Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Dog Ownership Can Make You a "People Person"

People who are serious about their pets often (unfairly or not) get a bad wrap for not really liking animals on two legs--you know, fellow people.

But something I've noticed is that watching friends and family interact with dogs often has enhanced my love and respect for that person.

When you see a man engaging in baby talk to a dog, or your friend gets you AND your dog a Christmas present, or you, as an adult, still receive Valentines from your parents--for the dog--you see the depth of the person's capacity for love that you don't normally get to observe in ordinary life.

The presence of a dog has a way of letting someone's guard down. The person is no longer trying to hide the vulnerable chinks in their armor. Their need to express love for the dog overrides the need to keep up any sort of facade. So even the most reserved seeming person will be rolling in the floor playing with a puppy.

There have been instances where witnessing someone with a dog has made me love that person even more. Case in point would be my now husband, then living-in-sin partner. Sorry, my husband-that-shall-remain-nameless, hope I don't embarrass you here...

Our first golden retriever rescue had a horrible case of heartworms when he was rescued from an East Texas shelter and into the amazing local rescue program. As a result, he had to have a very serious treatment (arsenic!) to kill off the worms, and had to remain completely calm so, as the worms died, they would not enter his bloodstream.

After I picked Dante up from the vet after administration of the drug, I could tell he was feeling wretched. He was walking slowly and was relatively unresponsive and I was so worried about him, despite the vet's indication that this was not abnormal given the severity of his illness and strength of his dosage.

When my husband came home from work, he gently picked Dante up out of the kennel, as one would a baby, and placed him in our bed, Dante's head on my pillow.

My husband then refused to leave Dante's side for the rest of the night; even eating dinner in bed while keeping vigil with Dante.

So while I always, always, knew my husband was an exceptionally kind, generous, and thoughtful man, witnessing him in this situation actually made me love him more. I was not aware at this point that I could love him more than I already did. But I did, and I still have moments even now with our dogs where my love grows for him as I watch him interact with the dogs.

But it's not just limited to the people you live with. Any time I see how my husband and I's parents (we consider them the dog's grandparents, and rightfully so) interact with our dogs, I see the love that they have for us reflected in the love they show the dog.

My parents routinely drive 350 miles round trip on a workday evening to meet my husband and I halfway between our home and theirs so that the dogs do not have to go into a kennel when we go out of town. (Even a fancy, expensive kennel is not acceptable to my parents.)

Our dogs mysteriously develop a Cheetos obsession after my in-laws visit.

My sister and sister in law send our dogs Christmas presents and remember the dog's birthdays.

Friends know to ask, after we swap information on how we're doing, how my dogs are.

Seeing the love that your friends and family are capable of for a dog lets you realize the extent of their capacity for empathy, love, understanding, and forgiveness. They are indirectly showing the love for you by the way they treat your animal.

And that, if nothing else, will make you a "people" person.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I am a big fan of the blog and the book "Stuff White People Like". The book really only addresses what they call the "right kind of white people" like--NPR, the New York Times, wineries, being smug, and David Sedaris.

The book is quick to delinate between those "right sort of white people" and the "wrong sort of white people".
The "wrong" sort of white people like things like monster truck rallies and white trash metal like Kid Rock.

I define a guilty pleasure as something the "wrong sort of white people" like. And...I have a lot of these pleasures.
I think it's time to come clean on some of my baser enjoyments. Yes, I consider myself somewhat educated (thank you UT), I get my news from non-mainstream media, and I am reasonably well-travelled for my age. However, having grown up in Texas, and in an uber-conservative, stereotypical, "Texas Cheerleader Mom" sort of neighborhood and participating in dance team...I have some remnants of enjoyments that the "wrong" sort of white people like.

While I consider myself very "blue state" in some ways...I am going to confess pleasures that belie my "red state" upbringing.

It is time for confession. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned against my own better judgment.

1.) Blue Box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Oh no, this is not organic and is packed not with vitamins and minerals...but chemicals and calories. I think my sister and I subsisted on this alone for many summers of our youth while our parents were working. This is still my ultimate comfort food. I hate that Velveeta upscale macaroni and cheese. It just is not the same. And yes, in the interest of honesty, I eat the whole damn box myself. So there.

2.) VH-1 Reality Television shows. From Rock of Love to Tool Academy, I honestly cannot resist. While stagey and cheesy, these crack me up. And yes, maybe I feel a bit superior while I watch them. But I love them for all their trashiness and DVR them all and get quite upset when the DVR doesn't tape them.

