Traveling Dog Lady: February 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

a fresh start

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, February for me is goal-setting month. I don't do New Year's Resolutions, I make changes in February, after all the New Year's people have dropped out of the gym and so-forth.

I can already feel spring in the air. Mom's birthday is in about 10 days, and that means the start of spring. I can hardly wait!

Last night, I learned that all the tip-toeing around I do in the morning so as not to disturb Gil while he's sleeping isn't necessary, according to him. I try to keep the dogs quiet, and do as little as possible each day while he sleeps in a bit. Well, he said he doesn't really care about the noise, it doesn't disturb him that much.

So, today, I took the dogs for a morning jog. We didn't even make a whole lot of noise, since I carry the kennel leads in my pocket, so I just went outside to put the leads on the dogs. We just went up around the corner and back, and I actually had them run. Hobie and I are both pretty much out-of-shape after sitting around all these weeks, and Hobie's nails are long, so I didn't want to overdo it.

Overnight, we had indigestion, and so I decided this morning that we are no longer going to eat late at night. Our lifestyle really sucks. One thing we can change is what time of the evening we eat. We will feel better, and will probably lose weight, too.

After my run this morning, I washed the dishes, and then went to the gym for the first time. Met Myriam there, and we laughed, learning how to use the treadmills together, and then swam about 8 or 10 laps in the pool. It was actually pretty good. I am not a gym-person, but I may actually keep doing this from time to time. It wasn't crowded, and it was actually much more enjoyable than I would've thought. The bathroom was disgusting, but I simply won't use it. I only live 5 minutes away anyway.

The reward at the end was getting a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee. Mmmmmm! My favorite. DD is right next door to the gym. There's nothing like an iced coffee on a sunny, spring morning. And no donuts or anything to offset the wonderful work I did exercising!

Friday, February 16, 2007

hector meets riley!

Took the dogs for a very short walk this morning. Man, they are climbing the walls with cabin fever. This weather is ridiculous. Hey, whatdya want? It's February in New England! It was ok enough to walk for a few minutes.

I tried to get them to walk about the back yard -- no go. They both stood at the top of the stairs on the deck and just looked at me as if to say, "Are you nuts, lady? We want a walk!"

My trusty kennel leads in my jacket pockets, I went back into the house, and brought the dogs out the front door for a stroll up the lane. Hector, loose, brought "Toy" with him (pictured above) and bounded down the steps. At the end of the driveway, he stopped, "Toy" in mouth, did a classic "point" stance, and ran up the road like a car in a drag race, dropped Toy partway down the lane, and started sniffing like the hound he is.

Hobie, wearing a blue kennel lead, and me, walking calmly behind the hound. The kennel lead had looped over Hobie's ear, so that his ear was being flattened under the collar part of the lead. Wearing big overstuffed gloves, it's not easy to put a leash on a dog. I fixed his ear, and moved on.

They sniffed and peed on everything in sight, and we went up to the cottage for a look around. The plow guy had piled the snow so high, the three of us couldn't safely approach the door. I will have to shovel there later.

Across from the cottage is where a new dog, Riley, lives. Hobie met Riley on a walk a few weeks ago, when Hector was recuperating from his foot injury. They smelled Riley today before they saw him.

I had picked up Hector's toy, which he had once again abandoned in favor of sniffing. I spotted Riley up by his house. Hobie spotted him visually next, and then Hector spied Riley.

In true Cesar Millan style, I used no words. I made Hobie follow me. Hector bolted, at first, towards Riley. Riley stood like a soldier, but ears forward and wagging his tail, very much the calm and assertive, yet friendly, dog. Riley made no sounds. Very interesting. He is a silent dog. Hector slowed, and they greeted. Then they play-bowed and started romping together in the snow. I called Hector's name a couple of times, but not showing any upset or panic. I kept walking, Toy in hand, Hobie in the other, towards home.

Once we got closer to our house, Hector said his goodbyes to Riley, and followed us home. We walked a few more minutes, abandoning Toy at various intervals, me picking Toy up and enticing Hector with it: "Got your toy!! I've got Toy! Where's Toy?"

Hobie's feet started to bother him from the cold, and that was the signal to head indoors and have breakfast.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

an anniversary, of sorts

This day marks 19 years that I've been clean and sober. February 8, 1988 is my A.A. "birthday" or "anniversary."

It's very strange mentioning this, since it seems like another lifetime and a different person who went through all that. The idea of having a drink, getting drunk, taking drugs, is just completely foreign to me now. I even stay away from prescription and over-the-counter medication as much as possible. An extra cup of coffee can ruin my day! Booze? I wouldn't even consider drinking today.

