Monday, December 31, 2007

Invasion of the Ladybugs, Day 35

As a child, I thought about becoming an entomologist (a bug scientist), and it's probably that love of bugs that keeps me from freaking out everytime I enter my office.

We have a bug problem. A ladybug problem. Specifically, in my office.

What is it about my office, with its eastward-facing wall and window on the second floor of our house, that lures these poor things? Right now I have about 24 ladybugs cruising across the wall, the windowshades, and the ceiling. They are crawling on my fan blades and its beaded pull chain. Dozens of little corpses stud my carpet like little red jewels (I need to vacuum, but I don't want to suck up the ones that are still alive!). They fly past me as I type, and they land on poor Dozer, who leaps to his feet and starts sniffing the tickly spot.

Why are they here? What do they hope to accomplish? They are only starving to death.

Byrd and I searched the house, trying to figure out where they were coming in, but to no avail. They keep showing up, and even as the older ones die, new ones arrive to take their place. The first few days, I knocked the ladybugs off the wall, into a little box, and took them outside, but by now, I see the futility of that effort.

Perhaps I should go find a plant covered in tasty aphids and bring it upstairs...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sometimes, Responsibility Means Saying "No" to Your Heart

My husband had business (of the remodeling type) at an exotic pet store a few weeks ago, so I tagged along to pet the bunnies and the bearded dragons. I've had the pleasure (or displeasure, in some cases) of owning and caring for quite a variety of types of animals over the years, and although today I'm primarily a dog-lover, I still like to interact with other kinds of critters and reminisce about the old days.

But imagine my surprise to see a miniature potbellied piglet in a large tank at the front of the store! He was about the size of an adult cat, pale pink with white hair, curled up in a comfy nest of shavings. I cautiously (okay, maybe not so cautiously, but he was so cute!) put my hand in the tank (Does he bite? Will it hurt?), and we proceeded to take turns terrifying each other. The baby pig jumped and dashed about, trying to avoid my giant looming hand, and when he turned to sniff my fingers, I jerked my hand back out of fear (Is he going to bite me?).

After a bit of this frightening back-and-forth, I became convinced that I could outmaneuver any biting on his part, so I boldly started to pet him on his back and the side of his face. The pig, on the other hand, froze like a deer in headlights. I knew the poor thing was scared, but he was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute, I selfishly couldn't stop petting him.

Then my inner eight-year-old came out. "Can I have him?" I begged my husband. "Please? He's so cute! I heard that pigs are just like dogs, and they can be housetrained and taught to do tricks and all sorts of things like that. Please? PLEEEEEEEEASE?" My husband, not swayed by the adorable porcine snout rooting in the shavings, nor the adorable grunts, nor the tiny adorable feet with tiny adorable toenails, said flatly: "No."

Thinking I could come up with a better pro-pig argument if I had some solid scientific facts, I asked the store staff for a book on miniature pigs. This they supplied to me with a flourish, and I sat on the floor and read the book while my husband conducted his business with the owners.

By the end of the book, I no longer wanted a miniature pig.

Due to the book's thorough and informative contents, I had a better understanding of the requirements for pig ownership--and they were not the sort of requirements I was prepared to meet. I didn't want to do the work or make the lifestyle changes necessary to enjoy a pig (and for the pig to enjoy me).

Sometimes an animal is so cute that it's almost impossible to resist the temptation to plunk down some money and walk off with it. But it's neither responsible nor humane to do that without first knowing what you're getting into--and being willing to take on those responsibilities. If you're put in this same position, here are some tips for "quelling the cute":
  • Find an ownership book immediately and read it immediately.
  • Do not ask a store employee to tell you about the pet. Their job is to sell it to you; they aren't going to be honest and forthright about drawbacks (and keep in mind that store employees may not have much experience about the pets they're selling in the first place).
  • Imagine the pet urinating all over your carpet (replace with your bed if you have bare floors).
  • If you are still determined to get the pet (or one like it), FOSTER ONE FIRST. That is, contact a rescue group and sign up as a foster home. Try owning this kind of pet on a temporary basis before you take a plunge that will last for the lifetime of the pet, which may live a decade or more.
  • Always remember, this isn't the last cute pet you are ever going to see. There are THOUSANDS of adorable kittens and puppies in animal shelters across the country waiting for homes. If you aren't ready for a pet, wait. When you're ready to take on a pet, trust me--another absolutely adorable critter will be there waiting for you.

