Friday, December 26, 2008

In Other Dog News...

CNN has recently had a few great dog items online:

1. This video was posted yesterday-- a dog who walked into a grocery store and stole a bone, caught on the security cameras.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in the Motherland.

It was another great Christmas with my fam. We had a slight break of tradition this year. In unprecedented fashion, my sister and niece didn't spend the night, so our morning started after the crack of dawn for the first time ever. Even I slept in until 8:45, which I think might be a first for a Christmas morning. Though Christmas rituals are big with my family, it was actually pretty nice-- we all got to sleep in (particularly good, since I was the first to hit the sack last night at 2A), the dogs got their special breakfast and had time to run through the presents, and I got to leisurely cook a spread that was ready to eat the second C-Bond and Mini-C walked in the door (I recommend everyone try the sweet potato and goat cheese frittata recipe located here-- it's easy, comes out looking beautiful, and is delicious. Also try making it with sage instead of thyme).

My family has a tradition of wearing matching pajamas on Christmas. I absolutely love this. This year, we all had polar bear pajama pants. It's the first time I've ever had mens' TV pants, and I've now decided that I'll never wear normal pants again. They're so comfortable. The dogs also got into the act. The three girls had on holly and snowman jammies.

Harry's been getting lots of extra snacks this week and his pair no longer fit, but he still got in on the act-- he just wore his fancy sweater.

We ate breakfast and then opened presents (as opposed from us opening everything and then starting in on cooking-- I think Mamala appreciated being able to have her two cups of coffee before having to ooh and ahh), and the dogs thought it was great fun. My family had a fantastic cat named Daisey for sixteen years who passed away this past March. Daisey had a special role on holidays-- bow collector. For most of her life, Daisey was a formidable cat-- she'd actually been given the nickname Tanker. She also thought she was human, and had to be in the middle of everything. Mamala is huge on Christmas bows, so we always have a lot of them. To keep whatever dog we had at the time from eating them, we would stick them on Daisey. She loved the attention, and would waddle past everyone, demanding that they tell her that she looked mahvelous. We all miss Daisey terribly, and I knew that this tradition was something that was going to be missed. Fortunately, Izzy stepped up to the plate.

C-Bond also gave Pedro cardboard brick boxes full of gold coins (and a mushroom, a la Mario) and money, and those ended up on Iz too once she fell asleep. When she eventually woke up, she had no idea what was going on--even moreso than usual. She was
shocked to find everything on her. It was hilarious.

Alice thought having everyone sit around with food and unwrapping paper to play with was good fun. However, she wasn't particularly fond of the other dogs stealing her present-- a replacement boombox. She wore herself out protecting it from thieves.

She didn't need to work so hard, though. Izzy has this funny routine: she falls asleep on the trash bag of wrapping paper. This was her third Christmas, and she did it for the first time last year. We just thought that she got overwhelmed with the activity and passed out, kind of like how cats will sleep in their litter box if they're stressed out. But then she did it again this year, and very deliberately. Truthfully, it could be because she was stressed out-- Izzy can barely remember back thirty seconds ago, let alone a year ago.

The dogs managed to keep their clothes on until early afternoon. After that, they started falling into various states of disrepair.

Alice managed to keep her clothes on all day. Even now, she's still running around with all four legs in their proper sleeves. I find it interesting how much she doesn't mind wearing clothing, especially when she's so difficult when we try to put it on her.

