Have you any stash?

Happy Halloween!

Once again, as we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, I will post my rules for Trick or Treating, all of which will be violated this evening:

1. If you’re too cool for a costume, you’re too old to trick or treat.

2. If you drive yourself, you’re too old to trick or treat.

3. If you come with your boy/girlfriend, you’re too old to trick or treat.

4. (This one was added after a hoarde of pre-teen boys clad only in shorts ran up to our house one year.  I asked what their costume was.  They replied “male strippers”.)  If you’re old enough to know what male strippers are, you’re too old to trick or treat.

5. Already this year, I’ve added a new one:  If you’re on the cell phone the entire time you’re at my door, you’re too old to trick or treat.

I leave you with our annual picture of Penny, titled “I will kill you in your sleep, 2012”:

I Will Kill You In Your Sleep

Penny plots revenge for her annual Halloween costume

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

Toilet Humor

My father’s very last gift to us was a full set of pressure-assisted flushing toilets for our house. Every time he came to visit us, he would rail against the wimpy little 1.6 liter models that were standard builder grade, and he swore he was going to get turbo toilets that would actually flush.  He passed away before he could see them installed, but Mom insisted that his gift be completed, and now I have a set of 5.

(No, my house isn’t that big, but somehow that many bathrooms got worked into the plans. It seemed logical at the time, and frankly, it’s been quite handy over the years…)

So… I got home from work today, “did some biz”, as we refer to it when Penny takes care of it, and reached for the handle to flush.  Nada.  Nothing.  Complete silence.  This is so out of character for the turbo toilets, which sound like a 747 getting revved up for takeoff when they send their loads into the sewer system.

Took the lid off the tank.  The pressure assist is a sealed system; I mashed every button I could find to mash to no avail. Fortunately, there was an 800 number to the company.

I can now say I’m fully educated about pressure-assisted flushing thanks to the handy hints given to me while on hold for what seemed to be an overly lengthy period of time.

Finally, I got a human… a rather chipper lady who seemed eager to help me.  I read her the serial number off the mechanism…

“Oh…. (she sounded a bit concerned.  I was touched that she cared that much about my plight.)

“Do you hear water running?”

“Well, no…”

“You should hear water running.”

Went to the faucet.  Sure enough, our water was off.

“Well the toilet won’t flush without water.”

I apologized profusely for wasting her time.

“Uh… before you hang up… I need to ask you something.  Is that the only toilet like that you have?”

“Heavens no.  I have 5 of them.”

“Did you know there was a recall about 5 years ago?  They have a tendency to …well… explode.”

Oh really?

“Yeah.  You need to call us back with those serial numbers so we can get a repair kit out to you for each of them.”

“Trust me, I’ll get on that soon.”

Now, my dad had a wickedly dry sense of humor.  He’s been gone for almost 11 years now, but I have this image of him up in Heaven, getting a good laugh out of me dodging exploding toilets. It’s just something he’d find hilarious as long as nobody got hurt. That grin would come across his face, and that twinkle would get in his eye… and he’d giggle.  I can hear him now.

Love you Dad.  And thanks for the exploding turbo toilets.


We were very excited to have a brief visit from our friend Ann who scammed convinced the government to pay for some of her continuing education in Atlanta this month.  She stayed with us, so that saved taxpayer money, right??

On Saturday, all of us went to the tenth annual Howl-o-Weenie, sponsored by the fine folks at DREAM Dachshund rescue.  We suited up Penny in her brand new Dachshund Delights harness and headed over for the festivities.

Now, Penny is not what you would call a “dog person”.  She’s very well socialized with people and has never met a stranger.  In fact, every human on the planet was put here to give her a belly rub, and if you don’t believe her, she’ll remind you when she drapes herself across your feet, belly up, ready to be adored.  But dogs are a different matter.  She’s never around a lot of them, and frankly, they’re noisy, they (gasp!) sniff her butt, and just generally invade her personal space.  And yes, it’s our fault that she’s not well socialized with dogs… but really, we’re never around them and we’re around people more.

