Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Sleek

On this day in 1998, my friend Xena came for dinner. She brought Sleek with her. I'd met Sleek a week earlier when Fluff and I went to see a rescue Aussie that Xena had. The Aussie wasn't a good fit for either Fluff or me, so Xena and I were sitting around the living room talking. She let Sleek in because it was cold outside and Sleek had been spayed a few days earlier. Fluff liked Sleek, even though Fluff doesn't normally like other girls. After a while, Xena asked me if I'd ever thought about owning a Malinois as she might be willing to place Sleek. We agreed to think it over and talk later in the week. Xena brought Sleek over on Christmas, and, since the girls still seemed to get along, we decided to see if Sleek would fit in long term. Nine years later, I think we can say this was a good fit!

Fluff is my heart dog, but Sleek is one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen, especially when she was younger and doing her own thing in a field.

Sleek in January, 2007, age 12.

Sleek had the most beautiful movement. She was breath-taking. She's still pretty, but arthritis has robbed her of some of her glide. January, 2007.

Sleek in January, 2003, watching another dog work sheep. 8 years old. This picture took me 4 years to get -- Sleek doesn't like cameras and usually puts her ears back when she sees one.

Sleek in joyous possession of a floating Kong. Probably 2003. Washington coast. Age 9.
Sleek and Fluff the year we traded in a septic system for a sewer connection. The side yard had to be put in the front yard to dig deep enough to have the pipe run the right direction.

Updated with Christmas 2007 photos. We were supposed to have rain today, but some of it is white.... Dogs were anxious to enjoy the snow rather than hold still in it, so pics are quick. Sleek is wearing a coat because she is trying to switch from being a sleek, blonde beauty to a sleek, bald beauty. Not bright in this climate, but arguing with a dog about its haircoat is pretty pointless. Now I just lecture, and she does her thing. Fluff looks okay in these pictures, but if we get serious snow she's going to look like a "before Clorax" ad.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pet Sitting at Christmas

Oy vey, it's already a long Christmas, and compared to more established sitters, I have a light load!

Get ready to do 5 visits this morning. Before leaving, find out my kitchen sink is almost completely stopped up. Why? Because I ran the freakin' garbage disposal is why. You know, the thing you use to speed up the sink? Murphy rules.

My usual plumbers (2 companies) neither answer the phone nor call back. They also do not mention on their voicemail that they will (apparently) not be working Christmas Eve. I'm guessing they're also not working Christmas Day.

Did I mention the sink full of dirty dishes? And the dirty crockpot on the countertop?

How about my need to take a hostess gift Christmas Day to the wonderful soul who is feeding me? And did I mention I had planned to take homemade spiced nuts as the gift? That aren't made yet. That will require some of the dirty dishes to be cleaned for the making? And again after the making?

I need a dogwalker for my own dogs. I walked them this morning, but it's after 5pm now and they're ready to go again. I'm ready to go, too. To bed. But I have to wash dishes in the bathtub and make spiced nuts. At this point, I'm a nut. Can I just rub spices into my skin and attend the dinner? Too bad this isn't the kind of crowd for that. Maybe the 2nd time I meet them, but not the first. Tacky on the first meeting.

Now Murphy is threatening this post. Whew! Successfully saved. More installments to come, but I am going to take a nap.

7pm update: one plumber has called back. No, he's not working today or tomorrow. Heck, he's not working the whole week. He said he will try to find a way we can work something out.

The clog is moving. I think it may be near the bathtub now because the drain was pretty slow when I was washing dishes there.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fluff Turns Twelve

I don't know her exact birthdate, but I celebrate Fluff's birthday on December 22. Give or take a month, it's about right.

This is Fluff at about 3 years old, maybe 4.
Fluff during an agility run. Fast, responsive to her handler, but not always tolerant of handler error.

One of my favorite pictures of Fluff. "You want this stick? It's a really good stick. You know you want it. Catch me, and we'll talk!"

Fluff at the Washington coast. She loves retrieving from water. I think she's about 8 or 9 in this picture.

My best girl. Looks, personality, and a whole lot of love. Thanks, sweetheart.

Friday, December 21, 2007


It's Solstice Night tonight. The moon is nearly full and only covered by a thin veil of clouds. We may even get frost tonight, if the cloud cover stays thin.

I walked the girls near the Columbia River in the late afternoon. It was a beautiful solstice, and we still had some light after 4:30pm. Likely this wasn't the shortest-feeling day of the year this time!

Sleek was feeling young tonight (I know it was today, but we were in twilight, so tonight feels right). She dug after a few moles or mice and trotted along quite happily. I was the first one to see the deer, and I grabbed Sleek's collar about the same time she saw them. She whined, and yowled, and barked because they were so close and she felt young and strong enough to catch one, surely. When I felt the deer were far enough away to be less interesting, I let go of Sleek's collar. Darned if she didn't take off after them, as deaf to my calls as ever when faced with that valuable a resource. She ran straight toward barbed wire, much to my cringing horror. But Sleek still has it. Just like in her younger days, she managed to slide between the wires unscathed. She is amazing.

Fluff did well today, too. She had a grand time splashing in puddles and kindly refrained from actually lying down in any of them. She bounced at the deer when she saw them but is far too smart to actually want to go near them.

In addition to the deer, I saw a raptor of some kind. I used to always see a pair of bald eagles in that area during Christmas week, but I've not seen them for several years. I miss them.

I'm really bad at coming up with a concluding paragraph or sentence to tie my thoughts together. I was bad at that in those high school 5-paragraph essays, too. I always wrote the body paragraphs first, then tried to come up with an interesting introduction and conclusion. Now I just write something closer to stream of consciousness and end when I want to leave. Sometimes I want to come back later, but I never seem to get around to that.

Linus & Lucy

One of my favorite pieces of music, this piece by Vince Guaraldi appears to be among the most frequently used songs for synchronized Christmas light displays.

This one has a pretty good soundtrack, but the camera movement can cause a little queasiness.

I used this song about 5 years ago when Fluff and I competed in Canine Musical Freestyle. I ran out of time (and patience) to choreograph it properly because I have no musical talent or rhythm or knowledge of how to choreograph. It's tough to find someone who can help with choreography for a dog. Telling the dog to "do that spin just a little faster at this point, slower at that point" doesn't really work well. It's entirely possible to teach a dog to spin at a certain speed (assuming the dog is physically capable of it), but it takes exquisite timing on the trainer's part. Then there are human and canine nerves at exhibitions. Many dogs tend to slow down when their handlers appear nervous or uptight in a doggy effort to let the handler know everything is okay and it's time to calm down. Fluff, on the other hand, tends to get amped at this stage and try every behavior she knows in rapid succession to see if any of them are the key to calming me.

Anyway, this song worked for us. Despite my notorious dislike of costuming, I could deal with a red & white striped turtleneck and socks combined with green tights and a Santa hat. Fluff, who really needs no adornment with her flashy colors, wore a jinglebell collar. We got out there and did our favorite moves and had fun. There are advantages to completing your title the day before -- I was relatively relaxed because I had no intention of moving up to the next level of competition. At one point, Fluff curtseyed to me then looked over at the audience and grinned at them to a collective "Awwwwww" from the crowd. We won a special award for Most Bonded Team that day.

One of the best local trainers in freestyle later asked me how I taught Fluff to pay attention to me because "she never takes her eyes off you in the ring." Unfortunately, I didn't really know. I thought I hadn't specifically trained attention because it seemed to just flow out of our lives together. Thinking back now, I realize I did teach some of it as a way of dealing with Fluff's insecurities around other dogs. If she didn't stare at them, she didn't get so nervous about dogs being near her. If she was staring at me, she wasn't staring at them, so I encouraged her to watch me carefully in show environments. Fluff learned "watch Mum carefully whenever you are nervous or uncomfortable." Since she picks up on my nerves in competition, she's nervous and uncomfortable in those situations.

In fact, 4 months later Fluff let me know she was retiring from competition. The night before a national competition, she went lame to the point where she could barely get to her feet. I apologized to her because I had ignored her saying she didn't want to do this any more for several months. In my selfish way, I wanted to show her off one last time, so I ignored her very unusual lack of enthusiasm for training. We did not compete that weekend, and she has not competed in freestyle again, although she has done a few demos. She's happier retired, I think, although we both miss some of the connection that comes through training. I'm too lazy to think up training goals when I don't have a competition behavior to focus me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Vicious Cycles

(note that these are not viscous cycles, even when runny noses are involved)

I taught my dogs that my clearing my throat is often a good clue that they need to reconsider their current behavior. If Sleek is thinking about chasing the neighbor's cat, then she had darn well better think about staying where she is. If Fluff is thinking about barking at somebody walking down the street, she gets to think about how golden silence really is.

