Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shameless Puppy pics

Here is Puumba, in all his adorable glory

being thoughtful

I know, he's so cute it hurts. Everyone who meets him instantly falls for him. I hand out his adoption information daily as it seems we can't go anywhere without someone deciding he's the one for them. It's too bad I'm not single as this dog is the ultimate chick/dude/can't-you-imagine-the-two-of-us-raising-him-together magnet. Everybody loves Puumba, but that doesn't mean he's staying. Don't get me wrong, he's a cool dog, but we are not keeping him.

Last weekend we drove down to San Diego to meet another potential dog. On paper he was perfect, just about everything we wanted. In person he was also great, and he and Xochitl had great chemistry. But he never had a chance.

See, on the drive down Aaron and I had a long conversation and we realized our lives are complete. The huge part of me that craved another dog was simply mourning Paco, but now that time has allowed healing I can now appreciate what I do have rather than focus on what is gone. As Xochitl matures and our training continues, I realize she's all the dog I need right now, it's as simple as that.

I got home and promptly closed all the Firefox tabs I've kept open and check obsessively for the past several months: Petfinder, Craiglist, Petharbor. Like a junkie quitting cold turkey, I haven't looked back.

In the meantime, everyone around us is convinced Puumba is "the one". I post pictures and they tease how he's a dead ringer for Paco (he's not) and wonder when I'll crack under the pressure and give into the puppy cuteness. They point out what an awesome little guy he is, how nothing phases him, how he marches with such a confident stride, and his even-keeled energy and intense focus is something so rare in a pup so young.

All of this is true, but what they don't know is that my heart has already closed the possibility of adding another dog right now.

p.s. don't feel bad for Puumba, he just got an *awesome* application.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm not a hippie, I swear

Since marijuana is practically legal, I think it's probably okay to post this...

Not to get into the specifics, but yesterday I found myself suddenly in the possession of a free pot brownie. I'm not anti-pot by any means, but I just don't ever find myself seeking it out. However, as I stared at the delicious looking edible I went through my mental checklist for the night and found everything pointed toward "eat me":

* I had no plans for the night

* Aaron was working in Atlanta until Friday

* My neck had been killing me for two days and I could barely turn my head

* between me making a major ass out of myself (long story) and Xochitl's graduation, I'd had a stressful couple of days

* it had caramel on top!

After a big meal with Dango, I went home and went through a preparation ritual. Both the hairless wonder and the foster puppy had had plenty of exercise, so they were taken care of. I did all my chores first so I wouldn't have any reason to fixate on a messy house down the road. I tried to download a movie, Johnny Got His Gun (which I've always wanted to see ever since the Metallica video), but it didn't work so I turned on the Family Guy.

I ate the brownie and waited a while. Nothing happened, not even after an hour. I knew eating dinner would slow things down, but, at this point, I hadn't even noticed anything. A little relieved the brownie was bunk, I passed out.

A few hours later I woke up and was, for lack of a better term, tripping balls. It was then I was really glad that my original movie choice didn't work out.

As I laid there half asleep, I went through all sorts of introspection and had a few epiphanies. The following sounds pretty hippie-like but bear with me...

First, I'm scared to go back to yoga. I'm ashamed that I let my practice slide and it's been nearly a year since I've gone to a class. My body knows this and is in pain because of it. But last night I listened to my body and stretched away the back pain that's been plaguing me for two days.

The second epiphany was that I figured out how to fix a few work-related issues. I won't bore you with the details, but the bottom line is that it all comes back to me and so long as my center is grounded and happy, then those around me will reflect that. This also kinda goes back to the yoga thing.

The third thing I discovered is that I need to let go of trying to find the perfect new dog, it's actually Xochitl's decision. I realize I just want the easiest fit for all of us, and that's going to depend heavily on the chemistry between the two dogs.

So I'm going to step back, push aside my preferences, and let Xochitl do the footwork from now on. She can act as divining rod, if you will. If there's something about the chemistry I'm uncomfortable with then we'll just pass. She's a good dog with bad habits so her partner in crime needs to compliment her, not challenge her. It may take a while, but I also realize she deserves to be the focus for a bit since we're just now making progress. We're driving down south to meet another dog this weekend, so it's good that this is fresh in my mind.

The fourth epiphany is that Xdog would probably be good at yoga.

