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The Everything Update June 8, 2009

DSCN3238cAs questions abound as to my whereabouts, activities and general existence, and as my head’s still too deeply buried under the pile of everything-that’s-happened-in-the-past-week, I thought I’d take this rare quiet moment to let everyone know that A) J and I have made it safely to Davidson, B) we’ve spent the majority of our time here preparing his former childhood home for sale, dividing its contents in order to get them to a number of different final destinations, and C) I do generally still exist.

Not only do I exist, but my existence has so greatly improved in the last week that it pains me a little that I had to leave so much behind to feel this great. My body prefers the climate, my mind prefers the pace and both prefer the work. Sadly, the work isn’t permanent, and there’s the task of securing some kind of job looming ahead.

Nevertheless, it’s been a much-needed change. The absence of Gabe (who, by the way, we heard from HART, has quickly adapted and is getting to run and likes the company of his fellow canine roomies) sometimes tugs at my heartstrings, but has also left a blanket of calm over my day-to-day. Not sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day makes me endlessly happy – even if it means finding myself in the back of a garage closet,  forearms draped with cobwebs, trying to convince a house mouse that he should probably find better digs than inside the camping equipment I’m trying to remove. And then there’s the big change of scene – I went from living across the street from a funeral home to having a family of deer dining at the treeline in my back yard.

In a couple of months we’ll be in Wilmington, and our lives will inevitably change again, but for now I dig the quiet life. And anyway, before the next move there’s the trip to London, J’s family beach vacation and my cousin’s wedding in Atlanta (right, so it’s possible my idea of the “quiet life” is a little warped).

We did get to take a day trip down to check out Wilmington (J had never been and chose UNCW for grad school site unseen). Evil twin drove down from Raleigh to join us, as she had once lived there and we hoped she could serve as tour guide. (She is, by the way, doing quite well, despite rooming in a house with a reckless, young, drama-prone lesbian couple). Turns out she only actually lived in Wilmington for 6 months and couldn’t even remember where her house had been, so she made a horrible tour guide, but great company. The three of us terrorized the historic downtown area for a while (offended an entire rooftop bar crowd, contemplated crashing not one, but two wedding receptions and discovered a piece of purple lingerie strewn across a historical statue that I swear we didn’t put there but were inclined to photograph nonetheless) and waded in the surf (read: got our clothes soaked because we weren’t paying attention to the size of the waves) and ate sundaes at Wrightsville beach that were called something unfortunate like Peanut Logs.

So let it be known that I have no complaints about my current existence and will be sure to write something more substantial and topical when things settle.

Which may be around Christmas time.

~a

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On the Importance of Thinking Before You Speak May 26, 2009

Filed under: Gabe,life,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 5:02 pm
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gabe1Piling together all of Gabe’s belongings – half-chewed Nyla bones, multiple tug ropes, leashes, harness, chew toys – and amassing them in his little, hair- covered bed, it was hard not to relive all the big moments we’ve had together: the day I first met him, a wild puppy frantically jumping around my parents’ garage; our long morning walks together back when I was single and waiting tables and we had the mornings and afternoons together; our trips to Caribou Coffee; his first visit to the dog park…. We’ve had some great moments, but the thought of the dog park also brought back some less-than-pleasant memories, not so much to do with dogs as with humans.

I worked with Gabe for two years. In those two years, he’s learned to sit on command, or automatically before being fed or entering or exiting doors. He’s learned to walk at my side or slightly behind me. He’s become infinitely better at meeting new people. He can walk past a dog without going completely insane. But he still has a long way to go.

He’s been a tough little guy to break and has horrible anxiety that we’re still trying to overcome. So the dog park was always a challenge. Some days were great. Others, not so much. One recent trip ended with me reaching in to pull Gabe out from under another dog who had just bitten his ear, and ending up getting plowed over, scratched and bruised as other dogs joined in the fight. Not our shining moment.

But that wasn’t even my worst moment at the park. More painful to me were the times when other dog owners rolled their eyes at me or even made plainly audible comments about what a “bad” or “mean” dog Gabe was. Certain holier-than-thou groups of owners even made a point of letting us know that we were ruining the party.

Initially, I took to apologizing for Gabe’s behavior, his tendency to goad other dogs into games of chase by barking in their face, or to bark when he felt threatened, or when other dogs were play fighting. I felt embarrassed and sad for my dog who was so socially awkward. I felt like a bad owner.

But these people had NO IDEA how far Gabe had come. The fact that he was able to enter an enclosure with these dogs at all and not go completely ballistic trying to defend himself was a miracle. With their gentle breeds who they were able to train as puppies, how could they possibly understand the sometimes painfully difficult and stressful work involved with rehabilitating a dog?

They couldn’t.

