Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why people stare at my car

Sometimes I get paranoid and wonder why people are staring at my car.

Then I remember this.

And yes, I was stopped at a light, not driving.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Peanut - dainty princess

Peanut is my 9 year old German Shepherd-Dachshund mix. Which seemed possible because, at 3 months, she was small enough to lay diagonally in a 12 inch square tile.

She had tiny, dainty feet. Paw size is supposed to be an indicator of adult size. But her feet grew as she did. She topped out at 40 lbs and 21" high.

She had already had 3 owners. The last had gotten her from the Humane Society. When the large old dog in the household didn't take to her within a week, they decided to get rid of her. A week. My oldest dog wanted nothing to do with her for 3 years.

But Rags was thrilled to have someone to play with and take care of. They chased each other around and through the house, wrestled, and slept side by side. When she grew up, Peanut became dominant over him, but he doesn't seem to care.

I call her Princess because she has this royal, dignified attitude. She does not deign to pant eagerly for treats in the kitchen. She expects hers to be brought to her on the stair landing. Then she daintily takes it from your hand. When she sits, she looks like one of those statues of the Egyptian cats, tall, lean, regal.

Last year, she was diagnosed with a heart murmur, but it hasn't slowed her down. She continues to rule, currently preventing Angel from playing fetch with me.  Peanut growls and Angel stops cold.  And when Angel gets too rowdy, one growl from Peanut settles her down.

Peanut - canine royalty.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Product Shrinkage

Maybe I don't read the right kind of news, but I find it odd that there is so little comment on product shrinkage.

I assume that manufacturers are resisting raising prices in a recession. But do they really think we won't notice the downsizing of our purchases? I don't wait until I have no toilet paper to restock. So it is quite evident as I stack the new rolls against the old that they are half an inch shorter.

The same with ice cream. My favorite brand is now offered in a noticeably smaller container. The small mozzarella sticks I buy at a fast food restaurant now consists of three items instead of 4. The sliced turkey I buy no longer covers the slice of bread.

These things are noticeable, obvious. Shrinking the product is the same as raising the price. People get vocal about raised prices. Apparently marketers know that shrinking products will not get the same response. I'm curious about the psychology behind that.

I'm not planning on a boycott. I still buy these products. But I am very aware that I am getting less value for my money.

And maybe that's the answer - I still buy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Room painting questions

Everyone knows that the preparation is the biggest part of room painting. I was aware of the need to remove outlet covers, mask and edge before rolling. But I hadn't anticipated the questions involved in painting a bedroom.

Seeing that the baseboards needed re-caulking and pondering why the original caulk had split in the first place.

Discovering the tops of the doors had never been caulked and wondering if that was normal construction or laziness. And is this how the crickets are able to hide from me so well.

Moving the furniture and seeing the gray layer of dust on the carpet and thinking "Good grief! How long has it been since I vacuumed here?!"

Vacuuming up the gray dust layer and puzzling over what look like beverage stains along the baseboards. In a room where no beverage has been drunk - as far as I know.

Taking the curtains down and exposing a layer of dust on the top edge and wondering how it accumulated so quickly since it hasn't been that long since I washed them. Has it?

Wondering if it's a deliberate plot that the blind cords get tangled up no matter how careful you are when taking them down.

Puzzling over why there is paint on one outlet cover when I took it off before painting.

Who invented the paint roller and did he know he was a genius?

There are no answers to most of the questions, but they kept me entertained during the painting.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plans Derailed

Pets have a way of derailing your plans. My expectations for today did not include:

Clean up the entryway rug where Angel vomited on exiting the car. At least she waited until she was out of the car - this time.

Repair a broken bird feeder stand. I had some sample dog food none of the dogs would eat. That is, until I put it out for the grackles. Then Angel wanted it, badly.

Give Rags an emergency bath.

Clean the bedroom carpet to remove 2 colored streaks best left to your imagination, but related to the item above.

It's been an hour with no new crisis, so I may be safe for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rags - Sweet Survivor

Rags is my 12 year old Lhasa Apso. So many things have gone wrong with this poor dog, it's amazing that he's alive. That he is so lovable is a bonus.

I got him when he was 18 months old. We drove 40 miles to see him based on a newspaper ad. The house was unoccupied, the result of a divorce. The husband met us at the house. There was Rags, a female, and a puppy. Rags came right up to us, tail wagging.

Despite him being a dirty, matted bundle of fur, we bought him and took him home. He was thrilled to be in the car, looking out the window, tail still wagging. But he stank something awful.

First thing, we gave him a bath and cut the mats out of his long hair. That left him nearly bald and exposed not only that he was very underfed, but he had a hernia.

A trip to the vet solved the hernia, and neutering, issues. A trip to the groomer evened out the butchered hair. The underfeeding left him edgy around food and, at first, he put on too much weight to compensate. It took him over a year to realize the self-feeder would not run out.

When he was five, I took him to the vet because of a lump in his stomach. The vet figured it was a fatty tumor and operated to remove it. During the evening at home, the stitches began oozing some yellowish fluid. It was the only time I've ever heard him whine. That called for a trip to the emergency vet, who cleaned and bandaged him up and gave him a shot for the pain.

