Jet Lag

I’m going with jet lag, otherwise the alternative is more depressing. Last week I had to travel for work and spend five days at the main office. I travel alone frequently for work, but this time Mitch traveled with me. While I toiled away at the office, attending meetings and helping coworkers, Mitch slept late, ate a really nice buffet breakfast and hung out at the local tobacco shop smoking his pipe in peace. While we were out of town, we had the dogs kenneled, not our favorite option, but out here we don’t know anybody well enough that we could impose on to dog sit.

Flying home, we found out at the airport after we had checked our bags that our flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Yay, now not only we will feel like it is two hours later than it is, but now it will be two hours later when we get home. Talk about major energy drain. We finally landed and by the time I recovered the bags and Mitch retrieved our car it was almost nine o’clock. The drive home takes almost an hour, so tack that on, add in unpacking and getting settled in for the night, so you could say we were well past tired.

The next day we went to the kennel to get our dogs out of hock, who were very happy to see us. After we got home and parked the car, Mitch went around to the back of the station wagon, to let the dogs out. Instead of just opening the tailgate and releasing the hounds, Mitch decided to take off Royal’s harness. All well and good if he had just voiced any command, but no Mitch didn’t say anything to the dogs who were super excited to be home. Without waiting for the tailgate to be opened and the normal invitation to get out, Royal leaped out of the open section, then Orso followed landing badly. Keep in mind that both dogs are large, over a hundred pounds each, and old. Orso is almost twelve years old and Royal will be ten in April. When Orso landed I was for sure he had blown out his shoulder, then his hips collapsed, and I thought, “Oh no now what?” But like a true Labrador, he got up limped a bit, then was off sniffing everything he missed for a week. I looked and Mitch and told him he dodged a bullet and what was he thinking. Standing there and not saying anything with an open access sort of, was like an invitation to the dogs.

We decided to go on a walk to burn off some pent-up energy. We put on their leashes and our jackets and walked outside. I had both leashes in my hands and was showing Mitch some things I wanted to move in the front garden, when we heard a voice calling, “Rocky, no. Rocky stay, Rocky no.” I looked up at see a large black dog heading our way to check us out and say hi. I was standing there, trying hold back two hundred plus pounds of excited muscle mass, keep a strange dog at bay and hoping that everyone would play nice. All the while, Mitch was standing there with his hands in his jacket pockets and a goofy smile on his face saying, “Hi Rocky, hi Rocky, how’s it going?” Just like a ten-year-old boy.

I looked over at him and said, “Take a dog, what are you doing?” Royal was not as giddy about meeting Rocky as Orso was and all I could think of, was that this was going to leave a mark. I could not believe that after almost twelve years of Charlie, Mitch would forget how careful we needed to be when meeting unknown dogs.

I’m chalking it up to jet lag, because otherwise I’m stuck with the ten-year-old boy.

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We Really Need to get out More

I’ve never been one to go out and wander the shopping malls, even before moving to the Pacific Northwest. Now I venture out even less, not being very familiar with the area. Plus, traffic sucks, no matter what time of day or day of the week. Amazon is my new best friend for almost everything. I still go to the grocery store, but I don’t just go out for a day of shopping. Sad, huh?

Today I needed to go to a certain store for some Christmas shopping, can’t say where because it’s Christmas, but I will say it is in a mall. Mitch and I drove over to the closest mall and through google on my phone, I located the approximate location of the specific store, but not being very familiar with the layout of the mall, we weren’t sure where to park. We drove around looking for a likely entrance. Being creatures of habit, we parked by one of the Macy’s entrances and walked into the store.

We wandered through Macy’s looking for the exit out into the mall, but couldn’t find any exit. We walked the entire circumference of the store and there was no exit. We didn’t dare ask for help and look like total morons, so we kept walking and looking in every corner for a way out. We finally decided to take the escalator down a floor in hopes of a way out into the mall on that level. One floor down and we started circling the lower level, reading the signs hanging from the ceiling and finally found the sign that said, “exit to mall”.

I was never so glad to leave a store in my life. I thought for sure, we had been teleported to the “Bermuda Triangle” of Shopping Malls. Once out in the mall, we started walking toward the middle of the mall, (we hoped). At one point, Mitch said he was ready to read the mall store finder to see where we needed to go. And I answered, “Sure, but I haven’t seen one of those signs, yet either.” We turned to the left for fun and wonder of wonders, the store we were in search of was up ahead on the left.

