Children

I recently had an experience that reminded me how important it is to be a parent.  I am not a parent, just to be clear.  I just spend a lot of time in parks, and in the neighbourhood so I have plenty of opportunity to judge them.

You (in general), as a parent, are responsible for teaching a brand new person the ins and outs of life, and interacting with the world.  That’s a big thing!

Scene 1:

I was walking Gwynn through High Park after he’d gotten his spring hair cut this year.  Right out of his haircut, he looks like the most delightful teddy bear on earth to cuddle and squeeze and pet.  Beautiful day, tons of people around, and I was on my way to the dog off-leash area to let him run around a bit (and, as is inevitable, get some mud on the wheels, as it were.).

With that many people around I pay a lot of attention – make sure to keep Gwynn close when walking past that person who is looking nervous of him, or that kid holding an ice cream cone at dog-level, etc.

So I noticed when a girl – probably about 10 – locked on to Gwynn and began speed-walking away from her mother and directly towards Gwynn (from behind him), hands already outstretched.

Gwynn is friendly.  But He. Is. A. Dog.  And coming up behind a strange animal and surprising him with a random pet from a stranger?  Nuh uh.  And this is where I judge the kid’s mom, and intercede in the teaching of life-interactions.

Placing myself between Gwynn and the little girl, I told/asked her, “You know you always need to ask permission before going near a strange dog?  Right?*

I got a blank look in response to this, but at least she’d stopped moving forward.

“You have to ask, because the dog might be scared of people, or mean, or sick, or not like kids or surprises, but if you ask, I might say yes,” I add, when it becomes clear that Mom isn’t taking advantage of this teachable moment.

I get through to her.  “Can I pet your dog?” she asks.

“Absolutely!  He’s very friendly.”

End scene.  I really hope I got through to her, but frankly, I. Am. Not. Her. Parent.  or friend, or relative, or teacher/person of authority in her life.  There is just as much chance that she will go off and complain with her mom about that weird rude (possibly even that B word) who tried to lecture her about dogs, when her dog isn’t even not-friendly, so why? why?  And if her parents aren’t bothering with agreeing with me on this, then why would she?

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Why yes, he is friendly… but I’m friendly too until a stranger surprise-touches my butt

Scene 2:

Gwynn and I are walking through the park near me last weekend, on a pretty high traffic multi-use trail.  Enter a little boy on a bicycle going the opposite direction to us.  I moved off to the side, but that wasn’t necessary, because he came to a stop, dropped his bike and says, “Hi,  my name is (Let’s call him Timmy), can I pet your dog?”

Delighted, I said, “Yes!  And thank you for asking!  His name is Gwynn.”  And we spent the next few minutes talking about Gwynn, and bicycles.

Younger brother caught up, asked the same question, and, getting another enthusiastic YES-and-thank-you, started walking with his bike towards Gwynn.  Mom shows up on her bike at this point, and immediately says, “Stop and put your bike down, you’ll make the dog nervous.”

Brilliant.  As I walked away, I overheard the older kid telling his mom about how “That lady with the dog thanked me for asking if I could pet him!”

It warms the cockles of my heart, it does indeed.

directly after grooming

directly after grooming… everyone wants to touch him

In conclusion:

Parents: teach your kids proper animal etiquette.  Always ask, and always be gentle with animals are the rules they need the most.  And try not to pass your own fears of animals on to them.  Also, you are doing a fantastic job, in general (not that my opinion matters, here, but still.), at raising children and handling the screaming and the constant energy and the many MANY ‘Why?’ questions, and oh god, it just seems exhausting.

People with dogs: also educate kids if they don’t seem to know about the ask rule… and if they do know – make sure to let them know that them doing the right thing is AWESOME.  Because sometimes hearing something from a stranger can reinforce good behaviours that parents are teaching.

*Blog readers – you know this, yes?  If you didn’t before, you know now.  “Is your dog friendly?”, “Can/May I pet your dog?”… “Is it ok for my (child too young to speak coherently especially to strangers) to say hello to your dog?” And, regardless of what size a dog is, how happy he seems to be to see you, and how experienced you are with dogs, if the owner says ‘no’, then give them space!

