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Monday, February 22, 2016

Amygdala, Medula and the Frontal Lobe (it's about a dog)

[Parts of the brain are important in this blog post.  I mean, not in the way we  read, understand and laugh, which is the usual way but in a more basic way.  To this end, please remember that the frontal lobe is part of the cerebral cortex involved in, among other things, making plans and judgments.]

In one way, my daughter is a chip off the old block.  Sure, she’s smarter and cuter and more motivated than I am, but she does have the same dark humor, so when she Face Booked this story about her dog, I asked her if she would guest post it for me.  I need to tell you that my darling girl is a neuroscientist.  (I mentioned she was smarter than me, right?)  Yes, she’s a clever thing, so while the amydala is the part of the brain linked to emotion, more importantly, it can conveniently morph into a FB handle.  This story is written by Amy G Dala or, as I like to call her, Dr. Smartie Pants.

So Amy G.'s family recently got a puppy that is the spit and image of the RCA Victor dog.  Anyone remember good ol' Nipper?  Being into Mom’s neuroscience stuff, the family. named their dog Medulla which is the part of the brain that controls heartbeat and breathing  It was an apt name as the puppy excels at these things; no training needed. They are training him for the harder things like sit and stay and off.  All training, though, is subject to mishaps, so let’s begin by saying the dog is okay.  The dog is fine.  The story goes like this.

My 6-month old puppy, Medulla, is still house-training.  I took him outside where he pulled away from me Sunday morning and ran straight into traffic on the highway, where he was instantly hit. Twice. By two different cars.
By the time I ran out onto the road, the man (car 2) who had hit him was standing over him crying, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" and sobbing. Cars were whizzing by us and I realized we were going to get hit. I tried to lift my dog, but he fell out of my arms (me imagining torn organs, broken spine - collapsing and stressing and tearing), and I half dropped him.

 "Help me lift him, please" I gasped, and the flapping man did as asked (still babbling at me). We lowered Medulla onto the grass in front of my house. Blood was gushing from his mouth, his nose, everywhere, and he gurgled with every breath.  (I was imagining his lungs collapsing, throat crushed, jaw broken).  He lay there, breathing and gurgling, as the man flapped around "I'm SO sorry, I'm sorry."

This is his last breath, I thought, petting my dog. No, this one. ("I'm sorry" sobs the man, "gurgle gurgle" bubbles the dog). No, this one.

And then, know what? The dog raises his head, licks his face with his bloody tongue, and looks around with interest and tries to stand up.  I just   about   killed    him.

So we got away with a VERY broken femur in a hind leg, which meant a surgery, and broken toes all on his front leg, which means a cast, and a broken tooth and bruised mouth and his neuter stitches torn open, BUT - the dog is home. The dog is fine. The children are Thrilled. We are reeling but okay. 
My husband is absolutely right, though: we should have named him Frontal Lobe.
Medulla associated beginning to piddle 
in the house with getting hit by a car.  
He is now completely house-trained

Monday, January 18, 2016

Boys: good grief!

What is it with boys?  In heaven's name, what are they thinking?

We are one of four houses off a pipe stem driveway.  Our front yard ends in a 50 degree slope composed of sand and ruts and roots.  As the person who planted over a dozen flats of ground cover to prevent its erosion, I’ve had the experience almost spraining an ankle when preventing a slide toward the street.   Kids in the area know they’re not allowed to climb on the slope.  They’ve never been allowed to climb on it.  The slope is treacherous. 

Last summer the number of boys in the cul-de-sac climbed to six.  The average age declined to 9.   After several rampages onto our flower beds and my across-the-pipe-stem neighbor’s bushes, one sorry day, at the urging of Pipe Stem Neighbor, I informed the gaggle of boys I had to ask them not to play in our or Pipe Stem’s yard any more.  This should not have proved a terrible hardship.  They have three huge, adjoining back yards of their own that adjoin parkland.  I reminded them that the slope was dangerous and forbidden, but in the excitement of new playmates, old rules were forgotten  The slope was a temptation beyond resistance. 

I rounded up the gaggle and wash, rinse, repeat.  Boys!  No going on the slope! 

