemed OK at first, but perhaps her stoicism was fooling me… or maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself that my best friend was dying. She would drink a lot of water and sometimes just stand, gazing into space, while breathing loudly. She barely wanted to go out at all. Sometimes she would stumble and have to sit down. These ‘stumbles’ were becoming more and more frequent. The day after the New Year, Annie made Bela some scrambled eggs with cheese and then we took her to the vet for the last time.

I still miss her every day.


Edward Gorey

Would Edward Gorey even be able to find someone in the US willing to publish his work if he were working today? I grew up with Gorey’s books and loved the humor, his fantastic drawings and his weird characters… but somehow suspect that humorous references to pedophilia (like in the below limerick poem) or alphabet books about children getting killed in various tragicomic ways (The Gashlycrumb Tinies) just wouldn’t fly in 2015… but the actual children’s books I was given as a very young child were probably pretty sick by today’s standards*, so what the hell do I know?

The Proctor

*I grew up with books like Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter or Busch’s Max und Moritz that claimed the high road by insisting that they portayed children being burned, maimed, attacked by animals, etc., in order to scare the little fuckers out of misbehaving. I don’t believe that they actually worked that way — looking at the picture of the kid who got his thumbs cut off or seeing Max & Moritz ground up in a mill probably got me MORE interested in what was dark and twisted rather than less.


Wound Man

Anyone who has been following OSR or DCC stuff on the internet has probably seen the medieval ‘wound man’ illustrations that people have been sharing. These are illustrations from old texts that show the many possible ways that people can get skewered, slashed, crushed, slit, etc.  Here is a 16th century ‘wound man’ illustration by Hans Von Gersdorff that I nicked off of wikipedia (click to make bigger):

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And here is another one I found somewhere on the net somewhere (I don’t know the artist in this case, click to see bigger):

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Lots of folks have suggested that these illustrations would make excellent random charts. Inspired by these fine ancient illustrations as well as some tables that I have been illustrating for one of Harley Stroh’s new adventures for Goodman Games, with a nod to the house rules of Paul Gorman from the Quickly-Quietly-Carefully blog, I drew up my own ‘wound man’ and divided him into regions. One can paste this illustration into the bottom of a shallow box and when horrible damage is scored, toss a d6 into the box… where the dice lands tells you if the injury is suffered to the leg, head, arm, etc., and the number that comes up on the dice tells you how serious the injury is.  I like ‘Quickly-Quietly-Carefully’ Paul’s idea that if the player character is knocked to 0 hit points, you let them roll on the ‘critical wound’ chart to survive death with a single hit point and horrible injury.  I think people call it a “drop dice” table because you drop dice on it to use it.

(click to enlarge)

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I also included a version without text — print it out and add your own tables!

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Max

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After losing one dog to old age in January and another to cancer in July, the house was too quiet. Last weekend, Annie convinced me to go with her to the shelter where we adopted this little guy… I suspect pretty soon we will return to the shelter to adopt another so he can have a play mate. He only weighs about 30 lbs (I have never had such a tiny dog) but he is pretty well behaved aside from a few little quirks.


Charlie Hebdo

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Sad start to the new year

Bela last picture

I regret to announce that Bela, our faithful friend of 14 years, was put down today. We lost another dog, Gretel, back in July and Bela was still working hard to guard our house when we began to notice that she appeared to be very sick and was in a lot of pain, even though she was trying her best to ignore it. I would like to think that passing was kind of a mercy, but I’m really going to miss this faithful old friend.