Hazel is at the vet this morning for a two-for-one deal: an x-ray to check on her pelvis, and to be spayed. They told us they’d have to put her under to do the x-ray so we figured we’d have them take care of her girl parts while she was out cold. Because nothing says Enjoyable Holiday Season more than a dog in heat. When she gets back home she’s on crate rest again (OH JOY) for a couple of weeks, and we have to find a way to get her down the stairs to pee without busting her stitches or throwing out our backs. I think maybe I’m going to bolt the slide from Finn’s playset to the back stairs so she can just walk out there and pretend she’s evacuating from a burning airliner.
The new windows in the dining room and living room are awesome. It’s currently 30˚ in Catonsville. I was sitting in the dining room catching up on email this morning, and I noticed that the back of my neck wasn’t cold. It’s downright toasty in there now. With the perimeter winter proofing I did last winter and the new windows this year, there are no air currents blowing leaves around in there, and the heat from the radiator actually stays in the room. The living room windows are also tight, although I still need to caulk the edges to seal off the gaps. And I have to haul a huge pile of stuff to the dump—12 windows, stacks of old lumber, and a half ton of pig-iron window weights, all stacked not-so-neatly on the front porch.
Looking back at that link, I see the picture and I’m reminded that I haven’t been called upon to teach for two semesters now, and most likely won’t be for next semester. I’m a little conflicted by this, because while I enjoyed teaching I’m relieved that I’m not spending every weekend thinking about and worried by what’s due in the next class, or looking at a mountain of grading on the dining room table. I suspect this is because the schedules don’t work out; from what little we know, the class times that work best for me are high in demand by full-time faculty, so I haven’t been called up. Either way, I’m enjoying the break.
Hazel was hit by a car on Thursday. She got away from her lead and ran toward the front of the house, where we’ve always taken her for morning and evening walks; she has no concept of what cars are or how they pass by the house, so she ran out in front of one and got hit pretty good. She was able to get up and run to the back of the house, where she waited for someone to get her. The vet did a bunch of tests and x-rays and found that her pelvis was broken at the growth plates, and blithely recommended we keep her from walking for two weeks, before sending her home with puppy Advil. This did not help our dog, who metabolizes everything at the speed of light. Jen had to call back and get a sedative and anti-anxiety medication to get her to calm down. One or more of these medications has the bonus effect of making her stool into fragrant toxic pudding, which smells only slightly worse than her farts.
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So she’s confined to the back room, mostly in her crate, and she’s not supposed to walk. The usual practice of sniffing around for a good place to shit is forbidden, so we have to try to discern between HAZEL FREAK OUT and HAZEL NEED POTTY, and carry her out to the side yard (hereafter known as Diarrhea Alley), put her on the ground, and try to talk her into pooping in that spot while she looks up at us with half-glazed eyes wondering what the fuck is wrong with you humans? I think Jen may have better luck with this; I’m only right 1/8 of the time.
I crashed out on the couch for the overnight last night and missed it twice; At 3AM and at 5AM I was awoken by a smell similar to that of an overflowing festival port-a-potty only feet from my face. She sat in the crate on the other side from the mess, looking at me with stoned reproach, wondering when I was going to clean things up. That took a half an hour and three sleeves of paper towels. Then it’s time to feed her the drugs; I’ve gotten pretty good at saving them down her throat. SWEET ANXIETY MEDS.
When the sedatives do hit, she’s a bag of wet cement in the shape of a dog, which is kind of nice after two months of constant spastic activity, but calm times are few and far between. She’ll pace in the crate and whine and cry and carry on and scream, and we’ll take her out and she’ll just stand there in the rain for ten minutes and then we bring her inside and she pees on the floor, and while we’re cleaning that she’s in the crate howling. It’s enough to make me want to pee myself. The back room looks like a bomb hit and smells like stale bus farts. I don’t know how we’re supposed to do this for two (four? six?) more weeks while her pelvis supposedly mends itself; I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll grind through this hell and come to find her intestines have moved to where her lungs should be and her pelvis has fused to her jawbone. I can’t wait to see that vet bill.
