Saturday, February 26, 2011

Driving Mr. Duncan

Duncan is my first small dog. At first I was terrified of his high terrier energy, but really, he's no worse than any of my previous dogs. And at 17 pounds instead of 80 or 90, when he jumps on you it's no big deal. I've been thoroughly enjoying his fearlessness and his independence. This dog is afraid of nothing- or if he is afraid, he checks out the situation or thing (vacuum cleaner) and quickly determines that he is indeed capable of defeating it. This dog does not cower or hide, he joyfully confronts his fears. He likes to be with me if we're home together (thank goodness because he requires constant vigilance!) but he seems to have no issues with separation anxiety. He sits and shakes, is starting to learn some basic manners such as not jumping on or barking at visitors, but he's still so young that excitement often overcomes training. I'm quite biased, but I think this dog is terribly smart and has huge potential!

One thing I was not prepared for with a small dog was car rides. Big dogs are incapable of getting to your feet. There is no room for them on your lap. They can't bounce around the car too much because there is no room. They hang their heads out the window and enjoy the ride. The worst thing they do is occasionally shift the car from drive to neutral or get nose prints all over the windows. Driving with an unrestrained (and untrained) small dog is similarly horrifying to driving with an unrestrained cat. Extreme joy and extreme fear are equally dangerous to the driver!

I thought I had this issue mastered by using a pet carrier. Our first drive was home from the shelter. It was 20 minutes of silence and goodness. Yes! The pet carrier is perfect! Until the second time I used it on the way to/from the vet's office... I wedged the crate onto the back seat, but this time Duncan didn't want to be crated and somehow managed to move the crate from behind the driver's seat to flipped up vertically behind the passenger seat. We then tried Kaylin sitting in back with Duncan on a leash. It works ok, but she needs to be constantly aware of where he is and her attention span isn't very long. Plus, I need Kaylin in the car. What about when I'm alone? Last weekend I invested in a car seatbelt harness. It's a regular harness, but you string your seat belt through a special loop. I finally tried it yesterday and let's just say it worked- but not as the manufacturer intended. Between the harness and seat belt, the poor dog was so tangled he could only lay nicely on the front seat and not move AT ALL. I think it took me a full minute to get him out of the contraption once we were home! We'll have to make some adjustments :)

Speaking of adjustments, Tiger is finally starting to accept Duncan. He actually slept in our bed WITH Duncan for a few hours the other night. Tiger is now more irritated than fearful of Duncan's chases and "attacks." I can't believe Tiger hasn't actually hurt Duncan; they must have some kind of understanding between them because Duncan deserves to be bitten and scratched!

I am in excited planning mode about my road trip in two weeks. This week I found out that we'll be spending the night with my friend Julie in Nashville. I also received an email from Lisa that her zoo had a baby anteater and some cheetah cubs born this past week, with a zebra foal due any day. That's on top of the baby giraffe and leopard cub we were already excited about. Nashville also has a baby giraffe and baby anteaters due any time. The rest of our plan includes finally seeing the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium and hopefully a tour of a huge animal sanctuary/breeding facility close to Jacksonville. We're still deciding which zoo to stop at on our way home, but may stop in Chattanooga at the zoo or aquarium or maybe we'll even see Rock City. I just know that I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I've never particularly cared about hair. I've had the same hair style for the past 25+ years and imagine it won't change much if I live another 50 years. I give my own hair almost no thought other than the occasional glance in the rearview mirror that reveals it's long past time to cover my gray. I probably wouldn't even bother with coloring it if it weren't for those pesky brats at Latchkey who ask if I'm Logan's mom or grandma?

I always figured one parenthood battle I'd never take on was hair. I mean, what could be less permanent? A Mohawk or purple spikes are much better than regrettable tattoos or multiple facial piercings. If my kids want to express themselves with their hair, more power to 'em. Or so I thought...

Kaylin has extremely thick hair that tangles and mats easily. It's also very fine and frizzy. And it turns out she cares about as much about hair as I do. Her hair has been barely shoulder length for years. I nag and remind her constantly to brush it. No, that's not good enough, you have to actually brush out the tangles! I would NEVER even mention your hair if you would brush it right to begin with! This is our every morning battle. One of two things I continuously nag her about. (The other being the messes she makes in the kitchen and doesn't clean up.) The problem is, she's right- she can brush her hair smooth, perfectly untangled and shiny and it looks like crap in 5 minutes. I've begged for help from hair stylists. I've spent $$$ on special conditioners. I've researched online...

