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MARTHA SEZ: Who is suffering from Melaniacholia this summer?

August 3, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Melaniacholia. My neighbor Ernest suspects this disorder has been spreading ever since the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2016.

Ernest and I were sitting on Adirondack chairs out in front of his house, watching the planet Venus set in the west, when he began to expound on his theory of Melaniacholia.

Keene Valley is largely considered a safe place in which to relax and regard the evening sky, but you never know, according to Scrappy, a small but defiant terrier mix who was making it his business to keep Ernest safe from harm.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, it is not unusual to see bears roaming the streets of Keene Valley after dark, and, while a black bear's primary interest is in attacking garbage cans, not people, our local dogs take a dim view of trespassing bruins. The same goes for trespassers of other species, from chipmunks to humans. For this reason, Ernest's discourse on Melaniacholia was necessarily punctuated by periods of fierce and sustained barking, but I managed to get the gist of it.

Melaniacholia, Ernest suggested, is a specific type of melancholy, seen mostly among women. In some cases, women experiencing Melaniacholia are victims of varying degrees of domestic abuse by husbands who are rude, crude and indecorous. Melaniacholiacs feel trapped in a world in which they have to put up with unremitting boorishness.

While we talked, Venus grew brighter as it sank slowly behind the Brothers Mountains. There was some commotion as my cat, Jupiter, careened around the side of the building, meowing loudly in greeting, thereby setting off barking by Scrappy so loud it sounded as if it must be coming from a much larger dog. Jupiter ran back the way he came and Scrappy settled down again.

Eventually, Ernest picked up the thread of his previous exposition of Melaniacholia. This disorder, he surmised, is experienced, not only directly, but indirectly as well, by women who perceive themselves under the sway of an insensitive, cruel and powerful individual-basically, we are talking about a jerk-in various circumstances. Perhaps the tyrant is an employer or the ruler of their country. In a broader sense, he expounded, the Melaniacholiac may feel defeated and exhausted by patriarchy in general.

I confessed that I sometimes feel sorry for Melania Trump, but that some of my friends tell me not to. She knew what she was getting into, they say. My conversation with Ernest made me wonder again what her life must be like. Wealthy, famous and beautiful: Is Melania, as I have always suspected, a Melaniacholiac?

Scrappy began to bark at some near and present danger, and it occurred to me to ask a question on a completely different subject that I had been thinking about. You hear a lot about heroic dogs saving lives, I told Ernest, but for every instance of a dog actually saving a human life, how many instances are there of a dog making a nuisance of itself?

For example, dogs seem to unanimously disapprove of bears, but let's face it, canines share the ursine predilection for garbage raiding and food stealing. Also, while dogs undoubtedly perform brave and loyal acts when given the opportunity, some reports are exaggerated if not suspect.

While researching this subject, for example, I read about a beagle mix who barked at his sleeping owner until he woke up and followed the dog into the kitchen, where he discovered that an unlit gas burner on the stove had been left on. Concerned about carbon monoxide? Or hungry for breakfast?

Then there's this account I took from an article titled "8 times dogs and cats saved lives like it was no big deal" from" with "People magazine." When a U.S. Marine collapsed from a seizure, his dog pulled his cell phone from his pocket with its teeth and "stepped on the screen for several seconds, automatically dialing 911. It's nothing short of uh-mazing, especially considering ... the dog was never trained to perform that task." Far be it from me to argue with, but I think the story sounds like something from "The Art of Racing in the Rain," a novel by Garth Stein.

Ernest looked thoughtful. Dogs and cats may save lives in other ways, he proposed, with their love and support. Venus had dropped behind the mountains.

Jupiter had climbed up the apple tree and through the window and was home when I came in.

Have a good week.



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