Reactive Dog Victory!

Tonks is a pup who is the sweetest of sweet to us, to guests in our house, to people on the street, to cats, and to kids.  She is a lover and only wants to be petted.  When it comes to other dogs, though, we’ve struggled just about since we’ve gotten her to curb her reactivity to other dogs while on the leash.  The on the leash part is important because she actually does fine with most other dogs in houses (like her BFFAE, Sasha, a great pyr/border collie mix that lives with our neighbors, or her “pup-uncle” of pee rug fame) and goes to a doggie boarding place while we’re gone and hangs out very happily with other dogs there.  On the leash, though, she can be crazy and scary.  She’s so big and has such a big bark that if she has a reaction to another dog, it’s a WAY bigger deal than it would be if the pup-in-law reacted to other dogs, which he does actually.  People give us scared looks or looks like, “Why can’t you control her?  Is she going to chomp my face off?”  She’s also so distinctive looking that now people recognize us in the neighborhood and go the other way.

We have worked REALLY hard since we got her and realized that she has this issue to address it.  We’ve done a private consultation and three dog classes with a really awesome animal behaviorist.  Tonks is now a Canine Good Citizen and soon we’re going to do an evaluation to see if she can become a therapy dog.  She has come a really long way, but it can still be overwhelming and stressful to see another dog and have the possibility that she will have a bad reaction.  How we normally handle these situations is to avoid them at all costs.  Example:  if a dog is coming  straight at us on the sidewalk, we cross the street or u-turn and go the other way.  This plan of action means that Hubs and I are super vigilant on walks in order to not put Tonks in situations that would lead to bad reactions, thereby reinforcing negative behavior. Our trainer taught us that the problem behavior is Tonks’ way of addressing a scary situation:  she sees another dog and the unknown of the other dog’s behavior is overwhelming to her, so she lashes out with movement toward the dog, barking and growling (a.k.a. “fire-fighting”) to show the other dog that if she was even thinking of trying anything, she had better think again because Tonks MEANS BUSINESS.  Often, when we do the u-turn once Tonks has seen the other dog and tell her, “We’re not meeting that dog,” she does just fine, which demonstrates to me that the trainer is right and Tonks is just worried.  By removing her from the situation, we greatly reduce the problem behavior.

Yesterday, though, we were in a situation that normally would be double plus bad.   We had just started our walk on the busy street on which we live, came out of our walled townhouse complex, and turned left to see a neighbor jogging with her dog that Tonks sort of knows but has reacted to in a mixed way in the past.  They were coming straight at us and we were faced with extremely busy road on our right and wall to the complex on our left.   No chance to cross the street or go up into a yard to give the other dog a very wide berth.  In certain cases, Tonks refuses to do a u-turn and put her back to the other dog (too scary?) and this occasion was one of those.  So I basically went for my only option and positioned Tonks and me on the little piece of grass between the road and the sidewalk.  I squatted down beside her and scratched her chest and said in a silly (though not babyish) voice, “We’re not gonna meet that doggy.  No way!”  And she licked her nose and flicked her tongue (two dog calming signals; read about them in this book) and didn’t growl or bark or even go toward the dog.  They passed us in a quick minute and then we kept walking.  Tonks shook it off almost right away (another calming signal!), and I was so proud.

Happy one year and one week Complete Family Day, Tonks!

On Being All Right

In the weeks since the new year, I have been feeling utterly demotivated and exhausted.  I have been fighting against every single thing happening in my life, from science to crafting to love, and it is time-consuming and demoralizing.  I started out the year with bad science news (not actually that unusual, bad science news happens in the lab every day and far more often than good science news; bench science is really hard to get right), which led to me not making myself work in lab, which leads to more non-success.

The thermofax machine, about which I was so excited, arrived and immediately didn’t work as described.  Ebay is really great about buyer protection, and it wasn’t a problem to send it back.  It was a headache and heartache, though, because I had to file a claim, wait for response from the seller, and deal with the disappointment of not getting to use it to create.  Furthermore, today 3M emailed me the manual for the machine I just sent back, and I think that if I had the manual last Friday, I might not have needed to send the machine back.

