Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving thanks

Well...not doing very well on this whole "blog post a day" thing.  Grandma came to visit and other things just became more important.  So I didn't sweat it too much, and I can't promise that the "every once in awhile" blog trend won't continue.

But today is not about posting, or not.  It is about giving thanks for everything we are blessed with in our lives.  I'm thankful for so much.  It seems like so much of our lives are spent searching for something or someone, improving, striving, moving ahead, wishing, hoping, wanting.  Not enough time is spent just being thankful for what we already have.  So here's my not-all-inclusive list of the things I am thankful for today and every day.

  • Good friends
  • Great family
  • Good health
  • A job I love
  • Our own house
  • The most wonderful husband
  • Being close with my mom
  • Wonky stomach Rottweiler
  • Very naughty Pouch
  • Handsome tiger striped Time Lord
  • A visiting sweet old lady
  • Loving foster homes
  • Blue skies
  • Roadside raptors
  • Food on the table
  • Good beer
  • Weather nice enough to open windows
  • A car to drive
  • Fenced backyard
  • Warm clothes
  • Unselfish people
  • Deciduous trees
My list could go on and on.  Have you ever read the book 10,000 Things to be Happy About (apparently it is 14,000 now!)?  My list would read something like that.  It is the big things, the small things, and everything in between.  Sometimes it is hard to keep that perspective.  Other times, life slaps you in the face to remind you just how lucky you are.  We are here, alive, breathing, hopefully making a difference.  We can't ask for more than that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Give to the Max 2012: Help us help them

A Rotta Love Plus (ARLP) is the pit bull and Rottweiler rescue that I volunteer for and post a lot about (especially on Facebook). Please consider helping us create a better world for pit bulls and Rottweilers by donating whatever amount you can. Tomorrow, November 15, is Minnesota's Give to the Max Day. This means your donation to ARLP will be doubled thanks to a $5,000 matching grant.

To donate, go to

To get a glimpse at what your money will help us accomplish, take a peek at this awesome video.

Tune into our Facebook page for exclusive updates on how your donation will make you a hero to dogs in need. Thank you in advance for your generosity!
Hanging out with a surgery patient at one of our 2012 Get Your Fix! Fairs.
Photo by Paige Reyes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Angels among us

This story begins with a picture posted on Facebook.  A picture of a black grey muzzle dog who found herself in animal control through no fault of her own.  I am nothing if not a sucker for seniors.  And this happened the week we said goodbye to Juarez.  So there was no way I was going to see this senior dog live out her life in a kennel.  We were not ready to get another dog so soon, but I was fully prepared to do so if no rescue stepped up to take this lovely old lady in.

Enter Kim.  Kim is my coworker, and lucky for me, also has a soft spot for seniors.  She also happens to be an approved dog foster for Pet Project Rescue with no current foster at the time.  All she needed was a dog sitter over Thanksgiving and she'd be able to foster.  Deal!  How could I say no?

Meanwhile, we found out that the Lovey, our grey muzzled girl, had a male companion named Charlie she was bonded to that would have also come in to animal control at the same time.  It was also likely that both dogs had cancer.  After getting the go ahead from PPR, Kim agreed to head to animal control to pull Lovey and try to find out about Charlie, and if possible, pull him too.  As it turns out, both Lovey and Charlie were on hold at animal control as someone else had said they would take them.  Kim left her name in case things fell through...and a few days later, they did.  So Kim heading down to animal control (again) and pulled Charlie and Lovey.
Charlie (top) and Lovey (bottom).  Photo by Kim.
Kim pulled these dogs knowing full well that they will likely live out their lives with her, however long that might be.  I think that takes an extremely special person, and I am so grateful that she did this.  It doesn't matter how long a dog is with you,  it will still be painful to say goodbye when the time comes.

Unfortunately for Charlie, that day came today.  As it turns out, Charlie did indeed have cancer.  Lots of cancer.  All of his lymph nodes were swollen.  The cancer started giving him seizures, and today it got worse.  The vet also said he had a very bad heart murmur.  Needless to say, it was time to say goodbye.  I am so thankful that Charlie passed away with Kim by his side, showering him with love, instead of at animal control.  I am also thankful he got to be reunited with his Lovey again, even for just a few days.

So tonight, say a prayer for Charlie that he has safe passage over the Bridge.  Send prayers and thoughts to Lovey as she will surely be missing her companion.  And finally give thanks for people like Kim, who willingly gave a piece of her heart away for a little dog she barely knew.
Sweet Charlie.  Photo by Kim.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weather or not...

I have to comment on the ridiculous weather that Minnesota has had over the past 48 hours.  When I let Suzy Q out on Saturday night before bed, it was 65 degrees out.  Unseasonably warm, to say the least.  By the time we woke up and were ready to run our 5K on Sunday morning, it was 34 degrees and raining.  Awesome.  Meanwhile, on the south side of town, the arrival of the cold front brought rare November tornadoes.