So I started telling them. When another owner made a comment about Gabe’s behavior, I’d fire back with his story. I’d grant them that, yes, he still has a lot to work on, but was sure to explain where he had come from and how well he was doing considering his past. The reaction to this schooling was often one of surprise and understanding. I was amazed at how shedding a little light on the situation created such a positive response.

Although Gabe will have a new owner soon (and I’m desperately trying to let go of my ownership), my experiences with him have made me much more sympathetic to those who adopt older animals, and to those who have made the sacrifice and taken on the strenuous task of animal rehabilitation. When we get to Wilmington, I’ll be looking to volunteer for a no-kill shelter or animal rescue organization. J and I may not be in a place in our lives where we can take in an animal, but as I’ve searched for a new home for Gabe, I’ve seen the massive and desperate need for volunteers within these organizations, and that’s a hole I CAN fill.

I will do it for Gabe.

~a

 

Bon Voyage… May 21, 2009

Filed under: Gabe,life,pets — curiouserx2 @ 2:33 pm
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gabexmasJust finished penning my hokey invite for our pirate themed going-away party. I’m not sure how much more official it can get.

We are moving.

In ten days.

I’ve been avoiding writing about it, but the most stressful part of the move preparation has not been packing, or reserving a truck, or forwarding the mail. The worst part was coming to the realization that Gabe could not come with us.

My ownership of Gabe was on the doomed side from the start. I am in no way, shape or form in a place in my life to own ANY dog, let alone THIS dog. But I wanted to help him so badly when we found him, I wanted to save him from potential putting down at the Humane Society. I thought I could find a way to make it work, at least until I could find him the perfect home. Two years later, he was still burrowing under my covers at night and terrorizing the other dogs in my neighborhood.

Gabe is… special.

He’s in no way a bad, or even aggressive pup. But, he’s got serious anxiety issues and often feels threatened by certain people and most dogs. In the two years I’ve had him, he’s learned to take the back seat to his owner – to sit for his food or before going in and out of doors and cars, to walk next to or behind me, to sleep in his own bed unless invited up to the big bed, to let go of the rope when I say so and to leave the cat alone (although, to be fair, she taught him that one). But the anxiety occasionally strikes and cannot be quelled regardless of what I do or don’t do, leading to shakes, whining or uncontrollable barking.

Gabe needs more help than I can give him. He needs more space to run his long legs. He needs heartworm meds, flee and tick repellant, annual vaccinations. He needs attention from someone who will be home more than a few hours a day. I’m struggling with all of these, and the move will only make it worse.

So, in one week, we’re taking Gabe to a new home.

Two years with Gabe only heightened my fear of the Humane Society. We’ve had time to bond. I’ve had time to see him as more than just a stray – as a little guy with a big personality and love to give if he can just chillax. So, as the move approached, I shifted into high gear in the search for a better place for him. E-mail after e-mail came back to me, either flatly rejecting us because our case was not dire enough or referring us to another resource that had already rejected us. A Facebook campaign turned up lots of desire to help, but no one able to take in a dog.

Finally, an e-mail popped into my inbox as I was about to leave work one afternoon. “Does he get along with other dogs? Is he house trained”

To which I replied, “Well, sort of, yes. And definitely yes.”

Roxanne, one of the board members of an organization called HART Animal Rescue, was willing to meet me in Jeffersonville (about 45 minutes south of Columbus) to pick up Gabe and take him to an animal care shelter in Cincinnati. From there, he’ll be placed with a foster family until a permanent home can be found for him. “No chance of euthanization,” she said. “We’re no-kill…. unless they kill us!”

And with that, Gabe was saved. My chest still aches a little when I think of Gabe’s fear and confusion as he takes this journey. But if, in the end, it saves his life and finds him a better home, then this is what must be done.

In the meantime, I’ve got a long weekend of QT with the Gabe monster, and we’re going to do it up right.

Even if it means marathon tug-o-war and naps on the bed.

~a

 

Brought to You by the Letter ‘S’ April 23, 2009

picture-12Today’s subject:

Simplification.

I have to call it a subject and not a lesson, because anyone who knows me realizes I’m the LAST person to espouse on the wonders of a simple life. No, I’m the girl who’s dug herself into one of the most complicated situations you can imagine:

-I live with a musician/friend and her boyfriend in a little house that, until yesterday, has been under construction since the day I moved in (and I knew it would be this way going into it, but somehow thought that band saws running at odd hours and having to plug the microwave in on the couch would be okay??)

-I inherited a dog. Not just ANY dog, mind you. A little powerhouse jack russell with anxiety issues and a Napoleon complex. Thus, serious, continual training ensued.

-I work an 8-5 job that involves little of what I love to do (i.e. being creative, writing, editing, interacting with people), and leaves me with even less time to pursue those things outside of work.

