The Kings of Denmark

It has been seven years since my fourth and last Doberman Pinscher died. I have thought about, maybe, some day, getting another one. Someone I used to work with said you can’t be loyal to a dog, but you can be loyal to a breed. But for some reason, I have mixed feelings about getting another Doberman. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to be loyal to a dog.

So occasionally when I think about another dog, I think about a breed other than a Doberman. One day about a month ago I told Leah, “Hey, we should get a Great Dane!”

Imagine a dog bigger than Leah! Imagine him lying on the sofa with us, or pushing us off the bed at night, if we let him sleep in bed with us. Imagine how much dog food he would eat. Imagine walking him. I used to think a Doberman was a big dog until I saw one of mine standing next to a Great Dane.

Planning for a new dog is not an urgent problem. We have three dogs, which is, at a minimum, one too many. Two is a full house, three is a madhouse. Of course Zeke is getting old. We will have had him 11 years this summer, so he will be at least 12. He’s still healthy, but he’s a graybeard now. Lucy is also a graybeard. We don’t know how old she is, maybe 12, maybe 14. She, too, is old but showing no signs of declining health. Sam is a real youngster. So I doubt that our dog roster will get any shorter for a while. But isn’t it good to plan?

So I was thinking, if we get a Great Dane, what will we name him? I’m not great at choosing names. Not an urgent problem, but no harm in checking, right? So what about naming him (or her) after one of the kings of Denmark?

I Googled the kings of Denmark, searching for a good dog name. I was amazed to see that the list goes back more than 1000 years, to Gorm the Old, who reigned from around 940 to 958 AD. He died at about 58 years old. Gorm? I don’t think so.

Then there are Harald, Sweyn, Cnut and Harthacnut. Harald is a possibility, but I don’t think I like it. Sweyn is too hard to say. Cnut (even Cnut the Great) won’t work. For one thing, it violates my first rule for naming dogs: you must be able to visualize yourself shouting the name at the top of your lungs, and you cannot shout Cnut. No way. Harthacnut is ridiculously long for a dog’s name, plus there’s that “cnut” hiding at the end.

Magnus the Good might work. Magnus was a bastard child who died without children at age 23 on 25 October 1047. I wonder how true that date is, and if it has been adjusted for changes in the calendar.

Olaf, Eric and Niels don’t seem like dog names. Valdemar is too much like a fantasy villain. Abel might work, but Christopher doesn’t. There are a lot of Christians and Fredericks, definitely not dog names.

The one thing the kings of Denmark seem to have in common, along with names unsuitable for a dog, was that most of them died young. Most of those who did not die in their 20’s or 30’s died before 60. A very few of the ancient kings of Denmark lived into their 70’s. The oldest I could find was Christian IX, who died in 1906 at age 87, a remarkable outlier. Of course the more recent kings or queens generally lived somewhat longer than the ancient kings of Denmark. But most of the kings of Denmark were younger than I am when they died.

I did not find a good king’s name for a Great Dane, except for possibly Magnus, but looking at their ages at death made me think about something else. When we humans get a pet dog or cat, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that that dog or cat is almost certainly going to die before we do. That’s true for most of our lives, but at some point, at some age, we have to understand that a new dog or cat could well outlive us.

Leah would like to have a Siamese cat, like she used to have, one that might provide some of the emotional interaction that none of our current cats does. I would like to have another Doberman, or maybe a Great Dane. Neither of us is morbidly waiting around for our current cats and dogs to die, but, realistically, they probably will all die before we do. And at that point we have to think about how we will ensure that our responsibilities to any new cat or dog are carried out if our pets outlive us. Neither of us expects to die any time soon, but both of us are at an age that, if a 30-year-old read the obituary, they wouldn’t say, “They died so young!”

Maybe we should consider adopting senior pets, if we live long enough.

Rusty Girl

It’s been two weeks ago today, Sunday, two days after Christmas, that we took Rusty girl to emergency vet.

Rusty and Dusty arrived with their mother after being dumped up here just after we moved in.

Dusty, Rusty and Chloe, 10 years ago

Dusty, Rusty and Chloe, 10 years ago

Chloe actually had three kittens. The third kitten was part Siamese. He was probably a Seal or chocolate point if you’re familiar with the breed. He looked all Siamese except that the tip of his tail was white. He was so different from Rusty and Dusty. They were partially feral but he wasn’t. He was so friendly and they were so shy. I am a “cat” person and wanted to keep all but we were able to find him a home. We went through years and years of animals being dumped and finding homes for them. It was mostly dogs rather than cats but we did have some cats.

