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Seis Semanas

Four weeks have passed since I have written.  Not long after, things nearly came undone.  While enjoying a warm and sunny day in our backyard, Violet placed her paws atop the fence rail to get a better view of a squirrel.  She had done so before so I wasn’t alarmed.hands

Next thing I knew, Violet climbed the fence to get a closer look at that squirrel.  I hustled  into our neighbor’s unfenced yard.  Violet had her paws on the trunk of the tree where the squirrel now was.  I placed a finger under her collar and led her to our yard and inside.  Scary, but it ended well enough.

Fast forward four hours.  Time to take Violet out to pee.  It was about 6:30 and dark.  I opened the back door to let her into the yard.  She didn’t blink–she bolted to the same place she climbed the fence and this time jumped it cleanly.  etly heart sank.  I moved more quickly than last time into my neighbor’s yard.  Violet was at the base of the same tree, but I didn’t catch her collar in time.  She turned and ran along the back property line away from me and out of sight.  My mouth lost all moisture.

I jogged through my neighbors’ back yards, along the property line, but she was quickly out of sight.  I walked through yards to the next street over and called.  To the end of the block, left, a block, then left and back to our house.  Violet appeared and I called her.  She turned and left.  That’s bad.  Would I get another chance?  I retraced the path from before and again no luck.  I stood in front of our house and she appeared a second time.  Panting like crazy, but fine.  I called her and she came right to me.  I looped a finger through her collar and brought her inside.  Gone for 45 minutes.  She laid on her bed and I gave her a careful once over.  All was well.

That wasn’t the whole of the day.  We’d been having other issues and they all seemed to come up that fateful day.  I won’t go into specifics.  It was, in short, a rough day.  More than I could handle after two weeks of 24-7 training, care and loving.  For what?  Not only did I feel like I was unable to help Violet integrate fully into our life, with the fence jumping I now felt I couldn’t keep her safe.

I called the rescue and turned the adoption into a foster.  I invited them to find a new forever home for Violet.  They were great about it, but they needed a couple of days, or as much as a couple of weeks to find a suitable foster home.  I was happy to keep Violet while they looked.  It was the least I could do.

I was sick to my stomach.  I had never given up on a dog, and I knew Violet was a terrific dog with only a couple of rough edges that someone other than me, someone more skilled than me, would be able to sand down.  How could I let her go?  Having recently euthanized Frida, giving up Violet was like losing a second dog in a six month period.  I was blue as hell.  port

But it turned out to be a wonderful decision.  The next day I decided to stop worrying about training Violet to walk well on a leash and instead just walk with her.  Get her the exercise she so clearly needed.  Big mileage.  We walked nearly ten miles in four walks that first day.  She was so tired in the evening she had no energy to misbehave.  It was a great day and a great night.  Not bad.

As much as she became a better dog, seemingly overnight, I had also reset my mind.  Instead of worrying about whether we’d sort all of her issues, and how quickly, I was determined to do the best I could in the next couple of days or weeks to get Violet ready for her next home.  I was no longer working to make her perfect, I wanted only to make her better.  That was something I could do.

The next day we walked seven.  A training book from Sophia Yin arrived and I devoured it.  Focused on positive reinforcement, Violet really enjoyed learning to say please.  That’s when you simply stand near your dog and wait for them to sit on their own.  No words or cues.  When they do, and she did, you give them a treat.  Repeat often, and we did.  She is a fast learner.  We worked on leave it, too.  Also redoubled our efforts to remind Violet that Lacey and I are in charge.  She had to sit before we’d feed her, throw her a ball, go out a door, and so on.  Every time.

We formulated new approaches to addressing other problems, too.  Violet was starting to bite and tug on her leash at times of stress.  She’d really put on a show and it was embarrassing.  We were used to having a model dog and Violet was a model dog–except when she turned into a maniac and attacked her leash.  It’d happen, say, in a crosswalk at  a busy intersection.  I’d fight to get her safely to the curb and then try “leave it,” bribe her with a treat, have her sit or eventually forcibly remove the leash from her mouth.  Each approach would work sometimes, but all were falling short.  All a bit too much drama for my taste.  I changed tactics.  I thought about what Violet values most of all.  Tennis balls!  And that has been my get out of jail card ever since.  If Violet grabs the leash, I produce a ball and she drops the leash immediately.  I hand her the ball and she chews it like so much gum for blocks on end.  And things are improving still.  I’ve since been able to get her to drop it simply by asking.  I then have her sit and calm down.  Then she gets a treat and we walk on.  In time, I expect the habit fall away.  As she settles and bonds more.

