Jul 29, 2010

On Owning a Herding Breed Dog (or Why I Have Been Losing My Sanity)

When I got my dog off Craig's List two years ago, I was told he was some kind of German Shepherd Lab Mix, maybe-and-we-can't-remember?  Apparently, every dog on Craig's List and in every dog shelter is a German Shepherd mixed with something.  Those German Shepherds... watch out for them.  Lock away your pretty girl dogs!  Here comes a German Shepherd and he looks like a player...

I digress (again, are you shocked?).  I figured that this pup was the perfect dog for me because a) I like Labs, and b) I like German Shepherds, and also c) our family had owned both and I knew their energy levels and felt I could cope with them.

HAHAH!  That's funny!  You know what else is funny?  My dog isn't a German Shepherd Lab Mix.  He's mostly English Shepherd.  And lastly, the most hilarious part about all of this is that his energy level is just like that of a German Shepherd Lab Mix, if that German Shepherd Lab Mix happened to be on speed.

By now, if you are a seasoned dog owner, you may be thinking that "a tired dog is a happy dog," and all that crap, and that I should walk this dog more and all my problems would be solved.  HAHAH!  Silly you!

Every day, I get up at the crack of dawn so I can walk for an hour or so, with my dog running off the leash in circles.  Then, every afternoon, we go to the dog park and walk around another hour or more.  I walk 5 miles a day, roughly, and the dog runs about 15-20, more or less.  In the evening, we practice tricks and mental stimulation games.  Food bills have increased for both of us, since I walk about 1,500 miles a year, and he runs...ummm... math....4,500 or more.  My social life must be worked around dog walking times or I pay the consequences later that evening:

Two vets and a dog trainer told me at separate times, "Wow... it's so great that you kept him.  Because...hmm... well, you know most people can't keep up with a dog like this one. And a lot of times these dogs end up in shelters."  Then I started crying and begged the vets for dog tranquilizers and they didn't give them to me.

The dog park people know me as the "Ready...Ready...Go!" girl.  If you have ever had a herding breed dog, you will know that RRG can quickly become a favorite sport, if not a complete OCD problem.  In this game, the dog comes up to you, stares at you with crazy-eyes and his tongue hanging out, and walks backward while stepping on your toes and sometimes your shins.

This is your cue to say, "Ready...ready....GO!"  as if this were the most suspenseful and eventful moment of your life.  The dog tears off, bounds through the grass like an antelope, makes a huge loop, and returns, panting hysterically, and in my dog's case usually with a strand of saliva lying across his nose.

Then, you must repeat this eleventy billion more times.

You think you can take a break from this? HAHAH!  WRONG!  You must continue.  And, if you perhaps do this in a place where there is nowhere to tear off into the bushes, or your voice inflection is wrong, or the planets are not aligned correctly, the dog will latch on to your arm and remind you that you are Incorrect.

The other fabulous thing about having a hyper-neurotic dog is that they develop phobias.  (Disclaimer: I have been to the vet and he told me this was normal... I am not a bad dog owner.)  My dog, for example, has developed a phobia of the neighbors upstairs running their shower.  This might not seem like such a huge problem, except that the neighbors have a teenage son who apparently needs to shower eighteen times a day, which means that my dog spends a lot of his day hiding under a desk and staring at the ceiling in abject terror.

His latest phobia is that of the storm drains outside my patio.  He has started approaching it very cautiously, as if Stephen King's It Clown might pull him down at any moment as he returns from his pees.

Neighbor: What is your dog doing?
Me: Oh you know...he's just terrified of the storm drain.
Neighbor: Um.  Haven't you had him here for two years now?
Me: Uh... yes, yes I have.
Neighbor:  I see... is he suddenly scared of the storm drain?
Me:  Oh... you know... he's umm.... well... really  I have no idea.
(awkward silence...)

Now, if you follow those tv shows about dog training, you will often see the dog trainer suggesting that dogs develop phobias if owners secretly have these phobias, or if perhaps the owner reinforces the dog's phobia by soothing it when it is frightened.

I am here to declare that I am secretly afraid of neither storm drains nor running shower water.  And I generally ignore my dog when he goes nuts, except that I may sometimes occasionally roll my eyes.

So maybe, just maybe, the dog is just neurotic on his own, of his own volition.

God, I love that dog.

Jul 28, 2010

Bloody Chinese Weapons and Other Dating Hazards

For some reason I can't understand, things don't happen to me like they do to everybody else.  I'm the one who, when everyone orders soup, gets the bowl with, say, someone's severed digit in it or something.

