Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Class overkill

Star just graduated from her second obedience class. Not formal obedience, mind you--just the basics.

I made sure she started the second one immediately after finishing the first.

And now that this second one is over, I've already gotten her signed up for a new class starting in less than two weeks, which is a prep class for Pet Therapy (you know, dogs in nursing homes and schools and so forth).

She's also enrolled in an Agility Intro class that starts in June (exact starting date TBD).

There'll probably be some overlap of the Pet Therapy and Agility Intro classes. So I'm looking at two classes per week.

Is that excessive?

If she does well in either class, we'll pursue further education along those lines.

In all honesty, if someone in the area offered tracking classes at a reasonable rate, I would sign her up for those, too. Star loves to smell things. Everything. Constantly. Whether that's important for tracking or not, I don't know, but I'd be curious to find out. Unfortunately, the only tracking classes offered in the area are waaaay above what I'm willing to pay ($325 for 6 private lessons?!? I think not). So, that's off the table for now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A confession

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I never wanted a pit bull.

At least, not at first. Heck, I never wanted a dog. This all changed when Felanie was somewhat forced on me by circumstances. After she opened new avenues for me, broke down the walls in my mind and heart, and basically changed my entire life for the better, we got Dozer.

We got Dozer because he was a pit bull (even though, it turns out, he wasn't really) and I hoped to have the same experiences with him that I did with Fel. It is certainly the case that Dozer taught me even more about patience, understanding, and individuality, even if he didn't offer any new insights--he just reinforced the things Fel had already shown me.

But that wasn't the confession.

This is: For years, off and on, I've actually looked forward to the day when I would be pit bull-less again. I've repeatedly thought, "When my pit bulls die, I will replace them with something other than pit bulls." I have often wished secretly that my dogs were not pit bulls.

When I get tired of the struggles of pit bull ownership--the stigma, the stereotypes, the nasty comments from total strangers, the innocent-yet-hurtful comments from friends and family, the constant fight against legalized discrimination (BSL), the nonstop educational efforts (when you're a responsible pit bull owner, you know that every public excursion is an educational effort)--sometimes I just wish I had "easier" dogs. Dogs that people would look at and smile at and just accept, like a Lab or a Collie. Dogs that wouldn't make people think I'm a drug dealer, a thug, trailer trash, a mortgage-defaulting liar (no joke), or a gang member.

So when Fel got cancer a little over a year ago, I thought, "When I'm ready for a new dog, it won't be a pit bull. I'll get something else. A dog I don't have to fight for all the time. A dog that I don't have to justify owning. Something easy."

Then Fel died. Nine months later, I finally started looking for a new dog.

I wasn't looking for a pit bull. Not at first, anyway.

Yet, after I had carefully thought about and listed my criteria for my next dog and I knew what I was looking for in my next companion, I found myself drawn to the pit bulls at the shelter. While other people were cooing at the yappy Dachshund puppies or the jumping Jack Russell Terrier or the big goofy Lab, I was baby-talking to the butt-wiggling, grunting, grinning pit bulls.

My attempts to choose a dog other than a pit bull became increasingly feeble. This pit bull had a sweet smile, that pit bull was a good candidate for agility, and that one over there had obviously had a rough time and just wanted a quiet home of its own.

To be fair, I perused all the other types of dogs at the shelter. I did not want another pit bull! But that Dalmatian mix was deaf, the Lab mix shedded like crazy, that terrier was waaaay too hyper, and that really cute whatever-it-was pulled so hard on the leash, I couldn't walk it.

And so we got Star. A "pit bull." (I guess.) Even though I really didn't want another one.

Why? Maybe it's because, subconsciously, I know that the pleasures and positives of pit bull ownership ultimately outweigh the hardships. Or perhaps it's because I don't want to betray Felanie's memory by taking the easy way out, by giving up the fight even when I no longer have a stake in the outcome, by letting the bigots and the haters win. Or maybe it was selfish; Star looks a bit like Felanie, after all. Or maybe I just enjoy the stress and pain of discrimination. I don't know.

But it's clear I'm going to own pit bulls from now on. Even when I don't really want to.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I survived last week... but...

Okay, I'm still alive and my nerves are (mostly) intact. The last week was... um... what is the word I'm looking for? "Insane" doesn't seem strong enough.

Unfortunately, it didn't end with last week.

This week heralds the dawn of a new age in our house. It is the age... of STAGE 3!

We have been remodeling our house since the moment we moved in (nine years ago). The house was nearly unlivable when we acquired it. It had no A/C or heat, the strangest floorplan imaginable, two additions that didn't quite attach to the original house (we discovered old asbestos siding buried within two walls), and a mosaic of flooring that appeared to have been chosen based on what was on sale at the hardware store--pink, white, and aqua tile, black linoleum, pink and tan carpet.

Stage 1 involved demolishing and rebuilding the original house while we lived in the two additions. This took years. We ate and breathed sheetrock for longer than is probably healthy.

Stage 2, which we started last summer and are just now winding up, was the exterior remodel. This included the front yard (sprinkler system, gardens, landscape), siding, fence repair, and so forth.

Now we are at Stage 3: demolishing the crappiest addition (pier and beam with known rotten walls and floors) and entirely redoing it. The good thing about this project is that the addition has a single access point, a hallway that can be closed off with a door. So the debris should be contained.

Also with Stage 3 comes the total revamp of the A/C system. We are getting a new A/C unit, installing the interior unit in the attic rather than under the stairs, and redoing the vents. The reasons for this are two: one, the A/C unit we installed way back when we moved in was small and cheap, and was only supposed to be a temporary fix to keep us from dying in Texas summers. Nine years later, that temporary fix really, really needs to be swapped for something more efficient. And two, the upstairs loft portion of the house relies on a window unit for A/C at the moment. It's time to get some vents cut so we don't need the window unit anymore.

