Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Graduate

I know, I know.  I'm risking pee on rugs and becoming one of those (gasp) dog people who talk about dogs like they are children.  My reporting is becoming biased and unbalanced.  But, I couldn't not blog about graduation day.  That would be Fonzie's graduation from training classes at the local Petsmart.  And here is the graduate... (Photos by Willie)

...contemplating the privileges and responsibilities of the hand-written paper certificate hanging on the fridge...

...realizing that commencement really means "beginning"....

...with Rhonda, the Petsmart trainer (who should have been a stand-up comedian)...

...and with proud-as-heck me.  For the two minutes that Rhonda tested Fonzie on all of the things he learned over the course of the eight weeks -- things like sit and stay and sit-stay -- I felt myself doing one of those beaming-from-the-inside things where the giddiness and delight you feel results in smiling like an idiot. 

But Fonzie was a crowd pleaser that night.  "Wow, look at Fonzie," the two other people in the class said.   One of them even asked if I had replaced Fonzie with another dog for the test. Because for those two minutes, Fonzie wasn't being his normal whining, barking, anxious-as-hell self.  He was calm and focused, and well, just about the smartest dog ever.

By minute three, the real Fonzie returned and the whining began.  

In truth, after about the fourth Petsmart class, I was kind of down on the course; I realized that we probably weren't going to learn much more beyond "give your dogs lots of treats."  It took me a couple more weeks to discover that, no, Fonzie doesn't actually know what to do when I say "sit."  But, he knows that when I reach into my pocket for the plastic baggie, he will probably get a treat if he sits, and that if he's been bad, he can probably make it better by sitting.   

And maybe, along with the pictures worth the $108 price of tuition, that's good enough.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

House of Pee

This week, I was going to write about deep and profound things.  Like how the political corruption in Illinois only makes me more homesick for Chicago.  Or how the 70-degrees-on-Thursday-and-40-degrees-on-Friday winter here in North Carolina is just plain confusing.  Or how I love my big bowl of cereal in the morning just a little too much.  But then, something bigger came up and trumped my plan to wax poetic.

That something is cat pee.

This, of course, is Scout, the cat to whose pee I'm referring.   Yes, she kind of resembles an alien, and true, she has ears big enough to replace wiretaps. 

She looks like she couldn't care less that, with the addition of a giant white smelly beast in her house, it's becoming Old MacDonald had a farm around here.  However....

This is the box where Scout should do her business.

This is the back-up box in case Scout gets picky and needs two separate boxes to do her business. (Note the unblemished litter.)

And this is Scout's new litter box, as evidenced by the giant pee stain taking up, oh, practically the whole rug.

Although Scout has been occasionally randomly picky about the where's and when's of going in her litter box, she has entered a new phase, going on six days in a row, of no-I-will-not-pee-in-my-box.  

On Thursday, I got so worried that I took her to the vet.  Two hours, $87, and a tested urine sample later, Scout was diagnosed as fine.  Fine, with a behavior problem.  The vet sent me home with a number for a pet therapist.  I wasn't sure if it was for Scout or me.

Since then, I have promised Scout a new car, a trip to the Caribbean -- anything, if she will only go pee, once again, in her litter box.  

And then I finally realized what was really going on.  As far as blogs, the score was Fonzie: 3, Scout: 0.

So I type.  And wait.  And pray for pee in a box.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Running Away from Progress

"It will get better," they said.  "You're just starting out, it's just the beginning -- give it time."  

Well, I'm here to report that it's past the beginning, I'm no longer just starting out, and it's still not better, even with time.

Yes, I think you know what I'm talking about.  I officially suck at running.  And my dog officially sucks at (or, wait, maybe he is good at it?) pulling.  And so together, five mornings out of seven, he pulls like crazy and my calves pound in agony as we attempt to run around the gravel path of Duke's East Campus.

But let me break the two suckinesses down:

Before last year, I had lived with a certain amount of pride in not exercising on a regular basis and eating what I wanted.  Although everyone in my immediate family ran, I was pretty sure that I hated running and that I wasn't missing anything.  

And then I bought a car and started commuting to the suburbs.  And as the year went on, whether it was real or imagined, I felt like crap -- slow and stationary and pent up with hatred of certain privileged teenagers.  

So, as soon as the temperature got above 20 degrees -- you know, spring time in Chicago, the second half of May -- I made a running mix for my ipod and started my career as a non-runner.  I began with the run a block / walk a block strategy, and I was surprised at how quickly I was able to shift the balance to more running.  Sure, I tried to catch the stoplights, and yes, sometimes I just had to stop and walk.  But I was on my way, dammit.  

And then, by July, I wasn't.  In fact, I felt like I was getting worse.  How could it feel harder to do the exact same run?   Although, as it turns out, I actually did like getting exercise on a regular basis, I never felt that runner's high, and I always always dreaded the run.   "All I have to do to win is suffer," I'd tell myself -- a Muhammad Ali line that I learned from my old boxing teacher.  But, although I had the suffering part down, there appeared to be no winning in my future. 

Fast forward to a new state and a bunch of months later, and I'm still trudging along five out of seven days a week.  When I first got Fonzie, I was so distracted by him, that I almost didn't notice the actual running.  (True, there was not as much running going on, what with stopping and checking and picking up poop.)  But that only lasted a couple of weeks before my focus returned to each insufferable block, insufferable until Fonzie went poop and the run came to a grinding heaven-sent halt.

Although Fonzie gave me a brilliant excuse to stop for a minute, he also gave me hell on the leash.  And although I thought everything would be better when I got that genius, head collar, gentle leader, muzzle-looking thing, it hasn't stopped the pulling.  Fonzie stills dashes from one side of the sidewalk to the other as if peeing on that particular bush was a matter of life and death.  He still lags behind and occasionally goes on strike and stops moving all together.  At other times, he is out in front pulling, wondering why the hell I'm so slow and why the hell he has this annoying thing on his snout.  

Most days, between my lame stamina and his impressive stubbornness, our runs are a mess.  He is always almost tripping me (and, yes,  I have heard the horror stories involving broken legs and messed up pelvises from running with dogs), and yesterday, I think I actually tripped him.  Either that or I kicked his leg.  The poor dog let out a yelp and then actually started limping.  He started limping!  We pulled over to the side, and a man who had been walking behind us was kind enough to ask if the dog was okay.  "Oh yeah, he's fine," I said, worrying that I had, in fact, broken some bone in Fonzie's body.  

Yesterday was so all-around bad, that I deemed it "the worst run ever."  And I'm sure it will be until the next worst run ever.  Luckily it didn't happen today, as my calves trumped the pulling as the real unenthusiastic losers.  

As much as I know that the perfect storm of a terrible run is and always will be out there, the fact remains that I do like being able to exercise outside and with Fonzie.  I can't see myself ever joining a gym, especially in a state where it won't ever really be too cold to run outside (I'll get back to you about the heat next summer).  

I guess for now I have a standing date with myself and six uncooperative legs each morning. So bring on the stoplights, crank up the "Footloose," and god bless the poop that interrupts my run.