Fighting the Good Fight

We are now into the second week of Cassie’s treatment for Cutaneous Histiocytosis, a treatment that includes a month of steroids to make the bumps go away and long term treatment of Atopica (Cyclosporine) to keep them from coming back. While the steroid treatment will end in another few weeks she will likely be on Atopica for the rest of her life. While she is on the Atopica she can’t have live vaccines and heartworm medication isn’t as easy as it used to be so it becomes a trade-off for other potential health issues.

I don’t like like it. Sure, I like that the bumps went away but I don’t like what the medicine is doing to Cassie. She eats, drinks, takes care of her business outside, but that’s it. She’s not interested in playing or going for walks. She doesn’t race up the stairs as soon as she hears the door open when the last person gets out of bed. She doesn’t chase bugs outside. Jumping up on people when they come to the door? Forget about it. She barely thumps her tail hello anymore.

Getting better has basically sucked the life right out of her. Now I am hopeful that once she is on the reduced dosage of Atopica that she will bounce back to her former self but it’s a bit scary. Because what if she doesn’t? What if we have to decide whether to continue the treatment and have a shell of a dog or discontinue it and deal with what happens next?

I’ve been sitting here tonight, trying to figure out how to connect this to writing.

What do I say? That sometimes we can try too hard to fix things? That sometimes when you think the writing is perfect, it’s really just a shell of what it is possible? That sometimes you write crap and you try to fix it and it’s still crap but you keep on keeping on?

Maybe what I say is that if you love something — your dog, your art, your writing — if you love it, you don’t give up without a fight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , |21 Comments

We All Need a Little Help

Some of you might remember that we’ve had a bit of a health worry about Cassie. She had some bumps show up on her side, leg and muzzle that we thought we be just a fatty cyst but ended up sending us off to the specialist for a biopsy and long 3 weeks of waiting for results. While I was waiting and worrying, Cassie, being Cassie, just went right on living her life. She didn’t care about the giant patches of shaved fur. She didn’t stay awake at night wondering about the diagnosis. She just lived. (Note to myself…quit worrying about the rosacea already and just live.)

Yesterday we finally got the results back from the biopsy. She has something called Cutaneous Histiocytosis. The vet says if she had to have a disease, this was the one to have. It’s not life threatening but possibly lifelong expensive if she is on medication for the rest of her life. Still, we know what we’re dealing with and can make informed decisions going forward. But we couldn’t have gotten the diagnosis without the help of a specialist that I felt comfortable with and trusted to take good care of Cassie.

I’ve been working on Flyboy’s story. It’s an old story being made new again. Some of the plot points are 20 years old. I’m attached to them. So attached that I can’t see what’s wrong with them.

Writers are a stubborn lot. Sometimes too stubborn for our own good. We need to remember that we don’t have to do it all alone. Sure, when we sit down at the computer it’s just us but once we have a draft and need a second set of eyes, we should have a support system that we trust to give us feedback. If we are stumbling around and trying to figure out which end of our plot is up, we should be able to bounce our ideas around with a couple of writer friends.

I’m grateful for my writer friends who watch me chase myself around in circles then listen to me whine and then, once I’m ready to admit that I need help, offer to brainstorm with me until I feel comfortable enough to let go of some tired old ideas and embrace some new ones.

Cassie is going to be okay. And so is Flyboy, thanks to a little help from my friends.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , |16 Comments

Six on Saturday

1. I got the first wine barrel pot pond planted yesterday. I like it, well I will once the plants grow and stuff starts to hide the black pots that you can still see, but I really, really wish I could do an in-ground one. I know though it would be a recipe for disaster with Cassie who thinks it is her job to remove anything from water.

2. Easter dinner is at our house this year. We’re going for simple and non-traditional – raclette.

3. I am still waiting for the results from Cassie’s biopsy. They said maybe Monday or Tuesday. 

4. There are still spots open in my online class on Social Media for children’s authors and illustrators. May 4-7. Details. 

5. We are getting estimates for a new roof, a "green" roof, a steel roof. I know it is the right thing to do but I’d rather do something fun with that tax refund, like remodel the downstairs bathroom or paint the inside of the house. Sigh. The joys of being responsible.

6. I’m pondering blogs. My blog in particular. And then I am telling myself to quit pondering because it is a recipe for, if not disaster, insecurity. Do many people read any more? What prompts people to post a comment? Am I blogging about the right things to build an audience? Ack! You can see how this kind of pondering can lead to dangerous thinking. ūüôā 

Edited to add: I know many people read and don’t comment…I’m just pondering the changes from why people used to comment and now don’t. I find it curious.

Happy Saturday to all.

Saturday, April 11, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |33 Comments

Following Your Instincts

A few days after we adopted Cassie, Bridget, our adoption counselor, came by to check on Cassie. She also brought Cassie a stuffed frog. Cassie tossed that frog around a few times. Then she sat down, ripped a hole in it, and started to pull the stuffing out. I was embarrassed that Cassie had torn the new toy right in front of Bridget. I took it away, shoved the stuffing back, and told Bridget I was sorry.

