Saturday, October 31, 2009


No sooner do I start stressing about Dubby, then he's gone. Just like that. Poof.

Dubby got adopted yesterday. The organization I am fostering for has a same-day adoption policy, so if everything checks out, the dog goes home with the new family right then and there.

I got the news while I was at the vet with another chicken (Bawk Bawk, who has a yeast overgrowth in her crop, nothing serious). I finished at the vet, raced home and dropped off the chicken, and sped to the adoption site, hoping to get to say goodbye.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Dubby's little tail as he was lifted into a car. The back seat was piled high with a brand new crate and tons of dog toys. I parked and raced over, but the car was already gone.

I felt like someone had just stolen my dog. The adoption counselor reassured me that the people were very nice, had asked excellent questions, and had spent a very long time playing with Dubby. I guess all I can do now is hope that the new family loves him as much as I do. That's the suckiest part of fostering; you have to have faith in the goodness of other people, or else the guilt and worry will tear you apart.

Dubby was wearing the tie Princess sent him, for the first time at an adoption site. I hadn't put it on him previously for site because I didn't want him (or his penmate) to mess it up; but he had finally grown out of all his other outfits and I felt like he needed to wear something to site. I guess it was a lucky tie!

Last night I cried into Dozer's fur for a long time. He really hates when I do that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life hurts, but not as much as a needle in the finger

When I stabbed myself in the finger with a syringe full of ivermectin this evening, it was sort of the last straw. Byrd didn't really understand why I was crying. "You're not going to die from a little poke," he told me. "It didn't really hurt that badly, did it?"

But the last two weeks have been full of ups and downs that have put strain on my heart.

Dozer's limping on his leg--the one that had TPLO surgery. The vet isn't sure why. X-rays are the next step, if the anti-inflammatories don't work (and they're not). Dozer's vet bills for the leg alone have reached almost $4K... And his allergy test results are still out. That dog is determined to drive us to poverty.

Star has been a very rude dog lately, and her prey drive has noticeably increased, so I'm taking her to remedial behavior classes. It was hard to hear the trainer say that I'm letting Star control too many situations. But it's true; I got lazy after having a couple of "easy" dogs who would bend over backward to please me. Even during the first session, I could see just how lazy I'd gotten. I really wasn't in charge, and Star was doing whatever she wanted. No wonder I was only getting compliance from her half of the time. So things are changing for Star, as I dust off the Boss hat.

National Pit Bull Awareness Weekend encompassed more than just a weekend. It started with a visit to city hall for a mayoral proclamation on Thursday--and I was late due to rush hour traffic (we don't have traffic in my outlying part of town, so I miscalculated my drive time).

Then there were two days of events. It was a really successful weekend in my book. I got to meet a lot of people and have some great discussions. And I even met a really nice pit bull owner who is practically a neighbor--she lives two streets over and I didn't even know it!

The aftermath of the weekend has started to crash on me. I have a newsletter to write, and the group has future events to plan. The Love-A-Bull website needs updating; I have a dozen emails asking me to post such-and-so on the site. I also have 300+ names/addresses, gathered over the weekend, to enter into a database.

Unfortunately, no one's adopted Dubby yet. He's had a few lookers, but there's always something in the way. The most promising family was denied by their landlord because Dubby is a "vicious breed." I hate crap like that sooo much. Here's that vicious beast in a purple monkey costume. He was not very pleased with the monkey-head cap but he kept his composure--even though most of the other dogs mistook him for a giant moving stuffy.

Yesterday, I had to euthanize one of my chickens, Squawkers. She had some sort of growth that was compressing her organs, and after several hundred dollars and x-rays, the vet gave me a grim diagnosis: imminent heart failure. I buried her in the backyard next to Penny the prairie dog and Cluckers, another chicken.

Piling on to the stress, I'm working two freelance jobs right now.

Then today, my old boss proposed that I come back to work for them as a contract labor copyeditor, with a possible permanent position coming soon. Of course, I totally said yes to that, because it means: 1) benefits, 2) steady paycheck, 3) Byrd gets off my back about "eating bon bons and watching soap operas all day long" (because to him, it's not work unless you're actually making money at an office).

