Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where's Alice?

Can you spot Alice in this picture?

How about now?

Dirty Dog.

Going through my camera tonight, I was reminded that last week we took Alice to the Dog Park. She spent a good amount of time rolling around in the dirt. She was so dirty, she came back home as a sandy-colored dog. I went to brush her off, and all it did was leave a handprint along her side. So we gave her a bath.

I didn't realize how dirty Alice was until I saw the water when she was done. The pictures don't do it justice, but if you look by her foot, you can get the idea. It was easily three shades darker than the tub. She was filthy!

Every Girl Loves a Valentine.

A couple of days ago, Alice got a valentine from Mamala-- otherwise known to her as the Treat Lady. One thing Mamala sent her was a Valentine's Day collar. Alice looks so freaking adorable in it, I can't stand it.

This picture was one of very few that came out nicely. For the most part, she was either scratching at it or dancing around like a little crazy circus dog, like in these:

In truth, I think those pictures were even cuter.

Also included in the box was a canister of pink tennis balls. Alice loves all tennis balls, but she goes berserk over the pink ones. I don't know why-- maybe it's because
I think they're the bomb, and she reads that I'm excited about them. Personally, I like to think it's because she's a girly dog and knows that they're just better than normal tennis balls. I pulled the canister out of the box and Alice immediately flipped out and started reaching for them. I put the canister near her and she grabbed for it. She couldn't get a grip on it, so I opened it up and gave her one. She happily accepted it and ran away, bringing it to the pile of blankets she made on the bed. She hasn't gone anywhere since Thursday without one in her mouth.

Today, the Human Male and I had to go out for a while. When we got home, we realized that we were stupid humans and hadn't taken out the trash. Alice had spread all of the garbage in it around the kitchen. I noticed a little while after we cleaned it up, I had missed an item. Alice had taken the tennis ball container back over to her crate.

Quite frequently, Alice will do something so cute that not only makes me fall in love with her all over again, but also remember that it's the simple things that make life the best. This was one of those moments.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love for Kujo!

Good Morning America (and now CNN) had a segment on today about two women who found a stray dog and are taking care of him until they can find a permanent home. His name is Kujo, and he's adorable. He looks like the happiest dog. He was sitting on the couch between the women, a big smile plastered across his face.

Besides him being abandoned by his owner (and I won't get into his name-- maybe someone thought they were being funny), there's a part of the story that really bothers me-- Kujo had a note tucked under his collar written by a child, giving his name, stating that his owners couldn't feed him anymore, and that he's great with kids. While it is possible, I doubt the kid wrote that on his own accord ("I'm great with kids, too" doesn't seem like something a six year old would write. "I like kids" would be more on course). I know a lot of shelters are full and many rescue programs aren't doing very well right now (this was out by The Cleve, too, which is unfortunately experiencing some bad employment issues), but I find it really manipulative and low that someone would have their kid write a note. Especially if you're going to let your dog loose to fend for himself.

Other than that, I love this story. I love that these two women-- both in their upper 70s-- are taking care of this big baby. It shows that there are good people everywhere--people that will step in where duty calls, even if it's not the most convenient of situations.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dogs and Relationships.

I don't have kids so I don't know for certain (nor, for the record, am I the "Dog Mom" type), but sometimes I wonder if having a dog is kind of like raising children. You have to give them a routine, make sure they're well-disciplined, feed and clean up after them, take them to wherever they need to go, and play with them.

When there's two owners, you have to make sure that you're both on the same page to give it consistency. But I think (as with kids) there are a lot of "Don't tell Mom" moments.

For example, I'm petrified of letting Alice off the leash outside of our apartment (with the exception of the Dog Park). Occasionally I'll let her off and let her run around the back of our building if it's closed to cars, or walk free if we're taking out the garbage. The entire time, though, I'm convinced something will happen to her—even though she's three feet away, a neighbor could steal her, she could get picked up by a giant bird and taken away, or a car will magically appear out of thin air, careen through our courtyard, and hit her. I don't care if it's irrational! It could happen.

The Human Male, on the other hand, is far more relaxed with her. Sure, he calls her back when she's run too far ahead, but he lets her walk on the hill behind our house without a leash and has taught her to jump up the five-foot wall to get there. What if she falls off and hurts herself?! What if the giant bird that couldn't catch her when I had her out on her leash comes and swoops her up as she's jumping?

We each have certain tasks we're more apt to do for her. I tend to make sure her food and water dishes are full, that she has an endless supply of toys in her basket, cover her with blankets when she might be cold, and give her people treats. The Human male tends to take her out when it's cold, give her baths, puts her in her crate when we're leaving, corrals her under the sheets at night, sits on the couch with her, and throws her tennis balls.