Stage 4, I believe, will involve the backyard, the back porch, and possibly the garage. We do not have a back porch or garage, but we plan to build one of each. The backyard needs to be leveled, fenced, and landscaped as well.

Right. So as of this week, I will be dealing with construction, once again, inside our house. Starting Thursday, we will have guys in here redoing the A/C.

Also this week I have three doctor's appointments; I am getting another book to copyedit; Star has obedience class; and I have standard household chores to deal with, complicated by the construction because the laundry room is... well... it's in the addition that's being torn apart.

Oh yeah, and on Saturday, my family is getting together for Moussefest, an annual event wherein everyone tries to make mousse that's better than my dad's. (So far he has retained the title and the trophy.) Byrd insisted on entering the contest even though neither of us have ever made mousse before!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Commission Hearing

So yesterday I went to a commission hearing on a proposed vicious dog bill in the Texas House. The hearing started at 2 PM. I figured I would probably be there for a couple hours.

Wow. So totally wrong.

The bill was not even up for discussion until 10:30 PM. I sat there in the hearing room in a tiny chair, taking only one bathroom break, eating and drinking NOTHING, for a full eight and a half hours listening to testimony on bills that I had absolutely no interest in.

Then I sat in the chair and listened to testimony on this bill for another hour.

During the entire time, the committee members (various state representatives) went in and out of the room freely--to eat, to go to another committee, to talk on the phone--chatted with each other, worked on things at their giant desk, and occasionally asked questions of those testifying.

By the time it got to our bill, which they intentionally delayed because of the sheer quantity of people wanting to testify against it (approx. 21--they were hoping to discourage people, and it worked, because a lot of folks had gone home by the time they got to our bill), only three committee members were still in the room.

Then the committee chair stepped out of the room as our bill came up. The bill sponsor was in the room, and the chair substitute permitted actual debate about the bill between the sponsor and testifiers right there in the committee room (this is not the way it's supposed to work--you are supposed to go in and tell the committee why you want them to pass or turn down the bill, and they listen and ask some questions--the bill sponsor is only there to introduce his/her bill and answer the committee's questions, not to debate). The bill sponsor turned this to his advantage, lambasting anyone who spoke against his bill with misleading and confusing statements about what his bill would actually do. Those average citizens who hadn't read the bill thoroughly and could not think or speak like a lawyer were at a loss to respond. They had come with written statements and were not prepared for a courtroom debate about the law.

Now, the person who went with me to this hearing, and was going to testify against the bill, happens to be a lawyer. And when she saw what was going on, she was chomping at the bit for her turn to speak, because she loves debate and she badly wanted to call the bill sponsor on his unethical and disgraceful tactics. But before she was called up, the committee chairman returned to his position, called a halt to the debate, and asked the bill sponsor to leave the room. The chairman then proceeded to treat the next two speakers (which included my companion) very rudely in an attempt to reassert his control over the proceedings. Which was a shame, because my companion made some excellent points that, it seems, fell on deaf ears simply because the chairman was more interested in hurrying things along than in actually listening.

My overall feeling about the hearing? It was appalling. It made such a mockery of the system. By the time we finally got to our bill, it was so late, and everyone was so tired and hungry, and the committee chairman was so pissy, that I think a large part of our message crumbled under the strain, and what little was left fell on deaf ears. Fortunately, some very powerful speakers made their presentations at the end, so I think a good impression was left on the handful of committee members that remained.

I will have to do this again for HB 925. But at least now I know to bring a book, lots of snacks, and a lot of patience.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

If I pull off this week...

...I will be really amazed.

On Monday I have a legislative commission hearing to sit through, which could last four to six hours or more--unless I can squeeze out early, which is what I'm hoping for.

On Tuesday there's Star's obedience class.

On Wednesday I have a meeting with folks to strategize for another commission hearing.

And I also have a literature textbook to finish copyediting by the end of the week, plus a teacher's edition of the same book to be arriving some time this week (I think) for copyedit.

Then there's grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, cooking, walks for dogs, and vacuuming. All of which badly needs to be done.

I am not too sure how this is all going to work.

This weekend was lovely but incredibly busy. On Saturday Byrd finished building my new desk/work station (AWESOME!!) and we cleaned my office. We were up until midnight. Today I recycled a ton of stuff (from the office cleanup), went to a Canine Good Citizen practice with Star downtown, then caught up with blogs. Mr. S keeps calling me, bugging me to play Warcraft with him, but I just don't have the time.

Now I'm off to knock out some copyediting.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Green egg white?

I tossed out the last of our store-bought eggs the other day; we'll be eating our fresh chicken eggs from now on.

I was convinced of the need to avoid store-bought when I cracked open the first of the last of the store-bought eggs, intending to cook it, to discover that the albumen (the white part) was a florescent green color.

I could not believe it at first. I thought I was surely seeing things. I popped open a second egg. This one was a normal clear color. I could compare the two and see the obvious difference in color. It was like someone had poured highlighter ink into the one egg.

I started frying, still thinking I had just completely lost my mind. Maybe the florescent part would go away if I blinked a whole lot?

Frying only made the difference more obvious, as the good egg turned a lovely white with a bright yellow center, while the odd egg's florescence fairly glowed.

All the eggs went in the trash. I don't know why that egg was green inside. But I think I'll take my chances with the backyard hens.

I tried to get a photo, but the color difference just doesn't show well on a camera phone.