Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday Miscellany

Tuesday morning text message exchange with my mother:
Mom 8:51am: Sophie just ate a juicy mouthfull of someone else's diarrhea.  She stinks.  Any suggestions?  I can't find the doggie toothbrushes.  Help.
8:53: I would just use a regular toothbrush.  The dog toothpaste should be in the med cabinet.  Tell her she is gross.
9:06: I misread and used Crest.  Is that bad?
9:23: Oh lord, mother.

I drove Fire the stud dog back to PA yesterday.  He didn't fit in my car very easily and spent the entire journey trying to get comfortable.  Stay tuned for Fire x Blondie babies in about 9 weeks!  During my journey, I learned that PA radio bleeps out the word "sex" from songs.  America is so weird.

ABC aired the video about Rose and ECAD last night.  Check it out:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday!

And happy 25th anniversary, mom and dad!

Friday, June 24, 2011

36-Day Reunion

Got out of the 'burbs last night for dinner with some of my favorite girlies.  Loving that I'm only 30 minutes away, not loving that I couldn't finish my pomegranate margarita because I had to drive. 

36-Day Columbia Reunion

Cultural Immersion

In many ways, I feel like I signed up for some sort of cultural immersion program here at ECAD.  I fear how privileged this may sound, but I will choose honesty over image.  In the past 2 weeks, I have gotten to know more veterans than I met in the previous 23.5 years.  Growing up in an upper-middle class suburb, I know 5 people from my high school class of 500 who went on to Harvard, 3 to Yale, more than 20 to other Ivy League schools, and none to serve his or her country in the armed forces.  While I was taught respect and acceptance, I was not taught nationalism or to "honor our troops".  Whereas many mothers would find comfort knowing their daughter lives with a Staff Sargent Major (the highest possible enlisted rank in the Army for those as naive and I am about these things), my mother finds this cause for concern and worry.  And here I am at ECAD, where I am surrounded by veterans as colleagues, clients, roommates, and friends.  Most of them are loud, some hotheaded.  They talk at you, not with you.  They do not desire to be challenged or debated, the way my ivory tower brethren do.  And they are all suffering.  Every last one of them.  They suffer from PTSD, from anger, from the devastation that has been wreaked on their bodies and lives.  They share a hatred of the VA, seemingly going there too often and too infrequently, waiting weeks for an appointment only to get there, wait 5 hours, and return home unseen.  They suffer from a sense of entitlement and joie de vivre (depending on my mood), believing that because of their service and subsequent suffering, they should get free admission to Sea World, speak anything that comes to mind, and flirt shamelessly.  "When you've seen what I've seen, and you've been through what I've been through, you don't hold back."  Alrighty then, I guess I can't argue with that one.  They share a story of war, pain, families being torn apart.  Unable to cope with re-integration into civilian life and lacking the support they require from the VA, they self-medicate, become suicidal and depressed.  Having alienated their families and friends, they have nowhere else to turn.

And then they walk through the doors at ECAD, where they are greeted by Crisco, Sprinkles, Honey, Blip, and Shiloh.  Big, goofy, animated, bounding dogs.  All of a sudden these people who talk at you, not with you, these suffering recluses, are whispering in Honey's ear as they brush her long golden hair.  They are laughing trying to get a toothbrush into Shiloh's mouth.  They are a part of something bigger than themselves and their problems, and for just a few seconds, minutes, or hours, they manage to forget the outside world and feel safe among their two- and four-legged comrades.  One of the younger veterans told me, "This place is like my church.  It's the only place I can let my guard down and feel safe."

So no, these are not 'my people', but I kind of like them.  I'm getting used to not cowering when they talk at me.  I'm getting used to talking back when they greet me with a "Good morning, gorgeous", reminding them that while they have "seen it all", I am not a "hey there, gorgeous" kind of girl.  And every day I am more and more impressed by their individual lives, their individual stories, and their individual strength to fight for the help they need and to walk through those doors vulnerable and with their guard down.  I'd say I've come a long way in these first two weeks of cultural immersion, but I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's Ms. Lia to you, kid

By some strange, probably all too common under-staffing issue, I was put in charge of teaching the afternoon class of students today.  In case you aren't sure how to react to this, I will tell you that it was kind of a big deal.  And while I wouldn't say that I knocked it out of the park, I will say that Ms. Lia (yeah... that's weird), managed to corral the boys and actually get some dog training done.  They were testing me and pushing as many buttons as they could, but in the end they did as I asked and worked really hard.  I didn't lose any kids, I didn't lose any dogs, and we managed to do some serious work for more than an hour.  *Patting myself on the back*
Garrison enjoying his belly grooming

Sunday, June 19, 2011

5 Dogs ≠ Relaxing Day Off

While the title of this post is true, 5 dogs does not equal a relaxing day off from my job training dogs, it does equal a fun and exciting and unproductive day spent frolicking outside.
This is how Sophie fell asleep last night
"KK" looking very cerebral in 'her' chair
Sophie being patient with the Pipsqueak

"Whew! Chasing butterflies is tough work"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Forward! No! Let's Go!"

