Deep thoughts: Oliver
You don’t ever think you’re going to wind up in the New Yorker because of your dog. No one expects to end up in the New Yorker in the first place let alone because you had a Bernese mountain dog with severe separation anxiety. My guess is that if you expect things like that, it pretty much insures that they’re not going to happen. And honestly, I’m not in the US at the moment, so it could be an elaborate hoax. But it’s on their website. So I think it’s true. It’s about the Fair for Knowledge: Hair at the Brooklyn Flea Market. Mark Singer quotes me as saying that what prompted my research interests in mental illness in nonhumans was going to CVS to pick up Oliver’s Prozac prescription.
That is true…but I never expected to write about Oliver. It happened because I wasn’t doing a good job of writing about anything else. Looking back now, it seems inevitable. It wasn’t. It took me forever to decide to focus on such a thing. And I decided to do it because it felt easier and more right than all the other things I was up to.
Oliver was disturbed. Sometimes spectacularly so. But even now I sort of cringe at calling him crazy. He had certain things happen to him, which (when coupled with other things) caused something to snap. None of these things individually were bad enough, you might think, to make him a nervous wreck. But that’s what he was…and often enough for it to be a problem. It reminds me of people I know. It is easy to talk about mentally ill people in the abstract but if it is your depressed sister you tend to talk in the particular (ie “she was doing okay but then there was that problem at work, and the relationship ended, and she was so fragile after that, you know…”) Or your anxious friend (“He was better before but now he’s having trouble leaving the house. That new drug doesn’t seem to be working. He’s giving it two more weeks.”) Whatever the case may be…it becomes about the fact that they’re walking more, or less, or the drugs are working better, or worse. Or another reason, or three. And that is how I find myself talking about Oliver, years after his death. “Yes, he was crazy, but….”
There is always a but. As with humans as with everyone else.