How To Cope With Shortages

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Last week, Catherine and I had a multi-hour, intense Pipe Wrench Zoom call that clarified things that had been unclear, put some longer-range ideas on the back burner, and made concrete things that had been inchoate. We’d both been carrying around more stress than we’d wanted; now we’re not. It was productive and exciting and useful, and we were both so physically wiped and addled the next day that Catherine thought she had a hangover and I wondered if I’d had a stroke.

That said, here’s a story about a dog.

When we were in our mid-twenties, my spouse Brian and I adopted a big orange dog named Chester. He was a huge asshole and also the best dog in the whole world, as all dogs are. Here he is looking irritated to be woken up from a nap:

A large, fluffy orange dog lies on a green couch, glaring at the camera.

He was in a kennel after having been found wandering the streets of the Bronx. When we went to meet him, the dog rescue lady cautioned us that he was reserved and probably wouldn’t be overly enthusiastic. She led him over, and when we crouched down to scratch his ears and try to barter biscuits for love, he immediately started licking Brian’s face. Rescue Lady called us later that night after meeting all the potential adopters and told us that she’d had a long talk with Chester, who had never reacted to anyone the way he had to Brian, and he wanted to come live with us.

We made the expected excited noises. We went to PetCo and bought all the things. We chose not to tell Rescue Lady that Brian had stopped at a bodega for a Hostess Fruit Pie on our way to the kennel, and that his formidable beard had been full of microscopic pie particles.

A fluffy orange dog lying down on a blue and brown striped carpet.

Chester had a case of kennel cough, and we were given two options: leave him at the kennel to be treated — risky, because it was likely he’d immediately re-catch it from another dog — or bring him home sick and treat him ourselves. We brought him home. He vomited in the car on the way, and then immediately came inside and peed on Brian’s video games while staring me directly in the eye. So orange. So fluffy. Such a jerk.

After two or three days at home, he got sicker. We finished the packet of antibiotics the kennel had sent home with us. He kept getting sicker: moping, not eating, congested. You can’t teach a dog how to blow his nose; at least, I can’t. The sounds emitted by a phlegmy dog are both tragic and disgusting.

We took him to our vet, who prescribed more antibiotics, warm ground beef and rice, and time, and told us: the kennel was a stressful place, full of uncertainty and potential threats. When dogs are in those situations, their bodies do everything possible to try to minimize weakness; his system worked overtime to beat back the infection and keep him prepared to defend himself. It couldn’t make him 100% healthy and 100% alert, so it did the best it could. Then when he realized he was in a safe place, his body let down its guard because it knew that it could afford to spend all its energy healing instead of needing to hoard resources to cope with the stress. So he got a lot sicker before he got a lot better.

A close-up photo of a dog's face. The dog has orange fur and a black nose.

Chester lived with us for 13 happy, hijink-filled years before getting the kind of sick that antibiotics can’t cure. We had him put to sleep at home so he could let his guard down one last time, for a peaceful goodbye in a safe place with a peanut butter spoon to lick, which is the best any of us can hope for. And I’ve thought about what that vet told us every day since.

The week in Pipe Wrench.

  • Did we not already tell you about the big Zoom call? What more do you want from us?
  • We had a check-in with our friends at the Freelance Solidarity Project to refine our freelancer policies around indemnification in a way we hope will be a good model for other publications of our size. This requires online shopping! Online shopping… for insurance. Don’t look up “average settlement for [thing you might get sued for]” if you enjoy not being haunted.
  • The Issue Two lineup gets more and more exciting, while the feature story gets richer and richer with each draft.


We don’t know if you are aware, but the United States is currently experiencing a chicken wing shortage. Its impact is felt keenly in Texas, where Catherine is, so she relayed this important news to Michelle, who immediately set herself to understanding the nuances of the situation in order to avoid doing other, more difficult things.

Here are some key research takeaways. May they give you good chit-chat fodder for your first awkward post-vaccination in-person social gathering. 

  • There is a real business called Poultry Perspectives that employs a man whose actual job is “international poultry economist.” (News articles dumb this down to “international chicken consultant,” and they should rectify that.)
  • The spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, another real body that really exists, is named Mr. Super.
  • There was a Wing Glut in 2020, begging the question: why the U.S. didn’t take that opportunity to create a Strategic Federal Wing Reserve (Frozen)?

Please feel free to respond and tell us what your job title would be if you worked at the U.S. Strategic Federal Wing Reserve (Frozen).