Overestimating the Odds That Something is Dead

September 5, 2006 at 9:59 pm 4 comments

In my post this weekend about Jimmie’s Terror, my first thought was that Jimmie was dead.  This isn’t the first time I wrongly suspected something was deceased.  In fact last July 17th, Sean concluded on AOL IM:

you tend to overestimate the odds that something is dead

A couple of other examples:

Rugrat the Ferret
In our apartment and town home days, Sean and I had a sickly ferret named Rugrat.  I’m not sure if it was a product of her illnesses, but she was also a very sound sleeper.  Often I would find her upper body hanging limp over her hammock.  I could poke and prod with no response.  At times, I would even pick up her head and then drop it and watch gravity swing it lifelessly back and forth (Aaron Evans has this phenomenon on tape).  I fell for it a number of times. 

In particular, I remember one evening in our Pheasant Run town home.  I repeated the head swinging test a couple of times and yelled to Sean.

“She’s dead!”  Suddenly I had total disgust for this thing I had just been touching, “GET IT OUT OF HERE!”

From downstairs, Sean’s muffled voice assured, “She’s not dead.”

“This time she really is dead!  She’s DEAD!” I yelled, “Come look!”

So Sean ascended the stairs and sure enough as soon as he was in the room, Rugrat lifted her head and blinked her eyes, wondering what all the commotion was about.

Rugrat finally succumbed to her various health issues a year or so later while in the vet’s custody.  When the vet called to tell me she passed on I asked, “Are you sure she isn’t sleeping?”  It seemed like a legitimate question. 

The vet was not amused.

Henry the Beagle
Henry sleeps by me every night.  Frequently, I’ll wake up and see Henry lying very very still beside me with his eyes open and his mouth agape.  Poor Henry has been shaken awake on more than one occasion.  Usually he is pretty pissed and growls– which satisfies me.  Once I disrupt his perfect sleep, I’m able to lie back down and return to bed.  Meanwhile, poor Henry is left awake.

Stench the Cat
When Sean and I went to Colorado this past July, I left the door to the screened in porch propped open and placed a stockpile of water and food for the cat to ingest.  When we returned home, the cat was nowhere to be found.  We discovered that the door was no longer propped shut AND it was locked!  None of the food or water had been touched.  I quickly recalled that someone had been drunk and hanging out in the porch the night before our trip. 

I had a series of conclusions–  Sean locked Stench out of the porch->Stench could not get water->Stench died of horrible dehydration->My husband killed the cat.  I was married to… a cat killer! 

Apparently I could not conceal my suspicions.

“Why do you keep looking at me like I did this?!?!” Sean asked.

It turned out it was another false alarm.  Stench surfaced the next morning.  He wasn’t dead.  He didn’t even act like anything was out of the ordinary and he certainly didn’t seem to miss us.

In retrospect, all the rain the area got and the fact we had a person coming by twice a day to walk the dogs would have thwarted the death sentence I was certain Stench received.

Sean is very good at predicting my thoughts and our trip to Jekyll Island in 2002 was no exception.  One morning I woke up in the hotel to find a still and silent Sean.  I touched his shoulder and his skin was cold.  That was weird.  So I leaned in to see if he was breathing and when that was inconclusive, I poked his cheek to see if it too was cold.  Without moving or even opening his eyes, Sean spoke in a matter-of-fact tone:

“I’m not dead.”

So, yeah.  It does look like my death radar needs some calibration.  But the inevitability of death puts the odds on my side. 

Sooner or later, I’m bound to be right!

Entry filed under: Henry, Jimmie, Rugrat, Sean, Stench.

Jimmie and Henry: Been There Done That Fahrenheit 451 and TV Personalities

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  September 6, 2006 at 9:04 am

    A stopped watch is right twice a day, while a 1-second-off watch is never right. Eventually, the inevtability of time puts the odds on the stopped watch eventually being right, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in need of some re-calibration, like your sense of death.

    I see the Sawyers have a universal freak out gene. 🙂

  • 2. Carolyn  |  September 6, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Hahaha! I’m barely able to contain my laughter!

    I do not have a bad habit of thinking things that I see are dead, but whenever Samhain & Misfit were missing for more than 12 hours, I got/get worried. One time in Blacksburg when I lived in the duplex, I was like “OK, I have to wait at least 24 hours before putting up signs”. But I spent a lot of time outside during those next 12 hours looking and calling for Samhain. Then at one point, I was opening the door in a futile attempt to look outside, and there was Samhain!! With his second broken foot!!!!! Talk about relief!

    Actually, I’m having trouble remembering if that was Samhain’s second broken foot or his first broken foot. Maybe Clint can refresh my memory if Samhain had a broken foot when we lived on Orchard Street with Ryan. I remember Ryan was the one who told me his foot was broken, but for some reason, I can picture him saying that in both places. But more in the duplex than Orchard Street… Hmmmmm.

    Also, on another note, when Samhain actually died, he wasn’t missing for any period of time. He went out the night before and we found him that morning.

  • 3. Clint  |  September 6, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Carolyn, I am not the best person to ask for memory-related things… I couldn’t tell you if Samhain broke his leg 2 or 3 times — I thought he broke it once at OUR house as well. If the total number is 2, then there is only 1 remaining one in Blacksburg, but I couldn’t tell you if that was our Orchard/Winston St apartment or what.

    As for Samhain dying, I thought he WAS missing. I thought we had joked about, “Well, he’s been gone for 24 hrs, so he’s probably dead,” when we went to bed the night before — AND HE WAS. At least, that’s how *I* remember it (refer to above disclaimer).

  • 4. Carolyn  |  September 6, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Yes, I can’t remember if he broke it 2 or 3 times either. The only thing I can say for sure is the first time (whenever/whereever it was), he was missing for a long time, when he showed up, he was limping, and Ryan Somma told me it was broken. But I can’t remember if that was in the duplex or Orchard Street. I *know* he had at least two: 1 at the duplex, and 1 at our house. The question is was there a third one at our apartment. The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards the Duplex being the first one. That’s because Samhain was still kinda a kitten (i.e. young) when Ryan lived with us at Orchard Street.


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