Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let Us Recap

According the the little countdown on Sophie's page, she just turned 9 months old!  I can't believe it for two reasons.  1) She is so small!  At 45 pounds, she is currently nestled comfortably in my lap.  Shouldn't she have turned into that gigantic bruiser dog we all expected when she was a baby?  2) She is so immature!  She doesn't know nearly as much as most dogs her age, something we worked really hard on for the past 2 weeks.  Socially, she thinks she's a little puppy and had no problem taking on a mastiff AND a husky (at the same time!) at the dog park this week.  Only a crazy puppy with delusions of grandeur would engage 6 times her body weight in a wrestling match. 

For the past two weeks, my dog focus has been all Sophie all the time.  Poor Pauly has been entrusted to my parents and brother, and I haven't even seen him in a whole week!  I miss that easy-going, lazy old man.  I have enjoyed my 2 straight weeks with Sophie because I usually share responsibility for her with my parents.  She is in NYC with me and Pauly on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then on Long Island with my parents for the rest of the week.  I think it is confusing for her to live in two different homes and to answer to three different people.  She has really responded well to consistency and having one handler.  It has also given me an opportunity to bond with her, something I never really did because there was always her Pauly or competing humans around.  She learned a lot in the past 2 weeks.  She's walking with a looser leash, not jumping on people when they pet her, not running up to every single dog on the street, and trusting me more in "scary" situations like stairs or heights.  I'm proud of her, but there's still a lot more work to be done before she's ready to go in for formal training in 3 months. 

In other news, I believe my birthday festivities have finally come to an end.  Mind you, my actual birthday was almost 3 months ago.  My best friend, Erika, seriously prolonged the festivities.  2 months after my birthday, she made me this amazing chocolate raspberry (my fave) cake.
Yes, this tasted as good as it looks.
For my birthday present, she got me tickets to see the Propeller all male Shakespeare troop perform A Comedy of Errors at BAM.  Let me just say, the show was phenomenal.  It was the perfect combination of staying true to Shakespeare and the language while being accessible to a broad audience.  Complete with a sombrero and soccer jersey clad chorus, a naked man running across stage with a sparkler in his arse, and Shakespeare's witty and crass humor.  It was SO.MUCH.FUN.  And before the theatre, she made Aditi, Jay, and I a feast!
Salad, baguette, and fresh tricolor fettucine from Little Italy with sundried tomato and mushroom cream sauce

Slaving away in my kitchen

Jay visited for a few hours and fell asleep on the kitchen floor with Sophie


I know this post is super long, but it's probably the only one you're getting for awhile.  Between now and Thursday, Pauly and I have pet therapy scheduled at the hospital, I have to go to Connecticut for an all day job interview, I am going to see the Daily Show, and I need to stay on top of my classes.  I also think I'm getting sick.

"What?  You were writing a super long blog post and I am bored with all my toys and missing my brother.  I see no problem with flipping the water bowl and running around the apartment with it."

I need to go clean up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Love My Dogs Today

Why I Love Pauly:
Even though he isn't with me, he made me laugh today.  My brother, Jake, is taking care of Pauly for the week because he is on Spring Break and Pauly loves staying at my parents' house.  Jake doesn't know much about dogs and doesn't much like them, except for Pauly.  Pauly, like any child with a substitute teacher, took the opportunity to be stubborn and push his limits.  As soon as they turned towards home from their afternoon walk, Pauly protested by rolling onto his back in the middle of the street.  Jake, not knowing how to deal with this situation, attempted to coax him to get up and eventually resorted to carrying all 75+ pounds of Pauly all the way home. 

Why I Love Sophie:
I had class all day, so my wonderful friend Nupur, who usually walks Pauly on Wednesdays, agreed to watch Sophie.  Nupur's apartment has floor to ceiling glass windows and recently Sophie has developed a fear of heights.  She is especially sensitive when she's near glass windows in tall buildings.  Nupur didn't know Sophie was working through this fear, but when I got there to pick Sophie up, Nupur told me that it took her a really long time to venture over to the window side of the apartment.  After 2 hours of being at Nupur's, Sophie went all the way over to the windows, conquering her fear all by herself, in a strange place, with somebody she doesn't know very well.