One good thing did come out of reading the book: I learned how to pet a miniature pig. You gently rub a pig on its belly and chin, and it rolls over on its back, closes its eyes, and grunts happily.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The worst possible news

Felanie, my favorite old lady dog, has lymphoma. Lymphoma is not curable, and Fel will probably pass away within a few months. Although my husband and I understand that treatments like chemotherapy could prolong her life, we feel that her quality of life is far more important than quantity, and we do not think prolonging her life will improve its quality greatly. Remember, she is ten years old (a full life for a big dog) and has had other health problems for several years now. As a friend of mine put it (and I would like to think of it), Felanie is really dying of old age.

Anyone who has visited my Happy Pit Bull website probably knows that Felanie has played a major role in my life. Please rest assured that her life's work has not been in vain; I intend to continue with my websites, my writings, and my efforts for years to come.

Though it fills me with pain and dread to think about how soon I will have to say goodbye, I'm eternally grateful for the many wonderful years we spent together. Felanie is truly a once-in-a-lifetime gift from the heavens, and I intend to treasure every last minute with her!

Monday, October 08, 2007

No more crates

The dog crates are folded up in the guest bathroom (aka storage closet). For years, they were fixtures, pieces of furniture that always had to be considered when rearranging a room or starting the next phase of a remodeling project. My husband would say, "Let's extend the upstairs loft and make it a real second story." And I would say, "Sure, but what about the dog crates? I suppose we could put them in the dining room..." But no more.

No, no, the dogs are still here. They used to stay in the crates, separated, when we went to work. Felanie had a soft mesh crate that was really just for show (in fact, I left the top flap open and she never bothered to jump out), a way of reassuring Dozer that he wasn't the only one required to stay put. Dozer had a solid, thick wire crate; he was a Houdini, but the metal was stronger than he was.

But one day my husband commented, "Dozer hasn't chewed a windowsill or power cord since he was a puppy. The dogs have never been in a fight, not in all seven years, not so much as a grumble exchanged between them. Felanie is the laziest old lady in the world, and Dozer follows her every move (when he's not following yours). We've never caught the dogs on the sofa at any point in time; I don't think they even realize that it's physically possible to touch the couch. Why are we crating them again?"

So we're giving it a trial run. The dogs are both loose during the day. Let me be clear, this is NOT something I recommend for everyone with multiple dogs, especially multiple pit bulls. Especially with younger pit bulls in a less stable pack, this could easily lead to disaster--a bloody fight, and no one home to stop it. But both of my dogs are old (Fel is nine, Dozer is seven) and their ranks in the "pack" are completely stable. Felanie is a senior dog and is totally uninterested in any sort of physical roughness, and I know that Dozer, though he himself is rather rambunctious and uninhibited, has always shown great concern for the well-being of Felanie. He respects her immensely; he may be the "chief," but she's the village elder.

Yes, it's still a risk, but it's a small one, and one I'm willing to take. Dozer and Felanie both seem happier about it, and I have to say, it's cut their barking (through the front window, at strangers walking by) down to almost nothing. It's as if they now realize that people walk past all day long, and gee, it's really not a big deal after all. So far, it seems that they spend the whole day sleeping in the dining room, waiting for us to come home. We haven't found any chewed windowsills, underwear with mysterious holes (another of Dozer's old favorites), food missing from the counter tops, dishes shattered on the floor, or dog fur on the couch. So far. Five months and counting.

To be honest, I expect the kitchen garbage to be the first victim of this experiment, it being so enticingly smelly, nose level, and easily tipped. Then I suppose we'll have to rethink the crate thing again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New site launched as school gets underway

I got the new Happy Pit Bull site launched... sort of.

The new design is there, the old material is (mostly) there, and the new material has started going up, slowly but surely. I love the new design and navigation (though I'm still trying to figure out why the initial loading of the menu bar occurs so slowly). I'm excited about the new material, too.

But school had to start again. And guess what my final project is - a website redesign for a charity! Alas, I don't have a 501(c)3 for my website, though it is my personal contribution toward making the world a better place. But as it happens, I am webmaster for the HSWC, so my final project involves redoing their website.

I seriously can't handle a full-time job and two site redesign projects at the same time. The amount of writing involved for both websites are equivalent to two more full-time jobs. I kid you not. The work I did on Happy Pit Bull over the summer left me feeling as though I had written another senior thesis.

So I must prioritize. Happy Pit Bull, unfortunately, has to sit on the back burner while I get my butt out of college! Once I graduate, with my master's degree clutched in my sweaty, carpal-tunnel-syndrome-ridden fists, I will resume my heart's work on the Happy Pit Bull website.

