Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boot Camp

In dog training you call it "the breaking point." This phrase refers to the exact moment when the dog's behavior becomes so offensive it prompts the owner to finally address it and the relationship dramatically shifts.

This weekend we hit the breaking point with Xochitl.

It happened in Dolores, again (first bad episode in Dolores resulted in Xdog losing all off-leash privileges). We took her there and she began barking at everything. And I mean everything: dogs, people, balls, kites, food, etc. We tried all the different tricks we learned, but she was obviously making it a sport.

We went home, Aaron crashed (he had just flown in from Germany earlier that day), and I did some research. Low and behold, I realized that we'd allowed Xochitl to run the house.

I blame myself a little. After Paco died it was just too hard to be strict, and with a little dog it's easy to allow them up on the furniture and in the bed. If she was larger, we may have noticed sooner, but when it's kind of cute when a little dog is being bad. Behaviors you wouldn't allow in a big dog, like tearing across the couch, harassing the cat, or ripping up anything that looks like a dog toy are adorable when done in miniature. During the months after Paco's death we needed a good laugh, and little Xdog provided it.

But now things were out of hand. As I poured through training materials, I realized we'd totally let her run our lives. It's hard to step outside yourself and get a good read on the situation, but, as I did so, it became very clear what was going on.

So now it's boot camp.

No furniture privileges and no bed privileges. She is either crated or on leash, attached to a human or a table leg. Off leash time is spent working on her homework, highly monitored, and exercise is more regular. It's good for all of us, really, and her behavior is improving rapidly.

The first night I fought with her for an hour, making her settle on the floor versus the couch. She would settle for a minute and then try and get up again. The theatrics were incredible, as she flailed like a fish and whined like crazy, alternately attacked the leash or pawed at my leg. All the while I quietly stood on her leash with just enough slack to make the only comfortable option for her to lie down. Eventually she gave up, but now I had a measure by which to judge her bad attitude. See, I've done that exercise with many a dog before, the most stubborn of which was one of my other favorite dogs in the world, Boodles the Boxer. She fought me for 30 minutes before she gave up, but Xdog put that record to shame.

Now she settles on the floor instantly and doesn't even try and get up on th couch, but this is also just a couple days into boot camp. We'll see how the progress goes and, until then, this is a thing of the past:

Gandul squared

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grosser than gross

It takes a lot to gross me out. Explosive black-green diarrhea, a plastic bag of raw chicken vomit, and puss-filled cysts are all things that I can deal with. I cannot, however, deal with people talking with their mouths full of food.

Okay, I realize it's occasionally a necessary evil. You take a bite of food and get caught off guard, someone asks you a question that demands an immediate answer, or you need to interject before serious injury occurs. That's fine. A normal person generally tries to minimize the grossness. You cover your mouth, turn your head, talk out of the side of your mouth, etc.

But not this one guy I know. He makes a sport out of talking with his mouth full of food.

He seems to think that eating is the ideal time to carry on a conversation. In the middle of a sentence he'll wrap his mouth around whatever he's eating and take a huge bite, a bite so big it's apparently impossible to close his mouth all the way in order to chew it. Sure, he'll make a show of covering his mouth with his hand when he speaks with his mouth full, but it's accompanied with a gargling sound that gives the impression he's drowning in the food that's trickling down his throat. And the worst is when he exclaims, which is often, and gives you a full look-see at all the contents of his mouth. It's so gross that I've gotten to the point of feigning an alternate activity just to give myself an excuse to look the other way while he's eating.

Sometimes I feel like maybe I'm being unfair, but you have to understand that this has been a pet peeve of mine since birth, practically. I remember when I was about 2 or 3 years old and sitting across from my best friend in her kitchen. She was chewing with her mouth open, slapping her lips together, so I leaned across the table and physically closed her mouth with my hand. I don't even know if we could make full sentences back then, but somehow I knew it was just wrong to flash other folks a mouthful of food.

Tonight I met up with someone who spends a lot of time with my gross-eating friend. The plan was to hang out for a bit but then we started eating and I was horrified to see she'd picked up his eating mannerisms exactly. It grossed me out so much I had to cut the visit short.

As I made my quick getaway I wondered if I was being too judgmental, but then I realized we're all allowed one weird phobia-esque thing... and this is mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tales from the road

So this past weekend Paul, Xochitl and I piled into his truck and drove down to SoCal for a big Pet Expo. Overall things went well. Paco Collars sold a decent amount, we met some really cool people, saw some old friends, and managed not to strangle each other the entire time. On top of that, Xdog got a really cool new outfit.

xochitl is out of this world

The entire weekend was a lot of work, but there were some highlights (one of them not being Field-Trip-to-the-Pet-Expo-for-Every-School-Child-in-Orange-County Friday... that kinda sucked and forced us to hide all of our free handouts lest they strip us dry).