Yesterday Gene left work early. Kaylin begged him to take her for a haircut. Her hair is now almost as short as mine and she apparently wanted it even shorter but Gene said no. I am glad he took her and not me! Wow. It is so short! I was running my fingers through what's left and it is sooooo thick. I can't believe she can even get a brush or comb through it! I still haven't seen it dry because it was wet when she got home and then she took a shower. I imagine it will be a fuzzy little frizzball :) I teased her that in a year or two when she hits puberty her hair will curl just like mine (and it probably will) and we can have identical cuts! She rolled her eyes and didn't comment.

So Mom, you've been warned! Kaylin's hair is SHORT.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yay, the snow is gone!

Duncan is doing very well this week. He has been LOVING running around the back yard. Our idiot neighbor dog barks and Duncan tears along the fenceline, back and forth until he bores of "chasing" Timon. I haven't seen it yet, but Kaylin claims he loves going down the slide on the swingset. He now knows "sit" but is having a rough time with "down." I'm planning to sign him up for an obedience class that's a prerequisite for a beginning agility class. Agility is the doggy obstacle course race for time. I think he could be fantastic. He certainly loves to jump and climb and I doubt he would fear the tunnels or ramps. I've always thought agility looked like a blast but never had the right dog. Duncan may be the right dog!

Logan will be starting flag football this weekend. He's disappointed because he wants to play REAL football. We convinced him real football doesn't start until the end of summer and this will hopefully help him with some basic rules and skills. It's also a perfect league for us because it's only one day a week for about an hour. The first two Saturdays are practices to learn the basics and the next 6 weeks are games. Their uniforms are NFL replica jerseys so that should be fun. Gene and Logan play almost nightly football games in the living room so I'm glad Logan can play on a team.

Kaylin has a major case of spring fever. She is sick to death of school and just wants to go on vacation. Spring Break is the first week of April. Gene and I both have it off work and plan to do something, but I don't know what. We don't want to plan anything too big because if the Cat union workers are out on strike Gene will have to work. I imagine we'll end up driving somewhere for a few days. I'd like to go to Atlanta, but we'll probably end up in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, I'm planning a whirlwind Florida roadtrip with a couple of my coworkers. We begged and pleaded and talked our new boss into giving three of us five days off together to go visit a former coworker and her new baby giraffe in Jacksonville. We hope to stop at Nashville Zoo and Georgia Aquarium on the way down and spend two days in Jacksonville before a marathon drive home and work the next day. Ugh about work the next day, but the trip should be a blast! It'll be in mid-March so only a few weeks away!

My feet are ok and I will be fine with walking around a few zoos, but I wish they were completely better. I don't want to run, but I'd like to be able to walk and bike for exercise. I want to be able to run an agility course with Duncan. I'm sort of back on my old course of coming home from work, showering and plopping in my chair the rest of the evening because my feet hurt too much to do anything else. Also, I'm still somewhat restricted at work and staying off uneven surfaces. I just want to be able to clean the poop off of the lion hill without thinking about it or having to ask my relief to do it on my days off! Stupid feet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Duncan

Duncan came home Tuesday afternoon. I was hoping to beat Kaylin home, but I arrived about 5 minutes too late. She was back in her bedroom changing clothes and all I could think about was surprising her. I snuck in the house and let Duncan out of his crate. Whoops! I totally forgot about Tiger! Duncan's first greeting in his new home was a puffed-up, hissing fatcat. A cat he was more than happy to chase back and forth, the length of the house, over and over again while Kaylin and I doubled over with laughter. Well, there goes my carefully thought out introduction between pets... Tiger isn't thrilled with the new addition, but he's coming around. Hopefully Duncan will force Tiger to exercise and lose some weight.

