05 September 2009

Mea culpa

Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned; it's been two months since my last confession. I blame Facebook, with its deceptively simple "What's on your mind?" prompt and the built-in payoff of a flurry of comments from a random cross-section of your hundreds of "friends". I didn't realize the extent to which Facebook had sucked the juice out of my blogging habit til a couple of real-life pals asked me for an update on Sophie. It felt to me like I'd been documenting her every poop on Facebook, over-sharing, like the proud new parent of a human baby. For my non-FB-enabled friends though, the life-with-dog saga seemed to halt abruptly on July 7th. Sorry about that. Obviously, life goes on:

In explaining the appeal of Facebook to my friend Jackie, a paper artist who recently launched a thoughtful, literate and entertaining blog of her own, I told her that blogging is more about writing essays, journaling, or in-depth musing-out-loud. It's linear, whereas FB goes in many directions at once. Blogging also creates a permanent record, whereas FB is evanescent, much more about what's happening right now. Twitter, I went on to pontificate, is even more fleeting than FB; unless you have no life at all, it's impossible to keep up; you just dip your toe into the datastream now and then.

Of course blogging has a strong community component, but Facebook is more overtly social. When I blog, I'm in my room, writing. On Facebook, I'm hanging out with friends (and "friends"), schmoozing, bantering, and keeping up with each other's lives. Facebook feels more superficial than blogging because it's conversational; it's not designed for extended-form writing. But it's a powerful medium for staying in touch with minimal effort.

The day Sophie wandered into our life I posted on Facebook, something like "We seem to have found a dog." A dozen friends asked questions, offered advice, expressed astonishment about what was goin' down at Cathouse Jereva. I posted a succession of updates about taking the dog to the vet, shelling out the $$$ for treatment, keeping her for the weekend, walking her to our neighborhood 4th of July parade, and so on. Once we decided that she was here to stay, I filed a status report every few days on how she was doing with the cats.

A Facebook friend who lives up the street offered to lend me a crate; several others made useful suggestions or simply supportive comments that meant a lot to us in our inexperienced and uncertain state. Meanwhile, as events unfolded, the aforementioned Jackie and I were conducting a comparable discussion in email (she's a dedicated and knowledgeable animal owner, and lives with both dogs and cats). But the Facebook conversation was, by its nature, much more timely, with multiple participants and points of view.

So, eight weeks down the road, Sophie is healthy, adorable and, as far as we can tell, happy in her new home. She no longer sleeps in the garage, but has graduated to our office. She and the cats have reached a rapprochement. We have no problem leaving them alone in the house together. While they're not exactly curling up in one big fluffy pile of mutual adoration, they seem to've worked out most of their issues. They all hang out in the living room with us. Occasionally we'll see them touch noses. Sophie likes to bury her muzzle deep in China's fur; China tolerates it. Stella and Sophie have bonded over their mutual interest in food, often each other's. There's no barking or lunging, very little hissing, no more chasing or consequent hiding in nuclear-alert-level strongholds. If you'd forecast this back in July -- and several people did -- I would not have believed it.

Blogging isn't the only area in which I've been negligent. I like to think I lead a relatively healthy life -- a low-meat, high-vegetable diet, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, no interesting drugs -- but I haven't had a complete physical exam in at least 25 years. Shameful, I know. However, it's on the calendar now. Our dear friend David Gans, a professional musician, had a heart attack recently while touring. He's younger than I am, but cardiovascular disease runs in his family, as it does in mine. David was lucky, and his prognosis looks good. He wrote, with his usual eloquence, about his experience (http://cloudsurfing.gdhour.com/archives/2544) and commented in a follow-up email: "I've heard from lots of people that this tale has inspired them to pay more attention to their own habits and health status; if I have inspired anyone to take steps to protect their own future, then the whole thing will have been worth it. I hope you'll pass that URL along to others who may find it useful." So that's what I'm doing.