A family History of Pets II

my aunt, and the dog before Mippy.  I suspect the conversation here would be, "Do you think we'll see santa?"... "santa?  I thought we were waiting for the butcher's truck!"

my aunt, and the dog before Mippy. I suspect the conversation here would be, “Do you think we’ll see santa?”… “santa? I thought we were waiting for the butcher’s truck!”

When my mom was very young, my grandfather got her a British bulldog with a pedigree and the papers to prove it.  His name was Mippy, and he was definitely not a bulldog.  I don’t think my grandfather had much experience in bulldogs.  I bet he thought their previous dog had been a ‘British bulldog’ too.  I never met him, but clearly he had a keen interest in knowing dog breeds.  They probably  guessed that he was a pit bull type dog when the police officer who came to their door jumped backwards off their porch and halfway across their lawn upon being met at the door by a small child restraining a loudly barking Mippy by the collar.

even in black and white - it's definitely the 'we got a dog!' pic

even in black and white – it’s definitely the ‘we got a dog!’ pic

In the rural south, at that time, you let your dog out in the morning and he roamed the fence-less neighbourhood in a pack of dogs until sometime around supper.  He had firm ideas of who he did and did not like, and he was very protective of the family.  Years and years later, my uncle found out that his friend, who Mippy wouldn’t allow into the house at all, had been in and out of prison for various assault charges since shortly after they’d lost touch in their teens.  Mippy seemed a bit fierce, but he loved his family just as fiercely, and, typical of a ‘nanny dog’ (an old term for pitties), kept the kids from playing too close to the street and kept watch over them.  He also trapped a would-be burglar by the hand in the door of their home for over two hours before the family returned home one time.  Looking at old pictures of my mom and Mippy, it is very clear that he was a lot more pit than brit… and that he was a wonderful family pet.

not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that... but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?

not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that… but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?

In a somewhat incomprehensible Easter tradition, my mother and aunt got goslings one year.  I don’t know if it’s still like that, but you could, at the time, give your kids chicks that had been dyed pink or blue as well, though thankfully theirs were not coloured.  Unlike most of the chicks given to children for Easter, theirs grew happily and healthily into adulthood, and eventually lived out their lives in the pond at a nearby park.  The family also raised and bred siamese cats, who, being southern, were adressed by the children as Miss May and Miss Lily, and Miss-whatever.  Because you don’t just address an adult by their first name, that would be impolite.

a few of the 'misses cat' and my mum

a few of the ‘misses cat’ and my mum

Growing up, my mother and her siblings always had cats, along with a variety of caught-lizards, frogs, chipmunks, and, very briefly, a snapping turtle that barely fit into the old bathtub they’d found for him.  That particular adoption of the wildlife ended when my grandmother demonstrated how easily the turtle could snap up an entire frozen sausage (aka finger).

Mippy and a kitten

Mippy and a kitten

My uncle got his scout badge for snake bite treatment when he had to actually treat my mother’s rattler bite.  She’s still got a scar on her knee from the teeth.  They all paid far too little attention to the seriousness of poisonous snakes in their barefoot romps through the bamboo swamp out back of their house, the one whose owner waded through the murky waters in hip-waders and used a shotgun to kill the Copperheads that lived there.  My mother is now terrified of all snakes.  We once found a tiny snake under one of our tents.  She became convinced (despite the tent’s being in Northern Ontario) that it was a copperhead.  A baby copperhead.  On the plus side, she let us catch it to bring to the nature center, and she never usually let us catch snakes.  We found out that Southern Ringneck Snakes are harmless and quite unusual to spot.

Moving to Canada, my mother’s family continued to breed Siamese cats.  When they went on a monthlong trip to Europe, they filled a massive trough in the basement with cat food and left the cat doors open. They came home to a mostly empty trough and the remains of a variety of small birds and rodents the cats had been supplementing their diet with.  Different times.

my mum and a calf.  She claims she never tipped any of the cows - she only watched as her cousins did so.

my mum and a calf. She claims she never tipped any of the cows – she only watched as her cousins did so.

My grandmother’s family has a farm in northern Manitoba, cattle.  Once they were up in Canada, my mother spent a number of her summers at the farm.  The family farm, as you’d expect, had a dog.  Hector.  As you might also imagine, there have been many farm dogs since the first dog to be acquired by the first farmer.  But still, Hector.