Aren't dogs amazing?

"Stop blogging!  My dinner is 12 minutes late and I'm STARVING!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Thinker: Gas Price Quiz

My dad found an old gas receipt in his glove compartment yesterday.  The receipt is dated from December 1998.  WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP - how much did a gallon of regular gas cost in December of '98?

Answer: On December 8, 1998, a gallon of gas purchased in NY cost $1.049.  The entire tank was filled for $15.  Elin wins with a guess of $1.039! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My (losing) Guide Dog Puppy Raiser Story

The Guide Dog Foundation held a story competition for puppy raisers. The prompt was to "tell us about your time as a puppy raiser and what it has meant to you. We are looking for stories that tie in that dreaded but expected moment when you have to return the puppy you have been caring for over 12 months."

The 6 finalists were posted today and I hope you'll visit the Guide Dog Foundation Facebook Page and vote for your favorite story by clicking "like" and/or commenting. They are all worthy, wonderful stories about the joy, laughter, challenges, and tears that come with being a puppy raiser. Since my story wasn't selected as a finalist, I don't get the "prize pack" (Nancy will have to tell me what's in it), but I do get to share it with you here. Enjoy and please share your own (losing winning) stories in the comments. 

On my kitchen table right now there is a silver gift bag filled with purple and yellow tissue paper.  Inside the gift bag is a scrapbook chronicling the most significant year out of all 24 I have lived.  On each page of the scrapbook, I see the sad, expressive eyes offset by the big goofy smile that greeted me every morning of my most significant year.  The first page of the scrapbook shows a pile of indistinguishable black puppies in the parking lot of my apartment in North Carolina, crazed and thirsty after a 10-hour drive from New York.  I still don’t know which squirmy, blubbery, delicious mush in the picture is the one that I loved that year.  The second page of the book shows him engulfed by a bright yellow vest that is dragging on the ground behind his little bowling-ball body.  As I turn the pages of the scrapbook, I see all of his “firsts”.  His first car ride, his first puppy class, his first romp in the fall leaves, and his first frolic in the rare Carolina snow storm.  There he is sitting on the lawn at a baseball game, on his first airplane, wearing a silly Santa hat.  And then, all too quickly, there is his last puppy class, his goodbye puppy cake, and him sprawled on the seat next to me in the moving van that would take us from NC to NY, where we would each move into a new home – separately. 
I will never forget what it felt like leaving him at the Guide Dog Foundation that day.  I remember one of the volunteers offering to hold his leash while I took off my coat, and the mere act of passing it to her for a moment had me erupting into tears.  I remember sitting in the conference room with Maria, completing his training report and trying to tell her all of the “important” things she needed to know about him.  He loves carrots, but hates string beans.  He throws up if his meals aren’t exactly 12 hours apart.  He walks slowly, but not too slowly, just kind of slowly.  He needs a bed to sleep on, otherwise he can’t settle down.  She let me say it all, everything I needed to tell her.  And then she led us to the little kennel in the sterile little exam room, where she asked me to take off his leash and collar and put him inside.  The floor of the temporary kennel scared him as the metal cracked under his paws and I instinctually slammed the door before he could hop out.  

The last time I saw Robbie was when he was in that little metal kennel in the exam room, his sad, expressive eyes staring through the bars as I left with tears pouring down my cheeks.  Tomorrow I will take the silver gift bag, filled with purple and yellow tissue paper, with the scrapbook and his favorite bone inside it, to Celebration Sunday, where I will give it to the veteran who has gained a new lease on life because of my most significant year.  I could wait and write this story tomorrow, but I don’t need to.  I know it was all worth it, all the love, all the tears, and all the middle of the night busying, because I know his veteran will be perfect for him.  I know he will learn that Robbie likes carrots but not string beans and that he needs a bed to sleep on and that he walks slowly but not too slowly, just kind of slowly.  I know that Robbie will be perfect for him, too, and that each day he will greet him with those sad, expressive eyes and that big goofy smile that I loved so much.       

Robbie on his first day of "work"
Celebration Sunday - his veteran is truly a perfect match

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NYT Article Inundation (keep 'em coming!)

My apologies for the back-to-back posts.  I'm getting off my computer soon.