We totally scored when some cool folks we'd never met offered us a place to stay one mile from the expo, making the commute somewhat bearable. We also made up cool games and spotted SoCal trends, like "extreme plastic surgery" and "moms getting full sleeves." Xochitl got to meet another Xolo, as well as a slew of Chinese Cresteds and a handful of AHTs.

But the highlight happened Friday. A mother and her two children stopped by the booth. The daughter was a toddler. Xdog was sitting pretty for them and I asked the little girl, "Would you like to give her a treat?"

She nodded so I handed her a freeze dried liver treat... which she then promptly put in her own mouth.

Paul, her mother, and I all caught it at the same time and, before I could get, "Oh no, not for you," out of my mouth her little face began to twist and contort. It turned bright red and she let out a huge cry, followed quickly by the wiping off of her tongue with her hands. The three of us started laughing and Xochitl began barking, which only heightened the little girl's discomfort and she started crying harder. The mom picked up her daughter to leave but was laughing so hard I thought she was going to drop her.

I'm sure one day that little girl will be telling that story from a psychiatrist's couch, but the visual of her paddling her tongue with her hands completely made our weekend.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


So last night the plan was to drop off Aaron at the airport then hit the town with D, who needed a wingman. I was pretty excited about the role, and Aaron and I brainstormed about it over dinner.

But then later, as D and I walked the dogs down Mission street, she burst my wingman bubble. Since D is pretty much a dude, and I'm definitely a girl, people were going to assume we were a couple, she warned. I understood what she was saying, and when a stranger at the bar told the dogs that they had "great mommies," I knew we had to devise a plan.

"Listen," I said, "when there's a cute girl you want to talk to, just introduce me as 'your friend, Ana' and then add something like, 'she and her boyfriend live just around the corner so that's why I'm in the neighborhood.' You've got to find a subtle way to mention the boyfriend thing so girls know I'm not a threat" We practiced it a few times.

Eventually there was someone who caught D's eye, but I could tell she was unsure about who the heck I was and what I meant to D. She left for a minute so I leaned over.

"Okay, when she comes back, you need to introduce me and use that boyfriend line."

"Yeah, good idea," D agreed.

The hot girl came back and D started talking.

"Oh yeah, I forgot to introduce you to my friend, Ana. Yeah, her boyfriend had to go out of town tonight and she gets sort of lonely so, you know, I'm showing her a good time."

I later explained just how bad that actually sounded.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I got an iPhone. Squeee!

Now I can spend the next several days dorking out, which is perfect timing since Aaron flies out to Atlanta tonight to fix the robot and then Paul and I leave either late Wednesday or early, early Thursday to go down to SoCal for a big Pet Expo. The goal is to have the phone souped-up by then so we have hours of entertainment and I won't go crazy without the internet.

Okay, back to dorking out... will check in later.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Xochitl goes under the knife

Yep, little Xdog gets spayed today.

Xochitl goes under the knife

Sure, I thought about keeping her in tact and having puppies, but then I realized I didn't want to go through the trouble of tracking down her pedigree, devote my weekends to getting her titled, and deal with several weeks of bleeding on end only to pump out substandard offspring, so under the knife she goes!

(I cannot wait to see her little head cone... is that weird?)

Monday, April 6, 2009


Because fate has a sense of humor, the day after I pretended that I'd found "the one", two viable adoption candidates actually appeared.

In addition to the freakish nature of their appearance (after months of searching, they cropped up within 15 minutes of each other), they also stand out as being polar opposites: one is a 6 week old puppy and the other is a much older guy, as in, he's about 8 years old.

They both have their pros and cons. The puppy is, well, a puppy, and the older guy we can't get much info about.

We went to go visit the puppy today and the situation is about the best you could hope for. The litter plus mom spent just a handful of days in the shelter and have been raised in a great foster home since then. Mama dog has a beautiful temperament, is beautifully built, and we really just wanted to take her home. She was a silly girl and did a little Paco-esque dance for us that made us smile. The whole litter is healthy and happy.

I picked up our prospect and he just looked into my eyes and wagged his tail non-stop, but in a relaxed happy way. Instead of being like, "OMG a person! A person! I'm gonna freak out!" he was more like, "Hey, you're my kind of girl." He was a cool little dude who hung out with his siblings but chose to retrieve toys over intense wrestling matches. And did I mention he is frigging adorable?


I think the rescue, Butte Humane, was stoked not to have slacker college students applying and they're sold on us (Chico has historically been voted one of the top party schools in the U.S. and consumes 1% of the nation's alcohol annually, so I wasn't surprised to see, "Will this animal be living in a fraternity or sorority?" within the first 5 questions on their application). They even preemptively took him off their website until we give them the final word.