Hector

Hector

Also Hector... just a different one

Also Hector… just a different one.  My mom’s on the right, holding a cat.

Hector - though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal... they didn't have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule

Hector – though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal… they didn’t have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule

One of my favourite stories growing up was about my mother and aunt showing up at the farm for a funeral, the first time they’d been there in quite a few years.  No-one was home, so they found the hidden key, went in, and hung around until someone came home.  They didn’t think anything of this until a few days later when the present Hector wouldn’t let a person out of the car until a family member came out to greet them.  They still didn’t think anything of this until they found out that this wasn’t the Hector that had been around last time they were at the farm.  Hectors recognize family.

This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives.  And their little white fluffy dog.

This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives. And their little white fluffy dog.

When I hear stories of my mother’s childhood, I kind of imagine a cross between Indiana Jones, the early years, and Dr. Dolittle.

<— A Family History of Pets I ||| A Family History of Pets III —>

Grab the Bull by the… No

I have a dehydrator.

I also have an asian food store near me.  They carry all sorts of the more unusual butcher shop selections.

Gwynn doesn’t get rawhide treats, because I’ve heard horror stories about how it can expand in their intestines or wrap them up or… well… things that end up with a dead or very sick dog.

This is going somewhere, I swear.

I give Gwynn bully sticks as treats instead.  Do you know what those are?  I’ll tell you what they are.  Bull wee-wee.  more commonly called “bull pizzle” *cue any men reading this blog crossing their legs.

Bull

you wanna do what? gosh, is that the time?  I have to… go… over there for… the grass?

Based on my scientific observation at the Calgary Stampede, bulls are veeeery well-endowed.  And disturbingly in control of the movement of said equipment.

Have you bought bully sticks lately?  It’s like $10 for an 8″ piece that’ll last Gwynn all of 10 minutes, including the three or four minutes he  runs around the house with it, cigar-like, crying and trying to find a place to hide it.  That’s a dollar a minute, right there.

A few months ago, I was in the asian food store, and, because I do often buy organ meat to dehydrate for dog treats, I was looking at the part of the butcher aisle that I like to call “things I won’t eat, but the dog might.”  So that’s what a bully stick looks like pre-drying and off the bull.  Huh.  They’re… long.  And difficult to cut.

I successfully dehydrated it, the dog enjoyed it, and I thought no more on the topic.

My mother, though.  She had found her mission.  Bully Sticks for the masses.  Or at the very least, the people at work who also had dogs.

Which is how she ended up trying to communicate Bull Penis across language barriers to a very embarassed and uncomprehending older chinese man working behind the butcher counter.  Surrounded by people who could understand her, but couldn’t, for the life of them, figure out why she would want such a thing.  She used gestures. 

She came home defeated, pizzle-less.

Fast forward to this week, and here is the conversation I had with my parents (M = mum, D = dad, L = me!)

M – I got bull pizzle at the grocery store today!

L – cool, I’ll cut it up tonight.

M – Lots!

L – did you buy out their whole stock?  What was their reaction to this?

M – the store clerk wouldn’t touch the packaging directly – she used a plastic bag to move them through, and typed the code in by hand.

D – I doubt most of the people who work there actually eat much of the weird stuff they sell.

L – I wonder what they must have thought, crazy white lady comes in and all she buys is a ton of bull pizzle.

M – I didn’t just buy that.  I also got blueberries.  On sale!

L – So they think we’re making Bull Pizzle and Blueberry Casserole to feed the masses?

D – nah, it’s too hard to cut up, Blueberry and Bull stirfry!

M – They wouldn’t think anything of it.  They sell it, it’s fine.

L – Yeah, but I bet they don’t often see a woman go through check out with 10 packages of bull penis and 10 packages of blueberries.

The lessons learned in this?  We need to start attaching spy cameras to my mother whenever she goes to the asian food store.  I want to see peoples’ expressions.  Also, my family is very weird.

Can anyone tell me what people do with bull pizzle if they’re not feeding it to their dogs?