I am officially being inundated with NYT articles relevant to my life and career.  Keep sending 'em, people!  I can't read fast enough so thank you to those friends and colleagues who are flooding my inbox.
I must share from the past 24 hours:

Easing the Way in Therapy With the Aid of an Animal - This is the subject of a grant I'm working on, not to mention Pauly and I are a Delta Society registered pet therapy team and visit patients at the hospital every other Tuesday. (March 15, 2011)

Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog. - My thesis in a nutshell (as previously mentioned) (March 14, 2011)

Emotional Power Broker of the Modern Family - Family pets are more than "just pets" (March 14, 2011)

To Meat or Not to Meat

A vegan friend recently told me that I am “the most ethical non-vegetarian” she knows.  Of course, this was a backhanded compliment as she was implying that I will never truly reach the ethical and moral mountaintop while continuing to consume a meaty morsel every now and then.  I will admit that it is difficult for me to reconcile my absolute love and respect for animals as sentient, smart beings and then eat them.  Just for the record, I would estimate that I eat a vegetarian diet 4 or 5 days a week because I simply prefer most dishes without meat.  But, I devoured a cheeseburger last night and it was delicious.
For those of you who know my dream of someday having a pet miniature potbelly pig, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I took the bacon off my cheeseburger and tossed it onto my mother’s plate.  My argument for avoiding pork, though, is a weak one (something Jay’s parents, Jay, and my mother did not hesitate to point out while I claimed my pork-free moral high-ground at the Chinese restaurant on Saturday night).  I think pigs are wonderful.  They are smarter and more socially aware than dogs and I would never eat dog meat (shockingly my apparently moral-less mother claims that she would).  Where do I draw the line, though?  Cows are beautiful, but I’ll eat them.  Chickens are, well, chickens.  I’m not a bird person and don’t like them in either their living or food form.  But what about spinach?  Eggplant?  Don’t these species also fight for survival and deserve my sympathy?  
Get me out of NYC so I can snuggle one of these cuties
An article (and it’s a good one, so go ahead and click on that link) in yesterday’s NYT suggests that I am not the only person suffering from this omnivore’s dilemma (I know, this isn't actually what the "Omnivore's Dilemma" was about).  About a year and a half ago, after reading a simultaneously disturbing and fascinating book, I found my solution.  Remember, this is MY solution – one that works for me, not you, or you, or you.  So don’t start with the nasty criticisms, though not-too-nasty criticisms are welcome.  The reasons I have for not eating meat largely revolve around the suffering, fear, and pain experienced by the animals grown for human consumption during slaughter and during their short lives before they are slaughtered.  Ok, so I don’t want any part in inflicting these horrible feelings on bright-eyed cows or sweet, snorting piggies.  Anybody who has read a Temple Grandin book (I’ve read them all and you should too), or witnessed a veterinarian euthanize a beloved pet, knows that animals can be killed peacefully.  There need not be the horrible squealing and torture that is common in slaughterhouses.  The good news is, enough people feel the same way and are willing to pay top-dollar in order to ensure their future food has a relatively comfortable life and death.  The solution for me is to choose only Certified Humane food, in combination with eating less meat and thinking about where all my food, including the eggplant and spinach, comes from.  Certified Humane is a non-profit that inspects every aspect of farm animal treatment and requires that farms meet standards of welfare in order to be certified.  This non-profit is managed independently and is informed by leading scientists, such as Temple Grandin, as well as animal activists (ASPCA), and politicians.  Certified Humane items are easy to find in your local meat and dairy aisle and, for me, the minimal added expense is worth enjoying my food without a side of guilt.  
Look for this logo next time you buy eggs or meat
I know my vegetarian and vegan friends will not approve of this sorry excuse for chowing down at the next summer BBQ.  Realistically speaking, though, I think Certified Humane is a huge step for a country whose culture is literally based on consumption of meat (think of the most American of holidays and what's the first thing that comes to mind - gobble gobble).  Sometimes getting a base-hit is better for the game than swinging for a homer and striking out.  Please constructively comment your disagreements, thoughts, support, etc.        

In other news - SOMEBODY ELSE PUBLISHED MY THESIS TOPIC AND I'M MAD! (unless they want to hire me)