Friday, July 29, 2011

Trial Period Ends Soon

I’m a worrier.  And a commitment-phobe.  So maybe its strange that I wanted to go and bring a puppy home.  But it’s because I take commitments so seriously that I worry about them and am so tentative about entering into commitment in the first place.  (D doesn't know how lucky he is!)  Our doggie trial period is almost over.  I’m still on the fence as to whether to keep the dog or not. 

If Jack the Puppy weren’t a puppy it’d be a simple matter of whether he was capable of getting along with kitties.  None of the anxious eagle-eye preoccupation of house-training or me tut-tutting at pet interactions.  D and I never intended to get a puppy, we intended to eventually rescue an older dog (I mean like a one year old).  But who chose a puppy?  I did.  Because he is handsome and quiet and level of temperament and a snuggler.  But what are we getting ourselves into as far as training? 

He seems smart.  I bet every dog-mommy says that.  But he comes when we call him, at four months old after having him for less than a week.  (So there.)  The first couple of days he was able to perform on command when I told him to “Go get Mr. Fox!!”  But ever since he slept with Mr. Fox in his cage, he pretends not to know who Mr. Fox is.  Hm. 

  The first dog I really remember well (not our first dog though) is Lucky.  Lucky was and is to this day, a standard to which I hold other dogs.  He was sweet, good, obedient and just so adorable.  I do not recall not one problem we had with him.  He shed a lot, but that’s, you know, innate.  He was a furball.  He didn’t chew overmuch, only on his own toys, never stole our shoes, never ruined any furniture or rugs.  He almost never went potty in the house.  I can’t even remember him doing it, though I’m sure he must’ve.  He would ask you to go out.  He would ask you to come in.  We left him the run of the house when we were gone and were never given cause to regret it.  He love-love-loved to see you.  Lucky was a Shetland Sheepdog, a breed that even my grumpy brother still loves.  Perhaps this standard may be unfair to other dogs. 

not Lucky, this is the petfinder Sheltie (here)

Tasha is my parents’ dog for the last umpteen years. I didn’t live with this dog long before I left for college, but when I was there she really irritated me.   She’s old and tired now, and she comes when she’s called so I like her a lot more.  But she was the white devil.  She is allegedly a husky, but looks more like a goberian to me. (One of the goberians at Dog Breed Info,  Miya, is an example of the hybrid, and is a dead ringer for Tasha).  Tasha would not obey unless you screamed at her, and even then not much.  She didn’t come when you called her.  She would pull and heave against the leash as if you were a sled and somebody had just said “mush.”  She routinely jumped the fence to wander the neighborhood like a hussy.  When my mother would lie on the couch sometimes the dog would jump up and stand on top of her, just because she could.  She tore up whatever pleased or displeased her, nothing was sacred.  She ate the cookies I made for my mother that were in a box tied with string after pulling them off of the kitchen counter, where my parents never put food.  She peed on everything in a shower of disdain for the laughable concept of human dominance.  This is too low to set a doggie standard.  (sorry dad)

Shelties are apparently #6 on the list of Brightest Dogs, in the book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren.  (according to Wikipedia

Labs are #7.  Jack is half lab.  Apparently in this group, “Brightest Dogs,” like shelties and labs, dogs require fewer than 5 repetitions to understand commands and will understand it the first time you give it to them 95% of the time.  Awesome.  Jack, go do some laundry! 

But Jack is a mix of lab and Aussie Shepherd. 

Australian Shepherds are #42.  heh heh.  Of “Average Working /Obedience Intelligence.” Requires 25 -40 Repetitions to understand commands.  Will understand a command the first time you say it 50% of the time.  Aussie shepherds are only three spots away from huskies, #45.   eek. 

The other day there seemed to be more evidence that he was trying to herd one of the cats.  He ended up knocking Max paws over whiskers, but i don't think it was rough on purpose.  I think he and Max will figure out their relationship in time.  Sometimes Max meows at Jack and Jack will shy away. 