Fast forward a couple of months. We had our first session with Cecelia, a trainer, in our home. Cecelia observed Cassie for a while and I commented on how much Cassie enjoyed her plushie toys. When Cecelia asked me if Cassie ever ripped them open to get the stuffing out I explained about the episode with Bridget’s gift. Then Cecelia surprised me. She said that was good. That Cassie was just following her instincts. As long as she wasn’t eating the stuffing it was fine, good even.

I felt so bad. Here was our brand new dog who felt comfortable enough in her new home to do one of those things that dogs know how to do by instinct, totally gut something with great joy and abandon, and I had put a quick stop to it all.

Bad dog mommy.

I’m a writer. A writer writes. And sometimes a writer doesn’t write. Sometimes she daydreams. Sometimes she reads. And sometimes she ignores everything to do with writing in order to get back in touch with who she is. Which is a writer.

I know all that. Yet sometimes I’ll let someone else’s idea of what I should or shouldn’t be doing stop me from what I know in my gut is the right thing for me. the right thing at that moment in time.

After that first visit with Cecelia I went out and bought Cassie a couple of large stuffed toys. Her favorite is a bright orange gorilla. She played with it for weeks and weeks until one day she found a little hole at the neck. She pulled out a bit of stuffing, just a little bit, and then looked up. Was she waiting to see if was going to put a stop to her following her instincts? Maybe. I just smiled and said, “Good dog.” Pretty soon her play room was covered with pieces of stuffing. And Cassie had what they call a “happy mouth,” partway open, her tongue hanging out just a bit, almost, but not quite a smile.

I had to smile too as I picked up all the stuffing, pushed it back inside the gorilla, and gave it back to her. She doesn’t gut it every day but when she does, she goes at it with great gusto, growling and tossing it back and forth before settling in for a good gutting.

And while Cassie’s doing that I try to follow a few instincts of my own, to listen to my body and what it is telling me it needs right at that moment, trusting that I am doing just what I am meant to do and knowing that it always leads me back to the words.

How many times have you wanted to write something but stopped because someone laughed or scolded or told you that you should be doing something else instead?

Don’t listen to them. Listen to yourself. Follow your instincts.

Good writer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , |14 Comments

Getting Past the Fear

Before I had Cassie, I had Chelsie. The two dogs could not have been more different. Chelsie was afraid of everything, thunder and lighting, firecrackers, gunshot, most people (especially men) and sneezes. Yes, if you sneezed she would leave the room. Cassie is not afraid as much as she is cautious. But I would say she is cautiously optimistic because she is always willing to try new things. She might make a lot of racket about it, bark like crazy when she is unsure of herself, but she always tries.

For example, water. When we first got Cassie it was summer and I was out in the yard a lot. I noticed when I would water the plants she would stay far, far away. I’m guessing she got squirted with the hose as punishment or something before we got her.¬† So I got her a wading pool, put it out back, filled it with water, and tossed in a few toys. Then I ignored the water and her.

She ignored it too.

After¬†a few days she was interested enough in the toys to stand by the edge and wait for them to float over so she could get them out. I pretended like I hadn’t noticed but later I put the toys back in the water. This went on for a few weeks until one day the toy she really, really wanted was in the center of the pool and no matter how long she waited, it wasn’t drifting over to the edge. So she put one foot in the water, stretched her neck out as far as possible, snatched that toy, and ran away.

I went in the house before I started to laugh.

It became her personal mission to get anything that went in the pool, back out of the pool. Toys, sticks, leaves and bugs. Anything that floated on the surface was fair game.

But there was one toy, one she really liked, that didn’t float.¬†It sunk. Right down to the bottom of the pool under¬†about¬†10 inches of water. She got really good at using¬†her paw under water to move it to the edge and then up the side of the pool and back out¬†again. Obviously the goal for her was not to get her pretty little face¬†wet.

I had different goals. I wanted to see if she would decide to put her face in the water on her own. So I¬†grabbed more toys that wouldn’t float¬†and¬†filled the pool¬†with them. It took a lot of effort for her to work them over to the edge with her paw and it wasn’t¬†quite as much fun on the 5th and 6th¬†toy¬†as it was on the first. By now she was quite comfortable just standing in the water so that’s what she did, stood in the pool, over her toy, and stared at me.

I stared back. I could almost see the little wheels turning in her brain. How badly did she really want that toy? What would happen to her if she put her head under the water? What would her human expect from her if she did this very scary thing?

I decided to ignore her. This was her battle, not mine. I went in the house and peered out from between the slatt of the shutters. After much internal deliberation Cassie shoved her nose under water, grabbed that toy, and jumped out of the pool. Her proud tail waving high like a flag annoucing her brave accomplishment.

What did I do? I went back outside and put all the toys back in the pool. And now diving for toys (and bugs) is one of Cassie’s most favorite things to do.

I think the key for Cassie was lots of exposure and no pressure. The same thing we need to do with our writing. When you want to write in an area you haven’t written in before you need to immerse yourself in it. If you want to write picture books you read 100, 200 of them before you even start. If you are switching to mysteries you read lots and lots of mysteries. And then you just dive in. You try. You pause. You try again. You put one foot in the water, then the other and before you know it, you are diving under and writing your first mystery from start to finish.