3.) Snapped. This is a show that is on either Oxygen or WE, and it's about women that go apeshit and kill people. What fascinates me is that these stories take one of either two interesting turns--1.) The woman kills someone and the person has been terrorizing them and it truly was in self defense or 2.) The perpetrator is the stupidest, sketchiest, most selfish, and sociopathic criminal in the history of criminals and deserves to be caught and sent to The Big House. I am not proud to admit that I believe I have seen every single one of these shows.

4.) Jon and Kate gossip. This is one I literally cringe to admit and want to hide under my computer desk as I type it. I am NOT interested in celebrities or celebrity gossip, as a rule. Half of the time, I don't know who the hell anyone on the covers of the magazines at the grocery store are or what they're famous for (likely, they're famous for nothing other than being famous). But for some reason, despite NEVER EVER watching the show, beyond the clips that are spoofed on "The Soup" or "The Daily Show", I got obsessed with the gossip that started up a few months ago. My obsession got so bad that I actually started DVR-ing the show. And...I started buying US Weekly. I even...*sigh*....bought an US Weekly to read on the train going from London to Scotland (I hid it behind The Guardian). Oddly enough, I'm over my obsession now that they're divorced. I am proud to say that my home has been US Weekly free for at least 2 months.

And for the record--here are my two cents: Kate may be a controlling bitch, but I think that you have to be when you have 8 children and a stoner/slacker looking husband that doesn't do dick-all but pick up local hussies at bars that are attached to Super 8 Motels. So I suppose she really has 9 children.

5.) Talking about my Dyson vacuum cleaner. Oh yes, when I left my corporate job, I swore not to be a desperate housewife. And I'm still not one, in the conventional understanding of that phrase...I still work 11 aerobics classes a week, so I'm not a true housewife.

But I was desperate about the friggin dog hair tumbleweeds that blew throughout the house from my furry buddies. So I used the remnants of our Macy's gift cards from our wedding to buy a Dyson.

That is not the bad part--that was a helluva smart investment. The bad part...
during at least 2 happy hours with my old corporate work friends...I soliliquied on the glory that is the Dyson Animal Ball vacuum. And I thought to myself..."Really...I am talking about household appliances at happy hour...what's next? Am I going to talk about my favorite dishwashing detergent"?

6.) Roseanne reruns. Call it repression, denial, or survival, but I have forgotten a lot of my late elementary school/junior high life. What I do remember is absolutely loving watching Roseanne on I think Tuesday nights....a show real people could actually relate to. Even at age 11.

7.) Jack In the Box Mini Sirloin Burgers and Domino's Pizza Chicken Kickers. Yeah, I may teach aerobics, but I still love me some fast food. The mini-burgers are the perfect size for me and sharing with the dogs (after I scrape off the onions). At first, I did not want to eat these burgers since they exploited my people (midgets) in the advertisement for it. But now...I am hooked. As for the chicken kickers, I have no idea why I am addicted to these. They're glorified chicken nuggets with just a hint of spice. But they can be delivered to the house. With ranch.

8.) Rap Music. Oh, the more raunchy, misogynistic, and controversial the better. When my husband and I first started dating and he'd listen to the mix CDs in my car, he was astounded by the horrible lyrics I would listen to as a bra-burning feminist. And I was horrified myself. Maybe it's because I worked in a music store in college (don't go thinking it was cool, it was the music store in the MALL) and went to Sixth Street a lot that I had to develop a taste for it. I think that the Ludacris "Word of Mouf" CD lasted in my CD player for about a full year.

9.) Lifetime movies. While insipid and formulaic, I can't resist these. They're perfect for turning on in the background as you work around the house or read. It's not like the plot will confuse you--you will have predicted the ending of the movie from just reading the blurb on the DVR.

10.) Conspiracy theories. Picture Dale Gribble from King of the Hill.

That's not quite so far off from me.

While I don't believe everything (or anything, really) that I read, I love a good conspiracy theory. And just when you write off something as a lunatic conspiracy theory, it pops up in the conventional news as being fact. So there.

And for the record, just because I say that it's a guilty pleasure doesn't mean I feel guilty about it. But someone else might. And maybe I should. But I won't. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Giving in.

Within the next week, I will know whether or not I have a full-time (salaried!) position at a gym here in Houston. I'm still in disbelief. I was enjoying being the aerobics nomad, teaching at 6 different gyms while I expelled the toxins that were put in my system by the corporate job I had.

