Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Thoughtful Day.

I’m tremendously behind on blogging, but I have a good story that seems very fitting for today.


On the Fourth of July this year, The Human Male and I took Alice to the Dog Park first thing in the morning.  It was an exceptionally lovely day, so we let Alice play for a while in her beloved river.  There were a ton of people and dogs playing in it, and with all the dogs running around like hooligans, it was fun to pick out which human belonged to which dog. 


There was a family there that, after some watching, we discovered were owners of a yorkie and a  malinois—a funny combination when you really think about it.  While tough guys with tiny girly dogs aren’t totally uncommon here, we just sort of assumed that maybe one was the mom’s dog and the other was the dad’s.  The yorkie enjoyed the water at first but then spent most of her time on the shoreline, and the malinois couldn’t get enough of chasing balls through the water.  They left and we played with Alice in the river for a little longer.


On our way out of the park, we spotted the family getting ready to leave as well.  The dad put a leash on the yorkie and a harness on the malinois.


There was writing on the harness, a very clear message: K-9 Unit.


That’s when the situation became clear: the yorkie was the family dog, and the malinois was the dad’s partner. 


Living in DC, police and military bomb dogs are a fairly common sight.  But it’s pretty easy to see them working and think “Aww, they’re so cute and have jobs—isn’t that precious?”  But that’s where the thought ends.  This instance pointed out, very clearly, that they are so deeply loved beyond their work.  They are valued members of families, have favorite games to play, and love tennis balls—just like your average, everyday dog.  It’s just that working dogs spend their time protecting civilians, saving soldiers in war zones, and helping people in atrocities when they’re not begging for treats and tearing apart their fuzzy toys.


It’s truly extraordinary.  And very much appreciated for so many reasons. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SOMEONE in DC ticked Mother Nature Off.

Hello from DC!  As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s been Natural Disaster Week down here.  It started on Tuesday, when concerns if Irene would run out weekend plans for dog park visits/marathon training runs/Wags N’ Whiskers festivals would be washed out by Irene were run out by a 5.8 earthquake.  Let me just say, if I’m never in another earthquake, it’ll be too soon.  Tuesday afternoon was one of the scariest days I’ve ever had.  I was at the office in the time, and right as the earthquake hit, there was a fire truck going down our road.  I work on an extremely busy DC road, so it’s not uncommon to have them tear down and shake our building a bit (my office building isn’t in the best condition).  But the shaking kept on, so my first thought was that the building under construction next to us was collapsing… and then that the Metro got bombed… and then that I was having a seizure… and that MY building was collapsing.  It wasn’t until someone that the call I was on shouted “We’re having an earthquake!  I’m hanging up!” that I realized what was actually going on.  It’s so strange to me that what I THOUGHT was happening was more realistic than what was actually happening.  I’m from the Midwest; I’m far more mentally-equipped to handle tornadoes and blizzards than earthquakes.


When we left for work Tuesday morning, Alice seemed like she was sick or depressed.  I now wonder if she expected something, like the animals and that National Zoo did.  When we got home, she was extremely happy and made lots of new friends from the people—clearly freaked out—that went out in our neighborhood Tuesday night to drink with friends or take their kids out in Disney princess costumes to let them know that all would be well.  Such a fascinating (and effective!) coping mechanism.


We’ve fortunately been pretty calm since then; there’s been about seven or so aftershocks since then and only one real one that was felt up here—although we slept through it and didn’t know it happened until the next morning.  I guess Ms. “Barks at Dust Settling” can’t be bothered to alert us to 4.5 aftershocks.  Alice did wake us up the next night, apparently to bark at… the fact we have a patio?  She so quirky.

So now were in the beginning stages of Irene—which fortunately we’re only skirting with a tropical storm warning and not getting a direct hit.  We’ve packed up the patio, made a last trip to the dog park, said our prayers, and went to our beloved neighborhood pub Beckett’s for a “beer-and-Pimm’s brunch”.  Alice is a little frightened and we’ll very likely get soaked and have some wild winds, but we’ll live.  It’s just funny when you’re reminded that the control you have over your life is pretty much a fa├žade; the powers that be can laugh at the plans we make any time they want.  I’m appreciating DC’s oppressively humid days so much more now.  The alternative kind of sucks.


Sending love out to all of you in Irene’s path, experiencing fore/aftershocks, tornadoes, or just having beautiful days.  We’ll get through this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pups at the Park!

One of my favorite summer activities is going to a baseball game.  I grew up in Chicago and Minneapolis, both good baseball towns, and my fam went to a lot of games and watched even more on TV.  After a brief hiatus out of ball towns, I was thrilled when I moved to DC and had a team to watch again.