Now I have a cold that has settled into my chest. Now I have to really clear my throat for physical reasons, not just canine behavioral ones. Now my dogs have decided that throat clearing is not a significant event. Now what do I use for a warning signal?

December depression is an extremely vicious cycle. You know, it does feel viscous as well. I feel like I'm walking (on a good day) through a very thick, sticky, nasty mess. I like molasses or else I'd use it as an analogy for the fluid. Maybe this is dark Karo corn syrup in December. I'm semi-paralyzed by this depression. I can get things done for other people, meaning I'm going on my pet-sitting visits. I just can't do much for myself. My slippers are still unknit, bills are not always getting paid on time, papers are not filed so I can find the freakin' bills, and the house is a disaster area. My diet (never good) has gone to hell in a very fast handbasket, and I'm not doing much to clear up my cold. Fine.

Unfortunately, I have this little cognitive dissonance from my upbringing that means I can't ask for help unless I'm strong enough to not need it. When I'm depressed, I feel needy and that no one else needs to be subjected to a depressed kabbage, so I avoid people. Then I get lonely, which is depressing, especially near the holidays. Hell, it's damn near unAmmurican to be lonely during the godly holidays of excessive spending, eating, and getting together with people. Which means I have to hide that I'm alone which means I must become invisible which means hermitting more than usual.

I try to avoid the holidays as much as possible. I went through a period of being a pleaser who tried to keep my family as happy as possible during the holidays. I think this led to no one in my family, and possibly my friends, to really know who I am. That led to a series of Christmas gifts I found devastating in their deviation from what I would want. I wondered if any of these people had any clue who I was or am. After blowing up a few times (including my memorable use of the F-word at the Christmas dinner table at my parents' house -- to the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one of us who ever did that -- such an award -- too bad more of the sibs weren't home to hear it), I decided to start avoiding holidays.

Then I get pissed and afraid that I'm turning into my mother. I proceed to act even more like her by avoiding people because I'm afraid I'll act like her around them, which is not nice and not lovable. If any more people stop loving me, I will completely run out of people who do love me. Not that I don't feel suspicious about the ones who do love me because they're obviously crazy if they love someone like me. The dogs are simply trapped by biology -- they NEED someone to love, and I'm the one most consistently available and I control their access to other people.

Meanwhile, back to the vicious cycles. Depression fuels itself. I get up later, when the (nominal) sun is already up, so I don't spend time in front of my lightbox (Fluff is happy because those lightbox sessions are most-likely-times-for-Fluff-grooming which she hates). I'm running later, so I don't go exercise. Food becomes problematic when running late, too, so decent nutrition goes out the window. Sugar, on the other hand, comes a-running. I'm sensitive to sugar -- I can spike and crash pretty easily, and it sure doesn't help cold-recovery. Let's summarize: poor self-care.

Now, off to what I CAN do. I started on St. John's Wort today. Although that stuff is supposed to take weeks to have a visible effect, I find the tinctures can kickstart me almost instantly. If it's placebo effect, I don't give a rat's ass. It works. I'm going to finish this post, feed and potty the dogs, and go to bed. Now.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Star Gazing

Although it's clear outside, there is a lot of moisture in the air. I took the dogs out and looked to admire my beloved Orion. I could only see his belt on my inhalations. When I exhale, the moisture in my breath condenses to form a mini-cloud, blocking my view of the stars.

It's a beautiful night. There are some ground clouds (aka fog) forming, but looking up gives me a clear view.

I still remember my first sight of the Milky Way. I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. A group of us went out to one guy's dad's farm for a hayride. I was a child of suburbia, and I attended a suburban college with all the streetlights suburbia embodies fading the stars. Yes, I knew there were stars above, but I had no concept of the glory of the Milky Way as seen from an Indiana corn (or maybe soybean) field. My childhood horizons were hemmed by trees and mountains, not the limitless flat expanse of northern Indiana.

I had never seen so many stars before, and perhaps I haven't since that night. It was a magical, safe, wondrous night. I leaned back into my dear friend Edge's arms while he talked of the stars and pointed out the many stars and constellations he knew. He wanted more than anything to spend time in the sky as a pilot with those stars to guide him. There were so many stars that it was difficult to see some of the constellations -- was he was pointing to this star or that one?

I shivered with cold. I shivered with awe at the size of the sky and the size of the universe. I shivered with the rightness of my being there right then, a part of the universe. An integral part of the universe, despite being so tiny in the universe. It was me, and I was it, and the stars sang.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Answers

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired in 1964 when kabbage was a teeny wee lass of 3.

Despite its dreadful attitude toward women, I love this show. I suspect it's a matter of identifying with the misfits and hoping that someday I too will fit in. I love the music and can sing (albeit badly) most of the lyrics. I remember the old GE ads that used the elves from the show.

My family of origin abused the song "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" when we were growing up. We found out, somehow, that singing this song when someone was already in a bad mood was a nearly foolproof way to enrage that sibling beyond reason. Once they're beyond reason, it's easy to set them up so you look like the injured party in front of Mom and/or Dad. I struggled while in my 20s to not react negatively to this song each December. People don't understand why you would be riding along with them in the car in a perfectly good mood and suddenly go berserk and smash the radio when that particular song comes on. Go figure.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


You know you are blocking your emotions when, catching only the last 10 minutes, you tear up when, after Hermie removes the Bumble's teeth, the bumble and Yukon Cornelius fall over the edge into the ice ravine.

Name that TV special. When did it first air? How old was kabbage at the first airing?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Random Bits

  • Why is it easier for me to rub my dog's belly while simultaneously patting her head than it is for me to do this on myself? Took no extra effort at all, beyond trying to keep the dog in place while I laughed like a loon.

  • Computer joke: Jesus and the Devil are having a computer competition, with God as the judge. Jesus and the Devil do everything using MS Office. They write Word documents, they calculate everything they can think of using Excel, and then they present their results in PowerPoint. God is about to call Time when the power goes out and the room goes black. After a few minutes the power comes back on and the computers boot up. The Devil calls for a do-over since his computer shows nothing. God looks over at him and says there is no need for a do-over because Jesus saves.

  • In my pet sitting, I see houses of all ages, with room size somewhat inversely proportional to house age. The modern master suite tends to be quite large (my house lacks a master bath and walk-in closet in the master suite. In fact, the master suite appears to be a decently large bedroom with a non-walk-in closet). What I don't understand is why the master bath and the walk-in closet are contiguous. Don't the clothes get damp or dampish if people take long, luxurious showers or soak in the jetted tub? I've lived in cities where the towels couldn't dry between showers without artificial air circulation, and those towels tended to smell a bit nasty by the end of the week.

  • Why do pet owners not understand the connection between good food and their pets' health? I have clients who dearly love their pets and pay fortunes for surgery for them and then turn around and feed them nasty (albeit well-advertised) grocery store brands or vet-supplied brands where the first ingredient is corn (a major source of allergies for dogs and not exactly what one thinks of carnivores as eating regularly). Makes me want to scream.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Living with a Mutant

Fluff is a mutant. Normally it's not a big deal as she is pretty healthy. Right now it's a problem. She needs to have a tooth (maybe more?) removed, which means she has to be anesthetized. Unfortunately, her mutant status means most of the commonly-used pre-anesthetics are off limits to her. They're neurotoxic to mutants, and I like my girl to have a functonal nervous system. We tried masking her down (clamping a mask with a connection to a safe anesthetic gas to her face) for a procedure years ago, but she's the world's shallowest breather and most-determined-not-to-be-anesthetized dog. She kicked, thrashed, and blew out her anal glands in that attempt so we'd rather avoid that approach.

Fluff is not alone in her mutancy. She is what they call an MDR1 mutant. MDR = Multiple Drug Resistance. It means she can't get rid of certain drugs in her body like a normal dog can, so they build up and can cause nervous system damage or destruction. She cannot take Acepromazine and she cannot take Ivermectin for heartworm prevention. There are a whole host of drugs that must be avoided by the owners of these dogs. This mutation is extremely common in collies, shelties, Australian shepherds, miniature Australian shepherds, Silken windhounds and long-haired whippets. It also is present in other breeds and mixes that trace back to an affected breed. If you look at breeder webpages, you may see notations like "MDR1-NN" or "MDR1-NM" or "MDR1-MM" which means the dog was tested for its MDR1 status. "NN" means "Normal-Normal" or dog is completely unaffected by the mutation. "NM" or "MN" means one copy of the gene is Normal and one is Mutant. "MM" means the dog carries two copies of the mutant gene. It's not completely clear yet if NM dogs are affected by the mutant gene or if it takes two copies to fully express the defect. I personally would err on the side of caution and assume my beloved friend needs to avoid certain drugs.
To find a list of affected breeds and information on how you can test your dog to see if it carries the mutation, see http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-VCPL/ This site also mentions some of the drugs to avoid if you own a mutant dog. Another site with an extremely useful list of drugs to avoid is http://busteralert.com/

Be aware, if you own a mutant, that vets are not always thinking about the MDR1 mutation or may not even be aware of it. Just yesterday my vet and I were discussing Fluff's upcoming dental surgery and how to anesthetize her. My vet knew we couldn't use ACE as the pre-anesthetic so she mentioned she'd probably use butorphanol instead. Oops, that is on the list, too, so now we're a bit stuck because she's going to have to use a different drug in a protocol that is unfamiliar to her to anesthetize a dog she knows darn well is my heart dog, my Best Girl. Yeah, we're a little nervous now! Get the information. Give it to your vet. Make sure it's in your dog's chart at the vet. If you have to give drugs or have your dog anesthetized, ask what the drugs or anesthesia are, and check the list! If they won't change their protocol for your dog, go to another vet.