-And still… I managed to get into some extracurricular activities. Namely the musical, which, as we near the show dates, takes up increasing chunks of my post-work time so that my days go something like this: Up at 7, at work around 8, use lunch break to run errands and take Gabe out, actually eat lunch at work, leave work at 5, go home and feed Gabe and take him out, grab something that resembles dinner, get to rehearsal by 6, rehearse until 10, home by 10:15, tend to Gabe, in bed by 11 (or 12). Repeat. 4 days in a row.

-Granted, I only live a couple of miles from J, but we still live in separate house, which means packing night bags, running home before work in the morning to let Gabe out, constantly shuttling between the two locations and perpetually leaving things at his house. (My forgetfulness rivals that of someone fifty years my senior).

-I move, on average, once a year. This does not help the situation any. Being in and out of boxes and in and out of spaces, the constant address changes, the job switching (if the move is out of town), the process of moving itself. And yet, I love a change of scene. I start to itch when I’ve remained still for too long in one place. (Masochism?)

As you can see, life is not exactly streamlined. I’ve been taking a long, hard look at things lately and have realized that changes need to be made or my sanity will pay the price. J apparently must have realized this as well, because one of my birthday gifts from him this year was a subscription to Real Simple magazine. I’ve read this publication from time to time, and for someone who lives in mass chaos, I sure do have a fetish for organization and simplification that Real Simple seems to satisfy. The problem is, until now, I’ve been doping on the doctrine without actually living it.

Suddenly, however, the idea of simplification has become a new mantra. Granted, it will take some time before I can jump on the wagon, but at least I’ve started chasing it. While it will involve not one, but TWO moves, J and I will finally be consolidating our resources and living under one roof. Our aim is to rent a house where we’ll be the only tenants, thus taking control of our living situation. I’ve just started a profile on a money management website to conquer my spending and credit card debt. I’m working towards a job that either involves my talents more earnestly or offers me enough free time to pursue writing and other creative work on the side. Also, in the new place, we’ll be able to control use of space and organization. We’re both interested in growing herbs and vegetables and learning to cook at home more.

And that’s just for starters. I never believed it whole-heartedly before, but they may have been on to something with the “Gift to be Simple” thing, because with increased simplicity comes increased serenity. It’s not to say we shouldn’t be driven in our pursuits, which sometimes can be stressful, but we do need to choose our battles wisely and streamline everything else.

That’s where I’m at. The chaos will necessarily continue until the summer, but at least I have a light at the end of the tunnel.

And Real Simple in the meantime.

~a

(Need more inspriation to get simple? Check out this story: http://lifestyle.msn.com/your-life/bigger-picture/articleoprah.aspx?cp-documentid=19216974&gt1=32001. Yes it’s from Oprah’s magazine; whatever. I feel better having read it.)

 

Girl’s Best Friend (and Worst Enemy) March 8, 2009

Filed under: Gabe,humor,life,pets,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 2:54 am
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sickgabe

For the past couple of months – ok, let’s be honest, for the past year and a half since Gabe bounded into my mom’s car (and somehow into my life), our relationship has been a fairly constant struggle. The struggle goes like this: we get past one bad habit, he comes up with a new one. For example – we recently managed to make our bed off limits to him. We’d made the mistake of letting this little alpha jack russell burrow under the covers each night, when, the more we’ve read, dogs like this should not be allowed to sleep in the best spot in the house. That’s our place. So we got him his own bed, and, after a few nights (and some swift shoves off the end of our bed), he decided his new spot wasn’t so bad. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Now he has decided that in his less comfortable spot, he has trouble sleeping through the night and so is much more apt to wake up three or four times each night pretending he desperately needs to do his business, when, in fact, he needs no such thing.

I teach him to walk next to or behind me, he learns to get into the kitchen trash can. At the beginning of last week, he plucked two containers of leftover Indian food and a slice of birthday cake from the trash and devoured it all without any of us (there were 4 people in the house) hearing a thing. The only evidence was the remnant empty styrofoam. And that was some spicy food. Which explains why he spent the entire night expelling it – one way or another.

We found Gabe when he was already nearly a year old, and it’s hard to say what the first year of his life was like (although, a safe bet would have something to do with a double wide, several monster children and a couple of parents who thought Jacks were just adorable).What we do know is that he’s terrified of the wind (I opened the windows today to let the oddly warm air in and later found him smashed into one corner of the kitchen, trembling uncontrollably), he loves his rope more than anything in the world (yes, I think even me), he’s horribly antisocial (we’re getting better with people, dogs are still pretty rough) and he has the indefatigable energy of a ten-year-old boy afflicted with both ADHD and a crack addiction.

But he’s really effing cute when he’s asleep. (Which is about 5% of the time).

