The Dogs Have Their Day

One of my favorite things about Alabama so far is Tuskegee National Forest. I am sort of a lazy hiker, meaning I like to be outdoors and in the woods, and I enjoy admiring trees and rocks and animals and streams and the amazing feeling of relaxation this brings me. But I don’t like to work too hard for it. I am seriously appreciating the fact that I can go hike at Tuskegee and have a nice little workout but not feel like I’m going to die, because while the trails are not completely flat, they are also not that strenuous. And, as I have mentioned before, living in the river region of the state means there’s always some good water to visit at the end of the trail, and the prospect of water keeps me moving and motivated.

A couple days ago, I went with a friend and our dogs to the woods for a hike. Her dog, Delilah, and Birdy get along very well together, and we try to let them play a lot. They have similar personalities, although Lilah is still a puppy and more energetic. But Bird has her energetic moments still, even in her middle age. They seem to be a good influence on each other.

So we grabbed some subs and headed out to Macon County for a nice hike that ended at a little secret beach by a creek that she visits frequently. The beach is mainly pebbles, but there is a small sandy spot where we spread our blanket, cranked up the Bob Marley, and ate lunch. We spent a few hours out there letting the dogs run around to their hearts’ content, getting all sandy and nasty. The creek was pretty low because we haven’t had much rain lately, but it was still deep enough in places for the dogs to pretty much submerge themselves. They would alternate soaking, running, and wallowing in dirt. Then, rinse and repeat. We hung out in the creek for a while, where we could walk rock-clay flats in between clear ankle deep water, gently streaming and gurgling.

In the afternoon, it began to thunder, so we checked the weather on her phone (oh, technology!) to discover a severe thunderstorm warning for pretty much right where we were sitting. She was ambivalent about leaving just because of a little rain, but I figured based on where the storm was, we’d probably have just enough time to hike back to the car before the rain started if we left right then. So, we did that, and enjoyed a wonderful, dark, cool, thundery hike back. I love being in the woods just before it storms. We lost a little time when the girls wandered out of eye-shot and we had to wait for them to find their way back to us. But we made it back to the car with just enough time to change back into flip flops before the rain started. It stormed on us all the way back to Auburn and a good while after, but thankfully no tornadoes or even warnings.

We stopped on the way home at the dog wash place, which still didn’t remove all the sand from Birdy’s coat but helped a lot. She was very excited to receive a bag full of organic peanut butter kiss treats after her bath, which she hates. She stood as immobile in the tub as possible while I tried to manhandle her 75 pounds around in it and glared at me angrily when I sprayed her face with water. There was absolutely no way she was coming back into the house coated in creek sand. And it probably washed off some ticks and other gross things as well.

I remarked to my friend on the way home that being in the woods/hiking/relaxing by the water makes me feel the same as if I had just had a massage. Two days later, Birdy (a.k.a. OLD LADY) is just now recovering her energy and for the last 24 hours has not moved from one of two spots in the apartment like she has never been more exhausted in her life. It’s days like that which reinforce my belief that Birdy and I were just meant for each other. I spend a lot of time thinking about making my dog happy, and when we are in the woods, and she gets tired of running and exploring, she will lay down near me so that she is touching me with some part of her body just slightly, and we’ll just look at each other contentedly, silently understanding that this is a good life we have; that we are lucky to have each other. Lucky to be friends.

Time to Move All Our Bad Habits Outside

I feel like I’ve really been neglecting my blog lately. I have a lot of updates, but I never remember to blog about stuff anymore. I know hardly anyone reads this anyway, and so it serves as more of a diary with pictures for my own purposes. But even diaries need updating now and then.