The rest of the day passed... well, I don't want to say quickly, but without much to note. Mainly because I got the greatest gift: a gift certificate to create a personalized Franklin-Covey planner filler for 2009. It's awesome-- you can pick your layout and add in personal pictures for each week and month. So basically I'll have an Alice-themed planner, with a few weeks awarded to cherry blossoms, the Urb Fam, Chicago, the Capitol, and a fantastic picture of Katie telling Sean off over the summer (I don't remember why, but he undoubtedly deserved it) timed perfectly for the week of his birthday. The only issue with the planner is that you have to deal with Franklin-Covey to design and buy it. Their website and customer service is a ridiculous display of unprofessionalism and disorganization. Seriously, their site would be better designed by an angry warthog. I
hate dealing with them, but I love my planner once I have it too much to track down a different brand. And if this one works out, this will be the best planner I've ever had. Anyway, the majority of the afternoon was spent dealing with that debacle, but looking through my pictures was pretty fun. I tried to make themes for the months, or at least group pictures that feel like they could fit the month. I had no trouble with finding Alice for the later months of the year (November and December were particularly easy), but months like April were a little more challenging. I realized I'm really looking forward to doing some fun things with Alice this spring.

The dogs didn't seem to mind the quiet afternoon. They spent a good portion of the time wrestling over toys, running in a pack, and begging for treats.

They got along so well today that when Pedro decided to tease them by sticking them all in Z's pen, they didn't seem to mind in the least. They just all curled up and fell asleep. Alice was really cute-- she snuggled her nose into Harry. I think she likes him!

A big coup tonight is that Reggie the cat made a late-night appearance. Reggie spends a lot of time in my parents' room-- he's not a big fan of the dogs (but apparently is a big one of curly ribbon).

All in all, it was a fun, relaxing day. I've had a really nice time visiting with my family, and it's been fun to see Alice finally have a pack of dogs of her own.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alice the Traveling Puggle.

I've been waiting for this for a while-- the annual pilgrimage to the Midwestern Motherland. Normally I go alone and fly in, but this year I decided to bring both the Alice and the Human Male. We thought about flying, but my luggage regularly goes missing at the airport by my folks', and Alice is four pounds heavier than the carry-on limit, so she'd have to get shipped. I can guarantee she would've been "accidentally" left on a runway or ended up in Peru. Or even if she did happen to make it, there'd be a spitting match between airlines about who should pick up/drop off luggage when you take more than one (like last year). So we decided to rent a car and drive.

Alice is a fabulous car dog. Typically she just curls up on whoever's in the passenger seat, but the car we rented is bigger than my regular car and she made a little nest for herself in the back.

It was so cute. She stayed like that for most of the trip. Here she is in Pennsylvania:

After what seemed like a day and a half but was likely seven hours, we made it to Cleveland. I don't know what it is about that town, but I love it. Every time I've been there, I've had a moment like Liz has in that one episode of 30 Rock. Cleveland's cute, normal, there's fun stuff to do, the food is divine, and the people are soooo nice. I would flee to The Cleve any day. We met up with my dad and Harry the pug there.

Harry is both the world's biggest and happiest pug. He looks like a bear cub, his tongue is too long for his head and is always sticking out, and he either wants to play or snuggle all the time. He's the best. We expected Harry and Alice's meeting to be pretty easy-- Harry's a pretty calm boy. In actuality, Harry got so excited and started wiggling everywhere, it got a little overwhelming for Alice. But now, two days later, things are perfectly fine. They've started playing little games and so far Alice is doing all right-- she has a bit of a hard time figuring out if a dog is trying to play rough or attack her, but so far, no one's bleeding or wearing an eyepatch.

We stayed overnight in Cleveland and bummed around town on Saturday. We took Alice to two important landmarks: first, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...

... And then to the
Christmas Story House.

If you look closely, you can even see the leg lamp in the front window. And yes, as we passed by, there were ten-year-olds running their hands up the leg.

Saturday afternoon, the five of us packed up the cars and headed to Michigan. We got to the Holmstead around 7P or so, and were greeted by the family-- Mamala, my sister C-Bond, niece Mini-C, and brother Pedro-- and the Zoo (two more dogs, three cats, and two birds).

