Tag Archives: beasts

Identity Crisis, but I still love your dog

I have a separate dog blog now, which you may have heard about once or twice, and I do want to talk about dogs right now, but not in the way I do there. I’m not going to talk about how awesome my own dog is or isn’t, or about the training we’re working on; if you’re interested in that, head over there.

What I want to talk about is my identity as a dog person.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is, and what I mean when I say I am a dog person.  I am, for sure, a Dog Person.  I think I have a sixth sense about dogs; I will notice a dog two blocks away and be able to tell you the breed and probably predict the majority of its medical conditions, if applicable.  I can read most dogs’ moods pretty quickly.  I can talk about dogs quite extensively; I started the Flying Dingo so that I can stop talking the ears off of people who don’t especially care about dogs.

But the thing is, I am not a squealer.  I am not a Get Up In Your Dog’s Face and Be Happy That It’s Licking My Face.  Do you know where that tongue has been?  I am not a fan of dogs in costumes, or Cute Overload, or anything where we just sit around oooh-ing and aaaah-ing over the cuteness of these animals.

okay, yeah, so i do let her lick my face sometimes

On Monday I went to an open house for a Master’s program in Animals and Public Policy.  It’s not a professional degree; it’s not like how you go to dentist school and then you’re a dentist, or law school and then you’re a lawyer.  Kids, you don’t go to Animals and Public Policy school and become an Animals and Public Policy-ist.    But the program did sound really exciting, and got me thinking more about what I want to do.  Is it just behavior? I’m not sure that it’s just behavior.  I think it’s bigger parts than that: it’s how do we live with our dogs and our neighbors?  How do we live, happily, with healthy, well-exercised dogs in our society?

I don’t want to hug your dog.  Well, that might be a little bit of a lie: if your dog comes running over, tail wagging and ears happy, I might (read: will definitely) try to find your dog’s favorite scratching spot.  I will enjoy rubbing behind your dog’s ears.  I might talk in a voice reserved for these situations.  But also? I want to talk to you about your dog.  I want to know about what you think of training, about how you live your lives together, about how you ended up with this here dog and what it does for you.

other people's dogs: Macaroni

Um, somehow this can be something I do professionally? Someone please tell me yes.

I’m trying to find a place in blogland where I can be a Dog Person, without the costumes and with the interest.  And I’m also trying to figure out how to write my damn personal essay.

Dog owners, what are your thoughts?  Are you costume-dog people?  Are you dog-people at all, or are you the “I only love my dog and no one else’s” type?  Please discuss.

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In which I answer some questions

Apparently, I’m taking the Pet Blogger Challenge:

The Challenge, as I understand it, is a time for bloggers to reflect on their blogs, why and how they write them, and… share?

At first, I though this was silly, because I don’t really care about why other people write, I just want to read their entertaining, witty, educational, interesting work.  So obviously you don’t care either (because I generally assume that I’m writing for an audience of me).  But then I noticed a lot of really interesting answers popping up on the blogs I read, and while I’m not yet a “pet blogger” (I think), I did start thinking about what my answers would be.

1. When did you begin your blog?

I started last January. And just to double check, I looked at my first post – happy belated birthday, blog! I started writing here on January 8th of last year.

the first picture I posted on the blog

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

Turtle and I had gotten engaged a few months before and I had been reading wedding blogs for awhile.  There was a lot that I was thinking about weddings and wedding culture and I really wanted somewhere to participate in the conversation.  At the time, I didn’t find a lot of writing that resonated with me; I couldn’t find anything written for the audience of me (planning a small, gay, non-WIC wedding), so I decided to be that writer.

3. Is your current purpose the same?

I am trying to remember that purpose when I feel like I’m in a slump.  Like, does anyone else really care what specific method I used to teach my dog to go into her crate?  Well, the answer is that I would care, so yes.  But I really don’t care about the sewing pattern you used for something – that just is not my thing.  Please don’t expect to see any sewing patterns shared here.

4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?

I started blogging when I felt like it, which was anywhere from daily to weekly.  Since participating in NaBloPoMo and writing daily in November, I realized I do enjoy a regular schedule. I also enjoy reading blogs that I know post regularly, so I’m trying to follow their example.  Realistically?  I am not going to be able to post every day, but I think I can handle every weekday, so that’s what I’m aiming for.  Since starting Flying Dingo, this may change.

5. Are you generating income from your blog?

If so, how (e.g. sponsor ads, affiliate relationships, spokesperson opportunities)?   If not currently, do you hope to in the future — and how?

6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular (bragging is good!)?

