Sunday, November 22, 2015

Excuse Du Jour: Leaky Pipes

It's getting ugly here in drought-stricken California. Neighbors are snitching on water-wasters such as the car-washing jerk who used to be appreciated for bringing the most amazing barbecued ribs to the neighborhood potluck; the apparently oblivious family on the corner whose sprinklers go off every morning at 7am; or, that single gal with the two Golden Retrievers who hoses down her backyard patio every night under the cover of darkness.

Yeah, that's right woman, we hear the spray. We know what you're doing.

These days no one is immune from water shaming. Heck, thirsty Californians will throw grandma and her arthritic bones under the bus if her showers last more than three minutes. 

The pitchforks are out. We're dry, disheartened, and desperate, all drawing from the same straw and angry at those who are sucking up more than their share of our dwindling liquid gold.   

Water hogs. We've seen them and now, thanks to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle, we know them specifically by name.  But all these water-wasters have something else in common besides their multi-million-dollar mansions tucked behind wrought iron gates manned by security booths.

They all have leaky pipes. Imagine that!

Most were truly shocked when their stratospheric water levels were publicly exposed. Pay no attention to their acres of lush green lawns. Those lawns have nothing to do with their excessive water usage, nothing  at all. It's because of leaky pipes, they insist, darned leaky pipes! Every one of these fairly new luxury homes that cost more than most of us will ever make in three lifetimes have leaky pipes. 

What an amazing coincidence. These days, developers must be using LEGOS for conduits because never have there been so many sudden cases of leaky pipes.  

But now, thanks to the public exposure (or flogging, as some of the accused have whined), the water hogs are going to make nice and "fix" their leaky pipes right away. Because they promise their excessive usage was truly unintentional and feel horrible about it and swear on their mothers' graves that they would never use more than their fair share of water, and stop looking at their damn green lawns! It was leaky pipes, mind you.

Leaky pipes.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Roo Hoo

I know, I know, three dog posts in a row.  Okay, maybe four, but who's counting?   

In the greyhound community, our hounds have certain endearing characteristics that amuse us no end. Every day on Facebook, multiple guardians from our rescue group, Golden State Greyhound Adoption, post photos or videos of their dogs exhibiting these singularly unique ex-racer traits, and I have to admit, after 14 years of living with greyhounds, I still never tire of them.

There's ETS (Extended Tongue Syndrome), epic Bed Fails (half on the pillow, half off), and Chattering (teeth clattering when the dog is super happy or content). Perhaps their hound is Roaching (on their back, belly-up, with all four legs askew, like a "dead cockroach"), or maybe has a wild case of the Zoomies (in an enclosed yard racing 'round and 'round in circles).

But nothing makes me laugh harder than Rooing. This is when a hound points their long, skinny needle nose toward the sky and does what other dog owners might refer to as howling. Except greyhounds don't howl. Not exactly.

Oh, it starts out as a howl: "Rooo." Cute. The second one is a bit longer:"Roooooo." Okay. And then it happens: they go into a full blown, high-pitched, deafening, single-note, ear-piercing ROOOOOOOOO, exhibiting an impressive lung capacity worthy of a world-class soprano or deep sea diver.

And I laugh every time. It just sounds so darned focused, like they can't contain themselves.  This photo of Hazel was taken as I was playing a video that someone had posted of their hounds rooing. She was sound asleep, but when she heard the call of the wild, she perked right up and was seconds away from joining the chorus before I turned off the video. It was late after all, and let me tell you, my girl is quite the rooer herself. 

She's also a supreme Roacher, but that's for another day. Which I guess will mean another dog post. 

You've been warned. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Aloof Woof

My experience has been that greyhounds are the consummate snuggle bug. 

While Elvis and Olivia preferred cuddling on their La-Z-Boy pillows, Lucy would invite herself on the sofa, but that's where their differences ended. As I laid alongside them, each would melt into my chest, position their knobby little head under my chin, close their eyes, and revel in the luxury of having their belly rubbed, ears scratched, and nose kissed. Every once in a while they might make a little "mmmmm" sound, clearly relishing the affection. My pups lived for our nightly love ritual.

And then there's Hazel.

Sure, she's affectionate, but on her terms. When I lay next to her on her pillow, she looks at me with this expression that clearly implies, "Okay, if I must." She nestles close against me and I wrap my arms around her with a warm embrace, my heart bursting with love for this dog...and then, after a few minutes, she gets up as if to say, "That's enough," and moves to another spot on the rug, abandoning me on the pillow. The dog pillow mind you. Her pillow. That's right: she'd rather sit somewhere else than stay on her soft stinky pillow because I'm on it. 

I know this sounds crazy, but it hurts my feelings! It's like dating all over again. I'd expect this from the school Homecoming King, but really, my own dog? Because seriously, what dog doesn't want to snuggle? Especially greyhounds, who are notorious for being love bugs.