Today is the first day of National Poetry Month. There are so many wonderful events happening out there in the blogosphere and I was struggling with how I was going to participate. I’ve decided to challenge myself to write a poem a day, a haiku, inspired by my California Native Plant garden. I have long been a fan of haiku though much of what I have written of it was back in high school.¬†I know the basic structure, 5-7-5 and the basic theme, nature. I like the idea that they are short but often many layered. I¬†think haiku could be a wonderful way to introduce more people to native gardening.

This challenge is huge for me on several layers. I am fearful of anything new or looking silly while doing it. I am not a native plant expert so I will have to research oftentimes before I can write. And most of all because doing it, finding a way to combine poetry with my native garden, matters to me a great deal.

I changed my mind from my original post and I will be posting my daily haiku.

Shouldn’t I try to be as¬†brave in my writing as Cassie was about water?

I think so.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , , , |16 Comments

Here I Am

My dog Cassie is at the vet right now getting a further biopsy of the odd bumps that have suddenly appeared on various parts of her body. I had postponed having it done because¬†I wanted a¬†second opinion. Somehow hearing my regular vet tell me that she had never seen anything like it over 25 years of practice didn’t inspire a lot of faith in her ability to solve the problem.

Actually, the vet didn’t inspire a lot of faith on several levels. I took Cassie to that vet two times. Once after we got her for her heartworm test and once when the bumps appeared.¬†Both¬†times were odd.¬†You have to know that Cassie’s most favorite thing in the world is people. She has a passing interest in other dogs and she likes to eat but her world is brightest when there are people to meet and greet. Everyone is instantly her best friend (sorry about that kiss Mary Pearson)and those ear nuzzles for Becky. She lives for meeting new people.

So at the vet Cassie was just being her wonderful Cassie self, so excited to see people that her whole body wiggled like a snake, faster and faster as she waited for the vet to bring her face low enough to be sniffed.

But the vet never did.

Eventually Cassie gave up waiting and jumped up and the vet was not happy.¬†Cassie tried to sniff anywhere she could but the vet was wearing a dress (both times – what’s up with that) and the vet was not happy.¬†She never once got down to Cassie’s level or let her sniff around.

Cassie was not happy. And I wasn’t happy either. What kind of vet shoos the patient away from her? Why wasn’t she trying to make friends with her or at least acknowledge that she was in the room? I had used this vet before but never noticed this behavior perhaps because Chelsie, my last dog, was about as¬†opposite in personality as a dog could get and very anti-people. She¬†was much smaller than Cassie and I’ve come to the conclusion that this vet feels much better with cats and small dogs.

It takes a certain kind of person to love big dogs. It was time for a new vet. But first, those odd bumps needed to be taken care of and I called in the experts.

I found a specialist, a dermatologist, so¬†alas, we can’t use him as our regular vet¬†but I love him. His practice is in an old house and all the rooms are set up like family rooms with family furniture and end tables and bookcases and not a single metal table in sight. On the first visit he sat down on the floor and let Cassie snuggle and kiss and love on him and she was thrilled. He’s had a lot of experience with these sorts of bumps and I feel confident that once we discover, from the biopsies, WHAT they are, he will have the right course of treatment in mind. When I dropped Cassie off this morning the girls in the front office were making such a big deal over her that she never even gave me another look. And that’s okay.

What does this have to do with writing? A lot I think.

Many writers have days when they think the words have left them completely. Some writers have those kinds of days that turn into weeks and months where it seems like they can do anything BUT write. I know. I’ve been there. And here’s what I¬†came up with.

I think the words are always there, like Cassie, full of energy and just waiting for us to notice them, just waiting for us to get down face-to-face and be there. Cassie doesn’t expect anything special from the people she meets – she just wants them to stop what they’re doing and “be” with her. Sometimes we’re lucky and if we ignore the words they come up and smack us upside the face and remind us to pay attention. Plant Kid is forever whispering to me and Max gives me a growl every so often.¬†Flyboy, he’s a bit different. Aloof, always watching, waiting for me to make the first move and spend time with him.

Sometimes I think that’s really all we need to do with our writing – just be with it. Get down on the floor and play. Forget about deadlines and publication. Forget about what your teacher said you needed to work on or what your critique group said was a weak idea. Don’t worry about what order the scenes go in or even if a certain scene belongs in the book. Surround yourself with people who will understand your writer self.

Embrace your writing with all the tail wagging, face licking enthusiasm of a dog who is meeting a new friend and who has absolutely no fear about looking stupid.

The words are there, right in front of you, waiting for you to notice them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , , |36 Comments

Cassie update 2

So the first results are back from the biopsy and the lab said it is consistent with something called panniculitis but they are not saying that’s what it is. The doctor is having a consult with the expert tomorrow to try and get more information and decide a plan of treatment.

I looked up panniculitis but the only pictures I have found are very red and oozing and angry looking. I don’t know if that is something coming with these or if it is something different all together.

