There are a lot of days I don’t like my job, but today it was pretty good. Instead of database coding, I got to help 10 spidermen and 10 princesses learn about Halloween.
This is what we did:
There are a lot of days I don’t like my job, but today it was pretty good. Instead of database coding, I got to help 10 spidermen and 10 princesses learn about Halloween.
This is what we did:
The point of planning (and of Mondays too) seems to be to test your flexibility when all plans go awry. After a busy weekend, my Monday afternoon plans were to pick up a few groceries after work, begin tackling the pile of post-party dishes, cook a nutritious stir fry for dinner, pack up leftovers for lunch and settle down to watch Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, two of the very few shows we watch these days.
At 2:30 yesterday afternoon my cousin Pam calls and says her son Dee is in the hospital after having a bad seizure. He’s had seizures for a few years, only at school, but they’ve gotten worse lately. They moved him to Children’s Healthcare/Scottish Rite to run some tests and he was requesting visitors by name. So, I leave work early, stop to get the groceries (and a motorcross magazine for the hospital patient), go home to let the dogs out, meet PL at home, and we both leave again after a whopping 5 minutes at home. The Dee Man was pretty out of it, probably a combination of meds and the seizure, but with one eye open he was still chatting up a storm and keeping a record of who came to visit him and who hadn’t made it there yet. We made it there around 5, thankful for light 285 traffic, but we were starving by 6. We went down to the cafeteria, scoured congealed meatloaf and brown broccoli and walked out with pizza and cheetos, baked ones at least. So much for Day 1 of Dr. Phil.
Children’s Healthcare is a seriously nice hospital though and beautifully decorated. What impressed me was that their design and services are so clearly designed for kids and their families. Instead of the normal uncomfortable hospital reclining chair the room had a futon since most parents stay over, a parent business center with computers and internet, a family game room for siblings and patients, wagons for toting kids and their stuff, and many more details that impressed me. It wouldn’t take away from the unimaginable horror of having a very sick child, but it was very thoughtfull created. Actually seeing a tiny little kiddo covered in wires and crying in a crib was pretty much enough for me to not ever ever want kids and go through what those families are going through.
We got back home around 8, just in time for our shows, and they were both repeats. Why are there repeats on just 3 weeks into the season? We did end up watch a new show we like called The Ex List online since we missed it Friday. Oh, and that show was cancelled after just 4 episodes. I am seriously bad luck for TV shows, Out of Practice, The Class…I better stop watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Since our lunch plans for today were to have leftovers from dinner, and we really had nothing else at all in the house, I ended up cooking at 10 pm. Stir fry seemed like too much chopping, so we’re having that tonight instead of the spaghetti squash, italian sausage, and tomato sauce (homemade!) that I cooked instead. I packed it all up in containers, walked outside in my pjs’s in 35 degree weather to pick fresh basil, put the chopped fresh basil on top, gave PL’s container an extra garnish of pretty basil leaves, and put it in our lunchboxes for today. That made the kitchen even more of a diaster so I then did as many dishes as would fit on the counter to dry and loaded up the dishwasher.
Then I went to bed where both dogs fell asleep on their dog beds–a miracle!
So, it’s been a while. Lots of stuff happening. Some sadness. Some comfort in sadness. More profound thoughts might come out of it later, but for now I’m more in the solitary, spending time at home mode. Blogging and Facebook don’t do it for me in regards to real emotions, call me old fashioned. Bring over a casserole and we’ll talk.
In other news:
We started back on the Dr. Phil diet plan today. I actually can’t stand to watch Dr. Phil (my parent DVR his show every day), but 4 years ago I lost about 40 pounds by following the food plan and PL lost 60 pounds. I’ve gained back 13 pounds in the past year or so, mostly the past few months by being lazy about exercise and eating way too many carbs…mmmm carbs. Poor Oliver has literally been on 3 walks since we’ve gotten him, like a month ago. And for the 3rd walk, I was cranky and napped on the couch, leaving PL alone to walk 2 crazy pups.