And the fence!  She hasn’t been in our yard without a leash for a month now.  I won’t risk it.  Bruce Fence Company should be here in a few weeks to install a six footer.  I’ll still stay with her while she is in the yard until I can be sure she won’t try to climb the higher fence or dig under.  Maybe she will never be able to be left alone, but at least we can play ball and do other business without a leash.  In the meantime, we’ve been making almost daily trips to the dog run at muni golf course.  A girl needs wild off leash fun.  They have a six foot fence.  I toss tennis balls to her and she plays well with all the dogs.  Responds well to aggression by hopping back and leaving the situation.  If she wasn’t well socialized before we got her, she is now.

We’ve kept up with the walking.  Didn’t skip it even during the great snowstorm.  One day we walked to the Hudson river and back–nearly eight miles in one go, but we’re averaging about five a day.  Most often at a clip that is just short of jogging.  I’ve dropped eight pounds!van

Five point five miles today, but no dog run.  We used up our spare time with work and a trip to return a van to the rental company.  Violet loved the van.  We rented it to pick up office furniture for Lacey and bring home some pieces that turned out to be too fancy for her practice.  Low slung Scandinavian numbers that older clients had trouble getting out of.  I laid out blankets on the metal floor of the cargo area.  She’d walk to the back to look out the windows, walk to the front between the seats to look out the front, or curl up and sleep behind the passenger seat.  Tried to sit in the passenger seat and made it work for a few minutes, but it was too small.  She was more comfortable standing.

Violet has come so far that we’ve even invited her onto the bed.  Something dogs have to earn in our house with consistent beta dog behavior.  Hadn’t been invited until about five weeks in and even now she only gets to come up while we watch tv.  When it is time to sleep, she goes back to her bed on the floor.bed

The end of the story for now is that while preparing Violet for her next home, we fell back in love with Violet.  This time it is for good.  I’ve been able to sand off the rough edges.  Still working every day.  I’ve also secured a spot on the waiting list for training at the Monks of New Skete.  My expectation is that she won’t need it after the roughly four month wait, but it helps to know we can fall back on their able care if need be.

It has been a heck of a journey.  I’ve been steeping in little else for six weeks!  I wasn’t sure I should even share the story, even in the general form I’ve offered, but Lacey encouraged me.  It is good for people to know that not every adoption is a cakewalk.  That not all matches work.

Violet it our third adoption.  Our first was a handful and we never sorted her out.  Didn’t yet have it in us.  We just managed her behaviors for ten years and it ended well.  We loved her so much, but it was tough.  Then we got Frida.  She came nearly perfect and all we did was our best to not mess her up.  Now dear Violet.  In her forever home with us.  I’m confident we’ll work out her form of perfect and have a dozen fabulous years together.  But now I know what it feels like to say yes to a dog, then no.  At the point of no, we felt like it was the best thing to do.  It hurt like heck, but we had to take care of ourselves.  If Lacey and I weren’t strong and onboard, we couldn’t help Violet be her best.  Better to share her with someone with the right stuff.  Or so we thought for awhile.

If you find yourself at the end of your rope with a new rescue, get the help you need.  In addition to the head of our rescue organization, our trainer, and Lacey, random conversations on the street also made a big difference.  Tell your story.  It isn’t shameful.  The day after I made the hard decision, I had two terrific conversations with dog owners while walking Violet.  These folks listened to our story and gave tips and encouragement.  One guy said he loves his dog’s Whistle.  It’s a GPS device on his dog’s collar which allows him to track his escape artist on his cell phone.  I haven’t bought one yet, but I probably will.  A second person turned out to be a foster for dogs.  She encouraged me to bike with Violet.  She said the devices they make to tether dog to bike really work and that dogs, with proper training, love it.  I haven’t purchased a device, but when I do it will be one of the two offered here.  At the end of both conversations, I nearly cried.  Short talks, only a minute or so, but they helped so much.  Express therapy sessions, really.

We still have trying moments, but I see them with different eyes.  Hopeful eyes.  We are going to have some swell adventures together and some very comforting quiet times, too.  Dogs!  Gosh I love them!

 

Dos Semanas

Two weeks ago today we met Violet.  A short time to know someone, but how often do you meet someone and be with them almost 24-7 for two weeks?  This we’ve done.  We’re learning so much.

Her coat is short and it is cold.  We have a jacket we bought for our first dog (which was ridiculous since Speed had a coat of which yaks would be jealous), and it worked well on Violet, but we mentioned something about coats to our friends and less than a week later a custom made coat showed up in our mailbox.