So that got me to thinking about what set me off on this path of eschewing that corporate life for a new one. What can make someone give up $55,000 a year (at least) in income? Especially when that person was raised in a family that never had enough money?

The answer is....a confluence of forces. I think that if you have a "good enough" job, where you're pulling down the money to cover your liabilities and you're not emotionally compromised at the end of the day, you're in a good place. But when that "good enough job" turns into the vehicle that is driving you to depression, rage, and is time to go.

Had I not left it so long, I could have organized a proper job search and found another corporate job that I would have liked more (at least temporarily). The pseudo-flexibility offered by my old employer, and deep friendships of offshore and onshore associates kept me rooted there.

One day, driving to the office became too much. I actually envisioned driving my car into a tree to keep me from going into the office. As someone who has had accidents eerily similar to is definitely a red flag of warning.

But...ah, the tipping point. Not often are we as people able to identify that turning, that tipping point.

I can.

It was having my husband's wonderful, brilliant aunt and uncle die in a head on automobile collision the day after our wedding. These individuals were the most conscientious and precise people that I have ever met. But no matter how extensive you plan something....some elderly asshole who shouldn't still have a license can always cross the median and end your life.

And alter the lives of anyone that ever loved you. Tragedy like this radiates out like an earthquake, there is an intense epicenter of grief, destruction, and tragedy to those immediately affected, but there are aftershocks that shake the most remote of friends and family.

I hate this stupid corporate phrase. But their death reminded me that "at the end of the day", we have control over nothing.

I have always been really sensitive to random life upheavals. This is because I am a control freak. I think if I can control everything, I can mitigate any potential damage that may come. Despite the fact our home sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Ike, that whole experience jacked with my emotions.

So you can imagine how something like the death of beloved family members the day after our wedding...and considering they'd never have been in Austin if not for Chris and I....can screw with your mind.

However, I cannot credit this death alone with why I left my old job. I think one of the first red flags became apparent when I was writing a shitload of queries and doing a lot of systems testing one evening at work, and my iPod Shuffle chose to play "Dogs" by Pink Floyd.

Talk about timing.

Here are the lyrics to that song:

"You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need
You gotta sleep on your toes, and when you're on the street
You gotta be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking.

And after a while, you can work on points for style
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake
A certain look in the eye, and an easy smile
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to
So that when they turn their backs on you
Youll get the chance to put the knife in.

You gotta keep one eye looking over your shoulder
You know its going to get harder, and harder, and harder as you get older
And in the end you'll pack, fly down south
Hide your head in the sand
Just another sad old man
All alone and dying of cancer.

And when you lose control, youll reap the harvest that you've sown
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone
And its too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown, as you go down alone
Dragged down by the stone.

I gotta admit that Im a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if Im just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake of this creeping malaise
If I dont stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone's expendable and no-one had a real friend
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And you believe at heart, everyone's a killer.

Who was born in a house full of pain
Who was trained not to spit in the fan
Who was told what to do by the man
Who was broken by trained personnel
Who was fitted with collar and chain
Who was given a seat in the stand
Who was breaking away from the pack
Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone."

I had to pause my iPod to catch my breath. C'mon now. I had spent 4 years at The University of Texas. You really, really think this is the first time I thought deeply about Pink Floyd lyrics??

And yet. Something resonated in me while I pounded away at debugging SQL and updating test plans. I think the part that got me was the final four lines:

"Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone."

I knew I was the "stranger at home". I don't think I was any longer the person my husband met in college. Part of that was the natural progession of life, the other part was that this job had given me this darkness and cynicism I never had in college. Don't get me wrong...I was always cynical about politicians and loved nothing more than a convincing conspiriacy theory back then. But that to me is typical of anyone coming from the suburbs into a "real" city.

I was "ground down". Thank god I had kept up my aerobics teaching jobs. I think that the BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) and the empirically proven boost to mood from exercise had kept me active enough to remain moderately functional.

The last part that really resonated me was "dragged down by the stone".

Whatever your "stone" is, it can drag you under. Mine was my current job. And other things. But primarily that job.

So it was time, to cut the rope that adhered the stone to my neck.

I had this bizarre moment of clarity when I was chatting with the night desk attendant at 24 Hour Fitness when I checked in for my 5:30 AM class.

He asked me, as he always does, how I am doing at 5:19 in the morning as I race in to start my 5:30AM class. And I tell him I'm still waking up, and ask him how he is doing.

And he says, "Great. Better 6 feet over than 6 feet under."