With this fairly clear division of labor, I'm quick to assume that if something happens that can be linked to one of these activities, it's clearly that person's fault.

Fast forward to this morning, around 7:30A. I'm not dressed, the Human Male's just gotten up, Alice hasn't been out, her Kong's not made, and we're due to catch an 8A bus. I walk into our office and find that Alice has done her business in there. And not a little bit, but a huge, disgusting mess that spanned an obscene amount of the room. I was livid. She was great about not going in the house until a couple of weeks ago, right around the time when it got cold-- and, coincidentally, right around the time that the Human Male started taking her out by himself.

I said some quick choice words to both the Human Male and Alice (the Male getting far worse—Alice clearly knew she did something wrong and didn't need to be additionally punished), and the next half-hour was a busy mess of trying to clean it up, get Alice situated, get dressed, and hurry across the ice field to the bus.

Once on the bus, the Human Male and I had time to talk and discuss what may have caused Alice's accident. The Human Male, knowing full well that it's his job to take her out and make sure she's emptied while it's below 60 degrees and sunny, immediately assumes it was the piece of orange he gave her last night. I immediately accept that's what happened. Obviously it was the orange he gave her that made her erupt.

That's when I remember something.

Yesterday I went to the store and got some prunes. Yeessss, I'm the one person under the age of 70 that loves prunes. Mock all you want, I think they're really good. The store only had orange essenced ones (i.e., prunes infused with orange flavor), which sounded strange but I really wanted prunes, so I decided to try them out.

I had a couple after dinner last night, and Alice, per usual, followed me into the kitchen and did her begging routine when I was in the cabinets, stretching her greedy paws up my legs and giving me her big, gooey eyes. And, per usual, I decided to give her a little taste of what I was eating to see if she'd actually eat it (it can go either way-- such as with the pita). She happily snapped up the bitsy piece I gave her and trotted off to go sit on the couch. I thought nothing of it and went about the evening.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Sammy.

With all the events of last weekend, I'm behind on all of my correspondence. So I've spent the past couple of days catching up on reading e-mails. One listing that I'm on is called The GirlyGirl Army. I love them-- they've got their pulse on fun stuff like Daily Candy, but it's all far more affordable and all animal friendly-- plus more interesting.

Each week (sometimes more often) they send out a bulleted list of interesting items. I read their weekly posting yesterday, and I have to tell you all about one thing on this week's e-mail. The bullet reads as this:

A truly evil person beat this puppy so badly that both his eyes burst out. PLEASE take action for Sammy or donate a few dollars like we did here.

I can't not support a dog who needs help. So I clicked on the link and was taken to Noah's Ark Rescue in Okatie, SC. This week they received a gorgeous dog named Sammy, who had been beaten so badly that he had to have his eyes removed on Thursday. The pictures at the bottom of the page are horrendous. What the hell is wrong with the perp that could possibly allow them to think that's okay do that to an animal?!

What's equally as disturbing is that on Sammy's page log, they start by saying that "This is one of the worst abuse cases I have seen in a while." One of the worst they've seen in a while. There's not a single word in that sentence that's not incredibly disturbing. Looking through the website, it does seem like they take on some desperate cases, but the fact that they've seen similar or worse (or even less) is disgusting, to say the least. I truly hope that whoever did that has theirs coming.

I donated to the organization and figured that was it, but just a little while ago, I checked my e-mail and there was a nice letter from the rescue with a short update on his condition. I figured if they cared enough to send out a response to donors (whether it's canned or not), Sammy ended up in the right place after all. It's such an awful shame it couldn't have happened a week before.

Do you REALLY need that coffee today?

I know no one has spare money right now, and I'm going to write another post on Sammy in two shakes, but for those of you with an extra $5 burning a hole in your pocket and looking for a good cause, Alice is a contestant in the Humane Society's Spay Day 2009 Contest. An entrant gets points for each dollar donated in their name to benefit spaying and neutering programs (there's a $5 minimum donation).

As I might have mentioned before, Alice was brought picked up and brought into her shelter pregnant. She lost her puppy and had to have an emergency spay. I oftentimes wonder why someone down the road hadn't gotten her fixed-- it could've spared her a traumatic experience.

Alice's chosen non-profit is our local shelter, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Last year, 1,186 wonderful pets were adopted from there, and we frequently see their new arrivals being walked around the neighborhood.

If you'd like to vote for Alice, her page is located here. As incentive, a little bit of
quid pro quo action between us with your favorite charity is negotiable...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time for Inauguration Detox and More Alice.