We have two more windows sitting in the hallway ready to be installed, but I have no idea when that’s going to happen. We’ll probably have to wait until the spring to get them in, as the warm days are disappearing fast. I’m in a holding pattern in the bathroom as well; last weekend I was able to get a shallow shelf built for the front two windows and framed out the insides, but I had to stop at the outer casings. I also put cap moulding above the closet and the front windows in the dining room. The next big push will be to move the plumbing under the sink, but I don’t see that happening when I have to cut holes in the drywall directly above Hazel’s convalescent bed.
Finn and I drove down to Grand’s house yesterday to help him sort out his computer issues. He was locked out of his Gmail account, the account he’s been using since Verizon shut down their email servers, and he couldn’t remember any of his passwords or account information. Through some judicious use of internet forensics I was able to answer enough questions to get the authentication started, and then my sister-in-law called wondering why her phone was blowing up with two-factor requests. I switched the number over to his cell, made him a shortcut on his desktop, cleaned out his keyboard, and we were back in business.
She’s getting a bit large to lay on my lap these days, but I’m not complaining.
Hazel is now averaging around 27 lbs. and stands 18″ tall at the shoulder. Contrast this with a 15 lb. puppy at 12″ when we first brought her home. I used to be able to scoop her up in one hand when she was loitering on the front lawn at 11PM, impatient for her to come back inside, and now I’ve got to grab her with both hands and lift with my knees. She eats twice a day but her favorite thing is to see if we’ve forgotten to move the cat food to the counter, because that apparently tastes better than the $70 puppy food she gets. Meanwhile, Nox is in the office horsing down whatever might be left in her bowl.
We’ve settled into a regular daily routine. I get up in the mornings and walk her first thing. Sometimes the ladies come with me and sometimes we sneak out before they wake up. We have a standard route: first we walk over to the church so she can find a good place to poop on their lawn. Then we walk behind the church into the stand of trees where she can chase squirrels and listen to the acorns drop. Then we loop back around on Beechwood Ave. and head to the backyard, where I put her on the long lead to hang out while I get coffee and breakfast together. In the evenings we go for one last walk before closing up the house. She’s accepted that the crate is her nighttime bed; I take the leash and her harness off inside the front door and she trots right inside and lays down for sleep. Jen bought her a couple of fleece jackets to wear when the weather gets cold, and I had her in one for the majority of the day yesterday. She looks fashionable!
The issues with the cats haven’t worked themselves out much. Some days she’s super-chill with the two of them, and other days it’s one big furball of scrabbling claws on the floor as they all try to simultaneously occupy and avoid the same space. We’ve done four pet training classes that have taught us some coping techniques, but everything flies out the window when she sees a squirrel or another dog on our walks.
We’ve found new and interesting ways to try and exhaust her before bedtime; our friends down the street have a puppy roughly her size and practically beg Jen to bring Hazel down to let them run around the backyard and wear each other out. On the days we’ve been able to schedule this, she crashes out as soon as she gets home. On other days, I’ve found a method of wearing her out: I take her over to the playground at the school where there’s an enclosed area about the size of a tennis court with one entrance. I bring a couple of sticks in there, take the leash off, and we play an abbreviated game of Fetch (more like Chase) where she goes after one while I pick up the other. Come to think of it, I suppose I’m playing Fetch. She should be giving me $9 salmon-flavored treats every time I pick up the fucking stick. I guess it’s OK because she is absolutely beautiful when she’s running at full speed. After a half an hour of this, she’s worked her ya-ya’s out and we head for home.
Much of the grass in our backyard is gone, because we had the landscaping guys come and dig a drainage trench Wednesday afternoon. We tied the downspouts from the back of the house into one pipe going out to the middle of the lawn so that the runoff doesn’t keep flowing past (and into) the garage. This should move even more of the water away from the house and hopefully prevent further flooding. They also pulled all of Jen’s plants from the circle garden and leveled it out across the middle of the yard and trimmed back all of our planters in preparation for fall. They are coming back today to level out all of the divots and low spots and humps in the lawn and hopefully make the whole thing flatter (or, at least, sloped all in the same direction).
Along with that work, I approved a contract to have the driveway dug up and replaced with real asphalt. The idea is to widen the whole thing out to two car widths so that we’re not constantly dealing with parallel parking. We’re also putting in a drainage trench toward the back that will move all the water flowing down the driveway from the side of the house out to the other side of the garage.