I stood there a little bewildered (in part due to the time of day), but then fully processed what he said. You can read that response as hopeful or cynical.

Confucius say..."read it as hopeful".

Friday, July 24, 2009

You know you own a golden retriever when...

1.) You have had to google the following:
--"are frogs poisonous to dogs"
--"are dragonflies poisonous to dogs"
--"best plants for families with dogs"

2.) They have a set play area. We call ours "The Octagon" ala' UFC. If you say "Octagon" and point, they move into that area to play fight. In the fall, they will be outside for any rumbles. Too hot right now.

3.) They have a lot of commands you will not see on "The Dog Whisperer". In my family, these commands include:
--"Bugger off!"
--"No bite pecker!"
--"Head out of ice maker!"

4.) Any toy marketed as "indestructible" is quickly proven not to be.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebels..."

Yeah, can't believe I just quoted Madonna in a blog post about music. I like her music just fine, but she likely doesn't even rate in my Top 100 artists. When I was choosing a title for this posting, that was the quote that came to mind, and it was awfully apt. I suppose now because I am the bourgeoisie and I have always fancied myself a rebel.

Music has always been an intregal part of my life. It comforted me as an adolescent, when I was miserable and suffering from the hell that is female teenagehood. I danced, so it informed and cultivated my performances. I love live music concerts, and even in 8th grade (back before the internet was cool--I know, impossible to remember) I had a Geocities site dedicated to Dallas Live Music.

In high school, I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Richardson in the music section initially. Once the managers figured out that I actually read books, unlike a lot of the staff, I was ripped out of the music section and stuck onto the "book floor". (My stint in the Barnes and Noble cafe' is another story...for another post.)

In Austin, I left work at the B&N across from the University to work at "FYE", aka "The music store in the mall formerly known as Camelot". Only because they paid $1-2 more an hour. That B&N across from UT had me exposed to a lot of neat people--law students, Antonio Banderas, and Dennis Lehane (whose agent tried to verbally abuse me, but he intervened, so he's a good guy in my book).

Even today, I go to every concert that I can afford. I love festivals, despite the heat and cost. Some of my favorite memories are from Austin City Limits Festival a couple of years ago.

So those are my music credentials. My point is--music is and has been important to me.
Conventional wisdom would be that a love of music fades as you age--it's no longer a pre-eminent way to access your emotions and express them.


I am an absolute iTunes junkie. In the past few years, I've purchased over a thousand songs. I just looked in my "Purchased" iTunes folder, lest you think I was exaggerating. Part of it is because I teach cycling classes to white suburbans, and I have to bulk up my stores of music that will not get me fired and that they will like. The other part is that I'm an addict and really shouldn't be allowed in a room with iTunes unsupervised.

So back to what inspired me to write this post. I had just come home from teaching 3 aerobics classes (one in the 100+ degree heat) and was absolutely exhausted. Yet, as is the way with chores, there were things to be done. Outside. I can handle indoor chores, but outside, at mid-day in this record heat? Sheyyyatttt.

So I sighed. I picked up one of my iPods. I have two--one that contains my master collection, and another, more portable unit, that allows me to run/walk the dogs with it. I put the iPod on shuffle.
I went out back intending to only clean up the dog shit in advance of the mowers arriving tomorrow. So I executed that.

While dancing.

I figure, most of our fence is tall, excepting the part that runs adjacent to the garage. Minimal chance of neighbors seeing me. So why not have fun?

When Beastie Boys or Prince is on, even if you're picking up shit in the sweltering Texas heat, somehow that makes it better.

Once I'd completed that task, M.I.A. came on my iPod. I figured, "Hell, I'm out here and sweaty, why not do all the yard chores". So while my iPod cycled through Green Day, Queen, System of a Down, Spank Rock, and Metallica, I took care of all of the yard chores, often while singing (quietly?) and dancing when I thought no one could see me.

Not only did I pick up shit. I watered trees. I watered my herb garden. (Not THAT type of herb, cilantro and basil!) Most importantly.

I even trimmed two of these evil, twisty, pain in the ass trees.
If you were wondering, that's their actual name. You can call them that at any garden store and people will know what you mean.
We have two of these monstrosities out in front of the house, flanking the front door. When you're as short as I am (under 5 feet), trimming these beasts is a feat. So I can't reach far away from my body and trim the higher boughs.

And these trees need trimming badly. One of them had grown a generous bulbous head at the top of it which leaves it looking entirely phallic. It was so egregiously phallic that you didn't have to be Beavis and Butthead or a 12 year old boy to think it was hilarious.

