Pen as Sword - Social Commentary

4000 years of “screwing the pooch”


No Life Like It

So, did the title get your attention or was it just a search engine picked it up?

Back in the day “screwing the pooch” referred to any activity which wasn’t approved by higher up, or doing it poorly, or “skiving off” or more usually in the NAVY “F-bomb” the dog as in simply not doing your duty or not doing it as promptly or …


Worried Dog

Usually “screwing the pooch” is/was rationalized in the military by offering up the pure fact that while “alongside” (secured in harbour as they say) one was rarely challenged by dockside duties and was distinctly underemployed.

But while at sea one more than made up for “skiving” alongside by working extremely hard, occasionally in dangerous or even deadly conditions for over 300 days a year on deployment.

Later in life when I went to work in government I discovered that “skiving” was just normal daily work for civilians having jobs with any government agency that didn’t involve emergency services or law enforcement. The regular folks working in the real world had all the truly stressful lives.

These gubmint union “workers” were/are the legions of three hour a day, never laid off, gang members,  splashing around in the tax pool, who rarely face real work, or deadly danger, in their entire lives, and the biggest stressor they face was/is being late for coffee break.

Now, as we all know a real stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism. An event that triggers the stress response may include: environmental stressors (hypo or hyper-thermic temperatures, elevated sound levels, over-illumination, overcrowding).


H.M.C.S. Saguenay

I don’t know why this seems somewhat lame but perhaps it has something to do with having a little up close and personal experience with REAL STRESS! 

While on deployment in HMCS Saguenay in 1974 I found myself as part of a scratch team fighting a real life boiler-room fire while underway, (as in “Emergency Stations, Emergency Stations, Fire in the boiler-room!  This is not a drill!). NOT SCREWING THE POOCH!


Welcome To My Office

There is a dry old saying to the effect that “A fire at sea can spoil your whole day”. Understatement, understatement, you are 1000 miles from land and there is no 911 operator to call and no muster point to evacuate to in safety and the fire department will never show up.  You’re up buddy! Real Stress!

You are steaming along in a 375 foot vessel full of high explosives, ordinance, jet-B, and this little vessel is your whole world. There ain’t nowhere else to go and while this is unfolding you discover that most folks are rather reluctant to cuddle up to a burning ammunition dump/gas station to give you a hand. Real Stress!

Navel personnel in this situation either fight the fire successfully or die horribly, maybe both.  Memories of the engine room fire in HMCS Kootenay on October 23, 1969 were still fresh in everyone’s mind and some of us had known some of them personally.”DEAR GOD, JUST LET ME GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE AND I PROMISE TO BE GOOD FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!” HA!

Motivated doesn’t even begin to cover it. Fortunately, we were very well trained and had recently spent endless hours at the Navy Damage Control School in Ferguson’s Cove, just outside Halifax, and that’s a whole pile of more real stress as the flames close in from all sides or the flood waters rise up trapping you against the overhead, or … yea, lots of adrenaline flowing at Damage Control School.

Seen lots of recent training videos where the point men are using foam. It’s probably safer for the guys that way, but it plays merry hell with any salvageable equipment in the compartments.  We used plain old seawater and two hoses, the jet nozzle and the fog nozzle. The fog kept you alive long enough to corral and put out the flames with the jet. Without the fog man, the jet man would be fried – literally.

In fact Damage Control and Firefighting training for all personnel, both Officers and hands, were a very high priority in the Canadian Navy and a “motivational” film of the fire aboard USS Forrestal  off Vietnam in 1973 shows why.

Obviously we survived and successfully put out the fire, but it was touch and go for a little while and really uncomfortable the rest of the time. That really was a stressor. I wonder how many hours of dockside skiving were covered off by that couple of intense hours we spent fighting the fire.

Anyhoo … why “4000 years of screwing the pooch”?

Because humanity seems to be the biggest collection of leakers (old Naval expression for “Losers” or those who routinely “screw the pooch”) in the entire history of this planet. We just can’t seem to stay on the right track, can we, no matter how often we are handed a get out of jail free card by the Almighty. We know what we are doing wrong and we just keep on doing it.

Like St. Augustan, we keep praying “Please Lord give us the grace to be good, but not right now”. We are really attached to the things of this world, and when the rubber hits the road we would rather follow our appetites and passions than do the right thing. We “screw the pooch” while strolling happily down the broad highway. The narrow path is for suckers.

UNLESS, unless we are on the brink of death and disaster. Then suddenly we are praying our collective asses off. That’s probably why God keeps sending us trials and disasters. He knew us before we were conceived in our mother’s wombs. He created this world and everything in it to train the faithful. And to test us. And we keep failing the tests!  GUYS!

The following pretty well makes the point don’tcha think?


The Entire Bible in One Facebook Post



Eomers Battle Cry


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  1. Pingback: Revisiting “screwing the pooch” with Charity … | Not My First Rodeo

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