Monthly Archives: March 2013

Latro ergo sum


He is the alpha and omega of my day. I rise not to birdsong or cathedral light angling through the curtain gaps. No, this sleeper’s wake comes from the crescendoing whimper of a starving dog at the foot of the bed. At night, I take him out for his last sniff of grass in search of the perfect latrine.

Shackleton is not my raison d’être (reason for being) so much as my raison d’être en retard (reason for being late). However short on time I am, I find time to scratch behind his floppy ears, massage his chest and tell him how good he is, even when he’s not. I sniff his paws and note their earthy pong. I tell him how handsome he is, the most handsome dog on the planet, the most handsome dog in the universe. Hyperbole relaxes him.

He is not universally loved, nor does he love the universe. Shackleton scoffs at the fundamental concept of democracy, that all men are created equal. Hierarchy exists. Some are more equal than others. His split-second character judgments are fallible and sometimes unfair. While not racist, my dog is not free from prejudice and barks relentlessly at those hobbled by a limp or bound to a wheelchair. For whom the tail wags, he is a lucky one.

Although Shackleton is a cradle-to-grave dependent I can’t write off my taxes, he earns his keep by plying several trades. Nature gave him a menacing bark and wary disposition and forged a talented watchdog. He watches over the house, the truck and even Miles, the cat. No squirrel or raccoon will ever break in. He obviates the need for therapy and Valium. When Meg is not around to hear me rant, I tell Shackleton about various asswipes I’ve encountered. So I’m at the PCC and I need a jump start.. I have the cables hooked up and all I need is one person to pull up beside me. First person I ask flat out says no and offers no excuse. Second pillock says he needs to shop first and maybe he’ll do it afterwards. The most handsome dog in the universe listens quietly and licks my face. It relaxes me.

When I hear a paw rattling a supperdish against the floor, I ask Meg if Shackleton has eaten. Half the time the answer is yes. I tell the liar he’s busted. He rattles the dish again. I admire how he sticks to his story. Whether it’s tug of war or his campaign for food, Shackleton rarely gives up. It’s as though he lives life by his namesake’s motto: “By endurance, we succeed.”

Shack is Greenland in the Mercator projection,

taking up more space than he should

on any given plane: the bed, the couch,

the entire kitchen floor.

Short for Shackleton (not Shaquille),

Shack barks at foil wrap and chases the aging cat

with the belly heading south.

Not to seem unworthy of a name,

this Labrador is drawn to polar themes,

snow and cold and ice,

and navigates by the sextant in his nose.

His beauty knows no vanity, his indulgences no guilt.

His water dish is always half full

and he wags his tail as if to quote Thoreau:

“The only wealth is life.”

He leaps for the ball, thrown by a human

bred for such tasks, until overcome with

retriever’s ennui and digs a hole to Elephant Island.


Gym tools

Is there a correlation between strength and t-shirt tightness?

If you frequent a gym and observe the alpha male gym rat, you might be fooled into thinking so. The dude flexing in the mirror, the one with cringe-worthy form, always wears a snug, second skin of a top. Either that or a wife-beater.

I can’t help but notice the ego-driven antics of men in small shirts. In recent months, I have witnessed curious behavior by a tank-top-wearing fellow at the bouldering gym. He’s near-sighted and exhibits classic male-pattern baldness. He throws himself on problem after problem, each well beyond his abilities, and can’t manage the first move. I’m not sure if there’s a term for this, but I’d call it grade posing. I suppose the next best thing to sending a V4 is standing next to one. Plus, it’s good practice to fall six inches.

At my local sweat box, the Ostrich Egg Award for biggest yet most fragile ego goes to a short and squat fireplug of a man who subsists on protein shakes. He monopolizes the equipment by loading bars before he enters the locker room to change into his workout clothes. Once he’s in the weight room, he marks his territory with a towel or water bottle. Someone moved his muscle-building cocktail off a bench once. Near fisticuffs ensued forcing the owner to intervene.

This chap, who is taller when prone, renders the basic biceps curl into a violent, dynamic, full-body exercise. He insists on doing weighted dips, but you need calipers to measure his range of motion. Don’t try to spot him when he’s about to drop an overloaded bar on his neck. He freaks out. He can’t hear his own primal grunting; it’s drowned out by death metal pulsing through a ubiquitous pair of headphones.