Izzy is an absolutely adorable pug, but not the brightest bulb in the bush. She's also an alpha-dog, which makes the stupid even funnier. She's such a sweetheart. She likes toys and to pose for pictures. We were expecting Izzy and Alice's meeting to be one extreme or the other-- either they'd be the best of friends or each would both end up at the vet in a hurry. Interestingly, it's fallen in between. Izzy barks a lot at Alice, and Alice has snipped a few times, but she initially seemed a little afraid of her. She's doing a lot better now-- they've started playing tug of war with their toys.

Then there's Z. Z's the latest addition to the family-- the folks got her in April. This was the first time I've met her. She's very small, somewhere around five pounds. And about a pound of it is hair. She's extra cute and timid. There's even a joke in the family that Z stands for Zeta, because that's the type of dog she is. At the same time, she'll jump and nip if you look like you're thinking about taking her beloved toys. I think that she's been the toughest introduction for Alice so far-- two dogs who don't quite know how to react to one another.

I haven't spent good time with the cats yet (two of them aren't fond of the dogs and spend time in their own domains), but Emmie has visited my room a few times. Mainly to complain that she has to eat soft food instead of her precious dry food, and then eat all of Alice's food. You can tell slightly from this picture that Emmie is very, very crosseyed. Sometimes this makes her a little cranky. So does not getting enough love and attention. And she'll let you know. She can be obnoxiously cuddly.

I'm not sure if it's made the news (typically the Midwest doesn't, especially Michigan and/or if New York is getting creepy weather), but the Midwest has gotten slammed-- even by Midwestern standards-- with snow the past few weeks. We thought we missed the big snow of Friday, but then there was another big storm Saturday and last night. I'm guessing there's been upwards of six to eight inches just this weekend, on top of the foot or so they got on Friday.

A few days ago, my brother decided to make a maze for the dogs in the backyard. Being so small, they'd otherwise get stuck in the snow. They all love it, and spend a little time every time they go outside chasing each other in it.

We don't know if Alice has ever seen snow before (last year it slushed three times in DC), but she seems to be taking to it quite well. I let her out as soon as we got to the Holmstead and she flopped into a pile. She sticks her face right into it and gets a little snow beard-- it's really adorable.

All in all, things are going better than anticipated. Everyone's getting more accustomed to the others, and Alice is starting to get more obnoxious-- a sign that she's feeling comfortable. I'm looking forward to seeing how things evolve over the next couple of days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Give it up!

Next to Alice and America's Next Top Model, one of my great loves are non-profit organizations. I did my master's thesis on fundraising marketing techniques for actively-opposed non-profits, and options for my dream five-year plan include either a. Volunteering enough time in the next few years that I can switch to working for a non-profit and justify my current payrate; or b. Convincing my company to take on a non-profit organization as a pro-bono project and give them some fabulous consulting work (because working from home in my jammies whenever I want is a perk I may never be willing to give up).

This past weekend was the Red Cross' National Day of Giving, and while I didn't give them a donation (don't worry, S-Money, one's forthcoming), we had an altruistic Saturday. One thing we did was drop off some supplies at Alice's shelter.

Getting there requires both going on the Beltway and Route 66 (which I'm pretty sure will take you to Mos Eisley's-- it too is a wretched hive of scum and villany, with the added bonus of bumper-to-bumper traffic), so we haven't been there since we got Alice. Plus it's taken me about a month to get mentally prepared. The three times I went there are a little fuzzy as I jumped into dog ownerdom, and I do still get a little emotional when I think about how we got her and how close we were to not getting her (both stories I'm not particularly ready to write about), not to mention how much she's enhanced my life since she came home. I remembered that they had a lot of donations, and allowed new owners to pick out items from the piles so their new pets could have treats, toys, or a bed at their new home. So I knew they were doing okay overall, but needed certain things.