I love having somewhere to dump my thoughts, to be sassy if I want to, and to have such awesome support from readers!  It’s really created an important community for me here. I look forward the comments and the ensuing conversations.  I love finding out that someone whose blog I love is reading my blog.  I love when people I know in real life say hi and sort of mumble, “I stalk your blog.”  I know, it’s sort of awkward, but it makes my day.  You know me and you like my writing?! Super extra happy points.

7. What do you like least?

I have a hard time when I’m not inspired to write something, but I feel like I *should* write anyway.  I love knowing that posts on some of my favorite sites will be up by 7 am, and I want to provide the same thing; what is hard is when I’m not inspired until mid-morning.  Really, I know 3 hours doesn’t make a huge difference, but I feel bad about it.  Sorry.

8. How do you see your blog changing or growing in 2011?

I hope to find a little more direction this year.  Now that the wedding is over, I need something to focus on; it seems to be The Beast these days, but I’ve turned to Flying Dingo for that, and I hope to keep writing here about terribly entertaining things like how we keep the heat at 50 degrees during the day (yes, my fingers are freezing right now) and how I reffed my first roller derby scrimmage last night.  What, I didn’t mention I was considering joining the ref team?  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that later.

this is me blogging, right now. and by blogging I mean defending my lap from Jake. Yes, it's 53 degrees in the house now, and the warmest spot around is on my lap where the computer is cozy.

Thanks, all of you, for reading and commenting and saying hello!  You’re the best. For serious.

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Project Look! Loooook! Look!

I had this bright idea that with all my free time, I could do some sort of terribly fascinating project and write about it.  I would learn something wonderful, develop some fantastic skills, and have accomplished something, and you all would be glued to your computer screens, so entranced that you could hardly peel your eyes away from my retelling of my daily experience with this project…

Let’s just say that Day 1 of the project will not live up to that goal.

Here’s the idea: I am working my way through a dog training book with Daphne. Post-practice, I will regale you with the ups and downs of this amazingly interesting adventure. And, of course, by “regale you with… this amazingly interesting adventure” I mean “try to make it sound interesting that I taught my dog to look me in the eye for 1.5 seconds.”

the beautiful beast herself

Okay, but seriously: our dog is super smart.  Really.  I know I’ve talked about how high-maintenance she is, how she’s got a few issues and may or may not have nipped a child (one time! Just one time!), and how I for sure know what it’s like to have a dog who is reactive on leash. But. In spite of her being a little unpredictable in strange environments, she is actually pretty awesome and very smart: she knows at least 20 commands (I made a list and counted!) and can do at least 4 of them with 95% accuracy.

That said, she is still a bit neurotic, and she also has at least 16 commands that she does with accuracy that ranges from 60% to… well, let’s say that she’s capable of doing some of them, but not always willing.  Or ever willing.  Minor detail.

Daph and I demonstrate "touch" (my facial expression here is awesome, in case you hadn't noticed).

So the idea is that by working our way through this book, we can strengthen and reinforce skills she has, develop some new skills, give her a good mental workout, and help us bond and learn to communicate better.  The more she trusts me in the house, the more she’ll trust me out in the world, and – fingers crossed – the less reactive she’ll be.

The book we’re working with is Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons.  I originally noticed the book at a small local bookstore a few years ago because it was the only book that utilized clicker training; I ended up buying it after recognizing some of Daphne’s reactive tendencies and realizing that Turtle was no longer comfortable walking her without me there.  We read through it and boosted our own confidence, but didn’t do much beyond that at the time.

Now, I plan to go through the book and practice every single thing that Daphne hasn’t already nailed.  For example, she has “sit” down pat.  She sits for everything: before eating, before going through doorways, before getting in or out of the car.  Nothing in life is free, but it’s all easily purchased for the low, low price of Sit.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, today we worked on “look,” which is a command to make eye contact.  It’s much more useful than it sounds, but it also sounds pretty boring.  Suffice it to say that she is now pretty good at making eye contact for 1.5 seconds.  Hopefully the tricks get more exciting, the progress gets more worth talking about, and you are fascinated by me talking about my dog.  Because I’m unemployed, I think I want to do this for a living, and the internet is my playground.


This is almost definitely never ever going to turn into a mommy blog or a food blog… but it seems it might turn into some version of a dog blog.  I hope you stick around.  In the meantime, who wants to talk dog training? Are you in?

*Note: all photos by our amazing and talented wedding photographer and fabulous friend Ellie Leonardsmith.  She obviously takes wonderful photos, and has recently started doing pet portraits; if you’re in the Boston area, check her out!

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FunEmployment

You may remember that back in November, I quit my job.  Aaaand by quit my job, I mean I gave notice. Ahem, five weeks’ notice.

run away, run away!