The past 24 hours have been intense. Monday night we went to the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Gala, thrown by the Texas State Association at this awesome hotel called the Gaylord in National Harbor, MD (interesting tidbit, there's a whole part of Maryland that's South of where we live in the VA. Huh).

The party was a sprawling, slightly confusing hootenanny. First, it stretched across four or five rooms, I think. There was a main room, a room upstairs, a stage below that was shaped like a barn, yet another room, and a secret hidden room somewhere where the corporate sponsors had a super swanky surf and turf dinner-- that started an hour later than it was supposed to and cut into the "general" gala.

Interestingly, they didn't tell us any of this. Upon arriving at the hotel, we had to go through metal detectors, check your coat, exchange your ticket for a bracelet (the paper type you get at festivals and the like), and then hang out in an area, where we were banned from the rest of the hotel for a while (except for some random room where a really loud and awful country band was playing, and a small, very slow drink stand in the basement, where wine was $9 glass. Then, after half an hour waiting to buy the drink that once they let us in, it's an open bar.

The weirdest thing was that to get to three of the rooms, you had to pass through an entryway where teenagers dressed like little Texas-flagged monsters and semi-offensively trashy cowboy cheerleaders cheered as you walked through. When I realized what they were doing, we actually turned around and waited for a bigger group to go in. It was strange. Yay! You're old enough to legally drink! Good for you! Whaaaa...?

But after that, the party was fun, the food was very good, and the vibe got better and less strange as the evening went on. In comparison to the Latino Gala, the dresses and hair weren't as nice, and Ugly Betty's dad wasn't there. But who was in attendance instead?

The astronauts from the last Endeavour mission and Denzel Washington.

Real live astronauts! And let me explain to you in one word how much better looking Denzel is in real life: Yeowza. He's handsome.

Funny aside, a friend of mine that I'd gotten separated from went running past when he came on stage, and she yelled back, "Gotta go-- it's my second husband!" Denzel spoke about the troops and Texas, and it was really sweet.

Yesterday, the Human Male and I ended up on the Mall for the Inauguration. It wasn't really intentional. Basically what happened is that a couple of days ago I found out that the parade, which I planned on attending instead of the Inauguration, started at 2:30P, even though the gates opened at 7A. The concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday had people waiting in line by 7A, when the show didn't start until much later in the afternoon. I decided it was too cold and not worth waiting all day to see a parade. So we decided to just head into DC first thing in the morning, see how the vibe was, and get some Chicago-style hot dogs from Sticky Fingers.

We woke up at 4:30A and caught a 6A shuttle into DC to beat the big crowds. The trip took substantially longer than on a normal day (52 minutes, as opposed to the regular 15 with traffic, tops), but it was completely painless, and we saw a huge motorcade go by-- the motorcycles even had sidecars. The busdriver dropped us off on a corner a couple blocks away from the Mall, and we were immediately greeted by Inaugural Volunteers, who were happier than Mouseketeers.

"GOOD MORNING, and welcome to DC! Going to the Mall?" they all asked chipperly.

"I guess so!" we answered, not nearly as cheerful or coherent at pre-7A as they.

So that's how we ended up at the Inauguration. Our position was great-- we were four Jumbotrons back, in between the Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian's castle. We had a clear view of the gorgeous sunrise over the Capitol. We sat next to a fantastic woman named Adrienne, a DC local originally from California; a hilarious brother and sister who I think grew up near the area, but the sister lives in California now; and several generations of a wonderful family who I believe were locals. We watched the Mall go from pretty busy to packed, as the spots in front of us fill in and spill out a mile behind us.

Standing in the cold for six hours was pretty rough, but we had Oprah, Gail, and John Cusak Jumbotron spottings, playing "What the hell is Jay-Z wearing on his head, and do he and President Bush Sr. shop at the same hat store?" for a bit, wondering why so many people were wearing fur, and making many Girly-Man comments when Arnold Schwarzenegger was shown to keep us entertained. Though I must say, the vibe alone was more than adequate.

There's nothing much I can add to the throngs of news reports on the event, but I can concur. I read early this morning that the feeling was much like DC's Mardi Gras, but with less beads and no exposed skin. And I agree-- it was ebullient. People were just so kind and excited, so willing to make sure you were warm enough and that you had a snack to eat. I swear, I haven't heard that much laughter since I moved from Chicago.

When the program started, it was a very special place to be. Aretha Franklin (and her glorious hat) were amazing and got everyone cheering, and apparently Yo-Yo Ma has a HUGE cult following-- very loud cheers for him (I unconsciously gave him the bullhorns myself). The piece his group played was beyond words-- it reverberated off Smithonians so beautifully, and hearing it while viewing the gorgeous was stunning beyond words.