1. I got my hair cut! For normal people, this is not a big deal, but when you are like me, and you don’t pay attention to things like hair, this is huge. I got five inches chopped off and a new style. The new style is nothing major — just sort of an update with a side part and long layers — but I feel like a new person. My standard routine for the past many years has been getting three inches cut off the bottom when it got long enough to get stuck in my armpits. Which is annoying. But I now look like I am actually sort of trying to look hip and decent, which is cool. LOL! To be honest, I look more like I did in high school than I have since 1996. But getting carded regularly for cigarettes at my current unmentionable age has convinced me this is, in fact, awesome. Here is a pic:

2. Camping awesomeness. We went camping a few weeks ago right when it started to be warm and springy, with a group of friends in Tuskegee, which I always try to refer to as “Tuckasegee” until someonei reminds me that’s in North Carolina. Weird random fact: Lionel Richie was born in Tuskegee. I’m not sure what other claims to fame it has except that there is a pretty cool national forest there, and it’s only about 20 minutes from here. Every schoolkid growing up in North Carolina learns that the state has three distinct regions: mountains, piedmont, and coastal. Here in Alabama, there are four or five, and all I know so far is that we live in the river region, although learning more about Alabama geography has definitely been on my to-do list for some time now. Apparently it’s called that because there are a lot of rivers here. If you can imagine that logic. The place we went camping in Tuskegee National Forest was by a river, although I have no idea which one. We went with a group of friends to a secluded spot they love and refer to as “Rock Beach” although it doesn’t officially have a name, and the road you take off the main highway to get close to it has no name either, and you just have to know to look for it in the dip in the four-lane, off to the side. This is my kind of camping. The beach is by one of the lower parts of the river with a wide pebble shore, backed by pine forest for about a mile in between the river and the nearest road. But it’s an easy hike in, with just a few hills and valleys and nothing too strenuous. A good thing, since we were carrying gallons of mojitos in Sprite bottles along with us. It will definitely be a place I go back to repeatedly, especially when it gets so hot this summer. Which reminds me, I need to get the rattlesnake vaccine. And no, I didn’t know there was such a thing either until I moved here and started hanging out with outdoorsy people. Evidently, it is only minimally effective — maybe like 4 out of 10 people bitten still die — but better safe than sorry, right?

“Rock Beach.”

All our tents.

Friends by the camp fire.

3. Birdy discovered she can swim!  There is a pretty awesome city park just down the street from us where I take Birdy to hike around. This park has a small lake, which is home to two very pretty mallard ducks. I have named them Ethel and Frances, because they are always together, and they always appear to be chatting as they skim around the lake side by side. Birdy has always been a big fan of creeks, where she enjoys plopping her belly down and just sitting in the cool water while her tail floats. And she has been to the beach once, where she discovered the joys of running on the sand but was a little frightened and perplexed by the water trying to chase her. But I had never seen her try to swim before, until she spied Ethel and Frances one day in the lake at the park, and plunged in to chase them halfway across it. Alas, even slowpoke ducks are still too fast for Birdy to catch them while swimming. So she ends up trailing about two feet behind them and following them around in figure-eights. They don’t seem to pay much attention to her. On days when we don’t see Ethel and Frances, I throw big sticks in the lake from a little sandy beach. While Bird won’t dive in after the sticks, she will wade in carefully and then swim out to retrieve them for me, sometimes returning with bigger ones than what I tossed in. Evidently this is yet another way she has adopted some of my personality traits.

Birdy with Ethel and Frances.

4. My first Deep South music festival!  Last weekend, we drove about 20 minutes away, out to Waverly (population 184) for the 280 Boogie music festival, an annual event held to commemorate the celebration that occurred when the state decided NOT to send the big highway straight through the middle of a tiny little town. This year was the 11th annual Boogie, and it was well worth the ten bucks we paid to spend the day there. (This was also the first year they’ve ever charged admission, so I heard a lot of hemming and hawing about that from people who had been before.) For ten bucks, we spent a glorious spring day, warm and breezy, sitting on a blanket under enormous black walnut trees, drinking mojitos, eating crawfish and barbecue, and listening to several really good bands while chatting with our friends. I wouldn’t really call it a hippie festival, although there were some people wearing slightly hippie-ish clothing there. It was a pretty good cross-section of the population, I think. All ages, all walks of life. At one point, my friend wandered off in search of lunch, and came back with a new pottery coffee mug for me (I collect them) and Nag Champa soap, which I had been looking for recently without his knowledge. Afterward we headed over to Sean and Kalli’s house for more socializing and a cook-out.

The music stage at the Old 280 Boogie.