Then I had to stop and think about how on earth I was going to do two freelance jobs, keep up with my websites and blogs, shuttle Dubby to and from the adoption site every day, volunteer with Love-A-Bull, AND work a full time position. And what about organizing my photos, cleaning my house, gardening, playing video games, reading, writing my never-finished novel, drawing, watching all The Office and Heroes DVDs I borrowed from my sister, doing training with Star, cooking edible meals, and going to the grocery store? Not to mention incidental events like vet visits, doctor appointments, meetups with the Love-A-Bull group...

My brain exploded.

By the end of the day, I had a bad headache. Possibly due to brain explosion, but hey, I'm not a doctor.

Then the syringe stabbed me, as if to say "Hey, you're a clumsy idiot. You have more work than you have time. Your chicken is dead. You're a lousy dog owner. You're a goody-two-shoes volunteer when you should be working, making a living. And you think this new job is a good thing, but it's just going to take you farther away from your family and your dreams." Such harsh words from such a hurtful needle! And I cried.

Let me tell you, it didn't help the headache at all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Organize Photos?

Here's a question for the folks who have a zillion photos on their computer.

What's the easiest, fastest way to organize them? (I have Windows XP and Vista.)

My now-dead disk drive had a LOT more pictures than I thought. I spent hours last night moving all the photos into my Photo folder on my desktop.

Right now, I have them all parceled out into folders, though the organization is not uniform at all. Some pictures are in folders based on the year ("1987"). Some are in folders based on the topic ("Pets"), then usually separated into subtopics, sub-subtopics, and quite possibly even dates from there. Some are labeled based on where I got them from ("Scans," "From camera," "From phone," etc.). And there's also a giant "Misc" folder that has another kajillion pictures sort of randomly crammed in it.

It's hard to search for a particular photo. Some of the pictures are actually named based on the subject shown. Others are named based on the date the picture was taken. And the most recent pictures still bear their camera-imposed number.

My sister recommends dumping all my pictures into one folder and using Windows Photo Gallery (which comes with Vista) to slap tags on each picture.

Which is fine, but it's going to take a lot of time and effort. So I want to be sure that's the best thing to do, before I do it.

How do you organize your digital photos? Do you use a special program, and if so, which one?

Tell me your secrets, or the puppy gets it!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My dad's a frikkin genius

So about three years ago, my computer's hard drive crashed and died fantastically. By some ridiculous coincidence, this happened about a week after my external backup drive also took a turn for the worse, and I hadn't had time to buy a new backup drive.

The end result was that I lost ALL my files. This included about a zillion digital photos of my dogs, including great pics of the late and beloved Felanie, adolescent Dozer, and our old foster dogs. I had taken all these pics with a digital camera, loaded them onto the computer, and kept them there without printing them, so I didn't have a hard copy.

Thus, my actual photo record only goes up to about 2001 (printed photos in photo albums), then there's a gaping hole from January 2001 to December 2005.

This is the oldest photo of Felanie that I have on my computer, from February 2006 (she was almost 8 years old):

Still, even though I swapped out the dead disk drive for a nice shiny new one, I held on to the old one, determined that some day, I would scrape up the money to send my poor drive to a disk-recovery service and beg them to salvage my precious memories. At the time, I think the disk-recovery people were charging anywhere from $1K to $3K to save dead drives; I don't have any idea what it costs nowadays.

I held on to the dead disk for three years. I clutched it in my arms and shrieked when Byrd suggested throwing it out. "Never!!" Some day, I would revive it! Byrd sighed and told me that when I threw out his broken computer equipment, I was applying a double standard. Preposterous! His stuff was broken. My disk was only sleeping.

Last week, my dad started chatting about his new computer setup at his house. He'd gotten some sort of thing called a Drobo that could hold four drives and ghost each other and blah blah blah about something or other. It clicked: "Hey, my dad's a computer scientist. My dad is a doctor of electrical engineering. Maybe he can fix my disk!"

I totally interrupted whatever the hell he was yapping about, ran upstairs, and dug out my dead, I mean sleeping, disk drive. I pressed my precious cargo into his arms and begged him to save it. "You can rebuild it. You can make it faster, better, stronger! Or at the very least, get my pictures off of it! Use your Drawbot or whatever you were just talking about."

"Er... Well, that's not what a Drobo is for..." He studied the naked, dusty disk drive dubiously, but he took it home with him.