OMG both on floor at the same time

Can we balance work and social lives without neglecting this dog?  It's doable.  How can we ever get unpacked and situated when I’ve constantly got to keep at least one eye on Jack (because he isn’t pooing on a schedule and now I don’t know when he has to poo.  Originally he poo’d about five minutes after he ate.  Now he’s not.  So today I didn’t wait for him to poo outside, I just left him outside for a few minutes while I made coffee etc.  Maybe he poo’d fifteen minutes after he ate, and I was getting ready for work and didn’t see it.  If a poo falls in the forest and I’m not around to see it, does it make a difference?  Specifically, in his urge to poo in the house?)? 

I really like spending time with him.  I’m working with him on some commands, and it’s a long-term process.  I love it when he obeys (that’s what she said).  We take walks in the evening now, he and D and I, in this great little sliver of time with no electronic devices or other distractions.  Just us in the new neighborhood.  I really enjoy this time, be it full of conversation or just quietly companionable.  And the other day he butted his head against me and crawled in my lab and snuggled like a kitty.      

I think one week is such a short amount of time to see how pets interact.  It took Yuuki longer than that when we re-found Max.  And now the cats haven't chased each other around at all, because they’re wary of the dog and not free to be themselves.  Time is almost up and the answer is not apparent to me.  sigh.

Wikipedia also says, “Aussies also do best with plenty of human companionship: they are often called "Velcro Dogs" for their strong desire to always be near their owners and for their tendency to form intense, devoted bonds with select people.”  That seems like a pretty good description.  I also want to see if he yawns after I yawn.  Lucky used to.  :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

*MORE* concrete?!

Trying to do work with a puppy underfoot is both awesome and tedious.  It's awesome because you've got this cute little fella to break up the monotony and he wants to bring you the squeaky ball for you to throw every minute or so. 


This is what vine orgies look like
It's tedious because you cannot get into any kind of task-oriented groove because a dog is bringing you a squeaky ball for you to throw every minute or so.  In short, its kinda more enjoyable but without the same return on the time investment.  But its time double well spent, if I may. 

So taking advantage of the break in heat, I've been out trying to clean out the patches of dead vines that look like the photo above.  Apparently a previous owner had let these vines do precisely whatever they wanted.  Undisciplined, they refused to get jobs, called over many friends and had a kegger, which degraded into a debauched vine orgy, the remnants of which are still woven into our backyard.  Now its an impressive nest of knots all up on the side of the house (mostly removed now, see previous post), and in this patch at the side of the yard.  Another previous owner had decided to kill all the vines, had to poison them three times to do it, tried to pull them up, and mostly failed.  Apparently he found it annoying, and so he left it there.  For us.  Thanks, buddy. 

1/3 less crappy looking than original pile

There is not only vines in here (Lyme disease awaits as well, I'm sure).  Bizarre detritus has erupted forth as the knot-pile divulges its secrets.  A rope (::cringe::), a broken pair of swimming goggles, a pane of transparent plastic (broken and sharp, naturally), oh, and concrete.  There's a swath of concrete buried underneath the vines.  I don't know what it was yet, still too many vines to get a good look.  And no doubt many more treasures await. 


Doggie tried very hard to be helpful, not only by distracting me, but also by standing on the very sticks and vines I was trying to remove by tugging them free.  He sensed my displeasure, I think, and also bit some sticks intermittently.  Coming to my rescue, eh?  Gentleman Jack.  Wait.  I think that refers to something else...

D has been working on fixing shingles on the roof

If we've got to work outside, at least the heat broke.  Through the worst of it, I've kept an eye on all the plantlife at the house.  The plants in the front had me concerned a bit, but now that its a more reasonable temperature outside, I became even more so.  They haven't grown at all.  No new leaves, nothing happening.  I wondered why, but kept watering, all the while internally moping about how $hitty this whole gardening thing has turned out, in spite of my lofty green aspirations. 

Well, I finally got around to weeding the front beds the other day.  The very first weed I tugged on came up along with an entire carpet strata of mulch and such.  Which is weird, right?  I lowered the lot of it, thoughtfully.  Then I lifted again, higher this time so I could peek underneath.  This is what I saw.

What. The. Eff.