I'm pretty sure everyone heard the speeches, and again, there's nothing that I can add that hasn't been said already. The thing that struck me the most about
the event was how proud everyone there was to be an American. For so long, "American" has almost been a dirty word, or it's uncool to say that you dig the U.S. I have to say, I became far more patriotic after I moved to DC, in a sense that I feel much more protective of it in terms of traditions and making sure our different ways of life are understood and respected (mainly by those in power, who I feel lose touch easily with those they represent when they live in a postcard city and have so many advantages in it). It just felt like the people who were there felt the same-- they love their country, faults and all, and want to get it back on track in all the ways that it's gone off, and want to do it together. People waved their flags in joy and pride of their country, for who we are, for who their neighbors are, for all we can accomplish. There was a lot of love in DC yesterday-- everyone was family, as we should be every day.

I'm extremely grateful that I had all of these great experiences in the past week, but by last night I was definitely ready for the show to be over, to get back into normal life and start focusing on things in my daily life. For example, my job and little Alice. I feel like she's been getting neglected with all of our time out of the house over the past few days. I mean, we actually went to the dog store without her while running errands on Monday to save time. Can I tell you how guilty I feel? There is no amount of reception empanadas I could've brought home to her to make up for it.

I'm looking forward to this weekend, which will be spent in TV pants, watching TV for 48 hours, and snuggling with the dog. Until I can do that, here are some Alice-enhanced pictures of this week's events.

Alice considering chewing the big boot:

Alice uncertain about the cowgirls:

Alice spending quality time drooling over Denzel:

Alice with a guy with the big hair at the Inauguration:

Monday, January 19, 2009

We interrupt this broadcast with a special news bulletin...

I'm going to break from the Alice-centric nature of this blog a bit for a couple of days to discuss this week. Inauguration Week is a huge deal in DC, and it's the only time when party affiliation doesn't matter. Everyone here loves the opportunity to have a couple of drinks and wear a fancy dress or tux (as opposed to any other day, when people have a couple of drinks in their normally terrible and unstylish ensembles-- DC is not known for its fashion prowess), and it doesn't matter who you support. Everyone's here to get down and have a good time. Many people here also have a mandated four-day weekend (bridges to/from VA will be closed down except to buses and cabs, and many office buildings are going into lockdown) and are spending the whole thing celebrating.

The Human Male and I have a friend who is extremely well-connected and always gets us into great places. Since I moved here a year and a half ago, she's gotten me into the White House twice (including on the Christmas decoration tour), the National Christmas Tree Lighting, countless Hill receptions, and parties on the roof of 101 Constitution and the SEC, and now into two Inauguration Galas. Last night we went to our first, the Latino Inaugural Gala, which was held in the main terminal at Union Station. Union is this gorgeous, elegant old train station that was redone several years ago and runs DC's metro system, the MARC trains to Maryland, and Amtrak, and also has a pretty good mall in it. I was so excited when my friend called us up yesterday morning and told us she had extra tickets. Not only did that mean that we'd get to go to a party in a fantastic location, it meant another night of seeing the Human Male in a tux. Talk about handsome!

The place looked stunning. They had two or three stages set up, three big screens, and blue-lit everything. It was a good night for celebrity-spotting as well: the David who was the runner-up on American Idol sang the national anthem (fabulous voice), Rosie Perez and Wilmer Valderrama addressed the crowd, George Lopez played the cowbell with "house band" War on "Low-Rider". Marc Anthony was slated to perform (with subsequent J.Lo sightings possible), but a couple of us partook of the night's specialty drink the Latini (I think it was a raspberry martini) and decided that we'd had enough fun by 11:30 and left. I just read he started playing an hour after he was supposed to, so it was probably best we left when we did.

We had the best time. The highlight for me was that around 10:30, we realized we were standing next to the dad from Ugly Betty. I don't want to say I totally flipped out, but I did jump when one of my friends decided we needed our picture taken with him. Talk about a silver fox. He was very gracious and didn't mind us accosting him for pictures-- he actually said "That's what I'm here for" and made jokes about his pacemaker going off. We had Latinis in our systems and ate it up. Of course, I proved true to myself and did something embarrassing-- in addition to being giddy, I got an e-mail while the picture was being taken and my purse vibrated. He turns to me and goes "You're vibrating". I tell him that I just got an e-mail, and he said something along the lines of me being dangerous because I vibrate. He later mentioned it again when another one of my friends asked for a picture.

