Have Dog, Will Hike? The First Adventure

When I first started thinking about getting a dog, I knew that I wanted a companion who could come along with me on hikes.  I thought a lot about the physical characteristics I’d want – and kinda overlooked the mental elements.

Most healthy dogs will take a long walk with you. Not every dog is cut out to be a camping buddy, with its discomforts, intrusions by other people – and wildlife – and often unpredictable weather.I knew Max had the legs and stamina to keep up with me on a camping trip.  But would she enjoy it?

Continue reading “Have Dog, Will Hike? The First Adventure”

Feeding Frenzy

One of the preoccupations of our household for the last few months has been what to feed the Elder Statesdog.

Emily is now 15+, which is a substantial age for a mid-sized dog. And for 14 and a half of those years she has been an enthusiastic, occasionally rapacious, eater. That changed last summer, when she started picking at her food… and having GI problems with which I will not burden you. The vet prescribed a (very expensive) specialized low fat diet, which immediately put an end to the GI issues, and which she ate happily (with a side eye of “I was always hungry, you dopes. You just weren’t feeding me right.”)

Fast forward to the fall, when she began to disdain the new food. Rather than go back on her old diet (of which we had quite a lot–half a bag of kibble and a flat of the wet food) we started feeding her rice and canned chicken, about which she was quite enthusiastic. And that lasted through… about the end of the year? At which point she decided that that wasn’t any good either. 

How does Emily show her displeasure? She snouts: which is to say, she gestures with her nose all around the bowl, as if she were trying to bury the bowl and its contents. This spring there has been a whole lot of snouting going on.

So the feeding frenzy has been ours, not hers. She may not be skin-and-bones these days, but she’s very skinny. So we’ve gone back and forth between the old food, the new food, rice and chicken, egg-and-hamburger, and some days, a steady diet of treats, just so she has some calories in her. She thinks the all-treats-all-the-time diet is just swell (she particularly likes the supermarket brands–the fancier desiccated liver or reindeer shreds from the pet store are okay, but she’s a Milkbone/Beggin’ Strips girl at base). So she’s getting them. And getting spoiled, and why not? She’s a 105-year-old Moldavian Leaping Dog.

We’re not going to be able to keep Emily going forever, we know that. She has cataracts, she’s rather deaf, and if she stands anywhere for more than a minute or two, her hind quarters begin to sink toward the ground as her muscles fatigue. Yet, if we take her out of a walk she still wants to chase a ball–a few times, anyway, before she stands with the ball in her mouth, looking at me as if I’m the Idiot.  She’s a very old dog. And we have decided that whatever makes her happy and keeps her comfortable is what we’re feeding her. The vet concurs.

A Different Kind of Fostering

Previous posts have been about fostering dogs.  This one is too.  Just not in the same way.

My friend B. was one of the first people to welcome me to the neighborhood clique of dog-people, the two of us bonding over dog names (her little pup is Minnie, my gangly beast is Maxi).  

Minnie is a recent adoption.  Her previous dog died recently, at an advanced age, and she waited a while before getting another.  They’d only been together a few months when Minnie started acting off.  They ran tests, and everything came back clear…. until this month it didn’t.

Minnie has lymphoma.

We walk along the curving path through the park, as she tells me the diagnosis, Max and Minnie trotting just ahead of us. They’ve put Minnie on prednisone, and it’s drastically improved her mood and behavior.  She’s not in pain any more.  But it’s only buying time. Continue reading “A Different Kind of Fostering”

I Can Stop Any Time… I just Don’t Want To. Mostly.

My last post, I talked about fostering a puppy (who has since gone on to his furever home, huzzah!).  And I thought, “okay, I’m going to take a break from all that, for a while.”

And then an email landed from the other shelter I volunteer with, and without hesitation I said, “I can take Bella.”

Bella is a six-year-old Pomeranian mix, a delicate little lady with the spine of a dragon (when a friend’s Great Dane pup got too close, she opened her little mouth and showed her little teeth, and told him to get fucked.  He backed down.).  We call her the cat-dog, because all she really wants is to cuddle, ideally and preferably in my lap, but she is perfectly happy to trot alongside Max for nearly an hour on our walks.

(and then she demands to be carried, like the princess she is).