Whatever I think about Dr. Phil, the diet plan is really just an easy way to get organized about planning the kind of meals and snacks you need to eat…whole, unprocessed foods, more vegetables, less carbs (and by less it’s really just a more appropriate amount than most of us eat). We jokingly refer to the way we both lost so much weight as the “Eat Some Goddamn Vegetables” diet plan. It starts with 2 weeks of pretty limited carbs just to get you started and detoxed from sugar and everything. It’s actually not terrible, but ask me again at 4pm–the time everyday I normally get hungry and eat lots of crackers.
As I’ve already shared with a few people offline, Oliver is a great dog, but maybe not all that smart. It may just be that he’s still a little confused and overwhelmed by all the changes in his life recently, or maybe he really is kind of a dummy. No judgment. O’Malley is plenty smart and it gets him in trouble, so a dog that just sits there with a blissed-out look on his face is kind of nice. He just goes with the flow, and as long as he gets food and attention, he’s a happy fellow.
I do have to confess that he does things that make you judge his mental capacity. Our family room is pretty small, and all people and dogs need be on the back side of the couch in order to get out the door to the deck because of the way it swings and blocks the path. Oliver just can’t figure this out, and ends up behind the door when it’s open and can’t get outside. He gets a sad look on his face and sometimes whimpers a little, and I have to close the door, let him walk around, and then open the door again so he can go out. He’s also fairly tall but he struggles to get on the bed (which is very low). He’s been good about sleeping on his dog bed but does like to snuggle sometimes–we let him because it’s kind of cold in the house and 80 pounds of dog is actually quite warm and cozy. Rather than just taking a small hop, he stretches his paws really far across the bed, putting his entire upper body on it, and then flails his legs trying to pull himself up. His total height reaches above the bed, so it would really just be a small hop. Oh well. At least he’s cute.
It took from Sunday until Wednesday to teach Oliver that the sound of the clicker means he gets a reward. I’m still not totally convinced he knows it, but when PL tested him when she got home, it got his attention and he wanted a treat. Meanwhile, O’Malley is learning to touch his nose to my hand, a command called touch (duh). You can do a lot with this after they learn it, including teaching them to point at different objects and moving up to frisbee catching. He still is acting like an excited and totally out of control goofball a lot of the time, so I think we need to try taking him around more people to practice and have friends work with him too instead of just us.
Now that Oliver knows what the clicker means, the next thing he’ll learn is his name. We’ve been using his name a lot when we’re just sitting and playing with him, and we finally have the hang of not yelling the dogs’ names when they are in trouble (most of the time anyway). That was probably the hardest thing for me to learn because my instinct is to yell their name, but you want their name to be a good association for them and never used as a punishment. Teaching the dog it’s name is one of the first things to do because it’s how you get their attention, and you have to get your dog’s attention to teach them anything else.
Here’s how Oliver will, probably, hopefully, learn his name in a few days. With the treats and the clicker, you say your dog’s name. When they look at you, you click and give them the treat. You can also practice holding their attention for longer and longer periods of time too. This will be repeated up to 20 times in each session, with maybe 2 sessions a day. That’s really less than 10 minutes a day of commitment on your part, and the ideal amount of time for the dog according to the things I’ve read.
Doing this even for 5 minutes a day is a lot of treats, and even if they are little pieces, that’s still a lot of food. Oliver needs to put on weight so I’m not too worried about him for now, but I may cut back on the size of O’Malley’s meals a little if he’s getting lots of the treats.
Oliver has lived with us for a couple of days now, and it’s time for him to start learning the rules of the house. He’s had some time to relax, get lots of attention and get what he wants when he wants it. It’s 5am Oliver, you want to go outside? Ok, let me get up and take you. (Actually, the way it really went down was that PL got up to let him out at 5am, while I stole all of the covers and went back to sleep.) He’s very laid back but a little shy, and I think training will make him less nervous when something new happens.