The good news is that there was no cancer cells.

Thursday, February 26, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |14 Comments

Cassie update

I posted this in FB and Twitter updates but not here. A few weeks ago we found a hard bump on Cassie’s side. It wasn’t irritated and she wasn’t bothering it so we decided to do the wait and see. Suddenly they were popping up all over. Very hard, not movable as one would think of a typical cyst. She has several on her side, two on her nose that popped up overnight and one on her leg.

We just got back from the vet. The vet, who has many years experience, said she hadn’t seen anything like these bumps. First she thought it might be a reaction to something though we can’t figure out what. I asked if she could suddenly be developing a problem with peanut butter which she gets in bones/kongs/etc and she shrugged and said she wouldn’t think so but also anything is possible.

She took a sample from the largest one and said she got some material out that looked like it was a cyst. She’s sending out and we’ll get the results tomorrow. She’ll also do a consult to try and figure out next steps, if we should remove one and inspect it, just watch or what.

More waiting.

On the plus side, it doesn’t seem to be slowing Cassie down at all. She pays no attention to them. I’m the one who is a nervous wreck.

On the way home from the vet we stopped at the pet store so she could pick out a new toy and a treat (why yes, she is incredibly spoiled-LOL) and some kids were there looking at guinea pigs. She went up to sniff the guinea pigs but turned away, waiting not-so-patiently until the kids themselves paid attention to her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |25 Comments

Sunday thoughts

Today I:

Worked on CW article. I have the interview questions but now I am worried about finding the editors to interview. That’s always the hardest part for me.

Started and stopped a WFH project 11 times. I think this one’s a dud for me.

Taught Cassie how to balance a treat on her nose.

Ate chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven.

Life is good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |2 Comments

Six random things on Saturday

1. For some reason Cassie has changed her wake-up time to 6am. 7 days a week. This does not endear me to her at all. Remember, I am NOTa morning person.

2. It took me two hours to water the yard today. I’m hoping to get enough water to the new garden that I don’t lose any plants if and when we end up with rationing this summer.

3. I have too many books. I mean don’t have too many because I love them all, but I don’t have enough room. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t so picky about where they go. I want all the writing craft books in the bookcase right next to my desk but it is overfull even with stacking books vertically. I already moved the poetry craft books into the library with the poetry books but I am still out of room. Grrr.

4. No matter how many layers of padding I put against my office window I can still hear the evil neighbors, their music, and their horrible cackling laugh still comes through the walls.

5. #4 means it is going to be impossible to enjoy my own backyard all summer long unless they drink themselves into an endless stupor. Sigh.

6. Chocolate silk pie makes many things all better.

Saturday, January 31, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |12 Comments

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for peanut butter.

Now this might seem like a silly thing to be thankful for but if you knew my dog Cassie better, you would understand.

Cassie is still a puppy which means she’s like having a 70pound toddler running around the house. When she’s awake, it’s all about play, all the time. She doesn’t play fetch so I can’t tire her out that way. Sometimes I have to find a way to get her to give me a little quiet time so I can work. If she was a baby, I’d put her in a playpen. If she was a toddler I’d open the Tupperware drawer and the pots and pans cabinet and let her have a field day.

But she’s a dog. A very smart dog who needs to be constantly challenged.

She is also a very spoiled dog. She has a lot of bones. As in, oh, 20 or so. She gets a new one once a week and the old ones stick around until they crack from playing bone hockey (she bats them around to slide on the tile floor.) Every so often I gather them up and boil them in hot water to make sure nothing icky is growing in them.

When I need to get some work done I gather up all her bones and put a dab of peanut butter inside each one. Then I take her into the hall bathroom and put her into a stay while I run all over the house and hide the bones. I release her and she spends the next hour looking for bones and licking out the peanut butter.

Yes, peanut butter is my friend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009|Categories: Random|Tags: , |7 Comments

New Year's Day

It is morning and I have been up a few hours thanks to the dog who can’t sleep past 7:30 no matter what time she last goes outside. I stayed up til midnight though I was ready for bed by 11, still trying to kick this cold. Hubby has it now and I and hope he doesn’t pass it back to me.

I stayed up not because I felt the overwhelming need to see in the new year but because I felt an overwhelming need to wait for the firecrackers. Chelsie, my last dog, was terrified of the firecrackers that went off in the area on festive days. The poor thing would cower and try to hide under pieces of furniture much too small for her.

Cassie was sleeping when the firecrackers started. She lifted her head and stared at me then moved to patio door. She rang the bells (her signal that she wants to go outside) and waited for me to do her bidding. I was trying not to make any reaction to her or the fireworks. I opened the door and she trotted outside, looking first, as she always does, to the back corner that the squirrels use for all their comings and goings. There was a movement and Cassie began to bark. Not her little puppy bark but her big dog alarm bark that she has been trying out of late.

I worried that it was a rat from the nest I know they have next door. But it was too big. A cat? Too slow. To my surprise it was a possum who, as Cassie moved closer (still staying 10 feet from the fence) turned around and walked down the opposite end of the fence.away from our yard.