But we took her to the event with wiener dogs as far as the eye could see.  Standards, minis, tweenies, smoothies, longhairs, wires, dapples, piebalds — virtually every type of dachshund you would ever want to see was represented.  I think the best we can say for Penny was that she tolerated everyone well… unlike a couple of, shall we say “disagreements” that happened between some dogs at the event.

The highlight of the event for us was the costume contest.  I forgot my “real” camera, but I managed to snap some shots with my trusty iPhone:

These scoundrels were headed for Alpotraz

Here’s the Bride of Frankenweenie

This gentleman was quite proud of his Dr. Who costume. Truly it was better than the Dr. Who costume with the same theme right before him…

Here’s a little dachshund mermaid (mer-dog?)

The squirrel hunter and his rather long and low prey

All of this group was off to see the Wizard…

Finally, my favorite… although the human didn’t get that it wasn’t the Howl-O-Pomeranian… but I’d give it a resounding “10” (held up like Bruno)

We had a most enjoyable morning, although Penny was glad to get back home. Since she’s still on injured reserve, we took it easy with the heavy training this week and we’re still enforcing the new house rules.  We’ve only had one growling episode — during the night when she desperately wanted to go track Ann — and I was able to correct her this time which was very important to me since I’m trying to establish my place in her pecking order.  Hoping the medicam does the trick and we can get to work with another trainer very soon.

I’m going to diverge a bit from your normal, run of the mill dog talk and stitching talk.

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.  A friend who undoubtedly is one of the most courageous people I know.

I “met” Kelly, oh, probably about seventeen or eighteen years ago.  I’m a stitcher; and she owned a needlework store.  She’s in Rhode Island, and I’m in Georgia.  Nevertheless, we struck up a friendship over the phone when I’d call to order.  Turns out she’d gone to college at Sewanee in Tennessee, and we met a couple of times when she flew there for reunions or when she graciously took me with her to the needlework market in Nashville.

Why is Kelly courageous?  Well, sixteen months ago, she became a foster mother. She took a precious little girl into her home and nurtured her into a well-adjusted, happy toddler.  As those of you with children know, this isn’t easy.  I never had the guts to do it. As has been thoroughly documented here, I can’t even make my dog behave.

Today, the state of Rhode Island decided it would be in this precious child’s best interest to rip her out of the only home she’d ever known…. after sixteen months of bonding with the only mother she’d ever known, to ship her to strangers in North Carolina with whom she happened to share DNA. Strangers who, upon her birth, had absolutely no interest in her.

(Kelly has asked me to correct my misunderstanding of this: “I just do want to correct one thing. The great-aunt had been identified by birth-mom as the potential placement since the beginning, and great aunt had always expressed an interest, as she has custody of the 5 or 6 other half-siblings. But, my attempts to contact her through DCYF with letters and photos were denied — I was told by DCYF that she wasn’t interested in photos, only the child.”)

This beautiful child has been failed by the system that was supposed to protect her.  How on earth can traumatizing her like that possibly be in her best interest?

Dear Lord, please hold this child in the palm of Your hand and protect her. Send Your angels to guide her.  Please help the family that has her now understand what a precious gift they’ve been given. And please, in Your mercy, help Kelly and her family to heal from this.  Help Kelly to understand that her strength gave this child the best possible start she could have in life. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

…two steps back…

After three horrible growling, snapping events in less than 24 hours, I decided it was time to take the Pennster to the wonderful Dr. Weaver at the Animal Hospital of Towne Lake to be sure that the events of the weekend hadn’t harmed her.

Dr. Weaver thoroughly examined Penny and noticed that she “tensed up”  when she got around her neck and back.  She thinks there is an element of pain there that may have been exacerbated by the dragging across the yard.   We’re going to do two weeks of an anti-inflammatory that we can apply transdermally (she’ll have it rubbed in her ear) and see what happens.  No doubt we have a behavioral issue, but there’s probably a physical problem as well.

As for the training… Dr. Weaver said while the underlying theory the trainer had was sound, the implementation was wrong, particularly with a small dog like Penny. He’ll be given his walking papers tomorrow with an explanation as to why.  She gave us a couple of suggestions to handle the problem short-term — one is to use a towel over her head when she starts growling and disorient her, then grab the sides of her head to let her know who’s boss and get her off the sofa.  The other is the use of a greyhound muzzle; we can do the correction while she’s wearing it, and she won’t be able to bite us.