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It is a heck of a coat.  Smart, as in dashing and as in well thought out, beautifully made, perfectly fitted and snuggly warm.  Importantly, Violet likes it.

On the subject of acquisitions, I ordered three large memory foam beds.  Made in Los Angeles, obviously.  They have easy to clean covers and liquid proof inner covers, both of which zip off for easy cleaning.  None required yet–a joy of a young dog.  Violet enjoys them tremendously.  Note her tongue!

violets-bed

How about a trip to the vet!  Our friend picked up urine and stool samples to test before the visit and those checked out fine.  We still went to the office for a check, lyme vaccine and chipping.  The visit was great.  She weighs 63, then same as she weighed at the vet in San Antonio on January 18, 2017.  About five pounds light, says our vet.   That should be easy to fix.  Violet tolerated the examination beautifully.  There isn’t a spot on her that she won’t let you inspect.  Good girl.  We scanned her for a chip and one was already in place.  Terrific.  I’ve sent a form to the company to have our contact info associated with the chip number.

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She’s a guardian.  She barks at approaching folks.  I was able to train Frida to more or less stop barking, and I will work with Violet.  So far, though, Violet’s barking isn’t a problem.  I keep the phone muted during conference calls, opening the mic only when I need to speak.  She will be heard on a call at some point, but most people know I work from home.

violet-on-guard

She’s soaking up the sun as I write.  It will be in the high 40s today.  We’ll take a long walk.  Made it 2.75 miles yesterday.  She could have gone three times that distance, easy, but I had to get home.  Today we’ll break a record.  She needs work on the leash.  She pulls mightily on a traditional fixed collar.  We’ve been using a Gentle Leader to good effect.  She’s wearing it in two of the pictures above.  I am mixing the walks with periods of walking at my side and periods of giving her more leash to sniff and explore.  She’d surely learn faster if I made all walks all business, but I’m not there yet.  She gets out ahead of me when I allow her.  I recall her and keep her by my side near busy streets, at intersections and when meeting people and dogs.  The mixed approach is working well enough for now.  We’ll see how it goes.

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It is 99.9% dog here, but there is still the 0.1% of the time I fit in other activities.  Allow me to share one dish I whipped up last week–a bacon mushroom cheese burger bowl!  OMG.  The foundation was a massaged kale salad dressed with a mustard orange zest vinaigrette and tossed with raisins, toasted almonds and orange segments.  Atop that was laid a burger–a Beast Burger with Herbivorous Butcher’s bacon, sautéed mushrooms and Follow Your Heart cheese.  Spread around the edges were roasted potato wedges and avocado and then the whole delightful pile was drizzled with Sriracha.  One of the most satisfying dishes I’ve dreamed up and subbing kale for a bun is a great way to get your greens on.  Give it a go!

I have an unglazed clay cooker in the oven now.  The cooker gets soaked in water for 15 minutes, loaded with chopped veg, a cup of broth and a very few spices (spices have a big impact in clay cookers so go easy) and placed in a cold oven.  Oven gets set at 400 and you wait 1.25 hours.  I’ll make some pink rice, blop the clay roasted veg on top and spoon room temperature thin hummus all over it.  Lunch!

Nearly time to walk Violet.  Wish us well.  I wish you the same.

Violet!

Meet Violet!  She’s from San Antonio.  Two years old and still has puppy energy.   Good manners, though.  Her caregivers had a divorce and had to give her up.  The wife writes to our local rescue group frequently to check on her.  She has only been here a week or so.   

She’s been with us for four hours.  She checked out the yard and house.  She’s played fetch.  She’s had a bite to eat.  I purchased the biggest kennel I’ve ever seen (it is ridiculous, I can crawl in it, and she expresses zero interest in entering it).  And now, the napping.   

I have never seen a dog adapt so quickly.   Frida didn’t eat a bite for a week, wouldn’t go in the kitchen, wouldn’t go upstairs, and exhibited various other anxiety related quirks.  Violet was shaking a bit when she first met us, but she seems to be over it.

I’m excited for the walking, but may wait a day to head out.  Get to know her a bit better.  She met the neighbors and was sweet to them.  A good start.  She needs to gain a few pounds but is otherwise in great shape.  

Biggest thanks to Eileen from the German Shepherd Rescue of NY!  Very thorough vetting and very open and honest matching process.  Sweet too!  A good match has been made and our hearts are starting to heal.  I wish Frida could have met Violet.   They would have gotten along well.  As it is, Frida will have to keep an eye on the three of us.   Keep us safe.

I could write more (my heart is about to explode) but I’ll spare you the words.   Thanks for reading this much.  It feels so good to share good news!  

Take care!