Okay, so the Nationals aren’t the best of teams.  But I was born, raised, and will die a Cubs fan, so it’s not like winning’s THAT big of a deal.  Going to a ballgame is all about the experience: the cheering, the cheap beer, the sunstroke, the greasy food you probably shouldn’t be eating.  Watching the game is secondary. The Nats are champions of putting on a great show.  They have an absolutely fantastic state-of-the-art stadium (and I say that as a fan of old-school stadiums), great between-play entertainment, and superb food choices.  And sometimes they even win, which is like a cherry on top of a hugely fun day.


So when I heard that the Nats were doing an event called Pups in the Park—where you get to bring your pooch to the game—I jumped on it.  For $20 plus a $5 ticket for your dog (which a donation to the Washington Humane Society), you get to enjoy America’s pastime with your dog.  Our tickets normally tend to run in the $30 zone, so it was like giving us a discount for something even better.



The day could best be described as controlled chaos.  Nats Park has this semi-enclosed picnic area for families above a section of seats which they used for the dog attendees.  They had plenty of water, dog watchers if you wanted to go get food, little bags of treats, and my favorite, rolls of sod for pit stops. 


Inside the picnic area and seats, dogs were everywhere—hair flying, barking, jumping on people, stealing food and licking beer bottles, sitting in seats, howling to the National Anthem.  It was fabulous.










Alice behaved like a proper bleacher creature and tried the best of ballpark food: cheese fries, a hot dog wider than her leg, a pretzel, a burger, and even a capful of beer.  By the time we got back to the car to go home, she was completely wiped out.




All in all, having dogs there made a typically fun time even better.  I’d definitely do it again—and I’d recommend that if you ever have a chance, take your pup to the park, too!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Homecomings with Dogs.

I just got home this afternoon from a business trip to Pittsburgh.  My previous experience with Pittsburgh had been driving around its outskirts, well outside of the view of the city on our way home to The Motherland for Christmas.  It was mainly just a point on the map, with the notable distinction of once being a beacon of light for a night when Mother Nature was wildly hormonal.  I am so glad I really got to experience it this time.  I feel like I met everyone in the city and felt so welcomed—from the great crowd at Pittsburgh’s Pride Fest, to the phenomenal staff at the gorgeous Priory Hotel (seriously, go there!), to the kindhearted concierge at the Convention Center, to a dad and son team on their way to the Pirates game on Sunday that would melt your heart, to the kind neighbor I bumped into while taking pictures of Pittsburgh’s gorgeous skyline.  And the food!  And the beer!  And have you ever seen Pitt’s campus?  Mind-bogglingly gorgeous!  Pittsburgh, I’ve got one mean crush on you.  It’s an East Coast town with a Midwestern soul—one of my very favorite combinations.  I can’t wait to go back.

It took a bit for me to get back from BWI, which was slightly surprising but not entirely unexpected—DC is a spectacular place to visit but a difficult place to live.  It took me three hours, two buses, and three trains to do the 40 miles between Baltimore to the Alice Palace, and I tweaked my trick back while carrying my heavy suitcase up and down bus and Metro steps.  Still, Pittsburgh was great enough that I was feeling pretty good when I got home.  And I was greeted at the door by my favorite little furry face.

And then the smell hit me.  When you’re gone, your house always seems to smell differently than you remember when you get home.  I figured that the house would smell like Eau de Chien et Homme when I got back, but this did not smell good at all.  Like…

The merde.

Alice is not the best with change.  She doesn’t like it when either The Human Male or I leave town (or even the house, for that matter).  She pouts and stares out the windows, and sometimes she won’t “do her business” for a couple of days.  But ooh, boy, did she do it today!  Definitely not what I wanted to deal with upon walking in the door.  I started cleaning up the mess immediately and threw the filthy paper towels into the toilet.

After three years of living here, I learned something new about the Alice Palace plumbing today: our toilet doesn’t do paper towels.  In the span of five minutes from walking in the door, I managed to royally flood the bathroom, too.

Okay, so this wasn’t the homecoming I imagined.  I expected Alice to be super excited to see me, do her little parade, then we’d go to the Dog Park.  Afterwards, we’d sit on the patio with a book and some wine.  Not quite.  I immediately put Alice in her crate so she wouldn’t drag her toys through her mess, and once I got the inch of water toweled up from the bathroom floor, I went to the fridge, grabbed a beer, and laughed through cleaning the carpeting.  Even when I accidentally dropped the carpet cleaner’s container of dirty water and had to plunge the hairball out of the tub drain, I was still smiling. 

Life is far from perfect.  I spend a lot of time wondering if all the hectic-ness of my life has to do with choices that I've made, or if adulthood just totally blows (in which case, Mamala and Popsy, can I come home?).  But I feel like when the chaos involves a dog, a lot of the foul, stupid, aggravating things that could bother you just become comical.  It’s easier to deal with the merde—sometimes literally—when it comes in a cute package.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sexy is as Sexy Does.