It hasn’t been all snuggles and walks, though.  Her first few days, her tummy was stress-upset, and I spent a lot of time washing shit out of her fur.  Her housebreaking broke (also due to stress) and I spent a lot of time cleaning carpets. And recleaning carpets.  And throwing out soiled pee pads (and keeping Max from eating the fresh ones).  Sweet Bella is demanding of my time, to the point where Max started to get cranky about it.  And god help you when you tried to crate her at night!  Her place was on the bed with you, thank you very much.

(Once she regained her house training, she got to sleep on the bed, yes).

And then she had to have dental surgery, and I spent four days trying to convince her that yes, she did need to take all her meds….  Trying to get a tiny dog to swallow a pill is not like pilling a larger dog.  Their mouths are so tiny and you feel guilty AF for even trying.

But she’s still the sweetest bundle of fierce fluff, and I love her dearly.

I said that in conversation recently, and  got another round of the usual, “I don’t know how you can bear to foster, and then let them go.  I’d end up adopting all of them.”

As I said to that friend: no, you really wouldn’t.  And no, we’re not saints for doing this.  I joke that having a third animal in the house for a short period of time is how I remind myself that one dog and one cat is the perfect balance for this household.  More than that, and chaos is set loose.  Chaos, and exhaustion.  But more than that, the truth is that with animals, as with people, loving someone doesn’t always mean you want to keep them. 

As you read this, I’m bringing her back to the shelter to meet with prospective adopters.  I have all my fingers and toes crossed that they will be a perfect match, and Bella will be going to her furever home, to spend the rest of her life loved and comforted and allowed to sleep on the bed.

And then I’m going to take a break from fostering for a while.

And this time I mean it!

EtA: Bella did in fact charm her potential humans, and their resident dog, and went home with them this evening. <3.

The 13th Month of 2020

This month has been a hell of a year. It would take me all of my space for this post to recount everything that has happened in the past 29 days, and honestly there’s no need, you were there too.

And you know what?  I’m taking it personally.  I started off the year thinking that this year I would hit all of my deadlines, got everything in early not just on time, got seven hours of sleep every night, and actually made dinner regularly. Oh, and I was also going to have enough time to make myself lunch ahead of time. Raise your hand if you think that lasted more than a week.

I see none of you took that sucker bet.

There’s been a thought in the back of my head, that has moved to the front of my head this week. How long do we give ourselves a free pass, by saying, “well it’s 2020.” Or, the 13th month of 2020. At what point do we know, it’s over, everyone has to get back to being competent again?

OK, whatever level of competence we had before *waves hands* all this started.

The answer is, depressingly, we’re not going to know.  Not until we look backward and say, “oh yeah, around X, that’s when things started to get better.” And even then, we’re not going to suddenly discover that our focus has come back, our energy returned, our depressions lifted.

Trauma is never that goddamned considerate, or communicative.

So when I got the call from one of the shelters I volunteer with, asking if I’d be able to take in a six-week-old puppy, part of a litter that had been pulled from a bad situation and needed a fast home, I said, yes.  Because hey, if you’re already drowning, why not dive?

This, like so many of my decisions in the past 13 months, was both horrible, and brilliant.  Horrible, because six-week-old puppies need constant attention, and by that I mean, you’re up every hour and half, all night, to take them out and encourage them to pee and poo, hopefully but not always on the pad provided for that action.  And if not, you clean it up, put them back in their kennel, and try to get 85 minutes of sleep before the next round.  And then you do that all day, too, only without the sleep

Brilliant, because there is nothing like holding a small bundle of fur and heartbeat, and knowina dog and a small puppy, playing tug with a length of red ropeg that you are its entire world.

(okay, me, and Max.  Max turned out to be a pawsome big foster-sister.)

But also brilliant, because when I handed him off at the end of his fostering – and took a two hour nap – I suddenly realized that I had so much more energy and time to accomplish things than I’d had just a week before!  Suddenly, everything was still painful, but manageable.

Of course it’s a mirage.  Shhhhh.  Don’t let my brain know.

Going Out? Cover Your Snout!

Capt Jack - masked up

After all these months of wearing masks and taking proper precautions, I still have trouble remembering to put on a mask when I go out—especially if it’s something quick and routine, like taking the dogs for a walk. It’s not like I’m hiding the masks; they’re hanging right by the door. Am I the only one with this problem? I can’t be.

I decided I needed a mnemonic reminder. So now when I go out, I (try to remember to) chant to myself, “Going out? Cover your snout!”

It helps. Just like “Going out? Don’t go without!” helps me remember to take my wallet when I’m going to the store.