But what about the old guy, you ask... good question.

I inquired about him about a month ago. I saw his pic back then and fell for him, but was informed he was a pretty big guy. Our place is small, so a dog with a nearly 70 lb frame would take up a lot of space here. I put him out of my head but kept thinking of his face every now and again.

Fast forward a month and, just a few minutes after I found the pup, a customer sent an e-mail from Seattle Craigslist listing the same dog and touting his weight loss. Seems like he should actually be around a 55 lb dog, which is perfect for us. Oh, and the rest of his bio sounds like he should fit right in.

The next day I contacted the person who runs the rescue and she gave him a glowing review and gave me the contact info for the foster mom. I arranged for my old roommate to drive down and check him out for me once we get the word, but I haven't heard from the foster home and it's been a few days.

I keep telling myself there's probably a logical explanation. They're busy. Or on vacation. Or moving. Or there was a family emergency.

But then the insecure part of chimes in and my imagination starts to run wild... maybe she's decided to keep him. Maybe she dug up info on me and decided I wouldn't be a good home. Maybe she hates me.

The more I think about it the more I feel like an obsessive stalker. If someone told me they saw a picture in a personal ad, wrote an e-mail, and hadn't heard back for two days I'd tell them to take a chill pill. But then I go and do the opposite. I check the e-mail compulsively, scrutinize the photographs for any signs of my fears.

Is it rational? No, but in the world of emotionally based decisions loosely framed around lifestyles and givens, someone's bound to get butt-hurt.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Anatomy of a prank

Last April Fools Day Aaron got me good. I mean really good, so this year it was payback time.

It's no secret we're looking for a new dog. It's a pursuit we visit on a daily basis, so it seemed the perfect topic for a great prank. I knew it would deeply offend Aaron to come home with a dog without his prior approval, so the question was how to go about it in a believable fashion...

Carolyn helped me come up with the game plan. Once the framework was in place, the only issue was coming up with a suitable dog, one who was opposite enough from our wants but was still believable. Jade offered to lend her dog, but Aaron would never believe I'd bring a small, wire-haired terrier mix home. He'd met Nelly when Tim brought her over, so she was out. But then Melinda came to the rescue with a viable candidate.

The night before the trickery I began prepping him.

"Hey, do you need the car tonight?" I asked, "Because I'd rather BART in and leave it in the east bay tonight since I'll have to drive in to meet Melinda at the shelter tomorrow."

The wheels were greased, and we made work and dinner plans around the supposed shelter visit.

All day I played it cool. Aaron told me about how he tried to trick Jeff but was foiled. I pretended to be awed by his ability to pull off a joke, all the while biding my time.

I closed the store and raced home. I texted, "call me ASAP!", promptly turned off my phone, did the dishes, fed Xochitl and Pirate, stashed them away, and raced over to pick up Ruckus from his foster home. By the time I got back, Aaron had beaten me home. I tethered the dog up outside, and went in.

The boy and the dog were playing on the couch so I quietly walked over to return The Roach to her crate and explained to Aaron that I had picked up a little something at the shelter. "Don't panic," I explained, "I only agreed to foster. We don't have to keep him. He's not normally what I go for and I know he's a little different than what we've discussed, but there was just something about him and I couldn't leave him behind."

And in I came with Ruckus.

"our new dog"

Aaron's jaw dropped.

It's not that Ruckus is a bad dog, he's just exactly the opposite of what we're looking for. And, in Aaron's mind, we were stuck with him.

As the dog pulled and strained to explore his new surroundings I talked about how cute I thought he was, showed Aaron his missing tooth, and explained the situation would be temporary. I could see the pain in his face. He was trying to like this dog, he really was, but the possibility of this large, unruly dog in our home was too much. He looked like he was going to cry.

"So, how long?" he began to ask, and then I broke down and spilled the beans. I couldn't keep it up any more.

To say Aaron was relieved was an understatement. He knows I'm a terrible liar so he never dreamed I had it in me to pull off such an elaborate scheme. It totally caught him off guard.

After the laughter died down, we settled into fixing dinner and playing with Ruckus.
After he realized the dog was leaving, Aaron loosened up and actually grew fond of the big lug. He confessed that, before I walked through the door with Ruckus, he'd been secretly excited to see what I'd come home with. Unfortunately Ruckus was way too innapropriately interested in Pirate (and Xochitl) for it to ever work out, but he did get some lovin' and a peanut butter kong before we returned him home.

And although I'm proud of myself for pulling off my first ever April Fools prank, I'm a little wary of what wrath next year will incur...