Dating then, has been intriguing for me, and has never "just happened" like it does to normal people.

As an example, we will slide back in time to my pre-knee-surgery days, when my Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings were spent in two-hour kung-fu classes held on top of the university parking garage.

My brother's friend, whom we shall call Ernesto (although that is certainly not his real name but I doubt he'd want me to reveal his true identity 11 years later), would bum a ride with me to class because he lived Far Away From Class, which is also where I lived.  The ride took a total of 45 minutes each way.

Ernesto and I had secret crushes on each other, but could not possibly admit our love because my brother was his best friend.  So we sat in the car in agonizing and awkward silence, dressed in our kung-fu outfits and contemplating the meaning of love.

At some point Ernesto must have decided that angsty, emo-like silences were not going to be enough to drive me mad with desire and he instead devised a fail-proof plan to impress me.

Ernesto had an unholy obsession with Jackie Chan.

He'd spent many a late and anti-social night practicing his mad kung-fu skills and stunts.  A particular favorite of his included running straight at, and then up, a wall, pushing off, doing an aerial kick and maybe a flip (but that could be part of my warped memories) and then landing on his feet.  It was super cool, yo.

Of course, we were on the top level of a parking garage and there were no walls, so Ernesto decided to try this trick on a light post.

At this point, you might be thinking, "Haha, that Ernesto, what a moron!" but really this was not such a bad idea in and of itself.  The bad part was that there was a large, jagged shard of metal sticking out of the light post that caught on Ernesto's bicep, and somehow also between his fingers, on the way down and cut him all the way down to the bone.

And, as crying like a little girl while bleeding profusely is not a good way to make women fall madly for you, Ernesto decided to hide his shame.  Carefully covering his bicep wound with his mangled hand, he edged over to my brother and asked if my brother had something to soak up and staunch the blood, like, say, a car-sized Sham-wow for example.

My brother looked in the trunk of the car, and pulled out his kwan-dao, a 6' tall bladed Chinese weapon, which was covered with a pouch my brother had expertly crafted out of a towel and some duct tape.

The next few moments happened in slow-motion, though probably only in my head.  My kung-fu instructor walked in at the exact moment that my brother handed Ernesto the towel to staunch Ernesto's now gaping-maw of a wound, while my brother stood there with a bladed weapon made of over ten pounds of galvanized stainless steel in his hand.  It looked like this:

My instructor put two and two together and figured that the previous scene must have gone a bit like this:

I, being a romantic sap, leaped to the defense of Ernesto's innocence and in a moment of romantic heroism and loyalty, offered to drive him to the local hospital in case stitches were necessary.  Apparently, at that moment nothing was hotter than a wounded, mangled boy so trying to impress me that he'd shed his very own blood.  My brother volunteered to come along, which was useful but kinda ruined this exquisitely romantic tableau.

The local hospital was in a cornfield, because actually the whole town was in a cornfield.  But this hospital really, really was in a cornfield.

My brother, who apparently had not learned from Ernesto's mistakes, decided to try to get Ernesto's mind off his pain by doing some stunts in the waiting room.

When we finally got put into an exam room, Ernesto sat down on a chair, and my brother and I walked helpfully around the chair for a while till the nurse came in.  Now, I am not making this up.  The nurse was a middle-aged man with missing teeth and a skullet.  For those of you who are not aware of what a skullet is, it's when you have a mullet, except middle age kind of took everything except the "party in the back."

Nurse Skullet started the conversation with some friendly banter with Ernesto.


At this point, my brother decided to add some levity to the moment by doing another handstand and he and I got kicked out of the exam room.

Ernesto got his stitches, and we went on to date for four years.

What a beautiful story.

Jul 25, 2010

The Catfish Rescue Society (Or How I Saved Two Lives Before Breakfast)

It rained a lot yesterday here in my area.  The creek behind my house flooded its banks and took over the whole park.  Even the footbridge was completely submerged.

When I took the HyperHund for his morning walk today, he stopped abruptly with his nose in a puddle and jumped back several feet.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed a foot-long catfish under his nose, in all of one inch of water, its back out of the water and its gills flailing to try to absorb whatever it is fish need to get from puddle water.

The whole back area of the park was covered in dead catfish from the river overflowing.  They were actually harder to see than you'd think, because they were not moving, were roughly the color of mud, and mostly because they were dead-but-not-yet-stinky.

