Basset and Bluebonnet by Karl Franklin
Basset and Bluebonnet
By Karl Franklin
I was up early (4am) this past week because the power was off. I couldn’t do much (except think and pray, which has continued), and I wasn’t tired. It had started to rain about the time I got up, which was special—it reminded me of the many days and nights we lived in the Kewa village in Papua New Guinea—no electricity, lots of rain, silence, blackness. It is a great time to reflect and contemplate.
It was the first day of Spring, so later Joice and I went for a walk in a park, one resplendent with the bluebonnets that Texas is famous for this time of the year. I took photos but they don’t do justice to the wild blue—really dark blue—bonnets. There was a large field of them, with some Indian Paint Brush scattered throughout.
People are “social distancing,” and we are into the second week of our self-imposed two-week quarantine because of coronavirus COVID-19. At the park, we met a woman and her small daughter and their large basset hound, which looked something like this, but perhaps not quite as fat:
He was not unfriendly but retreated three or four paces, following the accepted protocol for “canine distancing,” which the President believes can be somewhat more tolerant than for humans. I would have liked to pet him, or at least have said “hello,” but neither the dog nor its owner wanted to talk. Of course, we are old, and because there is speculation that the disease can be transmitted from animals to humans, we must be careful—the Center for Disease Control may have a drone in the area.
I wondered what the dog was thinking—because dogs think a lot. I know because I have watched our family dog—it is a Dachshund named Pretzel—think, especially when it wants to eat. It (who was once a “he”) will have a very eager look in its brown eyes, small spots of saliva will appear in the corner of its mouth, and it will start running about madly. There is no doubt that it thinks it is time to eat. Dogs do not have good manners so anything that drops on the floor is considered food, even a hearing aid, which our dog once sampled. (It hears much better now.) Most dogs also think a lot about sleeping. Pretzel is no exception, but he likes to have his “blanket” in proper order, meaning balled up in a mess, so that he can find the appropriate depression in which to lie. That often takes two or three minutes of thought.
Dogs have feelings and they don’t like it when you scold them. There are many idioms that reflect the contribution of dogs to the English vocabulary. Here are a few of them:
- “It’s a dog’s life,” means that someone, including a dog, is loved and treated like a member of the family. Looking at Pretzel, curled in the chair on his favorite blanket, the meaning comes across perfectly.
- “A dog-eared book” is one that has the top corner of certain pages folded so the reader can easily find them again. It turns out that many books end up with more than two ears and might be able to repeat what they hear.
- “Dog-tired” means that you are so exhausted that you can’t do anything but slump into a chair or bed. Humans often are like this when they watch TV or eat too much.
- “Dog days” are common in Texas summers, when it is hot and stuffy, so the citizens sit outside and sip tea (or beer). The Old Farmer’s Almanac says these are the 40 days beginning on July 3 and ending on August 11.
- “Let sleeping dogs lie” is a warning not to arouse someone who is comfortable because you may cause a problem. The dog may not like to get up and will bite you for bothering it. It is the best advice to follow when confined because of COVID-19.
- “Barking up the wrong tree” refers to what a bad coon hunting dog would do. Instead of a coon, there might be a porcupine up there. You may be barking up the wrong tree if you call a government agency and expect a bailout.
- “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is probably true, but who wants an old dog to do tricks anyway? Stick with the ones the old dog knows.
- “It’s raining cats and dogs” refers to the bad storms that occurred during Victorian times when street drainage was poor and pets would be left in the streets at night. They would drown and their bodies would be strewn across the streets, making it look like it had rained cats and dogs. (Tell that to your garbage collector.)
Those are a few examples of dog in our lexical history. And why not? Because the dog is “man’s best friend” (women like cats more) and can help us get through our self-imposed quarantine.
I would like to go back and meet that Basset hound again and try to be friends. Proverbs tells me that there is a “friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” but right now that friend is not allowed to stick close. I remember the sad look of that dog and believe he would sticketh closer.
Day 10 and counting
self-imposed COVID-1- quarantine
Karl and Joice Franklin