News about The Butter Lamb News

Hey there dictionary fans! I'm pleased to report that I've sorted some things out and made some progress on few things that have been on my plate for a while ... and I'm excited to tell you about them!

First and foremost, I just finished a new issue (issue #4) of The Butter Lamb News, which is noteworthy because, in addition to containing all the stuff you've come to expect from an issue of the BLN, I finally got my shit together and have taken some significant steps toward turning this publication into a proper newsletter. That means, starting with this issue, the BLN will be full-size (8.5 x 11) and quite possibly in full color (although this will ultimately depend on printing costs).

I also wanted to let you know that:

1) I've updated the Butter Lamb News page in the column on the right. It now includes a page where you can find information about all the past issues of the BLN, plus links to PDFs of those issues. I've also added a page of reviews in case you're interested in seeing what others have said about it.

2) I also wanted to mention that, although I hinted at it the final issue (#6) of Alternative Incite and even went so far as to write and design the first issue, I will not be publishing the zine I referred to as Endnote. That's the bad news. The good news is that not publishing that title will allow me to devote more time to the BLN and this site in general, so look for more content more often.  

3) And speaking of BLN content: here's a run-down of what you'll find in issue #4. Remember, this newsletter is FREE, so if you want a copy -- a real physical copy -- all you need to do is request one via email (Note: that email should include a mailing address. You would not believe how many times people email me for a copy of the BLN but don't provide a mailing address.) 

  • My Choice for Word of the Year? "Stop" - References don't need to pander to the Twitterverse or chase the digital-age currency of clicks, likes, and shares by latching on the latest, most fire AF slang because, they have not lost any their relevance. This is how I know.

  • Dictionaries and References in the News - Time operas; Removing words from the dictionary; Weed slang; Oxford to release dictionary of African-American English; dictionary of Gen Z dating terms; Merriam-Webster adds a bunch of new words; and the famed Kripke Collection finds a new home. There's also an added section of op-eds by people who "love" their dictionaries. Go figure.

  • New Words and Phrases (or words and phrases new to me). Included in this issue are: Productivity paranoia, loud laborer, boyfriend air, wife guy, mufti, snackification movement, appurtenances, beetle browed, eigengrau, fin-de-siecle, and grisaille, labile, lemniscate, and lunule.

  • Reference- and Word-Related Publications Received - Anachronisms, Just a Jefferson, Ritual View, and Word of the Day

  • New Arrivals to the Butter Lamb Reference Library and a pile of letters from readers

Remembering Allen

Earlier this year, the Butter Lamb Reference Library lost a key staff member. The following is a brief remembrance.

*           *           * 

In 2011, on a humid August night, we joined 150 or so strangers in a nondescript parking lot in Washington, DC. We were all there for the same reason—to get a dog—but no one knew exactly how it was going to go down. All we knew was nothing was going to happen until the parking lot attendant called it a day and left the premises.

We waited for what seemed like an hour, but when the attendant finally vacated the narrow white booth near the lot’s entrance and disappeared around the corner, things progressed in a hurry. Out of nowhere, a plain white cargo van associated with an outfit called Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (1) zoomed into the lot, made a wide U-turn at speed, and came to a screeching halt over two parking spaces. There was an audible gasp among the crowd, but before anyone could say a word, the van’s side door slide open revealing an impossible number of plastic dog crates stacked floor to ceiling inside. Then, with little fanfare or direction, the van's human occupants began releasing the dogs one after another, calling out each canine's name and the last name of its would-be adopter as they went.

We were there for a dog named Allen, a six-month-old bloodhound-shepherd mix. My wife picked him out because he was cute and because he was expected to be a medium-sized dog (2), but we really weren’t even sure about that. All we really knew about him was that he had been rescued from a kill-shelter somewhere in South Carolina and that he was one of eight pups from a female whose whereabouts were unknown. I was anxious to see him and when his name was announced, I approached the van abuzz with excitement.

Like the dogs before him, Allen was unceremoniously tossed from the vehicle by his low-quality collar. When he hit the ground he pancaked on the blacktop and then pissed himself. He was obviously frightened, so I coaxed him over to a nearby patch of grass with a gentle tug of his collar and got him to lie down. We sat there for a long time and have been mostly inseparable ever since. That is, until this past Friday (January 20, 2023), when Allen died on our vet's operating table.