Never too cold to hang loose.  Though this IS just lap 1 of 2 around the lake :)

This morning we woke up to a yard covered with snow.  What?  From almost 70 to snow in 48 hours.  To make matters worse, I managed to hit a whiteout snow squall this morning on the way to work.  Way to early in the season to be dealing with such things!  I'm just hoping and praying after our super great mild winter last year, we don't see another winter like 2010-2011.

In case anyone forgot what that winter looked like...this was the day after we got 17"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank you veterans

Just a quick blog tonight to say thank you to all of our active duty military personnel and our armed forces veterans.  I hope we can continue to be worthy of your sacrifice.  A special shout out to my dad, a Vietnam War Army vet.
I miss you , Papa.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The difference an (almost) year makes

I stopped by ARLP's adoption day today because I just had to finally meet the puppies.  I saw them at a distance when they first came in to our program, but hadn't seen them since.  What a wiggly bunch of joy they are (and currently up for adoption, should you be interested)!

 I brought Q along in the car as I always like to do when the weather is no longer blazing hot.  After getting my puppy fix, I went out to bring her in to Petco--pet stores are a great place to work on obedience work as there are lots of distractions!  I especially like the ferret distraction, but that could be because I like torturing the Rottweiler.

The observation I made to day is what a difference a year makes.  Believe me, Q still has her issues, but she is not the same dog we got from Chicago Animal Care and Control last January.  She was soliciting attention from complete strangers--one guy walked through the door and she went up to him and leaned on him without any prompting.  What?  Who's dog is that?

Suzy Q at Petco today.  Photo by Paige Reyes.
Let me tell you why this surprises me so much.  To understand, we have to go back to when Steve and I first got Suzy Q.  She was pulled from CACC, which is a high kill urban shelter, by a Minnesota rescue (HHK9) for us to foster.  At the time, we had no plans on keeping her, just to foster.  A little over a week after we got her, we took her in to be spayed.  When I picked her up, the vet tech said that she had been aggressive toward them and that we really needed to get her socialized.  My heart sank--all I could think of was that this was going to be another dog I was going to lose because of behavior issues.  My heart could not take that again--so I sprung into action.  The first thing I did was made an appointment to work with a trainer one-on-one.  I wanted someone else to evaluate her and help me to work through whatever issues she was having.  The first day we met with the trainer, she made it clear that Q was not human aggressive (hey, I was paranoid!) and that we could work on some of the issues she was having.  One of them was resource guarding (of her raccoon, of all things).  Plus we worked on general obedience and how to slowly introduce her to dogs (she is dog selective).  We also visited the vet for fun.  Q and I would go and hang out in the lobby and Q would get fed lots of treats and then we would leave.  She loves going to the vet now--she might not always love everything that is done to her, but we've had no major issues with her and the vet since her spay.  In hindsight, we had set Q up to fail in the spay situation.  She was less than two weeks removed from a crazy shelter environment, and was clearly still coming out of her shell from that situation.  We then took her and dumped her with a bunch of strange people and dogs on a truck.  Yeah...I would have freaked out too.

Suzy Q's CACC mugshot
While working with her trainer (Blair at the Canine Coach), we agreed that she would need to go to a home without kids.  Kids are just too fast and unpredictable, and while Q was by no means aggressive, she did startle easily.  Also with her resource guarding of toys, putting her in a situation with kids would not be smart.  It's hard enough to control the actions of adults, much less kids.  We also agreed that her adopter would have to continue training with Q.  And so, she went up for adoption.  She had a couple of interested people, but once they learned more about her, it just ended up not being a good fit.  Finally I realized one day that no one was going to be good enough for Q in my mind, which meant she was already home.

We had much more to work on, and since then have gone through basic obedience with ARLP's Rott n Pit Ed, nosework class with A Great Dog Now, dog-dog aggression class with Canine Coach, and CGC prep with ARLP.  Through that last class, she received her Canine Good Citizen certification this summer.  I have never been so proud.  We also go on weekly walks with Twin Cities Pack Walk to work on our socialization.  Our training will never be done, but you can see how today was such a milestone for me.  She has been more and more outgoing with people lately, and that just makes my heart sing.  I still avoid interacting with kids, mainly to be on the safe side.  She wants to eat the cats (CACC said she was cat friendly) and we're still working on the "other dog" issues (they said she was good with other dogs too).  But we're a long ways away from that scared dog back in January.  And for that, I am so grateful.

Q and I shortly after we got her in January.  Photo by Paige Reyes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Epistemic closure

Only 8 days in and I already failed...completely missed yesterday's blog post.  I had all good intentions to write it, but then I promptly fell asleep.  Whoops.

