Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Wii, or not to Wii

I don't play video games. Never have. When we were younger, my brother dominated the family's sole personal computer; my belief on it was that the computer will always be there… I don’t need to fight him for seat time at the computer. Because of this, I never developed the enthusiasm, coordination, or interest to play video games, either on the computer or on a game system. Over the years, for my own family, I postponed the introduction of gaming systems in my home as long as I possibly could. I preferred for my child(ren) to get outdoors, play with friends, or quietly read. The introduction of our first gaming system was against my wishes; it was not for my own blood children, but for the “step”-children. They played for hours, along with their father. They would take the system home with them and bring it back on their weekends with their dad. So my own son was only subjected to it on an every-other-weekend schedule.

One Christmas, several years ago, we were having a difficult time finding appropriate gifts for my son. I cannot remember how old he was, but I’m going to estimate that he was about 9. He knew that I didn’t fully approve of the game systems and would not purchase one for him. So, wouldn’t it be fantastic if “Santa” brought him one??? As expected, he was elated! Thus began the ever growing library of must-have games. And when the next, best game system came out, he wanted that one, too! Along with all the must-have games for that system! And even though I caved on letting him have the game systems, I would not concede on letting him have games that were rated above his age range. As long as he was in our home, there were to be no “M” rated games or “R” rated movies. He rejoiced the day he turned 17!

He came to a place in time where he already had a couple of game systems and the next best ones were about to hit the market. He had a difficult time deciding between the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. I told him he already had game systems and, basically, I was done. He was at an age where he was fully capable of earning and saving his own money to purchase what mom and dad would not. So I watched him; for over a year he saved birthday and Christmas gift money. He did chores around the house. He researched the two systems. He yo-yoed between wanting to get one system then deciding on the other. He watched sales flyers in the Sunday paper to see who had the best deal on the system he decided on. And finally, one day, he made his ultimate decision; asked us to drive him to Best Buy and he used his own money and gift cards to make his purchase. He is the proud owner of an Xbox 360.

Over the years, I’ve watched him play. More like watched him “teach” his dad how to play. He tends to leave out a lot of information when he “teaches.” I’m not sure if it’s because there is just so much to teach, or that he wants to (unfairly) beat the pants off his dad. I don’t know what intimidates me more about these game systems, watching my son clobber his component or looking over the game controllers with all their knobs, buttons and levers. “Green!” “a, A, AAAAYYY!!!!” “r1, r1, R1!!!” I just don’t think I’m up for the challenge, so I always decline whenever he asks if I want to learn.

Over Thanksgiving, we went to my brother’s home. He has the latest system, the Wii. Mom had asked me to bring board/card games to play as a family after dinner. But they were forgotten as the Wii controllers made their debut to the Thanksgiving family game time. “A little Cow Racing?” Huh? Hmmm. My mother was more courageous than me and opted to try. I was still stuck on, “I don’t play video games. I’m not coordinated enough. I don’t have any experience with them. I’m not playing.” Arms folded across my chest, me pouting. I watched my mom; she moved the controller this way and that. “Oh, it shakes!” she exclaimed as her cow crashes into something in the game. I watched my brother’s girlfriend bump her controller up in the air and her cow jumped. My own mother, playing Wii; I should have had my camera. The puppy wondering what was going on… my people are holding these things that look like my chewy bones, but they’re not playing with me. Everybody had a chance to race a cow. Including me. Hmmm. That was easy enough. I could probably play that again.

Next up, Wii Bowling. The first four to play were my brother, his girlfriend, Ian and my mom. Again! My mom! She had surgery on her wrist in October to correct her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I was worried that she might not be able to do the bowling. But she did. And she did well. And she looked like she was enjoying it. Who knew? I played in the next round. Strike! Spare! Spare! Oh, this is good. I typically am the one who has the lowest score when doing “real” bowling … as far as that’s concerned, “Gutter-Ball” is my middle name! I prefer bowling with little kids, where we put the bumpers up to make sure there are no gutter balls. But this Wii thing… well, I, uhhh… I kinda liked it. I kinda had fun. Yes, I still had the lowest score… that’s nothing new and it didn’t bother me. But I actually enjoyed it.

Now, I’m wondering… Do I dare ask for a Wii for Christmas? Do I break my own intolerance of game systems? Do I become a gamer? Can I do it? Am I ready?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Housebreaking the Puppy...

I’m so behind on my updates and while I’m typing this on Monday, 12/15, I know what I really want to post about cannot be posted until after Christmas… it includes some information about some gifts for my family. They may read this Blog more often than I know and I don’t want to give away any surprises. So, I’ll hold on to the rest of this post and explain everything later. Just know that I enjoyed creating the gifts and cannot wait to hear the reactions.

On the puppy-front, Miss Denali is being confined in the kitchen. She’s been naughty. At 7 ½ months, she is not yet housebroken. This is a fact that frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure as a dog-mom. She’s so smart! She’s so happy! You should see the grins and smiles she gives us! I’ve yet to capture a full smile on camera (I’m still trying; and also trying to teach her to smile on command, but that’s taking a while.) She has a whole bag of tricks that she can do; eager to please, she can sit, down, stand, roll-over, speak, paw, high five, stay, wait, and kisses. She’s learned not to be quite so busy on a car ride. I began taking her to Doggie Day Care (DDC) a couple of months ago, one day a week. Mostly for the exercise that I am unable to give her while I work, it tires her out and makes her more mellow and able to focus when we have a training class at night. But she also has a chance to socialize with the other doggies and they tell me she has a few regular best friends.

Denali got an invite to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving. Originally, I was just going to take her to the kennel at the same place as DDC. She’d be there for a few days, able to run and play, rather than being crated at home if I had a pet sitter come in to take care of her. But my mother wanted to meet her Grand-dog-ter and asked my brother if Denali could come. My brother is unmarried, has no kids or pets, and has a very nice home. I wasn’t about to impose my puppy on his property. But, my mom and his girlfriend, Kristen worked on Denali’s behalf. And after answering a list of questions about what to expect and how my puppy would behave, my brother relented and allowed Denali to come with us on our trip. I believe my brother enjoyed having the puppy visit.

I purchased a portable crate so that she would have a safe place to stay at night and when we went out. I took plenty of toys and chewies that would keep Denali occupied. My brother has a fenced back yard, so probably one of Denali’s favorite things was to run free of a leash in the back yard, chasing a ball. One of my favorite things was taking her for walks at night, where the streets were wide and lined with streetlights. I think my brother’s favorite thing was playing “steps” with her. He’d open the door to the basement stairway; there are about 12 steps straight down, then the staircase turns for a final few steps to the finished basement. My brother would go to the bottom of the steps while I had Denali “wait” at the top with me. My brother would then call for Denali to “come” and she’d head down. Now, to picture this, she didn’t just walk down the steps. It was more like flying. She’d hit about three steps on the way down, make the super-quick turn at the bottom and fly some more toward my brother. I stayed at the top of the steps to call her back up, so I don’t know what all happened in the basement (maybe he ran around and she chased him?) When I called for Denali, she would come racing up the stairs and sit by my side. My brother would pop his head around the corner in the basement and call her back down. Again, three steps, quick turn and around the basement. I call her back up. And Repeat! And Repeat! And Repeat! It was great fun for all of us! At some point, she added a bark as she went down. A bark for each time she touched a step. Three barks down and chase around the basement. You could tell when she was getting tired; on her way back up the steps, she was slowing down. At some point, she was having so much fun, I think she forgot that it was a “fun” game and she began to work. My brother said that as they made the rounds of the basement, he believes she began herding him. Jumping up to nip at his elbow.

Unfortunately, Denali got very comfortable with her freedom in my brother’s house. We had arrived on a Wednesday evening. My brother and his girlfriend puppy-sat while we went to have dinner with Doug’s family. Sometime on Thursday, my brother noticed a small yellow discoloration on his light-colored carpet in the formal living room. None of us saw it happen. And when I went to clean it up, it was cold. So it had been quite a while since she had christened my brother’s home. I apologized for my puppy’s misbehavior and my brother responded, “It’s OK.” Also, unfortunately, this would not be the only time she would pee in his home. On a simple trip to the basement to help my brother set up a game system for Ian, Denali felt like his basement also needed Christening. Ian caught her this time and fussed at her. I cleaned that up also and apologized to my brother. His response, “It’s OK.” I felt like such a heel.