And the rug, which you heard about yesterday, was just another thing that I was really excited about and then felt disappointed by.  It’s normal in our lives to feel disappointment, but it crosses a line when relatively minor things paralyze us.  I have been in a mode where any tiny thing that goes not as I expect is devastating.  This way to live is neither productive nor realistic.  In reality, many people have way worse things happening to them.  Energetically dedicating so much of myself to feeling disappointed is completely unhelpful.  I have been awfulizing, as my mom would say.  And this post, from my soul sister kittiwake, just really hit me over the head with the problems I’ve been creating for myself.  (What are friends for?)

So today I make a fresh start and stop thinking about things I want to do and actually do them.  The science will work eventually if I work.  The right thermofax machine will come into my life and probably at a time that’s not right after the holidays when we’re feeling more like parting with the money I saved for it.  The rug is a lesson in how much of myself to invest in an uncertain outcome.  As Hubs would say, “You’re all right.”

The Saga of the Pee Rug

When we kept the dog of my parents-in-law, we thought we did a really good job keeping his normal pottying problems to a minimum.  He was basically dumped at my MIL’s business partner’s daughter’s house out in the country, which is crazy but I have a whole lifetime of blogging to talk about my opinions on responsible companion animal stewardship and today is not the day for that.  The PILs adopted him and have given him all the love and care that he needs to be a really wonderful dog.  He is a sweetie pie, and he gets along great with our doggie, which makes us love him even more.  He had a rough start in life what with being dumped and all, and he probably came from a puppy mill originally since he’s a designer breed (Yorkipoo), but was unaltered and fully grown when the PILs adopted him.  Because of his early life neglect, he never learned the difference between pooping and peeing inside vs. outside.  The PILs have struggled with this because it is really difficult to potty train a puppy mill dog.  When he came to visit our house, we asked that the PILs also bring his crate so that we could use that for containment and to eliminate the possibility of elimination problems in our house.  He would go into the crate when asked by the end of the weekend (he’s also super smart).  He never once had an accident while he was in his crate for the entire four days that he was at our house, and I thought we did pretty great with him.  A few weeks after he went home, however, I kept getting a whiff of pee from somewhere in the living room.  We had a cheap, but visually pleasing and serviceable off-white area rug on the floor in the living room (you can actually see it in the doggie photo above), and I I have an especially sensitive nose, a fact Hubs always bemoans.  In this case, though, it really came in handy because I sniffed that whole rug and eventually found the pee spot.  To be fair, I’m not positive that the PILs’ dog did it; it could have been Tonks, but the existence of a smellable pee spot was undeniable.  So I got out the Nature’s Miracle and tried cleaning the rug.  Unfortunately, it started to disintegrate, which was probably due to its less than quality construction and the fact that we’d been using it for ~2 years at that point.  We picked it up and threw it away, feeling good about getting two years out of a free rug.

Fast forward to November of 2010 and we started to get really cold in our living room.  Granted, the temperature of our house is always a bit of a talking point, since I have a thing for saving energy/money and grew up in a house where if you were cold, you put on more clothes or carried around a blanket.  Hubs would rather be warmer, and he likes the house to be warmer, so that he can brew beer (if the yeast gets too cold, it doesn’t make alcohol so well).  In spite of the normal chilly temperature that I am used to, I started to want to turn up the thermostat more often, which got us to thinking.  It turns out that our house probably doesn’t have much insulation in between the crawl space and the floor, and though the old rug wasn’t the greatest, it did protect us from two winters of drafty floors.  So I remembered my MIL mentioning once or twice that they had a rug that they were hesitant to continue using because originally, they had come to their pup having peed on the rug in a few places and because they didn’t really notice it right away or because the volume of pee was so great, it soaked through the rug and made big spots on their newly refinished hardwood floors.  Though they could have had the rug cleaned, they couldn’t be certain that they wouldn’t have this same problem again, so they had offered the rug to us.  When we realized that we would really like to have a rug again, I spoke to MIL about the rug and asked her to please bring it over, which she very kindly did after asking if I was sure that I wanted it (Of course I did; I wasn’t sure why she was even double checking, but I think you’ll soon find out).