Creeping In

I’m doing my best to get back into writing – apparently the holidays were so exhausting that I have no imagination left.  Or I just lost all ability to plan my time out.  One week free of it, and I find myself overwelmed with how much time I spend walking the dog and entertaining him.  Not that I’m complaining – we’re getting some pretty walk-friendly weather lately, and less than a month after the solstice, I’m getting so much more daylight.

This week’s word for Trifecta’s writing challenge is:

INTENTION
(noun)

1: a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
2: import, significance
3a : what one intends to do or bring about
b : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered

Check out the other submissions HERE, or submit your own.

It was never my intention to stay so long.  I took advantage, I’ll readily admit.  It isn’t my proudest moment.

They were an easy mark.  How could I resist an open door?

I just can’t bear to leave, quite yet.  Maybe a day or two more.  Not that I’m getting attached, or anything.  I could see myself getting used to it, though, y’know?  I’ll stick around and enjoy a bit more free food.  Not much of a hardship – company’s not too bad – they give me my space, and they’re real good listeners.

I need my freedom – I need to stretch my legs, feel the grass under my feet, breathe deep of the great outdoors.  I’ve got instincts, primal instincts, and they can’t be ignored.  I don’t want to get rusty.  I’ve gotta hit the road.

It is a pretty scary place out there, though.  My pal Fred got scooped up by the nastiest bugger you’ve ever seen.  Guy swooped down out of nowhere, and now Fred’s nowhere to be seen.  It’s kind of nice to be big man on campus, just for a few more days.

The Missus relies on me to taste-test her cooking.

Plus, they’ve got some wildlife in this place.  They buzz around bothering the people here.  Tough suckers, too – seems like no matter how many times I land a killing blow, they’re up and jingling about.  Can’t leave quite yet – Ieast I could do to repay them is to get rid of this infestation they’ve got.

The old guy and I haven’t gotten much chance in the past few hours to hang out, either.  I’ve got this wicked kink in my neck, and he needs help reading the newspaper.  Now that’s what I call an equitable exchange of services.

I’ll be leaving soon – best get in some warm-laundry napping while I’m still around to spread the fur.  Creeping into their lives was exhausting.

cat bum

Foreign Dogs

No.  Not an insulting term for people of a different nationality than me.  Just to be clear, I mean Canines.  Canines in Foreign lands.  Frankly, I think it’s an improvement on my working title of “Mexican Dogs”.

I was lucky enough to spend a week this winter in beautiful Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.  Gwynn also spent a week at the beach – just one in more northern climes.  He visited a friend of ours at her cottage while we were gone, a week straight of snow-frolicking and wrestling with her two dogs, and picking up a few bad habits along the way.

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Dogless, I redirected my usual doggy time to observing everyone elses pooch.  I’m not sure why I was so surprised to see so many people walking their dogs down 5th street in the evening.  I know dogs aren’t limited to Canada, US and Europe.  I just tend to imagine them being far less pet, and far more work elsewhere.

I think most cultures have, to some extent, a sweet spot for our furry friends.  And the differences in their treatment of dogs is one of the things that stands out most to me about being in a strange country.

In France, dogs are permitted in restaurants and cafes, and generally most places. If someone had their dog very well trained – chances are, that dog wasn’t on-leash.  And I’m talking about Paris, not some very rural community where leash laws are kind of ignored.  Dogs there are welcomed into far more places than they are in Canada – but they also have higher expectations placed on them, in my opinion.  It’s very much a society of “You are welcome here, but you’d better behave yourself.”  Another big difference I noticed was in equipment – simply put, male dogs in France still have it.  A British woman I walk with on occasion was baffled at the North American predilection towards neutered males.  Her female dog is altered, but her male is fully equipped.

The downside I found when I was in France was an apparent lack of responsibility on the owners’ part for dealing with business.  You know… business.  Charming cobblestone streets, beautiful treelined paths – it’s PARIS, and P is definitely for Picturesque… but also for Poop.  Watch where you step.