So, last week, the weather was threatening to be a little messy. I made the decision not to take Denali to DDC. I chose, instead to play my own version of “Steps” with her, by myself. I took her favorite ball, a huge, fuzzy soccer ball with one tiny squeaker in it, upstairs and had her follow me up. I teased her with the ball and threw it down the stairs. “Go get it!” “Bring it here!” She did. So, I threw it down the stairs again. This time, it dropped out of her mouth on her way up the stairs and the ball rolled down. She stopped mid-stairs, and turned around to go after it. But something caught her nose and she decided to go investigate. Into the Living Room she went, out of my sight. I called for her and she did not appear. So I tore down the steps to see what made her so curious. Twice before, she’s done this… gone around the corner, out of my sight and peed in my Living room. So I was worried she was doing the same. But when I got to the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner, she was just sniffing the objects in the Living room, no big deal. I grabbed her ball, showed it to her and had her follow me back up the stairs. I threw it down and she went tearing down after the ball, but again, she disappeared around the corner into the Living room. I called for her and she did not come. So, I went tearing back down the stairs and found her investigating some philodendron. I simply told her that the plants were not for her, tried to engage her in playing with the ball again, headed for the stair and turned to see if she was following me. She looked up at me and squatted, right in the middle of the room. “No! That’s a Naughty Dog!” I grabbed her by the scruff and directed her to the kitchen. I had her get in her kennel so I could go and clean up the puddle. She spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen; playtime had been cut short. She looked at me with ears back and head held submissively. When I went to take her out, she started to head off ahead of me then stopped short, knowing that *I* was “alpha dog” and she needed to wait for my direction/permission. I thought I’d made significant progress with the housebreaking.

So, the next evening, I allowed her to come into the den to lie on her “place” (a fleecy dog bed) and spend some quality time warming my feet. Typically, if she hasn’t had an adequate amount of exercise that day, she tends to get “busy” and has a hard time settling down to be content in her “place.” She’ll get up to try to investigate some kitty toys, or even go find a kitty. She’ll toss her ball or bone a few feet away from her “place” so that she needs to get up and go fetch it back. This day was no different. It had been raining pretty hard all day, so we didn’t get much outside exercise. And as expected, she was again busy this evening. When I took her out, she did her business, but not pee. Typically, she gets all her business done quickly. I told her to “hurry up! Go pee-pees!” Nothing. It was still raining pretty hard and I asked her again, “Hurry up!” Nothing. So I brought her back into the garage, dried her with a towel and headed inside. That’s when I noticed it; the tell-tale, slightly yellow, darker circle of carpet in my den. How I didn’t see it on my way out the door with her, I don’t know. But obviously she didn’t need to pee outside, because she’d already gone, inside! What do to?

I hate it… feeling like a failure at this. I take her out she goes quickly and on command. I thought she understood. But I guess she hasn’t quite made that connection yet between what is “outside – good” and “inside – bad.” I also hate not trusting her. And I also hate having to leave her in the kitchen when she could be joining us in the den, or following me around the house as I head upstairs, or hanging out with me in the bathroom when I take a shower and get ready. She knows the normal routine in the mornings and knows that when I head upstairs, she usually gets to go with me. Telling her, “no, you have to stay here,” and watching her head cock sideways is about to break my heart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Miss Lilly... second season

Here's Miss Lilly in the Spring... right before we put her in the water for the season:

Miss Lilly went mostly unused this year. It wasn't the water level this year... our first season we had to move her at the Fourth of July because of the drought... I'm sad to say that engine trouble made us leery about taking her out. The trouble actually started at the end of the summer of 2007, but it was time to take her out and winterize her; we’d had a mechanic come look at her, but he didn’t find anything wrong. She seemed to be fine earlier in the summer 2008, so we didn’t do anything else. BUT, over the summer, we got stranded across the lake one Saturday evening when we went out to dinner and the boat stalled out as we were pulling into a slip. Lucky for us, we were there and pulling into a slip. Unlucky for us, the engine just wouldn't stay running when we were ready to leave after dinner.

It was a busy Saturday night and people were coming in to drink and listen to live music. Other boaters paced the dock, helping to direct traffic. “Are you leaving? How much longer will you be?” For us, the answer was, “We’re not going anywhere; we’re stuck.” Another boater (who, incidentally, lives on the next peninsula on the same side of the lake as we do) knew of a local boat mechanic that was at the restaurant that night having a few drinks and dinner. He went to go find him and bring him back to our boat. The mechanic came down to the boat and looked at it. He started her up, revved the engine, played with this and that, made her stall and backfire and determined there is something up with the carburetor.

The first boater told us that if we could wait until the bar closes, he’d give us a tow back home… it would be a win-win situation; we’d drive his boat so he wouldn’t be driving drunk and we’d get our tow home. But, what time does the bar close? Ugh! It was a nice night, sitting there on our lame boat; a little humid, but otherwise clear and pleasant. We waited a few hours, trying to start the boat up every once in a while to see if she’d stay running. During that time, we called SeaTow (similar to AAA for automobiles, SeaTow will come get you in your boat) and without a membership, a tow would be about $200. It was a little after 10 pm when Doug finally decided that he really didn’t want to wait for a drunken guy to give us a tow and we headed up to the restaurant to call a cab. By then, Ian was no longer allowed to go inside to use the restroom because he wasn’t 21 and the crowds outside were across the front of the restaurant and wrapped around the side. It’s been a LONG time since I’d been out to a club, but I guess after 10 pm, this restaurant had turned into one. I asked a bouncer if it would be alright to leave our boat in the restaurant slip overnight. He said it wouldn’t be towed or anything but couldn’t guarantee its safety. Ian had a big problem with this. He was going to stay on the boat so it wouldn’t get vandalized. We talked him into coming home with us. There were a couple of cabs already in the parking lot of the restaurant/club so we didn’t have to call one. With tip, the fare was $40.

I got on the computer and signed up for SeaTow… while I was officially signed up, my membership would not be valid for 24 hours. So we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it until Monday.

Ian called a friend and they headed back to the boat and spent the night on it. In the morning, Doug and I stopped at the AutoZone to pick up some Sea Foam (a gas additive to help clean the engine) and BoJangle’s for some biscuits and drove over to the boat. Ian and his friend said they were up most of the night… the boater that would tow us came down to his boat around 2 am, continued to drink until 4 am and left around 8 am, never coming over to see if we still needed a tow. We poured the Sea Foam into the gas tank and started the boat up… She RAN! And she continued to run. So Ian and his friend took off across the lake for home. I was holding my breath as we stood there, watching for him to get past the no-wake zone to see if the boat would run when he could give it more gas. He got home before we did and said the boat did fine until he slowed down to enter our cove. It stalled; but he was able to get it running enough to get it into the cove, maneuver through the boats and docks and it stalled again right at our dock. I don’t think we’ve been out on it since. Though, really, we’ve been so busy this year; we haven’t had a lot of spare time to take it out.

Doug has finally called a close-by marina that has boat repair service. We’re going to take the boat over there this weekend. Whether we drive it over or have her towed is still up in the air. Last year, when we trailered the boat, we brought her home and all three of us got out there with sponges and the hose and got her all cleaned up for storage. It worked well, because all the lake-muck was still damp from just coming out of the water. We won’t be so fortunate this year. When we take her over to the marina, they’ll use their crane to take her out and place her where the mechanic(s) can work on her. We won’t have the opportunity to scrub her down. When the engine work is done, they will use the crane again to place her on our trailer. By then, the lake-muck ought to be nice and dry and caked on to the hull of the boat.

Also last year, I had a couple of sponges in the boat so every time we took her out and we’d stop to swim, we’d go around the boat and give her a little “massage” to get some of the gunk off her. Since we hadn’t taken her out this year, that hasn’t happened. She’s a little neglected. So I just checked the water temperature to see if there is a possibility of me getting in the lake to scrub her down as much as I can before we take her to the marina… 70 degrees! Brrrr! Ummm… I’m gonna have to think about that. With the air temp being in the 60’s. BRRRrrrrr! Guess I need to come up with a plan “B.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Second Trip to the Dog Park

Sunday, 9/20. Lots of projects around the house and we weren’t able to get Denali to the dog park again on Saturday, so we got up early, threw some clothes on and got our day started.

As usual, Denali was busy for the car ride. She’s taken to chewing on her leash. So, now I need to keep a real close eye on the condition of her 2-month old, specifically purchased for her, pink retractable leash. Sheesh!

