Comfort Food:The nth degree

There is a saying: “To the nth degree.”

During the eighteenth century, n had kept to its proper station. It knocked about in equations, masquerading as Everynumber: and it often represented something so large it tended towards infinity.

Somewhere during the early nineteenth century, a group of maverick ‘n’s escaped and began to breed, horror of horrors, in the world of the literary soundbite.

By May 1871 there was a sighting in the Petersburg Index: “If there be any degrees of annihilation, Mr. Pengelly is fully entitled to regard himself as demolished to the nth degree.”

Now the nth degree meant: to the limit; to its logical conclusion; infinite.

Tonight I plan to to allow ‘n’ to mutate a little; for this mathematical interloper seems to me to be the only way to describe what happens when any harmless concept comes within six feet of my dog.

His name is Macaulay: let us call his unique power the ‘mth’ degree.

Consider the rewards of keeping a dog: the closeness, the shiny glossy coat; the wonderful games they play; the comforting presence in the corner of the room.

Each of these is changed utterly when applied to the power of the endearing little biohazard who shares our life. It is altered by Macaulay’s ‘m’-ness.

One cannot get close to him because he stinks. A cuddle would send one away smelling like a barnyard, whether or not he has had a bath that morning. The games he derives pleasure from involve death and decay; and his presence in a room causes instant olfactory offence.

He is the very limit a disreputable terrier can reach. Terrier infinity.

Macaulay Shrewsday is a terrier, one and a half feet tall with his head held high. He has the visage of a film star: his cheeky-chappie looks are redolent of the latter title role in Lady and the Tramp. We could, if we were feeling ruthless, make serious cash out of him. Big eyes, huge Neville Chamberlain moustache, eyebrows with a 3D life all their own.

His coat shines; his eager little heart beats only to please the family of which he is part.

But I do not speak of the Shrewsday family.I refer to the global pool – nay, primaeval soup – of creatures whose job it is to clear up the world’s rubbish.

How do I describe them? Let me count the ways.

They are part of the great cycle of decay, scavengers with virtually no discernment. They function using a smellscape of putrid decomposition: nature has given them a penchant for the vile. We retch, they sniff appreciatively and move into investigate.

They range from the humble ant, through slugs and maggots, to simple-eyed flies who pass the day on a cow pat before heading for the kitchen. Nature has continued in her journey through the continuum of scale. Rats do their bit. And it doesn’t take long before we are at the one-and-a-half foot level and there he sits, Macaulay Shrewsday, looking like butter would not melt in his mouth.

Butter? You don’t know the half of it.

A small fanged Chinese animal lives in the forest.

Actually, by now, it must be considered British. The Reeves Muntjac deer takes its name from the East India Company’s Chief Inspector of Tea, John Reeves. He was a keen amateur naturalist and noted the tiny deer during his work in China, which began in 1812.

Too endearing for those who favoured naturalist pilfering to resist, they were brought back to Britain for various collections. And of course, a few made it over the wall. Now it seems they are giving our native deer a run for their money. And they live -and die- in our forest.

About two months ago, my dog picked up a stick and carried it protectively along.

And what, you say, is wrong with that? It’s what dogs do. Loosen up, Shrewsday.

Except that I know Macaulay has never chased a stick in his short shambling life. Dreading the inevitable ulterior motive, I moved in closer to investigate.

If it was a stick, it was an unusual one: two radii, joined at an angle of 45 degrees.

With mounting horror I realised it was a disembodied munjac’s leg.

I screeched and Riverdanced in horrified disgust. To my endless amazement, the dog got the picture very quickly, realising this peerless trophy had pushed his mistress over the edge into something akin to mania. He dropped the leg.

But furtively and meticulously, the decaymonger noted the location of his comfort food.

Every now and then, he finds it again, and I screech and Riverdance, and he puts it down: each time a little more reluctantly than the last.

Yesterday he disappeared as we walked through the green, green forest dappled with balmy sunlight.

When he returned he walked, uncharacteristically, close to my heels: very much as if he had something to hide. And his gait: if dogs did dressage he would be in the running for the 2012 British Olympic team.

As we walked along our usual tracks I began to wonder if he was all right. His character was so changed! Had he met a muntjac face to face? They are fearsome fighters.

Deeply concerned, I leaned close to check he was not wounded.

And  all at once it became clear he was simply furtively watching his p’s and q’s: and, indeed, m’s. For in his mouth was a tiny, but distressingly ripe, hoof.

Screeching, Riverdance, yada yada yada.

All dogs have bones. But it took my dog to take the whole concept of this doggie comfort food to the mth degree.

A response to the power of ‘m’, (where m is an unsavoury terrier) to Sidey’s weekend theme. She has a knack for choosing a cracking theme: take a look here.