I live in the city, surrounded by small houses with small yards and busy streets all around. This is the first time I’ve seem the possum at this house (we had one at our old house too.) I imagine he came to go fishing in the neighbor’s huge koi pond.

I don’t think a lot of about possums one way or the other as long as they keep their sharp claws away from me and the dog and don’t nest in the house. But it does make me feel a little bit hopeful that other creatures will find their way to our yard as the native plants grow and bloom.

Before bed last night, well into the wee hours of the new year, I wrote a bit, a few bad poems, some lines in a journal. I plan to do more of the same today. I also plan to work on my new blog for my garden. (Any one out there a LJ CSS expert? I need some help.) I want to move the garden posts to the new blog so I can track my progress.

Here’s to the new year. May it be filled with many new adventures.

Thursday, January 1, 2009|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |6 Comments

Smile Meme

beckylevine  tagged me for this and probably doesn’t realize how hard it is for me think of things that make me smile.
(hulabunny however knows my struggle.)

1. My dog Cassie playing bone hockey on the tile floor. She bats the bone, watches it slide across the floor, then goes after it growling and pouncing until she bats it away again.

2. Yummer rib tips for dinner from C.B. Hannigans.

3. Getting all my writing figurines put back into my new cabinet in my office.

4. Cassie snoring.

5. Turning in a project about an hour ago and getting a big thank you from the person who hired me.

Tags to anyone else who needs to remind themself that life is good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |1 Comment

Friday five – a random edition

1. This is the new tree bench we got for the backyard. On clearance no less! Now if I could only find some chairs I liked on clearance too.
(I’m debating removing the rock path. It feels a bit overwhelming with all that rock right now.)

2. I had a few pieces of slate from our old house that I had moved over to this house then decided I didn’t need it. For the heck of it I put it up on craigslist and someone came to buy it from me. He kept canceling when he was going to come over but something told me to stick with him. He came today and picked up the slate which means now I have a bunch of extra space on the sideyard.

3. Same guy saw all the empty black nursery pots – lots and lots of them – and asked if I wanted to get rid of them. I said yes and he took most of them. I kept some for as I try to propagate plants.

4. Same guy took the single aggregate stepping stone and two cement piers.

5. Turns out the guy used to be a contractor. One of his new sidelines is building custom raised planter boxes. He’s going to build me a 7 foot long box for the courtyard for our herbs. His price for the one big one, raised, which will work better and look nicer is cheaper than the 4 I would have had to buy elsewhere.

A bonus item not yard related. I had a bunch of clothes all bought and ready to wrap for my husband who comes out and shows me his list for Macy’s that he is just getting ready to order because he needs clothes. So I had to give him his Christmas stuff early. Tell me other people’s husbands do the same thing?

And a second bonus item not yard related. I trained Cassie to ring the bells to go outside but today it has been too much of a good thing. I think she rang the darn bells 25 times and only two of those times was because she actually had to go to the bathroom.


Friday, December 5, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |11 Comments

No doggy daycare for Cassie

Cassie had her evaluation for doggy daycare today. It was at the same place we do our dog training classes. It was a long shot because, as an older rescue dog (as in past the puppy socialization stage) she has issues.

The evals run about an hour long.

Cassie only lasted 15 minutes. Poor baby.

She was great when I handed her over to the evaluator. She was fine, I am told, with the other strange person she met for the first time. People skills, 100% okay.

They brought out the first dog, the marshmallow dog. The dog they say if your dog has issues with it the problem is all with your dog. Cassie had no problems but she also wasn’t interested in having anything to do with her.

Then they brought out Blaire. Cassie knows Blaire from class. Cassie and Blaire were co-valedictorians in class. They love to play together so with Blaire, Cassie was fine. They ran and played just great.

Then the brought out the next dog who is a bit of an in-your-face-stand-still-let-me-smell-you kind of brat.

And she had a melt-down.

They tried a couple more dogs but it was way too much for her. There was no way she could handle being out with the pack all day long. The evaluator brought her back out to me so Cassie didn’t have any trauma associated with the visit.

I knew it was a long shot, her making it in so quickly. She just doesn’t have enough confidence yet. She is MUCH more confident than she was when we brought her home a few months ago. At first she couldn’t stand to have us leave the room, she had to follow us everywhere. She also had a "closed mouth" all the time. Now she is happy to watch us as we leave the room and most of the time has an open, happy mouth.

She is fine with other dogs one on one but the group thing, still too much. We’re supposed to organize more play dates with multiple dogs but there is no place around here to meet with other dogs. Our yard can’t handle it and the dog park is too much for her too.

We’re not giving up. Hopefully a few more months or so down the road we can try again.

So because I felt bad, I bought her a tunnel to work with. (and a hula hoop.)

She seems to like it just fine.

Friday, November 14, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |12 Comments

Friday Five – dogs again

I’ve been trying to write this post all week but it’s been hard.

So here are my five dogs things first, and then the story.

#1  We met a dog named Cullen.
#2  We agreed to foster Cullen.
#3  Cullen came to our house.
#4  Cullen and Cassie played wonderfully well and never a cross word between them.
#5  Cullen moved on to another foster home.