Here in front of the house I have uncovered an ugly truth.  There is less than half an inch of mulch plus a ghostly layer of something akin to soil, and then there is a giant, submerged concrete slab, significantly recessed in relation to the concrete porch square.  The layer of substrate is so shallow it isn't even as deep as my first knuckle. 

Now I'm not baffled as to why the hostas haven't gotten any larger.  I'm gobsmacked that they've survived this long.  The former owner, the august Commander Cut-Corners, knocked down a crumbling concrete planter.  (this is what I surmise)  He decided he didn't wanna work anymore, and so he hid the last few feet of concrete underground with a few handfuls of mulch, the soil is so sparse it appears to have been an accidental addition.  He set some (starving) hostas on top, and then he just left it there.  For us.  Thanks again, sir. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So what do we do with-

The debate continues, as to whether we keep Jack the Puppy (possibly Argos), or return him to the dog rescue. 

Don’t get us wrong, this dog has adorable puppy features, which are an innate defense against owners giving him away.  Cuteness, obviously, in spades.  He fetches (sorta).  He comes (frequently but not always).  He trips over his ears when he’s in a hurry (heh heh).  And last night he went to bed in his crate with none of the high-pitched, piteous, operatic crying we were cringing at the thought of growing accustomed to.  What a champ. 

He and Max have little western showdowns whenever one strolls close to the other.  For a moment there is a standoff; they meet each other’s eyes and they freeze.  The tableau holds, and I stop whatever I’m doing, and the background music ceases, and a tumbleweed bounces through my living room.  And then the standoff is broken by the puppy springing into the air, boing, to which Max responds by either batting Jack in the face, bad dog!, or Max gets startled by the boing and backs away and puppy gives chase.  Or sometimes the puppy gets too bored with the staring contest and has to go find Mr. Fox to chew on. 

The boys

I love to see Max stand his ground.  It’s not so much a risk of doggie aggression out of Gentle Jack, it’s the risk of our boys being scaredy-cats.  If they run, Jack with think it’s a game and chase them, and the kitties will relegate themselves to doggie playthings, instead of full-fledged members of the family, at least an equal of Jack.  In pack mentality, the cats need to be up closer to the top of the totem pole, or they’ll be unhappy.  Already Yuuki has taken to avoiding the floor entirely when Jack is free in the house.  Yuuki’s aversion to conflict is disheartening, although no surprise.  But then again, sometimes he goes taking flying leaps at Max, or chasing him around the house.  We know he has it in him to be the spirited hunter.  I'm not kidding myself that he and Jack will be besties, I just hope the dog doesn’t intimidate him too much. 

In other news, I've just been told we’ve killed a squirrel. 
Not on purpose.

D has been going back to the house at lunchtime, checking up on Jack and letting him outside to be free, at least for this first week, because he’s probably plenty stressed in this new atmosphere.  I myself tried to do this too.  (Wouldn’t that be lovely!  Lunch with my boys!  Psh.)  My commute is a tad longer, and I just ended up driving in a big circle from work to home and then turned right around and come back to work.  Anyway, D found that our groundhog cage had finally caught something.    Not a groundhog though.  I haven’t seen one since we got Jack, nor have I seen any further damage.  Of course our tomato has yet to produce any more fruit, though it has flowered since the attack. 

We caught a squirrel.  Not what we had hoped to trap, but then again, squirrels too would wreak havoc on our gardens.  So D was trying to figure out what he should do with the little rodent.  While he pondered this, the squirrel snapped.  Apparently he went completely bonkers and began ramming the cage continuously with its head.  D is not being one to cruelly torment an animal, but the squirrel was soon lying in the corner of the cage convulsing, blood coming out of its mouth.  He called me at work to tell me what had happened and asked if I was mad at what he’d told me.  I wasn't but... you know.  Normally a disclaimer on our daily lives might read, "no animals were harmed in the production of this day," but today we can't say that and I feel that's a shame.  So he very kindly lied to me and told me that all of a sudden the squirrel had gotten his second wind and would likely be up and out of the cage before I get home.  I’m sure he will too.   He'll be free.  On a farm.  With other squirrels. 