Mastering the Art of the Surprise

Unlike a lot of people I know, I really love surprises. But I hardly ever get them. I’m usually too good at figuring stuff out ahead of time, and I think a lot of people don’t do surprises because they aren’t sure how you’ll feel about it. My mom, for example, hates surprises and will have a conniption over a surprise party thrown in her honor. Mainly because she wants her house to be perfect if anyone sets foot in it, and if she doesn’t have time to clean and  prepare, she feels terrible.

The best surprises are acts of kindness, I think. Gifts are okay, but it’s the little things with a lot of thought and heart behind them that make the biggest impact to me. An ex-boyfriend used to pick flowers for me randomly and surprise me with little vases of daffodils or poppies around the house. A former co-worker once left a check on my desk when I was having car troubles with “Random Act of Kindness” in the subject line. That was pretty amazing. Another former co-worker always saved me the magazines I liked from the lobby when changing out the issues. A former neighbor used to leave little bags of the extra basil from her garden on my front porch for me to make pesto. Things like that mean more to me than anything you could buy in a store.

This past weekend, my friend gave me the best surprise ever. He drove seven hours and showed up on my doorstep to spend 3 days with me, hanging out, taking care of me, being my partner in crime for vegging out and being lazy and relaxing, which was something I really needed after six weeks of unemployment and feeling run down because I have mono.

I admit, it was not a complete surprise. I had a tiny inkling because he’d asked me a couple questions last week about my plans for the weekend — questions meant to make sure I didn’t have plans and was going to be at home. He also straight up told me he had a surprise planned for me. My rich imagination immediately lept to the fantastic idea that he was planning a  visit. But my practical side dismissed it as improbable because it’s such a long drive, and his work schedule is so crazy, and things that awesome just don’t really happen to me.

On Friday I was having a great day of productive unemployment. I cleaned the whole house, did all the laundry, groomed Birdy, washed her bedding, took a long hot bath, lit all my candles, and settled in to watch a couple episodes of the new BBC Sherlock Holmes on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. I was feeling good about getting a lot done around the house and trying not to feel guilty about settling in to veg on TV.

TV almost always makes me feel guilty. I think it’s because in all the years when I chose not to have it, before you could watch everything online anyway, I read a lot and studied a lot and really came to realize how much time I had wasted over previous years watching TV when I could have been doing other things that were better for my brain and my intellect. But one thing I do like about being able to watch things now is that I feel a little better able to keep up with pop culture. Actually, my friend made the comment that socialization nowadays is mainly based on liking or disliking the same media content, and people don’t have “real” conversations too much anymore. That doesn’t stop me from trying to initiate them, though. But now I can kinda do both a little better, and I don’t seem like such an out of touch weirdo.

So while I was vegging out with Sherlock and Watson, snuggled under a blanket on the couch with Birdy keeping my feet warm, I kept getting text messages from my friend about how he was working on my surprise, and how I should check my email around 2 am to find out what it was. That information made me think I was completely off-base about a possible visit. He kept making me guess things, which of course were all wrong, because I was thinking in terms of information in an email. I kept nodding off, and he kept texting me, asking me if I was still awake, and telling me to stay up so I could check my email for the surprise.

At 2 am he texted me and said, “Okay, you can check your email now!” The email was a text from his phone that said, “Wait 4 it.” I texted him back, like, “What the hell?” I was slightly annoyed that I had been staying up and that was all I got. His next text said, “Look outside.”

I can’t see outside without going outside because of the type of glass in my front door, so I opened the door and stepped out onto my stoop just in time to see him pulling into my driveway! I said, “Oh my God, are you seriously here right now??” He said, “SURPRISE! I had a few days off, so I thought I’d come up here.”

In the back seat was Ellie, his baby. Ellie is a beautiful Australian shepherd-collie mix. She’s quite a bit bigger than Birdy, and most people think Birdy is pretty big. I met her last time I went down there to visit, and she loved me and snuggled with me pretty instantly.

Ellie and Birdy did not hit it off right away. It was very surprising, because Birdy is very submissive to other dogs, even on her own territory. She is the type of dog who just doesn’t like for there to be any problems. She’ll do anything to keep the peace. Her attitude is, “Oh, you like my bone? You can have it. Just don’t try to fight me for it.” “Oh, you want to check out my house? Sure, go ahead. You like my bed? Go ahead and lie on it. I have others. You want to eat some of my food? Okay, no problem, I will get more soon.”