The above has been a public service announcement from Fluff.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So Soon!

Wow! So many people have their Christmas lights up and lit already! Seems to be mostly the people with extravagant displays who are lit up now. That may be a function of the weather: we've had over a week of clear, dry weather. A few days have been too windy to put stuff up, and it's been in the 40s (F) the last few days, but overall good light assembly weather.

I grew up with a much different model. We generally didn't decorate for Christmas until the weekend before the day (we kids were a bit bummed the years Christmas fell on Monday!) and lights were lit from decorating day through January 1. My mother was into understatement, so we only had the tripod "candles" (yellow-orange bulbs) in the front windows and a (plain white) spotlight on the door wreath. Our Christmas tree was in the family room in the back of the house, so it didn't affect our outdoor display.

Now I don't decorate at all. I wonder about the electric bills of the elaborate display houses. I know some of the most modern lights are cheap to run, but some of these big displays probably took years to acquire. I doubt they are all new-style lights.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Today I had the urge to see "Home for the Holidays," a Thanksgiving movie that delights with its dysfunctional family and still a happy ending. I don't own the DVD of this movie, and I don't watch TV at home, so I felt stuck.

Then I went to my last pet sit of the night and turned on the TV to have some quality cuddle time with the cat. Lo and behold, the TV is set to a channel that will be playing "Home for the Holidays" in 15 minutes! The 30 minute visit turned into 2 hours of snuggle time for the cat. Everybody's a winner on Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Joys of Pet Sitting

One house, 2 cats, 3 litter boxes. Taking care of all this in 30 minutes should be simple, right? I walked in to multiple hairballs on the entry rug. Fine, I have a project in mind, so I'll clean those up in a bit. These cats kick and track an unbelievable amount of litter around, which I need to sweep up to get to the project. Do that, then I scoop all 3 boxes. The project is to completely clean and refill the stinkiest box. That takes a while because I have to find an outside spigot, I can't find a scrubbrush, and the scoop also is filthy enough to need cleaning. Then I clean up the mess by the food dishes (looks like somebody decided to mark her territory by the dishes) and wash all the food and water bowls at the kitchen sink. Bowls refilled, I put down new paper towels under them.

Whew! I'm almost done! I go to locate the second cat (she hides under beds, but the other keeps me company while I work). I check in the master bedroom. She's not there, but I find puke on carpet and then puke on catbed. Must clean those up. Must clean up the mess on the entry rug. Go upstairs. Locate the second cat and decide to check on the carpet upstairs. Why, why, why do I do this???? Now I must clean up a spit spot in the hallway and three more in the bonus room. Sigh.

Now I'm really almost done. I go to the mailbox and bring the mail in. I write my note to the owner, then I glance into the dining room and find several more spots to clean. One week into this assignment and there are only 3 carpeted rooms in which the cats have not expressed themselves. I hope they are not saving those for Thanksgiving.

Seventyfive minutes after arriving, all known carpet spots are cleaned up, the boxes are clean, etc. I leave!

I get home and go in the side door because I forgot to put a pee pad by the front door. Sleek, for some reason known only to her, likes to lie on the vinyl floor when I'm not home. The good news is that the vinyl does not absorb urine. The bad news is that, with no pee pad, only Sleek's fur is available to absorb urine. This was a large puddle, since I was gone longer than expected, and Sleek's tail has been lying in it. Sleek comes running to the side door with her tail wagging happily. Another sigh. I scoot the dogs out the back door and clean up the spray.

Whose idea was it to let my life go to the animals?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sad Eyes

Oh boy, oh boy! She's feeding us good stuff for supper tonight! Ground raw turkey! Much better than the mostly broth stuff she's been giving us for supper lately.

Why does she take so long to put those supplements in? Heck, why does she bother at all?

You know. She says they're "good for us."

I wish she'd hurry. My ears are getting tired of being at full alert. My eyes, too. I'm an old dog and I don't have time to waste waiting when I could be eating!

They have a point. It does take a while to decapsulate or break up supplements, but only one will eat any of the supplements in capsule or pill form and both consider having the supplements poked down their throats somewhat insulting.

Those bright eyes, watching every move of my hand from bottle to bowl, then grasping the fork to mix the powders in, moving the bowls to add some hot water so the food will be warmer for old dog bellies. How alert, watchful, anticipating joy in the food.

So much waiting for just a few moments of eating. Then the crestfallen looks all around the bowl. Did I really eat it all already? Surely I knocked a morsel or two under the edge of the bowl? Hmm. Let's swap bowls. Maybe you left something in yours, for I surely did not in mine.

After a final potty break outside, we come in to one last bit of food as a reward for a good emptying of bladders. Dogs race for the back door in more joyous anticipation. Once again, the ears are up, eyes alert and missing no gesture toward a possible food source. Cookies distributed, they head for bed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas and Aging

You know you are aging when you think about whether you would rather have a new set of laundrable pee pads for the dog or Cool-Max socks for yourself as your Christmas gift to yourself. And both of these seem like a desirable options. Your previous thought for a Christmas gift to yourself was a new toilet. You know, one without mineral deposits that affect the flushing action. Thanks to spirited use of a bent dry-cleaner's hanger, enough mineral deposits have been removed (good exercise, too!) that the toilet no longer needs to be at the top of the list.

What things would you like for Christmas?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Facing Things

I'm not good at facing unpleasant things. I tend to put them off until I absolutely cannot figure another way to avoid facing them.

I'm also notoriously awful at asking for help.

I have a situation now where both Fluff and Sleek need surgeries for different things. Fluff needs to have a tooth removed, and Sleek has a lump in her groin that needs to be removed. Both dogs are geriatric. Both are from breeds that often have issues with anesthesia. Sleek has a serious heart murmur, making her even trickier to anesthetize. The pre-op bloodwork hasn't been done yet, so something else could crop up with that, too.

How do I face the fact that it is entirely possible that either dog could die on the table? This writing is actually the first time I'm acknowledging that Fluff could react badly on the table and die. Mostly I'm concentrating on how I don't know how to face this chance with Sleek because a) she has more things going against her in the anesthesia department; and b) because she is, frankly, my Next-Best Girl. Fluff is my Best Girl. Period, end of story. She has been my Best Girl since the day she came home from the shelter, and she will continue to be my Best Girl at least until the day she dies, may it be several years away, and probably will be my Best Girl even after her death.

I know death is only a transition. Only the body dies, not the soul. And I know my dogs have souls. It may be that they feel their work or play here is done and they are ready to move on. Fluff will stay in touch with me, and I think I'll see her in corporeal form again after the current corpus ceases to amuse her. Sleek may have other agendas to pursue beyond my happiness and education, so I may not see her again in my current lifetime.

But how do I work the current situation? How do I visualize them in perfect health and hold that image in my heart as they go into surgery when I also know I may be saying goodbye?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Favorite Things

Per Mrs. G. of Derfwad Manor, today is Favorite Things Friday. I'll post later because I'm off to one of my favorite things: a Watsu session!

This is the pool where I go for Watsu.

Watsu is heaven on earth if you like water and human touch. The name is a combination of "water" and "shiatsu" massage, so Watsu is massage done in a warm water pool. The therapist uses floats (various sizes, depending on size and body composition. My feet sink, my midsection does not, so I wear floats just below my knees) to get you to a pretty neutral balance. Then they swirl you around in the water and listen to signals from your body on what needs to be stretched or moved. It's great for releasing physical knots and often some emotional or physical ones, too. The water is warm. Today we had the pool at 97 degrees because I had said I thought I probably needed more of a stretching session. Sometimes I start moving a lot both face above the water and face below -- your therapist is prepared for this and makes sure you get your head above water when you need to breathe.