One item that we were dropping off were towels. Their website pleads for towels, and-- as weird as this sounds-- I feel it's my duty to donate them.
I don't know all of their purposes, but most notably for me, they get used in the dog's kennels for them to snuggle. One of the memories most vivid in my mind about the first time we saw Alice is that she was laying in a purple towel nest she'd made at the back of her cage when we got there, and she got up and walked over to the bars to see us. Even now, she prefers blankets, towels, and rugs to a nice pet bed (excluding the papasan chairs). I have to drop off towels. So we loaded up some extras (for some reason, I'm practically a towel baron, I have so many) along with a few more items.

When we got there, the piles were even bigger than I remembered. Not so many towels, but beds, toys, treats, bags of food, you name it. Who knows why there were so many-- people giving up pets, cleaning house, or just feeling philanthropic-- but it was heartwarming to see people give. At the same time, their lobby seemed unusually full of birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, and even some turtles, so I decided to check out who else they had. As of Saturday, it was 67 animals-- 29 dogs, 29 cats, and 9 companion animals. It's a good-sized shelter, but for crying out loud! That's a lot of pets that need homes.

For the past couple of months I've been hearing more and more reports on how worried non-profits have been because of the economy and number of foreclosures. Money's tight this year for everyone, but this doesn't need to be a bad thing, per se. Beyond the money issues, I think it gives us a unique opportunity to readjust our priorities and focus our attention on the things we truly believe in, in all the ways that we can.

As I see it, there are a number of ways to give to animals this season, including in manners that don't cost money. Below I'm listing a number of suggestions under three headings: giving material wealth you already have, giving of your time and talents, and monetary items that do double-duty.

Give your stuff
  • I don't know about every shelter, but as I mentioned earlier, Alice's is desperate for towels, so I assume it's universal. If you've just gotten new ones, too many to know what to do with, or have some that are getting rasty, drop them off at a shelter.
  • Have extra batteries laying around? Shelters can use those, too. Even AAAs.
  • If you bought a bag of food or treats for your pet and you decide to switch, many will take them, even if opened. It's best to check with the shelter, though. Also, drop boxes may not take open goods.
  • If you got your pet a toy and they'd rather play with the packaging, give that. Less clutter for you, and it may end up being someone else's prized possession.
  • Got the itchies from your detergent? Give it to the shelter. Again, just make sure they'll take it if it's opened.
  • Remember that pet lizard/hamster/mouse/fish/creepy and/or fuzzy thing you had when you were growing up, and how it died and you took the cage and supplies down to storage? Dig it off and give it away. If you haven't gotten a replacement yet, you probably won't before another inch of dust settles on it.
  • Something I didn't see much of at Alice's shelter were leashes and collars. If the pet's already fixed, you can take them home that day. Had we taken her home the day we got her, we would've been totally up the creek. If your dog has outgrown a collar, you wanted a longer/shorter/stronger leash and it's still in good shape, you could completely make a new owner's day.
  • Pet-training books work well for coasters, but there's a chance that someone else might find it useful for, oh, I don't know-- training a dog. Give it up. If you do just happen to meet Cesar Milan and he asks if you own any of his books, he'll probably understand if you said you donated it.

Give yourself
  • I'm sure any shelter would tell you that they'd love someone to come in and help-- walk the dogs, do paperwork, clean cages, whatever.
  • If a shelter's not your thing or you're worried about getting attached to animals and starting a zoo, contact other organizations in your area (particularly those serving the elderly or chronic conditions) to see if they have pet-relate programs. For example, in Albany, NY, there's an organization called Pets are Wonderful Support (PAWS). I LOVE this group. It's a program through the Albany Damien Center, an organization focusing on people with HIV/AIDS. PAWS provides people with HIV/AIDS assistance in taking care of their pets when they are physically or financially unable to do it all alone. People are needed to walk dogs, take pets to appointments, drop off food, you name it. Non-profits in your area may have similar programs-- it's definitely worth asking around. I couldn't imagine having a serious illness and having to worry about losing your best friend on top of it.
  • Last month there was a clean-up event at our dog park. We took Alice and spent a couple of hours over there. Besides an unfortunate Frenchie meet-up spot happening right where we were raking and sweeping (Alice's mortal enemy are young Frenchies), it was great-- Alice got to run around for a while, and the park still looks great, even six weeks later. Even taking the time to pick up the crap that lazy, high-and-mighty owners feel too big and important to clean up is a good deed. Besides it being a public health hazard, no one wants to see it. Just bag it up when you're doing your own.

