November 12th, 2006

ozarque figure

Eldering and cantankerousness; afternote...

In response to my post about cantankerous elders, geojlc commented:
"It may be that they feel they need someone to growl at. I loved my grandfather a lot, but I had a hard time being too near him for any length of time (verbal patterns that really hurt when I lived with him for a year). He seemed to mellow quite a lot after he got a dog. He would growl and rough play with the dog, and the dog took it all in and kept loving Grandpa. In turn, Grandpa seemed to be nicer and more mellow with the rest of us..."

Yes. For sure. I think every elder who is reasonably able-bodied and able-minded should be issued a dog as part of Medicare -- a dog of a suitable size and rambunctiousness, carefully chosen for that particular elder, not a generic dog.

When you have a dog you have to get up and move around several times a day to walk that dog, no matter how inclined you are just to sit in one spot and read or watch television or do something on your computer. It gets you outside, it gets you moving, and the dog rewards you with unconditional love.

Having a dog also means an elder has something he or she is allowed to touch, and with so many elders touch-starved that's yet another major benefit. Cats are wonderful too, but you don't have to walk them; if the elder is able to get around, a dog is the better choice. I know elders for whom their walks with their dogs are the only exercise they get, and it does them a tremendous amount of good.

It would save money for Medicare to provide every dogless elder with a dog, even if they had to also provide the dog's food and medical care.
ozarque figure

Eldering; Granny D's example; cattle...

While I was eating my breakfast this morning, NPR was providing me with not only the story of Granny D but also a chance to hear some examples of her speaking. Wonderful, that was; purely wonderful. I'm sure you all know about Granny D -- Doris Haddock -- who at 89-going-on-90 walked from Pasadena, California to Washington DC to get attention for campaign finance reform, because she wanted her greatgrandchildren to grow up in a genuine democracy. [If by some freak of chance you don't know her story, you can read about it: at; or in "The Road To Reform: Granny D Has Hiked 3,200 Miles To Rally The Citizens To Reform Campaign Finance Laws," at ; or at the Granny D website -- , where there's also a link to her speeches.]

What really got my attention in the NPR account was the part about the 100 miles of Granny D's 14-month trek, when heavy snow had made the roads unwalkable, and Granny D (actually GreatGranny D, you perceive) just hauled out her cross-country skis and went right on. Now that, Gentle Reader, is a class act.

Like me, Granny D wore a back brace; unlike me, she wasn't afraid of cattle. Me, I couldn't walk from here to the nearest real town -- not because I couldn't walk the distance, I could do that twice over, easily -- but because it would mean walking past cattle. It's true that they're usually behind fences, but that doesn't help; I am absolutely confident that they would leap over the fences and attack me on sight. As for walking across open-range states, the way Granny D did... no way. I couldn't do that; at gunpoint, I couldn't do that.

When we first moved here to the Arkansas outback, my border collie and I used to walk from my house to the mailbox up at the gatepost to pick up the mail, one-third of a mile each way. [Although the things that heavy rains do to the dirt road sometimes make changes in that distance. Make that one-third of a mile, give or take twenty feet or so, depending on how recently there's been a hard rain.] And one afternoon I was headed back to the house with the mail in my hand, reading a letter as I went along, and suddenly found myself in the middle of a herd of stampeding cattle. It seemed to me that there were hundreds of them; probably there were twenty-five, maybe thirty.

The only reason I didn't die of terror on the spot is that it happened so fast. One second I was just walking along reading a letter; the next second I was surrounded by rampaging cattle; and one second ... maybe two seconds ... later, I was staring after those cattle as they roared down the road, tore through the bottom meadow, and disappeared into the woods at the river. My heart stopped for those seconds; fortunately, a heart can survive stopping for that many seconds.

I don't remember how I got home; I would have been scared out of my mind that the herd would turn around and come right back at me, and there were no trees to climb. I've suppressed the whole thing. Obviously, I did get there somehow, because here I am today, having lived to tell the tale. But I have not walked to the mailbox -- or down to the river -- since that day. My own grandmother used to go pick up the mail driving a ponycart pulled by a matched pair of young deer from her father's deer park. But even if I'd had her advantages I still wouldn't have gone after the mail, ever again; I don't think a pair of young deer are any match for rampaging cattle.

Granny D, on the other hand, must have walked placidly past thousands of cattle, many of them huge bulls and steers, many of them longhorns. Brrrr.