However, in our 14 months together, I've come to realize that Hazel is not your average greyhound. 

She's energetic. Rambunctious. Goofy, spirited, and playful. She's everything that our rescue group, Golden State Greyhound Adoption, tells people greyhounds are not. Canine couch potato? Ha! Her energy is one-mile stroll for this dog. That's just a warm up, mind you.  

And people ask how I stay so slim.

She's a barker, something greyhounds rarely do. She doesn't bark out of aggression, but as an introduction. "Hey there, I'm Hazel, who are you? How 'bout we sniff a little tail?" When we're driving someplace she loves, like her BFF's house or Central Park, she'll stick her head out the car window and howl like a fire siren the entire way, holding one single deafening note longer than Andrea Bocelli.

I do know she loves me in her own Hazel way. She follows me throughout the house, never leaving my side.  She loves jumping on my lap, not realizing that a 61-pound hound is not exactly a lap dog. When I pick her up from play dates, she plows into me like a canine steamroller, ecstatic that I returned. 

And sometimes--just sometimes--while I'm reading a book or watching TV, I'll sense that I'm being watched, and look to see Hazel gazing at me with heart-shaped pupils. It's the look of total adoration that I used to get from Elvis, Lucy, and Olivia on a regular basis. But Hazel is more discriminating, which makes her hard-won affection all the more precious. 

I'll take what I can get.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Life's a Beach

When Nicole suggested we take our hounds to the beach, I thought sure, that sounded like a nice way to spend a couple hours. Bury our toes in the sand, soak up some rays, listen to the waves, and catch up on "girl talk."

Uh, not quite.

How did I not know that taking a dog to the beach is like taking a kid to Disneyland? As soon as Hazel felt the warm sand beneath her paws, she started digging and pawing with obvious doggie delight, spraying sand behind her like a fire hydrant. I kept her on leash because when you adopt a greyhound from Golden State Greyhounds you sign your name in blood swearing that you will never, EVER let your dog off-leash in a non-fenced environment. Greyhounds are sighthounds with excellent vision that spans a good half mile. There's always the risk that they might sight something of interest, like a squirrel or bird, and bolt without warning. And at 45 mph, they're not likely to be caught. 

But the leash didn't hinder Hazel in the least. When the surf first crashed around her legs, she jumped a good three feet with surprise. And then, I witnessed the purest joy I've ever seen in a dog. She was doing zoomies in the surf, barking and doing the Downward Dog pose, inviting me to play and chase after her through the water, soaking us both. She rolled in the sand, dug some more, dozed next to her BFF Nadeen, ate a bacon treat or two, and then repeated the process. Nicole and I didn't do that much sitting or talking--the day had gone to the dogs, but in the best way possible.

When we left the beach four hours later, Hazel and Nadeen were dripping wet, covered in sand, and exhausted. Come to think of it, so was I.  On our way to the car my girl kept plopping on the beach trying to nap. It was like she just couldn't muster the energy for One. More. Step. It was clear that she had had the most awesome day ever.  

And I had, too.  Watching my goofy girl experience such absolute canine joy was like the parent who watches their kid light up on that first magical trip to Disneyland; there's nothing like relishing the happiness of a loved one, be they two-legged or four. 

It was indeed the most awesome day ever.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Trip to The Big Apple

When it comes to technology I'm a total neophyte and turn to three foolproof solutions for any problem: hit Control/ Alt/ Delete, reboot the device, or turn it off. 

And if none of these work? I keep repeating the process until eventually I realize I'm in serious techo-trouble, freak out, and start calling everyone I know for help.  Their advice?

Hit Control/Alt/Delete, reboot the device, or turn it off.

Uh, thanks guys.

So when my iPhone stopped receiving email on Friday and none of my quick-fixes worked, that troubled feeling in my gut started to fester. Then, after my third reboot, my entire history of emails disappeared and I really started to worry. What if The New York Times was trying to reach me for reprint permission? What if The Atlantic Monthly was accepting one of my essays? How could I respond with my overwhelmingly enthusiastic "yes!"?

Trying not to reveal my growing panic, I nonchalantly mentioned my dilemma to a few co-workers. What I wanted to hear was, "Oh, that's happened to me before. This is what I did [enter solution] and afterward my email worked fine."

Instead, what I got was, "Yikes, good luck with that."

It was time for the big guns. The experts. The Genius Bar at Apple.

I arrived at the Apple Store promptly at 10am. They were just opening their doors yet the store was already swarming with excited customers. Really?  Had Steve Jobs come back from the dead or was Taylor Swift making a guest appearance? When I expressed my surprise, the greeter looked at me as if I'd crawled out from under the Stupid Rock.  