The Brink

When I sweep the floor, it is just dust and hair.  No dog fur.  That makes me sad as hell.  We didn’t bring home the absolutely lovely dog whose picture was in my last post.  We came awfully close.  We spent an hour with her at the rescue director’s home.  The first thing she, the dog, did was run up and give me a couple of quick kisses.  That was a big deal because she, the dog, carries a bunch of anxiety toward men.  I wasn’t surprised as I’ve long known I’m not a real he-man but the director was very happy to see her progress.

Lacey stayed very near the girl for the rest our visit.  We moved indoors and the two of them sat together on the floor.  Lacey petted her head as the girl was working on a Nylabone.  The director left us alone and Lacey and I decided to bring the girl home.  The director came back and we shared our tentative decision and our reservations.  In the end we decided to sleep on it.  Such a big decision.

Lacey and I went to lunch and spoke of nothing else.  We came home and spoke of nothing else.  We woke up on Sunday and spoke of nothing else.  We woke up on Monday and spoke of nothing else.  Back and forth.  It was excruciating.  We were both deeply in love with this girl, but in the end our minds won out over our hearts.  Probably a mistake, but it is our mistake to make.

Fast forward some.  Another girl is offered up.  I won’t share a picture.  Don’t want to jinx it.  Based on the pictures, again we are in love.  We go to meet her Saturday.  The waiting!  Brutal!  Deep breaths.

Work is busy enough but as is often the case, I’ve done my work and am waiting for others to catch up.  Yesterday I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and made the most beautiful spreadsheet I’ve ever made.  I shared it with the team by 4:30 a.m.  By noon, when the California crew starts working, the details had been tweaked.  I spent another couple of hours making an even better spreadsheet, spreadsheets are magic, and now I am hoping it has some staying power.  Time will tell.  img_5429

I passed some pleasurable hours this morning making Jamaican seitan patties.  I am not a huge fan of working with dough, but I knew that while the dough rested, the filling was prepared, the dough worked, the patties assembled and then baking in the oven, the clock would run and I’d be that much closer to meeting another dog.  Maybe a dog we can call our own.img_5431

For once the dough behaved.  I cut all the corners I always cut, but still it worked nicely.  The rounds had good integrity and baked up nice and flakey.  img_5432

I thawed some Chinese five-spice seitan that was a bit undercooked when I froze it.  Undercooked seitan isn’t the end of the world, but you gotta treat it right when you use it.  Maybe slice it and fry it up really good to finish the cooking.  Here I shredded it in the food processor and then it baked inside the pies for 30 minutes.  Perfect.

They are even more or less pretty.  Not bad for a first try, which is good because I don’t redo a recipe thirty times aiming for perfection.  I’ll make marginal notes in the cookbook so that when I come back to the recipe three years later I will know what I thought and whether there are pitfalls to avoid.  Here, I tried the pasta machine to roll out the dough.  Didn’t work so I made a note of it.  Otherwise I’d be hauling the thing out again three years later with the same bright idea.  The rolling pin worked best.  Noted.  Done.

Won two games of Scrabble last night.  In the winners match, I trailed the whole game but went out with a bingo (ignition) on the triple and my opponents held about 40 points on their racks.  Ha!  I don’t mind losing at all, and usually do, but a win now and then isn’t terrible either.

Enjoy your weekend.

Progression

A book is fine.  Just finished My Life by Golda Meir.  What a life!  I’m reading (probably rereading since it is on my shelf but it is all new to me) Plato’s Republic because of this, but then I’ll turn to Sapiens–A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harani.  Inspired by a friend’s tweet, but I can’t for the life of me remember what I am supposed to learn from it.  Still, I will read it.  That’s quite a list.  Outside of my comfort zone.  What I really want is to escape in a Haruki Murakami novel, but I’ve read them all.  Waiting for the next with the rest of his fans.  [sound of the fingers of a million people tapping on a million desks].

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A moment of sunshine is another thing entirely.  Enjoyable from inside and more so outside.  I seem to have recovered from my extended illnesses and have ventured outside again.  Two days ago I walked to the library to renew my card. Yesterday I walked to the store for a growler of beer.  I love walking!

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Books and sunshine are great, but DOG!  Not an abstract dog, rather a dog I know and with whom I’ve formed a loving bond.  That’s magic.  Gimme.