Duncan made himself right at home and immediately explored everything and just seemed very comfortable in his new surroundings. There was no slinking off and hiding or whining in fear- he was happy and confident and thrilled with his new toys. At 3:30 we took him to pick up Logan. He jumped right in the car and enjoyed the ride. Gene came home around 5 and Duncan went rigid at the sight of the van pulling into the driveway. I was all "Ooh, I bet he's finally going to bark!" I had been fearing his bark. I was expecting a high-pitched yip yip, but as Gene came to the door in his Arctic explorer parka, I was thrilled to hear a deep, growly ruff. Duncan cowered as Gene entered the house in his huge coat, but he didn't pee in submission and after about 20 seconds of Gene comforting him, Duncan was fine. So far, that's the only time I've seen him afraid.

As I expected, Duncan is not housebroken. He has been very good about peeing nearly every time he's taken outside. He has no qualms, however, about hiking his leg on the hideous old couch Tiger likes to scratch on. I suppose this will finally give us the motivation to get rid of the thing :) We tried to let him into the backyard, but the snow is too deep and he'll only stay out for a few seconds. The front walkway is completely disgusting right now because it's dug out with high walls (for Duncan, anyway) on either side perfect for hiking his leg on. It's completely dappled with yellow pee spots. I should take a picture to commemorate housebreaking a dog after the major snowstorm!

Otherwise, he is sweet as can be. He is currently curled in a ball on the footrest of my recliner. He sleeps nicely in our bed. He snuggles with me. Duncan also can be a bratty terror. He is high energy. Kaylin didn't quite understand the concept of NEEDING to play with him following his day in the crate while we were at work/school. She wanted to kick back on the couch and Duncan wanted to PLAY! Things should be much better when he can be let into the backyard to tear around, but right now he needs to be actively entertained until he wears out. So far he has destroyed a pencil and some cardboard packaging, but both happened while he wasn't being directly observed. I think once a routine is in place and he has learned some basic manners he'll be an excellent dog. I know I'm in love :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Last Friday my kids were out of school but the neighbor kids had school. I couldn't handle the thought of them coming over and ruining the rest of my day off so shortly before they were due home, I took the kids and left. I wanted to pick up my paycheck stub (I have direct deposit but my vacation time, etc. is on my stub and I needed to check it) and figured the animal shelter is close to the zoo- we might as well check out the dogs.

This was our umpteenth shelter visit and my expectations were low. I figured we'd quickly wind our way around the kennels of pit bulls and giant, unruly mutts and then seek refuge in the cat room. Seriously, I have been to the shelter MANY times since Brady died and have only been interested enough in ONE dog to actually request to see him. That dog was already taken and was adopted by one of Kaylin's friends! Anyway, we quickly made our way past the barking mess of the usual and were practically rushing toward the door and the promise of the wonderful cats when- WHAT? What is this adorable, young, small, silent dog doing here? This is the exact dog we've been searching for! We grabbed the card and asked to visit with him. We were placed in a small "meet and greet" room and one of the shelter girls brought "Ridley" to meet us. We played and played. Shelter Girl got bored and left us. We played and played and played. Shelter Girl checked on us a dozen times. We didn't want to leave! One of the rules for adoption is that EVERY family member must meet the new pet before adoption is finalized. We tore ourselves away from the dog and went outside to call Gene. It was late in the day and there was just no way he could leave work and make it to the shelter before 5pm. I filled out paperwork to put a 24 hour hold on the dog.

To say Gene was surprised by our news would be an understatement. I had to convince him that I completely assumed our shelter visit was about rushing past the usual motley selection of undesirable dogs and then (laaaaaaaaaaa!) playing with cats for 30 glorious minutes. There was no part of me that actually thought today would be the day! Gene slowly recovered from his shock and proclaimed Ridley reminded him of his beloved childhood dog Toby. (This from one crappy cell phone photo...) Anyway, Gene spent the evening moving from shock to excitement.

Saturday morning was unbearably long. Adoption viewing doesn't start until noon. Kaylin and I went to Farm and Fleet and Big Lots and picked up some doggy essentials. Kaylin's art class was from noon to 1:30 and I used that time to shop some more. Kaylin and Logan decided they hated the name "Ridley" so Kaylin and I came up with "Duncan" (a character in the series of books we're currently reading.) We spent a good hour playing with Duncan and then finalized the adoption. Gene loved him. During the ~2 hours we spent with him he never once barked or whined. He is very mouthy (bitey) but very gentle (soft mouth- his play biting doesn't hurt.) He is 8 months old and maybe 15 pounds. Duncan definitely weighs less than fatty mcfatcat Tiger.

