Friday, November 19, 2010

Rip Van Winkle's Dog Descendant Found

Everything I need to know about sleeping
I learned from my dog...
Lately, I've been learning lessons in being laid-back and at ease no matter what is going on. My teacher is a dog.

Here follows, in brief, the true story of the 21st Century's current holder of the competitively judged, and much coveted, Rip Van Winkle Noble Nature in the Realm of Somnolence Prize. Said prize is awarded to honor outstanding achievements in snoozing and just plain being mellow.

Future Great One in Exile
See that handsome mug in the above photo ? For over a year no one wanted him.

He lived at a place called Rescue the Animals where he was treated kindly and spared the euthanizing propensities of the city pound. Yet the puppy that came from who-knows-where remained ignored. He stayed and stayed. He grew and he grew, but no one would adopt him.

Visitors to RTA always gravitated toward the bouncy, stereotypically cute dogs or the mutts that gave a strong hint of some breed. But what was this one? The staff at RTA had decided. The dog had a wonderful personality and wanted nothing more than to be petted. He wasn't the world's ugliest dog, yet there were aesthetic challenges that would never be overcome.

So they named him Bullwinkle. Which in our eyes was the cherry on the topping. This made him perfect.

- He never barked, which was a bit strange, but then we grew used to it and wow, a quiet dog!
- When he saw people his tail always began to wag like a crazed metronome
- After an early shock from an electrical cord, he didn't chew stuff up
- He turned out to be so submissive you could pick him up in your arms, turn him on his back and he just lay there
- The late 50s early 60s chestnut, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, was already our favorite cartoon show

A New Home
Bullwinkle came to us much like his cartoon namesake, Bullwinkle the moose. Bullwinkle the dog is homely, kindly, innocent about the evils in this world, and heroic without trying to be. The ultimate anti-hero.

Even though he's a dog, Bee-Dub's actually much smarter than the venerable moose, much of whose humor was occasioned by how the dense contents of what lay between his antlers led him to always bumble. Our Bullwinkle doesn't bumble. He sleeps.

And he sleeps. And he sleeps. No one makes it look easier.

As I try to remain Van Winkled (metaphorically asleep to the greater activity of the world) for the next nine months or so, I look to Bullwinkle for evidence that I can make it.

Laboratory studies show that the average dog or cat sleeps 13 hours a day. Bullwinkle manages 15 at a minimum and most of the time it's probably more like a world-class 18 hours a day.

Bullwinkle aka "Bee-Dub" in his campaign mode.
While he's awake he uses his energy mostly to let us know that he's interested in eating or going for a walk or being petted. For some dogs one might use the verb "lobby" to describe how they fuss or rub up against you or whine to let you know what they want. Bullwinkle requires a more powerful word.

Bullwinkle campaigns.

Like a general or a politician, he comes at us with all his forces, especially if he's campaigning for food. He's a multimedia animal whose attention-getting tricks include salivating, running around in circles, tail wagging, extending a paw. Perhaps because he does not have a "bark!" setting he's all the more animated and much more like Rocket J. Squirrel than Bullwinkle the moose at such moments. He's patient, too.

"Look," we'll say at three o'clock. "Bee-Wub's campaigning for dinner." He still has 90 minutes to go. Does he give up when we ignore him and go back to what we were doing? Hardly. Like Harold Stassen, who ran for president nine times, Bee-Wub stays on the campaign trail.

Once Bullwinkle gets what he wants, however, he exchanges his "Bull" for a "Van." Prepare to take notes. You're about to witness the work of a master.

9 a.m.: Satisfyingly fed and played with Bee-Dub wants to go outside and sack out in his little red wagon.

11 a.m.: There's nothing like a change of locale to encourage further sweet dreams. Bee-Dub switches to his canvas folding chair.

1 p.m.: Even those with fur coats can be sun lovers and work on their Coppertone tans. Besides, the grass looks awfully soft.

Mid-afternoon: How about a change-up? Bee-Dub wants to come inside. Still worshipping ol' Sol he nails down a patch of golden delight on the carpet in the master bedroom.

9 p.m.: It's been a hard day! After being walked around the neighborhood, Bee-Dub dens up on his blanket by the dining room table. He'll be there until the family rises and shines the following morning.

Thrilling Conclusion
The original Rip Van Winkle in the story by Washington Irving was ceaselessly faulted by his wife for being lazy and never tending to work that needed to be done around the home place. She essentially drove Rip out of the house and made possible the great adventure in napping that would make him one of the most famous of all American literary characters.

I am not an advocate of napping one's way to fame or fortune. The way I see it, life is the equivalent of a dance and all the opportunities are there and looking for a partner to go out onto the floor and start moving to the music. How can I sleep through that? A reality in the flesh is much better than one confined strictly to my dreams.

On the other hand, there are some dances that I might be better off sitting out. I can grab a little nap on the sideline while others get involved in the fray. Once the dust settles I can decide if there's anything worth standing up for and taking by the hand and partnering with.

I suppose I'm saying it's not always necessary to do that American thing of valuing action above all else. If something in my life happens that is the equivalent of the dog noticing a stranger at the door or reacting to the phone ringing or a truck rumbling past, I don't have to automatically jump up and start barking at them. It might be good to reflect first. Then I can take a considered course of action. I might even decide it's time perchance to sleep. Because, as Bullwinkle knows, there's always tomorrow. - V.W.


1 comment:

  1. We always refer to the pressure tactics of our dog (English bulldog) with that exact word: campaigning. Usually food is her goal, sometimes pats and play. (Nothing like having a ball pushed into your shin over and over again to get the message.) Like Bullwinkle, our dog also rarely barks but between her other vocal means and her non-verbal ops, she makes her needs known very effectively.

    Enjoy your (9-months more) sleep!