I have to stand on my tip toes, wield the hedge clippers at a 90 degree angle from the ground, and hack away like a maniac. And while I do so, this frigging tree/bush/monster rains down nettles that fall all over my hair, and straight up down my cleavage. It itches like the bejesus!

But, with Nine Inch Nails on the iPod, despite the heat--and the itch--I'm having fun.

And that is the power of music.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Our rescue pup has suffered from skin irritation and a staph infection since we got her. She is on the mend now with her antibiotics and the topical cream we're putting on her, but we really thought she could use a bath with this special hydrocortisone wash.

As you can see here, her tummy and little chest is woefully bald and she's missing the feathering your normally see in goldens between their knees and toes and their elbows and paws. We still think she's beautiful, of course.

Dante actually came to us with his coat in a similar condition, due to him having an advanced case of heartworms. With a lot of petting, brushing, and worship from his fan club, he now has feathering so fantastic we've actually been stopped while walking for people to comment on it. I can only hope we'll be so lucky with Shelley once she's healthy.

So, back to the story. It's now bath time. I had to wait for my husband to come home from work, knowing that this would be a two-person job. We suspected that she liked water (unlike Dante) since every time we water the trees, she sticks her face into the sprinkler and drinks mightily.

We were not prepared for HOW MUCH she likes water. We started her off with just a mist, then a stronger spray, with her cavorting around the spray, jumping up to bite it, and running into the yard and rolling around in the grass (thankfully avoiding the landmines).

So we get her lathered up and she decides she would like the spend the rest of bath time and drying off time on her back. She was just languishing under the spray and the massage of the medicine onto her tummy. Truly adorable.

But this post is titled "Frogger". Before the bath, we put Shelley outside and got Dante settled inside with a peanut butter kong. As we walk outside, this thing comes FLYING into the house and sticks itself to the cabinet.

It was the creature we have taken to referring to as "That F---ing Frog" around these parts. My dogs STALK frogs, and the last thing I need is to take one of them to the emergency vet for dining on French cuisine, right?? This frog is always stuck somewhere prominently outside, just out of their reach, and they hop, whine and obsess over it while it remains stuck, paralyzed in fear.

Or hell, for all I know it could be more than one frog. It could be a whole colony of them. It doesn't matter, it had invaded the house. We got very creative in its capture, capturing it on the wall with gladware, then sliding it to the edge of the wall where we could slide the lid over the top.

Believe it or not, this was the second solution Chris proposed. Any large bugs in the house, he just vacuums up. I would not allow that cruelty to occur to this frog, who is surely more sentient than a roach.

After capture, Chris was gone for about 10 minutes, finding the right neighbor's yard to drop the frog off in. At least...that's just what he said he was doing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thick as Thieves

What a whirlwind couple of days. Dante and Shelley play basically non-stop. I've not made any progress in the book I'm reading nor in cleaning out the Tivo because I watch them play all day long.

And if things get suspiciously quiet, I have to go search for them and make sure they're actually sleeping and not scheming.

They play the funniest game with their bones. Sometimes Dante will growl at her to back off of his bone-chewing, which she dutifully does. But about 9 times out of 10, he lets her have the bone and gets another. Then, he'll want it back and steal it from her. And so it goes. It seems to be good natured and neither of them is possessive of the bone.

I was brave this morning and saddled them both up for a walk. I had to fit Shelley's gentle lead to her, which made Dante furious. Guess he thought I wasn't going to take him for a walk too. I had to put him in the bedroom because he was barking and jumping on me (something he never does). So after I got her fitted up and him set, I set off.

I was so impressed at how good she was on the walk--most Goldens pull like sled dogs. (Hence why the Gentle Lead). I let Dante's leash out slightly longer than hers, so he could feel like the leader of the pack. They were both so good on the walk that I was able to hold both leashes in one hand. Now, we didn't run into any other dogs or wildlife indigenous to the area, such as boar and deer, so that will be our true test.

Tomorrow we go to our vet to get her checked out. Her previous family seemed to keep her up on all of her shots and heartworm meds, but I'd feel better if my vet looked at her. I also want to run how we've been letting the dominance games go between her and Dante by the vet and make sure it's kosher. It's nothing that's not on The Dog Whisperer, but I'd like a professional's opinion to make sure we're on the right track.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello World! It's Smilin' Shelley!

Anyone who knows my husband and I, even casually, knows that we are both insane about our dogs. So while no one would put us on a talk show about loving our dogs too much (we do not dress them up with wardrobes that cost more than ours or anything psycho like that), we do have this intense respect and love for dogs.