In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions for fixing the slow-loading menu bar over at HPB... I'd appreciate the insight.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Yes, I promise - the new Happy Pit Bull site is coming!

I have been laboring over the new Happy Pit Bull site for several weeks now, basically rushing home from working at a computer for eight hours, just to sit down at the computer and start typing for another eight hours. I am writing tons of new material and rewriting a good chunk of the old stuff. Site visitors' emails (questions and comments) have helped me to determine what sort of material I need to add, though I admit it's partly self-serving, because I get tired of having to write the same answers over and over. I could save a lot of time if my site just covered the question in the first place!

The eye strain and headaches have driven me nearly mad, but I'm determined to get the new site live by the time classes start. My only class this semester involves... a site redesign! I will be redesigning the website for the Humane Society of Williamson County (, which I am completely in charge of as their humble webmaster. So my Happy Pit Bull site redesign accomplishes two things: one, it's necessary for the site itself, and two, I am learning new things in terms of design so that I can create a really sweet site for the HSWC in the next few months.

I'm proud to announce that I have learned the mysteries of rollover and dropdown menu bars, so navigation will be greatly improved. Further, I have learned my lesson about dumping all the site files into a single folder. It's fine for sites with six or seven pages, but definitely not okay for sites with 48 pages and several hundred images (which my new and improved HPB site will have).

Anyway, it's now very late and I have a terrible headache after hours of poring over material and squinting at my computer screen (which is actually rather large but also very bright). So I'll be back at it again tomorrow, but for now, I'm signing off.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Pit Bull Placebo: Go forth and purchase!

I just finished reading The Pit Bull Placebo, Karen Delise's new book, and I was not the least bit disappointed. Chock full of the serious research and amazing insight I've come to expect from Delise (also the author of Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics), this new book was impossible for me to put down.

I strongly, strongly urge you - if you are truly interested in the hows and whys of the pit bull stereotype - to go out and get this book. There is currently no other book like it out there. Delise talks about the history of the "dangerous breed" mythology, examining newspaper reports about dog attacks starting in the mid-19th century. Back then, Bloodhounds were the popular "bad breed." From there, Delise traces the rise and fall of several villified breeds, ending with a fascinating refutation of all the ridiculous myths that now belong to the pit bull. Never in my life have I seen such a thorough scientific analysis of the "pit-bull-bites-are-like-shark-bites" myth - and I could not contain my glee over her conclusion, which oh-so-subtly suggests that anyone who makes such a claim is most likely out of touch with that thing we call reality.

Along the way, Delise delivers an unparallelled smack down to the "bad boys of BSL" (by which I mean Kory Nelson, Paul Wesselhoff, and all those other myth-spreading, pit bull hating, downright lying fear-mongerers) that sent me into an unstoppable euphoria. You tell 'em, Karen! Their hateful, unsubstantiated stereotypes may get five minutes of fame in the papers, but your book grants their words eternal recognition - as the moronic rantings that they are.

Of course there's much, much more to this book. I can't possibly cover all the things she discusses and do it very well; I keep coming up with more and more topics that this book tackles quite successfully and I'd rather not just rewrite Delise's book.

This is a fabulous book for pit bull owners, politicians, journalists, and... well, and just about anyone else who has any sort of interest in pit bulls. I'm afraid I simply cannot give it the rave review it so justly deserves, as the sheer joy and amazement and wonder which I felt as I finished the book left me virtually speechless. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that I could only say "Wow" for half an hour afterwards. A few days later, I am still trying, and failing, to communicate my endless respect and admiration for Delise and the insane amount of research she has done (so that we don't have to, honestly).

Go out and buy the book and read it for yourself, that's all I can say. I promise you will not be disappointed. You can buy it online:


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about the pit bull owner stereotype over the last several months because, frankly, it bugs the crap out of me. We all hate being judged by total strangers based on superficial factors (like the color of our skin or hair, for instance), but before I had pit bulls (late high school, perhaps), my biggest worry was that my manner of speaking made me seem too nerdy. I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing "cool" speak so I could fit in with my peers.

Now I'm quite pleased to be able to say that I am, quite honestly, a total nerd. I spend most of my life staring at a computer screen, whether it be blogging, gaming, writing, or website-building. My husband complains I spend too much time checking my email. I was WoWing for the better part of Memorial Day. I bought quite a few Christmas gifts at (binary clock?? awesome!). My master's degree is in technical communication. That's boring stuff like writing software documentation, folks.