I have most certainly moved on. I haven't attended an AA meeting in about 6 years. The last time I went to one was around my anniversary when Hobie was just over a year old. I had been having a really hard time at work, and decided I needed something. So, on a Sunday morning, I went to the open meeting at the big Mass. Electric building out on Route 9. It's a wonderful meeting -- they always have free Dunkin' Donuts donuts and coffee.

But this date of February 8th is a bittersweet one.

On my very first AA anniversary, February 8, 1989, my dear friend Bob died, apparently due to the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. The circumstances of his death are not clear, but everyone in our circle of friends believed it was suicide. My ex-husband shared an apartment with Bob at the time, and found Bob dead in his bedroom that morning -- the morning of my first AA anniversary. Being newly clean and sober, his death devastated me. Why had I been given a second chance? Why me? Why had Bob died? Why him?

Here's Bob, on the left (he's the guy who looks like Steve Perry, the lead-singer of Journey). I'm the bride. Ex-husband is the guy w/the glasses.

Whenever we'd tell Bob that he looked like Steve Perry, he'd always reply, "I don't look like that f***in' guy!!" lol. I still think of Bob today whenever I hear a song by Journey or AC/DC. He loved music, and so did I. We had such great times together, playing records (yes, vinyl record albums) late into the night.

One of my most vivid memories of Bob is the time I had taken a vacation day from work. I was not married to the guy with the glasses yet. In fact, I was living across the hall from him and Bob, with my boyfriend at the time. Halfway through the day, I heard music coming from their apartment, and I realized Bob was home, too. I called him and he said he had taken a day off, too, and was trying to figure out the lyrics to a song on the brand-new Fleetwood Mac album "Tusk". The song was "Sara". He asked me to come over and help him figure it out. We played that song 1,000 times that day, with pen and paper, figuring out each word that Stevie Nicks baaaaah-ed in her barnyard-animal-noises way.

Sara, you're the poet in my heart,

Never change,

Never stop,

And now it's gone,

It doesn't matter what for,

But when you build your house,

Then call me. Home.

To this day, whenever I hear that song, I know that Bob is sending me a special hello from wherever he is. And yes, I sing along, and smile, and know every single word.

In the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life", Clarence the Angel says something about each person touching our lives in so many ways. Bob breezed in and out of my life quickly. He was there in 1979, and he was gone in 1989. Ten very brief years of friendship. We were like a family, me, Bob and my then-husband. Bob lived with us on-and-off for most of our brief marriage. He was like a teenage son to us, and was always a troubled soul. He would come to our doorstep in the middle of the night, having tried to live on his own and failed... and we would always take him in. Months later, some kind of fight or argument would occur (just like a family), and away he'd go. Only to return a few months after that.

In 1983, Bob returned to our house and brought with him a little friend. A black Labrador Retriever puppy whom he had named "Timba." Bob had brought the little pup out into the woods for a walk, and was trying to think of a name for her. He looked up at the trees, thought of trees falling and someone saying "timberrrrrr!!" and came up with the name Timba (with an "a" on the end, not with a New England accent!).

Husband-at-the-time wouldn't let the dog in the house. He had been brought up in a "dogs live outside" family. I loved that dog, and would sneak her in the house when husb wasn't home. I would take Timba for long, long walks every morning. All of the neighborhood dogs would follow us. We'd walk all the way from our house in Princeton to the Holden town line and back again. I looked like the Pied Piper with all those dogs! We'd drop them off at their homes on the return walk. We lived way out in the woods, and leash laws were a concept of the future in 1983 in central Mass.

By the time that particular chapter ended, Bob owed me a lot of money in back rent and household expenses. I was the breadwinner of the household, putting spouse through college and working full-time and going to school myself. I made a deal with Bob. Give Timba to me, and you won't owe me a cent. He accepted the deal. I divorced the other guy and got "custody" of Timba. Bob and my ex got an apartment together. Everything had come full-circle. When I met the duo, they were sharing an apartment, and after 10 years of "Three's Company", there they were, bachelor roommies again. It would be in that apartment that my ex would find Bob, dead in his bed, having taken too many sleeping pills. The ex would live in that apartment for several more years, with Bob's cat (ex hated cats!), until he married again and moved away. Every so often, I or someone else in our circle of friends bumps into my ex. The last time I saw him was in a grocery store parking lot, literally two weeks after Timba died. How odd. There are no coincidences.

One of the best things that ever happened to me, was due to this person, Bob, being in my life for ten years. Timba became my best and most loyal friend. At her death in 2001, I had known her longer than most of the humans in my life. Timba was the inspiration for my avocation as an writer and author -- the stories I've written about her are the basis of the creation of my web site Here's Timba, in 1983, in the kitchen of my house in Princeton.

Bob, I will always be grateful to you for bringing Timba into my life. I know that the two of you are together right now, walking in the woods together, singing songs from the 80s, and remembering me.