I’ve made no attempt to hide my love for the Arlington County Fire Department.  They spend a good amount of time in my neighborhood, and it’s always a pleasure to see them.  They’re really pretty, plus they’re nice to Alice.


There was a house fire in town today, so they couldn’t hang out in my ‘hood and let me ogle them.  But the charming studs they are, they made up for it.





What’s that picture?  Oh, it’s just of the adorable orange cat that they saved.  From a burning building.  Who’s fine and safe now.  No big deal.


(Props to AWLA’s Animal Control for helping out, too.  They’re also pretty studly.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Good Running Boy!

This weekend, The Human Male and I ran our first half-marathon, the Marine Corps Historic Half.  It was AWESOME.  I could talk about it for days.  Marine Corps races are a hoot—so well organized and hot Marines along the course.  Can you ask for anything better?  Fredericksburg, Virginia is a very cute, fun town.  We ate at a great restaurant called Capital Alehouse (the fried pierogies were insane) and found a fantastic wine store called The Virginia Wine Experience that not only had fantastic staff, but two wine cats.  How cool is that?
Wine cats
We also had a lot of fun with people along the course—from the house with tequila shots (I did indeed take one—mine was the 98th they gave out), a tiny horse for petting, kids passing out Twizzlers on the course, and a pack of therapy dogs singing, it all still makes me smile when I think about it.  I can’t wait to do it all again.

On the same day as our race, the Maryland Half-Marathon was happening.  And there was one very special first-time half-marathoner in it.

That’s Dozer, a three-year-old goldendoodle.  Apparently Dozer’s house was on the course, and he thought it’d be a great day to go for a run.  He did it in great time, too—he clocked in at 2:14, which was quite a bit faster than mine (not that I'm supremely jealous or anything).

It sounds like he may have turned around and went home afterwards.  He’s now back and safe, and has started a fundraising page (he’s already got more than $1,500!) and was going to receive a finisher’s medal.

While I do wonder why no one stopped to think about why a dog was running alone on the course, I still love this story.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be running along and see a dog pacing you?  And listen to how the cheering gets louder when he gets closer to the line—how much fun would that be to watch?

Though we didn’t do the same race, I’m really tickled that Dozer and I met the same goal on the same day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How about some good news?

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about Lucy and Lillie, the pug mixes available for adoption at my neighborhood shelter?  Well, have I got a story for you!

Lately I’ve really had the urge to get a second dog.  Maybe it’s my birthday looming on the horizon and the reluctant acceptance that I’m now well into my thirties, so I need something exciting to compensate.  Maybe it’s a switch-out for The Human Male proposing (no, he still hasn’t).  Maybe it’s the old biological clock cultivating itself not in “I want 2.5 kids” but rather “I want a mastiff that weighs the same as 2.5 kids”.  I don’t know, but I’m feeling the itch.  And I had a feeling about Lillie.  So a couple days after I posted, The Human Male and I went over to the shelter and checked her out.

And she. was. AWESOME.  A tiny little lump of a dog, she jumped into my lap in the playroom, and that was it.  Truthfully, if you asked me what she looked like afterwards, I’d tell you that the top of her head was round and she had cute wee bitty feet.  I never really saw her face.  But I loved her.  One of my criteria when we were looking for Alice was that I wanted a dog that would sit in my lap—which Alice did, and it won me over.

My concern, however, was how Alice would react to her.  Alice is bold, hyper, and bossy.  Those are all quirks that I love about her and no problem if you have an only-dog, but I wasn’t sure how Alice would react to a dog that was so mellow.  Would Alice terrorize Lillie?  Would Lillie mellow her out?  The Human Male and I left that day with the agreement that we’d think about it.  A hard decision as it was, it became harder when we walked in the door that night and Alice ran to the door as we opened it, ricocheting off my belly and parading around the house with a toy at Mach 5 speed.

So we thought about it.  And thought about it.  And decided that if in a week she wasn’t adopted, then we would fill out some paperwork.  And then decided to wait a little longer.

Then last weekend, I saw a posting from the shelter on Facebook.  And who was in the picture, but Lillie—with her new girl named Shay.

Lillie was adopted by a family that has an adorable little girl.  A girl with a big, beautiful smile, who wears sweet outfits and appears to carry a bright pink bag.  A girl who just met her best friend in the world, and put her in a pretty collar before she left the shelter—as the write-up said, already treating her like a princess. 