Yes, I defend my nerdly status viciously because it forces people to stop and examine their own prejudices when they find out that this nerdy, brainy, hard-working, talented goody-goody is also a proud pit bull owner. To most people, pit bull owners are drug dealers and criminals. I am a technical writer and used to be a bookkeeper/office manager. Yeah, that's right, I used to balance books for a small business. What a criminal! The only drugs I touch say "Advil" on the side (once a month, friends).

The stereotypical pit bull owner is a scary thug, a young weightlifting minority punk in baggy pants, a "wifebeater," a gold tooth or two, and a backwards cap. This stereotype's pit bull is a burly, squatty, muscular dog straining and lunging against its heavy logging chain "leash." The pair swaggers down the middle of the street, intimidating. But here I am, a pit bull owner, but unlike the stereotype I am pale as bone china (pasty, perhaps), weigh barely 100 lbs soaking wet, wear business casual clothing (nice button-up blouse, pleated khaki pants, cute shoes), and of course, female. My pit bulls are relatively leash trained--at least, they don't strain or lunge and I use a normal nylon leash and nylon collars--and we don't "strut" anywhere. I'm admittedly lazy; we don't go for walks very often. I play fetch with the dogs in my backyard, and Dozer puts on a show for the neighbors by doing flips as he catches his Frisbee.

Contrary to the antisocial stereotype, my husband and I are on excellent terms with almost all of the neighbors (the exception being two houses where blatant dog neglect occurred; I'm sure the neighbors figured out who called animal control). We are all dog people in this area. I've acquired a reputation as the dog rescue point-of-contact. My neighbors know that I work with animal control to catch stray dogs and I foster the occasional puppy or dog (this week, a hyper rat terrier). Pit bulls come and go at our house and animal control makes occasional appearances to pick up stray dogs (and cats) that I corral. Someone who is unfamiliar with my work might accuse me of dog fighting after the second or third new dog disappears (successfully rehomed, in fact).

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I must reiterate that it really ticks me off when people assume that all pit bull owners are scum of the earth. The pit bull stereotype is not my reality at all; far from it, I'm a normal American citizen just like every other American citizen, trying to live my life, work at my job, and play video games in my spare time. If I didn't have two pit bulls, I'd be just another face in the crowd. Come to think of it, it's because of my pit bulls that I am who I am today - a social, friendly, active, educated, ambitious, politically-conscious individual. But that's another story for another day.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Today was my last class day of the semester. Summer's here at last! I start a new job on Monday at a publishing company; it's a temporary position, but that suits me fine because the job will end at about the same time that I graduate (December). Then I'll be totally out of class and ready to start searching for a "real" job. Hopefully by then I will have impressed the publishing company with my dedication and hard work so I will be given a good shot at a permanent position there.

We have a foster pit bull living with us for a little while until we can find him a new home. We call him Elvis. He's a really great dog. It's too bad we already have two dogs! I'm sure we'll find someone who can give him all the attention and love he deserves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Neighbor's friendship versus dog's life

I had to call Animal Control yesterday because of the dog a few doors down. He lives on a chain 24/7 and had managed to get the chain hooked on top of the chain-link fence so that he was basically stuck in a standing position; he couldn't get into his house, reach his water or food, or even lie down. I think he was actually stuck like that since the day before, because he kept me awake all night with his barking (apparently barking for help) and in the morning I finally decided to go see what the problem was. Now I feel really bad for not checking on him sooner, but even more shocking to me is that none of the neighbors closest to that house apparently noticed or cared!

Not wanting to piss these people off, as they are friends with our next-door neighbors, I decided to go next door before calling AC. Maybe there was a good reason why this was going on. Maybe someone had broken in, killed the family, and ran off, and the dog had gotten caught on the fence while trying to get at the perpetrator. But nobody answered the door and there was no sign of a break-in, and considering the dog had been barking like this since the wee hours of the morning, I think these folks probably just went out of town for the Easter weekend.

I was even more dismayed to notice that there was no food bowl anywhere in sight. Okay, maybe they had a friend coming by regularly to feed the dog. Maybe. I looked at the muddy enclosure, the paper-thin walls of the filthy dog "house", and the dog that should have been pure white and fluffy but was instead mud-gray and matted. I went toward the dog slightly, trying to see whether he'd be agreeable to my assistance, and he went nuts. I don't blame him; he was basically in a living hell. But I wasn't about to get bitten - or accused of trespassing.