We laughed so hard at ourselves, and decided that we really do need to get out more.

Taking the Leap

Well call us crazy or not, we took the leap and jumped off the cliff. After we received the reprieve from the woman asking for two weeks to try and work something out with her landlord, we breathed a sigh of relief. We told each other that it was for a reason that we didn’t get the dog. That maybe later on in the future, we would start looking for a dog. Guess what? Two weeks to the day, we received an email, asking if we were still interested in meeting Royal. We said yes, but now due to prior commitments, we couldn’t take him for another two weeks. We also said we would understand if they couldn’t wait for us.

Oh no, was the response, they would be more than happy to keep him for another 2 weeks. They just wanted to make sure he had a good home. I wasn’t sure how she “knew” we would be a good home, since we had only traded emails to date. We agreed to meet Royal the following Sunday, and see how he would get along with Orso. All week, I kept going back and forth, are we doing the right thing for Orso? If we take Royal, would that be the right thing for him? Talk about making myself crazy, I must have waffled back forth enough to have worn a groove in my brain.

Sunday morning, we loaded Orso up and headed out to meet Royal. We got there early and wandered around the school grounds that we had agreed to introduce the two on. Neutral territory, that way no one felt threatened or possessive of the space. A car pulled into the far side of the parking lot and watched as a man got out with a large dark brown dog. Nope, not Royal, we thought, because it was a Doberman and we were expecting a lab/mastiff mix. The man and the dog headed off in the opposite direction so we were pretty sure, they were just out for a stroll in the drizzle.

Another car pulled in and parked. A woman and a teenage girl got out of the car and the woman turned and opened the back door of the car. Out hopped a fawn colored dog with blackish brown ears. Royal came trotting over to us, quite unafraid and eager to meet us and Orso. He was as tall as Orso and a little bigger in the chest than Orso, maybe about five to ten pounds overweight. He was super friendly and just wanted to be petted. He was also a leaner.

After introductions, we watched the two get to know each other, sniffing butts, peeing on top of the other’s pee spot and running around the grass. Orso tried to jump on his back a couple of times and each time Royal would turn and give a warning bark growl, but never showed teeth. I was quite impressed with the dog, and ready to jump over the ledge. Mitch asked a few questions, did he have any ailments, eating issues, were his shots up to date, etc. All of our questions were answered quite positively, and I couldn’t help but wonder about his owner. It would take dire circumstances for me to even consider having to find a home for Orso and not keep him.

We asked if any others had responded to the ad and the woman said yes, she had gotten eight offers but only took one other offer seriously. After meeting the couple, she told them no they couldn’t have Royal. It seems the couple had a pair of pit bulls with them that were quite beat up and kept asking her what the mastiff side was capable of. She told us that she felt uneasy and worried about Royal’s safety.

I took the first leap, looked at Mitch and said that we would love to take him, but because family was coming into town, we couldn’t take him until the following Saturday. That seemed to be quite workable, so we said good-bye, loaded up Orso and headed home. Saturday morning, we picked up Royal and brought him home. We left Orso home for the pick up so that there was no tension in cramped spaces. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I jumped out and leashed up Orso and the four of us went for a nice long walk.

We are now a week into back being a two-dog family and so far, so good. Maybe it’s because both dogs are older, Orso will be eleven and Royal is almost six, both are very calm sedate dogs, pretty much couch potatoes most of the time.

So for now, life is good, just a little more cramped on the couch, but quite relaxed. I’m sure once Royal gets comfortable and realizes the once he crossed the threshold, he was here to stay, things will get back to my normal chaotic life.

Christmas Rush

I like to pride myself on getting my holiday shopping done before the last minute. Normally I’m done and ready for the holidays at least a week before Christmas, letting me sit back and relax a bit before Christmas morning. Well not this year, this year I just didn’t have any inspiration for Mitch. I didn’t have any creative juices flowing. Everyone else was done and shipped off, which made me feel even worse, like a real slug.

I finally came up with a couple of ideas, one was a table saw since last year when I went through the “Great Purge” and either gave away, donated or trashed a lot of our belongings so I could sell the house and move nineteen hundred miles to the Pacific Northwest. Mitch’s table saw was one of the things that didn’t make the move. Yeah I know, it’s so much fun rebuying some of the tools and other belongings. Not. But space was tight and I made sure it went to a good home.