While the Human Male and I have had a lot of fun, poor Alice has had to stay at home. I had high hopes for taking Alice to some of the outdoor events, but many of them don't allow pets and the weather's been way too cold for her to go to the other, lower-key ones (by the way, the HSUS has a nice press release on not bringing your pets to events last week). It's even been too cold to go to the park. So she's been spending a lot of time at home, much to her chagrin. And ours-- she's been going through a little regression period lately and has been extra clingy and troublesome. Both the Human Male and I have ended up with bruised faces this week from getting head-butted by her out of excitement, and the carpet cleaner's had a steady workout the past few days. It'd be nice to take her with us so that she can feel more secure, like we're not going to leave her and never come back.

Since she hasn't been able to attend, I've decided that there's nothing wrong with imaging what it would've been like had she actually gone last night. So here she is singing with David from American Idol:

And swooning over Wilmer Valderrama:

And rocking out with George Lopez and War. More cowbell!

And talking with Betty's dad:

This morning, she's exhausted. She's decided to sleep in late, snuggled up with the Human Male. I think she's got the right idea.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Pita.

Last night, my office held its Non-Denominational Inauguration Celebration. Yes, that's what we called it. What happened is that everyone was busy with year-end deliverables and no one got around to asking HR (which is out somewhere in Washington State, as far away from our office as possible) if we were getting funding for a holiday party this year until the first week of December or so, and we couldn't throw together a decent party that quickly amidst year-end havoc. So we convinced them to let us instead hold a non-denominational, apolitical celebration, in keeping with the DC tradition. The powers that be okayed a non-denominational Inauguation celebration, so we stuck with it.

We ordered from a place called Lebanese Taverna, which makes fabulous Middle-Eastern food. It's our go-to restaurant in the office-- we ordered from there for our holiday party last year, too, and anytime we have out-of-town coworkers visit, we take them there. It's great. Many people work from home on Friday, and we're coming up on a four-day weekend, so for game prizes, we gave out tupperware for everyone to take some home leftovers. When they
delivered our food, they brought us apparently all of the pita bread in the world. I'm not kidding-- it was about 4.5lbs' worth, sliced into quarters. Figuring that, even if frozen, there's no way that our office could go through that much, the Human Male and I brought home 1.5lbs of it. It literally takes up a quarter of our freezer. As a result, we've decided to have it for every meal for the next month.

This morning I was having some hummus and pita bread for breakfast, and Alice ran up to me, putting her greedy little hands on my leg and giving me a look that said "Why haven't you given me any yet?" Since we have so much, I decided to give Alice a full slice. She immediately took it and ran away. After about 30 seconds, she came running back into the kitchen, mouth empty.

This is not uncommon. Alice loves to get big treats (plus it's funny to see her run around with them), but she doesn't always eat them. Typically she hides them-- next to our shoes, in front of the TV, the most obvious places you can think of. So I walked around the corner and saw it next to the table. She saw me looking at it and immediately picked it up-- as if one, I would steal her food, and two, we didn't have 300 more slices in the freezer. She spent a good part of the morning walking around with it in her mouth, disappearing, coming back without it, leaving again without notice, then magically reappearing, carrying it.

I saw it in a few places (next to the couch, in front of the bathroom door) before it disappeared. I thought she might've finally eaten it-- it was starting to get pretty ragged. I didn't give it a second thought and went about my day.

Around 1P, I decided to make the bed. One of Alice's favorite activities is "helping" to make it, which consists of standing whatever part of the blankets or sheets you're pulling up and licking your face. Today, she must've been tired from her pita-toting marathon, as she just laid down on the bed. I pushed her out of the way to put the pillows down and went back into the living room to do work. Maybe 20 minutes or so, I walk back into the bedroom to discover that she knocked over half the pillows. This, too, is part of her "helping" process.

So I walk over to straighten them out, and, lo and behold, I found the pita, tucked safely behind the pillow.

It's completely gross, but she's been so intent on hiding this stupid piece of pita, I didn't have the heart to take it out and throw it away (plus that would also make me the person who steals her treats, and her dirty looks would be justified). Plus it's on the Human Male's side of the bed. He might not even notice. Or maybe he'll think I did something nice for him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Dog Park.

Between DC's cold winter wind and the shortened daylight hours, Alice's visits to the Dog Park have taken a serious hit. She's a pretty active dog and needs to get out and do things, or else she steals our rugs. I've definitely had moments when I've considered leaving work at two in the afternoon to run her down at the Dog Park. But alas, I have to keep my job in order to keep her in treats, which means working full days.

Alice loves the Park and misses her daily trips. It's so sad when we're walking her around the neighborhood at night and she starts tugging her way over there. Poor dog, she hasn't grasped the concept of time of day and daylight yet.

So on the weekends, when it's not too cold and windy, we bundle ourselves up like Randy in A Christmas Story, grab some coffee, and take her over. This past weekend was no exception.