Well, I wasn't just going to let that poor dog hang there. I went home and called Animal Control. Three officers showed up about 40 minutes later. I was back at home by then, but I could see the house from my window. To my great surprise, they didn't bother to untangle the dog from the fence. Instead, they slipped a leash around his neck (with some help from some dog treats), unhooked the chain from his collar - and piled him into their truck! Then they took quite a few photos of dog and enclosure, left a note on the door of the home, and drove off with the dog. I guess they had more concerns than I had anticipated; perhaps once they were able to handle the dog, some other problems became apparent.

Regardless, I'm glad they took the dog. When they unhooked the dog from the chain, that dog transformed. He went from hostile to overjoyed, his tail wagged like crazy and he wiggled up against the officers for petting as they took photos. He was so glad to be rescued from that nightmare, and so happy that someone was actually paying attention to him for once.

Byrd worries that when the owners come to pick up their dog from the shelter, AC will name me as the person who reported the problem, and that this will make several neighbors angry at us. Frankly, I don't care. Who wants to be friendly with someone who advocates cruelty to animals? The dog would eventually have strangled himself when he collapsed from exhaustion, dehydration, exposure, and starvation. Anyone who's okay with that is no friend of mine. I'd rather pay a little fine to AC and get my dog back safe and sound than come home from vacation to discover my dog hung himself and none of the neighbors did anything about it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Garden Festival Fun

On Sunday, Byrd got me up bright and early, bought me donuts, and took me to the Zilker Botanical Gardens for the 50th Annual Zilker Garden Festival. We may not have landscaping at our house yet, but I love to go peruse the vendors' wares and ask questions of folks with greener thumbs than my own. This morning we were one of the first people to the festival, and by getting there early I laid claim to the only white-flowered wisteria I've ever seen, and certainly the only one for sale at the show, for a mere $35. I felt it was the crown jewel of the festival, and I think I was right; as Byrd lugged our prize to the exit, heads turned and people pointed and whispered at this unusual plant.

It's here that, in years past, I bought daylilies for my mom and bamboo for Byrd. The bamboo had since grown to ridiculous proportions in a huge tree pot in our backyard. I admit, we were terrified of it. This black plastic pot, which was almost 3' in diameter and 2' high, had started to bulge on one side. On Sunday, after consulting with the bamboo vendors at the festival, we decided it was time to tackle our fears head on. The bamboo needed to be divided for everyone's sake. It was such a monstrosity at this point that we couldn't move the tree pot, and we were worried that the creature was going to be rootbound.

Bamboo is, of course, notorious for spreading like wildfire across any open expanse of soil, and we didn't dare unleash ours. I had thought it was the clumping kind, which doesn't spread nearly so quickly, but yesterday when we rolled up our sleeves to address the problem, we discovered that my memory was totally in error. After taking a hacksaw to the black plastic, Byrd and I managed to peel the pot away. In the dirt, instead of tubers from a clumping bamboo, we saw woody roots--runners, the sign of a spreader.

Several hours later we had hacked up most of the bamboo. I carefully selected three small healthy sections to go into three medium-sized (portable, manageable) planters. The rest was chopped small, tied with twine, and placed on the curb for trash pickup. The extra roots went in the trash, and the soil that could be salvaged was spread out in low spots near the back gate.

So, until the day we finally get our landscaping taken care of, we have a jungle on our small back porch! Three pots of bamboo, a small white wisteria, a large purple wisteria, a young Sago palm, and a huge elephant ear. This morning I spotted some extremely fat bumblebees inspecting the new wisteria (our purple one didn't really bloom this year, I'm not sure why). It smells lovely, of course.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

MySpace gives me flashbacks

Why do I feel physically drained after spending the last two hours roaming through MySpace? It's not my first rodeo; I visited the social networking site about three years ago when I heard about how popular it was becoming. I expected something amazing, something I couldn't live without... and I was seriously let down. I went back today while doing research for a media/advertising class, holding out some serious hope that MySpace had a miraculous transformation.