Boys on the slope.

No boy is that stupid that he's forgotten.  I sighed and visited parents, awkward for all involved, but I don’t want anyone getting hurt.  I’d only spoken to the new neighbors when I brought welcome cupcakes.  What a way to have a second conversation.  However, what were they going to say?  That they wanted their sons to fall onto their heads on the pavement?  Another mom, a long-time neighbor, was really upset, saying “There’s roots.  They’ll get caught and fall!”  Um, yesss.

A couple of weeks later, Pipe Stem caught boys in their bushes and told them that was not a good idea.  The boys needed to stay out of their yard.  They’ve got double jeopardy because they’re trying to sell their house, and they work hard to keep everything in pristine condition.       Bushes askew with broken branches does not raise the property value.                                                     

The next week, there's the eight-year-old running across my yard.  His friend, who’s known me since he was born, was being extraordinarily self-controlled, shadowing his cohort from the street. Okay, I’m not going to lose my mind.  Ol’ Ace was passing through, not cruising in the flower beds or crashing into shrubbery, but later that day, Pipe Stem reported seeing Ace climb up my erosion channel. 

As mentioned, our slope is quite sandy.  I’ve worked hard for 20 years to prevent erosion.  One spot, however, has been a lost cause, and last summer we had two workmen put in a drain and an erosion channel covered with river rock.  It was a day’s hard labor and cost many hundreds of dollars.  The next morning when I went down to get the paper, I checked, and there were rocks strewn in the ground cover.  *Sigh*  I replaced them as best I could, slipping and sliding up the sides of the channel. 

About an hour later, the boys were out with their scooters.  Fortunately I had gotten dressed, as a grandma in her ‘jammies is far less authoritative than a grandma in her jeans.  I steeled myself as Ace’s brother and friend were bound to give him avid support.  Um, not quite.

By the time I walked to the street, they were headed toward one of their garages.  “Boys, come here a minute.  I want to talk to you.”  One glance back, but hoping to avoid me, they kept going.  Un uh,
This is our slope.  Stay off it!
not on my watch.  “Boys, come here.  I want to talk to you for a minute.”  Glances all around as they gathered in front of me.

“You boys know you are not allowed in our yard.  Ace you know you’re not allowed anywhere on the slope.”

Did brother and older friend offer defenses and rationalizations?  Oh, no.  The two bigger boys threw Ace under the bus as fast as they could talk.   Brother and friend denied any and all involvement, brother going so far as to point a straight arm replete outstretched finger.  “I didn't do it; it was him!”  Boys, boys, boys, this is no way to help your friend.  It was all I could do to supress a wide grin and form a serious expression.

Ace hangs his head.  

The others continue gabbling away.  “I only went up there,” said the friend, “to get my drone when it crashed.”

“Well, I appreciate that.  It's fine to go up there to get a toy, but Ace, you were climbing up the rocks.”  I explained the effort and cost that went into their placement.  “Why did you do that?”

Now the two other boys are  speaking so quickly and feverishly that I can’t understand a word they say. 

“No, don’t answer for him.  He’s a person; he has a voice.”

All Ace has right now is a sniff.  Oh, no, Ace my boy, I have been a school teacher.  Easy tears will not get you off the hook.  “Why did you do it?”

The other continue with all their might.  They are reassuring me that they would never, EVER set foot on my yard.   I reiterate, "Don't answer for him.  He's a person; he has a voice."  

Ace’s is searching his mind for an acceptable answer.  He is coming up short. 

Finally, after a few moment’s torture, I take pity on him.  “Were you playin’?”

A nod.

“All right,” I say at my strictest, “I believe this will not happen again.  If it does happen again, we will be marching to your parents to discuss consequences.  And, boys, Pipe Stem is trying to sell her house.  You can't go playing in her bushes.”

“We needed sticks for a fort.”

“Well, I understand that is important, but you know where there are plenty of sticks?  In the woods behind your house!  Okay, go on and play.” 

The two bigger boys are still telling me how good they are as they skedaddle out of there as fast as they can go. 

I managed to make it into the house before I burst out laughing.