Last summer Rusty had a persistent cough so we took her to the vet. She had not been to the vets in ten years, when they first showed up. She got her first and last set of shots then. I felt like when we took her last summer the vet just threw it off as allergies. He could have done a blood test, but he didn’t.

rusty lying

Rusty was such a sweet, shy, timid girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly. She and Dusty wanted to come in but were afraid. I felt sorry for them having to be outdoor cats. I fed them daily and watched over them for ten years.

rusty and dusty

Two weeks ago today Rusty, who I knew wasn’t well, had come around to the front porch and jumped on the railing that morning. I told Mark I didn’t see how she had the strength to jump that high and far. Something about her told me it was time to take her to the vet.

After the summer event at the vets I decided to go to another veterinarian. She diagnosed Rusty with Feline HIV. I couldn’t believe it. Where we live most of the cats are mine and the others are so far away I couldn’t figure out how she could have been infected. The likely culprits, Smokey and Sylvester, both tested negative. We have to test Chloe and Dusty next, but I doubt that they are infected.

The poor, little thing had a temperature about 10 degrees below normal and her breathing was labored. The vet said there was no hope for her, so of course I agreed to put her to sleep. I know she was in pain. So I did. I guess she’s in “kitty heaven” now. We buried her in the yard close to the cat house where she stayed so much.

Rusty on her house

Rusty on her house

I feel so sorry for Dusty now being alone, so I’m constantly going to see him and comforting him, trying to get him to come in. I hope by the time we move he will be coming in and giving Sylvester and Smokey hell for all the crap they did to the both of them for the past seven or eight years!

Smokey, not chasing Rusty and Dusty for a change

Smokey, not chasing Rusty and Dusty for a change

She was precious. I miss her.


Rusty and her mom

Rusty and her mom

One of her protected perches

One of her protected perches

Rusty, finding shade in the early days

Rusty, finding shade in the early days

Monster in the attic

My brother and I found this note stashed away among pictures and documents that my mother had saved. It’s from my mother to my father, who was called Vaughan, his and my middle name, by family.


It’s a little hard to read, so here’s what my mother wrote:


We have something in the cabinet over the stove or in the attic or in the vent pipe. It sounds big.”

Then, after the drawing of some kind of sharp-toothed and –clawed animal with a yawning mouth, my father replied:

“You think I’m going in the attic if it sounds like that?”

This note was from some time in the 1970’s I think. It was written on a little pad from the Celanese plant where my mother worked. I remember the incident; it was a mouse that had somehow fallen into the stud cavity in the kitchen wall and was unable to get out. We first heard it, then smelled it after it died. I fished it out after it became mummified.

I also remember adding the “something” in the drawing.

I don’t know exactly why my mother saved the little note along with so many other more understandable things, but I’m glad she did.

Sisyphus had it easy in my opinion

I haven’t been working on my tree-cutting/path-building project for the last few days because a completely unrelated project jumped to the front of the priority list. The real estate agent has found a buyer for the house my brother and I have had on the market since my mother died last year. We had done some cleanup but had left a lot of stuff in the house for two main reasons. The first is that we wanted it to look lived in. The second is that we are procrastinators. The buyers want to move in on April 15, so now we can’t procrastinate any longer.

We actually got a reprieve. The buyers originally wanted to move in on April 1.

My brother and I have been making trips to the house every so often. It’s easier for me than for him because he lives more than an hour away in Chattanooga.

My father, who died back in 2000, was a collector of stuff. It’s really hard to categorize a lot of it any more narrowly than that. He had a lot of tools, including some that look like they were designed sometime around the turn of the last century. He also liked to get power tools. Among the tools he bought was a stand-mounted drill press. It’s about as tall as I am. Its height is appropriate, because it weighs about what I weigh, too.

Now the Parises seem to have a thing for living on hills. My wife and I live on a hill, my brother lives on a hill, and so did my parents. Unfortunately, my father’s workshop is halfway down the hill from the front of their lot.

My father’s drill press is not only heavy, but also awkward to handle. It’s extremely top heavy, with a big electric motor mounted to the top. I had a hand truck, but when I tried to strap the drill press to it, it was so top heavy I couldn’t keep it upright. I had to take the cast iron base off and carry it upside down on the hand truck.

The next problem was that the ground is covered with a layer of dead leaves and pine straw, which makes for poor footing. There are also a couple of sets of steps my father built from concrete blocks. Did I mention that this thing is heavy? Well, it is, even with the cast iron base removed. I was not at all sure I was going to be able to make up to the front of the yard.

Suffice it to say, I got the thing all the way up into the carport, and here it is, still upside down.

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

My brother and his wife came down Saturday and we worked for a while going through other stuff. The hospital bill from my brother’s birth in 1947 (it was under $75, with a room rate of $7 a day). My mother’s high school diploma. Letters from my father to my mother before they were married. A nice note from my mother’s high school glee club instructor. The admission pass for a Civil Service exam my father took right out of high school. A box full of cameras. A set of notebooks with my mother’s budgets from right after the war. All the things people save for their children to go through after they die. Maybe I’ll write about a few of them later.