That evening, he sent me this photo of my dead hardware, which he dubbed "Frankendrive."

At first I thought he was making some sort of ransom demand ("Pay me now and your precious drive won't get hurt anymore!"), but then he explained that the complicated getup was necessary in order to hook up my old-fashioned drive to a modern computer. Its three-year coma was apparently enough to leave it out of step with current technology.

Dad said he had made a first attempt to access the drive with his Windows machine (my drive had originally been running Windows XP), but it kept crashing and complaining about corrupt command files. Instead, he was downloading files from it without much trouble using his Linux box as the go-between.

And though it took all night, Dad got everything off in good shape.

So guess what that means? I gots me some photos!! (Well, not quite yet; I have to go over to his house and copy them onto a flash drive or something.) I don't even really remember what's on there, but hopefully there will be some good pics to share here.

The first photo that Dad got off my old disk drive:

Hmm, well, okay, this actually isn't from the 2001-2006 time frame at all. This is a scanned photo of the backyard of our house in Pittsburgh, where we lived when I was four and five years old. This is where I was bitten on the hand by a squirrel (I was trying to pet it by luring it with a tasty walnut), which at that age felt just as awful and scary as if the squirrel had bitten my entire hand off, thus instilling a terrible fear of the furry-tailed rodents for the next fifteen years.

I did finally decide to drop the fear when I started as a freshman at UT and realized that there was just not going to be any way to avoid squirrels if I wanted to survive on campus. This point was driven home when a campus squirrel--I kid you not--tried to BEAT ME UP for my peanut butter sandwich one day. I am dead serious--this squirrel punched me in the back, threw acorns at me, jumped on my leg, and hung off my arm until I lobbed half my sandwich at him. When he came back for the Fritos, I crammed as many chips into my mouth as I could and fled into a nearby building, leaving the spoils for the victor. Peering out the window at the little mugger, who was looking quite pleased with himself as he dug into the abandoned Fritos bag, I vowed to never waver in the face of squirrel hostility again.

Anyway, my Dad totally rocks.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Catching Up

I went the Ballet Austin season opener this weekend with Byrd. It was the first one he's ever seen. And he actually said he enjoyed it! (A huge improvement over his initial reaction when I asked him to come with me, not appropriate for reprint here.)

Oh yes, folks, a couple of pit bull owners went to the ballet (gasp!)! And we dressed up real fancy and refrained from dealing drugs during intermission and we did not bust a cap in the orchestra conductor or... okay, I'm too tired to come up with any more stereotypical imagery but you get the idea.

Star continues to have her ups and downs in agility. One minute she's focused and excited and ready to go, and the next she's totally distracted by cows in a neighboring field or the dog next to her or a bug that landed on her butt.

Dozer's leg has healed up enough that he can run around a bit, and he seems to know it. Allergies are his biggest problem right now.

Dubby is doing much better at the adoption site now that he has fur (no more sunburns), and now that he evidently realizes I'm coming back later. The adoption counselors tell me he sleeps most of the day. He goes to an adoption site that is much closer to my house, now, so my total daily driving time has been cut from almost 2 hrs to about 20 minutes. I drop Dub off at site every day at 11 am and pick him up every day at 7 pm.

I've had yet another bout of sore throat mystery disease, though this one lacked the fever and other symptoms. This time, I raced in to the ENT, who took some samples of the whatever and sent it off to the lab. Hopefully I'll have some answers by mid-week. In the meantime, I'm on steroids, which promptly kicked the mystery disease's ass. Hurray.

And on top of all this, there's the freelance work. After months of waiting around for this particular job, it is suddenly pouring down on me with a fury. I can't keep up!

So every day for me, for several weeks now, has gone:

Morning: Wake up, shower (maybe), check e-mail, do morning chores (chickens, dogs, dishes, laundry), get Dubby to adoption site

Noon: Make lunch, start copyediting

Afternoon: Copyedit, yell at Star to stop ringing the back doorbell over and over because it's too wet outside and she doesn't really want to go out and she knows it

Evening: Copyedit, prepare dinner, evening chores (dishes, laundry, chickens, dogs), pick up Dubby from adoption site

Late evening: Copyedit, do late evening chores (medicate dogs, close up chicken coop), dream about catching up with my favorite blogs