Recently we met a dog named Cullen.

He had been found on the streets in Monterey, picked up and taken to the pound and pulled from the pound by the wonderful Bob at the Northern California German Shepherd Rescue group. We met Bob and Cullen at a local park and Cassie and Cullen seemed to get along just fine. They walked nicely together, sniffed a lot, played a bit. Cullen was still a little stressed (panting/drooling) from his trip to the pound but was a real love bucket. He was about the same age as Cassie and a total goofball, all arms and legs without a lot of control.

We went home to talk about it. Then last Saturday we went to the adoption fair to take Cassie to see her amazing foster mom PJ. We also wanted to meet Shane, PJ’s current foster. Shane was a beautiful sweet boy but my heart had already been stolen by Cullen. He was a living, breathing teddy bear and I could already see him as my therapy dog.

So we agreed to foster him which would give us a week to decide if we wanted to adopt him. Bob dropped him off at our house that afternoon.

There was a bit of excitement right off the bat because the dogs were being dogs and chasing one another and we hadn’t removed everything from their path. My fault and no one was hurt and my wonderful husband cleaned up all the broken glass.

This is Cullen.

He quickly found where all the air vents were in the house. He especially liked the one in the kitchen so he could stay cool but keep an eye out for food that magically fell from the sky.

He also found Cassie’s bed.

But she didn’t seem to mind too much.

It took a bit to tire him out but he finally crashed. Cassie is laying just a few feet away from him.


It really was a case of wherever one went, the other would follow, exactly the kind of doggy friendship one would hope for. Really, the two of them were great, walking side by side, sharing and swapping bones. Cassie couldn’t quite figure out what Cullen was doing when he launched himself into the small wading pool and laid down in it but she was very happy to have him to chase around.


Alas, while the dogs were fine it was too much for me. Cullen had no house manners yet (major counter surfing, broken dishes, etc) and was on and off the furniture. I have no doubt that a few months of training is going to turn him into the perfect dog for someone, but that someone is not me.

I thought back to when I was much younger, in my twenties with babies in diapers and 4-5 big dogs living in the house, a house much smaller than this one. I don’t recall it being so intense, where I wasn’t able to relax a minute. But then I’ve gone through a lot in the past years so I guess I just can’t do it anymore. Or maybe later, down the road, when life settles down some.

I should have posted this yesterday, I meant to, if only to be able to give thanks once again to the Northern California German Shepherd Rescue group. First for bringing sweet Cullen out of the pound and second to finding another foster family to take him in when it became apparent that I was unable to keep him. A special thank you to PJ who not only helped me hold it together over the phone but gave up her Sunday to drive over the hill and pick him up.

Cullen, I know you’ll find a forever home soon. I’m sorry it couldn’t be ours.

Friday, August 29, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |21 Comments

Friday Five – More about dogs

These are the thoughts going through my head this Friday:

1 – Cassie is very attached to my husband. I adore her, she has a giant chunk of my heart already, but if I had it to do over again I might go looking first for a male dog that would glued to my hip. (Example – My husband left the house around 9:30 this morning. It is now 11:30. She has circled the house up and down stairs, his office, around the house again, outside, back inside, repeat, for 2 hours. ) She loves me, but she loves me more when my husband is home.

2 – Another dog might help Cassie with missing her favorite human. Her foster mom had told us that too.

3 – Cullen (see yesterday’s post) is a real teddy bear of a snuggler who would totally be my giant lap dog. 

4 – Cassie and Cullen are close in age – maybe only a few months apart. This could be insanity waiting to happen. 

5 – I don’t know if it’s crazy to bring another new dog into the house so soon or not. But with all the stressful stuff in my life right I have to admit that having a teddy bear dog to love on sounds pretty good. But I have to think with my head and not with my heart and make sure we can do right by two dogs.

Oh, and a bonus I just remembered – the yard is not in, not even close, barely started. So to deal with two young dogs and new plants? Yes, I am insane.

Friday, August 22, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |24 Comments

Friday Five – the Cassie edition

Cassie has been with us almost 3 weeks now so I thought this edition of the Friday Five should be about her.

#1¬†¬†¬†¬† We are still working on separation anxiety. She has super-bonded with my husband which is both nice and sad. It is nice because of course I like to see both him and Cassie happy but it is sad because I want her to bond with me. She loves me, but since he is home with her most all day it is different. When I am home with her and he is gone she whines for a long time and sits in the dining room facing the front door. It is getting better but it is a lot of work on my part to build the relationship. I am the person with the best (translations – stinkiest treats) and I’m the only one who feeds her scraps of meat that she gets to take from my mouth. I do a lot of the play/training with her so hopefully it will all add up. I realize we may have this who thing in reverse when we get a male dog down the road.

When we are both gone she has to go in the crate. This does not make her happy.

She does not like the crate at all. The trainer suggested we set up a video camera to see how long she freaks out when she was in it so we know how serious it is.