Greetings from Westchester!  On Monday I started my new job at Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), a non-profit service dog organization located about 30 minutes outside of Manhattan.  I know it's only been 4 full days, but already I LOVE MY JOB!  ECAD uses at-risk youth to train the dogs for people with disabilities (about half veterans and half civilians).  The kids are responsible for all levels of training, from puppy to placement (ready to work).  They are also responsible for maintaining the kennels, grooming the dogs, feeding, etc.  For the next 9 months I am going to be learning the ins and outs of the dog training and the teaching so that I can take over my own group of dogs and kids and become an instructor.  This week, I have been shadowing the instructors and learning a bit more about dog training and about how things work at ECAD.  The people, both staff and students, are totally awesome and I'm loving spending my day with them.  I know this is going to sound super cheesy, but hearing the veterans talk about how this program helps them and watching the kids struggle to train the dogs and work their butts off here is truly amazing.  I have no doubt that I am making a difference AND I'm not sitting at a desk on a computer all day which is an added bonus. 

Thus far, I have been struggling with unlearning commands from the Guide Dog Foundation and replacing them with the ECAD commands.  Many of them overlap, so I actually have a head start, but it reminds me of when I tried to learn Spanish after learning French and I ended up speaking Franish or Spench.  Either way, the dogs are confused when I tell them "Forward" instead of "Let's Go" or "Inside" instead of "Go Through".  Most of the dogs here are Golden Retrievers, which is a less familiar breed for me.  They are more enthusiastic and goofy than labs.  These dogs are also "softer" and a bit easier to train.  Yesterday I was in awe watching the high school boys run through an exercise where one person had to control 6 dogs.  The dogs were all on their "jump on" boxes, which are 2 foot high tables where they get groomed.  Going down the line, each kid had to ask the dog to "jump on" or get off and go under the box, while maintaining order and keeping the other 5 dogs in place.  Then they had to ask the dogs to all "sit" or "down" or "shake" and then we took toys out and started trying to distract the dogs by tossing rope toys over their heads while the person in the "training" position maintained control.  All of this without touching the dogs, the leashes, and using minimal body language (ie. no pointing).  I must say, when it was my turn, I was nervous but successful at getting all the dogs to go under their table and stay.  Today I worked with 3 or 4 dogs on turning on and off light switches.  I also worked on having the dogs pick stuff up and hold it for me.  Such smart doggies!  Pauly is also loving having so many new friends and getting to hang out with mom all day in the training center.  He's exhausted and happy with his new life.  Today one of the kids took one of the electric wheelchairs and took Pauly for a "run" around campus.  They're best friends now.

Small world tidbit of the day: the chairwoman of my department at Columbia walked into ECAD this afternoon to pick up a dog.  She is one of the weekend homes for our dogs in the program.  I was totally surprised and confused to see her.  How funny, huh?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Migliori Amici

I am selfishly extremely thankful for the downpours yesterday which caused my nearest and dearest friends to cut their camping trip short and come home for the weekend.  I opted out of the camping trip because my parents are celebrating my brilliant little brother's graduation in Chicago (top of his class, phi beta kappa) and I am a single mother of three (dogs) for the weekend.  The thought of being stuck in a tent on a beach with them was not my idea of fun.  Erika made delicious pizza dough, we each did our own toppings, and the gang was back together again (minus Jillian, who we miss(ed) very much).  Apologies for the cell phone-quality.
Erika's beautiful homemade pizza dough
Lauren analyzing the anchovies
How many smart girls does it take to get the pizza onto the cutting board?
Christina and Lauren showing off their masterpiece
Lia and Kristen's (winning) pizza on the left
Aditi and Erika's deep dish
They are going to kill me.
Best friends

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boom! Bang! Bake! Bathroom!

If you live in the Northeast, you enjoyed/endured/survived (insert verb, mad libs style) some big house-rattling thunderstorms this evening.  If you live elsewhere, your facebook newsfeed undoubtedly provided you with a suspenseful, edge of your seat, witty and insightful blow-by-blow of the house-rattling thunderstorms.  Either way, we have established that there were, in fact, thunderstorms.  In case you require a visual:
Here is documented proof of the blowing trees and swirling skies
 My helpers and I took advantage of the "indoor weather" and baked oatmeal raisin cookies:
Pauly sticks real close, but no, no he's certainly not afraid.  Just protecting the women-folk.
During the most severe thunder, Pauly excused himself to leave the girls to finish baking.  Apparently the bathroom rug is suddenly the most comfortable bed in the whole house.  No, no, he's not at all afraid.  Not even a little.  The bathroom is just so comfortable... when it's storming.
Speaking of bathrooms, I finished Tina Fey's hilarious, hysterical, totally awesome book today (seriously, I liked it.  Go, read! Not in public, though, because people will think you're crazy laughing to yourself in the corner of Starbucks.  Good way to scare them out of the comfy chairs, though.).  One of my favorite quotes is: "That's the kind of trouble you get when diverse groups of people actually cross paths with one another.  That's why many of the worst things in the world happen in and around Starbucks bathrooms."