Up in the bathroom, we’ve got the linen cabinet sitting roughly in place, which is a huge relief. Brian helped me hump it up the stairs last Saturday and we were able to just squeak it into place in the corner. Now I’ve got to figure out how to get the toe kick pedestal underneath it—but that will come a little later. The next big step is to finish off the trim on the front windows. I’ve been holding off because I wanted to see how much free space we’d have with the cabinets in place—there was a chance the countertop would be in the way of the woodwork. I’m going to get that in place and sealed up so that the whole room will be airtight and keep as much heat in as possible. Then I’ll start modifying the piping behind the sink.
Finally, I bought two more windows for the living room on Monday. I’ve got a couple of weeks before they come in to get other stuff done, and then I’ll call my brother in law Glenn to come over and help me get them installed. He’s keen to learn, and now that I’ve done four I feel like I’m clear on the process; having another set of hands will hopefully make the job go faster.
The results are back on Hazel’s lineage. Some of what we suspected is true, and some of what we learned is a surprise.
A word of warning: I’m about to make sweeping judgements about dog breeds based on my previous experiences. I realize full well that asshole dogs are the result of asshole humans. But I have a distrust of several breeds based on interactions I’ve had where the humans have been attentive parents and the dogs have been shitheads. You can argue with me all you like, but you won’t change my mind.
So: on to the results. It came as a surprise that she is, in fact, 37% Shorthair Pointer; we figured she had some kind of sporting background based on her shape and face, but we couldn’t narrow down what it might be, and I just figured the rescue was making an uneducated guess. The other, bigger surprise is that she’s 25% American Staffordshire Terrier. In reality, this should be expected because pit bulls have been popular for years and there are plenty of idiots who let theirs run off the leash without being fixed, so I’d wager every rescue mutt has some pit in the woodpile. Then there’s a 37% mixture of “other”, which includes Terrier, Asian, and Sporting breeds. What this means is that more than a third of Hazel wants to dig up the lawn to bite you before fetching the paper.
So, back to the main breeds. The Shorthair Pointer is the part I’m happiest about; I love that breed and sporting dogs of this type are the size and temperament Jen and I are used to. If we were dealing with more Pointer and less Terrier I think we might be further along normalizing the dog/cat balance in our house, she’d be the medium-sized dog we wanted, and I’d feel better about leaving the girls alone at the house.
Then there’s the Pit Bull. I really don’t care what anyone says; I don’t trust pit bulls. I’ve met many friendly, gentle pit bulls. I’ve rolled around on the floor with them. I’ve had one sleep on my lap. I also lived in Baltimore City as the Rottweiler Era gave way to the Pit Bull Era, when every white trash methhead from Highlandtown was walked three pits on a chain through my neighborhood on their way to the methadone clinic. Every other week somebody’s pit jumped a fence and mauled a kid or the mailman or somebody minding their own business in their own fucking yard. While I understand that a raging smack addiction probably doesn’t make for conscientious dog parenting, I think there’s something going on there. And I have a hard time trusting that inbred instinct with my daughter and niece and nephew.
And, to be perfectly honest, it’s a class thing. I hear pit bull, I see a toothless tattooed basehead sagging his basketball shorts wandering up Eastern Avenue yelling for his baby mama. I left the city to escape that shit; and as much as I make judgements about people and their dogs, I know that other people do the same.
The random mixture of breed groups is most likely what accounts for her size, as she’s not as tall as a pointer or a pit, and there are a lot of unknowns in this group. The Asian group includes awesome dogs like Huskies but assholes like Chow-Chows. I’ve had several experiences with bity Chows and I don’t trust them at all. The mixture of terriers accounts for the digging and the prey drive; terriers were bred to chase varmints so it’s perfectly within Hazel’s nature to see a running cat and want to eat it. And the Sporting group could be anything—we just don’t know enough about what the mixture is to have any idea of its influence on her.
So, we’re still in a holding pattern. She has good days and bad days, just like me. I was completely out of patience with her last night for some reason, while this morning we were good together during our morning walk. We’ve got some recommendations for personal trainers (someone to come in and train the family, not the dog) so we’re going to research this approach and see if there’s hope for a resolution.
After all of the activity last weekend, this one is quiet in relief. We dicked around the house for most of yesterday, working with the dog at her second behavioral class, and she did pretty well. She was attentive and well behaved, and the trainer was kind enough to stay and talk with Jen for 45 minutes after class while I walked her out back.