The Dog Park is a really neat place. Physically, it's a long and narrow stretch of land, butting between the back of some plain, cinderblock warehouses that are crying for a mural and a river, stretching a good six blocks or so and about half a block wide. I think it's owned by the city, but a dog group supports it, and one man apparently is in charge of all of its upkeep—organizing clean-ups, refilling the poopy pouches, etcetera.

What's most special about the Dog Park is who shows up at it. First, there are the dogs. While you frequently run into purebreds like pugs, labs, Bostons, greyhounds, or Frenchies, you just as often (if not more frequently) find some interesting mixed breeds—labradoodles, bulldog-boxers, lab-beagles, dachshund-pit bulls, Rottweiler-German shepherds, and my favorite, something that kind of looks like a brindle Boston-pug-Italian Greyhound. No matter their ancestry, the majority of time you'll find that they've been rescued.

Before we started looking for Alice, I understood that animal abuse happened, but I had no idea how prevalent it actually was. Scars are commonplace at the Park. Like this weekend, we saw this dog-- a big, beautiful boy that kind of looked like what might happen if a Great Dane bought a pit bull a few drinks and things got a little crazy. He had a long stretch of a bald spot along his back (as if someone spilled something hot on him), his tail was cut to an odd length, and his ears showed the unmistakable sign of an at-home cropping job, far too short and cut ragged. It was heartbreaking to realize that someone intentionally did something so horrendous to that sweet dog. And unfortunately, here he's not alone.

Yet at the Park, all is forgotten. The dogs run in circles, dig holes, jump in piles of dirt, carry around sticks larger than their bodies, splash in the river, nip each other playfully, and run after whoever has a tennis ball in a desperate yet trance-like state. They play freely—not only free of their leashes, but free from their pasts, free from whoever beat, cut, burned, or starved them, free from any concern in the world. All that's here is the happiness of just getting to be a dog.

Watching these displays of unbridled joy are the dogs' owners. Occasionally you come across the owner who likes the idea of a fancy dog but can't be bothered to take the time to train it. More often than not, though, you see the people whose imperfect dogs, with their questionable and obviously paperless heritage, battle wounds, and unsolvable quirks, are perfect fits. They tell their dog's story matter-of-factly, knowing from their tone that they've spent endless hours wrestling for an answer to how anyone could've caused such harm to their dog, only finding peace by resolving to never let it happen again.

I love watching Alice at the Park. She still has some minor hesitancies around new dogs and people we met on the street and when we leave her at home alone, but all of her fears are gone at the Park. She plays with dogs three times her size, unaware of them towering over her as they run loops through the park. She squeaks out little high-pitched barks, like she's a hound on a great foxhunt.

Watching her play always reminds me of the day we got her. After seeing her in her cage, we asked if we could take her outside and see how she walked on a leash and played. We took her into a fenced-in pen in the back of the shelter and threw a tennis ball around. Alice ran back and forth like the wind, a big smile on her face.

I remember watching her and thinking, this little dog is free and happy, and she needs a home and people to love her. She needs come home with us. Watching her at the Park makes my heart feel all fuzzy, and reminds me of the promise we made to her to give her a family.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In the Mailbag.

We checked the mail today from our two week trip. In it, we had eight Christmas cards from friends, family, and Alice's teacher. The majority of these were not only addressed to the Human Male and me, but also to Alice. In fact, the card from my sister was actually addressed to "Alice's People". I truly love how everyone includes her. I know she couldn't care less about getting a card in the mail (unless it's from the Red Cross, whose stationery is apparently the best dog treat flavor ever), but it means the world to me that other people care about her enough to include her in things like that.

One letter in particular got me. Right before Christmas, I sent a donation to Alice's shelter-- a kick-off to my year-long resolution to pay off the amount that they spent on her medical bills while she was there. I sent the check in one of Alice's Christmas cards, and included a note on how she is, what she's been doing, and thanking them for letting us adopt her. The shelter sent me a receipt back, and Ray, the lady who did our adoption, wrote a really nice note to us on it (and yes, included Alice on the envelope). She thanked us for the card and donation, and said that she always likes getting updates on "our adopted and loved pets". She signed it with her name, adding "I did your adoption!" after it.

I found it incredibly kind that Ray took the time to write us a note, but I have to say, it still strikes me as funny that she felt the need to provide us with a reference of who she is. Getting Alice is one of the major moments of my life, and there's no way that I could possibly forget who Ray is. Personally, I feel like she was just doing her job that day, and there's no reason she should've remembered us. I almost think I'd feel the same way if Oprah came up to me at a business function, introduced herself, first name and last, and explained that she hosted a talk show for a living and described its premise, if that makes any sense. It's all about perspective, I suppose.