In some ways Watsu is more intimate than massage because the therapist may need to hold you close to her body in order to be able to stretch you without you floating away.

Watsu just lets me let go of a lot of the (self-imposed) tension I feel daily. I set the way the session runs -- if I want to be quiet and relax, great. If I want to thrash about and pretend I'm a dolphin leaping out of the water and back under, great. I love, love, love it!


I also love knitting. My mom tried numerous unsuccessful times to teach me while I was growing up, but a woman I worked with shortly after grad school was the one who finally taught me. My first project was a Lopi sweater similar to this:

They're easier than they look because they are knit in the round so you don't have to purl much. Also, traditional ones never have more than 2 colors per round, so keeping other colors from peeking through is easier.

My current project is this:

This will be my first experience felting something. Okay, my first time deliberately felting something. I have the first one knit up, except for the cuff. I have to knit the second one and see how much yarn I have left before I can figure out what color the cuffs will be, or even if they will be the same color. The felting idea is scary. It feels, now before the deed, like I will be deliberately ruining something because of decades of trying to avoid felting my sweaters into too-small, semi-rigid blocks of wool. On the other hand, it's something I haven't tried, so it's exciting, too!


Stumptown coffee. Go see, order some for yourself.


I love and need natural light indoors. I live in a 50-year old house because it had more windows and fewer CC&Rs than comparably priced current houses. And it has a basement! And only one bathroom to clean! In my last cube-factory job I bullied my way into a cube by the windows by informing my officemates: "I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. You want me to have the seat by the window!"


Four books (of many) I love:

Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

Isn't the title awesome for a work of nonfiction? I love Barry Lopez's writing.

Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzanne Clothier. I told one of my sisters if she wanted to understand what I want my relationship with my dogs to be, she should read this book. I don't think she's read it, but I have, many times. When I grow up I want to be Suzanne. Failing that, I want the bed next to hers at the "Home for Little Old Dog Ladies" when we're retired.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. A mystical story of New York City in the early 20th century. What can I say, other than one of the main characters is a (non-talking) horse?

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett. I love Dorothy's work and am sorry there will be no more of it. This is a fictional account of the life of the real MacBeth and a touching love story.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Reason

Trader Joe's enlarged their place in my heart tonight. I dropped by tonight to pick up some stuff, including the Candy Cane Joe-Joe's cookies someone mentioned in another blog (I thought it was Mrs. G. of Derfwad Manor, so I was going to provide a link but I can't find the entry although I can apparently run this sentence on into the ground with stream of consciousness-type typing. Breathe!). I managed to space out and leave a bag of paid-for, mostly cold or frozen foods groceries there. Off I go to home where I dial my friend Sr while unloading the groceries. As Sr answers the phone, I realize I've left the bag at TJ's, but I can't hang up or disengage immediately because I feel guilty about not calling Sr sooner after she had an MRI last Thursday. So I have to hear about the MRI results (don't show any reason for the symptoms, but the symptoms have abated for now anyway although they could stay away, return, or return with a vengeance. It could rain or not rain any day of the week, too) and talk about a few other things before breaking free.

I zip back to TJ's and find the checkout people who helped me. They instantly recognize me and call the back-of-store folks to bring my bag up to me. The bag carrier checks on some of the frozen stuff (without prompting) and says it must be replaced with hard-frozen versions. Good customer service. kabbage likes that. It makes her happy.

(oh, and the candy cane Joe-Joe's are pretty good, too. I still like the Girl Scout Thin Mints the best, but these are good and have NO trans-fats and NO high-fructose corn syrup [not sure about the thin mints on either of those things])

Updated to say I found the original mention of the delightful Candy Cane Joe-Joe's at http://outtamymindwithworry.blogspot.com/2007/11/ho-ho-ho-its-joe-joes-time.html

Monday, November 12, 2007


The first of the winter winds came in today, from the coast. Not much rain, considering, but gusts close to 50mph in the valley. Fortunately, I did not need to cross the river today. My car is shaped like a box, and I really dislike involuntary lane changes.

A neighbor's slowly decaying shed is now down. The roof died a year or so ago, but the walls were still standing. I'm not completely sure if all the walls are down because if they are, there was another matching, butt-ugly, slowly decaying shed just beyond it. If there was wind-liftable debris involved, it doesn't seem to have made it as far as my yard, so I'm happy about that. The winds did startle me when I looked under my patio cover and the dog crate started moving. Usually stuff is pretty secure under the cover.

We had enough wind today that the airport re-routed incoming airplanes over my house. We're close enough to the airport that you can just about read the registration numbers, although not the "step here" markings for maintenance, on the planes because they're so low. During the house shopping and buying process, the planes had never been routed over my house while I was here. Shortly after I moved in they were. I thought there was an imminent crash with the first one and listened carefully for the crash. It never came, but more planes soon did. Today, for the first time in years, Fluff objected to the planes flying over. She did her dead-level best to send them packing and was entirely successful: not a single plane landed in our yard!

It's been a beautiful fall, but I'm okay with the rain starting. Rain for the year has been low, so it's time to get some winter rain and snow to set us up for a drought-free summer next year.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Words coming out of my mouth this morning:

"See? This shows how much I love you. If I had human children I would not feed them green tripe, no matter how much they begged for it!"

If you are not familiar with green tripe, it's tripe that is only cleaned to the extent of removing the big globs of semi-digested food left when the animal hosting the the tripe is killed. It's really good for the dogs, being loaded with enzymes and such, but it smells awful. Usually I try to buy it in single-serving containers which never come back into the house once emptied on the grass for canine gustatory delight but instead go directly to the garbage can. I also try to feed it half-frozen to reduce odor.

The dogs are happy, but there will be no doggy kisses accepted for hours!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Good Picture

I realized that none of the pictures I posted is particularly flattering, so here is an example of sisterly love:

Sleek & Fluff, November 8, 2007

I was shocked at how willing they were to be close to one another today. Long ago when we were forging our Pack of Three* they generally preferred to not touch one another. Then again, my biological family rarely touches one another. I have one picture from my cousin's wedding a dozen years or so ago where my 5 siblings and I, all over 30 years old, are standing or sitting 3 in front and 3 in the back. There is visible airspace between all of us.

Living as the sole human in our household can lead to some odd observations. Despite no biologic ties between us, or between them, I often see my own behaviors in my dogs. Was I attracted to them because of their mannerisms, or did I shape them into mirrors of me? I suspect it is a little of both.

*Pack of Three -- see Carolyn Knapp's thoughtful book "Pack of Two" for a description of her relationship with her dog Lucille.

End of Indian Summer

The rain is supposed to return tonight or tomorrow, so this is probably it for the glorious days of fall. The girls and I did a tour of county parks today, and I took some pictures.

This one shows why Sleek is sometimes known as Zippy the Pinhead.

Fluff, after a bit of digging in the sand at the water's edge.

By this time sitting for portraits has begun to lose its charm.

A different park, later in the day, and at least Fluff can smile for the camera.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time Change

The evenings are much, much longer now. Thank heavens the weather has been beautiful this week so days are not truncated by clouds. Even with full blue sky it's pretty dang dark by 5:30pm. All of our stomachs are still not quite with the new program, so we want to eat early. I still need to adjust the living room light timer. It's now going off at 9:30, and that's too early for my taste.

I must get back to my knitting. I don't even know why I'm not knitting. I have one slipper pretty much knitted, except I want to change the cuff color. I'll have to rip back a bit to reclaim that yarn. I can't really finish slipper #1 until I do most of slipper #2 and figure out how much yarn I have of which colors. Even though I've never felted before, I felt the need to modify the pattern by dinking with the color scheme relative to the directions.

Knitting will also limit food intake. I use good yarn, usually wool, and don't want to get food crumbs or grease on it. I just made brownies with the old family recipe (which used to be on the Baker's Chocolate box forever) because the only chocolate in the house was unsweetened. Even now I felt the urge to lick the pan after melting the chocolate, but I'm growing up! I didn't do it! I guess the fifty thousand times I did it as a kid to much disappointment are finally teaching me something.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Filler Stuff -- Hidden

This is something I left on jo(e)'s blog a year and a half ago when she posted a writing exercise with the word "hidden."


The dog scratches. I part her black fur, seeking the flea I think is there. A sense of movement among the soft tangles. I pinch, miss. The flea errs, straying onto the lightly furred belly. I grab. Success! One less flea, surely one less itch.


Later we walk in twilight, my dogs and I. She with the white ruff remains visible. The other, tawny in daylight, becomes a shadow in the night. I feel her slip through the night, reliving the history of her kind, but I do not see her. I call, and her eyes shine green in the streetlight as she returns to me.