#2     Things happen for a reason. Remember all those big piles of dirt and decomposed granite in the backyard? Cassie loves them. She loves to climb to the top and dig in like a pile of sand. She likes to take a stick and lay on the top of the hill. She likes to crane her neck back so she can watch the planes go overhead. So now we are replanning our backyard design so that we can make a hill for Cassie.

For the longest time that was about all she would do outside, run to the hill and sit down. Now she is learning how to play. Outside she likes to gather sicks and run puppy races. When we first brought her home she really didn’t know what to do with many of her toys. She liked things that squeaked though so we got this little beehive that has three small bees inside. They all have a different kind of squeak. She has to get them out of the hive. She loves it.

The trainer that we are working with told us that we should add tricks in now, at the same time we are working on obedience, and Cassie is loving it. She isn’t 100% consistent yet, but she is getting there on SHAKE, SPIN, and CRAWL. She is also learning to ring the bells hanging on the door to let us know when she wants to go outside.

#3¬†¬†¬†¬† She does not like the ocean at all. We took her to Aptos to see the ocean and this was as close as she would get and she wasn’t happy about that. There were dogs all around her racing into the water but she squirmed away. She does however like her wading pool in the backyard. She won’t go IN it but she likes to dive underwater and pick up things on the bottom of the surface. And she likes to remove all the leaves from the pool. We are surmising that someone used a hose to scare her in some way because whenever I water the plants she moves away. We are working on me having the hose on the ground next to me and having her come close for being touched. Tonight I was watering in the courtyard and she actually walked over to me of her own even though water was coming out of the hose. We are constantly amazed at how quickly she is progressing for a rescue dog.

#4      She loves meeting new dogs and is wonderful with all of them. She met several new dogs at the beach. She meets new dogs on her daily walks and is great with all of them except for the little yappy dogs, like daschunds, that come toward her. Those she is afraid of which makes us think the probably with the people who adopted her from the pound were the little dogs. Sigh. We were charged by a Beagle, barking and growling and ready to bite and Cassie just sat down and waited.

Her favorite playmate is her cousin Crice, my brother-in-law’s three-year-old Shepherd. They love to play chase.

#5 She loves going everywhere with us, even out to dinner. We went to Ma Maison in Aptos for dinner and they allow dogs on the patio. They even brought Cassie water in a porcelain bowl, the same kind of dishes we had on our table.

We just gave her a bully stick and she was happy.

I’d forgotten how much work a puppy was, even an older pup like Cassie. She sleeps all night but gets up way too early, no matter what we do and someone always has to have an eye out for her so I can’t ever relax. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

In the midst of all the crazies going on in my life right now, most especially the waiting at work as the merger goes forward with plans to close toward the end of the month and the layoffs in huge numbers due to come as soon as possible after the merger closes, well, puppy kisses make it all bearable.

Friday, August 15, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |21 Comments

Thankful Thursday

In my typical random order – 

I am thankful that we found a dog trainer that I think is a great match for helping us work with Cassie.

I am thankful that the company we are merging with is doing it all very quickly. There will be a HUGE layoff when the deal closes, which will be painful no matter where I land, but it will be done quickly. Those that are still employed will know the layoff is done and shouldn’t have to have the threat of more layoffs hanging over their head month after month after month. Those that lose their jobs (or have delayed departures) will at least know where they stand. I won’t know what happens to me for another month but in another month, it will all be over. Considering that for the last 2 years we have lived in constant fear – this will be an improvement.

I am thankful that the blasted water pipe is finally fixed which means the pavers can finally be put back in place.

I am thankful for puppy kisses because they are so good for everything that is not right in my word.

I am thankful that for now, at least, Thursday is my Friday and I have three days off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |2 Comments

Monday, Monday – an update of sorts

You know how it is – you don’t blog regularly for a while and then you think of all these things you should blog about but you don’t and you don’t have time to read and post to other people’s blogs so you know they are going to stop reading yours and your can’t blame them and you haven’t even had time to respond to people who responded to your blogs and pretty soon the guilty feelings pile up so high that you figure you might as well just quit blogging right now.

But then I figure if one of the things that is making me crazy is not writing then maybe if I go back to blogging it will be a little bit like writing and I won’t feel so bad. And if nobody but me reads my posts, I will tell myself that’s okay because I understand that blogging is a reciprocal activity and without time to reciprocate, well, like I said, I understand.

And then I remember that some of the most fun I had with writing recently was writing character letters and that even if the books are going nowhere for a variety of reasons I could maybe play with the characters again.

Before long I recognize that I have always been one to pile the guilt on myself without too much help from the Universe at large and wouldn’t it be nice if in this second half of life I could just chuck the guilt and enjoy a guilt-free version of life?

Okay, so that last one probably isn’t going to happen but I’m working on the rest.

Here’s the mini update.

The yard – I listed out the major steps needed to complete the front and back yards. There are 33 things on the list. Sigh. That is a ton when you consider one step might be “pick out plants for small planting section to right of driveway) because there are a lot more steps that go into that, plus the actual planting that will be done in the fall.
But at least I have a list. It is frustrating to me because I have to rely on my wonderful husband to do the hard work. Due to my shoulder/arm/wrist issues I can no long use the pick axe to dig or shovel dirt or carry heavy things. It is frustrating to have to wait for someone else to do things I used to be able to do myself. 