So yesterday morning I got up early and headed out to deal with western Washington traffic, (no fun at any time of the day) in search of a table saw and a work space light because for some reason our desk lamps didn’t make the move either. I don’t remember getting rid of our lamps, but then there is a least one or more boxes that didn’t make the move either.

First stop was Home Depot and a search of the tool section showed me that the affordable table saws were a popular item, because they were out of stock. So I jumped back in the car and headed off to Lowes. Lowes had three left that looked well-made and under a million dollars. The only problem was that I couldn’t lift it. I had to have help getting into the car, which meant I would have to have help getting it out of the car. And since we have no friends here that are a quick call away, I was going to have to get Mitch to carry in his own gift. That left me with another dilemma, how to get him to carry it in the house and not see what it was. Compound that with a barking Orso the minute he sees the car which always wakes Mitch up. I definitely had a challenge ahead. Too bad Lowes doesn’t have a gift wrap station, I would have been set.

I pulled in the driveway and rushed to open the front door to shush Orso before he woke up Mitch. Mitch was already awake but was in the shower so I had a few minutes. I ran inside and grabbed a roll of wrapping paper, tape and scissors, went back outside and climbed in the back of the station wagon to wrap the table saw. There I was draping wrapping paper over the box, cutting the paper and trying to tape the paper together in a reasonably nice looking way. The challenge came when I tried to lift the box high enough to slide the paper under the box, not so easy when you are in a cramped space and the box was bulky and heavy to match. The wrapping paper wasn’t long and wide enough to completely cover three sides and two ends, so I had to cut another piece about a foot wide to cover the ends. But the paper wasn’t long enough to drape over the top and cover both ends, so I had to cut that section in two pieces and tape each section to the top of the box and over the end.

This had to be the worst wrapping job I’ve ever done. There were pieces of wrapping paper taped over the top of the box to cover the ends of the box and wrapping paper edges hanging loose on the sides of the box because I couldn’t lift the box high enough to slide the paper under the box. An unwrapped bottom meant leaving the bottom of the box exposed and I could only hope the bottom of the box was blank without any description.

I got done with the pathetic wrapping job and went inside to fetch Mitch and make him carry his own gift inside. The poor sad gift looks almost as pathetic as Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. I am so glad shopping is done and all I have to do now is open a bottle or two of wine sit back and enjoy the rest of the day. Good thing tomorrow is Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Not Your Ordinary Funeral

Funerals are for the living; the dead don’t care because they are dead. Funerals are there to bring closure to the family and friends. For me the whole process of the funeral, from notifying the funeral home, buying the casket or urn and arranging the services at the funeral home and graveside, is long and tedious and does nothing to aid in the grieving and healing process. I also must admit I am bitter from past experiences with my mother and father’s funerals. So my opinions are quite biased and slanted.

My father in-law died last week, necessitating a trip to Texas for his funeral. This was a trip neither of us wanted to make, we had been pretty much estranged from his family for years. There was tension and hard feelings over the years with his father. Don’t get me wrong, Mitch loved his father, he just couldn’t be around him for any period time without the past being dredged up. Lets’ suffice it to say, Mitch had a misspent youth, part of his charm.

We made hurried travel arrangements, taking Orso to a dog spa and me reserving the hotel room. I found one close to the airport and an hour away from the funeral home, thus keeping his exposure to his family limited and maybe saving me bail money. Our flight got in Austin at midnight and after picking up the rental car we got to the hotel around one in the morning. We ended up getting about four hours sleep before heading off through the Texas hill country to the funeral home.

We parked the car and slowly walked into the funeral home, dreading the first salvo of family comments, but everyone was on their best behavior. We met the pastor that was going to preside over the service, a nice young man who obviously didn’t know my father in-law. We were asked if we wanted to go look at my father in-law, (a ghoulish tradition, in my opinion), something I have never been able to do. I waited outside until Mitch and gone in to see him, maybe to make sure he was dead and not just an elaborate ruse to get Mitch to come for a visit. I’m pretty sure he probably poked him to convince himself his father was really dead.