Doug was envious of Denali’s first trip to the park, so he wanted to go with us this morning. We got there around 8:30 am. It was cool out and the park was pretty quiet. A few Golden Retrievers with their dad. He was tossing a ball; they were fetching. I showed Doug the way into the park and told him all about how we did it the last time along with Denali’s reactions to all the activities. As we came into the park, I had Denali sit and I took off her leash. I grabbed a park-provided baggie for just-in-case. And we watched Denali run off to say hello to the Goldens.
The grass was still wet from the morning dew. As the Golden’s dad was tossing the ball, a Golden would chase the ball and Denali would chase the Golden. What a hoot! More dogs arrived. One short, but stout, bull-dog type caught Denali’s eye (because they could see eye-to-eye) and Denali engaged him in a run. Since Doug was there to help me watch Denali, I felt free to snap a few pictures, (though getting a picture of an Aussie in action makes for a bunch of very blurry photos.) One of the dogs, Samson, came over and sat in front of me. I had forgotten that I had placed a few “yummies” (bits of treat that I use for training rewards) in my sweatshirt pocket… but Samson knew they were there. He sat and waited very patiently. I thought he was just posing for the camera, so I snapped a picture. He continued to pose. It wasn’t until his dad called him off and he came back to sit in front of me, again, that I remembered the yummies. Once again, Denali fit right in. A young boxer befriended Denali and they ran pretty well together. For the most part, the boxer, the bull dog and Denali grouped up together; though Denali was quick to welcome any newcomers. There were collies, a west highland terrier, a shy german shepherd, and a big black dog that was only interested in hunting squirrels. HE was funny. He didn’t really socialize with any of the dogs at the park; but, he’d sit there, beautifully, and scan the wooded area for any movement. He sat that way for 20 minutes or so. If he wasn’t sitting and scanning, he was in the woods, trying to climb any tree that had a critter in it.
At one point, the bull dog was tired out and just standing amongst the humans. Denali and the boxer were running a lap when all of a sudden, I guess the boxer more focused on Denali than where he was running and ran into the bull dog. You could hear the impact! The bull dog was just standing there like nothing happened; the boxer, was flipping over, doing somersaults and skidding across the grass. It was like the boxer hit a brick wall when it hit the bull dog. But, the boxer recovered nicely; had a few coughs to get his windpipe working correctly again and was at it with Denali for a few more laps.

Denali wandered over to the separately fenced area to visit with some of the smaller dogs. A beautiful cocoa colored miniature poodle with light brown eyes was there; its owner wondered if Denali would like to play with her. I was a little worried, though, now that Denali’s had the opportunity to play with the big dogs, that she might be a little too rough with the little ones. So we just chatted through the fence and the poodle chased Denali along the fence line.

By the time Denali looked like she was thoroughly tuckered out we’d been at the park for an hour. Calling her to follow us to the exit, she followed us cheerfully. She’d been “slimed” and she was fully wet from the grass. And tumbling in the bare spots just made her a grimy, muddy mess. I did bring puppy wipes this time, but they were worthless as filthy as she was. When we got home, she went directly into the bathtub!
She behaved pretty well for the rest of the day… the cats are appreciative.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Time to the Dog Park

I’ve had my Aussie puppy for almost 2 full months. She’s growing so big. The last time I had her over to the vet, we had to get weighed to get the proper dosing on her heartworm pill. She weighed 24# (on 9/11.) At home, we’re still keeping her confined to the kitchen. It’s a large kitchen, with an eat-in area and a partial hallway toward the front of the house. We play fetch in the kitchen. And we’re learning to catch.

When we go outside, we don’t really go out to play. She’s always leashed and usually we just go out to do business and then we come back in. Hopefully, in a year or two, when we’re comfortable that she knows her boundaries, we’ll be able to open up the door, let her out and she’ll come right back when she’s done. But until then, going outside is just mostly for doing business and the occasional walk.

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about that. She’s an Aussie. She needs to run. But running on the end of a 16 foot leash is very confining. So I looked into the local dog parks. Years ago, they were restricted to owners that pay for a pass after proving their dogs were adequately vaccinated. Now, they’re open to anyone that wants to take their dog for a romp… I’d gladly pay.

On Saturday, 9/13, I took a ride over to the park to check it out before I took Denali. (Actually, I was going to take her and we were all leashed up and ready to go; but, a mishap with a forgotten car key, a barely trained puppy and a retractable leash made me change my mind about taking her with me. Can you say “leash-burn?” OUCH!)

The park is essentially a big open field, about the size of a football field, that’s completely fenced in. At one end and partially around one other side of the perimeter, the park is wooded. There are two separate, double-gated entrances (and separate, double-gated exits, as well.) I didn’t realize there were two areas until I finally gathered up the nerve to enter without a dog and check the place out myself. The side I went in was marked for “Large Dog Area – Dogs 20 lbs. or more.” Once inside the park, two dogs came running over… they weren’t coming to greet me; one, some sort of short-haired pointer, was being chased. I watched the two dogs work out their differences and continued into the park. A couple (human-type) asked me how old my puppy was. I was wondering how they knew I had a puppy since Denali wasn’t with me. I told them, “Oh, she’s not here, but she’s about 4 ½ months old.” “You didn’t bring her? That’s not your dog?” I replied, “No, I wanted to check the park out before I brought her.” And they offered their advice for bringing Denali for her first trip. I stayed at the park for about 15 or 20 minutes and watched the dogs; watched the owners; picked up on the “Dog Park Etiquette” and left thinking that I wished I had Denali with me. She would have loved it.

On Monday, 9/15, Denali had Puppy Kindergarten Graduation. On Tuesday, we took a break from training… I looked over a packet of information for our upcoming first day of Obedience Training 101. Wednesday was our first OT101 class. She was one of three dogs there. She and a Maltese were puppies; one other dog was about 15 months old and had not been socialized properly. So, again, Denali had a knack for intimidating the other dogs in the class. We often had to take short, circular walks to regain her focus on me and the class objectives. However, the trainer used Denali as the demonstrator dog for all the commands. Sit, Down, Stand and Circle… she did great and I’m sure her aptitude causes frustration for the other dog owners… “Why can’t I get MY dog to do that???”

The class is being held at a local veterinary office that has a small paddock and stables for large animals. I asked if we worked on any off-leash training during this class and basically, the trainer said, “No.” But she told me that if I wanted to come early, before the other dogs arrived, I could try letting Denali off leash to let her run… as long as I could round her back up before the other dogs came. I wasn’t sure if Denali would obey my “Come” command, since we hadn’t tried it yet, so I left Denali on leash for the class.

On Thursday, I felt like it was time for the Dog Park. I got home from work, let her out of her crate and leashed her up. We went out to do business and got right into the car. She doesn’t mind a car ride… she hasn’t learned which way is to the vet and which way is to the pet store, yet. But she isn’t a tranquil car rider. She can’t make up her mind where she wants to be… and is always trying to find something to chew on. Hop to the front seat, hop to the back. Front, Back… front, back. Nose prints on the glass. “Hey, do you think I’m small enough to get up in the back windshield?”

When we arrived at the park, I was about exhausted from all her antics in the car! But we proceeded into the park and I had her sit. I took off her leash, whispered in her ear, “have a good time.” I said, “OK.” And, she was off. When we had pulled up to the park, there were quite a few dogs in there; big dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. But as we were getting ready to actually get into the park, a lot of them had left… maybe it was dinner time. So now, there were only a couple of dogs in there. One of them was the little short-haired pointer from Saturday. Her name is Jenner and she’s about one month older than Denali. This was Jenner’s last visit to the park for a couple of weeks; she was having her spay surgery on Friday. Denali and Jenner, being similar in size and age, decided that they could chase each other. I stood with Jenner’s parents and watched the two run. More dogs came into the park. It’s funny; as the dogs come into the park, everyone (the dogs) has to run up and say “Hello.” I watch Denali… she’s right in there with all the others. “Hello.” “Do you like to run? I’ll run with you.” She tests the newcomers to see if they’ll run with her. If they don’t want to run, she returns to play with Jenner. She has no fear. Big dogs, older dogs, she’s right in there with all of them! She doesn’t know she’s little. When smaller dogs came in, she’d try to convince them to run with her. Some would, some would just ignore her. She was okay with all of it. When she got tired, she found a hole that some other dog had dug and she laid down in it; just her head popping up above the ground… how cute! A couple of times, I called for her, just to see what her reaction would be. To my surprise, she heard me, turned her head toward me and came running. Now, she didn’t stop at my feet, she ran right by me, but I’m happy to know that she WILL come in my general direction when called. We stayed at the park for about an hour before we headed for the gate to leave. She was tired and she followed me willingly. When we got to the gate, I had her sit and was able to get her leash on with no objection. In her participation she had been slobbered on pretty good… I’ve learned the dog-park term for this is “being slimed.” Oook! I should have brought some puppy wipes.

(sorry, no pictures this time... I was too busy keeping an eye on Denali to see how she'd react and learn the ropes, myself.)

As tired as she acted at the park, she was still very busy on the ride home. And once home, she still didn’t give the cats much of a break. Dang!


Before purchasing the beautiful and intelligent, Denali, I had a very long talk with the breeder. Speaking to “my” breeder, she mentioned the possibility any dog of the Australian Shepherd breed having sensitivities to heartworm prevention and anesthesia. But, there is a test that can be run, before subjecting the dog to surgery and worming medicines. The testing kit is available through the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. See this link: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-VCPL/

MDR-1 stands for Multi-Drug Resistance and if a dog has a mutant MDR-1 gene, the dog may have a severe reaction (even death) to certain drugs. The thing is, it’s not just Australian shepherds; it’s all herding dogs and “mutts” that may have some herding dogs in their heritage. Collies are the most susceptible; over 1/2 of Collies are affected! See this link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5518665

I was planning on having my sweet Denali in for her spay surgery within the next few weeks. I knew I needed to get her tested so we’d know if we needed to take extra precautions. A very sad email from my breeder early last week stated that another puppy from her program (I later learned that this puppy is not from Denali’s litter) had gotten very sick and it was unlikely that it would recover. And while her email did not state the exact cause, she was very adamant that everyone have their puppies and dogs tested for the MDR-1 gene mutation. The email alarmed me so much that I felt that I just couldn’t wait to get her samples until Doug got home.