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We didn’t bring home the bonded pair of German Shepherds about which I last wrote.  They were lovely, so very lovely, but more than we can comfortably handle.  This weekend we are going to have a look at one German Shepherd who needs a forever home.  A big one.  That’s her above.  Almost certainly too big for Frida’s dog trailer.  Maybe too big to snuggle on my lap.  Would we need a bigger car?  Probably not, but the question occurs to me.  Keeping an open mind and prepared to fall in love.  speed

Bringing a dog into one’s life is a very big deal.  I didn’t know that when we got Speed, our first and, frankly, didn’t act like it for much of our time together.  We loved her like crazy and gave her very good care, but didn’t do much to alter our lives to make sure we gave her everything she may want.  frida

We had a better idea with Frida, and were better caretakers.  As Frida’s needs grew, we altered our lives to allow us to better attend to them.  We gave it our all.  And there the bar remains.  How can one go back?  I can’t, anyway.

What will our next dog need?  Unknowable, and that is scary.  I know I will do whatever is needed, so I wonder, as I sit without a dog, whether I am ready to volunteer.  I hope I say yes, and soon.  Wish us luck!

Lunch time.  Happy Friday.  Fired up and ready to go!

A Little Something

I noticed a young hawk with a striped tail sitting on the chain link fence just above Frida’s favorite spot.  It was fluffed up against the cold.  It’s feathers looked wet, like it was just born (but of course it wasn’t).  It stayed long enough for me to get the binoculars, but not long enough for me to get a picture.  Is Frida now a hawk?  angel

Today we are scheduled to visit a crew of adoptable dogs.  We had one we were falling in love with, but then we found she was part of a dependent pair.  Siblings.  Two are one too many for me (I say before I meet them).  They seem to be quite large, too large for me (I say before I meet them).  Gulp.  soup

Last night’s soup, also for breakfast.  It tastes good thanks to vegetable stock, tamari, miso, roasted garlic, Sriracha, black pepper, tomato paste, mushrooms, kale and orzo.

Enjoy your Saturday more by taking care of someone or something.

I Must Admit

In large part, 2016 vacillated between meh and make it stop.  I considered listing injuries, insults and assaults, but a video of a young goat traveling in a wheelchair keeps playing in my head.  Its hind legs and body rode in a nylon sling suspended in a frame rolling on four wheels.  Its front legs, wrapped to provide stability, were strong enough to pull it along.  It was going places.  It made me smile.  two-ravens

2016 offered a measurable amount of good, too.  I considered listing achievements, compliments and comforts, but a video of a young goat traveling in a wheelchair keeps playing in my head.  I suspect the goat will still be rolling in 2017.  Some injuries don’t heal.lp-and-bronze

Lacey and I have enjoyed six months together, nearly 24-7.  Unplanned and unscripted–we sorted it out on the fly and made it work.  Made it a delight!  She’s heading back to work in January.  Her work will be fulfilling and our time together will be even more precious, but I’m not looking forward to it.  I’ve never worked from home without Frida or Lacey to keep me company.

What do you think a young goat weighs?  I miss carrying Frida’s 45 pounds up and down our stairs, onto and off of our bed, and lifting her to lay her on my chest.  She’s visited me in just one dream.  I was chasing her down dark streets and never got within a block of her.  Here’s hoping for a better next dream.four-dog-boots

The thought of bringing a new dog into our life scares me.  The thought of not bringing a new dog into our life scares me.  Fear is my best friend, so says John Cale, but it isn’t helping me decide what to do.  I need more time.

Today Lacey and I walked to Stacks on Lark for warm beverages, the New York State Museum for history, Berben & Wolff’s for lunch and then home.  We have an inch or two of snow on the ground.  Low 30s.  Some wind.  At times the clouds parted and sunshine warmed our faces.  It was one hell of an adventure.pecan-brownie

Did you know there is a Bomber’s Burritos in the food court under the New York State Plaza?  I love Bomber’s Burritos, but I’ve spent most of my going out money at Albany’s only all-vegan joint and loved every bite.  Do you know how nice it is to go to a restaurant and be able to order anything off the menu?  Of course you do.  You’re most likely an omnivore and have that experience a couple of times a week.  Now, thanks to Berben & Wolff, I experience it about once a week, too.  Twenty five visits since they opened in May.  I know because I check in on Yelp and I’ve earned the title of Duke.  Silly that this makes me happy, but happy is good so I’ll forgive myself.  Berben & Wolff’s is my MVR for 2016 and will be for 2017, too.  But I am jonesing for Bomber’s quinoa bowl.  Topped with black beans, BBQ tofu, mango pico and guacamole, it is a real treat.

I should go.  Shout out to 2017–we’re counting on you.  You can, of course, count on us, too.  We know you are just a measure of time and that you can’t do anything to lift our spirits.  We need to lift our spirits.  I’ll give it my all.  I’ll wait to write until I have uplifting news.  Speak to you soon.