Tonight's post is unfortunately political, which I apologize for in advance.  But this is something that's been gnawing at my brain that I just have to ask Romney supporters.  I mentioned here that there are two major political agenda items that are important to me: GLBT rights and the environment.  Which is why I never really paid too much attention to the whole fiscal crisis that so many people seemed to focus on.  To be honest, part of that is because I'm not sure how it personally affects me.  I grew up middle class with two blue collar parents, but never wanted for anything.  My mom still is blue collar, yet has a nice house and can afford things like vacations.  Steve currently works part time in a brewery because he has had a hard time getting a teaching job--but I don't blame that on the economy.  The education system really isn't driven by how many new jobs are created in the auto industry (for example).  He works in public education--that tends to be a completely separate political agenda item from the economy.

What I am trying to say is that we are also a middle class family.  But we bought this house based on one salary, which means anything Steve makes is a bonus.  We don't live extravagant lives, but we aren't left wanting.  We have cable, internet, cell phones, a CSA share.  A myriad of things we could easily give up if we couldn't afford them--but we can.  We also still give money to charity and enjoy paying for people when we go out to places.  I realize we don't have kids, but we do have pets.  And believe me, they get nothing but the best as well.  Do I notice the increase at the pump?  Yes, but not to the point where I cannot fill my car up.  I have never said "well I can't go there because I don't have any gas."  Again, I need my car to travel.  If the price of gas became too much, one of the excesses early talked about would have to go.

So my question is, to everyone who thinks the United States is going to hell in a hand basket with Obama because of the economy, please enlighten me: how is it directly affecting you?  Did you live better in the Bush era?  I certainly don't recall doing so.  I haven't felt much of a change.  Is it because I don't have a ton invested in stocks?  I really want to know.  People are so enraged and impassioned by this one singular thing, and I just don't see it.  I see so many more things to worry about.  I'm not being sarcastic  I really want to know.  What am I missing?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I was proud to vote today because I am happy to live in a country where we have the right to elect our leadership.  Whether your person won or not, that is something to be thankful for and to never take for granted.  Sing it Hugh.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting No

Come on, you know this had to be a political post.  I could talk about who I am voting for in the presidential election tomorrow, but that's probably obvious.  I can give you a clue--I have two agenda items that are most important to me: the environment and GLBT rights. I honestly look at very little else.  Truth be told, every questionnaire I have taken makes me a Green Party voter but I made that mistake in the 2000 election (sorry AJT!), so I'm not going to do that ever again (or until we get rid of the two party system).

But I digress.  I am writing to you today to talk about the proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution to add the definition of marriage to be the union of one man and one woman.  I could come at this from so many angles on how wrong this amendment is, but I want to address the people who want to vote yes to this for religious reasons.  In a perfect world, the government would not define marriage.  In a perfect world, the government would have a say about civil unions and leave marriage as a ritual for religious purposes.  That way, each church can decide who they will and will not marry.  And then, you can decide which church you do or do not belong to based on how you feel, religiously, about the issue.  But the church should have no power over the rights of citizens, gay or straight.  That, folks, is why we have separation of church and state.  Unfortunately, we have this term 'marriage' that hovers in that gray area.  Many people think of marriage in a religious sense, but marriage is also bound by law and often defined by the law.  Eventually it is my hope that the fight will be not to define marriage in the state's constitution, but to get rid of the word marriage, replace it with civil union, and make that the legally binding contract between two people that leads to the rights and benefits that your gay brothers and sisters are fighting for.  And yes, in my world, civil union is not defined based on opposite gender partnerships.  Marriage in a church in and of itself with no civil union paperwork behind it would hold no legal standing.  Marriage would be something on top of the civil union: civil union gives you rights as partners, marriage gives your partnership the blessing of your church.

But, here we are in 2012 and that is not how it is.  Marriage is the term being used, and marriage is the term being defined.  So therefore we should not limit marriage in the constitution to be between one man and one woman because that will limit the legal rights of gay partners, and that is not fair.  Religion has no place in this argument.  At the end of the day, this is all about equal rights in the eyes of the law, not in the eyes of God.  If you vote Yes, you are saying gay people are somehow lesser citizens.  Let us be better than our ancestors who treated black people as second class citizens.  We are all humans.  Black, white, gay, straight.  At the end of the day, that is all that should matter.

True fact.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some rules aren't meant to be broken

This is going to be a short one tonight as I just don't have the energy to rant as much as I would like.  A tragedy took place at the Pittsburgh Zoo today.  A two year old fell into the African wild dog (also known as painted dog, African hunting dog) exhibit and died.  Unfortunately, one of the endangered dogs was killed as well.