Seriously, though, as frustrating and even maddening as it can be to try to raise this little guy right, the moments of triumph remind me that I’m doing the best thing anyone could do (or did do) for Gabe.  Today on our walk, I stopped and said nothing. He stopped and sat down next to me. We’d worked on this ALL week. Of course, he never did it again without prompting, but that one little win made it all worth it. I’m serious, I think I almost cried outside of Byrne’s Pub. We have SO much work to do still, but when I read about how Jack Russels are one of the top breeds returned to shelters and pounds because their owners felt they were in over their heads (ie, “Wow. He was so cute as a puppy. We didn’t know he’d be so much work.”), and that, as “problem dogs” they are rarely re-adopted and therefore eventually put to sleep, there’s no question in my mind that the work isn’t “worth it.”

Lately I’ve been kind of hooked on Post Secret (http://postsecret.blogspot.com), and I caught one at work the other afternoon that grabbed my heart and squeezed so unexpectedly that I was momentarily breathless (I swear to god I’m not as emotional as this post would indicate): “I’ve heard once you die, every dog you ever knew or loved comes running toward you to say, ‘Hi.’ That though makes me incredibly happy.”

Yep. Just let it soak in…..

You’re crying, too, now, aren’t you? My work here is finished. I guess my entire point is just that Gabe is showing me that I’m capable of a kind of responsibility and love I wasn’t sure I had in me. And it has been (and will continue to be) so effing HARD. And so be it.

~a

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The Unbearable Lightness of Bing December 23, 2008

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Oh, Columbus.

Yeah. I said it.

All this time, and I’ve never revealed the identity of my beloved, Midwestern city. But there you have it – Metropolis unveiled.

“But why now?” you may ask yourself?

Well, for several reasons. The first being that I’m sick of not being able to write in juicy detail about my daily adventures for fear of giving up Columbus’ identity. Also, from the stats, it looks like a good portion of you are from the region anyway, so why not fill you in on all things I’ve come to love so much about where I live.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes…

Oh, Columbus. Where else in the world can there be a veritable monsoon one day, then subzero wind chills that cause my car engine to freeze up entirely the next? True, living where the climate is as indecisive as… well, as I am – keeps one on one’s toes, but good GOD does it make it difficult to simplify your wardrobe (I have short-sleeved blouses alongside fleece hoodies), go out on the weekends (we got lucky for the benefit show last weekend – the temperatures dropped drastically AFTER people arrived – was a fun ride home) and stay healthy (at which I have failed miserably; I have coughed instead of slept for the past three nights).

Speaking of both not staying healthy and the benefit show – THAT was a trip. Of sorts. Ironically, in rehearsals leading up to this little show (a quick, 45-minute set of holiday music a la the Andrews Sisters with a couple musician friends of mine) I had been in fine form and chose to take the high parts on most of the songs. On the day of the show, I awoke with no voice. By mid-day I was a dead ringer for Selma Bouvier (as to whether or not this was an improvement, I’ll let you be the judge). In the end, after gallons of tea and a glass of champagne, I pulled it off (by which I mean: I sang the specified notes – quality and  pronunciation be damned). When we left the venue, the thermometer in J’s car read 3 degrees. It hurt to breath.

Back at home, we found Gabriel on the verge of an aneurysm. He’s terrified of the wind, and, in his heightened state of anxiety was lying under the kitchen table shaking. The only cure for this advanced state of terror: Bing. Yep – I’ve discovered by pure happenstance that nothing soothes the Gabe monster more deftly and instantaneously than wrapping him in a blanket and bringing up the Bing Crosby Christmas album on Itunes.

Not classical. Not opera.

Bing.

But I digress…. heading out of town on Wednesday for a couple of weeks, but I’m sure there will be enough downtime to squeeze in a post or two along the way. Everyone have a safe holiday and the happiest of new years. Looking forward to writing more in the year to come (possibly some music???).

~a

 

One Sick Puppy December 11, 2008

Filed under: Gabe,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 3:27 pm
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pup11The Gabe Monster has fallen ill 😦

He awoke with standard pep (read: burrowing through the covers, stepping on J in an unfortunate spot, nuzzling his damp, little snout in my hair until I got up to take him out), but as I was getting ready for work, he suddenly became the victim of some… gastrointestinal unpleasantries. Having lost all his breakfast, the worst appeared over, but when I left he had curled himself on the floor against the couch in the living room (not a typical spot for the little guy) and was looking mightily dejected. We covered him up with a blanket, as he did not appear to want to move, and I had to leave. I wouldn’t write an entire post about my dog if I weren’t sincerely worried about him. If he were my child, I surely would’ve stayed home with him (the thought did, in fact, cross my mind). But he is, in the end, a pet, and although I may have a special place in my heart for this particular canine hellion, there’s only so much I can do.

At any rate, J will be checking up on him during the day for me, and I think my roommate will be home.

I just hate to think of him feeling so bad.

This girl is a softy. Afterall.

Who knew?

~a