Our dog Duchess has gone bonkers.
BONK! She ricochets off the kitchen’s doorframe.
BONK! She bounces off the bookshelf while charging in to get her food.
BONK! She rebounds off the nearest family member as she tries to hurry past.
Yes, our little border collie-lab mix has been fitted with what the books call an “Elizabethan collar” and what everyone else calls a Cone of Shame. You know the thing. Everyone knows the thing: a big plastic cone fitted around a dog’s neck so that its head looks like it’s growing out of a cheap, old-fashioned record player.
It’s not about humiliation, of course, but about safe healing. A veterinarian uses the collar to keep a dog from getting at wounds while they’re healing – in this case, to keep Duchess from getting at a bandaged-up ear, acquired after an argument with our other dog Blake over whose bone was whose. Blake weighs 80 pounds, Duchess 45, but when her stubbornness is brought to the surface, it can be a pretty even match.
Naturally, he’s curious about her new headdress. Enough so that we’ve wondered if he needs his own, to keep Blake from sticking his big head into her constricted space. But I’m not sure our giggle reflex could survive two dogs in the cone, especially one as clumsy as Big Blake.
It’s her first time in the big cone – quite an achievement for an 11-year-old dog. It does mean she has no previous experience to call on, though, so she’s had to figure out exactly what she can and can’t do. Her usual habit of slipping through the edge of a doorway is out, for instance. Meal times took a little practice, though now she’s able to fit her cone directly over the dish as she eats, which not only gives her a private dining space, but makes her look like a vacuum cleaner with fur and legs.
In short, Duchess has had to learn her limitations. And provided some harmless amusement while doing so.
As it happens, the laughs have been welcome. After all, this is fall in a “swing state,” meaning a barrage of political ads from every direction. On the television. On the phone. On the Internet. I’m waiting for one to show up in a Happy Meal. (“Do you want those fries? Shady McCandidate does. And he wants to give them to his special-interest buddies….”)
It’s tedious, repetitive and mind-numbingly counter-productive. If anything, the zeal ad vitriol of the ads make me less likely to vote for their sponsors. What’s needed is a way to lighten the proceedings and maybe inject a little humility into what can be a very proud profession.
Which is why I suggest that all politicians running for election be required to wear the Cone of Shame through Election Day. Both live and in all advertising.
Think about it. Even the most apocalyptic of speeches and commercials lose some of their punch when delivered by someone who looks like a failed auditioner for the Tin Man. Fundraising dinners become a challenge and broadcast interviews nearly impossible. (“Dang it … can someone help me get this microphone on? Please?”)
As with a much-loved pet, it might inspire some harmless laughter while teaching the new “conehead” their limitations and keeping them from doing excessive harm. None of these are bad things in a political process. In fact, judging by many of the candidates, a little less self-assurance might be very welcome. (There’s a reason I’ve pushed Charlie Brown for president before.)
Until that wonderful time, we’ll have to do the best we can with imagination and the mute button. And of course, a lot of patience. We’ll get through this season. Even if it’s uncomfortable and awkward and we can’t quite figure out how …
Maybe Duchess and I have more in common than I thought.