Oh, the pain. As it did years ago, MySpace reminds me of a gaudy, hellish trainwreck of early 1990's websites. That's right, you remember back in the days when "good design" meant:
  • A massive background image that made the overlying text impossible to read.
  • Text outfitted in neon green to battle against the background image.
  • Neon green font resembles medieval handwriting, size has been set to "Infinitely Tiny," and for good measure, font styles "Bold" and "Italic" added.
  • A MIDI that immediately launches "Wind Beneath My Wings" at a volume that violates OSHA standards, with no clear way to turn it off
  • Dozens of adorable .gifs, preferably of cartoon animals holding flowers
  • Lots of blinking, flashing, shining, and rotating things, as if the page was designed by a crow
  • Page layout so whack it requires horizontal scrolling
Seeing (and hearing) one MySpace page like this was enough to give me a headache. It was all I could do not to grab the phone, call my senator, and demand legislation to protect me from such vulgar displays of bad design. What I found even worse was the fact that corporations also have their own MySpace pages (sometimes multiple pages) and despite having oodles of money to pour into a decent design, their pages were no better than the rest of the rabble. Adult Swim's MySpace page (well, one of them) was full of comments from visitors that were 90% advertisements for things like credit cards, cell phone plans, and penis enlargement pills. No stylish layout, no cool images, not even any apparent marketing for Adult Swim shows -- just a bunch of garbage.

Which leads me to this final question: WHY? What the hell is the big deal? Sure, I get that you can make your own personal space and post cursory shout-outs on friends' pages, but let's look at the bigger picture here. What the hell is the point? And why does anyone else really care? Sure, I found a truckload of pit bull groups on MySpace (more groups for pit bulls than any other type or breed, in fact)... but I've found larger, more organized, more mature, thoughtful, socially beneficial, carefully monitored pit bull discussion groups outside of that chaotic hellhole. When it comes to pit bulls, weeding out the crap is extremely difficult in the first place; a trip to MySpace only makes that crap much, much more prolific, much more ingrained, and much more difficult to sort out.

Conclusion: MySpace sucks. You wanna make friends? Get a hobby and join a local club. Do some volunteer work. Go out with workmates. If you're going to seek friendship on the Internet, please, for the love of all that is holy, learn a little bit about good webpage design! I'm talkin' to you too, corporate America.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Current Obsessions

For no particular reason, here are the things I'm completely obsessed with recently:

1. The smell of fresh garlic. Not the taste. Just the smell.
2. Mahjong Titans. So what if it's on my husband's fancy new computer? He'll never know I've been using his machine... unless he checks the high score list.
3. The song "Sweet Escape." Not obsessed in a good way - it's been stuck in my head for three days and I'm starting to lose my mind. Curse you, Stefani.
4. Japanese. Lately I've literally been craving the sound of this language the way people crave chocolate. Listening to J-pop helps obsession #4, but it only makes #3 worse. If you've ever listened to J-pop, you should know exactly what I mean.

Things I thought I would be obsessed about but I'm not:

1. Windows Vista. Pretty screensavers, pain-in-the-ass security. My husband can have it; I'll wait.
2. Tenacious D Movie. Haven't seen it yet and don't really feel the need to. I'm either less of a fan or more of a cheapskate than I thought.
3. Veronica Mars. A friend of mine insists I'd love the show. She even has a pit bull for a pal. But the name of this show turns me off. I keep thinking "Kim Possible." Blargh.
4. My new treadmill. Seemed like a convenient way to exercise, but it's pretty boring facing the wall for 30 minutes a day. I wonder if my husband would agree to wall-mount my computer in front of the 'mill?

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Really Great Day for No Particular Reason

I think it's bizarre that some days seem to go really, really well - even when it's not a holiday, no one's having a party, and I didn't win the lottery. No, nothing particularly fantastic happened today, but it was still a really nice day.

Today Byrd came home from work early (OMG), we put front porch lights up (OMG), the weather was gorgeous, and I got to see our resident bat swoop around in the evening twilight as we finished up the lights. You're thinking, eh, so what? Consider the following: Byrd worked 100 hours last week. I teased him that the dogs barely recognize him anymore, but truthfully, when he's working that much I feel like I've married a ghost. And we haven't had front porch lights since we built the front porch - almost two years ago. And bats are really really cute and they eat lots of mosquitos, which makes me a HUGE fan of bats, and especially excited that a bat has decided to live in a little decoration on the front of our house. I hope he brings a few friends!

The icing on the cake, though, was that Byrd and I spent almost 8 hours together, made several very important decisions involving money, the house, and his computer, worked on a household project... and despite the fact that home projects and monetary decisions are two things we tend to get into fierce debates ("fights") about, we did not even bicker the tiniest bit today. Not even a raised voice or an irritated tone.