Soon my dogs will be hidden from my sight forever, for they are aging. Will I feel them still? One I think will remain. Or perhaps she will return in another body. Will I see her spirit there, or will it remain hidden? And the other? I sense her future lies in another direction, without me, hidden from me during the remainder of my body’s lifetime. We are friends, but we are not of the same soul-plane.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


I was going to write about being tired today after cleaning the house, washing dogs, cooking, and hosting the women's group meeting today, but then I started an unrelated preamble to capture a thought.

Even if I only participated in NaBloPoMo every year sans other blogging or journaling I would get an interesting way of checking in with myself over the course of the year. It would be similar to looking at the previous New Year's Resolutions at the end of the year in preparation for the new ones. Or taking stock at birthday time. What did I accomplish? What did I fail to accomplish and why? The failure might have been due to external factors that required a change of direction or focus, or I might have looked at the goal relative to other things that could be goals and decided to shift to a new focus. A month's worth of entries gives a slightly larger perspective because the time allows for wider diversity of thoughts and focuses. A month allows for less intense days or days focused on the weather or the trivial, not just the BIG THINGS IN LIFE.

From the reader's perspective, too, reading only 1 month of someone's life could be fascinating. I see potential here for fiction in either written or film form. If I read only the last 10 or so November entries from someone's diary or journal, how will that shape my view of that person? Would I form a different image than if I read, say, only the April entries? What if I read the entire journal? I think if I ended up reading the November entries of someone who mourns a lost beloved person in November plus has uncomfortable memories of childhood Thanksgivings and suffers from SAD while living in a rainy climate, I'd "know" a different person than the July person who lives for getting out on the boat with friends and family, even though the two share the same body. How about if I read the November entries, my friend reads the July ones, and both of us meet the author in April? Might one of us say the author is exactly what I pictured, while the other shakes her head in surprise? I think so, although it's possible that scenario is more likely if we meet the author in July or November.

If I'm the author of the journal, how do I react? Do I know these readers have only had 1 month of every year and that they had different months? If I met this readers in November, would I be pulled more toward the November reader or repelled because the privacy invasion might be more obvious?

I'm too tired to think about this any more, and my typing mistake rate is going way up.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hostess with Mostess

I signed up to host our next women's group meeting because this month we are supposed to try something new, and hosting the group (or any group, really) at my house is feeling pretty new to me. Then in a fit of insanity, I also signed up to do the food for the meeting. The meeting is tomorrow. So far (late evening), I have scrubbed the kitchen floor and the toilet and one dog and started the cooking.

Food is tricky with this crew. We might as well be considered walking wounded in the digestive tracts. Some are lactose intolerant to greater or lesser degrees. Some are gluten-free. At times we've had vegan and/or ovo-intolerant members. Some are forever on diets so avoiding sugar and/or carbs. It's hard to find things everyone can eat. Add in the "will eat" thing, and it could get absolutely insane. Even though the restricted diet people are willing to be responsible for their own food, I think it adds a lot if we can all share something.

Dessert is in the oven. The chicken is boiled and refrigerated. I still don't know exactly what I'm doing with the chicken tomorrow. It will be some sort of soup. I can't decide if I want to go basic or for an Italian feel, Mexican feel, or Creole feel. Hate to rush these things. I can add tomatoes and still be undecided, which is intriguing.

Dessert is Pumpkin-Brown Rice Pudding. I started with a recipe, but I tweaked wildly. This is the test run. Okay, I used pumpkin and spices per the recipe. It called for a quart of milk. I wondered if coconut milk would work to replace some of the milk, so I tried that. You have to bring this pumpkin and milk mixture upto a boil and then take part of the mixture to add to beaten eggs. I'm whisking the mixture into the eggs which start to cook instantly because the pumpkin is just off the boil. The egg reminds me of the egg when making egg drop soup: thin strands floating in the liquid. This time, though, the liquid is opaque and very thick. I also removed all the sugar of the original recipe and added raisins instead. Now the stuff is baking for 90 minutes.

I wonder about my life had I had a different family of origin. Would I perhaps have developed into a cook or chef? I enjoy cooking for friends and can follow many recipes that only call for basic equipment. Now more than ever I find I can enjoy deviating from recipes to see what will happen. Taking notes so I can duplicate or build upon successes while avoiding previously made mistakes would be useful.

I'm off to vacuum. Time falls back tonight, and I'll need that extra hour!

Christmas Season

The good news about Christmas season starting so bloody early is that I have eggnog to use in my coffee now. Eggnog will probably be available through mid-January, so I'll have nearly 3 months of even happier coffee.

The bad news is that I saw the first Christmas ornaments for sale at Labor Day weekend and I just should not be dodging trick-or-treaters while hearing Christmas carols on the radio.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Food Sensitivities

My women's group will be meeting at my house on Sunday. Have I cleaned? No, although I dusted the hideous light fixture in the eating end of the living room. I think it's a bad sign that the plastic meant-to-be-candle-looking bits are starting to flake apart when I dust.

The tricky part is food. For some silly reason I thought it would be easier for me to supply the food as well as the house this time. I still think this is correct, but this group is challenging in the food department. Fortunately one or two of the most dietarily-limited can't be there this month. While I will miss them, I'm glad I don't feel obligated to try to come up with a vegetarian, ideally vegan, meal when I am essentially carnivorous. I'm lactose-intolerant, although I eat cheese and use milk in cooking. Another is gluten-intolerant. I don't think anyone is diabetic. Somebody was unable to handle eggs. Nearly all of us could afford to lose weight. Take away meat, eggs, wheat, and dairy, and things get tough for the noncreative cook.

Oh well, that part will somehow come out okay. I was bummed when I realized barley has gluten, negating my great plan to use a soup mix. I now have to look to see if all the interesting varieties of rice, including wild rice, are gluten-free.

Meanwhile, poor Sleek apparently has a fungal invasion of her liver and has to be on a zero carb/sugar diet to try to starve the fungus while she's also on strong liver cleansers/tonics. Ha. She essentially can eat meat and green leafy vegetables. Guess who doesn't care much for green leafies (she seems to take after me in this regard, species or nurture for the formative years being no obstacle to taking on my characteristics in nearly 9 years living together). Fine. She'll be eating close to 2 lbs of meat a day to keep her weight up. It has to be good quality meat since we're trying to help her liver, not do it in.

Fluff is not amused at the thought of Sleek getting more/better food than she is (Sleek is bigger and less efficient at converting food to dog). She does like the idea that she gets all the grain-containing dog biscuits, though.

Maybe I'll have to see if I can make blue pork again. That was pretty interesting visually. I never tried to see if it would work with chicken, either. Simple technique. Boil pork with purple kale, probably for an hour or more. Leave them together and refrigerate overnight. Although the pork was the usual grey of boiled pork the night before, it truly looked blue in the morning. If it works for chicken, I think it would be very cool for someone (I have no human children) to serve their kids blue chicken noodle soup for lunch sometime.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

33 Years Ago Today

My first dog was born. I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade. Only my little brother (then 11) and I were still home full-time, although all 3 of my sisters were home for college holidays. He came home 6-1/2 weeks later, what I now believe to be too young an age. He was the only dog of my parents' 51-year marriage. My older brother had allergies, and neither of my parents were particularly interested in dogs. I worked hard at breaking them down. I suspect they did because the thought of their daughter running around the neighborhood playing with the neighbors' dogs didn't gel with their idea of how a teenage girl should behave. At least this way I was running around with my own dog and probably less likely to be invited into someone's home for nefarious purposes.

He almost was named Trooper because he ran amok (and a-muck) through the house as a baby and ended up being nicknamed Pooper Trooper before I came up with his final name. The morning after he came home was the last time my father plugged in the coffee until I left for college. Poor man went down to plug in the coffee without turning on the lights. The puppy had gotten out of his box and left a few landmines on the kitchen floor. Did I mention my father was barefoot? He found at least one of the deposits the hard way and came upstairs to let me know I needed to take my goddamned puppy out and I might as well plug in the coffee on the way.

He was an odd little dog, not particularly affectionate in a breed that was usually thought of as affectionate. He also was indifferent to food although he loved, loved, loved his tennis ball. We almost killed him with that thing, not realizing that, no, all dogs are NOT smart enough to stop playing when they start to overheat. He always flipped the frisbee over so it wouldn't trip him while he brought it back. He had the best natural retrieve to hand of any dog I've ever seen, at least of his ball and frisbee. Many other things (e.g., sticks) were not worthy of retrieving. If I knew then what I know now, he might have been a darn good sport dog. I trained him to jump by turning picnic table benches on their side (he was only 14" tall at the shoulder, so a couple of picnic table benches worked well) and trained him to Novice Obedience standards by myself. No classes, nobody I knew that I could ask about competition, just some Blanche Saunders books. Agility didn't exist yet. Really, obedience and the conformation ring were our only options for competition.