To be perfectly honest, it’s been a struggle to make a decision about what we’re going to do with her. We made a pro/con list last weekend that came out pretty evenly on both sides, and she had a really good couple of days with us. Then there were a couple of days that went to absolute shit and we all sat up on Friday night talking about it and mostly agreeing that we were going to send her back. Saturday morning we had a change of heart and we’re back to square one.
I don’t want this to sound like we’re a family of dilletantes. Jen and I are dog people. We grew up with dogs, we know dogs, we’re not afraid of the responsibility of dogs. We know what it means to have a dog.
I’ve settled into the routine of walking her in the morning and evening, and as much as I’ve never been a morning person, I like being out when the rest of the world is still sleeping, smelling the dew on the grass, feeling the first chill of fall in the air, and following Hazel as she wanders the neighborhood following her nose. Jen and I get some time to talk with each other, and the exercise doesn’t hurt. When she’s chill, she’s a wonderful dog to be with. What we’re struggling with is her social anxiety, and prey drive. She’s a nervous little girl who is paralyzed by loud noises and flashing lights she doesn’t recognize, and kind of a dick around other dogs after a while.
She’s a smaller dog (although she’s gained five pounds and an inch and a half in a month’s time) so she has a need to meet every dog she sees, but when she shifts into play mode she doesn’t know how to stop. She’ll run and jump and nip and bark, but when the other dog backs off she keeps going, and when they tell her to stop (usually by giving her a solid chomp or, as happened this past week, by knocking her over and putting her in a choke hold with their teeth) she doesn’t take the hint—she keeps going. She’ll continue jumping on them, nipping and barking, and we’ve got to step in and separate them.
We don’t have the DNA tests back yet, so we don’t know what flavor of breed soup we’re dealing with. She’s definitely got some hound in her, because she follows her nose whenever we’re out with her. There’s a fair bit of terrier mixed in, because she loves to dig (god help us). There’s some working dog in her, because her legs are long and she’s built like someone put a full-sized Vizsla in a shrink-ray set to Half Size. The prey drive of the terrier is what worries us. There’s a split-personality thing going on where the super-bright part of her brain knows that our cats are off limits. When we bring her inside and she sees them, she’s now at the point where she’ll sit down on her own and wait for them to cautiously saunter over and look at her. She gets fidgety, and we can see one half of her brain thinking YOU ARE MY SIZE! LET’S PLAY while the other side is saying IF I CHOMP THEM, THE HUMANS WILL DESTROY ME. She’ll get close to them, and the cats will smack her in the face a bunch of times, and she’ll back off. Then she’ll wiggle up to them again, they’ll whack her on the nose a few more times, and she’ll back off again. This continues until the cats nope themselves out.
The problem is that when the cats tear ass at high speed, the prey instinct in her brain destroys all rational thought and all that’s left is I MUST CHEW THAT RUNNING ANIMAL IMMEDIATELY. It’s this dichotomy that has us worried, because we don’t know if it’s ever going to work itself out in a favorable way. The cats are understandably upset; Trixie has gained several pounds in the last month and Nox looks noticeably frazzled. They’re not getting the attention they need and we feel horrible. We’ve read horror stories about Jack Russell terriers getting along amicably with cats for several years and then one day it’s the hallway scene from The Shining. This, and the reaction to other dogs, is what has us up at night.
So we’re in a holding pattern, and she’s snoring peacefully on Jen’s lap in an anxiety sweater.
When I was in college I applied for and got a credit card, because, why not? At first I was very careful with it, but as those things often do, it crept up on me. A couple of years out of school I was running a balance of $4,000 and struggling to pay down the interest. This continued for a couple of years until I upgraded my job situation and then I made a mission out of paying it off. Once that was done I put the card in a drawer and rewired my brain to only buy with the cash in my checking account, and used my debit card exclusively. That was about 20 years ago, and I haven’t had a credit card since then.
You know where this is going, right?
Apple just came out with the Apple Card and I signed up for it. A couple of days later a very small package appeared in the mail and I opened it to find a surprisingly meaty titanium credit card in a small envelope with my name on it. I activated it and put it into my Apple Wallet alongside my debit card, where I can use Apple Pay with my phone or my watch. The plan is to only use it for gas and high-dollar purchases, as I’d like the extra layer of protection against card skimmers and fraud. Plus, the cash back is kind of nice.
Update: be sure to opt out of the arbitration clause.