Byrd bought me a plant to kill (because there's no garden to plant it in yet, but I really wanted it anyway) while we were at Lowe's looking at porch lights, and he smiled cheerfully while I pretended to hammer invisible nails into the porch siding (I need the practice). My nickname for Byrd is Mr. No Man, because sometimes it seems like everything out of his mouth is a variation on the word "NO." Tonight was a total change, however. Tonight he was Mr. Yes Man.

In exchange, I gave Byrd the encouragement and justification to order a brand-new computer from Dell. I do admit this was at least partly for selfish reasons... I'm sick and tired of troubleshooting the homemade computer he currently uses. Byrd was thoroughly pleased, though, because his nickname for me is The Tightwad - I hate spending lots of money on things that I don't think are necessary... and Byrd likes to buy some really unnecessary things. But tonight I even let him upgrade his new computer with the more expensive video card and extra memory. At first I was struck by intense fear that Byrd would go bananas when he realized I wasn't going to try to "reason" with him (control him), but he actually exercised extensive self-control during the customization part of the purchase, passed on several upgrades, and even downgraded a few things to reduce the total cost.

After much thought, I've come to the realization that I'm probably too controlling when it comes to spending money. I read somewhere that money matters are the #1 thing that married couples fight about, and we're no exception. I've got to loosen up a little. Byrd and I will probably always have different spending priorities and we just need to learn how to compromise with less fuss and more trust. I know, easier said than done... but at least today we took a solid step forward toward a more harmonious marriage. Maybe that's why today was such a good day!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sick as a... Dog?

Today I was sick as a dog. (Isn't that an odd saying? I wonder how it came about.) It's terrible to be sick on a weekend, especially when you've got a to-do list as long as your arm, though I admit I wasn't planning to do anything on the list anyway. But there's a difference between being forced to procrastinate and choosing to do the same. I hate to be forced into anything.

And I hate feeling sick. I think the dogs knew (perhaps the fact that I spent the entire day in bed clued them in). They were very quiet all day, and Dozer even refrained from his typical attention demands, which usually involve lots of whining and, when silent, an adorable pouty gaze that he knows I can't resist. Whenever he gives me that look, I have to pat his big white head and kiss his little furry cheek no matter what I'm right smack in the middle of.

Today, as I sat in bed typing on my laptop or flipping through TV channels, I would sometimes look up to see the D peering at me quietly over the foot of the bed. When it became apparent that I could not reach him all the way down there at the foot, he moved up to sit beside the bed, and rested his head on the mattress next to my hip with a little sigh. Then I could lean over and hug and kiss him to my (and his) heart's content. He was so sweet and so concerned (and clearly bored to tears, poor fellow). I guess you could say that Dozer is my "therapy" dog!

Monday, February 05, 2007

When You Really Gotta Go, Cut Out the Middleman

Here's a cute story. Or perhaps it's sad, because it just proves how boring and predictable our lives are. My husband and I often spend time in our respective offices. My office is upstairs with the dog crates and dog food. His office is downstairs, off the hallway that leads to the back door, which opens out to the dog potty area.

One evening after nearly an entire Saturday spent with each of us holed up in our offices, Felanie came to me groaning and snorting, which is her way of saying "Dinner time!" And I saw that it was, in fact, time for their dinner, so I got up and poured food into the dogs' bowls, and they wolfed it down like the fat little monsters they are. This is part of the evening routine.

What I expected next was for Felanie to come to me sniffing and "whispering," which is a noise like a hushed bark, a sign that she needs to go out and potty. (I would like to say that Dozer is smart enough to do this too, but frankly, he's not. He just tags along behind Felanie with an all-purpose whine that essentially says "I second her motion, whatever it is.") Then I use our telephone intercom to call down to Byrd's office and ask him to call the dogs down and go outside, because his office is right next to the back door.

This is the routine. I have never understood why the dogs come to me to be let out; Byrd is the one who ultimately opens the door if he's down in his office. But they have always, always, always come to me, as if they thought that I was the reason why Daddy took them outside (and I guess they would have been right).

Anyway, this particular evening I was waiting for Felanie to come ask me to be let out and was surprised at how quiet it was in my office. I looked around and noticed that both the dogs were missing. Then I heard a noise coming from downstairs, and as I listened harder I could hear Byrd's TV muttering faintly, and just a little louder than that, Felanie's "whisper" (which wasn't really a whisper anymore because she had to be louder than the TV). On cue, Dozer seconded: Whiiine. Then I heard Byrd say, "Okay, okay, let's go potty." And the back door opened.