Hubs and I rolled the rug out and I was really excited about how good it looked and how big it was.  Upon closer examination, though, it turned out that the pup-in-law had not just peed in one place, but had most likely doused the rug on numerous occasions with high volumes of urine.  Being the go-getter that I am, and taken in by having the opportunity to have a very beautiful rug insulating our floor, I set out to clean the rug myself.  My MIL stopped by at some point during this process and said something along the lines of, “I sure hope you can get it clean,” to which I replied, “Oh, I definitely can.”  You’re supposed to use Nature’s Miracle by soaking the affected area with the liquid, then letting it dry; presumably, when the treated area is dry, the smell will be gone.  Once I started cleaning, I realized I was going to need more cleaner, so I went to Whole Foods and bought EVERY BOTTLE THEY HAD.  At this point, I really still thought that I was going to get the damn thing clean myself.  So I worked for probably another two and a half hours drenching it with cleaner.  As I worked, I realized that, by wetting the urine again, I was in effect aerosolizing the smell into the entire downstairs of our house.  And the rug wasn’t drying because it was so wet.  And the smell was sort of starting to soak into the floor below.   And we had a friend coming to stay with us for a job interview in two days.  And I was hosting book club in three days.  The next morning Hubs was convinced by a coworker that professional rug cleaning was the way to go.  I made a call and the cleaning folks said they could pick up the rug the day after our friend left (probably he would be understanding) and the morning of book club (so eight women wouldn’t have to smell pee for three hours).  The only caveat was that the rug had to be dry, which basically meant operation prop the rug up on boxes and borrow tons of fans.  It worked and they took the rug away.  The cleaning man and his wife were very nice and assured me that they were “confident” they could get the smell out and they had “seen much worse.”

So now you’ve been brought up almost to the present day.  Shortly after the start of the new year, we got a call from the cleaners that the rug was ready and were we available the next morning to have it dropped off.  Yes we were!  The morning came and instead of a rug, I got a phone call saying that the rug wasn’t quite ready because as they were putting it in the truck that morning, they noticed that one corner of the rug still smelled a little bit and so they treated it again for us without adding any extra charges to our bill (well, thanks).  And then this past Thursday, they dropped the rug off.  He asked if I wanted to unroll it, but the floor was a total mess from the salt that was all over the roads and sidewalks due to our recent bout of winter weather, so I thanked him and paid him.  On Saturday, Hubs and I unrolled the rug and gave it a good sniff.  As mentioned above, my sensitive nose can be a problem, so if I smell something and Hubs doesn’t, we usually ignore it (or at least I do my very best to ignore it).  I immediately smelled pee and Hubs did, too.  I was super frustrated, but was encouraged by my very rational husband to call and see if there was anything the rug cleaners could do.  I just hung up the phone with them, and there is nothing else to be done.

The moral of the story is:  sometimes you can’t fix everything, and in the case of pet urine it might be better not to try.

Creative Mania!

I am currently in an obsessive mode of finding new crafts to do and try.  Some of them have been in the works for a while and some I learned of just today.  It is my hope that in writing this post I can declare my intentions to the universe and in that way get back to actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing in lab (i.e. science) and quit reading craft blogs all day.  I always seem to have trouble getting back into the swing of being in lab after time off and right now I’m scared of the results that I think I’m going to get when I do this next step in my experiment.  So in avoidance mode, I will here detail current and future art type projects that I want to do:

First, and most exciting, I recently (yesterday) purchased a THERMOFAX machine from Ebay!  (Don’t worry; it wasn’t an impulse purchase, I’ve been saving and saving for this).  Thermofax is an old duplicating technology that was used before the copy machines that we’re all familiar with.  Using special film and carbon ink prints or drawings, you create a screen which can then be attached to a frame and used for screen printing.  I am SUPER PSYCHED.  I don’t have the machine yet and it’s sort of hard to know how well it will work since I bought it after only looking at photos, but I think it’s going to be amazing.  I’ve been wanting to start screen printing for a long time, but it turns out that to do traditional screen printing, you really need a utility sink and a way to properly dispose of chemicals.  Plus, exposing screens can be sort of tough.  So now I can print at home really fast.  I am really excited about combining screen printing with the Thermofax and photography.  I want to print cards with Zeda’s face on them, but the possibilities for working with both paper and fabric are really endless.  I owe most (if not all) of the inspiration to start screen printing to my aunt, who is a truly fantastic, innovative fiber artist and blogs at Existential Neighboorhood.

I made Hogwarts Robes for our (9 y.o.) cousin for Christmas.  It was amazing having them to give to her because I knew how much she would love them, but my sewing skills are still growing, and I really started that project pretty late (i.e. two days before I wanted to give them to her), so it ended up being a very stressful situation for both Hubs and for me (but I think actually worse for him).  If I sewed robes again, I think it would probably have to be a gift for someone as awesome as our cousin or I would have to charge in the hundreds of dollars.  I’m just too slow at sewing, plus I’m not sure if I feel good enough about the finished product to sell it.