You guys!  If you are going to leave your job, I highly recommend giving way, way less than five weeks’ notice.  Here’s what happened over my last five weeks: I got less invested and they did not hire a replacement.  Both things that were not good.  Also, I made some money.  That‘s a good reason to give five weeks’ notice.

What am I getting to here?  After leaving my job, and doing lots of petsitting, yesterday marked my first day of full-on unemployment.  I know a lot of other people are also dealing with (f)unemployment, and after watching my wife survive six months of it, I have some thoughts on how to maintain my sanity and enjoy – yes, I hope to enjoy! – this temporary period of having absolutely no job at all:

First, know that it is temporary. Maybe say this to yourself every single day.  So often these days, Turtle says, “Wow, I wish I’d done this when I was unemployed!”  Because it seems so endless, it’s hard to be motivated; but it will end, so take advantage of your, ahem, unpaid vacation time.

you know, live for the moment, dance like no one is watching, all that jazz.

Second, get up at a reasonable hour. I say reasonable hour because it’s pretty subjective.  For me, a reasonable hour is sometime between 6:30 and 7am.  It gives me time to sleep in a bit, but still have my entire day.

Third, start your day with something productive. I drop Turtle off at the bus stop and then take Daphne for a good off-leash romp somewhere.  I signed up to volunteer at a local wildlife center, so every Monday morning I have somewhere to be.  It’s nice to start the week feeling like I’ve accomplished something, even if it was just show up and look at pretty raptors (you guys!  Yesterday a Broad Winged Hawk was NOT happy with me. It was awesome.).

Tuesday morning hike with the beast.

Finally, set some goals. Mine are probably very different from what yours would be, but they include working with Daph on 3 new tricks a week, taking her out for at least 30-45 minutes every day, and writing every single weekday.  They’re not big goals, but they are productive and measurable and manageable.

Yesterday I did my volunteering and then deep cleaned the kitchen and reorganized a few parts of the house that we haven’t really touched since moving here back in May.  I was nervous that I got too much accomplished yesterday and wouldn’t have anything to do for the rest of the week – but then I set up some interviews to volunteer at a few other places, and I’m excited to see what comes of those.

If you are or have been unemployed, how are you maintaining your sanity?  What advice do you have?

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The End/I’m always covered in fur

So my last day of work was last Friday and for some reason I expected some downtime.  Did I already talk about this?  It’s all sort of a whirlwind of craziness.  The plus side is that I do need to eat but I don’t have time to shop, so tonight I threw a bunch of ingredients we had around the house (canned beans, frozen veggies, soy “hamburger”, some herbs) into our slow cooker and things smell delicious.  Sadly, it still needs another 20 minutes to cook slowly, so I thought I’d pop in and say Hello! I’m not missing!  I am just, once again, terribly (wonderfully?) covered in other people’s cats.

us, covered in our own animals. I promise these are our only cats. We are not crazy cat ladies... though I think becoming a crazy dog lady is not a bad goal.

Also sadly, it seems that this trend of being covered in other people’s pets (or feeding and cleaning up after other people’s pets) will continue for the rest of 2010, and I am not going to have the time I would like to dedicate to thoughtful blogging.  Lucky for me, many of you have time off of work and so will not be hoping my blog has new content so that you can procrastinate.

So, my friends, here’s to the new year a few days early!  Thank you to my faithful readers; even though I don’t know who most of you are, I appreciate knowing that you’re out there reading.  And thank you to the regular commenters for helping me feel like I’m saying something worth saying.  Lastly, thank you to those of you who have approached me in person or emailed to say you like what’s happening over here: it always seems to come when I need it most.  You all make this worth doing.

Happy New Year!  And Merry Christmas, if that’s your thing, and also happy birthday to me, my wife, and my dad.  See you next year!  No, seriously, I’ll be back in full swing 1/1/11.  Hooray!

Cheers,

Bird

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My Pre-furred State of Being

I have spent my entire life wanting to be a veterinarian when I grow up.  I think there was a month or two when I was about thirteen or fourteen when I was really active in my church, and for those two months I considered that maybe I wanted to be a UU minister.  Well, when that month or two was over, I was back to wanting to be a vet.

 

again, me in my Preferred State of Being: covered in dogs

I started working at a local vet clinic when I was fifteen, and never really stopped after that.  In high school I went abroad for six months and obviously could not keep my job while I was on the other side of the world, but no worries!  I found a Clinica Veterinaria where I happily worked every Saturday morning.  When I returned to the states, it was back to work at the hospital, and after not working with animals for one measly semester in college, I never took a break again until my first real-life job.  I decided to take a break from veterinary medicine and try something a little more human oriented.  I thought maybe animals weren’t my thing anymore… after a year and a half of rape crisis work, I went back to the dogs (and cats and rats and bunnies and birds… you get the idea).