I was up pretty much all night, I'm kinda tired today because of it, but you gotta hippie out every once in a while, you know?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Puppytron 3000

This weekend we drive down to San Diego to check out yet another new dog prospect. In the meantime, we have a little foster to keep us occupied. His name is Puumba, he's just over 10 weeks old and, according to the scale at Aaron's shop, he weighs 17.5 lbs (Xochitl weighs 16.5, according to the Paco Collars postal scale).

Here is what the two look like in action:

Overall Xochitl is doing much better. The last week I've really gotten serious about training. I've thrown aside the puppy class curriculum, have begun homeschooling from the book Control Unleashed, and Xochitl's progress is amazing. She is absorbing lessons like a sponge and leaves our mental workouts so tired that she sleeps like a rock.

I try to keep her under threshold but we do live in the city so I can't control the environment 100%. For instance, yesterday as we were working on "heel" outside of our house, a drunk homeless man bent over to her eye level and yelled, "Aye, aye, aye, chihuahua!" right in her face. She barked, and I can't blame her. Still, she seems to settle more quickly after disruptions and is now more willing to reorient to me.

Tonight is our puppy class graduation and the final is "real life cafe" simulation which involves the puppies staying on their mats for several minutes. I'm determined not to leave embarrassed. Yesterday we worked on the lesson "Go to Your Mat" and we were up to the point where I could throw the mat across the room and she would run to "down" on it before it even stopped moving. Once she's on her mat she won't move, even if you're dragging her around on the mat or dropping toys right next to her.

But, of course, this is in a very controlled environment. We'll see how it goes tonight in the classroom with ten screaming, out of control puppies...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking the Spell

So Sunday night we finally went back to eat at the new BBQ place in the Mission. This event stands out because the first and only other time we ate there was the night Paco died.

I've debated writing about the details of that night not because I'm afraid of what other people think (it doesn't matter, I've beaten myself up more than anyone possibly could), but because I just want to be over it. I want to be done, but then someone asks me about what happened and I, literally, can't speak anymore. I know you can't rush healing, but not talking about it certainly can't help, so I'm hoping that finally writing about it will prove at least somewhat cathartic.

We moved into the cottage last summer. Previously Aaron had lived in the "front house" with his four roommates. When the cottage came up for rent, we jumped on it since property like that is nearly impossible to find in the city. It took an hour long interview with the landlord, but he eventually conceded that Paco was an exceptional dog, despite being a pit bull, and allowed us to move in.

For months, things went swimmingly. We remodeled the heck out of the cottage and, except for Paco's removal of the cat door during a fireworks induced freak-out, the place improved ten-fold. The white picket privacy fence that separated our two yards was often open to accommodate large parties or share laundry. The entire property was so secure that doors were often left unlocked and people (Paco included) moved freely between houses.

Just after the New Year, while vacationing in Mexico, we decided to add Xochitl to our family. We had just one day to make our decision and, at the 11th hour, we finally heard back from the landlord. He approved adding a dog to the lease provided we pay a reasonable pet deposit increase and fix the fence. "We haven't gotten any complaints yet from the front house," he wrote, "but I'd like to keep it that way."

We got back from Mexico and hit the ground running. Both Aaron and I had a ton of work to catch up on, not to mention there was a new little distraction in the form of one small hairless dog.

Dango had reported that Paco was destructive in our absence. I chalked it up to lack of exercise, but little part of me was worried that this behavior, coupled with his seemingly more ravenous appetite of late, was actually a sign of an underlying medical issue. Still, I had no time to follow up on my theory as we were getting ready for a huge event at the end of January.

A couple of weeks passed and we finally found a free day to take care of house stuff, which included dog proofing the property as per the landlord's specs. We ran our errands, picked up a new cat door and went home. Well, the cat door was off by 1/4" on each side so we couldn't install, but we managed to jimmy rig the rotten fence into compliance. See, Paco had made it a hobby to pop open one of loose boards and squeeze through to check Pirate's feeding spot on the other side. We'd tried to fix the fence before, but it would always fall apart. This time, we took our task seriously, used extra long screws, bracer bars and, on Paco's favorite loose board, a boulder to wedge it shut.

One week later our big event arrived... it was the Golden Gate Kennel Club Show, one of the largest AKC events in Northern California, and we had a booth. I'd been attending the event for years as a spectator so it felt amazing to actually be exhibiting for the first time.

Saturday morning came along and I headed out the door at 7 am to work the booth. Aaron had the dogs for the day and would send me little texts like, "Cuddling on couch with dogs, making sales?" and, "Just took Paco for walk, now for a beer at Benders". I didn't have any time to reply because, well, we were slammed. In fact, I didn't even have time to eat, save the gross $10 nachos Paul and I split in the morning.