On top of that, I am bloody sick and tired of having to deal with people we have had to hire to do stuff for us. We do have a wonderful new courtyard fence but I also had to ask the guy to rehang the old gate to the sideyard and they said because there was nothing strong against the house to mount it to they made this weird thing that is self-supporting and I HATE it. I’m glad I can’t see it very often but every time I do, it makes me grit my teeth. But not nearly as much as looking at the backyard fence that we had put up last year. We trusted the guy who installed it for us and he put pressure treated wood on the top horizontal section of the fence. Now we have been told by three different fence people that the reason it is all warping is that they never should have put pressure treated wood on top. So we will have to pay to have it all replaced and it isn’t even a year old yet! And only one of the 4 neighbors helped pay for the originally fence so we are out even more money. But wait, there’s more. The fence is one of those with overlapping panels but they were too cheap to put enough wood in the sections to allow for shrinkage so now after not even a year, I can put my hand through the fence in many places. What is so stupid is that instead of just putting in one extra piece of wood, they guy took the time to cut a piece vertically to put in there. Sigh. We need to at least replace all the back fence sections ASAP before we put the plants in come fall.

I am also still very frustrated when I see the decomposed granite and the blue stone. There have been some very expensive homeowner lessons of late. 

For the last month we have had sections of the new paver driveway torn up due to a broken water pipe to the sprinklers that has defied repair. We are now waiting for the electrician to come install new outlets in the courtyard then we can get the pavers repaired and back to what passes for normal.

The job – we are in crazymaking times at my job as the merger goes forth and people are meeting for what basically amounts to interviews to discover if, in a few weeks, they will still have a job or not. So I am gathering my best pieces of work and beefing up my confidence for the weeks ahead. On the plus side, by September 2nd, we should all know if we have a job or should be looking for one.

Sleep – not getting enough of it. Stress and other life issues (see above) mean I’m getting about 5 hours a night. I need 8 and maybe even one night of 10. Ugh. I miss sleep.

The writing – not happening much (see above). Lots of thinking though which may come out more in character letters or something else. I am feeling afraid of poetry for reasons that I probably won’t go into here in the blog and yet I am feeling drawn to working on poems.

The dog – the part of my life that isn’t obsessing about whether or not I will still have a job next month or the yard or wondering if it crazy that I only want to hire workers around my home that speak the same language as I do, well, the rest of the time is spent with Cassie. She is already such a joy in our lives. Frustrating at time in the way that puppies can be but it is all a part of growing up and getting trained. 

Saturday we took her to the beach for the first time and she was not at all impressed. Afraid of the ocean. Then we went to dinner in Aptos, at Ma Maison, and had a lovely French dinner out on the patio with Cassie contentendly chewing on a toy at our feet. I am grateful to live in an area that is so dog friendly.

That’s life in an oversized nutshell.

Monday, August 11, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: , |14 Comments

Meet Cassie

I’ve spent most of the week looking on Petfinder, at the animal shelters and at the various rescue groups. Once we eliminated breeds that didn’t speak to us we really didn’t have a lot of choices. We knew in our hearts we both wanted a German Shepherd. We’ve both had and loved Shepherds before and missed having one around. Once we agreed on that it I basically parked myself at the local Geman Shepherd rescue website and studied the profiles of the animals they had available. 

Cassie caught my heart right away. Saturday they had their adoption fair so we went down to visit the 7 or 8 dogs they had there. I’m so glad we were one of the first ones to arrive because otherwise we might not have been able to adopt this little sweetheart. While we were at the adoption fair the workers were home installed a new gate and front fence so we could pass the home visit.  Sunday morning we picked her up and brought her home.


If you’re not familiar with breed rescue groups they take in owner surrenders but they also go to the pound and rescue dogs from there and try to place them with people who love that breed. Cassie was found at the pound about a month ago. Her owners surrendered her saying she didn’t get along with other dogs and she made too much noise. (They also gave her the inappropriate name of Patton. We think she was just left in the backyard alone.) Her foster mom had her with several other dogs and a caged Macaw and said she was just fine. Hmmmm. 

She does like to talk but we think it’s when she is trying to tell us something (Take me outside. Let me sit in your lap. I feel the overwhelming need to kiss you right this very second.)


Her foster mommy said she loved squeaky toys so we made sure she had several. She loves to try and pull the nubs off of this. She also loves the tennis ball except when it rolls under the chair. Then she waits for someone to get it out for her.


She’s about 7 months old. We took her over to meet my brother-in-law’s Shepherd who is 3 and Cassie is already as tall as she is. We figure she should get to be about 75 pounds or so. She is amazingly gentle for still being a pup and walked very well on the leash. She’s already learning some of the basic commands and goes to the door to ask to go outside. It’s going to be hard to leave her at home when I have to go to work in the morning.


Now all we need to do is find her a buddy. ūüôā

Sunday, July 27, 2008|Categories: Life With Dogs|Tags: |57 Comments