When playing with Denali, she’ll let me rub on her back, belly, and legs. She’ll let me tug on her ears, nubby little tail, and let me spread her toes apart on her paws. The only thing she doesn’t care for is when I mess with her nose and mouth. The testing kit is composed of two tiny “bottle brushes.” The process of the test is to get that brush, up into the dog’s upper cheek and gently scrub for a full 30 seconds; one brush for each side of the mouth. If your dog’s gums are dark, the brush may look used after getting the sample. If your dog’s gums are pink, like Denali’s, the brush may not look like it has anything on it.

So one morning, about a week and a half ago, before breakfast, I put a short leash on Denali and sat down on the kitchen floor for some “teethy” time. As expected, she wasn’t too keen on this. And as I made her leash shorter and shorter, she began to balk at the idea that she didn’t have the freedom to get away if she felt she needed to. We struggled. I struggled to get those brushes in there just right and scrub for a full 30 seconds on each side. She struggled to get free and get away. 30 seconds can be a VERY long time when it’s not fun. For us, the whole process took about 15 minutes. It probably would have been better to have someone help me hold her in place, but I was too concerned with getting the test done so I could submit the samples and get the results. I was able to send the samples off on 9/11.

This morning, the email waited for me… Results of the MDR-1 gene testing. Denali’s results: Mutant/Normal

What does this mean? Well, copied straight from the results email, Mutant/Normal means: “These dogs carry the mutation and may pass on the mutant gene to their offspring. These dogs may experience toxicity after normal doses of loperamide (Imodium®), some anticancer drugs, and high doses of ivermectin (greater than 50 micrograms per kilogram).”

What else does this mean? Well, it means that I have to be diligent about Denali’s care. When she goes in for her spay surgery, I have to make sure that the surgeon understands these results and takes extra precautions when administering her anesthesia and any other required drugs. I need to make sure that if Denali gets sick for any reason, I question the drugs that may be used on her to make sure that they will be safe for her. And if they are on the “maybe” list, that her dosing is such that any reaction is mild.

I wonder how many other dog owners, especially of herding breeds, know about this gene?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Visit from the Fire Department!

Last night, we had the Fire Department over for a tour of our home.

Doug was home; rare for a Monday night but he had some business to do earlier in the day. We’d had a good evening; he’d walked the dog and we both took her to Puppy Kindergarten. He took bunches of pix of Denali while she practiced her tricks.

But after we got home, Denali was wiped out, and we were pretty tired, too. So we planned on an early bed-time. Off in the distance, I heard the grumbling of thunder, so I took Denali out to do her business before putting her in her crate for the night. My neighbors across the street, D1 & G, were sitting out on their front porch, watching the lightning storm roll in.

Few, but BIG raindrops were beginning to fall and when I brought Denali in, I told Doug he needed to go ahead out and close the window on his car. He headed out to do so (and have one last smoke for the night) as I put Denali up and corralled the cats into their room. I was turning off some lights, leaving on just a few so Doug could find his way upstairs when all of a sudden I heard a lot of popping, crackling and zapping and everything went quiet and dark. There must have been a flash of light and the loud crash of the thunder, but my brain is not remembering either of those two events. I headed straight for the garage door and called out, “Doug?!? Are you OK?” A pause, too long for my comfort, then, “yeah. I’m alright.” So I went back inside and grabbed the closest flashlight. (We have three, rechargeable LED flashlights that automatically come on when the power goes out; we keep one on each level of our home for times like these.) I headed back out to the garage and we grabbed a second flashlight and headed out of the garage to see what was up.

My next door neighbors, D2 & J still had power. D1 & G still had power. We were dark.

G was headed down my driveway, flashlight in hand, “Are you guys OK?” D2 came across the side yard, “Are you guys OK? Do you need us to call Duke Power?” And a third neighbor materialized from somewhere, “Are you guys OK?” We got to the main electrical panel and flipped the switch with no results. So D2 verified our house address and headed back home to call the power company. Lightning was still flashing all around us and we didn’t feel safe outside; but, we didn’t feel comfortable inside, either as we weren’t sure what happened. G said, “We were just sitting out on the porch when the thing struck! My wife ran back in the house.” I asked him where he saw it strike. He waved his hand around in a circle and pointed toward our chimney, “I think it struck somewhere around that chimney or around there somewhere.” We shined our flashlights around and didn’t see any smoke or flames or any other signs of a lightning strike. We had an invite from a neighbor to come to their place if we needed to; we explained that we had been headed to bed early and we’d just continue with that plan. But as we were headed past our front door, we heard knocking. It was D2; “just wanted to give you a heads-up. J, instead of calling Duke Power, called 9-1-1. So you are probably going to get a visit from the fire department. I told her to call the power company, but that’s not what she did…”

Sure enough, as he headed back down our front porch steps, a lone SUV pulled up in front of our house and someone with a chirping, beeping radio headed down our driveway toward our house. We tried to tell him we were OK, but he was more interested in our roof line. Then a few more SUV’s and cars showed up (we live in an area with a very active Volunteer Fire department as well as being covered by county service.) We talked some to the guys that had shown up… all were pre-occupied with looking at our roof. One radioed the engine and we could hear the sirens off in the distance, as well as in stereo over the radios. All the flashing lights, all the “visitors;” we almost felt like celebrities! Once the county Fire Department arrived, I heard one get on a radio and call for Duke Power to get out here right away to restore power. At the same time, a bunch of these guys in full gear explained that they wanted to enter the house and investigate our crawl space and attic spaces. Of course, I showed them the way upstairs to our attic access… a very tight, 18” x18” (or maybe 24” x24”) access hole in the linen closet in the hall bath. I shined the flashlight up to the access point; these guys were big! And in their fire suits, they were bulky, too. I didn’t have a clue if any of them could get up in that hole. One of the guys called for an attic ladder and while we waited for it to arrive, one of the firemen and I unloaded the linen closed and removed the shelving. The ladder ended up being much too long for the tight space of the hall bath so the smallest of the firemen said, “you want me to go up?” So, one of the big guys hoisted up the little guy and up he went. The handed him the heat-sensing camera and he looked around. I don’t think he’d been adequately trained on that camera, but he didn’t see anything that jumped out at him as being a problem. They did ask me if we had ductwork in the attic, which we do since our air vents for the upper level are in the ceilings. I had been somewhat trapped in the small hall bath while the firemen waited for the small guy to finish his assessment, so I don’t know what all happened through the rest of the house. Though, Doug does think that one of Ian’s former school-mates (who is active in the fire department) was also at our house.

By the time they finished in my attic, the rest of the firemen were finished in the remainder of the house and they were headed back to the truck. They lingered out in the street for a good 15 minutes before the “party” began to break up. The chief for c-shift needed to get some info from us for his report; just a name and home phone number. And he needed to warn us that he’s seen it where a lightning strike could smolder for a few hours before any flames show up. “I don’t wanna scare you, but I just need to let you know. If, after the power comes back on, or even later, if you smell something out of the ordinary or something just doesn’t seem right, like the power only comes back on to part of your house, DO NOT HESITATE to call us back. We’ll be right back out. Better for us to be here and you not need us than for us to not be here and you need us.”

We headed in to the house, the fire department left. Just five minutes later, the power company showed up. I noticed I had a missed call from another neighbor on my cell phone, so I called her back to let her know that we were fine. Doug and I then sat on the front porch and watched the power guy do his thing. But once we saw him put ear plugs in his ears, we decided we’d be safer inside the house. There were things he did out at the power pole with the transformer that he was VERY cautious about and that made us a little nervous. So, around 11:00, we decided there was nothing more we could watch and climbed in the bed. I texted my son to let him know what happened and that we were OK. He phoned me right back to find out the details and we talked for about 6 minutes. We heard the power company truck leave, yet we still had no power… I called the power company’s automated service to find out when they thought our power would be back on… “September 9, approximately 1 AM.” And we fell asleep. I heard a large truck arrive back at 1:05 am. I looked out the window and there were two trucks… one backed into the driveway across the street, with its headlights beaming straight into our bedroom windows. So I lay there, and listened. Some minutes later, “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” Nothing. More minutes later, some ratcheting, “Brrraaaaaacccccckkkkkk! Brrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacccccckkkkkk!” Nothing. At 1:40 am, the ceiling fan lights on my bedroom ceiling were blazing in my face! POWER!!! Doug slept through it all. I got up and investigated to see if we’d had any damage and to make sure we had power to ALL areas of the house. Upstairs: lights, fans, A/C good. First floor: fridge running, lights, fans, TV, satellite box, good. Basement: Light at top of stairs, good. Everything else in basement, dark and quiet. Uh-oh. So I went back upstairs to give Doug the update. I think he just wanted to sleep through it all, but I kind of made him get up to help me get it all figured out. He ended up having to go back out to the main power panel (outside) and flip a switch for the basement. VOILA! Lights, fans, fridge, de-humidifier, good! But the lower level A/C still was not running. Turns out, that, while I had turned it down for a week and a ½ to help dry out the basement from our recent flood, I had just turned it back up the day before. And the first floor was not warm enough to trip the thermostat; so, when I adjusted the thermostat, the A/C fired right up… CHECK! Everything good, we turned off any remaining lights and headed back to bed.