*           *           *

I knew when I saw him on morning of what was to be his last day that he didn't have much time left. He looked ragged and when he refused to eat the bread smeared with peanut butter and a sprinkling of Metamucil, I feared for the worst. Allen was old and had been in a slow, irreversible decline for some time. He was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer a year earlier (following the detection and removal of a tumor on the left side of his jaw), and like all big, old dogs (he weighed about 100 pounds … so much for being a "medium-sized" dog), he suffered from hip dysplasia. Yet, he had been hanging in there and hadn't lost his will to live, so I thought we might get lucky and have him around for another year or more. I was wrong. On the Wednesday evening before he passed (the 18th), he began vomiting repeatedly. I wasn't home when it started, but when he continued to get sick well into the night I decided a trip to the emergency vet was in order.

It was 1:30 am when we arrived at the emergency animal hospital. The office was still enforcing its COVID-19 protocol, so we had to wait in the parking lot until they called us in. Concerned Allen might barf in my car, we spent some time walking around the perimeter of the parking lot. It was cold and quiet, but not unpleasant. Allen didn't get sick and he seemed like his old, mellow self. So, I was beginning to think the worst was behind us. At around 2:00 am, the receptionist called us in and we went right in to see the veterinarian on duty. Our interaction with the doctor was brief and it again bolstered my hopes for Allen’s recovery. After checking his vitals and taking his temperature, the doctor told me Allen wasn't in any immediate danger, but we should see our regular vet as soon as possible. A few minutes later we were back in the car heading home. We didn't even have to pay for the consultation.

Following the emergency vet’s advice, I called our usual vet the next morning. Allen had vomited again, so my concern for his well-being ramped up. A short time later, we were in the vet’s office where they x-rayed Allen’s innards. When the inspection was over, the vet walked me through my options. The outlook wasn't good. Allen had ingested some foreign material and would likely need surgery to remove it. However, the vet was hopeful some of it could be pushed through his system with a little “encouragement.” That was how we ended up with the peanut butter laced with Metamucil. Allen didn’t eat dinner that night, but I wasn’t too worried because the vet had given him a shot of some drug to clam his stomach, so I thought (or maybe hoped) he wasn’t hungry. Besides, he was drinking and keeping the water down (a good sign), so I was hopeful we’d start down the road to recovery the next morning.

Unfortunately, when Allen turned up his nose at the bread and peanut butter the next morning, I knew it was going to be a rough day. Forty-five minutes later, we were back in the vet's office. Soon after that, Allen went under the knife. He didn't make it.

*           *           *

I deeply regret that I couldn't be with him in his final moments. I have had dogs as companions for nearly my entire life, but none of them bonded with me quite like Allen. I could walk him without a leash and he'd stay by my side. If I was away too long, he'd growl at me when I got home until I spent a few minutes petting him. If I knelt down and held my arms out, he'd come over and put his head on my shoulder and stay there until I scratched his belly. If he sensed I was preparing to go away for the weekend, he'd sneak out of the house and try to get into the car when I wasn’t looking. Every night he slept outside my bedroom door and later, when his hips and back legs began troubling him, he would endure the pain of getting up the stairs just to lie in his customary spot. If I blocked the stairs out of concern for his safety, he'd whine until I let him come up. To put it briefly, he wanted to be near me and I loved having him around.

This isn’t to say life with Allen was all sunshine and rainbows. He could be quite mischievous and, sometimes, even a little sinister. Allen never outgrew his separation anxiety and there was no telling what he might do when in its grip. He never developed a taste for furniture (thankfully), but he destroyed a wide array of other objects ranging from backpacks to blankets, eyeglasses to electronics, and shoes to shirts. (3) Because he was part bloodhound, his nose often got him into trouble. If one of the kids left a coat hanging around with a candy wrapper in one of its pockets, Allen would find it and dig it out, usually a by making a large hole in the front of it. It was similar story with our kitchen trashcan. If we left the house without putting something heavy on the lid, we were sure to come home to a kitchen floor littered with coffee grounds (4) and whatever else had been thrown away in the last few days. Even our guests’ belongings weren't safe. If someone came to stay with us and left their suitcase on the ground, Allen would toss it like a maniacal TSA agent in search of contraband. Attracted by fruity-smelling cosmetics or anything else he deemed tasty, he would help himself to whatever it was and leave us to handle the damage control.