Ah, competition and parents who really don't get it. With an allowance of $1 per week and entry fees that ran about $10 per class, I was dependent on my parents for shows. They were needed for getting to shows anyway. My dog was a sheltie, so hair and grooming were important and hard to learn from magazines and books. I remember my father telling me numerous times, "if you spent half the time on your own hair as you do on that goddamned dogs, you could be attractive." Thanks so much for that boost to the adolescent ego. I bought special shears to trim the dog's ear hair and around his feet. One time I came home from college to find my father had swiped those scissors. He said they were the best scissors he'd ever had for trimming his own nose hair. Uh, dad, I hope you cleaned those suckers well. They sometimes got used for cleaning up the nether portions of the dog's body after intestinal distress.

We never competed all that well. I knew we were in trouble when someone complimented my "pretty little puppy bitch" when I was standing there with a 3-year-old male. He was rather light-boned, and I wasn't good at starching the front leg hair to make his legs look thicker. He also did not grow a full, thick coat until after I left for college, so he always looked immature during his showing years. In obedience, I eventually found out that I have ring nerves. We failed at several trials, then I went to a match (practice show). We won High Score in Match with 195 out of 200 points. Entered a "real" trial, and failed again. Yep. My voice and body language changed under pressure, and he didn't know what I was asking him to do.

We did a lot of walking together, all around our (fairly large) subdivision, and sometimes beyond. We went up to the elementary school playground sometimes. He would go berserk in the sand, digging madly in one spot, then springing over to a new spot and digging there. He would herd his playground-type ball all over the backyard and was a ferocious 4-square player, although he wouldn't stay in his own square. He had to be put in the house for us to play basketball or soccer because those balls could really hurt a 15-lb dog when he went in for the block. He also had to be inside for badminton because he believed in destroying the birdie.

I feel kind of bad that I left him with my parents even after I finished college. He was only 8, but I didn't want to try to find an apartment where his barking wouldn't be a problem. I told my parents that they should let me know if he needed to be put down and they didn't feel they could stay with him to the end. I felt I owed him a debt for what he added to my adolescent life. A few days before my 29th birthday, my mother called. She said to the answering machine, "Happy birthday. I have to go into the hospital for some cancer tests. Oh, and you need to come home to do something about the dog." My then boyfriend added to the occasion by suggesting that I could go home that weekend to put the dog to sleep. Yeah, dirtbag, nothing like putting the dog down on my birthday. Wouldn't that be festive? Instead I went down the next weekend. My father had already dug the grave earlier in the week. He and my mother had been living in terror of the dog, now sight- and hearing-impaired, among other frailties, falling in the grave and hurting himself before I could get there to have him killed. My brother and I took him to the vet, and he tried to get us to play as we walked to the door. I almost lost it at that. The vet was very kind to the two of us as we held our little dog and sobbed. Even the vet ended up in tears listening to us cry. He fought the sedative shot, trying to stay awake. Some part of me so wanted him to stay awake, to stop his death. Another part said, no, this was for the best. He was largely incontinent in addition to the vision and hearing loss, and I still lived in an apartment in a busy city. We finished the deed and took him home for burial. He was 14 and a half years old. We buried him ourselves and then went inside to tell my parents he was gone. My father asked why we hadn't let them know we were home before burying him. I felt like asking if he'd wanted to see it because he wasn't sure we'd actually go through with the euthanasia or because he wanted to celebrate while we shoveled dirt onto my good dog. Instead I retreated to the time-honored, "I don't know. Guess we didn't know you were interested" in a mumbled, eyes-down way.

He was the smallest dog I've ever owned. He was the only male dog, and the only intact dog, I've owned. He was my first blue merle, my first show dog. He was the only dog I've owned where I met his parents (his face was nearly a mirror image, markings-wise, of his father's), although I've seen videos of Sleek's father. He was my first AKC-registered dog and the only dog whose AKC number I memorized (still know it to this day). Interestingly, my best girl Fluff has eyes that are colored almost exactly like his. Left eye is dark brown, right eye is dark brown with some gray flecks in it.

Thank you, Flint. You were a good dog.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


My parents were married on this day in 1950. They had 51 anniversaries together before they died, less than 3 months apart, in 2002. I've been ambivalent about their marriage for many years. Was it remarkable that they were together for 51 years? Yes. Was it good for each of them? I'm not so sure about that.

My parents had 6 kids, all of whom survive to this day. My mom said she felt she probably had some miscarriages in between my next older sister and me -- given that she had her first three daughters at 17 month intervals, and I was born 51 months after that, it seems likely that she is correct. I don't know if they meant to have a lot children or if that is just the way things played out. This was the 1950s and early 60s, so it's not like they were all that unusual in the number of kids they had.

Six kids were a lot of work and pressure, though. My parents were the first generation in their families to go to college. Heck, my grandfather's wish was that my father finish high school. Thanks to WWII and the GI bill, my parents went to college, where they met and married. Their goal was to give each of their children a college education. They paid tuition, room & board; we paid for books, transportation home, and other expenses of college life. All but one completed bachelors degrees, and the last chose to quit school after 3 years since he really didn't like it.

I think this goal is a major part of why my father became an alcoholic, as his increasing use of alcohol seemed to tie to increasing number of kids at or approaching college age. For two and a half years, he had 3 kids in college, on one engineer's salary. I can understand why this pressure would drive him to drinking. He also changed jobs a few times, including the time he quit his old job with no new one arranged and a few months before he had two kids in college. I was there when he told my mom he'd quit, and I had never seen her turn so white or rigid. I was only 11, and my parents did not really discuss finances with us, so I didn't really understand the situation.

My mother later developed an extremely vituperative tongue when it came to my father, and most people for that matter. She could only see the negative and would bitch until the cows came home and about how the cows came home once they were home.

I was talking with my SIL one time about my parents (her father also was an alcoholic). We agreed that my mother had cause for her bitterness, esp. since my father was nasty-tongued to family when drinking, but that either of us would find drinking necessary to live with my mother at that point in her life.

Because they were so miserable together, I often wished, especially as an adult, that my parents would divorce and create new lives for themselves. I think around the 30-year mark would've been a good time for this. Kids would be either grown or in college, so less disrupted. Parents would've been roughly 60 with reasonable health (for alcoholics) left.

They stayed together and miserable for many more years. My father got sober in 1987 but was drinking again by 1995. My siblings and I, sans spouses and children, got together in 2000 to take my parents to dinner for their 50th anniversary. I had mixed emotions about participating since I didn't see the 50 years as something to celebrate. I showed up, though. My brother arranged a small banquet hall for the 8 of us, but my father said he didn't feel well and didn't go. We weren't sure if he was feeling sick because we had been at their apartment most of the day, so he hadn't been able to get to his alcohol or what the deal was. His absence allowed my mother to choose to drink, which could get ugly, too. It was a nice enough dinner, and I caught an early morning flight out which allowed me to get home in time to run my dog in an agility trial that afternoon (my parents lived in ET, I live in PT zone).

Even now, I feel they would have been better off divorced.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Adventures in Bicycle Land

I took my bike out for a spin this evening. First, I start out heading west in the late evening, so the sun is in my eyes and in the eyes of any motorist coming up behind me. That makes me nervous. I don't want to be out after dark, so I can't be out too long. My usual quick route (about 5 miles round trip) has shoulders on it much of the way, but they are sometimes sloped for drainage rather than riding.

It's St. Joe's Sausage Fest weekend, which is a big event in this town. People are parked in MY cycling shoulder for about a quarter mile each direction, so I'm riding more in the roadbed than bikes usually do in that stretch. I also have to keep a sharp eye out for parked cars either pulling out or having their doors open into my space or their once and future occupants stepping out in front of me.

I'm still working on my shifting and getting the gear levers back to the level of functionality they had 11 years ago. I can't remember how one numbers bike gears -- do they increase with the size of the gear or are they inversely related? Anyway, the rear gear lever is happy to go larger gears but sometimes takes 2 or 3 tries to shift to a smaller gear. The front gear has developed a charming habit. It is happy to shift from small to middle and mostly okay shifting from middle to large, although it sometimes tries to hold in the half-middle, half large mode which is rather noisy. What it won't do right now is shift from large to middle. It will bypass middle and go directly to small. I can feel a slight double click, but they're too close to prevent the 2nd shift. Why is this bad? Because I go from pedaling at a normal rate to spinning madly because the small gear is way too easy. The bike shop guys tell me the best thing to do about my funky gear shifts are to shift as often as possible in the hopes of clearing the internal springs of their hardened internal lubricant.