So, when I quit my corporate job, we both had the thought, if we're getting another dog, the best time will be while I'm at home 80% of the day. I spent about a month putting it off because I realized the enormous stress and requisite stress of adding another dog to the household.

Then, we migrated to the Orvis in The Woodlands Market Street one Saturday. And we were both perfectly aware it was the first Saturday of the month, where GRRH parades out their available goldens to sucker people into adopting them. (Usually it's not too hard.)

I had already had my eye on one dog from the website, who had already been adopted. But some of the fabulous volunteers (who all know Chris and I as owning the GRRH alumni that sleeps on his back in the recliner) told us to send in information on what sort of dog we'd want to foster.

So I submitted what basically amounts to a Manifesto on the type of dog we want for our house. Part of it is just selfishness, but we do have our sweet Dante, who we made a committment to first, and we have to honor that above all else. If Dante is happy and the dog is not destructive to our property, we'd be happy to make him/her a part of our permanent pack.

Weeks went by, and I thought I turned the board of the rescue group off by being too demanding. Then I got a call. For a pup named "Ashley"--18 months old. Given up by her family, who has 3 young children because she's just too much for the stay at home wife to handle. Housebroken. Allegedly undestructive.

We were sucked in. She came over on a Sunday morning. The parents were what I call "the beautiful people" who were very kind and nice and cared about where she went. But couldn't be bothered with all that came with a 1.5 year old golden. So we spent about 15-20 minutes together watching the dogs play before they left her. The mom of the dog cried and he was obviously emotional.

Then...she was with us alone.

First and foremost, I have to say that this pup has the longest legs I've ever seen on a dog as well as the hugest paws. She almost has the face of a hound/mastiff instead of a golden. She's a lot taller than Dante, so he's having to come up with creative ways to take her down and dominate her. :) There's been a whole lot of humpin going on to help her understands who is boss. There's been no escalated altercations where we've had to step in, either.

I don't see any temperament or personality isssues yet that can't be attributed to the fact that she is so very young. She is a jumper, so we're having her SIT before we pet her, before she can come in the house, dinner time, and whenever she approaches us. She is such a loving dog--she's so happy and content being pet and getting attention. I'm actually seeing no separation anxiety as of yet. She shadows Chris and I around and I'm afraid she may be a little of a daddy's girl, which I will work to start changing. :)

She is the loudest and messiest drinker I have ever seen, even worse than ny sister's sweet golden, Atticus---she shoves her whole nose into the water bowl to drink.

They've been really good at meal times--they each would really rather eat the other's food. They have her on this strange Rachael Ray dog food that Dante would REALLY prefer to eat, and she seems to like how his food tastes. They don't growl at each other while they're swapping food either, so I get to stand and referee them into their corners and make sure they eat the food they should be eating.

They also did a really good job last night of sharing bones.

It was breaking my heart because it is clear that she has little experience with bones, she doesn't know how to hold them and normally only gets two or 3 large yomps in on the bone before she's sent it flying across the room. Her family sent her to us with only 3 toys, so she's having a blast raiding the toybox. She also kinda ducks her head and shies away when you reach for her collar, so I suspect she's been dragged around by her collar once or twice in her lifetime.

Her old family indicates that she doesn't need to be in a crate b/c she is housebroken and non-destructive. This appears to be the case--she doesn't nab shoes or objects and has had no accidents in the house. We decided to leave her out at night enclosed in our bedroom. I am such a light sleeper and so anxious that I'll wake up if I hear mischief.

However, I will still be kenneling her during the day when I'm gone. 18 month goldens are not to be trusted, no matter what that family says! I do not like coming home to surprises.

Last night, she actually slept IN the bed pressed up against my back for the entire night. It was quite cramped, especially after Chris' alarm clock went off and Dante climbed up straight in the middle of the bed. So it looks like I'll be getting up with Chris, even on the mornings I don't get up at 4:45 to teach. No rest for weary dog Moms.

I'm going to take her in to my vet for an inspection and just to make sure we're doing the right thing on dominance issues with Dante. She's got some itchy patches and sore spots on her skin. I'm not happy at all with the condition of the coat, it has that wiry feel that I remember Dante's coat had when he was so sick with heartworms.

One last funny thing--she's a horrible racist. Any time a black person comes on the television, she barks and charges it. So we're not watching a lot of Michael Jackson coverage.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I am a mark!