 

Me in Chile circa 2002. No, I didn't medically treat these llamas, but I may have tried to hug them.

The big thing that I didn’t do in all of this time was actually finish my classes to apply to vet school.  Every year I have said, “This year I’ll finally take X so that I can get my application in for next fall,” and every year something comes up: I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I refuse to skip my honeymoon so I can take the first Organic Chem exam.  Not the worst excuses, but finally I realized something.

I don’t think I want to be a vet.

That said, I do (of course!) still appreciate a face-in-cat situation. Even if the cat is slightly perturbed.

A couple of weeks ago, I was preparing to leave my job at the cat clinic and wondering what would come next.  I put together a list of the things I have loved about all of the veterinary medicine work I have done in the last almost-11 years (seriously, almost 11 years? Crazy!):

  1. Working with people and animals. One or the other doesn’t quite cut it for me.
  2. Troubleshooting with people about their animals, a la, How can we get your cat to take its pill? How can we help you transition a new pet into the house? How can we get your cat more active or your dog more engaged? etc)
  3. Working with the same people over time, and getting to know clients. I love recognizing people when they come in; I love that they know me by name and that I know them well enough to stop and say hello around town.

The thing I realized is that none of this is specific to medicine. So… here goes something else?  Monday was my first day of officially no longer having a full time job.  Of course, I still got up at 6:30, dropped my wife off at the bus, took the dog for a run through the woods, and then went to my volunteer position at a wildlife sanctuary.  As I pulled up to my driveway after all of that, I glanced up and there was a bald eagle flying over our house.

(this is not the actual eagle, but this is what it actually looked like)

I’m seeing hope around every corner.  Here I am, knowing that I’m on the edge of something big, and feeling like I’m waiting for it to materialize in front of me.  I have a petsitting business and a domain name – could I someday expand this to a training/behavior business?  Do I go back to school for something awesome?  Does someone reading this know exactly what all the signs point to?

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In Which the Prettiest Cat in the World Scares Us

Remember when I talked about how getting through the hard stuff is how I knew my wife was the one?  Well, let me just say: Thanks, Universe, for the reminder.  She has been the best through all of the stuff that’s been going on for the last week, even though she’s the only person I can take it all out on.  I have been incredibly grateful for that, for how she’s still here and still being supportive even if I am snippy with her about leaving piles around the house.  Because, you guys, she DOES leave piles around the house.  They’re just, uh, next to my piles, so really I have absolutely no ground to stand on on this one.

Well, last night I realized that it’s not just that she’s there to prop me up when things get hard.  Last night I realized what a team we are, and how much we can do together.

Last night, the Prettiest Cat in the World started vomiting, so Turtle called me at work to ask me about it.  Thanks, Piper, for doing this while I am still employed! Nice job!  I was all, “Oh, no biggie if it’s just once or twice, just keep an eye on her, she probably ate too fast.”  Word of advice: ask questions first, gently dismiss your wife later, only after considering the evidence.

“Bird! It wasn’t once or twice or food.  It’s been six or seven times.”

That’s a lot of times.  I went home after work and we gave her pepcid and tried to give her fluids (turns out The Prettiest Cat in the World is also the Sharpest, Pointiest, and Most Stubborn Cat in the World), and then we decided to get ready for bed.

And then The Prettiest Cat in the World started vomiting blood.

We ended up taking her to work, where my awesome vet met with us and took a look at her and helped us give her fluids.  It was questionable whether she had anything in her stomach, but she stopped vomiting, and we decided to watch her overnight and go to an emergency clinic if it seemed to get worse.  This morning, she woke me up asking for food and is very upset that I won’t give her any.  Not as upset as she’ll be when she realizes we’re going back to the vet for a recheck.  Muah! Ha! Ha!

What I a grateful for in this whole thing, besides an awesome vet who is willing to go back to work at 10pm, is an awesome wife who is just the best partner.  There was no arguing, no “you do X, I’m busy doing Y!”, no questioning what we needed to do.  It was just, “Okay, we have to make sure things are okay. Let’s go.” mixed with a lot of reassuring (“Well, maybe we WILL spend all night at the emergency clinic, but it’s going to be okay.”) and a few jokes (“This is what happens when we try to go to bed on time.  We’ll be fine if we plan to stay up ALL NIGHT.”).  We got home and we made things happen.  Turtle learned how to squeeze a bag of fluids to make them run faster.  I learned that Piper is the BEST cat to xray.  Even if she did try to bite me when I tried to give her fluids.

I think this picture accurately captures our relationship: I hug her, she tries to turn invisible.

Has anything happened lately that has reminded you of how awesome your significant other is?

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