This morning, I had issues with the garage door opener. And we found that one lamp in the bedroom, a brass touch lamp, seems to be fried. Doug tried the garage door and while the motor sounds like it’s running, it’s not moving the chain for the garage door.

We are lucky. We are blessed. The fire department responded in about 5 minutes. Our home is safe. And we have very little damage! I’ll sleep very well tonight!

Now, since we’ve been in the house, we’ve had a tornado, a flood and a lightning strike. That’s three, right? Nothing else can happen, right???

Friday, September 5, 2008

So much to catch up on!

A lot has happened since I last posted. As my mom says, "Well, your life is never boring." Below is the condensed version of all the events since my last posting.

On August 13, our son, Ian, had his Board of Review for Eagle Scout. He was so nervous! But he passed! I am now the mom to an Eagle Scout!!!


On August 16, we moved Ian into University Towers at NC State University. That was an experience! Basically, we changed rooms three times. But now he's settled in a room on a quiet floor. The story really is much longer, but this is the condensed version. He's adjusting; some roommate issues and registration/records bumps along the way. But I think he's doing well managing his time and organizing his studies.
From NCSU move-in Freshman year

Tuesday and Wednesday, 8/27 and 8/28, Tropical Storm Fay blew into town... and left 2" of water in our basement. While it was good that we got all the water (the lake level came up about 2 1/2 feet!) it hasn't eased our drought conditions much. And we've begun renovations on our basement... just about 5 years earlier than we had expected!
The "padding" under the tan carpet ended up being circa 1975, sponge/foam backed red carpet:

That red carpet was completely glued to the concrete slab... once the red carpet is peeled up, it usually leaves the sponge/foam behind:

Ian came home for the Labor Day weekend. He hitched a ride with his big brother. We had an early Birthday celebration for him... I was feeling bad that he'd be away at school for his 18th birthday.

We had a surprise visitor on Labor Day. Those that know us know that this is an amazing deal! She's getting so big! We just miss her and her mom so much and wish they'd include us more.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Puppy Kindergarten, Day 1

We started Puppy Kindergarten on Monday, 8/4. Denali was very distracted and had to know EVERYTHING else that was going on. She doesn’t realize she’s a puppy. I saw an 11-month old German Shepherd (who was just shopping at the Petco) whine and cower. I saw a full-grown Doberman move closer to his owner. Denali was ready to play!!! These big dogs had no confidence and were intimidated by her. Hmmm… I wonder what that means? We learned “Look,” “Gentle,” “Sit,” “Let’s Go” (same as Walk on loose leash) and tried to get them to come when we called their name(s).

There are two Maltese brothers, Shiloh and Cosmo. There is also a Dakota Shepherd girl (we’d never heard of one; it’s a cross between four dogs: English Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, and Poodles) named Dixie in our class. We actually met her a week ago when we took Denali to the pet store. Dixie will be getting a new puppy sibling this week, so we’ll have one more puppy in our class next week. Dixie, Shiloh and Cosmo are all 4 months old. Denali is younger than all the others (except the new puppy) but she’s bigger than all of them! And she wanted to pounce on all of them, too!

The class was an hour long so she was happy to get back in the car and curl up to go home when we were done. She was so cute; I took a couple of pix. They’re attached.

I talked with the trainer about her nipping and biting. If she does this, we are to yipe like another puppy would and turn away from her. If this doesn’t work, we’re to leave her and go to another room (like the bathroom) and shut the door for about 20 seconds. Supposedly, she’ll get the idea that the biting is undesirable behavior. The idea is that the teeth are NEVER to touch the skin. PERIOD.

Yesterday, Ian was on the phone with his University, trying to make sure he’s getting college credit for the college courses he took in High School and he slid the door open (between the kitchen and Dining Room) and Denali ran through. She ran upstairs and peed on the carpet. Now, she’s doing exceptionally well with the schedule we have her on… she either pees or poos every time we take her out. So I thought, maybe, the housebreaking thing was going really well. But since this happened, I know that she’s not “housebroken” yet. I asked the trainer about this incident. She said that since dogs tend to not soil their den, she’s considering the kitchen area where we keep her confined to be her den. And while she knows to go far away from her den to do business, that’s what she thought she was doing when she escaped. She doesn’t yet know the difference between outdoors and indoors… she just knows she was far away from her den.

We have a lot of practicing ahead of us…

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Friday, Orientation Day 2

I forgot to mention that our (my) hotel offers a hot breakfast. That was nice. Fresh hot waffles… yum! So, I had a leisurely breakfast on my own. Took my time getting ready since the first event this day was a campus tour; we’d done that a few months prior when we were visiting for Engineering Open House. Checked email; checked out of the room and I was over to the campus and Talley with minutes to spare.

This day was full of seminars in the same room, with no space in between them. We were free to come and go as we pleased, but I was reluctant to take a break as I was afraid I’d miss something important. My last seminar was titled “Letting Go and Letting Grow.” Most of the parents in this seminar were first-timers. Only a handful had sent kids off to college before. The seminar was emotional as we discussed our concerns with the other parents. But I was also watching my cell phone… the moment it was to ring, I would be able to go and see my boy! It was nearly 2:00 before that happened.

I met up with Ian and we walked to his dorm. He flashed his student ID! He is so proud of that thing! You should see him grin when he looks at it. He’s been waiting so long to be a student at NCSU; since he was about 7 years old and his big brother headed off to college there. He checked out of his dorm and we headed off to the book store. We found most of his books but his schedule wasn’t finalized. So we spent about $300; lucky for us, it was tax-free weekend!

Over the course of the summer, NCSU holds 9 different Orientation sessions. College of Engineering is at the end of the summer; then alphabetically, Ian’s Orientation session was the very last one of the summer. Because of this, he had a heck of a time finding open classes to enroll in. When we left NCSU on Friday, he was agitated and frustrated that he couldn’t get his schedule just right. I assured him that scheduling for his spring semester would be much better and he just needed to do the best he could with this semester.

The drive home was uneventful. And I was thankful for that. Doug made it home from Greenville before us.

Things I need to make sure Ian knows before he heads off to college in two weeks (not necessarily in this order):
o Do NOT be afraid, too shy, or too proud to find and ask for help if you need it.
o The health center also has a counseling office, if you think you might benefit from it. It’s included in your fees; don’t let “cost” deter you from using it.
o Credit Cards = Evil… at least until you have a positive cash flow and can pay your bills regularly and on time.
o Plan. Plan your classes. Plan your study time. Plan your meals. Plan your study time. Plan your work-out time. Plan your study time. Plan your play-time. Plan your study time. Plan. We bought a planner… use it!
o Review #4 above… STICK TO IT!
o Call home if you need anything. Also call home when you don’t need anything.
o Be friendly. People want to be friends with people who are friendly. Smile when you meet someone. Acknowledge that you may have already met someone; smile when you recognize someone. When someone you’ve already met calls you or approaches you, do act somewhat animated, like you’re happy to spend a few moments with them… do not act like it’s a waste of your time to speak with them. Make friends with a few upperclassmen… they could end up to be great mentors.
o Not everything is going to go the way you expected. But you are where you need to be. You’re starting the next chapter in your life. If you didn’t have challenges, you wouldn’t learn. If you didn’t have conflict, you wouldn’t figure out how to fend for yourself. If you didn’t have pain, you wouldn’t know satisfaction and happiness.
o Find and join a club. Take time out to exercise. Closely watch your diet, especially on days that you do not exercise.
o Mom and Dad love you. We’re proud of you. It’s time to make your own decisions. Try to remember to make good ones. We’ll always support you.

Thursday, Orientation Day 1

We took one car and found our way pretty easily to campus. We parked and walked Ian up to the Lee Hall dorm building where he was to check-in. For some reason, I fully expected to walk in with him and “help” or “observe” him. To my surprise (though thinking back on it, I shouldn’t have been so surprised, I mean he IS going off to college, on his own in two weeks!) the students were told to deposit their bags in a little courtyard area and head inside for check-in. “Parents need to proceed to Bragaw, just down there!” Doug and I felt like it was a little abrupt. We didn’t even know when we’d see our son again. I don’t think we were the only parents thinking the same thing.