Oliver is very eager to please and already very devoted to us (like any good spaniel) so I think he will learn quickly. If he’s confused he backs away and gets scared, so we’ll have to be extra patient with him. O’Malley always finds a way to be included in everything, so while we’re training Oliver, he will get a much needed refresher course in his manners as well. We went through an 8-week Beginner Dog Obedience class last Spring with O’Malley. We left the class with a graduation certificate that proudly hangs on our refrigerator (and an embarrassing picture of PL holding O’Malley with a graduation cap on his head).
I also left the class with my own philosophy of dog training:
1. Your dog’s bad behavior is your fault and not theirs.
2. Dogs are happier when they are trained (it goes without saying that their people are happier too). Shy dogs gain confidence, and hyper dogs gain purpose and direction.
3. Dog training is more about dedication and practice than about being an expert.
4. Dogs learn quickly, but consistency takes a lot longer.
That’s not really groundbreaking stuff, but O’Malley made big improvements and became easier to live with after dog class, so I’m going to pretend I’m an expert now. Both dogs were magically house trained, so I’m taking credit for that too. Since PL the law student knows all about dog bite court cases and liability now (I finally learned what a Tort is), this is the part where I say I’m not a professional and I’m just sharing my experiences, not offering counsel.
Here is what O’Malley knows how to do after beginner dog class: sit, down, stay, release, spin and give high fives. He’s consistent with these things most of the time, but needs to practice doing them anytime, everywhere, for anyone, even with distractions. He’s ok at coming when called, but needs to learn to do it even when what he’s doing is fun (like playing in the litter box or running down the street to poop in the neighbors yard when he escapes from the house). Lately he’s become worse about putting his paws on the counter and searching for food (he’s a carb-a-holic) so we’ll be working on that too. The fact that he does this is our fault since there have been times where he jumped up and found things there, thus rewarding his behavior with yummy carbs. We left the house for a quick bike ride last week and came home to find a freshly baked loaf of bread resting in the grass. We dusted it off and put it in a clean bag and ate it anyway. (Disclaimer: he never opened the bag, just licked the outside, and anything we serve to guests is guaranteed 100% slobber free, not that we would tell you if it wasn’t). Needless to say, they really let anyone graduate from dog class.
Yesterday I started the first part of Oliver’s training by doing something called “loading the clicker.” We were taught the clicker method of dog training in our class and the sound of the clicker is used to mark and reinforce good behavior. I admit that I always thought a clicker for dogs was stupid, but I learned that you just use it for teaching something new and it’s not like a dog remote control at all (you don’t have to carry it around all the time and look like an idiot clicking it to make your dog behave). Once a behavior is learned, you do not need the clicker and the treat to reward the behavior. Often the behavior is reinforced by a real life reward. For example, O’Malley is trained to sit at the gate and stay (even once the gate is opened) until we say release. When he does this, his reward is getting going out of the fence to take a walk.
The basic methodology of clicker training is that when the dog does a certain behavior, they hear the click and associate what they just did with something that earns a reward (usually a treat but also attention or play). You can think of the clicker like a camera, and the click is a snapshot of the behavior you want at the moment it happens. The sound it makes (a two-toned popping noise) is the same pitch every time, unlike your voice which can say the same word in different ways giving it different meanings to the dog. Over time, the dog learns what the behavior is, attaches a command to it, and learns to do it on cue.
Before you do any training with a clicker though, you have to teach the dog to associate the sound of the clicker with a reward–this is called loading the clicker. It takes 2-3 days of practice in a few short (5 minutes or so) sessions each day. In fact, all training is most effective in sessions of about 5 minutes repeated a few times a day rather that in one longer block of time. Loading the clicker is a great game for your dog because they don’t have to do anything at all and they still get lots of treats. You begin with a handful of very small treats, or larger ones broken up into small pieces. You click and then give them a treat. Over and over. To test that they know it after a couple of days, simply make a click when they aren’t looking at you, and if it gets their attention and they expect a treat, you are done with loading the clicker.