Give your money's worth
  • I'm a firm believer in giving donations as gifts if the people won't go nuts that you didn't give them something. Even in some instances, it can be fun to give it to someone who would. And I'm not just talking as a Christmas/Hanukkah/Christmukwanzukkah gifts here. Have to attend the blessed Winter Wonderland nuptials of Bride- and Groomzilla? Make a donation to a great group in honor of their magical fairytale wedding day. They don't need to know how much you give, just tell them it was a charitable donation. Even if one or the other is suffering from a bad case of tulle poisoning, at the very least, they're bound to like the idea of someone outside of the 500 people who attended the event knowing that they got married. Some good organizations include the Humane Society (though don't donate to the Mohawk & Hudson River HSUS-- they're bastards), Baghdad Pups, and of course a local rescue or shelter program. A google search or Charity Navigator can help you track one down if you don't already have one in mind. Also keep in mind groups that do sensible animal advocacy, like Compassion over Killing. Their recipes alone deserve a few dollars, and they have a campaign going on this month that every dollar donated will be doubled.
  • Along the same vein, if you're betrothed, how about making a donation instead of giving out favors? Your guests may appreciate that you're not making them go home with a plastic glass slipper full of crap mints (trust me-- I know from experience) or a CD with your faces on it and the song that was playing when you met (Grandma may not care for the lyrics to "99 Problems"). This is super classy, even Martha Stewart-approved. The organization might even print up little table tents for you (I only know of one off-hand, but others likely do the same). If all else, make a nice little note in the program, print your own table tents, or write a little note to each of your guests letting them know. Asking for non-profit donations instead of gifts is also a nice way to go (and again, Martha says yay to it).
  • If it's an occasion/person that you must get a gift for, check to see if an organization has a store or products. Off the top of my head, if someone's really into cats, dogs, or animal rights, the Humane Society's Humane Domain has a ton of stuff. If they're into girls, the Pinups for Pit Bulls 2009 calendar is now out, and the girls are cute. Lots of them also sell pet toys, so you can get your furry friend in on the act, too.
  • Likewise check out if your favorite stores donate money to charities (Planet Dog does, for one, and they have the CUTEST peppermint candy toys right now). That's a great way to get precisely what you're looking for while still doing good.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Separated at birth?

When we first got Alice, we very quickly realized with those big, gooey eyes and oversized ears, her resemblance to Falcor, the Luck Dragon from The NeverEnding Story, is uncanny.

If she had been male, we surely would have named her that. Now we just call her a Luck Dragon and talk to her in that low, slow drawl.

After we got her and would sit down to eat, she was timid and would sit on the floor like a good girl, waiting patiently to see if she could get a sample. As the weeks went on, she got more brave, and then started perching on the arm of the sofa, practically on my shoulder, staring at my plate like a gargoyle.

Then about a month or so ago, there was that big news report on the baby pygmy hippo that was born at a zoo in Australia. Some of the pictures looked so much like Alice, I began to wonder if she was a pygglo instead.

Then today we got her a red hoodie to replace her obviously past-season orange owl sweater. My first thought after seeing her in it was, "Look! She's Albert the Running Bear!"

And then it occurred to me, no, she's not a bear with that serious face. She's a Tenenbaum.

was a beagle, after all.

Although as I write this, Alice is sitting next to me on my red suitcase. In her hoodie, she's gone practically invisible.

And I remember, she does that with our bedspread, too. That skill may mean she's not really a puggle at all, but actually a really, really cute Predator.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

She showed me.