36 thoughts on “Comfort Food:The nth degree

  1. What a hoot! Macauley could be a movie star . . . after a quick bath, perhaps. 😀

    Tigger is not interested in the dead and decaying . . . he wants to be responsible for their demise.
    Last night, he caught a lizard.
    As BFF was not home, it fell to me to make him “let the lizard go!”

    Not so fast.
    Tigger raced after the freed lizard and caught it again.
    Again, I commanded, “let the lizard go!”

    Compliance . . . followed by defiance.
    For the 3rd time in less than 30 seconds Tigger proudly displayed his acumen at catching lizards to me.

    I love him to the nth degree . . . despite his occasional lizard breath.

    Wonderful post, Kate. Give “M” a pat on his bushy browed head for me.

    1. This could be my little Fritz, Nancy. I was plagued by lizards coming into the kitchen – until he arrived on the scene. He caught one and ‘played’ with it outside on the grass, cat-style throwing it up in the air and catching it, letting it escape and then pouncing on it. Eventually it died and I haven’t had lizards in the kitchen since!

  2. Loved the Mac story – reminiscent of some cat stories I have, but those are for another time. During my years in college, the University offered, during the week before exams, a number of free events for the students. The second semester of my freshman year, Spring of 1970, one of the free events was George Carlin in concert. He was very popular back then with the college set, and I believe had only recently come out with his routine on “The seven things you can’t say on TV or Radio.” Anyway, the gymnasium where he performed, was needless to say, packed! He more than met everyone’s expectations – he was hysterical – not one false word, and everything he said got everyone rolling. Very relaxing before exam study time and those “cramming” all-nighters.

    I’m telling this story because of your mention of “n.” and the “nth” degree. Part of his routine that cracked me – and everybody else – up was his notion that what would happen if mathematicians discovered a new number? One that came between 7 and 8. the number was called “bleen.” He mused for a while about how messed up calculations would become, requiring the reconfiguration of EVERYTHING. He did some counting and adding for us, too. My particularly favorite numbers were “bleenteen,” and “bleenty-bleen.”

    Oh, I left out one important fact about that night. No one ever counted, exactly, but I’d say the number of stoned kids in the audience was roughly “bleenty-bleen” percent. . . (And so was George!)

  3. . . . and you took this post to the nth degree! I always learn something new here, Kate.

    You might be interested in reading “The Art of Dancing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. It is a novel told through the eyes of a dog, Enzo, named after the race car driver. The main human character is a race car driver. It is sometimes sad, sometimes funny, always entertaining, and quite philosophical. We read it last month for our book discussion group and had quite a talk over it. I knew Tom would like it, and I knew he wouldn’t read it, so, when I saw the audio for it, out came the credit card and we listened to it for the entire eight hour ride down from Minnesota last weekend.

  4. What a great way to start the day. Coffee and Kate!

    I chuckled, I giggled, I pretended to retch (but without tyhe olfactory inputs I really was quite safe).

    Your Macaulay is definitely one of the animals of blog fame. Hallowed kennels and cushions are reserved for these creatures who provide the entertainment and education for us simple humand online.

    1. He does have a cushion,but it has been increased to the power of m, Sidey. What was an innocent sanctuary has become a festering micro-culture,despite washes and sprays…sigh….

  5. What a larf to start the day, Kate. Gorgeous post, comical and also very interesting and you brought Macaulay (typical devilish terrier, and such a darling despite this) to life for me! 😀

    1. Indeed:-) despite all the decay, inexplicably, we love him. Nature sure knows what she is doing. Humans create waste and she tailored a waste disposal unit to suit us – just so we’d keep it around….

  6. Yeurk!
    What a dog.

    (This makes the cat’s kitchen contributions quite tame in comparison. Neatly dissected gall bladder, head of bat and fledgling feathers)

    1. Yes, that does do well on the m continuum, Pseu.. Dogs just up-scale it all a bit. I do remember stepping on a gift from one of my cats and looking down to discover Ihad stepped in dead mouse.
      Nature is very umami, isn’t she?

  7. Kate, your posts are always wonderful, edifying and delicious. But this one was hilarious and endearing, too. Viva Macauley the terrier, to the glorious mth degree! My cats often present me with gory gifts, so I understand the distress (once, found a limp bloodied mouse in my bed).

  8. What an excellent write. I so enjoy and admire the way you develop your subject each time. This one was particularly amusing too. Great post.

  9. Why or why have I said 9th degree all these years…what a gaff!
    I was terribly humoured by your pups antics…reminds me of the time I was on lunch break strolling z (minus leash) around the field, called her 3x after I saw her nosing around, and to my horror, she comes bounding to me (that doggie smile in full, kinda) carrying a field mouse in her mouth, oy!
    Great post, as always ~

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