One of the main reasons I think blogs are so popular is that we all have an innate curiosity about the inner workings of other people’s lives. Wow, that family can’t get anywhere on time either! Her cat is sick, I hope he gets better, even though I’ve never met him. He saw this really great movie–I should check that out.
I’m a sociologist by training, and while I thought it was normal to know what cars the neighbors drive and figure out the relationships for the people that are hanging out at their house (we used to live next door to gay Panamanian men with a rainbow cat sticker on their car, on the other side was a house that hosted Spanish speaking Pentecostal church in their basement and all of this right down the street from the headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church), PL told me this was being nosy. I argued that it’s vital to know about your neighbors’ comings and goings when you live in a neighborhood where you have to play the “Fireworks or Gunshots?” game on a regular basis. I’ve been canvassed by the police and hadn’t heard or seen anything, so now when I hear a loud noise, I quietly make a mental note of the time in case a detective knocks on my door when I’m in my pajamas. There’s also a teenage girl who smokes while she walks to the bus stop in the morning–I should figure out where she lives and tell her mother.
We never seem to have enough time with most of our friends to share these mundane details of life, but we can read their blogs when we’re supposed to be working. PL and I are blessed to have two good friends we see often enough, and have known for enough years, that we can talk about things like our pets digestive health and other topics that someone else might not want or need to know about. I remember being at a party with these friends and another couple, and I mentioned that we have the same fight over and over again, and it’s about the dishes. They were so happy to hear this, and it turns out their major relationship issue is refilling the hand soap dispenser.
Sharing your living space with another person is always entertaining and often infuriating because no matter how long you have known someone, they continue to surprise and amuse you. That’s the point I guess.
As an only child, I always liked having my own space, liked things my way, and couldn’t imagine sharing my living space as an adult. I even recall expressing incredulity at why folks always crashed in each other’s dorm rooms in college–so crowded! Just go back to your own room! Fate and irony has a way of making you look stupid when you boldly make a statement like that (also when you make statements about how Agnes Scott girls suck), and I found myself shacking up in a (very messy) dorm room at Agnes Scott and still shacking up with the same Agnes Scott girl in slightly less cramped living quarters 5 years later.
To quench anyone’s curiosity about the dull routines of daily life in our family, I’d like to share something that might be surprising to some people…PL is the world’s most thorough cleaner. It came as a surprise to me for sure. We share house work fairly equitably, but I have more motivation for it and I’m a big “nester.” Especially since PL went from a part-time worker to full-time (plus lots more) law student, I’ve done more of the daily cleaning tasks. I would be a great Southern housewife, but the cards weren’t dealt that way.
Left to her own devices though, PL doesn’t show a ton of interest in being neat. If I ever go insane, it will be because of tiny bits of paper that seem to multiply like bunnies all over the dresser. It only took 5 years, but I finally figured out her cleaning psychosis. She can’t pick up the trash from the dresser without dusting it and refreshing it’s finish with orange oil. She can’t pick up sweaters from a chair and put them in the closet without picking up everything else on the floor of the closet and organizing her shoes. She can’t vacuum the rug without vacuuming the baseboards (we have baseboards?). She can’t wipe down the bathroom sink without getting out Q-tips to wipe around the faucet.
We did a lot of major seasonal cleaning this weekend because a) we needed to, b) her law school friends were coming to our house for the first time and we had cobwebs and c) my parents are probably coming to town next weekend and the way I get them to be ok with me being gay is to have a cleaner house than them and the world’s cutest grandkids, er, dogs.
Friday night I moved through a giant stack of dishes and picked up clutter and dusted 5 rooms in the house before PL even finished with the bathroom. By Saturday evening, I was bleary eyed and trying to stay awake and she had the vacuum out again, finding more pet hair. On Sunday, I’m was trying to watch Tina Fey on SNL online, and she was vacuuming yet another room (is there some secret passage to a hidden wing of the house?). Then I leave for a couple of hours when I thought the house was totally clean, and I walk back in to find the cushions off the couch, some kind of Arm and Hammer powder on them, and PL vacuuming and fluffing them all (thank you, they smell really nice now). I went outside to play with the dogs, while she stayed inside to clean lint out of tiny holes in the the washing machine with a toothpick. I tend to exaggerate for dramatic effect, but she really did all that. So, that’s how we roll…a dishcloth in one hand, a vacuum in the other, and two dogs trailing behind leaving a trail of dirt and leaves on the clean floor.