Bought my first Sports Illustrated today...

And for good reason: the December 29th issue has a wonderful article on several of Michael Vick's dogs and where they are now. They even put one of them on the cover. What a gorgeous girl!

The article was beautifully written, discussing the horrendous experiences of the dogs, how great pit bulls are and the bad press they get (even pointing a finger at an article SI did in 1987 as detrimental to their reputation), the diligent training that organizations and foster homes have performed to rehabilitate the dogs, and even touches on the debate whether it's fair to put so much time and money into saving 47 dogs, when there's so many other homeless and abused animals out there. Instead of information on the author at the end of the article, it listed the websites of three non-profits discussed in the text.

I'm so thrilled that SI did this article. The Michael Vick story is nearly two years old, and he's scheduled to be getting out this year-- this story could fade into the past so easily. And yet, these dogs and their owners will have to deal with what he did for many years to come-- perhaps the dogs' whole lives. I also love that by addressing the dog's side of the story in such a visible forum, Vick is still being held accountable for his actions in the public eye. I don't know what compels someone to think dogfighting and animal abuse is acceptable in the first place (let alone be involved with it), but by continuing to focus on what he did and the impact of it, I feel that it helps remind people that dogfighting is a wholly unacceptable practice, and that this is one public figure that cannot be a hero.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Holiday Adventure Redux.

Alice, the Human Male, and I made it back to DC around 9:30 this morning after two weeks traipsing around the Eastern Time Zone. In total, we hit eleven states, drove 3,000+ miles, spent approximately 64 hours driving (excluding regular running-around), and visited with 27 family members (not to mention family pets). It was intense and exhausting, but in a fantastic way.

A couple of days after Christmas, the three of us left my parents' house. It's always hard for me to say goodbye to my family, but it was particularly tough this year. I had such a great time, and it was so fun to see Alice play with my parents' pets. Harry and Alice became snuggle buddies, and Izzy and Alice became very good friends. They have a common interest-- toys. After packing up the car, I ran back into the house to grab my coat. Alice followed in, and Iz immediately ran over to her, toy in mouth and ready to play tug. I can't even begin to tell you how guilty I felt putting Alice in the car. I also felt kind of bad taking Alice's food away from my parents' pets. They all loved it. I heard Emmie the cat empty a bowlful one night, and actually caught Harry in the act:

The hole they chewed in the bag was hilarious. It went a good length up the side, and I actually had to rebag her treats, the bag was so punctured.

I also loved seeing my family welcome Alice into the family. They cuddled her, made her homemade dog food, and gave her treats. So many times I found myself thinking about how just four months ago, Alice was a nameless stray in a shelter, and now she has so many people in her life who truly love her. It's enough to make me a little misty.

We left my parents' house and started the long trek down to Marco Island, Florida on Sunday to meet up with the Human Male's mom's side of the family. I'm still not entirely clear on what the exact occasion was, but I think it was to celebrate his grandfather's 80th birthday, his grandparent's 57th wedding anniversary, and an excuse for the family to get together on the beach during the winter. The trip was long-- Google mapped it at about 23 hours, but it took us upwards of 27 (mainly due to traffic in Georgia). I snapped along the way. About 4 hours in, I started begging the Human Male to drop me off at the nearest Target and pick me up on his way back home, and I'm fairly certain I tried to break up with him half a dozen times in Georgia for not doing so.

From Michigan, we traveled down through Ohio again, this time passing through Cincinnati.

We stopped at Skyline Chili along the way to get a taste of the area. So good. They gave us a sizeable bag of oyster crackers with our meals, and I started feeding them to Alice. She loved them. She sat in the footwell and would pop her head through my knees to beg for one. I felt like I was paying her a toll every few feet.

Then we blew through Kentucky (though I will note for my Kentuckians, what we saw was wonderful, and I squealed at a road sign for Ashland):

After about 10 hours of driving, we decided to call it a night near Knoxville, Tennessee. Finding a hotel that accepted dogs was surprisingly easy-- there was a great Super 8 right along the highway that was more than accommodating and kind to Alice, and they gave us a fabulous price on the room-- I think they even refunded the very small dog fee ($10) we initially paid when checking in, too.

Watching Alice comprehend the room was funny. First she ran around and smelled everything, and then she claimed her own bed. We thought it would be fun for her to have her own big bed for the night, but as soon as we turned the light out, things began getting knocked off the night stand and we heard a thud-- apparently she tried to walk across the nightstand to snuggle in the other bed, and fell off in the process.