In this small puddle that was slowly drying up, though, were two live, roughly 5 lb. fish (I could tell they were alive because they were right side up) and one dead roughly 5 lb. fish.

Now, I am not some poor unrealistic sap who thinks she can save the world, one animal at a time.  I stare reality in the face.  When I see a half-squished-but-still-twitching animal on the road, I bravely squash it all the way with my car, albeit not happily.  And when my dog and I get out of the car afterwards and he rushes to the tires and starts licking all those leftover flavorful morsels off them, I smile bravely through my tears and sing songs from the Lion King to soothe my guilty conscience.

But, watching an animal die slowly while it is fighting so tenaciously to stay alive is hard to stomach.

I needed to Rescue The Catfish.

The creek was 1/4 mile away, and all I had with me were my leash, two plastic Ultra Foods bags (for picking up poo), one with a hole in it and one not.  I also had a dog and my keys.  I figured my best bet were the plastic bags.  I filled the non-holey bag with a bit of puddle water and attempted to use the other one to guide the more lethargic of the two fish in there.  Not pleased with my attempt at rescue and tough-love-for-living-creatures, he slapped me with his tail, did a few back flips with the last remains of his strength and flopped around threateningly.  My dog was intrigued.  I shoved the bag over the fish's head and trapped him.  He settled down remarkably quickly.

Fish number two was far more feisty, being that he was still more upright and breathing-ish than Sleepy the Tail Slapper.  He was also clearly disgruntled at being shoved into a tiny plastic bag with Someone He Didn't Know Well and a centimeter of stagnant puddle water.  After an epic showdown including slime, tail-slapping, and writhing, Feisty was forcibly cuddled up to Sleepy.  The struggle died down.

At this point, I figured I'd better haul-tail to the water (1/4 mile, remember).  I was wearing flip-flops, had the dog with me, and was carrying a bag that I really hoped wouldn't break, with ten pounds of angry fish inside.  In order to get to the creek, I had to cross a soggy field of puddle at least 2 inches deep in some places.

I began to run.  It was truly epic.  My flip-flops kept sticking in the ground, and then when they'd come up, muddy water would spray all the way up my back, leaving a brownish splatter on the back of my shorts and shirt and getting into my hair.

Feisty became disgruntled and began to honk.  No, I am not making this up, and I had no idea that a catfish could honk.  It sounded like I had a flat, wet, surly Canadian goose trapped in my bag.  He got louder and more irate as the bag swung faster.

I felt quite noble and heroic, like maybe I was some piscean form of Braveheart, but I assume in reality it would probably have looked something like this:

Luckily, there were no hot-shirtless-guys-playing-frisbee in the park at 7 a.m.  Luckily, the only person in the park was crazy, fish-saving, mud-spray girl running in slow motion to the creek.

Luckily for Honky and Sleepy, I got to the creek in time and released them and they swam away.

They didn't even turn around to say thanks.

(Edit: When I first wrote this post, I was under the mistaken impression these fish were carp.  I changed the text once I was told by my father that they were probably catfish, as catfish do in fact honk.  Had I know they were catfish, I would not have picked them up because apparently they can slice your fingers, and have a horrible painful bite that involves puncture wounds. Thankfully, I used the Ultra Foods bag with holes in it to protect my hand.)

Jul 24, 2010

Reasons A Zombie Apocalypse Would Not Be Fun (At Least Not For Me)

I am friends with several guys in their 30s who mistakenly believe that a Zombie Apocalypse would be Flippin' Cool.  These guys are also looking forward to 2012 with a vengeance, settling for an apocalypse without zombies but secretly hoping that somewhere along the way the zombies will become involved.

Of course, in this fantasy, these guys are the strong, the survivors.  They are the ones shooting zombies left and right with enhanced, double-barrel potato guns and post-apocalyptic slingshots.  They are are not the ones who, as soon as the zombies come out of the ground, are the first to have their brains slurped down like a 7-Eleven Slurpee in the middle of a group of prepubescent baseball players on a 90 degree day because they accidentally tripped on a rock in front of the first zombie to un-die.

In reality, a zombie apocalypse would be Darwinism at its finest.  Only the very strongest would survive.  You get migraines?  While you're suffering because of the light, the zombies will eat you.  Bad knee?  Zombie will catch you faster.  Blood-clotting disorder?  You're practically a zombie soda-fountain.

One major reason I do not look forward to a Zombie Apocalypse is I know that I would be the first to go.  Let's be reasonable.  My cunning and intellect are not going to save me here .