"There's usually a line out the door," he sniffed. 

Whatever.  I told him about my dilemma and said I needed help. I needed experts. I needed the Genius Bar. 

"No problem,"  he said, grabbing a skinny, bespectacled boy walking by. "Gerardo will help you."

If Gerardo was wearing a back pack, I would have guessed he was on his way to his first day of school.  Middle school, that is. But beggars can't be choosers and the store was packed. I was desperate. After explaining my mind-boggling problem, he reached for my phone.

 "May I?" he asked.  Such a polite child.  "Go to town," I said.

His fingers flew across my phone: swipe, press, delete, enter, swipe, scroll, scroll, enter, enter, send! 

And voila! Problem fixed."Your carrier changed servers," he explained with a modest shrug. "You just needed to delete the account and re-enter it." 

If someone put a gun to my head, I couldn't begin to repeat the process I had just witnessed. The boy was clearly a genius.

After thanking him profusely, I had to ask. "How old are you?"   He said he was 21 but knew he looked much younger. "Enjoy it," I told him. "One day you'll appreciate it." 

And gratefully equipped with a working phone and Gerardo's business card, I left the mayhem of the Apple store and crawled back under the Stupid Rock.  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dog Sharing

My canine "stepdaughter" Nadeen is staying with me again this weekend while the Pedersens go camping.

I love having her. Love her gentle kisses and stinky breath.  Love the way she pokes her head between my legs while I'm trying to tie my shoelaces because she's knows it means we're going for a walk. Love the way she thinks nothing of jumping on my bed because  "su casa es mi casa, si?"

And I especially love watching Hazel and Nadeen together.  Not so long ago, the two were each mourning the loss of their companions (both, ironically, from bone cancer), so it makes my heart happy to see them spring to life when together. They howl with hysterical joy at the mere sight of the other. Drink from the same water bowl. Share the same chewy bone treats.  Sleep side-by-side just inches apart and walk belly-to-belly, just as Nadeen once did with Jasper and Hazel once did with Olivia.

In fact, the two have so bonded that Nadeen's mom, Nicole, has now invited Hazel for two play dates a week versus the previous one. I accepted her kind offer, even though it adds another hour to my already horrendous three-and-a-half-hour-long commute. I'm sucking it up because it makes both dogs happy and that, in turn, makes me happy.  As I sadly learned with my former greyhounds, the lovely Lucy and most recently, my sweet Olivia, a young age is no guarantee that any dog will live a full, long life. Hazel is just five (as is her BFF), but that means nothing.  

And so, for however long I'm lucky enough to have Hazel, I'll continue driving out of my way to take her to play dates. Spend money I don't have to buy her quality food and safe treats.  Treasure every minute we share and do everything in my power to give this crazy, goofy, playful canine spirit the best life possible. 

Because at the end of the day, any joy I can give Hazel is just a fraction of the joy she brings me.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hazel's New BFF

Shortly after losing my sweet Olivia to bone cancer in February, I threw out a request on my rescue group's Greyhound list serve: I was concerned that Hazel would be lonely without her companion. Would anyone be interested in an occasional playmate for their hound?

After a few days I got an email from Nicole. She'd also lost her greyhound to bone cancer last year and said her other dog, Nadeen, was lonely too. Let's try a play date on Tuesday, she suggested. Since Nicole worked from home and didn't live far from my office, this sounded like a good plan. 

And so, on the first Tuesday in March, I kept my fingers crossed as I dropped off Hazel, feeling much like an anxious mom taking her toddler to daycare.

"You be a good dog," I whispered in her ear. "We want them to like us!"

When I returned that afternoon to pick up my girl, Nicole told me of the striking change in Nadeen's personality upon meeting Hazel. Quiet and low-energy since losing her companion last year, the black 5-year old suddenly came to life when faced with another greyhound. She started doing zoomies in the yard, playing with her abandoned toys again, and in no time the two became inseparable, walking belly-to-belly on walks and spooning during naps.  That evening when I got home, I saw that Nicole had text me to say that after we left, Nadeen stared out the living room window with a mournful gaze and whined.

I think they liked us.

Since then, we've had a standing play date every Tuesday. When I take the freeway exit toward Nicole's neighborhood, Hazel pokes her knobby head out the window and starts howling like a canine siren, much to the amusement of fellow drivers and pedestrians.   Ten days ago, when Nicole and her family left for vacation, Nadeen was my house guest for a change, making herself comfy on my bed and awakening me each morning with gentle doggie kisses.  She reminds me a lot of my first greyhound, Elvis:  sweet, mellow, and affectionate. I'm going to miss her a lot when she goes back home. Because yeah, I do have to return her. Although unspoken, I guess that was part of our sitting arrangement. Sigh.

But at least we'll always have Tuesdays. 
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