When I got home after dark, I was exhausted, famished and elated. We'd done pretty good in sales and met a ton of people, but I'd been on my feet all day. Aaron had forgotten to feed Xochitl breakfast, Paco and Pirate were out of raw food, and I needed to eat as well. Quickly, we made Xochitl work for her food, kibble by kibble. As was the norm, Paco and Pirate participated as well.

We threw Xdog in the crate and left for dinner. The plan was to pick up food for Paco and Pirate on the way home. As we left, I saw Paco crawl out of the cat door and watch us depart. "Uh uh. Inside," I instructed, which was a command he knew well, but this time I didn't stop to enforce it. I can still see his little round eyes as he watched us leave.

We went to dinner at the new BBQ place up Mission street, and it was amazing. Especially after you haven't really eaten all day. On the walk home we stopped to split a piece of pie at the new pie place that opened on Mission, and then to split a whiskey at the Phone Booth. Along the way I discovered we actually had food for Paco and Pirate if I got creative (egg, brown rice leftovers, yogurt) so there was no need to stop at the store.

We were gone for about two hours, and, when we came back, that's when we found Paco.

Aaron went in the gate before me. He later told me that at first he thought someone from the front house had hung Paco's jacket up on the fence, but then he realized it was actually Paco, wearing his jacket, hanging from the fence by his neck. I heard him yelling, "Paco, no!"

I rounded the corner to see Aaron pulling at Paco's neck, trying to get his head unwedged from the fence. Without thinking I ran forward, grabbed Paco by his chest, lifted him from the fence. I later found my purse and bag upside down on the ground, thrown aside.

Since nobody was there, we can only guess at exactly what happened. My theory is that, unable to push aside his trick board, he went over the fence to check Pirate's feeding spot. The spot was empty and it was a pretty cold, January night so he tried to get back into the house. Once again, the trick board was not there, so he tried to go over. The fence had braces along the inside, so he could probably get out easily. However, the fence was smooth on the other side with no foot holds. Any other part of the fence would have been fine, but Paco attempted to go over the part closest to the latch, which happened to be the one part of the fence that had a gap of about 3 inches between the slats. He tried to jump over to get back into the house, didn't make it, his head slid in between the pickets, down the gap, and his feet couldn't touch the ground.

There was so much self anger and blame surrounding the event. Why didn't we feed him before we left. Why didn't we clip him up on the tie down. Why didn't we put him in his crate. Why didn't the cat door fit. Why did we have to fix the fence. Why didn't I take him to the vet. Why did we get Xochitl. Why did we move in the cottage.

As the spiral of blame kept going round and round, the most senseless finger pointed at that restaurant. I couldn't go past the BBQ place without thinking that, if it hadn't sounded so good that night, we would never have left and Paco would be fine. I knew it didn't make sense, but I blamed the place. I was, literally, mad at it. And the fact that the meal we ate was one of the best of my life was just more salt in the wound.

We "forgave" the Phone Booth a few weeks after Paco died. How could we not, it's our favorite neighborhood bar, but it wasn't until this weekend, over 3 months later, that we returned to the BBQ restaurant. It felt weird going in, and somehow the food wasn't as good as I remember. But the act of going back did the trick. It was if the spell was broken and now life can return to normal.

Even so, I refuse to go back to the pie place. I don't care that it was featured in the last issue of Readymade, I'm still mad at it. And the pie sucks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lights, Camera...

So tomorrow we film a commercial. Actually it will probably be more like an infomercial or educational video, something like that. I wrote the script today and it's pretty dry. We'll do our best to spice it up but the point is to educate rather than entertain, so the bar is low.

It's a far cry from our first commercial attempt just a little over a year ago. I remember it was just a few days before Paco's TPLO follow up appointment where he got the green light to return to normal activity, and that was Cinco de Mayo last year. Eric, JR, and I stumbled into Van Kleefs without a script or direction, just a vague idea about about what we thought would be funny. I don't know why we thought it was a good idea to shoot a dark dog in a dark bar, but the background was necessary for the loose plot we'd envisioned.

The result is here. We're supposed to be having a relationship talk but the salvageable material may not make that clear, and somehow the end disappeared into the nether-regions of unusable footage. JR sent me this clip last week, and I just finally got the point where I can watch it without bawling my head off and successfully uploaded it to youtube tonight.

Yeah, it makes me sad, but I'm really happy it exists.