Thursday, February 18, 2016

When Life Gives You Snow, Build a Snow Maze

In a strange winter, when there is not anywhere as much snow as usual, but it’s been too cold for your Maltese dogs to take long walks, even if you know it’s going to melt in a day or two, make a snow maze, and let your three Maltese loose to chase each other all around.
That’s what I did yesterday. We had a little over a foot of snow behind the house, so after I finished snow blowing the driveway, I took my snow blower to the back and made a maze that ran in a curvy line about a hundred feet south, then turned east and ran about another fifty feet, turned north towards the house, but this time, looped around west in about twenty feet to join the original trail, then, another twenty or so feet down, turned east again and ran the length of the west cut, linked the two, then looped back once more around the whole thing to finish the job.
Once I got the snow blower put away, I built a wall of snow about two feet high at the point where the driveway and the maze met. (I learned from last winter, when the rascally one decided if a maze was fun, then running down the driveway into the road would be even more fun. I chased him. He thought this was even more fun—what great games daddy knows!  Never underestimate how fast a Maltese can run or how high it can jump ! Finally, I made an attempt at a shoestring tackle, but, of course, he evaded my grasp and I landed flat on my belly, convinced I was about to witness the end of one dog, squished by a car. Next thing I knew, HE WAS LICKING MY FACE. I grabbed him and decided I should have fallen down as soon as he got out of the maze.
But this year would be different. The great wall would see to that. I was now ready to get the dogs. We put hoodies on them, and turned them loose. We have three Maltese, one five and half pounds, one six and a half pounds, and one eight and a half pounds. Obviously, these are not big dogs. The snow was about twice their height. They ran like the wind, ears flapping, tails flying like white flags in the wind, overjoyed to be completely free of leashes, collars, any restraints. They barked to announce to the world this was their maze. Of course, the boys especially, pee’d everywhere. We just laughed and laughed at their total expressions of joy. And, of course, the feisty female tried to climb her way over the wall and get onto the driveway where we did not want her to go, but got caught up before she could reach the summit. The same rascally boy that made his getaway last winter tried to leap out of the middle of the maze and wound up floundering like a fish in a foot of powdery snow. And the well behaved one, well, he just ran and ran (and pee'd and pee'd). Finally, they decided they were cold and it was time to go back inside, get wrapped in a cozy blanket and fall asleep on the couch.
This morning, we all went out again. But the dew was off the punkin’. Yes, they ran. Yes, they pee’d. And yes, it was fun. But it was not the sheer joie de vivre of yesterday.  By afternoon, despite the cold temperatures, the sun had begun to melt things. Tomorrow it will be 45 degrees and the maze will be history. And yesterday, ah, yesterday, will be a wonderful memory.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What We Know For Sure About Things That Are False.

“Be true to your teeth and they’ll never be false to you,” my uncle used to tell me. I never understood that until…oh, a certain age. Now I do.
We’re coming up on George Washington’s birthday, which we Americans seem to celebrate ten or so days ahead of the actual date with mattress sales. Don’t ask me why. 
George Washington is famous for never telling a falsehood, at least according to popular mythology. He started losing his teeth in his twenties, owned several sets of false teeth - none of which were wooden, myth to that effect notwithstanding. One set was from gold, hippopotamus teeth and ivory, another from human teeth set in ivory. Human teeth? Yep. Forward thinking man, George Washington. Always looking for something new.  
Speaking of which, in 1882, the first patent for false teeth was issued to another American, Charles Graham. Nobody had thought of this before? Well, yes. Those hardy eaters the Etruscans had made the first set out of animal teeth about 700 BC. This remained the false tooth of choice for nearly 2500 years. But they wore out quickly, and needed constant replacement. (Your animals did not have durable teeth.) However, Charles Graham questioned what everyone “knew” about dentures and changed the lives of millions. His were the first truly durable and reusable dentures and they caught on, wobbly or not. Soon American bedrooms sported a pair or two of teeth soaking away in a bedside glass. As did the rest of the world. And in 2012, British researchers developed a procedure that might eliminate that creepy, smiling bedside glass of water. Doctors take stem cells capable of growing into a new tooth from the patient and implant them. Depending on the type of cell, it grows a specific type of tooth. What? Stem cells? Yes. However, not all stem cell research involves human embryos. (But you knew that, didn’t you?) 
The British research holds out the promise that no one will ever have to lose his uppers with that bite of an apple, and nursing home residents will no longer have the facility laundry mangle that pair of choppers that somehow lodged in a shirt pocket. More importantly, the nutritional deficiencies and diseases that come with losing one’s own teeth may become a thing of the past. All because of the stem cell research that was so nearly stopped in the 1990s.  
Science without ethics produces horrific things, but ethics without science prevents wonderful things. Just as most of us “knew” that Washington had wooden teeth, in 1490 some “knew” that the world was flat, and in 1615 that the sun revolved around the earth. So hoorah for Charles Graham, British researchers, and everyone who realizes that it’s not what we don’t know that hurts us, it’s what we know for sure that isn’t.