Cutesy squirrel clipart from Daily Clip Art
Super squirrel from Neatorama.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Look, I can explain...

This past weekend was hell, or at least as hot as.

Saturday we had several errands to run. We were to drive up to Dayton to attend an auspicious birthday party for our favorite one-year-old boy.  While we were up there we would pick up the old grill that some other friends were gifting to us for free.  And while we were out, we would do some more clean-up at the apartment.  Two out of three of these things required that we make use of SuperVan.  But SuperVan does not have air conditioning.  But we could combine errands.  But no air conditioning. In the end we went for expediency and our faces melted off in the SuperVan.  We did not find out until later that the Cincy area had declared an excessive heat warning.  After I had gaped like a fish because I felt like I couldn't breathe in the oppressively heavy, hot, nasty, icky-sticky passenger seat.  D got a nice headache that he got to keep for the rest of the day.  I don't know if I've ever felt so thoroughly rotten. 

In other news, we still have not caught the groundhog.  The cage sits empty, freshly baited with tomater bits.  The internet, which cannot be trusted implicitly, has all sorts of ideas to get rid of them.  From bubble gum to saving and dumping your own pee around your yard (before your next garden party, ladies!).  The more you surf around trying to find out about the experiences that people have had with g-hogs (sorta rhymes with jihads), the more you see words like "battle" featuring in those experiences.  Like the gardener at Gardening Under the Influence, and at Garden-Share, where they have named their g-hog Khadafi.   

Some nutty people, though I'm sure they are nice people, some nutty people feed them because they think they are cute.  Clear proponents of 'matercide.  Shameful.  

Indoors, D has made headway on the dishwasher cabinet that he and the dad made.  
(before) dishwasher where fridge used to be, all nekkid and stuff.  

(after) wooden cabinet effectively dampens noise, tile laid today by D

I've unpacked a lot of boxes, only to re-box some of them to better organize their contents for storage until winter, or to sell to Half-Priced Books, or to give to Goodwill.  The kitchen is much improved, but somehow there always seems to be one more box with kitchen stuff in it.  Some of this is because moving-time has coincided with time-to-trade-out-super-old-silverware for wedding gift silverware, or to time-to-pare-down-to-one-set-of-cookware.  We sold the washer and dryer on Craigslist.  Now hopefully that paves the way for the dozen more things we need to try to get rid of.  Couches.  Old TV.  And on, and on.  

We haven't been lazy.  No sir, progress is slowing for another reason entirely.

So, we kinda brought home a dog?
this is a test.  if this is an actual puppy, there will be an adoption.

There was a dog-rescue group that was set up at Petsmart, looking to get the dogs they'd saved from shelters into nice homes.  And Jack-Jack is a silly name for a dog, we agreed, as we drove him to our house.  But somehow we've ended up sticking with the name Jack for now.  D wanted to name his dog Argos, after the dog in the Odyssey, but he doesn't look like an Argos.  

Actually, D has just told me that he does look like an Argos, but the dog can only keep the name if he stays.  Because you only name the puppy if you plan to keep him.   Which is funny, because this is exactly what I said to my friends when D and I first started dating and they asked his name.

Okay, I know what you're thinking.  Wedding!  House!  Dog?!  Slow down, girl!  Look, this was totally an accidental home visit.  I did not go to Petsmart to pick up a dog.  We went to pick up kitty name-tags and there were puppies in front of the door.  In front of the door by the register. This was practically unavoidable!  

Speaking of kitties, this home visit is one week.  We're gauging how dog and cats interact to see if there is compatability. 

I'm not sure about Yuuki though.
Does he look depressed to you?  

We keep hugging the kitties, and telling them that if they are unhappy we are kicking this mutt to the curb.  So far, they haven't said anything though. I'm trying to keep my eyes open to make sure that our boys aren't feeling overly stressed by the change.  It's hard to tell.  Much change too soon, perhaps.  

We'll let you know.


Doggie is fostered with Pardoned Pooches of Cincy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Thief in the Nighttime

I woke up in a crappy mood this past Saturday morning (moving day), sore from the mini-moving frenzy Friday night, wherein D & I had thrown things in boxes and gotten a full load in the SuperVan, but still had so much crap left at the apartment that it boggled the mind.  I was grumbly and irritable, because I knew the day that stretched before me would be more of the same, tote that load lift that bale, up and down the stairs. 