I downloaded several different versions of "Sara" onto my iPod. I'll play them today, along with some AC/DC, Journey and REO Speedwagon. And I'll think of Bob, and smile and cry at the same time. Here's a picture of Bob and me, in 1982, in that other lifetime.

Friday, February 2, 2007

getting back out there

The snowstorm that was supposed to hit overnight missed us, and the sun is shining and it's actually sort of warm outside, for a February morning.

Hector's foot is healed. He is putting all of his weight on it.

I decided to take both dogs for a walk, to start reaching towards our goal.

I did what Cesar recommends: visualize the walk from start to finish.

1) What kind of leash/collars am I using? Regular buckle collars and matching leashes. No choke collar, no Illusion collar, no skinny leash.

2) How long of a walk? 20 minutes, maximum.

3) The route: To the end of our dirt road, across the main road, up the next dirt road on the left, and back again. Skip the third dirt road on the right -- could be cats and ice. I'm not ready for that.

Everything went exactly as planned.

Hector was way out in front. Since this was his first walk in over 6 weeks, I didn't make a fuss about that. He needed to burn off that energy. So, instead, I looked at it as a job for him to burn off the energy. It would be neat to give him a pulling job like a sled, bike or cart. He would be really good at that.

To prevent myself from having a muscle-pain flare-up, I constantly checked the leashes, making sure there was no tension on the leash. So, even though Hector was out in front, the leash was slack and my shoulders were down and relaxed, not tense.

On our return trip, Hobie wanted to go up the third dirt road on the right. I leash corrected, Cesar-style, a couple of times, while using my old standby command "Not today" which Hobie knows means: we're not going that way today!! (of course!) and we went home.

I went into the fenced-in back yard, me first, and dropped the leashes after entering through the gate. Both dogs stood and waited for me to take the leashes off. Then, they play-bowed and romped around for a minute or two.

We went inside the house, and I washed the dishes while they laid down and rested. (Exercise, followed by discipline.) This is our daily routine, regardless of whether we walk or just go out into the yard. The exercise is always followed by my washing the dishes while they rest.

After they've rested, we do "yogurt time". This is so that I, as pack leader, can eat first without having to eat a whole meal. I eat several spoonfuls of plain yogurt, and then I give them each a spoonful in their doggie bowls. This is followed by dog food which I scoop out with my hands, hold in my hands prayer-like, and make each of them sit before putting the food from my hands into their bowls.

After that, I let them finish the cat's leftover food from last night. They each get half of whatever she did not eat. It is a job, actually, because they clean her bowl and get all the dried on cat food off!

Then, they each get a "chewy chew", which is a beef or chicken-flavored rawhide stick. They, of course, have to sit for the cat food as well as the chewy chews.

This is affection.

Exercise, discipline, affection!! Ta daaaaa!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

february, spring is just around the corner

To me, February means springtime is not too far away. March is better.

My Mom's birthday is in March, and her birthday signals for me the official end of winter.

My thoughts now turn to opening our house on Cape Cod. I think about it constantly now. The days are getting longer, but not yet warm enough to turn the water back on or stay there overnight (no heat except for a fireplace in the living room).

2006 was special because we were able to wait to shut down the house due to the warm weather. Unfortunately, I jumped the gun and shut down after my last visit on November 29th. But we could've kept going there through the holidays and into the first week of January. If only we had known. And so, the place sits, empty and cold, waiting for the warmth of our hearts and sunshine.

I am afraid, still, to walk the dogs together. At the Cape, I have no choice because we can't fence in our yard. So, I have to walk them, on leash. It will be a challenge, since I've now gone months without walking them together, due to Hector's foot injury and my not feeling well on most days.

We live within one minute's walking distance of one of the most beautiful beaches on Cape Cod. Dogs are allowed, yet there is a strictly-enforced leash law. The irony: you can bring your dog to the beach, but you can't let him run loose. And if you have more than one dog, then you really have to have control over them. Everyone and their brother brings their dogs to "our" beach. Try controlling 170 pounds of male, excited dog when you're only 5 feet tall and they've got at least 20 pounds on ya. It just ain't gonna happen. So, I end up leaving Hector at home, and taking Hobie to the beach. Hector is somewhat afraid of water, and doesn't require as much activity as Hobie does. Still, it makes me sad that I can't handle them confidently enough to enjoy the beach together. (Notice that the dogs are loose in the photo above, snapped during "off-season" when nobody was around.)

February is my goal-setting month. I don't do New Year's resolutions. I do February resolutions! Goal #1 is to start walking the dogs on leash, on long walks, again. Hector's foot is still bothering him a little, so it's not time yet. But by the end of March, we have to get back to that, or I will lack the confidence I need when we return to the beach.

Here are photos of Hobie, taken during a visit to our beach, after Thanksgiving.