Today was a busy Saturday. We picked up our new dog from DeKalb Animal Control this morning. They opened at 10 and I think we were there just a few minues after that since I didn’t want him to be there any longer than he had to. He was happy to see us (I had played with him twice before so I’d like to think he remembered me) and actually walked on a leash instead of laying on the ground and having to be picked up or pulled along on the floor.
After bringing the filthy mutt home, we let him play in the yard with O’Malley and brushed him a little before he came in the house. He desperately needs a bath and a haircut, but since he was just neutered he can’t get the stiches wet yet so we did the best we could with the brush, scissors and wipes. We were down to two final name choices–Berkeley and Oliver. After playing for a few minutes and trying out both names, we decided he’s definitely an Oliver.
When you get an animal from Animal Control you give up knowing about their background and personality, but he seems really good natured and easy to handle. His favorite thing to do so far is come stand in front of you to let you pat his head. He just stands there and looks at you–never jumping or lunging, just patiently waiting. He’s been pretty restless all day and can’t seem to find a good spot to nap. He seems to prefer the deck to the house and curled up in a ball next to the house to sleep, so I’m guessing he spent most of his life outdoors. He’s still skittish, but O’Malley was too at first and he settled in after a couple of weeks. Oliver ate his first raw meal like a champ, and took a walk and didn’t pull on the leash at all. He did swerve all over the road and stop every time we saw a car, so we have some practice to do.
After we played with the dogs for a couple of hours, I rode my bike to the library and back (Google told me is was 2.4 miles round trip) and I was there and back in 30 minutes, which included biking, getting my books checked out, and drinking some water. I felt quite proud of myself and wasn’t too tired at all. I do need a different bag to carry on the bike. I have an Old Navy over the shoulder messenger bag, and it kept sliding off and flopping to one side. I tightened the strap but it didn’t help. I have a backpack with 1.5 straps (O’Malley ate the other .5) and that might work a little better.
We’re having PL’s law school study group over for dinner Sunday night and the house was a wreck, so the next few hours were spent cleaning. We needed to do more serious cleaning too and we changed the AC/heat filter, dusted the ceiling fans, swept the deck, and picked up a few sticks in the yard. The fun part was putting out some Fall decorations. Then I went to the Toco Hills Kroger for chicken since one of the study group members is Jewish and keeps kosher. I love going to that Kroger since everyone who works there is so nice and they have a Rabbi on staff who he helps unload your cart when he has free time (although not today since it’s Saturday). I stopped by the Farmer’s Market (at 4pm on a Saturday, and lived to tell about it) on the way home to get our produce. I also got lots of cute decorative pumpkins and lined them up in a row on a shelf when I got home. I realized later that the chicken was kosher, but the chicken broth for another part of the recipe isn’t so I have to figure that out tomorrow. It’s Organic, Low Sodium, Non-Fat chicken broth, so I seriously think they could have just called in a rabbi after they went to all that trouble.
We took both dogs on a run/walk. 10 minute warm up. 10 minutes jogging. 3 minutes walking. 10 minutes jogging. And then another 5-10 back to the house for cool down. Oliver was just neutered so he needs to take it easy, but he made really sad eyes at us and stuck his head through the gate when we left with O’Malley, so we brought him too. He seemed to have fun and the boys are so cute when they walk side by side.
Then I made tacos for dinner, and wondered why we don’t eat tacos more often. I cleaned up the kitchen and tried to convince Oliver he doesn’t have to sleep on the deck. I’m fully prepared to wake up many times during the night while he’s being restless and nervous in a new place. He has a great dog bed and tons of toys and just doesn’t know how lucky he is yet. Now I’m totally wiped out, but happy and having a great weekend.