! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tyra Banks Ate My Cell Phone

Yes, I adopted a puppy in November. Call me crazy. Devastated after losing my 14 year old terrier to the ravages of canine diabetes, I did not relish the idea of spending the winter alone in the woods without a dog to snuggle up with, which ( for dog lovers) does help stave off cabin fever and the accompanying doldrums.

I knew I wanted to rescue a dog in need and had no plans to adopt a puppy. No plans to house train in below zero conditions. No plans to bring a confused, abused and possibly insane animal into the home and yet- the best laid plans...

After searching the shelters for possibilities, I saw her. Small and frail and afraid, she called out to me as they often do. I took one look at those enormous, heavily lined eyes, her gorgeous hair (er, I mean fur) and seeing the possibility of intense beauty behind the fear, I proclaimed her new name was Tyra Banks and brought her home.

Naturally, all hell broke loose. She was fewer than 10 months old and had clearly been mistreated by some monster with no name. Tyra was afraid of the outdoors, had never seen a toy and had no clue where to pee. My severely lacking patience, combined with grief and loss over her predecessor all combined for an emotional roller coaster that had me tearing my hair out with frustration.

Having had (and trained) dogs my entire life, I was adamantly opposed to crate training and was always happy to expound on my totally uninformed position that it was “cruel” and “inhumane’ and just plain wrong.

This was, of course PTB (Pre Tyra Banks). Naturally, everyone I spoke with had an opinion, one which often had the word “crate” in the sentence. I pretended to listen knowing all the while that they were clearly mistaken and that crate training was not an option for me.

Tyra continued to pee wherever she cared to and destroy Christmas ornaments, shoes, caps, gloves and scarves, while I gently wept, walking her dozens of times throughout any given 24 hour period with virtually no success.

My fingers flew over the keyboard as I surfed the web for total strangers’ advice. More allusions to the “C” word. Hmm. I read. I mused. I caved. according to “Crate training can be an efficient and effective way to train a dog. Temporarily confining your dog to a small area strongly inhibits the tendency to urinate.” So far, sounding good.

Still believing that “father knows best”, I acquired the crate but did not put her in it. Then Tyra Banks ate a box of Hanukkah candles, peed right in front of me and devoured my cell phone. I had done enough research at this point to know that I could not introduce the dog to the crate through fear. Having visited and, not to mention I had picked up a hint or two.

I introduced her to the crate, made it inviting with blankets and toys and threw in a boney for good measure. Slowly, over a period of days, she went in by herself, making a little nest, taking a short nap. If she didn’t “go” during one of our numerous visits outside, I would suggest the crate for a while and try again. In just a few days, Tyra Banks chose to pee outside and was amply rewarded with praise.

I continued the experiment, giving her short bursts of confinement while working, since she would not leave me alone and insisted on “acting out" right in front of me, chewing up my brand new slippers and munching on clothes pins. She was not “punished and banished” to her crate for such behavior- she was admonished and then later- lovingly crated while I worked, in order to to avoid a slip.

Weeks have gone by. Tyra Banks pees outside. If she is cranky or mischievous, I recommend a “time out” in the crate, but never force her. If I catch her dragging a boot through the living room, she drops it and steps into her crate all by herself and takes a little self-imposed nap. This morning, while the ever-present plumber was here, I couldn’t find Tyra Banks. I looked upstairs and down, calling her by name, whistling and starting to worry that she had sneaked outside.

I found her, sound asleep, in her crate with the door somehow closed -without any assistance from me. Did she close it herself? It wasn’t actually latched, so my guess is yes. Does crate training help? My guess is yes.Is Tyra banks a good girl? She sure is getting there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Go With The Flow

Just as the last gift was unwrapped, the last fruitcake tossed and the last, last minute gift arrived. It wasn’t a surprise- in fact the post-Christmas gathering was planned months in advance.

Little wonder then, that the plan unraveled faster than a ball of yarn in the paws of a psychotic kitten. Don’t get me wrong-I love making plans. It’s the execution of a carefully thought out, meticulously choreographed and minutely detailed extravaganza that is usually my downfall.

The months-long preparation to drive to Philly, hook up with family in Media, PA and meet there with friends who were coming in from Pittsburgh, collapsed like a house of cards mere hours before the truck was packed.
Frenzied conference calls ensued. Alternate cards were laid out on the table before the players and a new hand was dealt. I selfishly volunteered to stay home and let everyone come here.

Granted, accommodations are less than ideal for six adults, six dogs and a partridge in a pear tree- but “what the heck, it’s the holidays!” I muse, while tearing through the house, making beds, getting the plumbing (always the plumbing!) attended to, scribbling shopping notes on tiny post- it’s strewn throughout the place and whipping myself into a frenzy of straying outside of The Plan.

More phone calls ensued. Strep throat struck in Philly, knocking out two very important members of the group. Sighing, I picked up the phone and added one more, in lieu of the now-missing loved ones. Creating menus on the phone with Pittsburgh, I flew out of the house, picked up an extra large dog crate, more beer , less wine and looked heavenward as it began to snow.

Choking back tears on another call from Philly, I hastily made additional post-its to facilitate the completion of all tasks before the roads became too slick to navigate.In light of shifting the venue, searching for the now all-important fondue pot became tantamount to finding the Holy Grail. A minimum of three was required to pull off Bob & Ron’s now famous fondue for ten and my basement was (and is) “The Nightmare Before Christmas” - a result of my flinging dozens of crates filled with ornaments, dog stockings and assorted holiday “cheer”, resulting in the impression that Santa had literally exploded in a last ditch effort to smother my tiny house in a mountain of holiday splendor.

One by one, cars appeared. Dogs barked, luggage arrived in heaps. Bags and bags and bags of groceries were unpacked. (Bob and Ron are always prepared!) The phone rang incessantly as the mayhem ensued and I multi-tasked my little heart out shouting instructions to anyone who would listen.

I don’t care for surprises (ask anyone who was at my fortieth birthday bash) but made a valiant attempt to “go with the flow” as continual changes were thrown at me, including a last minute “date” appearing on the scene. (don’t ask!)

Folks settled in as the dogs made themselves at home on every couch, chair and hassock in the place. Menus were fine- tuned as the animals, en masse, were fed and walked (repeatedly- in below zero weather). Maps were poured over as all parties concerned debated which sights were to be seen, now that the party was in the Catskills.

Amidst the mountains of coats, scarves,suitcases, hats and boots-I surveyed the comical scene and smiled. I was once again reminded of how fortunate I am. My friends had traveled hundreds of miles- at a moments notice, just to congregate and make merry... without hesitation.

The house smelled like hot cocoa and cookies (and dogs, dogs, dogs!). I breathed it all in, trying to capture the glorious moment in my head... creating the proverbial movie in my mind. I snaked my way through the living room, the ever-present phone to my ear, making even more plans for the next day- and the day after that. I forced myself to stop and smell the roses (yes, I mean dogs), soaking it all in. I took a picture or two to remind me of the moment and told each of my friends how much I love them.

We made more calls to those who could not attend and told them how much we loved them too. Either I’m becoming a complete sap as I mature, or maturity has caused me to appreciate something I have always possessed. Either way, it feels good, so I think I’ll just “go with the flow.”