I’ve made Waldorf-inspired dolls for two of my new baby cousins and the niece and nephew of a dear friend, but this is another one where I’m not sure that they’re professional enough to sell and they’re fairly time-consuming to make.  I have a sweet high school friend who is having a baby soon and I think I will make one for her this weekend, but this project doesn’t feel as exciting and inspiring to me as other things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

One thing that feels almost as exciting to me as screen printing with my on the way thermofax is using a scroll saw that I inherited from my grandfather to make toys (like this-check out the link for amazing and inspiring toys made by a friend’s sister-in-law) and bowls.  The saw is a cast iron one that needs a new blade and probably to be rewired to be electrically safe, so these projects are a little bit further off in the future.  I just need to do more research on how to rewire the saw myself or find someone here to do it for me.

Finally, felting has really caught my eye.  This project is one that I’ve never tried but it looks really fun and like you get good results relatively quickly.  You can either do felting of something knitted (if you’re into knitting or you can use upcycled wool clothes) in hot soapy water, as for these baby teethers or you can do needle felting.  As for needle felting, I saw several things that I love on Etsy that were really inspiring, and then it turns out that there are tons of books and online resources available that teach you exactly how to do it, what tools you need, and provide tons of inspiration.  For example, in this very helpful tutorial, I was inspired to make a turd.  The video really is helpful though.

I actually do feel pretty good putting all those plans out there.  I’ve said this before, but I think that when we feel a strong pull to do something creative, we should honor it.

Goals for the New Year, divided by category

How cliché am I?

Science:  Get enough done on my main eye development story that I can [at least] start writing the paper.  I know how science works, so I’m not kidding myself, but it would be amazing to FINISH and SUBMIT the paper this year.

Teaching:  Mentor my students better; help them see the big picture.  Begin the Future Faculty program this fall.

Fitness:  Add the Monday evening yoga class to my schedule.  This is a toughie because it requires that I take the bus there and back.  I am kind of scared of the bus, but I think it’s good for me.*  Lead team runs twice a week (Wednesday and Friday mornings).

Money:  Do better on our cash budget.  We started a cash only budget in November or thereabouts and I still like the instant gratification of putting things on the credit card (whose number I have memorized, so sometimes it’s hard not to buy things that I want RIGHT NOW).  And by sometimes I mean that I REALLY struggle with this.  I think that the cash only budget has really helped us identify and curb our spending in terms of going out to eat and entertainment type events; however, I still click the amazon buy button a little bit too much.  Plus, I am so totally tempted by Groupons all the time.  Today it was an ice cream Groupon and I convinced myself that I shouldn’t buy it because there are things that I want more, like an awesome cat water fountain because the plastic one we have grows things so that I have to clean it A LOT.  Plus, the cord broke off the pump for it before Hubs and I left for holiday travels, and Zeda doesn’t really like to drink water unless it’s moving.  The point is that in spite of my fit of Groupon abstinence this morning, with my proclivity for impulse spending and the holidays, the cash only budget is in relative shambles.  I realized today that if I want to achieve my creativity goals for this year, I am going to have to build a bit of extra crafting money and saving for crafting tools money into the budget, which means that extras like another set of earbuds so that I have a pair that matches my new tiny Christmas iPod isn’t really a good use of funds.

Creativity:  As for blogging, I’m on the one a week track right now.  Other artistic and craft projects I want to cover in a whole ‘nother post because I have a lot of things that I want to get out there in terms of my plans and dreams, but I want to be giving homemade gifts for friends’ birthdays and babies and other occasions by the end of the year.  Today, I was reminded of another creative opportunity by a sweet friend and I think that I’d like to get the ball rolling on that, too.  It’s a creative way of connecting with other women so that we can all inspire each other to be our best selves.

Love:  Hubs and I have things to work on about which I’m not going to go into detail here.  Marriage is work and loving, fun, passionate marriage is HARD work.  Love my pets better by playing with the kitties more, walking the dog more, and generally striving for honoring them as wonderful light beings in my life.  Love my friends and family and general people in my life better by taking care of myself and continuing to see my counselor to work on things within myself so that I can be more patient and more loving to everyone.

Seems like it could be a big year.

*I just clicked the Google map link on the Google calendar that is now integrated into the Y’s website and it took me to a pizza place.  This could be a good sign.  Instead of going to yoga, I am going to eat pizza!