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.