When you are childless, your pets become your children.

And I know it’s not the same thing; lots of parents of humans like to remind me of that.  But even if you are not childless, your pets can be like your children. It’s just too bad that they usually only live to be the age of a child or teen.

All creatures have a life span, but it feels like such a raw deal that dogs are old at 10 or 11 years.  Maybe it is related to being born as part of a litter.  I dunno.  Are elephants part of a litter?  I’m trying to think of an animal that lives a long time, and how much that is due to the length of pregnancy, the size of the litter, and how propagating the species is.  I’m no scientist, but it seems that elephants and tortoises live long lives and they are more or less, slow moving and deliberate; and other creatures and insects that have huge litters tend to be fast moving (fleas, bats) with shorter gestational periods.

Contemplating these theories, based on no research and zero scientific knowledge, is what distracts me from dwelling on the fact that I have two dogs and they are both nearing the end of their journeys (though Cassie at a month shy of 13 still acts like a crazy puppy a lot of the time).

Today, though, I’ve been focused on my sick canine Stella, who is suffering from a mast cell tumor on her right forearm that has suddenly gone apeshit and turned her entire leg into a stay puff marshmallow.  It’s 3 times the size of the other front leg and she can’t put any weight on it.  I’ll spare you the boring, gory details, but watching her struggle to change position on her dog bed, not being able to get up to go pee in the yard or bark at the UPS trucks or the other dogs walking by the house is tough.

I just found this video this morning – what an awesome song!

What I love about dogs is how present they are. They don’t lay on the couch, worrying about their aches and pains, whether the other neighborhood dogs like them. Fretting because they had barked at Fifi across the road thinking she was another dog and now are convinced she won’t sniff butts with them anymore.

And when I’m feeling down or anxious, my dogs will always pick up on it and lick my face, or more realistically, just bother me to the point of me forgetting what I was worried about. It’s all part of their amazing ability to turn every moment into an opportunity for a treat. And so, for now, until she recovers, I bring Stella her food and her treats to her place on the dog bed and force her to listen to me search through YouTube for songs and videos about dogs.

I’m reading a book right now called Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 80’s. I heard about it on the Sound Opinions podcast and being a fanatic for 80’s New Wave, I had to get the book.  I just started reading it today and the first chapter is all about Adam and the Ants.  I’m a huge fan of Adam and his second album, “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” is still one of my favorites from the New Wave pantheon.

I remember seeing the music video for Dog Eat Dog in the early days of MTV, though I must’ve viewed it somewhere else because the album came out in 1980 and MTV started in 1981, but maybe it was MTV.

At that time, I was still slowly opening up to music other than hard rock.  I was 14 and my walls were covered with posters of Rush and Van Halen and Led Zeppelin.  But then, one fateful day, I read an interview with Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, in Creem magazine and he said that the music he was most excited about was coming out of the New Wave movement.  He talked about Devo and Talking Heads and Ultravox and then Adam and the Ants. I remembered, just starting high school, and seeing the 11th and 12th graders, and they looked scary to me, with their mohawks and black eyeliner and black lipstick, their black denim jackets adorned with Devo and 999 and Dead Kennedys patches. I was leery but so intrigued by this strange music, this bizarre fashion, this gender bending culture. I remember distinctly going to Tempo records on Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, I must’ve been 14 or 15, and asking the guy behind the counter what new music would blow my mind.  He asked me what I liked, and I lied and said “Talking Heads, Devo.” He thought it over for a minute then said to me, “I know two albums that you have got to hear.  The first is by this band called The Violent Femmes.  They just released their second album, ‘Hallowed Ground’, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. When you get home, play the song Black Girls.”

The other album he recommended was the debut album by the Hoodoo Gurus, “Stoneage Romeos.”  I bought both of these albums and raced home to put them on my turntable.  I must’ve played each of them 20 times that first week.  At first I didn’t know how to process this strange music. The Violent Femmes album in particular took some getting used to.  It had an odd mix of strange instruments — saxophone, banjo, standup bass, jews harp, and much more. The lyrics were about religion and sex, violence and redemption. But the record store clerk was right, it didn’t just blow my mind, it expanded my mind and I had to find out more about this new wave of music out there.

We didn’t have MTV at our house, but my friend Marc Cribari had it at his, and we’d race back to his place after school and check out the newest music videos. We both became enthralled with bands such as The Fixx and Split Enz and even came to appreciate the keyboard heavy bands like Depeche Mode and Human League.  And then we saw Adam and the Ants playing the song “Dog Eat Dog” and I was like, “What the hell is this?”  It wasn’t like any of the other New Wave stuff, it didn’t have keyboards and it wasn’t atmospheric. And it wasn’t hard rock either.  It was propulsive and had thick tribal drumming. The band wore pirate outfits and makeup and the lead singer, Adam Ant, wore Native American face makeup and wore an elaborately designed jacket that would eventually lead Michael Jackson to emulate the style for his Thriller album. This tribal, percussion heavy style would become more popular in the New Wave era with bands like Bow Wow Wow (using the same band members as Adam Ant) and even Haircut 100 used a lot of percussion on their debut album.

It’s a bit of a stretch, this link.  Also this transition back to dogs.

I’m hoping that my Stella will get her groove back soon, that this condition she’s in is temporary. But if the medications don’t do the trick fast enough, I’m thinking maybe I can invite Taye Diggs over to the house and he will be able to cure what ails Stella with his wily, groovy charms.


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