Neither is foolproof. I’m grateful for Google Pay on my phone, which saves me about once every few months, when I find myself at the grocery checkout, patting my pocket, and cursing softly because there’s no wallet there.

Some of us need all the help we can get, these days.

Not everybody likes it, though.

Got Goat?

Travel back with me to those long-ago pre-Pandemic days when we went out of the house to do… well, everything. My husband, who has an antic sense of humor, got a screaming goat. This is a toy based on the internet meme. Press on the goat’s back and it screams. It’s a silly object, but one that has become central to our household functioning.

How so?

When California went into lockdown, both my husband and I started working from home. He is a recording engineer and tech engineer for a Major Motion Picture Sound Company, and suddenly he and his teammates were tasked with finding ways that they–and the sound and music editors they support–could work from home. He brought home a slew of equipment (my living room looks like the NASA Control Room) and went at it. The task came with a prodigious learning curve that they scaled fearlessly and quickly, but there were moments of frustration. Fortunately, with all the gear, he had also brought home the goat. When he was frustrated, he’d trigger the goat, which would scream. A useful outlet.

So useful that I decided I needed one too. Now, when I’m working from home and the urge to scream hits, I can hit my toy goat and it screams, and in a moment, from the other room, will come an answering scream. And vice versa.

It is a curiously satisfying way, both of discharging irritation and expressing solidarity. So much so that, when a friend became ill, I sent her a pair of screaming goats for herself and her husband. And when I came down to visit my 94-year-old aunt for the first time in 10 months (having been tested, scrubbed, and proved to be as safe as I could be, COVID-wise) I brought her a goat.

It is her new best friend. It makes her laugh, but more, in those inevitable moments when the indignities that come along with considerable age hit, the goat is a helpful outlet.

Since the goat seems to have a calming effect on my family, I wondered where the expression “got my goat” came from. If you get someone’s goat, you upset them. The true origins of the phrase are not confirmed, but one suggestion: apparently, high-strung race horses are often given a goat to keep them company when they’re at racecourses. So if someone takes the goat and your racehorse becomes distraught and therefore loses the race, you become upset. Because someone got your goat.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I kind of like it anyway. The goat, miraculous soother of racehorses and humans. Who knew?

No Dogs on the Sofa! And for God’s Sake, Vote!

If there’s one firm rule we have in this house, it’s that the dogs are not allowed on the sofa unless specifically invited. How, then, to explain this:

No dogs on sofa, Jack!

And this:

No dogs on sofa, Duff!

Also, no squirrels are allowed on the porch!

In case you wonder, I’m an emotional tightwire (like many of you), waiting to find out what’s going to happen on  U.S. election day—or, more likely, several weeks after election day. Will we step back from the precipice we’re dancing on? Will we put responsible adults in charge in Washington? Before we all die of Covid or drown in the melting ice caps? Will we save our democracy from our worst impulses?

I can’t stand the wait, and that’s why we’re getting dog pictures on the day before the election.

Who Am I and What Have I Done with Me?

Close readers may have noted that I missed last month’s slot.  Close readers may also remember that the month before that, I had just taken in a foster puppy.

Yes, those two things are related.  And I am here to tell you that writing a book, maintaining a Patreon, holding down a part-time office gig, dealing with a pandemic, fighting for democracy AND housebreaking a puppy is exhausting.

But – as everyone expected – I foster-failed, and now the household of two has officially and legally become a household of three. The puppy is four months old and (mostly) housebroken, and Castiel the Cat has learned that if he hisses and swats at her nose, she will stop trying to Make Him Love Her.  So all is well, and I can get back to writing and righting all the wrongs, right?

hey, whatcha doing?

*insert hollow laughter here*
Continue reading “Who Am I and What Have I Done with Me?”

The Future is NOW

What does a cute dog on the phone have to do with service stations of the future? Bear with me: I hope you’ll like the journey and its destination.

I barely remember the service stations of old. I can pull up small, distant memories of 33 cent gasoline, the Sinclair dinosaur, Phillips 66 signs, and service station attendants who washed the windows, filled the tank, and helped in emergencies. I remember driving to Palm Springs with my grandmother and a sandstorm that pitted our windshield and forced us to stop at one such station in Whitewater. I recall a trim, neat guy in a white short-sleeved shirt and sharply-creased navy blue trousers helping us. His name was embroidered on the chest as I recall. Maybe it was “Joe” or “Frank.” Continue reading “The Future is NOW”