 

Ellie went after Birdy a few times for getting too close to her food bowl, or even our plates of food, and she wasn’t very happy about my friend giving Birdy too much attention. She never tried to hurt Bird, but she nipped at her and barked at her, just warning her really. But Birdy is so sensitive to anything like that, she would barely come into the same room afterwards and spent a lot of time hanging out as far away as possible, in her crate and in the laundry room, where she never goes. My friend punished Ellie by making her lay down with her head on the floor until he gave the okay, which she was not happy about, but she did it. Again, like a little kid, she was missing having his direction and having the boundaries she was used to. I think it was a good thing that he brought her on a road trip with just him to get her used to that again.

After a breaking in period, they did a lot better. We left them out in the back yard together for long periods of time, and I think they bonded over tag-team barking at the neighbors. We made a point of making Ellie stay on her bed and then coaxing Birdy into the room to get on her bed, which was successful. Eventually they made friends, which was really great news. They have to obey the same process for going out — they have to sit before the door is opened, and then they have to wait for the safe word before they can actually go out the door after it has been opened. I think knowing the same commands and having to obey them together was helpful. I also gave them treats at the same time, and they both know they have to do a trick to get a treat, so that was reinforcement as well. By last night, Ellie was spooning with me in bed, and this morning, she was playfully encouraging Birdy to play with her in the house before they both went outside together to play for a while. A huge improvement over trying to attack her. Interestingly, Ellie did not attempt to attack me for getting too close to my friend like she did with Birdy, and when I commented on this fact, Nick said, “She does not fuck with humans. She’s not stupid.” Actually, she did growl at me a couple times in the beginning when I was allowing Birdy to be closer to us than her, but she responded well to my calm-assertive posture when I stood over her and backed her up. I’m telling you — Caesar Milan is a freaking genius. The shit works.

My friend and I are both big fans of “The Office,” and he had never seen “Parks and Recreation,” which is a show I love that is similar to “The Office” in its humor and they way it is produced. So I introduced him to that and we ended up vegging a lot and watching the entire first two seasons of it. I had actually only seen a few episodes of it, and now that I’ve seen them all, it’s like one of my new favorites. So many great characters and great acting. It’s about a small town in Indiana, and the staff of the Parks and Rec department of their local government. My favorite character is Ron Swanson, the director of the Parks Department. He is up there with Jack Donaghy on my list of TV show heroes.

Lately I’ve been on a Karate Kid kick, which happens every few years or so. I saw the first two in the theater as a kid, and they’ve just always stuck with me, even before they evolved into the cult classics they are now. My friend is also a huge Karate Kid fan and has been wanting to see the new version that just came out for a little while, so we rented that. Not surprisingly: VERY disappointing!

It was not all bad — Jaden Smith’s acting could have been slightly worse, and the tournament part at the end was pretty awesome. But I have to say I think the negatives outweighed the positives. First of all, it’s not a movie I feel should have been remade in the first place, because HOW THE HELL do you think you can improve upon one of the greatest movies of all time? It’s like remaking Schindler’s List. No. Just….no.

Instead of moving to California, they move to China. Instead of learning Karate, he learns Kung Fu. Instead of a Zen master like Mr. Miyagi, who has an inner strength and calm about him despite personal circumstances, Jackie Chan plays a sad and broken man who has a lot to learn himself, and who does end up improving his attitude, but only slightly. Instead of a gentlemanly, good, emotionally intelligent person like Daniel La Russo, Dre is a punk of a kid who can’t even show own his mother an ounce of respect. Instead of the characters being high school age, they’re like 12, which makes the whole inclusion of a romantic subplot really unbelievable, PARTICULARLY when the 12-year-old main character actually looks like he’s about five. I’d recommend watching the last half hour of the movie only. Everything leading up to the tournament is pointless and ridiculous. And extremely repetitive. They reiterate the fact that Dre can’t speak Chinese about a billion times. I was like, “We’ve established that! He’s a punk ass American kid! Move on!” Terrible writing.