Not knowing what gear you'll be in when you shift adds to the excitement of early evening riding with parked cars and pedestrians. It also is slowing down my learning curve. My previous bike had 12 gears, of which I used 10. This bike has 24 gears, and I think I can use 22 of them. It's not a linear progression, though, where one uses front gear A and runs through rear gears 1-8 with increasing difficulty, then shifts to gear B in front and picks up where one left off with the difficulty and the rear gearing, and so on onto gear C in front. No, different combinations are interspersed. I can't learn these easily if I don't know what gear I'm going to be in with any given shift.

Anyway, I still love this bike, even after all these years. I need to get chain cleaner and lube now, to help her love me, too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Miscellaneous Thoughts

--My sitbones are accepting my bike. I no longer wish to scream or yelp when I sit on the bike. That took less than 20 miles in 3 sessions, so pretty quick.

--I walked the dogs this morning and came home to find two slugs entwined in passionate embrace hanging from the wall next to the front door. They had some sort of extruded body parts entwined and were hanging from that, in addition to being entwined in the main body. I wasn't up for PDA, so I knocked them off the wall and into the dirt. I feel a little bad about the dirt covering on that extruded, slimy-looking bodypart, but I'll skip picking them up and washing them off.

--My current theory on hypocritical lawmakers who vote against legal marriage, etc. for non-heterosexuals but turn out to be homosexual themselves is that they are afraid the gays and lesbians will take marriage seriously thus reducing the number of people available for extra-marital liaisons for said hypocritical lawmakers.

--Sleek's leaking is not as bad as I had feared it would be after yesterday's dogfood mixup.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bad Dog-Mom Moment

I think I mixed up the dogs' food this morning. I think Fluff got Sleek's, and Sleek Fluff's. I try to have a double-redundancy where the bowls are different from one another and I fix the food always with Fluff's bowl on the left. I always put Sleek's bowl down first, then I walk across the kitchen to where Fluff eats. Today I noticed I was putting down what is usually Sleek's bowl in Fluff's place. Did I mix up the bowls before fixing the food or did I put the wrong bowl in the wrong place?

For most of their lives, this would not be a big deal. Unfortunately, Sleek is on a bunch of supplements for her heart and to help her deal with urinary incontinence. If she misses a round of the incontinence stuff, the results tend to show up quickly and drippily. Judging from the floor after I left for a couple of hours, they got the wrong bowls. Sadly, it usually takes Sleek's bladder a couple of days to get back in shape. Laundry, here I come!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh My

One fixed bike.
One five-mile ride.

I now know where my sit bones are. On the bike seat or off, I know where they are....

(why is that fat I put on my hips of absolutely no use in this situation?)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Eleven years ago (about 4 months before Fluff came into my life) I bought a bike. It was a very nice bike with carbon fiber tubes and aluminum joints. A lightweight bike. A road bike for doing centuries (100 miles in a single day). A beautiful bike. I had it fitted to me, got the pedal clips fitted properly to my shoes. I bought a cyclometer with the ability to read my pedal rpms so I could protect my knees. All this cost me roughly $1000 (3 zeroes, yes). Then I bought Fluff (for $50 (one zero, yes), and rarely rode the bike. It didn't make sense to go off for 6-8 hours of pedalling knowing the 8-month-old puppy was storing up energy or using it by redecorating the house.

Now, 2 dogs and 30-40 additional pounds later, I would like to ride my bike again (Fluff is 11 and Sleek 13, so their exercise needs are much reduced). I took it out last night to see if I could remember how to shift (bike has different shifters than any other bike I've ridden regularly, plus many more gears), brake, and get the shoes loose from the pedals when stopping. My rear shifter would only shift in one direction, so when I ran out of gears, I was where I was. Since I was on a shake-down ride, I had stayed on mostly level ground, so I got home okay.

I took the bike in today to see what was up with the gear shift. The guy at the bike store was very nice and explained that this type of gearshifter really likes to be used. Without regular use, the grease probably had hardened and might be gumming up the internal springs. Sometimes they can fix them by working them (and maybe adding more grease to sort of dissolve the old stuff) and sometimes they have to be replaced. He dinked with it and says the gear shift is mostly working now but I might have to shift a couple of times to get the thing to actually work.

This may be strong incentive to ride: if I don't get that gearshift used to regular work, it may forget how to shift altogether!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Fluff!

Eleven years ago today I went to the Humane Society to pick up my girl Fluff. She was about 8 months old at the time and had been dropped at the HS by her previous owners 2 days earlier.

I woke up on August 24, 1996 with a voice in my head telling me I needed to go the Humane Society. I was resistant because I wanted a dog of the breed I wanted where I'd met the breeders and the parents and totally approved the way the dog had been raised. For some reason, though, I decided to go. I thought perhaps I would find a German Shepherd dog there, like the one my long-haired friend had found a couple of years earlier. I had loved Greta deeply and was with them when LongHair had to have Greta euthanized due to cancer -- Greta was only three.

When I walked into the dog section of the shelter, I knew I was a lost cause. There, in the first run, was my girl. She was an Australian shepherd. With a tail (I am not enthused about the bobbed tail most Aussies have, so this was quite a bonus). She was sweet, even though obviously very upset about being there (her people had only dropped her off an hour or two before I arrived). I tried soooo hard to talk myself out of taking her home. I wasn't really ready. The house wasn't puppy-proofed. The yard was not puppy-proof. I didn't have all the things I needed to take care of a dog. She really had too much white on her face (one of her eyebrows, which should be tan, was covered by her white blaze). I put a hold on her and called LongHair. LH came up, took one look and shrieked, "She's ADORABLE! Of COURSE you have to get her!!!" Left the hold in place and went home to start puppy-proofing. The HS at that time was not open on Sunday, so I had an extra day to work on house and yard.

After work on Monday, LongHair and I headed for the Humane Society. She drove so I could make sure the future Fluff (her name at the shelter was Heidi, but she didn't seem to know it) behaved safely in the car. Fluff was very eager to leave the shelter and loved riding in the car. She sat in the back, peering between the two front seats like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture. LongHair left us so we could begin learning more about each other.

Later that evening LongHair returned because her girlfriend had just broken up with her. I sat on the floor with the sobbing LH. Young Fluff came over to me, laid down beside me, and put her chin on my leg. I fell completely in love with my little dog.

Fluff has been a wonder for me. She changed my life so much. One of my non-dog friends commented about a month after I got her that I now spoke in terms of "we" instead of "me."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You scored as Ron Weasley, You often feel like second best and as a result don't have an awful lot of self confidence, but a truer more capable friend would be hard to find.

Ron Weasley


Hermione Granger


Remus Lupin


Sirius Black


Harry Potter


Ginny Weasley


Severus Snape


Albus Dumbledore


Draco Malfoy


Lord Voldemort


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com

Monday, July 16, 2007


Here's a quote I need to remember when I think of the current US political situation:

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him. -Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)

Hat tip to A Word A Day (http://wordsmith.org/words/aposematic.html) for the quote.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pets and Fireworks

Fireworks Tips for People with Pets

If fireworks are legal where you live (or available and used, even if illegal):

Keep a close eye on your pet to see if fireworks make them nervous or unhappy. Be aware that your pet’s attitude toward fireworks may change with age, typically for the worse.

Keep your pet inside on nights when fireworks are going off. If you need to take your pet outside, use a leash, even if your yard is fenced. Panicked animals may bolt in unpredictable directions and jump or climb fences that normally would hold them.

Indoors, run fans or air conditioning to help block the noise of fireworks. If you play the radio or TV, choose the station carefully. Your pet will not appreciate “Saving Private Ryan” or other war movies – comedies or nature stories are more appropriate. Also, be sure the station will not be broadcasting fireworks. One local station, for example, broadcasts the Local Music Festival AND its fireworks. The big public fireworks in town are televised.

Make sure your pet is wearing identification. July 4th is one of the biggest nights of the year for pets to go missing. Give your pet every possible chance to be re-united with you. Even if your pet is micro-chipped or tattooed, a collar tag with your phone number may help him get home sooner. In case your pet does get loose and you need to post flyers, have recent photographs that clearly show any distinctive markings or expression.

Your pet will need plenty of cool, fresh water to replace water lost through panting.

Other things that may help:

  • Staying calm yourself, even if your pet is upset. If you become angry at your pet’s behavior, you will only confuse and further upset him
  • Flower essence blend called “Rescue Remedy”
  • Tellington TTouch
  • Wearing a T-shirt (with human supervision)
  • Playing interactive games with a favorite human
  • A really good chew toy or bone
  • Sedatives (talk to your vet beforehand so you have the appropriate dosage on hand)
  • Some pets are happier in a small, secure space like a dog crate, while others will panic and hurt themselves trying to escape.
  • Monday, June 18, 2007

    You Know....