A friend recently returned home from a two year contract teaching English in Vietnam.  She told me about how many street dogs and street cats there were.  We have wild cats – in fact, we have a wild cat problem in Toronto – but wild, roaming, dogs is outside my realm of experience.  She told me about how many of these animals found homes with the temporary immigrants who came for limited-time contracts in Vietnam.  While it is possible to bring your beloved Vietnamese pet home with you at the end of your time there, after vet bills and vaccines and all the hoops you have to jump through, it comes out to a very expensive second plane ticket home.  A common occurence there is for more newly-arrived friends to adopt departing friends’ animals, passing that creature on when it’s time for them to depart as well.  I’m frankly not sure if I could bear the idea of parting ways, but I find it sweet that people make such a point of finding their street-dog or street-cat a replacement caregiver before they leave.

I found Mexico to be a bit like Canada, and a bit like France, and a bit all its own.  All the male dogs I saw were fully equipped, and stores didn’t seem to have a problem with dogs coming into them with their owners.  The streets were spotless.  Maybe it’s because I was mostly in areas where lots of restauranteurs and shop owners were basically right out in the street, watching you , or maybe it’s simply that the dog owners of Mexico believe in not leaving a mess behind (after my own heart).  Whatever the reason, the streets I went down in Playa Del Carmen were cleaner than my own neighbourhood, when it came to dog business.  Possibly because most of the places I saw dogs in were quite busy, most people had their dogs on-leash.  Very different from Canada, nearly every dog I saw was a naturally short coated animal.  Makes sense, considering that, visiting in the middle of their winter, I experienced the warmest of Toronto’s summer conditions.

Afghan Hound With Short Hair

Even the Afghan hound I saw there had his hair cropped shorter than this, to deal with the heat

It’s when I travel that I wish Gwynn were more travel-sized.  I miss him immensely when I’m gone, and feel a bit of irrational jealousy of people just going about their usual day with their dogs at their sides.  I love it, though – seeing those commonalities between myself and the people whose country I’ve travelled to.  It really doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll always find someone out for a walk.

Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil.

A Light in the Darkness

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodWrite on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt this week was a combination of a picture and a song.

Candles and Iowa

Follow the link to see the picture, hear the song, read the submissions, or submit your own.

Having never been to Iowa, the song made me think of the prairies – rolling low hills and vast expanses of emptiness, and farms, of course, because isolated homesteads are the kind with candles flickering in the window, a light you can see for miles.

Feb2011 114

**

She looked in at the flickering candle-light with a kind of longing.

Daddy figured she was probably attracted by the food-smells.  He took to carrying the old shotgun when he went out to the barn in the early morning hours.

Momma stood vigil at the kitchen window, watching her through the chintz curtains.  She had this look in her eye, predatory and ferocious.  Daddy treated Momma like she had to be protected, but I knew better.  Grizzly bears don’t need protecting.

She never came past the fence-line, like she knew she wasn’t welcome.  To me, she seemed worn down by the weight of the world, weary and too-thin.  In a distant way, I knew that a drought-filled dust-bowl summer and an early, bitterly cold winter were to blame.  With her sad golden eyes tugging on my heart-strings, I tied it all back to the things Momma and Daddy talked about late at night, whispered conversations about money, bad crops and our best milker running dry.  Me and Momma had done the canning in half the time this fall – and that wasn’t a good thing.  Times were hard, for us and for her.

An old stew-bone here, a carefully hoarded egg there, I did what I could.  She didn’t exactly fill out, but I could see a new spark in her eye.

Will to live, Daddy called it.

Orneriness, Momma said.  I didn’t tell her that that’s exactly what Daddy said Momma had sometimes.

I just smiled and made sure she got that last biscuit, and a bit of cold stew.  Something to keep the spark alive.

Desperate and starving, men came from the woods when Daddy was two days gone on a trip to town.  We didn’t have much, but it was more than they had.

Momma’s eyes glinted grizzly-bear fierce as she loaded the shotgun, smooth and confident as Anny Oakley.  I hid in the cupboard.  You didn’t back-talk Momma when she had that look in her eye.

She said desperation makes a devil of a foolish man, but her Daddy taught her to shoot.  Men never expect women to put up a fight, and that’s their mistake.

I guess they didn’t expect the wolf, neither.  Between the crack of buckshot and the hair-raising growls and evilly glowing eyes in the darkness, we ran them off.