At Bragaw, we were given a tote bag filled with papers and a schedule of seminars. Then we were off to the Talley Student Center for the first event of Parent’s Orientation. We ended up spending a lot of time in Talley through the entire event. During the very first event, my cell phone rang; Ian was looking for his immunization record, “but I need it before I can start. I got my picture taken for my ID!” In another of the seminars, one that dealt with the actual off-campus residence where Ian is staying, my cell phone rang and I opted to call him back. In typical Ian conversation, he asks me, “Where are you?” He’d just gotten out of lunch and we were headed to lunch. I told him that the Residence Hall has offered free dinner to all attending students and their parents. So I asked Ian if he wanted to do that or go to the dinner that was included in Orientation. He opted for the Residence Hall dinner, so that’s what we planned.

While waiting to pay for lunch at the dining hall, I was glancing at other parents’ nametags. Just ahead of us in line was a couple from our same hometown! I spoke up, “I see you’re from D*****. We are too.” We decided to sit and eat with this couple and had a great chat. They have a son, already at the school who is a junior this year and also a Resident Advisor. Their daughter is going into the engineering program this fall. They know one of the kids that Ian went to High School with. So we had a few things in common. We saw them a few more times throughout the Orientation.

Doug and I opted to skip a few of the seminars later in the afternoon. We stopped back at the hotel where he packed up and we decompressed some. Ian called around 4:15 and we agreed to meet at the Residence Hall at 5:00. Doug and I took separate cars so he could leave straight from dinner to drive five hours to Greenville. Ran into some traffic on I-440 and of course Ian calls, “Where are you?” We were on our way so he decided to just head in and have his picture taken for his Residence Hall ID. He met us outside the Hall. In, and up to the top floor to the dining hall; we dined on chicken and vegetables, watermelon and cake. I’ve heard good things about the food here, but I was unimpressed. Ian actually talked to us about his experience(s). He’d seen an old Middle School friend and another acquaintance from Middle School.

After dinner, Doug left for Greenville and Ian wanted me to drive him to his next event. Then I headed for the mall! I was looking for some college bedding that Ian wants… I didn’t find it. One merchant directed me how to get to Wal-mart because she thought she’d seen some bedding there. Along the way, I stopped at Bed, Bath and Beyond and a few other places I thought would be fruitful. No such luck.

Back to the room before 8:30; I tried the internet without success and watched some TV before heading to bed.

Heading off to Orientation...

Last week, Ian had Orientation at college. He’ll be a freshman in Mechanical Engineering. We’re pretty darned proud of him.

Along with the Student’s Orientation, they also offer a Parent’s Orientation. This being my first and only kid, I wanted to attend so that I would be as “in-the-loop” as I could. Doug also wanted to attend, since this is his last kid off to college.
So, the plan was to drive up Wednesday afternoon. This way, we’d be in Raleigh and wouldn’t have to get up at o-dark:30 to drive up. I told my fellow co-workers that I was leaving around lunchtime on Wednesday so I needed to get any work they needed done before that. I was hoping I’d be home early enough to spend a little time with the puppy, pack and leave shortly after Doug got home. Maybe, if we got up to Raleigh in time, we could call Doug’s oldest son, Douglas and have dinner with him. At 8:30 am, one of my co-workers drops red-marks for about 11 small projects (all prototype branch banks) on my desk. With a Friday deadline on these projects, I knew I had to fully complete the work before I left for the week. I worked through lunch, stopping only long enough to pop some Curves popcorn for a lunch/snack. I was finally able to leave the office at 4:15.

I’d like to say that the drive up to Raleigh was uneventful, but it wasn’t. Doug and I took separate cars. He needed to be back in Greenville on Friday morning for a very important meeting with the client. I drove lead and Ian rode in my car with me. We had left around 6:30 pm; much later than I had hoped. We finally stopped in Burlington for dinner. Once we got back on the road, it was dark. Getting closer to Mebane, there was some road construction. It had just dawned on me that my vehicle was due for a safety and emissions inspection, due to expire the very next day. Ian was talking about something or other and trying to find a decent radio station. I knew that one lane of traffic was being closed; the flashing arrows and cones alerted me to this. I guess I was distracted by everything and evidently I missed the sign that informed me that it was actually TWO lanes being closed. By the time my lane was being narrowed by the big orange and white barrels, I realized I needed to merge left. Looking in my side-view mirror, there was a mini-van… and an 18-wheeler right behind it. My lane was getting narrower but I couldn’t merge, yet. Do I brake? I can’t merge, that’s for sure. The way I was being squeezed between the truck and the barrels, I HAD to brake some. The 18-wheeler was not passing me quick enough and BAM! I made a very quick right hand turn… clipping the barrel at my front passenger quarter panel and I headed into the construction zone of the highway. We came to a stop to gather our wits and examine the damage. I looked left and saw Doug drive right by us. He didn’t see us. Well, he saw us, he just didn’t realize that it was us. Later, he told us that he saw NO brake lights ahead of him. No one even attempted to slow down to let me merge. Ian got out to assess the damage; most likely a good buffing will take care of the evidence, he thought. Tire was fine. No real scratches that we could tell in the dark. Ian got back in the car and asked if I was OK. As far as I was concerned, running into a barrel was much more desirable than being sideswiped by an 18-wheeler! We were safe, the car had minimal damage. Considering my options, I was great! We moved to get back onto the highway; what do you know? NO CARS! I pulled right out and got up to speed before anyone behind me was able to catch up. Figures! Ian called Doug on the cell phone and informed him that we were the ones that pulled off at the construction zone; we were fine and now about 2 miles behind him.

Getting into Raleigh, Doug took the lead and we found ourselves near to the hotel in no time. But since we didn’t know exactly where the hotel was, we passed it… and drove about 15 minutes out of our way. Until Ian actually read the map I printed out from Google. We made a U-turn and headed back to the mall and found our hotel by 10:30. So much for getting to Raleigh at a decent time. Blech!

The room was a two-room suite; complete with kitchen, separate bedroom with two beds and a large bathroom. Ian remarked how it would probably be weird for me the following night since I’ll be the only one using that big room. Free Wi-Fi in the rooms! WooHoo! Signal connection to wireless was Excellent; however, we could not get on to the internet. A call down to the front deck and we find out that the internet has been “up and down all day.” Blech! I kept trying, looking for the off-chance that it would be “up.” When it did come up, I was able to check my work email; I wanted to make sure that nothing else popped up on the Friday deadlines. There was an email, timed at 7:28 pm that stated that the deadline had a reprieve… the work that I finished earlier that day was now due the following Tuesday at noon! I wish they had made that decision by lunch time on Wednesday. We knew we had a big day on Thursday, so we all just got ready for bed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reflections on One Week with a Puppy

After we had to put our dear, sweet 9-year old Chrissy to sleep last summer, I was lost. Well, really, I just missed her so much. I hadn’t had many dogs in my life, so she imprinted my heart so deeply. I mourned her. I still mourn her. Though she was given to Ian as a Christmas gift in 1997, she really was “my” dog.

Earlier this year, I began thinking that we might be able to add another dog to our family. But with our schedule, I really knew that I needed to consider only an older, hopefully already housebroken dog; an adoption or rescue. My family was planning a very special trip to Alaska this year. It was going to be two weeks long! I didn’t feel it was right to bring a new dog into our family and then “desert” it in a kennel for two weeks while we went away. So I knew I had to wait until after we returned.

But, I began to look around. I looked at rescue groups’ websites. I looked at Petfinder.com. I looked at Craigslist.com. There were a few dogs that were close to fitting my requirements. Into April and May, I began emailing some of the owners about their listed dogs, “… but I won’t be ready to add her to my family until after June 21. Please keep me in mind if she’s still available then.” But all those dogs found new fur-ever homes.

In searching for my next dog, I had a certain “look” that I wanted. A friend of mine has a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd with the most astounding crystal blue eyes! His name is Foster. Foster was so remarkable, I needed to find my own “Foster-ette.” Shelters didn’t have her. Aussie Rescues didn’t have her. Craigslist didn’t have her. I searched Google for pictures of Australian Shepherds and Australian Shepherd puppies. That’s when I saw her. Just a pup of about 8 weeks old. A light brown fluff ball with blue eyes. In the second picture of her, she had light brown eyes. What color were her eyes? She was from a breeder in New Mexico. She wasn’t the color I was looking for… maybe I need to have TWO? I thought about her for weeks. Every time I went back to the website, she was still available. My decision to finally purchase her could be the topic of a whole other post. But, I just knew that I needed to be the mommy to this gorgeous puppy.

After one entire week with her, I have a few reflections:

We have our moments. I see great potential in her… I just have to get her (and me) trained! She’s very sweet. But she’s also very headstrong and brave! We’ve got puppy nipping and biting going on. When she knocks over a gate, it doesn’t faze or frighten her… she just keeps on. My son is doing well taking her out on a strict schedule. And she hasn’t met a stranger. We’ve had just one accident… It was totally my fault. I was getting a little too overconfident and somewhat testing her stamina when I invited her upstairs. She chased a cat down to the living room and I followed her. But as I turned to go into the kitchen, she stayed in the living room. She’s still not accustomed to her name, so calling her does no good. I went back to the living room to collect her and she was squatting, mid-pee. “Oh, my.” Now I’m back on a strict schedule with her. Other than the one incident, she’s done all her other business outside.