First of all, I have a bum knee and I wear very strong prescription contacts.  The bum knee will slow me down.  Also, I am aware that contact lenses will be very hard to come by in a Zombie Apocalypse.  Basically, after the scorched earth moment, I will not be able to see unless I hoard all contact lenses in the near vicinity from Lens Crafters and pray that some of them fit me.  Of course, I need contact solution, too.  Otherwise, I'll get an eye infection, and the smell will lead the Zombies straight to my nest of contact lenses.

Secondly, I have had my thyroid gland removed and am on daily medication to keep my thyroid hormones steady.  A thyroid is the major metabolic gland in the body.  So, I have a metabolism that is entirely artificially controlled by pills.  No... don't say it.  It makes me angry...

Anyway, there are two possible outcomes in this Zombie-thyroid scenario, neither of which are particularly savory.

a) I have no medicine.  Slowly, over time, I will gain eleventy billion pounds until I can barely move.  I will be hungry all the time and my mental faculties will slow down.  In fact, I have no doubt that my speech, too, would become slow and garbled, and in effect, I would become a creature reminiscent of Jabba the Hut, except less dangerous and possibly more hideous.  This would effectively turn me into a buffet for zombies.  Eating me would be like taking candy from a baby.

In fact, it would be easier, because I probably wouldn't be able to see because I couldn't replace my contacts.

b)  In the other scenario, I could possibly survive, especially if there were large herds of swine in the vicinity, but I guess any mammal could potentially suffice.

See, back before I got thyroid surgery, I was concerned about whether or not I could survive thyroidless in a post-apocalyptic world.  Research led me to the fact that prior to civilized times, people used to eat animal thyroids if their own didn't function.  Specifically, slices of pig thyroids eaten on toast points.

Now, I don't think that realistically I will be making toast points in a post-apocalyptic world.  In all likelihood, it would be more like this:

which really would put me only a few steps above the zombies on a scale of classiness.

Suffice it to say that I am not looking forward to a Zombie Apocalypse.  I just don't think I would make it.  And becoming a pig-thyroid-vampire does not appeal to me either.

Jul 23, 2010

Armpit Cat

I used to not really like cats.

Now, I don't like cats but I have two of them.

When I broke up with Last Boyfriend and bought a condo, people automatically began suggesting I get a cat or two.  It's like as soon as you are single and above 30 and live alone, you must begin Cat Hoarding.  This will usually involve, according to cat experts, one litter box per cat, plus one extra.  This complex algorithm was meant to keep cats from doing annoying little things such as peeing on your duvet.  I think that in most cat-hoarding situations, though, this isn't really an issue anyway because the whole house is a giantlitterboxcumfoodbowl, and cats can feel free to pee anywhere they like, even if it is where they eat, and which, incidentally, is probably also where you sleep.

So, I went to the shelter and fetched myself two cats, feeling rather noble in my actions as I had Saved A Life (two actually), and gotten myself love to last at least fourteen more years, which is ten years longer  than my longest relationship.

I have rued this day since the moment I got home and realized my cats were both infected with Feline Rhinotracheitis, which, if you are not familiar with it, is a Bad Disease including all major orifices in the cat's head.  It includes such wonderful fun as green stuff coming out of kitty's eyes, nose, and occasionally, for extra added titillation, the mouth.  Don't worry; both cats are fine now.  It was just not that fun spending my first few weeks as a pet owner by shoving antibiotical liquids down their gullets three times a day with an itty bitty cat syringe while trying to keep said cats in a tightly wrapped TowelKittyBurrito.

Marley-Cat had been dropped off at the shelter with no reason given for surrender.  He had come from a family of dogs, cats, children, and regular-sized adult humans, and was quite social and friendly.  I felt angry that someone would do something so harsh as to pick a random animal out of the family circle and put him in a shelter with No Reason For Surrender.

It took little time to discover the reason for his No Reason For Surrender.

He peed in his own bed (and my bed and clean laundry and dirty laundry and on towels) when he felt a mite stressed.

It was kind of a mood-killer at parties.  Apparently, Marley feels stressed at parties.

Soon, another disturbing tidbit revealed itself: Marley has an armpit obsession. By this, I mean that he will actively seek out bare armpits, slowly edge up to them, and before the lick-ee knows what is happening, Marley is attached like a flabby black-and-white unweaned piglet to the sow.

Now, before you get all full of pity and mistakingly suspect Marley has perhaps been weaned too early and is trying to suckle, let me make you aware of the fact that he a) is licking, not suckling, and b) only does it with certain deodorants for which he has a certain fondness.