When Penny’s feeling better, we have the names of three other behavioral specialists to work with.  One is the trainer that worked with Oscar when he had his little temper tantrums when he was about 6 and started nipping me.

Somehow, someway, we’re going to get this under control in a way that all of us can live with. I know that Richard and I bear all of the responsibility of the problem getting to this point… me probably more than him because I just want to love her to death.  All of us have to work on it for the good of us all.

Even after all this, I’m still crazy about my dog.

Let’s just state right now that the earth is back on its axis: the real NFL refs have returned to the field, so productivity can return to the American workplace.

Princess Penny has done pretty well with her first week of training.  I’m pretty sure there were a number of puppy “WTF?” moments when she realized the ramps were down when the Alphas were out of the house and she had to be invited up on the sofa and the bed.  She’s taken to staying on her actual dog bed in the bedroom during the week when we’re not home; I actually forgot to take the ramp from the bed down one day and she still stayed on the dog bed.  She was a lot better about the playbiting and the nipping for attention, and when she did bite my hands, I used the correction technique the trainer showed us and she calmed down quickly. Only one minor growling incident that didn’t escalate.

Jerad came again on Saturday afternoon for lesson two, bringing with him the pinch collar.  I’m gonna say right up front that I know many of you have reassured me that this really won’t hurt her and will work wonders, but after Saturday’s lesson, I’m really shaken. Jerad put the collar on Penny, and we went outside to walk.

Penny’s the only dog in the world who doesn’t think outside is a fabulous place.  She’s a sofa spud, not unlike her humans, who generally spend their evenings on the sofa with computers in their laps. Penny will go outside to do her biz, but otherwise, forget it.

So, when we got outside, she immediately laid down in the front yard and refused to move, as is her typical action.

Jerad was having none of that. She was going for a walk, so he tugged on the leash and pinch collar.  Penny screamed.  I died a little inside.

He dragged her up, still screaming, across the driveway, into the road.  I kept dying.  This is when I started doubting what we’re doing.

She finally started walking, and we walked up and down the road several times with minor corrections with the collar when she’d try to run ahead. (Usually when she sees the house, she’ll start running to get back home.)

We got back in and the lesson was over,  Jerad wanted us to leave that collar on her the entire time we’re home.  I was having none of it. The collar came off.  We had a horrible growling episode trying to take the collar off, which Jerad corrected.  Then later that evening on the sofa, we had another horrible episode, which Richard corrected.

Jerad also wanted us to unblock the stairs so she could learn to climb them, but I also refused to do that.  He may know dogs, but I know dachshund anatomy, and that’s bad for their backs.

Right now I’m just not sure if this is going to work. The pinch collar goes on over her head, and Penny hates anything that goes over her head.

All I want is for my dog to come when I call her and for her to not bite me.

Evidently, Atlanta Gas Light *really* wanted to get into our house for something.  We hadn’t been home when they’d come calling (really, how many 2 income families have someone home during the day during the week?), and when Richard worked from home today, he called to see what they wanted.  Evidently, they wanted to replace our gas meter.  We decided we’d call them back after October 15 when my schedule freed up some and I could be home to wait on them.

Imagine my surprise when, around 3:00, there comes a banging on the door.  I look outside (dude didn’t give me a chance to actually answer the door), and there’s an Atlanta Gas Light truck outside.  Richard went out to talk to him, and he allows that he’s got to get in the house after he installs the new meter to check the gas appliances and re-light them.  What would have happened if we weren’t home?  He said he’d have gone off with them unlit, and that was our problem.

I was aghast at the “customer service” attitude, and I went out to get his truck number.  I had started to call to complain about him, when he came to the door, and opened it.

As usual, Penny was on guard at the door, but when it opened, she went flying out.  Without collar or leash on.

I ran past the guy, yelling “You jerk! You let my dog out!”  Frankly, as angry as I was, he’s lucky “jerk” was the only thing that came out.