I guess I’m just too biased to be open minded about it. I am a huge movie buff, and I have a short list of favorites, which The Karate Kid I and II are definitely on. There are some things that need to be left alone. Seriously. As a marketing person, I can understand the desire/need to market old favorites to a new audience, but in my opinion, that could have been done much more successfully than with this poor excuse for a movie. It was not even worth the dollar I gave Red Box to rent it.

Worst part of all? After the mean Chinese opponent screwed up his leg in the final round of the tournament, Jaden was obviously trying to remember which leg to limp on. AND! In the original, Daniel-san took his beatings from the mean kids with poise and determination, not to be defeated. Jaden was just a whiny little bitch who laid around crying. Ralph Macchio will not be topped. Part of the Karate Kid is about a boy becoming a man. That did not happen in this version. I saw a boy do something semi-cool and remain a boy. A boy with a trophy who maybe learned a little bit of a lesson. Not the emotional strength and wisdom that only Mr. Miyagi could impart.

Otherwise, it was the best long weekend ever. And meanwhile, thank God for unlimited cell phone minutes and unlimited texting.

Stress Management for the Unemployed

Being one of the millions of unemployed Americans really sucks. I have been trying to stay positive, even when I have to fend off negativity from other people about my own situation. Today for example, I applied for 27 jobs in 3 different states. And I have not lost hope yet, even though I’ve gotten exactly zero responses to all my applications. But apparently I am not dealing with it appropriately because I’m starting to have physical manifestations of my stress, even though I don’t really feel all that stressed most of the time. Some examples:

My hair is falling out. Like, more than usual. And I don’t think I am old enough to attribute it to aging.

I have no appetite, which is insanely weird for me. I can almost always eat, even if I can’t do anything else. But nothing is appetizing to me now. I’ve lost like ten pounds since I lost my job. This is a good thing, really. I should not be complaining, except for the fact that I enjoy eating, and now that pleasure is gone too.

I itch all over, and I’m breaking out with random itchy spots like bites but not.

My stomach hurts all the time.

I can’t sleep. Well, I can fall asleep with the help of Benadryl or alcohol, but I can’t stay asleep past 3 am. Usually, I wake up itching.

I’m having a really hard time regulating my body temperature. I can’t tell you the number of times a day I switch my thermostat from AC to Heat and back.

My immune system is staging a revolt, and my tonsils have been swollen for a month or more, and I am all sneezy. This could also be related to the fact that I live in a rental house that has mold issues. Sigh.

Even Birdy is having itch issues and is back on allergy medicine. Maybe she is having sympathy stress. Poor girl.

On a happier note, I figured out a way to make her react positively to my loud Auburn football game reactions instead of getting scared and hiding when I yell. I made her a game day shirt that she actually likes, to associate something positive with the event, and I tell her how beautiful she looks wearing it, and she gets all happy when I talk in that voice. And the accompanying treats help too. 🙂 She is the newest War Eagle!

Gimpy Bird

We are having some doggy health issues at the moment. We spent all day Sunday at the ER vet getting x-rayed because I thought Bird had a broken toe. Apparently nothing is broken, but she does have a pulled muscle in her shoulder, so she’s been trying not to put weight on that side, and I’ve been massaging it hourly so that she can actually stand up long enough to go to the water bowl or outside to potty.

I have no idea what happened to her. Not that I make a habit of watching what she does in the back yard, but there really isn’t anything that can hurt her back there, and she hasn’t been playing with any other dogs too recently. Maybe she just jumped and landed wrong.

Last night I got up regularly when she cried to rub it and hold her. She goes as long as she can without showing weakness to the pack leader, but the pain must be too much eventually, and she knows I can make it better, so she cries. And I massage. And I cradle. And I coo and pad her with blankets and memory foam pillows. And she relaxes. When the pain begins to subside, she licks my face as if to say thank you. You can go back to bed for a while now.

Today when I got home from work she seemed to be feeling a lot better. She had no problem with the stairs today and was a little more animated. A far cry from lying immobile on her pallet of blankets and whining in pain every so often. As I write this, she actually just got up on her own to go eat. So apparently things are improving! But it has been a rough couple of days. To hear your baby cry in pain, especially when you’ve never heard that before, is quite startling.

