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This smoke is no joke, but we’re in it together

Oliver refuses to be fitted for an N95 NIOSH-certified mask. It’s sad that I don’t need to follow with an explanation of the N95, since we’ve all been schooled by now. But a particulate mask seems non-negotiable with Ollie, mainly because it eclipses his entire head.

The cat of the house says it was bad enough when I threatened to stuff him into a onesie to prevent his scratching at a rash on his neck and chest area. I point to Jennifer Wicklund, our wonderful vet, who suggested it (then mentioned a picture for the office). Though the rash has healed to the point where he doesn’t need it, I’m disappointed. Oh, not that I want the torturous bumps to reappear, it’s just that I found the perfect onesie for Oliver.

Now, I’m not one to dress pets. In fact, I’ve openly scorned the practice — with Oliver prompting over my shoulder. But it was prescribed by a professional, plus this garment had a tiger on it. Right?

I wondered what size a 16-pound cat would wear. In checking the chart, I learned Oliver the cat is the size of a 6- to 9-month baby. I sifted through the onesies, knowing that a tiger would be the least humiliating for him while also being photogenic.

Jennifer had said to put his head through the neck opening and just put his front legs in, letting the rest lie cape-like. I tried to imagine doing that by myself without leather gloves or a close friend to hold him during the process. In the end, they didn’t have his size, so I let the notion go.

Since Oliver won’t wear a smoke mask, my 20-pack should last a while. I’ve been thinking daily of all those who ply their trade outdoors — firefighters being at the literal and figural forefront, of course. But there are many others who have to persevere in their work despite the health hazard smoke involves. People like Martin and Cameron, who appear faithfully each week to mow and blow my yard. Their entire work week is spent outside in physical exertion. I asked Martin last week why they didn’t wear masks. He explained it was nearly impossible to breathe through their filtration while on the move.

I decided to try one. If you’re bearded, it’s hard to get a tight seal. I was OK there. But I do wear glasses, despite my lying column photo. I followed the directions and shaped the metal do-hickey to the bridge of my nose, which made it sore after about 10 minutes. Then I had to position my glasses on top of the nose bridge. Vanity had no place here. I wore it all over town, feeling conspicuous but health-conscious in the extreme, sort of like when I order GF bread. I could definitely understand that wearing a mask all day while performing physical labor doesn’t work well. I could hardly wait to get it off after less than an hour.

Besides construction and maintenance people, how about local musicians who claim a lion’s share of their income playing and singing outside during the summer months? I’d recently enjoyed a break from smoke while listening to Jeff Kloetzel at Dancin’ Vineyards. Today we chatted on Facebook.

“I’m starting to feel it a bit now — this week has been worse. Hope the weekend’s better, with three outdoor shows on the docket,” Jeff said. “I’ve felt lucky to have no cancellations as yet ... but I suspect they’re coming. Last year was my first year to have several smoke cancellations in August/Sept. ... hope that’s not the new norm!”

So, while my eyes water, my head aches and I grow flabbier from lack of exercise, we’re all in this together. When skies finally clear, we’ll have reason to rejoice. Until then we can anticipate the celebration. Meanwhile, please help support the businesses who have moved music and other performances indoors.

Reach freelance writer Peggy Dover at pcdover@hotmail.com.