Alice is obsessed with our kitchen rug. OBSESSED. Half the time, it's not even in our kitchen-- she bites the corner and brings it to her hiding spot (otherwise known as the place where you have to walk over her to get to any part of the house) and chews on it. And chews. And chews. It's a pretty hefty rug, but the sides are starting to fray already (we've had it for about a month). She's even started trying to pull it away when we're standing on it.

After putting it back about half a dozen times in a span of five minutes on Sunday, I decided that I'd let her play with this remnant of fabric I bought to make her a coat. She's been running away every time we try to put her sweater on lately, so I thought that if she could see it as a toy, she might be more willing to wear it. After running laps around the house, the drooly purple polarfleece flapping in the breeze, I decided that it was fair to give her her Christmas present. When not chewing on the kitchen rug, she spends a lot of time lounging and chewing on a crocheted blanket my mom made me a few years ago. To protect that, we decided to get her a blanket of her own, one that she can snuggle and chew on as much as she wants. We got it a few weeks ago, and I've been looking for excuses to give it to her. Trying to keep her from eating her coat before I get it made was good enough.

Immediately, she began running all around the house, the blanket trailing from her mouth like a superhero unclear on the concept of a cape. The past two days have been full of cuteness, with her cuddling with her precious blanket.

Today I got home from work to find the crocheted blanket and her Christmas present in front of the TV. The Human Male said that she had pulled them out of the bed and had been lounging around on them all day. "At least she's not chewing on the rug," I say, just as Alice trots by, carrying the rug. She walks over to her pile of blankets, s
its atop it, and starts happily gnawing on the rug.

Alice: 1. Humans: 0.

Friday, December 5, 2008

They're no sugarplums...

My dad sent me a link to the best website EVER yesterday: It's so much fun. You load in pictures of heads and they get put on elf bodies and dance. I spent a substantial part of the day loading in pets' and friends' heads.

Here's one that I made of Alice, my parents' dogs, and one of their cats:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

I also made one with five Alices, but I could only watch it once. Just the thought of five Alices frightens me a little.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

America's Next Top Puggle

I picked up the mail today and our building's newsletter was in it. And guess what? Alice was voted Pet of the Month! I won't be near a scanner until Monday, so I took a picture of her write-up instead.

Here's what the text says:

Meet Alice. She's a 2-year-old pug-beagle hybrid who was born to rock the fashion world. As you can see from this picture, she has a knack for accessorizing her super chic sweaters with stylish hats. Just wait, you'll see all the celebrities copying her style soon! When not jet-setting to the fashion houses of Paris and Milan, Alice enjoys spending time at the dog park, chasing balls and running with the big dogs, and at home, lounging around in her humans' white chairs. She maintains her girlish figure by eating snacks-- and LOTS of them. The next time you see Alice strutting around the complex, stop her and say hello. She loves meeting new fans!

Needless to say, Alice is very excited to have been awarded such an esteemed title. Right now she's primping to go have some kibble with Miss Jay.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Let the holiday season begin.

We took some pictures of Alice while we were on the road for Thanksgiving. Here she is in what she now claims as her yard in the PK, New York:

Here's Alice with her new friend Brodie and her precious Santa rug. Her claim on it started a small turf war on Sunday.

On your way out of the PK, you have to cross the Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge. Apparently the bridge has been dedicated to a couple of different people in the past. I asked the Human Male if you had to be either dead or a President to have the bridge named after you, and he said no. So I'm now starting a campaign to have it renamed the Lady Alice McFurpants Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Here's Alice in Jersey: Jersey:


Here she is on the Lady Alice McFurpants Delaware Bridge:

And in Maryland:

Once we got home, Alice jumped into bed. Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking and got a new bedspread a week ago. It's black with white filigree on it. Otherwise known as Alice camouflage. She now hides on the bed in the dark and chews on things she's not supposed to have.

Today, she got into the holiday spirit by eating a Christmas card from the Red Cross.

Alice is now thinking supporting non-profits is a tasty activity.