Chris and I have been talking for a few months about adopting another dog while I'm at home until I go back to work "properly". It's the perfect time, since we're not really counting on another time in our lives when I'm not working a 40 per hour at week (at least). And goldens, while miraculous, wonderful dogs, are also bright, mischievous animals and require supervision for most of their lives, be it when they are puppies or when they're seniors.

I love my new non-corporate lifestyle, though it is starting to bore me sometimes during the day when I'm too restless to read and there's no tasks to do and I wander around the house, gravitating to the office to play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

Useless, I am. Just like Yoda would say.

So, with another golden, I will have my hands very full.

Our newest charge is coming tomorrow at 9AM, apparently. While officially we're "just" fostering, we'll be adopting her if she meshes with Dante. Dante is our first priority--we made a commitment to him about 5 years ago and we have to make sure he is OK with having a baby sister before we can officially adopt another golden retriever.

Ordinarily, the rescue organization restricts contact between adoptive and surrendering families, but they really trust this family. And this family really cares about where their dog gets placed, which tells me a lot of good things about the family. So tomorrow I will await to receive them, and keep my fingers crossed that my insane animal doesn't embarrass us.

Maybe while I disinfect his old kennel for her and pick up the yard tomorrow AM, my wonderful husband will walk Dante to wear him out? (Thank you Evan, for this idea!) Though, on his new vitamins, Dante is more energetic than ever.

Wow, 2 golden retrievers, if it works out. The testosterone/estrogen balance in the house will finally be balanced.

I am honestly a little stunned and nervous at the thought of another dog in our home.

To the left, this is a picture of one of Dante's "birthday" celebrations where he nabbed the cupcake from us--and you can see the crumbs flying.

We celebrate his birthday on the day we got him from GRRH, which is the day after my birthday, not-so-coincidentally.

Though--I did not buy the $600 Dyson Animal vacuum for nothing, after all. :)

I told Dante this may be his last day as an only child...stay tuned to see how this all works out and keep your fingers crossed for us!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Hornet from Hell

This is the tale of how I came to see myself as the hornet from hell.

To maintain my national aerobics certifcation, I have to complete continuing education courses. Most of these courses cost a ton of money (About $100 per every 2 hours) which is hilarious since aerobics instructors don't make dick-all as far as money goes. We make a lot an hour, but it's not a 40 hour a week job.

So I was very impressed and excited when one of the gyms I work at offered free continuing education courses--the catch? One of the sessions is...aqua aerobics.
I hate public pools and it normally takes an inordinate amount of beer and pestering from my friends to get in any sort of communal water. Lakes included.

Furthermore, I certainly would never let my aerobics participants see me in a swimsuit. But, since abdicating my corporate job, I can't afford NOT to take free certification courses. So I begrudgingly signed up on the gym's intranet and committed myself.

I don't own a one-piece swimsuit. I only have 2-pieces from a couple of years ago when we went to Jamaica.

So, I had to endure what all women hate more than anything--swimsuit shopping.

Given the fact that I will never, ever teach nor substitute an aqua aerobics class, I was looking for a normal black swimsuit on the cheap. Walmart didn't have anything remotely OK to wear in public. I had to head to the infernal hell that is...Academy Sports and Outdoors.
I know it's odd to have a really strong opinion on a sporting goods store, but I HATE this particular Academy. Of course, it's the only sporting good store on my way home from teaching aerobics back to the house.

Why I hate Academy:
  1. Preponderence of White Trash. Maybe it's the deer lures, the camoflague clothing, or the ammunition, but this particular Academy is always packed with white trash on their way to/from the deer stand. I have to park my little import car next to stacked up trucks that have intelligent stickers on them promoting guns, god, and government. Guess this isn't so different than any place I go in Texas, but the difference is marked.

  2. Expensive Workout Gear. As I stated above, I don't make a lot of cash in my aerobics job. So seeing beautiful Nike workout clothes that cost the amount I make over four classes is just torture. I typically buy my workout gear from Target or Walmart, I'm not ashamed.
But I was there, taking deep cleansing breaths while trying not to smell the white trash.

There I stand in front of the Nike and Speedo stand with the swimsuits thinking..."I can buy four or five of these and take them home to try them on, of course, and return the rest. After all, I live close." Then, the devil on my shoulder pipes in with, "Do you really want to come back here if you don't have to when you can just try it on now and get it over with?"