I think I’ve mentioned before that from the time I was 1.5 until 17 years old, I had a pet pug named Muffin.  She meant the world to me.  For her nearly sixteen years, I told her my secrets, I dressed her up, I had elaborate pretend stories involving her, I wheeled her around in a baby doll carriage.  I also terrorized that dog, as only a kid who doesn’t know better will.  And Muffin took it, with a smile on her face—literally.  Muffin was really stupid, and the best friend that a little girl could’ve ever hope to have.  And I’m pretty sure that I was Muffin’s best friend, too.

The first thought that I had when we met Lillie was that she reminded me of Muffin, and was part of the reason why I loved Lillie so much—they had the same smile in their picture.  But because a dog reminds you of one you loved in the past doesn’t mean that you’re the right people for your dog.  By no means could we have offered Lillie what she got.  Yes, we could’ve provided her a safe and loving home for the rest of  her years, but by no means could we have provided her the same quality of life, the same adventure, the same unbridled adoration, that her new girl Shay can.

Lillie absolutely won the jackpot.  Things got quite dusty in the house when I saw the picture—absolute tears of joy.  Lillie flat-out won at life—she went from having no one to having the absolute best situation possible.     

Okay, so maybe this whole being in my thirties thing isn’t so bad.  Maturity can teach you some pretty cool lessons.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Alice’s Celebrity Boyfriend.

A few months ago, The Human Male and I started watching the show Veronica Mars, which is about a teenage detective with a bad attitude—picture Nancy Drew with a taser.  It first came on in 2004 and lasted three seasons.  Such a shame, it’s an absolutely fantastic show and ended with sooooo many loose ends!  But I guess that’s the best way to end a show—solid with a ton of potential, rather than to wear out its welcome.


On the show, Veronica has a dog named Back-Up, a burly brown pit bull.  He’s super adorable, and we always got excited when he was in an episode. 


A couple months back, I put on an episode and it featured Back-Up pretty substantially at the beginning.  A few minutes in, I noticed that Alice was pulling her bed and toys into a pile in front of the TV.  She then flopped down in the pile and stared at the screen.  She was actually watching the show!


I had a good laugh at the time, and The Human Male and I still sometimes tease Alice about her celebrity boyfriend—but we figured it was a once-off thing.  Then we popped on Veronica Mars again about a week ago, and sure enough, she jumped on the couch and started watching again!


Does your dog watch TV?  Have any favorite shows?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dog Therapist.

Recently The Human Male and I had a doozy of a fight. The yelling kept flaring up for several hours, even after we’d both left separately to cool off.

Alice doesn’t like loud noises. If our voices get too loud, she starts jumping around and barking in high-pitched howls and peeps. Considering we live in an apartment and don't want to be "those neighbors", we use her as a signal that we’re too loud and need to simmer down. And as it got later and our issue wasn’t getting resolved, I thought some space and sleep would do us some good, so I decided to pull out the air mattress.


Well, that was just too much for Alice to handle.  She laid on the regular bed for a while, curled into a tight little ball, then ran to the air mattress and stole all the blankets, pulling them into a pile. After The Human Male and I calmed down a bit, I flopped onto the pile of blankets Alice made.

And the pile was wet.

At some point when The Human Male and I were bickering, Alice took it upon herself to end the fight by weedling on the air mattress. I have no idea when she did it, but I must’ve been sitting right there when she did.

And darn if her little act didn’t call a truce and cause me to abandon the air mattress that night!

I wish I knew what Alice was thinking when she did it. I’m sure it was something like she was angry or confused as to why she couldn’t flop on both of us as she slept, and her little brain short-circuited. But I’d like to think that she put more thought into it. “Well, my first attempt of screechy-barking didn’t work this time, so let’s see if this brings the humans back together,” she said, then scribbled her findings in her little therapist’s notebook, making plans to pull her notes into an article and deciding which journal to send her research for publication.

No matter her what her intention was, it's safe to say that that little dog knows a thing or two about human nature.

Military Dogs.

So it’s been a momentous week for the U.S., huh?  Let me tell you, Monday was quite an interesting day in our neck of the woods—especially heading into our train stop, the Pentagon. 


Later in the week, reports started coming out that a dog might’ve been involved with the operation to get bin Laden.  The last thing I’d heard (it’s been a few days since I’ve searched, though) was that it wasn’t confirmed, but that it was completely within the realm of possibility.


I’ve mentioned my love of the Pentagon’s bomb dogs before, and it’s made me quite happy how much attention’s been paid to military dogs this week.  They’re really hard-working and play such an important role in security.  Plus you can tell that they really enjoy having jobs.


I stumbled across a great photo essay called War Dog on the Foreign Policy Website, which has fantastic pictures of military dogs at work.  It’s really moving, and it makes you really proud of our four-legged soldiers. 


Belly rubs all around!


(Not to be outdone, Slate put together a very funny slideshow called The Cats of War.  Quite entertaining.)