It's funny cause it's true, at least when you live in Manhattan.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Simone de Beauvoir once said, "In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid."

While taking the dogs on a fairly hilly 2.5 mile walk this morning, Pauly essentially threw a doggy temper tantrum.  Let me preface this story by saying that Pauly's willfulness (not to be confused with stubbornness) is one of my favorite things about him.  For example, when he doesn't want to get into the hot car, he sits down in the driveway and rolls onto his back.  When he doesn't want to leave the beach (his favorite place on earth), he lays down in the sand and insists that I either carry or drag him away.  Usually I respond by dropping the leash and saying "ok, I'm leaving.  See you later!  Bye!" and when he sees me walking away without him, he realizes he has no choice.  I like that he has wishes and that he makes them so clearly known.

This morning we walked about a mile and a half downhill and he was trotting along next to Sophie, both of them panting a bit in the 77-degree 'heat', but doing just fine a few steps ahead of me.  As soon as he saw that our loop was headed in the uphill direction, he took one look at the massive incline stretched out ahead of him and plopped down on the side of the road.  I laughed, put on my come-on-let's-go-fun-voice and tried jogging a little bit hoping he'd hop up.  He didn't.  He rolled over onto his back.  Two cars stopped to make sure everything was ok.  One driver offered to drive the three of us home.  I declined, insisting that my dog was just being stubborn, and not heat-stroking, dying, or whatever else they must have thought.  As I jumped around excitedly promising cookies and a dip in his pool if he'd just walk up the hill, a third guy stopped, asking if I needed help.  Again, I declined, telling him my dog just didn't want to walk uphill.  "I don't blame him", the driver said.  Sophie jumped around, thinking cookies and a dip in the pool and all of this excitement sounded great.  I physically tried to right Pauly from his reclining position onto his feet.  He flopped back down like a sack of potatoes. Stubborn potatoes.  Then, even though it was 11am, I did the only thing I could think of.  "Pauly, is it dinner time?  Are you hungry?".  Those two magic words, Pauly's favorite words in the English language, did the trick.  He hopped up, chugged his little butt up the big hill, and made it home.  He got a cookie, dinner will have to wait another 7 hours.

When all else fails, photograph the humor of the situation.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oh Gnomes!

It was a wonderful weekend, starting with the Guide Dog Foundation volunteer party.  It was really fun and I enjoyed getting an opportunity to visit with all the employees, puppy walkers, friends, and pups.  I was sad and moved saying goodbye to everybody since I won't be allowed to volunteer with the Guide Dog Foundation any longer.  My new job is with a "competing" organization, so my parents will continue raising for GDF but I have backed off from my responsibilities with them.  It was lovely hearing how appreciative everybody was of my time and efforts and getting to say goodbye to the wonderful people I have worked with. 

At volunteer day, I met Olivia P who is an area coordinator in Georgia for the GDF.  She was visiting to receive an award and didn't know anybody in NY, so I brought her home to hang out with me and my friends coming out from NYC for a beach weekend.  Olivia P was awesome and it was a pleasure having her and talking puppies with her (and I think she had fun, too). Nupur and Olivia, friends from Columbia, came out and we had a delicious BBQ, margaritas, daiquiris, ice cream, and girl talk.  It was an awesome evening.
Well, the flowers are in focus (Nups, Oli, and Olivia P)
This morning, Nups and Oli and I spent the morning at the beach.  We got a tasty lunch, shopped, and got more ice cream.  It was such a fun weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ladies and Gents, We Have a Fence!

She doesn't allow leaves in her pool.  Working on fishing every last fleck out.

Pauly the seal

Shake! Shake! Shake!

Enjoying his freedom

The always seem to find more sticks, no matter how many I throw away

Our new fence = Happy Dogs

My love


Pretty lady

Stalking her brother

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Week in (Crappy Cell Phone) Photos

Enjoying my last days in my neighborhood
"No Dogs Aloud" Ok, I'll make sure he pees silently
A couple taking wedding photos at the cathedral

P-wiggle and I enjoying coffee and Newsweek

The awesome/crazy sculpture at the cathedral

Goodbye cathedral

Girls weekend in DC, driving all the way down with Olivia with windows wide open, hair blowing, and Taylor Swift blasting, getting manicures, shopping, eating, reading, relaxing, catching up with my wonderful aunt and cousin
My "baby" cousin relaxing at Red Door Spa

The difference between a quality manicure and a hole-in-the-wall cheap-o manicure
Moving Day
2 years of my life

Making sure nobody steals or tickets the UHaul

Saying goodbye to their friend, Winston

After loading the truck, a dog and his bed remained

Loaded up and driving home

There was a lot of traffic

Tight squeeze on the front floorwell

There was just so much traffic, I had to entertain myself by taking pictures