That's when it hits me....Not to give TMI, but I have to go commando in the pants that I wore on this particular day whenever I teach. This is because we do a lot of squats in these two classes, and no aerobics participant needs to see the whale tail of their instructor's thong. No civilized person would ever try on a swimsuit commando. And while sometimes I'm hardly civilized, I'm not disgusting.

It occurs to me that there is a way around this--I could always try on the swimsuits OVER my gym pants. Undesirable, but as sanitary as it gets in the north Houston Academy store. So I root through the racks, trying to figure out sizing (I think they're European sizes--36 and 40s? Is that hip width or what?) and I pick a selection of different cuts on the bottom--from modest to scandalous and head to the fitting room. Which by the way--are not divided up by gender.

Let me set the scene. I had taught two aerobics classes that morning, once at 5:30AM and another time at 8:45, so I was looking pretty frightening in the light of day. Even scarier in the glaring flourescent lights of white trash Academy. No makeup. Frizzy hair. Sweaty clothes.

I jump in with the "conservative" cut swimsuit in the largest size (I guess) that I pulled off the rack, in a beautiful teal color. Holy hell. This suit was like something out of a movie from the 1930s. No matter your body type, this cut is not flattering.

3 more suits were tugged viciously over my aerobics pants. I was doing that tap dance you have to do in order to loop the shoulder straps over your shoulders. With socks on. Quite sexy. (No WAY would I take my socks off in the Academy!)

The second to last suit was black, with yellow stripes down the side. It was also the smallest size I had yanked off of the rack. Being so short, I have no clue what size I am in general, it's a crapshoot dependent on the designer. I did that little dance trying to ruck it up over my shoulders, and when I did, I laughed out loud. In the fitting rooms, surrounded by kids trying on baseball pants and women trying on workout pants. I was almost hysterical. I could hear other people shifting in the rooms, unnerved by the hysterical laughter emanating from my room.

I have always lived under the premise that...if you don't'll cry.

I truly looked like the hornet from hell in this suit.

The antennae were my frizzy hair, shoved out in all directions from the disgusting Houston humidity, the makeup-less face, the fact that I had on a too-tight swimsuit over gym pants, with black wee socks on. All I'll say is this--bulges everywhere.
At last, I found the best I could do--in a larger size, and certainly not with yellow details. With red racing stripes.

Thank god this particular Academy is next door to a liquor store.

Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Perks of being marginally employed.

First off...Let it be known that I take extreme offense at the people who call me "unemployed". I have agreed to be referred to as "marginally employed" in agreement with my friends still "left behind" at the company I left.

I am currently teaching group fitness classes (cycling, aerobics) at 3 different gyms at 6 different locations. Hardly unemployed. I left a high paying, easy, boring corporate job because it was sucking my soul out and made me so depressed that myself, my family, and my friends, quit recognizing me. I've always been cynical with a dark sense of humor, but this job honed that talent into scathing and unattractive sarcasm and disillusionment. So I quit. In a shit economy. And it was scary. But it was the right thing to do.

As to the, I don't sit on the couch eating bon-bons. (Admission--I did for the first week, substituting bon-bons for expensive cheeses and wine.) I have generated an even deeper bond with my golden retriever, Dante (read about his vacations here). We go for a drive every day and I've taught him new tricks. :)

I read almost obsessively, about a book every 2 days. I've tackled tasks that you can't get to when you're working full time, such as putting together honeymoon and wedding photo albums.

And while those sound trivial, when I was working non-marginally, those are those tasks that hang over your head. I cook more, and I clean a lot more (which, as a feminist, I hate to admit). But most importantly, the fog of depression and cynicism has lifted.

And I'm getting restless. I adore my free time, but I'm needing more, as I knew I would. I'm torn between re-entering the conventional workforce (cue retching sounds here) and going back to school. I adored university. I excelled. But my experience in research psychology was truly what booted me out of doing something like that. Research is crooked. And I don't know that I could be a clinical psychologist...your patients need you at all hours of the day. And I need boundaries. And student loans...I already pay $300 a month. Who needs more?

While I'm marginally employed, I want to use my time for charity. Caauses important to me include (other than saving beautiful golden retrievers' lives) include microfinance--where you loan very small amounts to people in third world countries to help their businesses. My wonderful mother in law turned me on to Kiva. I am a huge fan of public radio (jesus, that's cliche)--I love our local NPR affliate as well as the ultra-liberal Pacifica affiliate. They keep me company as I drive all over North Houston to teach aerobics classes. International women's rights is of huge importance to me as well.

Sometimes it occurs to me that myself and my husband are almost liberal cliches. Just read this site. Hits close to home.