The next morning, Alice decided that this staying in a hotel thing is okay, and pranced around with her head straight up like she owned the place up until we left:

One thing that we noticed on the road is that there's a Waffle House at practically every exit-- and in some cases, two. Seriously. It started as soon as we entered Ohio and continued straight down to our exit in Florida, and then up until 20 minutes outside our house here in DC. I wanted to take Alice's picture outside of each one, but then I realized that we'd still be trying to meander our way to Florida now if I had. So I got her outside of two. Here she is in Tennessee, next to our hotel:

And here she is in front of one in Georgia:

I'd never been to Georgia before and was very excited about visiting a new state. The glamour wore off, once we got into Atlanta traffic. Fortunately, it made it easy to take Alice's picture in the city as we drove through.

We made it to Marco Island just before 2A on Monday. We crashed nearly immediately upon arriving at the house. In the morning, we got a glimpse of where we actually were. The family rented a dream house-- a $2.9m behemoth, huge on its own but with a screened-in deck and pool area that easily doubled the size of the house. The house was so big that even with 24 people in it, you didn't feel crowded. To top it off, it was on a bay that was full of dolphins, manatees, and reportedly bullsharks. It was insane. Alice loved it-- it was big and open with all sorts of rooms and areas in which she could zip in and out.

Two of her favorite places were around the pool and on the dock. The pool I didn't mind her running around, but we all told her that if she fell off the dock, then she was on her own.

Later the first day, we took Alice over to a local park. While dogs were allowed in some areas, it occurred to me how spoiled I've gotten living in an area as dog-friendly as DC. One of the areas of the park where dogs were welcomed was around a pond, home to ducks and alligators.

It made for a great picture, but I have to say, I spent the day gripping pretty hard on Alice's leash, just in case a full-grown alligator surfaced. I even pulled her away when we saw a bitsy baby nose peek out of the water. Constant vigilance!

On New Year's, I tried to keep Alice up for midnight. She crashed out around 9:30.

Being a dog, though, she woke up pretty quickly when things started getting noisy. The Human Male's family had a midnight dance party, which both confused and excited Alice. She jumped on the Human Male's youngest sister several times, running back to me each time. Alice was also my midnight kiss-- the Human Male got distracted pouring champagne for everyone and I gave up waiting.

We hit the road around 10A New Year's Day to come back home. We stopped at a few places along the way, including a citrus stand that had a 13ft alligator.

We passed through Georgia again, and into South Carolina. This was my first time in the state, and from what I could see in the dark, it was lovely-- lots of palmettos, and the border along Georgia has metal gates that make it look like a fancy subdivision. I was particularly impressed by South of the Border, the humongous tourist trap just south of the North Carolina border (huh!). I'd heard about it before, but I had no idea it was big enough to have its own Zip Code. I'm absolutely planning a trip to go back there and spook around.

One thing I noticed is that there were a lot of fireworks stores along the highway. We stopped for gas and there were two across the street.

Because the beloved Subaru was due back at the rental place today, we drove until we were within about six hours of DC. We figured we'd stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina for the night. We didn't make reservations-- it was so easy to find a hotel in Tennessee, we figured it wouldn't be necessary. Fail. We're not sure what the deal was, but we suspect that since we were in college football Bowl Country and with the New Year's holiday, all of the hotels booked up-- even the extra sketchy ones. We eventually gave up trying to find a place, drove a couple of extra hours, stopped at the closest rest stop and pulled out our blankets (thank goodness for emergency car kits) around 2A, and slept for a few hours. While not an ideal situation for the Humans in our family, Alice thought it was the best. We wrapped her up in her Christmas blanket and snuggled her under the emergency blanket, and she was snoring within minutes.

We got up again at 5A and trekked the final four hours home. Human Male and I were beyond exhausted when we got back and suffering the affects of being confined to a small area for 23 hours with other dirty, dusty creatures, but Alice was completely energized. She ran around the house, jumped in her toy basket, and took us for a drag around the neighborhood, happily accepting attention from everyone that walked by.

All in all, the past two weeks have been fantastic. It was a lot of driving, but definitely worth it. And I think the experience of getting out of the neighborhood, meeting more family, and making new dog friends was great for her. She seems far more confident than she was before we left.

One last note, I came home to a very exciting e-mail: Alice is being considered to appear in a book of dog photos! While the publishers will have the final say if it gets in or not, the magazine releasing the book selected her picture as one of about 500 that will be included (out of a pool of around 15,000 entries). I'm really excited about this-- the picture selected is one of my favorites of her, one of her earliest smiling pictures. Alice, on the other hand, is taking it all in stride. Right now, her main priority is spending as much time as possible curled up on the ottoman. Life is good for this little dog.