After the casket was closed we were ushered in as the service started. The pastor began his sermon with a short eulogy about his father, which was the obituary, chapter and verse printed on the memorial, then said we would listen to a song. I was expecting a hymn, but no not a hymn, a song by Neil Diamond, which the pastor said was my father in-law’s favorite singer. Who knew? I looked over at Mitch, who had this look of utter disbelief on his face. I turned my head and looked at the pastor who was sitting there with his eyes closed and head bobbing up and down rocking out to Neil Diamond. It was hard to not laugh out loud.

After the song ended, the pastor started speaking again, saying some prayer. Since I am not religious I couldn’t name one prayer from another. After the prayer, he spoke for a few minutes then asked if anyone had anything to say or share a memory about my father in-law. A man stood up and related a story about the time my father in-law spent on a mine sweeper during World War II relating a story about a man dying during a battle and how interesting the story was to him. I thought that was an odd story to tell and almost stood up myself to relate a memory of my first hunting trip with him, but didn’t.

I would have told about opening day of pheasant hunting in Western Kansas. That for three hundred and sixty-four days, cars drive up and down the country roads with people stopping along the side of the road opening and closing car doors, but on the three hundred and sixty-fifth day of the year, the opening day of pheasant hunting season, a closed-door meant one thing, Pheasant Hunters! So while we were getting our guns out of the truck walking around, the dogs going nuts in the back of the truck, the one thing we always heard from him was, “Don’t slam the doors, it will scare off the birds.” Oh please. I figured that story would not be well received so I kept my mouth shut.

After the memory sharing, another Neil Diamond song and a rocking out pastor. This was getting entertaining. The pastor closed the funeral with a traditional song, “Amazing Grace.” Then came the announcement that there would be a last viewing of the deceased. I almost tripped over Mitch trying to get out of the row and out of the room faster than they could open the casket.

After everyone walked by the casket again for a final viewing, we got in the rental car for the drive to the cemetery. Another surprise, we had a police escort (not unusual) but this one had both city police and county sheriffs as escorts. One in the front, one in the back and one would race up the road to the intersections and stop all traffic. Oncoming drivers would pull over and wait patiently for us to pass. Very touching. I chalked it up to small town people.

As we pulled up to the burial spot there were eleven men in military uniforms waiting for us. There was a flag draped over the casket and chairs facing it. We sat down and the pastor said a few words then turned it over to the Honor Guard that was waiting. Two men walked up to either end of the casket and picked up each end of the flag and stopped, waiting. Another man stood in the middle of the casket to help hold the flag. A fourth man walked up to the podium and spoke in the microphone explaining the meaning of the flag and the eighteen-gun salute. The men folded the flag until it was a long narrow strip, then the man at the podium started explaining what each fold meant. At the last fold, the second man tucked the end of the flag into the folds. Then the six men fired three shots each, and one of the men picked up three spent shells and brought them to the men holding the flag. One of the men placed each shell in the flag and explained what each shell meant, Duty, Honor, Country. The speaker at the podium walked over saluted the man holding the flag and took it from him. He then walked over to my mother in-law, saluted her and presented her the flag. Then one of the men played Taps on his bugle and sounded so soulful and sad. It was all very special and something I had never seen before.

So far so good, everyone was on their best behavior, the day was sunny and hot and just as I was thinking we were in the clear, one of Mitch’s cousins called over to me to warn me that I was standing on a fire ant mound. Super, and I was wearing open toe sandals. Fire ant stings burn like an acid burn and the only thing that works to remove the burn is to pour bleach on the stings.

Ah the hill country in Texas, I am so glad we live in the Pacific Northwest.

This is Good-Bye

So long, sayonara, see you later, hasta la vista baby! However you want to say it, it’s good bye apartment. After six long months, we finally found a house. Don’t get me wrong, the apartment is a very nice apartment, clean, large and the apartment management is super, I’m just not cut out for apartment living. I like my aloneness too much.

Soon I won’t have to listen to Big Foot clomping around one floor above me, hammering god knows what, slamming cabinet doors and playing video games with the volume all the way up until the wee hours of the morning. I won’t have neighbors that drag their dried up Christmas tree out and not sweep up the thick blanket of pine needles covering the hallway and stairs leading outside, so that we drag them into our apartment. Most of all I will have a place to walk Orso that is not along a busy street with bicyclists silently whizzing past you from behind startling both of us, causing Orso to bark and lunge at them. No more cars with drivers that don’t know their cars can really go twenty-five miles an hour, they just haven’t tried it.