For the first time ever, the dogs did not come to me to ask Daddy to let them out to potty. Clever old Felanie, she just cut out the middleman altogether. Now they have a new evening routine. Ask for dinner, eat dinner. Check to see if Daddy's in his office. If yes, ask him to let us out... if no, go find Mommy.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Waiting For the Dogs to "Turn"... Still

From my pit bull website I get nice emails from nice people and nasty emails from nasty people. When it comes to the nasty emails, I'm frequently surprised to get them, since they usually come from some person who has clearly done no research or critical thinking whatsoever, yet this person nevertheless takes it upon themselves to write an elaborate email to an absolute stranger (me), the contents of which are generally a combination of threats, myths, stereotypes, personal experiences, and so forth. Now, I'm not one to back down from a worthy opponent, but I prefer to match wits with someone who is at least equally knowledgeable and has something to contribute to a genuine conversation - not Joe Schmoe who's getting his "facts" from his beer buddies and the newspaper. So I try very hard to ignore or discard the really nasty emails, and occasionally I'll try to correct the misinformation someone tries to pass off as fact if I think it might do some good. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

One of the most common and frequent threats I receive tends to be the "I can't wait until your 'sweet' pit bulls turn on you!" Usually this precedes or follows some suggestion that one day my dogs are going to maul the entire neighborhood or some nonsense like that. Never mind that Felanie has already had eight whole years, and Dozer six, with ample opportunities to "turn" on me and countless other people.

When I first got Felanie, I totally bought into the any-minute-now-ticking-time-bomb theory. I was incredibly nervous around her for months. "Today could be the day that she flips out," I would think. In the back of my head (and I still remember it clearly to this day) I recalled a video I had seen on television. In the video, a reporter was chatting amiably while sitting next to a police dog. Seconds later, bam! Out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, the dog lunged at the reporter's face. I thought, "That could be Fel. One minute everything's fine, and the next, my face gets torn off by a bloodthirsty beast."

But day after day, month after month, and year after year went by. Nothing happened, except that I got a lot smarter. My fear drove me. I did a ton of research about dog behavior and dog attacks. And finally I understood what all the behaviorists and trainers kept telling me. "If you just learn how to read dog," they'd say, "then you'd never have this silly fear. There are always warning signs, there is always a reason." Years later I saw the same video clip of the police dog and the reporter. And as I watched it, I could see all the signs, and I knew the reporter was going to be bitten. Now that I could read dog, it was oh-so-obvious.

Meanwhile, as I got smarter, Felanie got older. She's been through dozens of baths and nail clippings without so much as a whimper. She's been through surgery and misery at the vet's office. She's watched me vacuum the house hundreds of times. Byrd and I have had our fair share of loud, furious arguments. We've had thunderstorms and massive remodeling projects. We've had a number of family get-togethers and total strangers come into our house. There have been, in sum, literally thousands of opportunities for Felanie to bite me for a perfectly justifiable reason (like fear of the nail clippers), and, similarly, infinite opportunities for her to bite me or maul me for no reason whatsoever, for her to "turn" on me. But it hasn't happened. Felanie's chin is now cinder-gray and her aging hip joints are more tender than ever. I catch her sleeping in the sunshine in our living room like a big kitty. She's eight years old and has become a very graceful, mellow, quiet old lady. I can't help but wonder how anyone could possibly think that this dainty old lady could "turn" on anyone... her best opportunities passed by years ago, and all she wants now is to sleep the days away.

Not to exclude dear Dozer, he is six years old, but he hasn't aged as quickly as Felanie. He's still a playful, rowdy, and clumsy fellow, and when playing he can be dangerous simply because of his sheer size; he requires more management in general due to the fact that he is both larger and more active than Fel. But like Felanie, he's endured so many trials of temperament that I have no fear of him ever "turning" on me either. I know his likes, his dislikes, and his limits. I can read him very well; he is quite the dramatist and likes to make his feelings known to everyone in a grand style. He's had six solid years to maul us all (and has even had some opportunities to chew up some little kids) and has simply failed to do so.

The simple fact is that very, very few dogs ever really "turn" on people. There's always a reason, always a warning. Millions of pit bulls (and millions of non-pit bulls for that matter) have lived to a ripe old age without "turning" on anyone at all. I expect my dogs will cross that rainbow bridge in the sky one day as really, really old dogs, after having lived a full life as beloved, faithful family members. Alas, a lot of nasty emailers will be sorely disappointed when my pit bulls pass on without biting anyone. I suppose it's good for those nasty people that, assuming my dogs have an average life span, I won't be able to say "I told you so" for many happy years to come.