I put on the coffee and then went outside to enjoy the deck (because drinking coffee on a deck in the morning in suburbia can be everything you dream and more). 

I didn’t even sit down before I saw that the tomato plant gifted to us by D’s father had been savaged.  Damaged leaves and sheared off stalks were strewn around.  Up until then, I had been eagerly watching the little green fruits on the vine, waiting patiently (not *patiently* exactly) for the day they would turn red.  Of course, all of the little green fruits were gone.  I was speechless.  I took in the rest of the scene to see if we had had any other losses.  The  pot full of stillborn basil was on its side (nothing to damage there, the seeds never came up).  The cilantro that ahd fried to a crisp was … well, it was still crispy, so we were good there.  The jade plant had many leaves around it, looking just terrible compared to a few days ago.  And then I saw the worst of it. 

To give you some background, D and I had given succulents as favors at our wedding.  I had ordered a hundred of them from EBAY, and  they came individually saran wrapped and taped and wrapped with wet (well formerly wet) paper towels.  It was time consuming to unwrap them without disturbing the itty bitty plants, but one by one I unwrapped and potted a hundred succulents.  Half myself, half with the help of very patient friends.  Each one was an adorable little surprise, and every time I opened another I would squeal or coo and gush over how cute it was, and how this is the one I wanted to keep.  But I only kept one for myself.  It seemed to be a sickly looking echevria, but it had since rebounded and turned into, not an echevria, but something called “baby necklace.” 

So there I stood, with my coffee, stockstill on the deck, looking into the pot where the succulent should have been and was not.  (And see the basil?  The basil should not have been there, but it was.  But I had known that before that morning, it's just a funny juxtaposition)  No matter how hard you look at this photo, the succulent is just not there.  And that's how it was that morning.  I looked, and then looked harder.  Squinting in fact.  I actually poked around the dirt where it should have been, seeing if it had been sucked under, like in the movie Tremors.  But it was nowhere. 

I'm the type of person who's slightly an idiot first thing in the morning, so I went and got D, who was also sore and in a bad mood, and showed him the scene on the deck.  He nodded sagely.  I had recently read two blogs dealing with thefts out of people's gardens (@ Apartment Therapy and Life on the Balcony) , and so made the mental leap in logic, asking if someone had stolen our tomatoes and my succulent.  He shook his head (he's used to me being slightly slow in the morning), and said “it looks like we have a racoon,” and he went back inside.  I myself finally sat down on the deck and had a little cry.  The tomato doesn’t look like its going to make it.  The sun’s been really unforgiving, and the heat is just curling the leaves.  The plant was so beautiful, and I feel like an ogre because it’s going to die in our care, but mostly because some effing rodent brutalized my ‘mater, and stole my baby’s necklace! 

Now my garden (my contribution) consists of a pot with no succulent, (but mysteriously it has basil sprouts that I did not plant there; I planted them in the other pot.  Because there used to be a succulent there).   A pot of to-die-for smells-like-heaven sage.  The pot that I actually put the basil seeds in is empty.  The pot with fried-to-a-crisp cilantro.  And the giant pot with the assaulted tomato.  A pot of new, happy astilbe (must plant).  A pot of new, mostly happy parsley. 

And a trap for a dirty rotten thief.

Yesterday I saw the thief himself, having returned to the scene of the crime.  He was strolling off of the deck,  bold as brass, with a saucy little waddle to his walk.  This teenage mutant ninja groundhog had just taken another bit off of the 'mater.  I spread some bloodmeal around, which the internet tells me is supposed to be exceedingly gross to varmint sensabilities.  Put some in poor Mr. 'mater's pot too.  Fingers crossed.  But D & I agree, because there's work to be done this summer that involves ripping up some boards in the deck to remedy a situation underneath it, and because ninja groundhog was last seen waddling under said deck, he's got to go. 

And he's gonna pay for my 'mater.  (and succulent)