She likes little rawhides that are treated for dental health. She likes to get a hold of one of Ian’s socks and play “keep-away-from-mom.” She likes squeaky toys. We took her to the Petco and Petsmart again on Saturday night and she picked out a squeaky octopus and by the time we got to the back of the store, she’d already plucked one of the eyes off. HAHA! We also found a squeaky sheep that I felt she HAD to have. Since she doesn’t have any cattle to herd, she’ll have her sheep! I’m trying to get her accustomed to being brushed. I introduced doggie toothpaste to her. I tug on her ears and paws; I stick my hands in her food bowl while she eats. These things do not bother her in the least. She loves to chase a running cat. The cats have finally learned to jump over the gates… but, I’m afraid they are teaching Denali the techniques to jumping. It really won’t be long before the gates are of no use. When Doug comes in, she gives him a big toothy smile! She likes to fetch her sheep and bring it back. We’re working on “give.” This morning she climbed up in my lap to eat some breakfast (yes, I’m hand feeding her a handful of kibble until she decides I’m not feeding it fast enough and she gets down to eat the food on her own) and chew on her chewy (rawhide.)

After breakfast, if she does all her business, I invite her up to my bathroom while I get ready. When I use my hair dryer, I let her sniff the air that comes from it. I figure that if I need to give her a bath, I’ll probably need to use the hair dryer on her, so this is just getting her used to it, also.

I’m up at 5:15 to take her out. I’m going to bed at 11:00 or midnight to make sure she’s had enough one-on-one time with me. I’m exhausted. Other than that, when I look into Denali’s gorgeous eyes, I melt… and it gives me more determination make sure that we both get the training that we need and we practice so that it’s all effective.

I no longer feel lost. I missed being a dog-mommy, more than I knew. This is where I need to be. Denali’s new mommy.

Welcome, Denali! I love you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another night in the E.R.

My ever-hypochondriac son required another trip to the E.R. last night. All is fine. Really, just having the doctors tell him everything looks great relieves the worry. Worry that sends him into a near panic.

He and his big brother had been out on our boat earlier in the day. The boat is an 18’ bowrider. And we live on a busy recreational lake. Evidently, they were cruising along and came upon two wakes. Big Brother was turning the boat to ride the first wake gently, but in traveling the wake, the boat turned and they slammed down hard on the second. Ian said he’d been sitting up in the bow, kind of turned toward the center of the boat when it all happened. So, when they slammed down, he didn’t realize the extent of what happened at the time, but he felt like he’d been kicked in the head. It gave him a short-lived headache.

When they got the boat home at 3 pm, he noticed his left side was tight and he was experiencing intermittent sharp pains. Big Brother went on his way home and Ian vegged in the recliner for the rest of the afternoon. He’d mention the discomfort; cringe in pain when the sharp twinges occurred and asked me all about spleen injuries. He continued to rub his hands along his chest and ribs on his left hand side. He showed me where he was having pains, all up and down the left side of his chest. He got up to use the bathroom at 7pm, showing me, yet again, just where it hurt and was uncomfortable. I’d been cooking dinner which was ready to be eaten (but his father had forgotten to pick up his prescriptions and ran to the drug store to try to catch them before they closed.) And son comes out, very dramatic, “I just had the strangest experience… I am NOT kidding!”

Now, as I said before, he has always been somewhat of a hypochondriac and tends to worry too much about every ailment he has, but usually, it’s more of just a complaint or passing question about symptoms. However, this time, I could tell he was really concerned. “I’m not trying to be a baby! But I’ve just never had anything like that happen before!” He told me how he was using the bathroom, then all of a sudden got lightheaded, sweaty and nauseous. “And now my hearing is going… I’m going deaf!” As I watched the color drain from his face, he was still complaining he thought he was going to throw up. I quickly told him to get down on the floor; he complied. The puppy ran over because she thought she was getting a playmate and I swooped her up and put her in her crate. My son never lost consciousness. And the entire time, he was still very dramatic, trying to get me to believe that there was something very wrong going on.

I tried to put on a calm front (though if I stood still, I could feel my visible shaking) … he was already alarmed about the incident and my body language did not need to fuel his panic. As he lay on the floor, feet raised, he asked me if I knew what to do in case of shock. I asked him what I should do and he gave me instructions. He kept talking about how weird an experience it was as I quietly got the phone book out to call a phone nurse at the hospital.

“What did they say?” Still alert and talking. The “talking” part being a very good thing because on a typical day, he doesn’t do much of that.

“The nurse said that if I was concerned enough to call, I should just take you in.”

Dread crossed his face. This would not be the first time he’d been to the E.R. “Can you call {our neighbor who is a nurse} Maybe she can do a rib scan thing.”

So, I tried calling her, but she was at work. I assumed we would be preparing to go to the E.R. as soon as Doug got home. I began covering up our uneaten salads, getting Tupperware from the cabinets to package up our pasta and fresh garden vegetables. Still worried and feeling dizzy, my son remained on the floor in the center of my kitchen as I worked around him. Still chattering, I tried to ease his worries and dread by downplaying the upcoming trip to the E.R.. As soon as Doug got back home from the pharmacy, I informed him that we were headed for the hospital. “Do you want me to go with you?” he asked.

“Yes.” And I made him drive. Ian was still dizzy and uneasy walking out to the car. He used his father’s shoulders to brace himself. We got him tucked into the back seat, with a large bowl (just in case.) You wouldn’t believe the traffic at 7pm on a Sunday night in Denver, NC. Large, slow, heavy equipment on non-passable 2-lane roads; Fire engines, returning to their stations that need to block two-lane roads to back into their stations; people, finishing up their Sunday drives! As we neared the hospital, we neared a in intersection that had no other cars waiting and the light was yellow. We didn’t let up on the gas and passed through the intersection on an “orange”/red light. Yes, I know… shame on us. But really, there were no other vehicles at this particular intersection, so while it was illegal, we felt we needed to do it.

Into the E.R. driveway, we were greeted by a hospital E.R. hostess with a wheelchair. Quickly, I filled out the small slip of paper with some basic information. Complaint: Chest pain – left side, nausea, fainting. While there were about a dozen people in the waiting room, Ian was the second one back. A quick EKG to rule out heart problems, Ian then informed me it wasn’t his chest… it was more his upper abdomen. {shrug} When he was showing me where it hurt, it “looked” like his chest. And as he laid there on the stretcher, legs rapidly rocking, he begins to ponder his need for a psychiatrist, “I think I need some help.” “Why do I panic with every little ailment?” “I wish I was still little when I didn’t have worries like this.” With the last statement, I could no longer hold my tongue… “Honey, you’ve ALWAYS been like this. Even when you were little. Each week, at school when they would educate you about cancer, leukemia, diabetes, or whatever, you’d always come home from school, asking if you had the ailment-of-the-week.” He replied, “Maybe I’m just a worrier.” The results of the EKG were fine, but he still complained of being dizzy. So they took his blood pressure lying down, again sitting up and again, standing. Not much difference in any of the results, but they still got him a wheelchair to head back to the waiting room.

We waited for someone, we were told, to come get him for an x-ray. But an exam room opened up before the procedure; so, we were invited back to sit with him there. A nurse came in to take vitals and hook him up to a heart monitor machine. About 10 minutes later, a doctor came in. She ordered the x-ray and a CT scan. It was quite a while before anyone else came in. But when they did, it all happened at once! One brought the “contrast” for Ian to drink for the CT. A large container of what looked like lemonade. “Drink one cup of this every 15 minutes. You’ll need to drink all of this, so it’ll be an hour before your CT scan.” Just as he was lifting the first cup to his mouth, an escort came in to take him for his x-ray. She didn’t know if the “contrast” was going to be a problem for the x-ray, so she had to call to find out… no problem…So, he chugged down his first cup. “Ugh! Tastes like Thera-Flu.” The escort then needed a nurse to un-plug him from the heart monitor machine. As she stepped out to find a nurse, a male nurse walked in to start an IV and get blood samples. IV nurse asks escort, “Can I have just 3 minutes to do this?” Escort says yes. The CT nurse walks in and takes the rest of the “contrast” and informs Ian that the doctor only needs for him to drink the one cup. OK, that’s good. Ian informs IV nurse that he doesn’t do well with needles and blood and Doug and I try to distract Ian away from the IV insertion. Lucky us, (NOT,) the tube was defective and leaking. The IV nurse called for backup, “AMY?” Amy didn’t come. So, when Ian thought the IV nurse was done getting blood samples, he looked at his IV and saw the mess and the still leaking tube. As he previously promised the IV nurse, Ian got sick right there. All the contrast was now in a pink basin on Ian’s lap. Poor thing. The IV nurse was again, calling out for the other nurse but she didn’t hear him. So I stepped into the hall and called for her, “Amy? Is there a nurse named Amy out here?” Amy came to offer assistance, but not before she exchanged sarcastic banter with a deeply apologetic IV nurse. New IV in, the heart monitor un-plugged, Ian was ready to go with the escort in a wheelchair to get his CT and x-ray. The IV nurse returned to the room to clean up the sheets, clean everything down and re-make the stretcher. He apologized to us at least three times.