You can tell when it’s time to go, things happen telling you that you’ve made the right decision. It’s time to move, when two days after you give your intent to vacate, you find a parking violation letter on the windshield of the truck, telling you that you have to move it. Never mind the fact that the truck has been sitting in the same spot for the last six months, but all of a sudden it has to be moved. Then it seems like every little thing is glaring at you, shouting at you, “Get out, run!”

Another clue came when while walking Orso that same day, a woman pulls her car out of the parking lot and stops to tell me that Orso’s urine will burn up the grass. I turned and laughed at her and the absurdity of the statement. I was so tempted to tell her yes I could understand how that could happen since we live in such an “arid” climate. I wanted to say, “Seriously, we are on track to be the wettest winter on record, we are getting rain every day. The damn worms are drowning coming out of the muddy soggy soil and you think my dog’s urine is going to burn up the grass?” Instead I just looked at her, shook my head and walked away.

Then the final hint that it is time to go came sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning when I saw that someone stole our doormat. Can you believe it, someone came and stole our black astro-turf doormat? It’s not like we are on the main floor where you walk right up to the door and out, there are stairs involved getting to our door. I think what bothers me more is that someone was outside our door while I was asleep.

We got a notice from the complex management notifying us that someone would come in and make a “pre-move out inspection” to see what would is needed to be fixed or repaired before the apartment could be rented to someone else. In order to make a good impression, I have washed walls, vacuumed the carpet almost daily, mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms. There has been no damage done to the apartment, we haven’t hung any pictures or painted any walls so we’re good there and the dogs are well behaved and don’t destroy or chew up stuff. I even had the warmer on all day to put out a nice red apple scent throughout. What could go wrong?

The notice said “between 9am to 5pm”, and I waited all day for someone to come by. Dinner time came and no one had come by yet so I figured that everyone was too busy and started dinner. In order to clean out the freezer as much as I can before we move, I thought I would cook a steak for dinner. Well we still don’t have a grill yet, so I turned on the broiler in the oven. The steak was broiling away just fine when all of a sudden the grease caught on fire and smoke started rolling out of the oven and when I pulled the pan out flames shot out and climbed over the oven. I blew the flames out, but there was a lot of smoke, which set off all of the fire alarms in the apartment, I did not realize there were three fire alarms in one two bedroom apartment. Of course the fire alarms are screeching that high pitched screech and as a bonus there was a female voice yelling at us “Fire get out” over and over.

I opened the doors and fanned the smoke alarms until one by one they quit screeching. Just as I was about to sit back down to our salads, there was a knock on the door. Fully expecting the fire department at the door, there was one of our maintenance men there to do the inspection. Great, just as I try to burn down the apartment complex someone shows up to inspect the apartment for damage.

Well there goes our damage deposit.

Stealth Mode

Definitely not a term that is ever used when describing a Labrador retriever. Friendly, playful, loyal, gun dog, excellent retriever and most popular family dog are all words and terms used to describe the Labrador retriever, see no stealth mode. The breed originated in Newfoundland, originally called the St John’s water dog and was bred to retrieve in the cold waters. Today the Lab is a great family dog, loyal and playful, always in the middle of everything family.

To describe a Lab, you start at the head. His head is large and square or “blocky” with soft eyes that always melt your heart and make you smile. They have amazing hearing with ears that perk up at the slightest sound of the peanut butter jar lid being turned, even if they are on the other side of the house. A Lab has a big deep chest housing a stomach that can and has eaten almost a whole fifty pound bag of dog food in one sitting. Tip, never leave a bag of dog food unsecured.

At the end of the Labrador retriever is the tail. The tail was designed to be wide at the base and strong, to help steer and keep him afloat in the icy waters. The tail also has to be very large and strong, because that is where his heart is. The tail tells you everything you will ever need to know about a Lab. The happier the dog is faster his tail wags. The faster his tail wags, the bigger his smile gets on the front end. As far as happy goes, the Labrador retriever takes top honors.

With our goofy schedule, I work days and Mitch works nights. I get up at four am to start my day while Mitch is still asleep so I try to move around quietly and get dressing without making any noise. Well no matter how quiet I am, it is all canceled out with the banging of tails wagging, thumping against the bathroom door, the wall or the closet doors. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to give them space to wag in silence, they find a hard surface to bang their happy out. Good thing Mitch sleeps like the dead.

Stealth mode, not in this home.