Here's my rant--this tragedy was completely preventable.  The mother was seen holding her child up on top of the railing to give him a better view.  People, zoo barriers are there for a reason. They aren't there to piss you off because your view is blocked or your perfect photograph is ruined.  They aren't there for your kids to climb on like monkey bars.  Mostly they are there for your safety.  Sometimes they are there to protect the animals from you.

The rules are not made for someone else.  They are made for you.  For a reason.  Please follow them.  My heart goes out to the family, but also to the staff of the Pittsburgh Zoo.  I hope they are not blamed, or even worse, sued for what happened.

African wild dogs at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago.  Photo by me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My love/hate relationship with running

Here's something you might not know based on my Facebook posts: I hate running.  OK, hate is a strong word, but it's not something I get out and do because I love it.  I do it because it loves me.  I don't need special equipment, I can do it anywhere, and just a few months into starting running again, I've dropped 20 pounds.  I can't turn a blind eye to that!  But when I'm out running, it takes all my willpower to keep going.  I hit more mental walls in a three mile run than you can believe.  I usually can push through them.  Not always.

Yes, I used to be a runner in a prior life.  I ran cross-country two years (freshman and junior) in high school, but here's a secret: I didn't love running then either.  I liked it, but I liked being part of that team more.  That's why I ran--that and I sucked at volleyball.  I was a jock, I had to do something.  And I'm glad I did--because the years I didn't run, I managed cross-country because our team was like family.  But it was never a love for running that kept me going, and it isn't a love for running that keeps me going now.  It's the love of the feeling I get when I'm done running that keeps me going.  That and the 20 pounds.  And the fact I'm not out of breath when I walk up a flight of stairs anymore :)

Getting water during the Vibha 5K, October 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

The story of Juarez

As most of you know, our senior dog of 17 years, Juarez (aka Pepper), passed away this week.  Having had her for the past 11 formative years of my life, it is so strange (and difficult) not having her around.  So for those of you that don't know the story of how I got Pepper, I thought that would be a good post for tonight.

I went to grad school in Richmond, Virginia.  Shortly after graduating (I think I was still in training?), I moved into an apartment that allows dogs.  Needless to say, I was at a point in my life where not only did I want another dog, I needed one as well.  And...I've always been a sucker for special needs dogs.  So I was surfing on the web and found this great little 3-legged dog.  I contacted the rescue to see if I could meet her, and they said that she was being adopted out by this lady (we'll call her Magda to protect the innocent) and that I needed to contact her.   So, I contacted Magda, and made arrangements to go meet the tripod.  Now Magda had a lot of dogs--in fact, she ran her own rescue out of her house.  Time and knowledge has made me realize in reflection that she was (or is), in all likelihood, a hoarder.  And like most animal hoarders, I truly do believe she means the best for her animals.  She just doesn't have the resources to take care of them all and in the end, it can be an ugly thing.  She was very protective of her animals--in fact, she didn't think I would be a good fit to take care of the tripod (she had part of her intestines removed because she ate her collar--this was the concern, not the lack of leg).  Looking back, I realize that there was probably no one good enough in Magda's mind to take care of Tripod.  But that is okay--because it leads to the next part of the story.  

So Magda says to me "there's another dog here I'd like you to meet" and she goes to let him out of an enclosed area where there are about 10 dogs are milling about.  The dog comes bolting out and races across the lawn, happy as a clam to be free.  Completely ignores me.  I was squatting down on the ground watching him zoom around when suddenly a little black dog comes and crawls into my lap; turns out, she had escaped with Happy Boy when the gate opened.  That little dog was Pepper.  She chose me.  How could I say no?  Pepper had been with Magda since she was a pup.  She was 6 when I adopted her; that tells you a lot about Pepper.  She had been adopted out once before but did not get a long with the person's dogs--turns out when the other dogs were getting petted, Pepper would squeeze in between so that she would be the one getting petted.  She was used to fighting for attention--you would be too if you lived with dozens of other dogs for your entire life.  I was a naive dog owner, and Pepper never got any sort of training.  She did not like other dogs, and I didn't trust her around all people.  In other words, she was far from perfect.  And perfect at the same time.  

And that is the story of how I got Juarez, the cartel leader who took a large piece of me and my heart when she left us.

Juarez, taken this summer by Paige Reyes

Thursday, November 1, 2012


So my buddy over at Cranial Vault posted on the FB about NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month.  I've been wanting to start a blog for awhile to just have a random outlet to write in (even if no one ever reads it).  And doing a blog post a day for a month seems as good a reason as any to jump right in.  I might have to use some of the cheesy prompts to get me started, but I have a few ideas as well.  But for tonight, I will just leave you with this picture of the Rottweiler.

Suzy Q at Newport State Park, Door County, Wisconsin