Twenty minutes later, Ian was returned to the room. He couldn’t believe it had been that long. I told him, “time flies when you’re having fun. Are you having fun?” “NO.” was his response. They had him drink just one more cup of “contrast” just before entering the CT. We watched the television in the room while we waited for the results. About another 20 minutes later, Ian was asking about using the bathroom. There had been mention of them needing a urine sample so we couldn’t let him go. I stepped out into the hallway to find out when they’d take the sample when I ran into the doctor. She said, “I was just headed your way.” I asked her about the need for the sample and she said everything looked good so they wouldn’t need one. {SIGH!!!} What a relief!!! We got to Ian’s room and she relayed the results to him, “Your blood work looks great. Your CT scan was beautiful. You were very still in there so we could see everything very clearly. There is nothing showing any damage to your spleen or liver. Your x-ray showed no damage to your spleen or ribs. You really dodged a bullet. It could have been so much worse. Probably what you experienced was just a …” blah, blah, blah… lots of medical terms that none of us understood, but we assumed it to mean that the toxins in his body got shaken up and just made him feel really rotten and sick. She wants him to take it easy for three days with no heavy work. Take some Tylenol for the pain and discomfort and if he gets to feeling worse, to call back in. All that said, Ian’s brain can quit worrying about a spleen injury, or broken ribs or whatever else he was thinking that was causing him such panic.

Our entire stay at the E.R. was 3 hours; we got home at 11:00.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The day Denali came home...

My stomach was in knots yesterday morning (7/21/2008)… I had her confirmation number for her flight(s) so I called Continental’s Pet Safe desk and got her airbill number. From there, I could track her progress across the country, online! :-D (What a geek I am.)

The Cargo pick-up area is very industrial… but there was a small patch of grassy space. So after I checked her (to make sure she was alive) I signed off on her. While signing off, I could hear her whimpering and yipping out on the dock. The cargo guy snipped the zip ties that kept her crate sealed and I opened the crate up. Barely hesitant, she looked at the waiting choke collar like, “What am I supposed to do with that?” But she let me slip it over her head and I picked her up and carried her down the dock steps and over to the grassy patch. She squatted and peed for about an entire minute. Her crate had been lined with a puppy wee pad and filled with cedar shavings… there was no poo, and it all smelled fresh and clean. It was a little wet, but I think it was just from her water dish spilling some… so I wonder if she actually held it all those hours? I put her crate in the back seat of my car and put her back in it for the ride home. She settled in and I think she napped most of the way. It was so hot out and it all went so fast, I didn’t really get to inspect her from head to toe, but I could see that she looked exactly like her pictures, and she seemed pretty happy to see me, too! (Of course, I think she would have been happy to see ANYONE.)

At home, Ian was at work, so I was on my own. It was very hot and humid yesterday, so I didn’t want to keep her out too long, but I needed to clean the crate, get it put back together and take it into the house so she’d have a “bed.” I put her on the leash and secured it to my car… plenty long enough for her to come “help” me clean the crate or go lie in the shade. She’s very friendly, just a touch shy, and doesn’t yet seem to be afraid of anything.

I hand carried her into the house and set her down in the kitchen. She began investigating while I got the baby gates set up, got her some water and put some food down for her. We got a couple of toys and played on the kitchen floor. I’ve watched her water and food intake and was sure to take her out every two hours or 20-40 minutes after eating… we have had no “accidents.” Ian called from work to ask if I got her but he was busy at work, so it wasn’t a good time for us to go over and visit. I told him to call back when he got un-busy and we’d go over. She settled in for a nap and I messed with her while she was trying to sleep. She didn’t mind. (She also didn’t mind me having my hand in her food bowl while she ate.) So I studied her while she slept. She actually has some fleas right now… but we’re going to the vet today so I’ll get something to treat for those. When Ian called at 7:30, we headed to the golf course. She was still wanting to nap, so she just curled up on the front seat and closed her eyes… she had no idea the trip would be so short. I hand carried her over to see Ian and he got a big grin on his face… she did not make a peep when she met him. I set her on the ground and a man at the golf course walked over… she barked three times at him. I picked her up and she was then happy to meet the man.

After our visit to the golf course, I took her to Petco. Again, she curled up on the front seat and closed her eyes… it had been a long day. Once at Petco, I put her in the front of a shopping cart and the people started flocking to us! The first family has Aussies and even had a litter earlier this year. So they already knew what she was; they commented on her markings and eyes. The next girl owns a miniature Aussie, so she also knew. Hers is only 12 pounds at one year old (Denali should be about 55 pounds at full-size.) Next was the Petco employee, who also knows Aussies. Also remarking on her eyes, she told me I did a great job picking out my puppy… then tried to talk me into entering her into a swimsuit competition at the Petco this weekend. I don’t know that I’ll be dressing my dog up in a swimsuit. Then another teenage girl came bounding over, “Can I pet your puppy?” She wanted to know what kind she was, remarked on her eyes and asked her name. I said, “Denali.” She said, “Like the car?” I said, “No, like the mountain in Alaska.” Hah! All the rest of the Petco employees eventually came to greet us in the checkout lane. She was a star! And very well behaved through the entire ordeal.

On our way back out to the car, I set her down to see if she needed to pee… she did not. But a woman coming out of the store next door saw her and asked about her. Also remarking on her coloring and eyes and stating how beautiful she is!

By this time, I’d realized I was pretty hungry… I hadn’t eaten ALL day. So on the way home, I stopped at Burger King. Denali stayed curled up in the front seat. Every once in a while she’d stretch and try to put her head closer to me (but the console/armrest prevented her from curling up right next to me.) The woman in the drive thru window knew she was an Aussie… she has one that’s 15 years old. I asked her what she feeds her dog. “Chicken… she’s fat.” And she wished me just as many happy years with my Aussie.

At home, I mixed up her Puppy Mush… dry dog food, water, canned puppy food, canned salmon, and yogurt. It was also supposed to have a vitamin supplement in it but the Petco was out… we get to go for another ride tonight! She ate about ½ of the mush and she was so happy!!! She got a burst of energy and was wiggling all around, grabbing her toys, following me all over the kitchen! Doug called and I was telling him about my day and the puppy. We were on the phone longer than I wished because I knew I needed to get her outside to do business after eating. So it was probably about 40 minutes after eating that I finally got her outside. We had to run up and down the driveway a few times (because she just wanted to sit in the grass) and then we had our first poo! What a good girl!

I took her back in, set up the gates and I left her in the kitchen while I did some work in the den. She wasn’t too wild about being so far away from me, and she whined and whimpered a bit. But then settled down and laid on the kitchen floor where she could see me.

The cats are doing as well as can be expected… I had Denali in her crate when I let the boys come out of their room. Ula immediately headed for the crate and hissed. Then he meowed, growled and hissed again. Mr. Whiskers hasn’t said anything. He pretty much just goes way off to the side and watches. They both are learning about this “baby gate” thing. One gate is pretty tall and they haven’t quite learned that they are able to jump over it… so I’m having to lift them over, or just open it up. Once I took Denali out of her crate, she pretty much just wanted to play with her new toys and the cats didn’t seem to interest her too much. (Though later in the evening, after a trip outside, I still had her leash on her… good thing, because Ula took off running and Denali thought it was a good idea to go chase. The retractable leash came in VERY handy just then!)

Bed time (midnight) last night went pretty well… she’s not too interested in being in her crate. So I threw a couple of “cookies” in there and tried to coax her in. She’s already figured out how to grab, turn and escape quickly. So getting her into bed is going to take some more training. She whined, whimpered and barked up a storm for 10 minutes and then she was quiet. Ian came in later (he was over at Ryan’s) and I was thankful he didn’t have to try to go to sleep while she was acting up… but she stayed quiet as he came in and didn’t act up after the original 10 minute ordeal. I was hoping she’d be a better watch dog.

This morning, I got up at 5:15 to take her out. She was SO happy to see me. I was worried that she’d pee in her excitement. I cautiously picked her up and headed outside with her. She squatted! GOOD GIRL!!! We came back in and got some water and breakfast and we played for about 20 minutes. Back outside… run the driveway a couple of times, and head for the same place we did poo last night… perfect! Right on cue! GOOD GIRL!!! Brought her up to my bathroom with some toys to chew on while I got ready for work. Near the end of my shower, she was whimpering because she couldn’t find me. But once I stepped out, she was quiet. She didn’t mind the noise of the hair dryer and she just stayed near my feet while I got ready. Back downstairs and outside for one more pee… GOOD GIRL!!! Into the crate. And I’m off to work. The rest of today is up to Ian! I haven’t heard from him yet, so I don’t know how it’s going.

We have a vet appointment at 3:30 today; OOPS, spoke too soon… Ian just called… Denali’s being a good girl and still no accidents.