In his later years, Allen inexplicably developed a taste for bath towels, be they used or fresh from the linen closet. This had a significant impact on our quality of life. I didn't keep track, but by conservative estimate there was a period of about two years in which it was difficult to find a complete towel in our home. Naturally, we replaced the ones he ruined, but in the end we were just setting ourselves up for disappointment as he’d eventually get around to destroying whatever new towels we brought in. Later, when Allen’s legs started to go, the towels got a break (it was too much work for him to get to the bathrooms upstairs) and he turned his attention to my wife's throw pillows. Again, I didn't keep track, but it’s safe to say he ruined at least 20 pillows before going to that great dog bed in the sky. (5)

Beyond destroying things, he was also quite adept at stealing food off the counter. As noted above, his amazing olfactory abilities allowed him to zero-in on the location of good-smelling stuff, but it was his size that allowed him to get it. Allen was tall. He stood about 30 inches at the shoulder, so it didn't take much for him to get his front paws on the counter and then grab whatever had enticed him to get up there in the first place. His favorite thing to steal was bread (6) and if he got it, well, good luck getting it back. Once he got his paws on an unguarded loaf, he'd take the prize back to his bed to dine at his leisure. If you tried to get it back, he’d defend it with his body, emit a threatening growl, and sneer in way that showed off his long white teeth. Few dared to challenge him when he was like this and there were times when even I thought twice about it. Would he really have bitten me? I don’t know, but his threats were convincing. Most of the time, I let him have whatever he took, but if for some reason I couldn’t, I’d enlist the help of a broom, hockey stick, or some other long-handled tool in the interest of keeping all 10 of my fingers.

And yet, as aggravating and profanity-inducing as these behaviors were, in the end there was something charming about them. They were part of what made Allen the unique and special being that he was, and just like with any other family members, you take the good with the bad and love them anyway.

There is, however, one aspect of my life with Allen that I won't miss: the hair. Allen shed like a motherfucker. If the bloodhound part of his genetic makeup gave him his highly tuned nose, the shepherd part gave him a coat that wouldn’t quit. At the time of this writing, Allen has been gone for nearly two weeks and his hair is still everywhere. I suppose it’s a nice reminder of his life and I suspect it’s one I'll keep getting for some time. It seems unnecessary. The chances of Allen slipping from my memory are zero. I’ll always remember him fondly for the simple reason that he was too wonderful to forget.

Rest in Peace, buddy.


Notes on the text:

1) Last April, we got a puppy (Ted) from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, which means that before Allen died we had had three dogs. In the 11 years separating Allen’s and Ted’s adoptions, Lucky Dog got a bit more “professional.” Adoption events took the place of parking lot meet-ups and there were a lot more rules and regulations with Ted. However, there are a lot of dogs that need homes, so if you live in the Washington, DC area and you’re looking for a canine companion, check out Lucky Dog. (Pictured: Allen and Ted back when Ted was about 12-weeks old.)

2) Whenever my wife complained about Allen grabbing food off the counter, I’d often respond with, “What are you complaining to me for? You’re the one who picked out this medium-sized dog.”

3) Hence the “foreign material” found in his body. The vet said his intestines were “full” of it. I had no idea Allen was ingesting this stuff, I just thought he was chewing and/or ripping things up to let us know he was upset with us and/or anxious. Besides, if Allen did happen to swallow something he shouldn’t have, something his stomach couldn’t handle, he’d just throw it up (as dogs do). It never occurred to me that he was swallowing things and they were staying in there. Apparently, this is common big dog behavior. The vet’s office even had a list of the strange things (e.g., television remotes, jewelry, etc.) they’ve pulled out of dogs.

4) As luck would have it, we compost these now.

5) I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t care too much about the loss of the pillows.

6) Watching Allen eat a loaf of bread was truly a sight to behold. He could eat an entire loaf with three or four bites, and if there was a plastic bag around it, he somehow knew how to make a hole and get all the bread out, without having to eat any of the plastic. (He was not so careful when it came to candy.)