Marley has developed a sneak attack strategy that, to the untrained eye, may seem only to be an attempt at obtaining pats or other forms of attention.  I am usually completely unsuspecting.

Not only is this awkward in front of friends and visitors, but there is also not much that can be done to deter him.  Obviously, he prefers it when I wear tank tops, as this allows him easy access.  However, trying to deflect his attacks by wearing t-shirts, or even worse...hoodies, just makes him belligerent and more likely to latch on to the offending fabric and start biting vigorously at it.

I am not sure what to do about this, short of squirting him with the Squirt Bottle of Unparalleled Liquid Terror or flinging him aside.  He is very persistent.

(PS In case you were concerned, he is not nutritionally lacking some mineral or something.  He's been to the vet.  He just really likes Old Spice.  And the taste of wall paint, but that's for another episode.)

Jul 22, 2010

Following Directions, Part One: The Wal-mart Saga

 Perhaps, if one did not know better, one might assume that a teacher might be good at all sorts of stuff like reading books, using hand sanitizer, and following directions.  We have many wonderful nuggets of wisdom to impart, such as: "Timmy, stop picking your nose," or "Mikey, stop eating your binder. You don't want to ruin your lunch, do you?"  A lot of times, we say things like, "Follow directions, Susie," and we want the kid to do that, really we do.

So you would think that, as a teacher, I'd know to read and follow directions carefully.  The truth is, though, that many times I feel that directions do not apply to me because I'm a Teacher, so I know better and clearly do not need silly rules.

At one point in my late 20s, I was in the market for a new make-up case. What better place to go than the sparkly mecca of plastic facial-type goods that is Wal-mart!?  Yay!  Wal-mart!

Wal-mart, unfortunately, likes to put things high on the top shelves.  Short people don't do so well with top shelves.  And it appears that Wal-mart stores their whole entire make-up-case-inventory on the top shelf.  And the case I wanted, red, wooden, and with pretty metal corner thingies, was right up there, mere inches from the ends of my fingertips.

I'm resourceful.  I could totally get to those cases if it weren't for the stupid Wal-mart rules...

Wal-mart posts rules to inhibit my shopping pleasure.

Clearly, the solution was clear.  As the make-up aisle was empty, I figure I'd get the case myself.  You know how long it takes to get an associate to help you out here...  I reasoned that if I stepped on the bottom shelf and reached up to clasp the bottom make-up case and shake it gently, the top one would tumble down, and I would catch it quickly and safely.

The laws of physics demanded it. 

Please note: I teach grade school.  Not physics.

I can't remember exactly what came next because blood was coming out of my head and lipstick crashed all over the floor.  I vaguely remember not one, but two, make-up cases crashing into my skull and then leaping for glory into the lipstick display.

I felt dizzy, with all that metal and wood and stuff hitting my head, and what with the blood coming out.  But...I am a good citizen.  A brave little trooper.  I went to clean up the lipstick display.  It was a little bit tricky with the store swaying back and forth and my vision partially obscured by forehead blood.

A nice lady came by.  She suggested that I go get an ice pack at the front desk, and she would take over the lipstick-cleaning duties for me.  This seemed like a good idea, so I went.  This lady was a good citizen, too.

It took me a long time to walk to the front desk.  I remember blood and dizzy.  I met another nice lady at the front desk.

(Please note: In case you forgot, I had just walked across the store from cosmetics.  It was Far Away.

Come to think of it, this woman was a heartless shrew.

I happened to mention to her that Something Heavy fell on my head.  I think she was afraid of lawsuits after that. 

She quickly insisted I sit on one of those go-carts for people who can't really walk around the store so well, mostly because I don't think they wanted me behind the counter in their clean, comfortable chairs.

I always imagined sitting on those go-carts would be fun, with me cruising around with the wind in my hair.

They made me an ice pack, too, so that they didn't have to use an expensive one from the health care department.  My ice pack was made from a Wal-mart bag with a hole in it, and a lot of ice cubes from the Wal-mart Subway Restaurant.

Sitting on a scooter was not as fun as I had imagined.

And the seat was kinda of sticky.

No one was around to drive me home.  Not even my mom.  So I had to sit (till I felt better) on this scooter for 45 minutes with ice cubes melting on my head and well-meaning elderly people leaning over looking all concerned and asking if I was all-right-honey when clearly I had a bleeding head wound and a leaky Wal-mart bag of ice and I was riding on a sticky-seated injury-scooter.  

I was not all-right-honey.

This is a true story.