    You know your dogs are getting older and/or are extremely well-trained when you wake up to find you left a package of pork ribs on the floor overnight, and it wasn't touched with tooth or nail. At times in their youth and middle ages, those ribs would have been long-vanished into dog bellies, or they might have re-appeared in the middle of the night in slightly different form with the hurk soundtrack.

    Now, though, the dogs simply got a couple of the ribs to consume in the backyard this morning while the rest are boiled for an hour for future dog food.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Right or Wrong?

    The family behind me consists of a mother and several children, the youngest of whom is a boy about 13 or 14 years old. I'm not sure how many of the kids currently live with the mom, but this boy seems to be pretty full-time right now.

    The kid picked up a new hobby this year. It's axe-throwing. I don't know why he's doing it, but he is. He throws the axe at a large fir tree in their backyard. By large, think over 2 feet in diameter, and correspondingly tall, much like the tree in my backyard. Our yards are about 7500 square feet, btw. At first Axel was not that good at axe-throwing, so the axe tended to bounce off the tree. With months of practice, he's improved a lot, and the tree is showing visible wear and tear to its bark. I can see some of the damage from my backdoor, about 100 feet from the tree, and I can't see the side he most often uses as a target. I think it's probably in worse shape. Mom seems oblivious to Axel's throwing.

    Today Axel was in his yard with a couple of buddies. He was goofing around with the axe, doing amusing (?) things like chopping hard at the (much smaller) tree supporting the hammock where his friends were lying. He also jokingly (?) threatened his friends with his axe. Mom is still oblivious.

    I'm a non-confrontational chickenshit, but with 2 car accidents in one year, I'm getting a little paranoid about irritating my insurance company. I think they would be annoyed if that stupid tree fell in my direction, even though it (like my car accidents) was not my fault. I, too, would be annoyed. A fall in my direction would do many nasty things including taking out electricity, phone, and cable lines for everyone north of us. The tree would probably hit my house and damage it. It also could hit MY big fir which would fall on at least my garage and car (parked in front of the garage, while the fir is behind the garage) and probably would also hit the Good Neighbors' house and/or their big firs setting off another round of fir tree crashes onto houses. Like I said, I'm a paranoid, non-confrontational chickenshit. And I'm one who doesn't want to find out how the insurance companies would allot blame for this, because I'm certain there will be more blame than money. I can't afford to be out of my house for months while the damage is fixed, either. My nearest sibling is 2000 miles away, so commuting from there is not reasonable, either.

    In my passive-aggressive way, I looked up the owner of the property behind me, using the county property records (sidenote: it's kind of creepy how much info they display about one's house there) on the internet. As I thought, Axel's mom rents. So I called the real property owner and told them that the kid was using an axe on the tree and damaging it.

    Right thing to do? Wrong? I think it would've been nicer or fairer or something to talk to Axel's mom directly, but I was loathe to do that. She's often home when he's axe-throwing, so how could she not know about it? If she knows about it and doesn't stop it, to me that implies she sees nothing wrong with the behavior. Do I have the right to tell her the behavior is wrong and she needs to stop it? It's a value judgment I'm not comfortable saying to her face, although I'll tell the world via blog that I think it's wrong and she needs to stop it. What's up with this? It's not like we've been close friends ever since I moved in. We rarely speak and those instances have usually been dog-related like the time her kids were teasing my dogs through the fence. I did confront directly over that one to stop it immediately.

    How does one become less of a paranoid, conflict-avoidant, trying-to-appear-nonjudgmental-when-I-really-am chickenshit? Suggestions welcome!

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Getting Better All the Time

    Whew. The good news is that I'm not severely damaged. The dogs' chiropractor let me walk them over to his house for a check (since they can't go in the no-pets rental car), and they're basically okay. I had a precautionary X-ray today of my neck so we can compare it to last year's views. I also had an absolutely fabulous Watsu session yesterday, which really helped me relax and process some of this stuff out of my body. I do love Watsu. Warm, warm water, salt water pool, relaxing music and touch -- pretty close to heaven for me.

    The bad news is that Bozo's erstwhile insurance company called today to say they only heard about the accident from MY insurance company, and they are investigating to see if he's even covered by them (I did notice that the insurance card had a 2006 expiration date -- why did I not say anything at the time????). This guy was old enough (looked to be in his late 50s) to know better, which now means I wonder if he should've had his blood alcohol level checked. The only thing they'd've found in my breath or blood would've been a boatload of adrenaline -- I hadn't even had coffee. The collision center called to say the damage to my car will run about $5800 as it is substantially out of square in the rear.

    Breathing, I repeat: I am in pretty good shape. The dogs are in pretty good shape. Honda did a good job of designing the car to protect the occupants. Thank you, Honda engineers!

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007


    Times when it really sucks to be single:

    When you are in your second car accident in 10 months (to the day). Nobody's shoulder to cry on, nobody to coddle you.

    The bad news: no witnesses who can say that the fireplacing moron ran a red light at the speed limit to hit me while I was trying to make a left turn on the green light. My dogs were in the car.

    The good news: the dogs don't appear to be hurt, although they'll be seeing their chiropractor to make sure. The car accelerated when I asked, so the other driver hit behind the left rear wheel instead of in my door. The other good news is that I refrained from hitting or otherwise hurting the other driver and didn't even say too much nasty stuff to him. Not good to hit my car when my dogs are in it as I get pissed off. The ambulance techs were impressed that my blood pressure was good (124/palpable) when I was so angry

    The question: at what point does one's insurance company decide to stop repairing the same car?

    Monday, April 30, 2007

    Letter to an old Love

    Hi old love,

    I haven’t heard whether or not you took early retirement when it was offered this time. In case you did, and in case you are leaving at the end of April, I wanted to drop you a line.

    I wish you well with the rest of your life. The love is still there, and I want to think I have largely forgiven the cruelty of the silence that ended our association. Forgotten, no. Put up shields I’ve not yet been able to lower, yes. Believe I may understand some of the reasons behind the silence, yes. Agree with them, probably not all but perhaps a few. Curious about whether or not I am correct about the reasons, mildly.

    It was a complex relationship between two complex people with a lot of baggage. At least we tried, for a while. Whether or not it’s in this lifetime, I do think we’ll meet again.

    If nothing else, you were a good catalyst in some ways. I go up on my roof when I need to, and I have Fluff and all that she means to me. I do wish she could meet you again, because she loved you a lot and I think she would still remember you.

    Again, OL, good luck in your future. I wish you joy and abundance.


    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Health Insurance

    Right now I have health insurance based on COBRA coverage. Recently I had a few minor blood levels checked (mostly thyroid, IIRC). I just received my insurance statement.

    The lab billed the insurance company for $171.35. The discount was $139.30, for a net cost to the insurance company of $32.05. That is a discount of OVER EIGHTY PERCENT! Is this reasonable? Which is the "real" cost of the service: 32 dollars or 170 dollars? I used a lab at the local hospital because it's "in network." Recently I talked to a lab scientist who works there, and she told me that that hospital does over a billion dollars' worth of charity care a year. Is that counted at the "normal" rate or the "discount" rate, I wonder.

    If I can't afford health insurance, wouldn't a blood test for $32 be more reasonable for me than $171? How would I afford the blood test to tell me the reason I had such low energy that I couldn't keep a job was because my thyroid was almost devoid of function? Given the blood test and the (pretty inexpensive) natural thyroid, Icould get the energy needed to keep a job and then hopefully afford insurance.

    This is a harsh, cruel, stupid system. Would that I knew how to fix it.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Saved by the Receipt!

    The phone rang this morning with "Scott" asking me about my car payment (due last Saturday). I said I had made the payment on Friday the 13th, so he said they had no record of it, but okay, and hung up. I called customer service to see if Scott was legit, and sure 'nuff, they don't have me as having made the payment, either. The nerve of me for making the payment at the local branch instead of by phone or electronically directly to the auto loan people! She could not possibly check on a payment made via branch.

    Called the branch who said bring down what you have, unless you can fax it, and we'll figure out what is going on. Off to the branch with my receipt, the kept part of the payment voucher, and a fresh balance from my checking account to verify no bouncing scenario possible.

    Strangely the branch guy had to call the auto loan folks, too, but after about 10 or 15 minutes they figured out the branch teller had somehow applied the amounts to principle and interest without actually marking it as a routine payment. Very odd. It's fixed now, supposedly with no late fees applied. Teller is probably going to have a review of "how we handle auto loan payments". The branch guy had the grace (and sense) to apologize for the inconvenience.

    I am pleased that I was able to find the receipt quickly and easily (although since it was on an end table, probably no one else would've been able to find it), despite the overall disorder of my papers. Yay, me!