I managed to catch Penny (that extra weight on her has its advantages), and turned to go back to the house, when I see Gas Dude coming toward me, cell phone in hand.

He informs me that I’ve assaulted him; he’s never been talked to like that before; and he’s calling the cops.

I informed him that he’d best get back and finish his job… and oh, by the way, he was on my property without my invitation, and that’s trespassing.

He huffed back to his truck; I went in the house, called Richard to handle Gas Dude, and went in the bedroom with Penny (since obviously I was a threat) and called Atlanta Gas Light and waited for the cops.

At least Atlanta Gas Light was apologetic.  I told them I still needed someone to finish the job (Gas Dude was still in his truck in front of the house.  I assumed he was waiting to swear out a complaint).  They assured me someone would be there to finish it.  I promised I wouldn’t hurt his tender feelings anymore. (Yeah, I was a bit snarky.)

A few minutes later, Gas Dude’s boss came and went with him (and Richard) to assure all our appliances were working.  Then they both left.

Cops never showed.  I sense that this wasn’t the first time Gas Dude has had this problem.

But you don’t mess with my dog.

Today was the first visit from the trainer.  Jerad arrived at 3, after we’d had a morning out at Starbucks and the Princess had been treated to her normal weekend turkey bacon.  A quick visit to Top Dogs and Cool Critters  resulted in a new temporary harness that can be used until her Dachshund Delight harnesses arrives. We retired the dreaded Puppia harness that went over her head and upset her so much.

Jerad is a very young man, but he seems to have the credentials to be a good trainer.  He does a lot of “boot camp” training, meaning he takes the dog to his house to train for a couple of weeks and then returns a trained dog to you, and he had initially suggested this route to us… but I thought it was important that we take on this task as a pack. We humans realize we have contributed to the problem, and we need to be a part of solving it. So, our classes will be held once a week in our home.

The first big area we’re addressing is the fact that Penny thinks she “owns” the sofa and to a certain extent, the bed we all share.  Day before yesterday, Penny was on the sofa and I touched her lightly on the rear, and she arose with teeth bared, snarling, ready to take my hand off. We had to shoo her off the sofa with a pillow to keep from getting bitten.  Another big problem is when I’m sitting on the sofa and using the computer she demands attention by biting at my hands and at the computer.

Fortunately, she demonstrated this biting for attention to Jerad today when he sat down on the sofa. He responded by rolling her over and giving her a slight pinch to the neck as a correction. He did that repeatedly until she figured out he was serious about it.  She made one more lunge for his hands at which point he responded with a small squirt of Bitter Apple – right to the mouth — resulting in one unhappy wiener dog.  Of course, I was just absolutely dying.   But she settled down and lay down on the sofa beside him and stopped the behavior.  And she’s been laying quietly on the sofa with me all evening.

Our assignment for the week is to have her on a leash whenever we’re in the house with her and to get a pinch collar to use for a slight correction when she starts the growling and snarling, since that seems to be the most distressing problem that we’re having right now.  My real fear is that she’ll bite a stranger — or God forbid, a child — and it could end up badly for all of us. I’m not thrilled about the idea of the pinch collar, but Jerad assured me it was a very temporary fix and if she responded as fast as she did to the correction today, we wouldn’t need to use it for long.

We’re supposed to banish her from the sofa, but in order to see if the snarling, growling “I own the sofa” behavior is going to stop, we have to let her up here for now.  After we get a handle on that, we then remove the ramp and let her know she is allowed on the furniture at our invitation.

She’s not supposed to sleep in the bed with us — but I haven’t decided if I can go that far yet. She hasn’t acted out in the bed, and I love having my girl where I know she’s safe.  I also have to admit I cherish those quiet times when I wake up in the middle of the night and she comes to see me and we have a moment… just she and I… where I pet her and tell her what a good girl she is and how much I love her… and then she’ll snuggle up next to me for awhile.

Baby steps.  For all of us.

A little dose of attitude

I hit the wall today.  It’s the day after corporate extensions were due, and the past two weeks have seen me doing precious little but sit behind my work computer trying to reconcile balance sheets and reassure frazzled business owners that all was well and they were indeed being taken care of.   It dawned on me that perhaps the reason I’m so weary is that I haven’t really had a break since tax season ended last year.  It ends on October 15; Mom went into the hospital on November 2, and life changed a good bit for all of us after that hospitalization. 