Daddy came home, wagon rattling with the few things he’d been able to barter for, hopefully enough to get us through the winter.  He was pretty rattled to hear about the incident, snarling about yellow bellied curs, eyes glinting with rage.

I made a nest of blankets for her on the deck, but she wouldn’t stray close.

Daddy said she was a wild animal, and while she liked us, she liked her freedom more.

It was a hungry winter, but she never lost that spark, we made sure of it.  She left with the spring, off over the low hills.

Momma just rolled her eyes when she saw that she took a chicken.

Wordless Wednesday – Searching for Cats

Every picture I present to you has at least one cat in it.  Enjoy.

IMG_20121203_170439

IMG_20121203_164531IMG_20121104_105740

Down side – Gwynn’s cat issues are still very much a work in progress.  Plus side – I am becoming a KILLER I-Spy player.

Cats: Ninja-Terrorists bent on Sleep Deprivation

The first night house-sitting, I had the brilliant idea of bringing Gwynn to stay overnight.  I figured, hey, the cats stay on the second floor pretty much 100% of the time, and I’ve yet to see hide nor hair of them in three years of dog walks and occasional house-sitting.  It’ll be fine.  No worries.

What I didn’t take into account was that these cats have an active night-life.

Two hours of Gwynn yipping and whimpering from his crate at intervals just long enough for me to believe that it was getting longer.  Two hours of the cats practicing their tap-dance routines on the second storey while Sadie paced and licked and paced and licked.

How could anyone sleep in this house?  Even without Gwynn, the amount of noise produced by three tiny felines well exceeds that of a workplace requiring hearing-protection.

I tried relocating to the basement.  The basement where the teenage son has created his personal AXE-scented nest of boydom.  I spread my sleeping bag out, lay down gingerly, ensuring that no part of me came in contact with the couch.  Gwynn’s whimpers were dying down a bit, Sadie was still restlessly pacing.

Then came what sounded like a lamp falling down, a full-grown man crashing into the tv and someone dropping pots and pans in the kitchen.  Cell-phone in one hand, bludgeoning-device in the other, I crept up the stairs, prepared to do battle against thieves.  With me in my sleep-deprived rage, those bastards stood a low chance of avoiding a trip to the hospital.

No-one was there, nothing was disturbed, and no cats were in sight.  I checked all doors, and checked upstairs to try and tell my adrenaline-high body that it’s ok to relax.

Breathing freely for the first time since I’d relocated to the AXE-swamp of a basement, I lay down on the couch, Gwynn’s leash clutched in my hand.

Sleep was within my grasp at last.  Oh sweet slumber, how I love thee.

Ten minutes later, Gwynn attempted to drag me under the side-table, where a cat sat primly just out of reach of his inquisitive nose.  Mocking me, and denying me sleep.  Terrorist.

Demon Cats

Got the cat out from under the table without interaction with dogs, tried to go back to sleep.  So. Close.

Ten minutes later, Sadie launched herself onto a chair and up the window.  Second cat bolted from behind the curtain, hissing and grumbling like marbles being ground together.  Dogs once again wide awake and wired.  Lexy half-awake and 100% not asleep, trying desperately to remember how many cats are in the house.

No apparent third cat hidden within the tiny living-room, but it’s officially 3:30 am, and I’m running on 5 minutes of light-doze, and a heaping pile of nerves.

Three?  Four?  There could be thousands of them.  Demonic Terrorist Cats… probably made of shadow and clangour.  Or maybe there’s just one.  Are there even any cats at all?  Where the hell am I?

“Here kitty kitty?  Nice kitty?”  I manage to croak out, squinting about the dark room with red-rimmed, twitching eyes.

Hearing and rejecting simultaneously, the cats began a thundering race around the upstairs, still wearing their tiny kitty tap-shoes, and dragging cans half-filled with gravel.

Evil Cat

The gravelly rrrowwwwl and simultaneous kettle-hiss of furry fury starts up again, this time from the couch.

I call the retreat.  Snatching dogs, leashes and bag, I escape the madhouse, pajama-clad and wild-haired, with the frantic energy of escape from a burning building – just another inmate running for the hills.

Can I sleep here? Please? PLEASE?!!!