I'm not deluded enough to think we're bringing home the perfect dog! He was picked up as a stray so is most likely NOT housebroken. He's a terrier mix so I'm sure he'll be a stubborn pain in the butt to housebreak and train. I'm also sure he'll show his true colors and start barking immediately. However, he seems like he will be a great match with the kids. He's sturdy enough that they won't hurt him and small enough he won't hurt them. In the limited time we spent with him he seemed intelligent and happy and good. He was neutered Monday and if all went well should be able to come home today. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! I'm trying to devise ways to get out of work early (I've already been given permission to leave early, but I mean EARLY :) The kids have been bouncing off the walls for 3 days. Ack! I hope everything goes well and by tonight we have a dog!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snowprah Winfrey

I can't remember where I read it, but Snowprah Winfrey is my favorite name for Snowmageddon or The Blizzard of 2011. Today will be snow day number 4 for the kids. I really wish there was school today, but I suppose having the weekend to dig out sidewalks and turn lanes will be much safer for walkers and bus drivers. As of last night there were no turn lanes onto or off of Detweiller. It was a hard, sharp turn for my dinky Toyota; I can't imagine trying to turn a school bus. We were completely snowed-in on Wednesday. The plow got our street around 4pm. Kudos to the City of Peoria! The last big storm 3 or 4 years ago it was THREE DAYS before our street was plowed and I had to get rides to work. This time they even came back sometime during the night and plowed our street wide enough that we don't have to dig out the mailbox!

I was stuck at home Wednesday. Fortunately, several people live within walking distance of the zoo (or a short drive) and made it to work. We had made extra diets and prepared for a day with only a few people. Roz sent me photos of several areas before any snow was cleared and many of the doors were half covered. It was amazing how bad it was! I imagine our maintenance crew will be digging out paths for days. One of the park crews came in Thursday and used big tractors to clear our employee parking area and paths to the dump area. They hauled away several dump truck loads of snow and accomplished in a couple of hours what it would have taken our guys all day (or longer) to do. What a mess! I was just thrilled there were paths cleared so I didn't have to walk through ANY deep snow with my bad foot. It's incredibly much better, but uneven surfaces still make it flare. Thanks Doug!

Wednesday morning I headed outside to start shoveling. I wasn't in any hurry because I knew I was almost certainly stuck for the day. I made pancakes for the kids and dinked around before bundling up and heading out around 9. Gene HATES snow more than I can express, so I went out and cleared a path from behind our cars to the garage. The snow was so drifted behind the cars I knew the snow blower wouldn't handle it so I started digging out by hand. I eventually got to a less drifted area and started up the blower. It worked for about one minute and never started again. I did a huge area by hand. Meanwhile, the neighbors were out with their working blower. When they finished Gene went and asked if we could use their blower to finish our end of our driveway. I don't know how they got the thing over, but husband, wife and dog came over (their three kids were already in OUR house.) I was still shoveling away and not paying attention to them. The dog came bounding up and started jumping on me. He was leaping into my face when he nailed me with his teeth, cutting below my lip, chipping one of MY teeth and causing me to bite the inside of my lip. The cut doesn't look like much, but it was deep enough that it bled the entire rest of the time I was outside- at first a lot but then just small dripping. Idiot dog! It's Friday morning and my lip is still swollen and my tooth is sensitive enough that I may have to go to the dentist. I was planning to give the neighbors money for the use of their blower, but forget them! I'll probably end up paying $$$ for dental work. Oh, and word from the kids is they're planning to get ANOTHER dog to breed with idiot dog so they can make money. Yes, folks, please pass on the DNA of the most mentally challenged border collie in the history of the world!

The kids have been cooped up playing video games for several days. They played outside for hours on Wednesday, but Tuesday was too windy and Thursday too cold. They won't be happy, but I'm going to force them to come on grocery errands with me today. As of last night the neighbor kids still had school. I'm going to check the closing list right now and hope at least I'll catch that break :)