So I’m on the sofa, trying to chill with the dog, and the dog cops an attitude.  I try to get her harness on her… granted, it’s not her wonderful Dachshund Delights harness, because she’s (ahem) outgrown those, and we’re working with a Puppia harness that goes over her head till our replacements can get here (Hurry, April!)… and Penny decides that she’s going to take my hand off, then run off as I nurse the bite marks.

Later, she’s back on the sofa, wide awake (we’ve had some problems when we wake her up), and I try to pet her, and she growls and snaps.  

We’ve had her checked thoroughly by the vet, and there’s nothing physically wrong.  So there’s an attitude that needs adjusting, and it’s going to happen starting Saturday when the trainer comes.

I’m totally aware that we’re having this problem because we’ve caused it. But we’re going to end it and wind up with a well mannered dog. Until then, we’re operating on the “nothing in life is free” premise… you want up on the sofa?  You have to sit and ask nicely.  You want dinner? You have to sit.  You want up on the bed?  You have to sit and have one of us lift you up. 

Our vet warned us that Penny’s at the age (a little over 3) where female dogs decide they’re going to try to take over the pack.  Evidently I’m first on the hit list.  I’m tired, but I’m still top bitch. 

Never judge a person…

…by what they’re wearing.

Sage advice given to me by my father. He’d made that error, one time early in his banking career. A gentleman, clad in overalls, rather unkempt, had come in the bank and needed help. Dad ignored him, letting someone else help him instead. The president of the bank pulled Dad aside after the gentleman had left and told Dad that the unkempt man in overalls was one of their biggest depositors. He shouldn’t have brushed him aside. Dad didn’t make that mistake again, and he took that advice to heart. He passed it along to me.

It’s just good business.

Today, however, on my vacation in Highlands, NC, I could tell someone hadn’t learned that lesson.

Now, those of you who know me in real life know that I just don’t dress up much anyway. On vacation, the wardrobe gets taken down another notch to a t-shirt (generally some kind of geekish humor or NASCAR) and a pair of jeans. Today I was clad in a kewl t-shirt with a Venn diagram of ObiWan Kenobi’s speech in Star Wars (“You don’t need to see his identification… These aren’t the droids you’re looking for… He can go about his business… move along) and a pair of jeans.

I was excited to see in Highland’s weekly newspaper that a new knitting store had opened up. It was the first place on our list of places to go today. After some difficulty finding it (it opens to a back street, and the signage is, frankly, poor), we went in.

The owner sized me up in about 5 seconds. If she understood the t-shirt, I’m sure she relegated me to the same class of knitters who spend their days knitting infinite Dr. Who scarves in Red Heart. By her demeanor, it was obvious I wasn’t “her kind” of clientele.

I tried to start a conversation. “How long have you been open?” “About four months.” “I had a little trouble finding you.” “Well, we have signs, and it’s clearly marked.”

I gave up any social interaction.

As for her store… well… she’s displayed all her yarn by color, mixing wool, superwash, alpaca, acrylic, and you name it together because it’s the same color. There are tons of “art” yarns – you know, the kind that you’d mix together with another skein of something to make a scarf. There were very few books, precious few patterns. Some of the lack of inventory I can understand because the store is new… but there seems to be a basic misunderstanding of what serious knitters are going to be looking for.

Fortunately for her, some more suitable customers came in and gave her someone to talk to. I picked up a skein of Jitterbug sock yarn thinking I’d purchase it to be polite, then I quickly put it down.

I’d been judged by my appearance. Little did she know that I can go through a yarn store and purchase several sweaters worth of yarn at one time should I so choose, and should the yarn store have something that I like. I heartily support my local yarn shops because frankly, they don’t care what I’m wearing… they know me and they invite me in… even if I don’t purchase anything.

I felt no need to purchase something to be polite, as the politeness had not been extended to me.

If she’s in business next year when we visit, I won’t be back there. And I really can’t suggest that anyone else go, although they might have a different experience.