The tumor biopsy came back cancerous and I was referred to a veterinary oncologist. I didn't even know they existed. It was the 'best' kind of cancer: a MAST cell tumor in an easily removable location. But the first surgery hadn't been extensive enough. Rags had another surgery to remove the edges of the cancer. To this day you can feed the zipper-like scar tissue on his belly from the two surgeries. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy every quarter for a year.

Not long after he finished chemo, his urinary tract was blocked by bladder stones and he had to have emergency surgery. This was followed by a couple of uneventful years for him.

Since then there was the broken tooth that needed to be removed. And while they had him under anesthesia the vet was going to remove a harmless fatty tumor. But the dental x-ray machine broke. Since they had him under anyway, they removed the tumor, which was benign.

I had to take him to the dentist to have the tooth looked at. (Again, who knew there were dentists for dogs?) The dentist said he could cap the tooth instead of pulling it. So now both my dog and I have one crown.

Last year, another hurried trip to the vet when he suddenly shrieked and wouldn't put his back leg on the ground. The vet said it was muscular, like a footballer's knee injury, and prescribed muscle relaxants. I think perhaps Peanut wanted to play and caught Rags unprepared and he twisted his knee.

Next week, back to the dentist. He has more cracked teeth. I'm convinced it's a side effect of the chemo. The vet wanted to pull them, but I want to see if they can be saved like the last one.

No wonder Rags trembles violently when we get to the vet's.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Too Many Choices

There are too many choices available to us. The sheer number can be paralyzing, preventing us from doing anything.

I go to the store for bread. There are at least 50 types of bread to choose from. There is one I always buy, but can I truly call it my favorite if I haven't tried all the others? Are there really that many different ways to make a loaf of wheat bread?

Some choices have consequences. I chose not to go to college. Therefore, I can not apply for any jobs where a degree is required. I chose to buy a house in the suburbs and must deal with the commute to my job. Or I can choose to look for another job closer to home. Another choice.

How do we know whether we made the right choice? We don't. We can't know the results of the path not taken. Thus the paralysis, the fear of making the wrong choice.

The other day I had a block of hours available. I wanted to read a magazine, read a book, watch a movie, and work on my hobby. How to choose the right thing to do?

I took a nap.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mowing the "Lawn"

I have a 25' x 10' oval grassy oasis in my rocky backyard so the dogs have somewhere cool to lie on a hot Arizona day. It's a blend of crab grass, Bermuda, and fescue.

A lawn that small ought to be easy to mow, wouldn't you think? Even though I use a human powered push mower, it should take no more than seven minutes at most.

Well, first I pick up any doggy deposits to protect my shoes while mowing. There's nothing quite like that 'Eewww' moment when you feel a squish against the bottom of your sneaker.

Next, I pick up all the stuffed animals and de-stuffed husks from the yard and put them in the toy basket.
Then I pick up the toys that have been brought back out to the lawn from the basket.

Now it's time to pick up the sticks and twigs from the lawn. A provision of sticks protects my patio pillars, stair railings, and furniture from teeth marks. The big sticks I throw off to the side of the patio in a pile.

Raking only gets some of the shredded pieces of wood. So I gather most of those by hand. Otherwise, they stop the push mower cold.

I pick up the toys that have been brought back out to the lawn from the basket.
I throw aside a stick that has been brought back out to the lawn from the pile.

I push the mower around the oval, telling one dog or another to move out of the way every time I make a circuit.

Put the mower away. Rake the grass clippings. Done. The lawn is mowed. For now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Hummingbird Encounter

I have a 30' by 4' raised planter in the backyard. Due to heat, bunnies, and quail, only 3 magnificent Orange Jubilee and two or three Ruellia (Mexican Petunia) were flourishing there. One fall day I purchased more Ruellia to balance out the Orange Jubilee. (Purple against orange, very stylish)

It was around 3 PM. After planting 5 of the Ruellia, I took a break under the shade of an chinaberry tree, still standing in the planter, to the right of the largest jubilee. I was leaning on the shovel just enjoying the cool, when I noticed a movement on the far side of the jubilee. Then another. A hummingbird was checking out the blossoms on that side.

I stood very still and watched it for a moment, then it came to check out a flower on my side of the jubilee. I must have blinked or twitched, because it noticed me and darted away. But not far. I heard the buzzing of wings first in my left ear, then behind me. I barely breathed for fear of scaring it away.

Suddenly, it flitted in front of me. There it was, not more than a foot in front of my face, beak to nose staring at me as I stared at it. The shade washed out any colors in its feathers, but the back was soft gray and the chest an iridescent silver. The wings were just a blur. We stayed like that for at least 2 minutes, the hummingbird flitting first to the left, then to the right, but never more than an inch in either direction.

Whether it was by telepathy or by a change in its demeanor, I became aware that its sharp little beak was mere inches away from my eyes. I began to wonder if it was feeling threatened. Was there a nest? I moved my shoulder.

The hummingbird darted away to my right, but stopped 3 feet away under the sheltering leaves of the umbrella tree. It hovered there, still watching me. I slowly looked around for a nest, but didn't see one.

It maintained its watchful manner. (Can one really feel threatened by a creature only 3 inches big?)

I slowly and deliberately began digging my last hole, showing the hummingbird that I wasn't there to harm it. A brief moment later it was gone.