Daily Gratitude: Birdy Lou Hooz*

No matter how bad my day has been, when I walk in the back door, I can’t not smile at my girl, who is prancing around and always excited to see me, who jumps (but gently) and licks my face and won’t go outside to pee right away, even after 8 hours in the house, because she would rather give me love first. So selfless. She listens to me talking on the phone and senses when my voice is sad. She puts her head on my lap and gives me kisses to say, “I know you are sad. But I love you!”

She has a more calming and soothing presence than most humans I’ve ever known. She is eternally patient with me. And that doesn’t diminish her love at all. When I need me-time, she hangs out with me quietly, just happy to be with me at all. When I am happy, she dances with me. When I cry, she daintily licks my tears away.

When she rides with me in the car, I like to look back at her head out the window, as she tries to gobble the air and inhale every scent that tickles her nostrils, eyes closed in delight at feeling the wind in her fur and on her face. And I think this is really what love should be like.

*Yet another name I call her because it reminds me of little Cindy Lou Hoo, from one of my all-time favorite movies, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Crafty Love! Random Stuff I Like

I dream about the day my sewing skills will allow me to create something this beautiful! I think I need to take a quilting class. I love this pattern, and anything that involves lots of blues and greens makes me happy. Also, it’s eco-friendly and organic. Always a plus! $125 by Little Wren and Gwen.

I really think that your dog’s collar should say something about them. I mean, why not? I happen to like finding pink collars for Birdy that don’t look ridiculous, because it drives me slightly insane when people think she is a he. She is so not a he. She is prissy, prancy, girly, and sweet. Her last pink collar finally bit the dust, and she’s currently sporting a turquoise one with turtles just because I had to find a quick replacement. I think this pink flowery one really would suit her much better, though! I wonder if it comes in extra large. $16 by Amanda Brewer Textiles.

I’ve always loved museums of any kind, although it is always an exercise in restraint for me because I want to touch everything. This textile wall art really appeals to me because feeling the texture is a part of the art. I also really like the colors. I like rainbow-hued things. As Jenny and I have often discussed, it’s too bad that they now symbolize a community we’re not a part of. I had a friend in college who had a huge rainbow flag in her apartment. Her mom came to visit and said, “But, honey. You’re not gay.” And she said, “I know that, mom, but the colors are so pretty!” $45 by Ozzart.

Books: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

sawtelle

Just finished over the weekend. Highly recommended! Normally I’m not all that impressed with Oprah’s taste in literature, but this was a good pick.

Read the NY Times review here.

Leaves of Three Attacked Me

hwkb17_017_18_19

While camping last weekend, I got some nasty poison ivy (or something). My friend Swamp’s reaction to that was, “I don’t even remember you touching anything!” I’m pretty sure I must have either picked up the oils from my pants or from Birdy’s fur, since she made every effort to go as deep into the woods as she could without getting lost. As usual, she had a blast soaking her belly in the cool creek water and making her legs go kerplunk in the deeper parts. That dog is never happier than when we go camping.

Anyway, I’ve only had poison ivy one other time, and I must not be terribly allergic, because while this batch has been pretty obnoxious and very itchy and has spread pretty bad, mine is nothing compared to some pictures I’ve seen online. A friend suggested a product called Tecnu, which removes the oils from your skin instead of just briefly addressing the itching issues. I highly recommend it. The one I’m using is like a thin lotion that you rub on and rinse off. After using it just once, my itching has all but disappeared.

Birdy Update: Obedience Classes

birdy

The world’s best dog had an evaluation last night from the trainers at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club. She successfully walked on a loose leash, sat, laid down, stayed, and came to me…of course these are all very simple things for her. They said Birdy would probably pass the Canine Good Citizen class now, but that I wouldn’t because I don’t use the “proper” dog handling techniques. (Um…I don’t even have her on a leash 80% of the time because she is so obedient. I don’t need no stinking techniques.) So, due to my ineptness, Birdy has to start in the Beginner II class. I think it’s going to be fun! Eventually I want to get her involved in agility or flyball. She can already weave through flag poles and untangle her leash on her own. And she is very fast. If we do flyball, though, I’m going to have to teach her to stop destroying tennis balls. She thinks part of the game, after chasing them and fetching them, is to rip them into pieces.

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