Monday, January 26, 2009

He said WHAT?

Byrd asked me today, "Do you want to have a baby?"

I was putting up things after dinner and this caught me totally off guard. This, from a man who insists he hates kids. I thought he was joking around.

I didn't answer. I asked him back, "Do you?" Still thinking he was joking. His usual response to my teasing suggestions about procreation is "HELL no."

This time he said, "Yeah, maybe."

I nearly choked.

Could it be that he's softening up a little, maybe feeling his age? Or is it the fact that I'm staying home, taking care of things, that makes him feel more comfortable with the image of a traditional family?

Not to worry, though. I won't be ready for kids for another five years, at least. I still have a lot I want to do before taking on that sort of responsibility. And then there are the dogs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Morning Fun With Water Heater

You know it's going to be a weird morning when you let the dogs outside and hear this odd rushing sound in the wall by the kitchen sink while you're standing there waiting for the dogs to relieve themselves.

I knew it was water. It just didn't sound like the usual running water through the pipes to cater to the toilet that is constantly refilling itself in the master bathroom. No, this was much more... free and unrestrained.

The dogs got very excited when I started to run. I didn't know where I was running, but I knew this was a situation that required running. I grabbed the phone on my way past, because I felt I was going to need it. I ran outside in my nightrobe and looked under the addition (I was thinking exposed pipes plus freezing weather). Dry. I went back inside and peeked under the kitchen sink. Dry. I then ran up and down the hall trying to pinpoint the location of the noise.

Yes, it was a glorious romp for the dogs. I nearly killed myself tripping over Star, who has not yet learned the art of moving the hell out of the way.

Then I flung open the closet under the stairs, where we access the water heater. This was a mysterious and uncharted land for Star. She crammed herself into the closet with me. There was water pooling on the floor, and it was spraying on the walls like crazy from somewhere around the water heater.

Phone call to Byrd. "We have a major problem. I need you home right now. Water everywhere." No more explanation needed. Over the phone, Byrd walked me through the steps to shut off the water to the house while he sped home with the yellow light on top of his work truck flashing as if he were a cop (lol).

I went out to the front curb, still in my nightrobe, and found the shut-off valve by accident when my foot plunged into a two-foot hole concealed by weeds and leaves, like a miniature lion trap. The plastic cover was gone and the hole was mostly filled in with dirt. I had to dig out a foot of dirt before I could access the valve.

Byrd got home and assessed the situation. The culprit? A pinhole leak in one of the ancient copper pipes connected to the water heater. Byrd went to Home Depot, bought some fancy new flexible plasticky hoses, replaced the copper pipes with the new hoses, and headed back to work. I mopped up the water and pointed a portable heater inside the closet to encourage rapid drying.

Byrd said he was glad I was home when this happened. I think that was his way of pointing out that I'm worth a lot to the household even when I'm not actively working on a paying job.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Spayed but not as stated

The shelter did not spay Star last Monday, though they claim they did.

There is a scar that appears to be from spaying. But it's a very old scar.

I took Star to the vet because, frankly, I didn't see any sutures and I thought I was going crazy. I wanted the vet to give me some answers. And the vet agrees, so I'm not crazy (about this, anyway)--my dog sure didn't get spayed a week ago.

I'm a little annoyed because the shelter literally went through the entire song-and-dance about spaying. They held my dog for three days in order to "spay" her. And when we picked her up, they showed us that "the sutures aren't inflamed, the incision site is very clean." (I took their word for it at the time; Star was wiggling all over like a crazed worm and I couldn't really see anything at all between her flailing legs.) And they warned us not to give her a bath, and keep her calm for several days.

What's worse, when we filled out the adoption paperwork, we felt sure she was already spayed. The guy helping us with the adoption forms said "Great, you can take her home today. That will free up space for more dogs!" Then he said "Oh, no, she hasn't been spayed, so you have to wait to take her home." The waiting was not a big deal--if they had actually spayed her. But they didn't. And what is implied by the guy's statement is that, because Star had to stay and take up a run for an additional three days, that meant some other dog got euth'd because there wasn't enough space.

Nice. Not that there's anything I can do about it now. I did gratefully give her a bath, though. She seemed happy to be clean and did a bunny hop across our lawn afterwards.

Loose leash walking

Dozer and Fel were never "loose leash" walkers.

Fel, in fact, was such an incorrigible puller that one of our area's top trainers, confident only minutes before that he could stop her pulling immediately, muttered "She's a tough case, eh" as she yanked him along, oblivious to his various tactics. It was something of an understatement. He gave up on her before too long, and so did I; she wore a Gentle Leader head harness from then on, and that stopped the pulling, for the most part. Once she got old and sick, the walks got a lot easier.

Dozer is not a well-trained loose leash walker. He hates walking, so it's more of a cowed slink; the leash is loose because he doesn't want to go very fast. Show him something interesting, and he darts ahead. He also surges forward when a car passes, as if he's trying to keep up with it, or maybe hitch a ride back home without me.

Star may be the redeeming dog here. We have been relentlessly training loose leash walking since day 2 (I let her do what she wanted on day 1, just to see). For a while, I doubted my ability to train loose leash, considering my poor track record. Sure, I can teach a dog to put toys in a toy box and close cabinet doors, but walking? But Star is learning--fast. This is the serious "heel," too, not the "as long as you're somewhere nearby" type of loose leash. It's kind of neat.

I'm using the "circle" technique to train. Basically, as soon as the dog gets too far ahead, out of the range you specify, you turn around and walk the other way. The dog goes "what the?" and turns and follows, and you reward as soon as the dog reaches the "heel" position. Then you circle back around and continue on with your walk. The first several times, the reward is probably delivered as the dog runs past to pull ahead (at which point you turn around again), but after a while, the dog realizes the reward comes from staying beside the walker's leg. Furthermore, the circling around causes the dog to focus on the walker (to avoid collision at the very least).

Then it's just a matter of constant reward for the "heel" position, slowly delivering the treats at a less-frequent interval as the dog "gets it," and at a more frequent interval if a challenging/distracting situation arises, such as barking dogs or people walking by. There's no punishment involved, unless you consider it punishment to walk in circles (I sure do--I get dizzy after a while!).