Monday, January 28, 2013

Dexter comes home

We did it! On Saturday, Charming and I signed the adoption contract, handed over the adoption fee, and officially welcomed Dexter (formerly Tarzan) into our lives, our home and apparently our bed.

When we woke up this morning, he had rotated 90 degrees and was laying directly between us, while Charming and I clung to the edges of the mattress for dear life. 

I pretty much haven’t stopped laughing since.

For two days, he would sneak up on his waterbowl, ears pricked, and quickly lap up some water before darting back several feet to stare suspiciously at it. It’s metal, and he’s apparently never seen his reflection before.

He LOVES chasing the laser pointer around the backyard at night. After two nights, we only have to turn the pointer on for a few seconds, until he gets going, and then we can just stand and watch and giggle while he races in circles around the backyard over and over again.

Saturday night, we attempted to convince him to sleep on his own doggy bed. He jumped up onto our bed, and then laid there in a puddle of fur, legs sprawled, and pretended he couldn’t walk on the comforter when we tried to get him down. I finally coaxed him down, got him settled onto his bed with his very own blanket, turned the lights off, hopped into bed, and started congratulating myself on practically being a professional dog whisperer. Not 2 seconds later, he was straddling us and sniffing determinedly at our faces, while I laughed so hard I cried. He also insists on getting off the bed head first and dragging his hind legs behind him – just in case there are any last remaining traces of dirt or wetness or pee left on him that he can rub off on my nice new duvet cover.

Charming is his favorite for playing, but I win out when it comes time to snuggle.

Definitely his daddy's dog. 

Charming says he prefers to snuggle with me because I'm softer. Charming has a death wish. 

Right now we’re having to watch him pretty much constantly, since he does seem to have an unfortunate tendency to want to dig at my antique oriental rug, but he makes it pretty easy by following one or the other of us around the house wherever we go.

He is off his food a little right now, which we’re hoping is just an adjustment thing – although he seems pretty content and attached to us already. It could also have to do with the excessive amounts of treats and peanut butter bones/Kongs he got on Saturday.

I’m sure I will have grumpy updates the first time he’s left unsupervised and chews a Gucci shoe (not happening  - those babies are so high up they’re almost out of MY reach) or racks up a several hundred dollar vet bill after inhaling a rawhide chew whole, but for right now, I’m so glad we got this dog. <3

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A bittersweet change

This past weekend was the emotional, somewhat traumatic and bittersweet end of a 12-year long journey for me. Charming and I traveled back down to Austin where we lived for 2 years to move my horse Windsor to his new retirement home.

In December 2000, I was a know-it-all 16 year old, going to school, working part-time for minimum wage at a music store, and riding every spare minute I could get. I leased a couple different horses for brief periods, and constantly begged for a horse, just as every horse-crazy girl should, but essentially knew that with recently-divorced parents, it wasn’t likely to happen.

One day, my riding instructor received a call from a friend about a horse at a boarding school riding stable who was lame, underweight, and desperately needed to be gotten out of that situation.

My instructor asked me to go look at the horse with her, as a potential lesson horse prospect. I spoke to my instructor’s friend, and found out the horse was a gray Hanoverian. So I grabbed my huge coffee table book of horse breeds, cranked up the dial-up, and poured over information on the breed. By the time we made it out to the farm, I’d built up this vision in my head of a huge, powerful dappled gray steed; in my mind’s eye I saw him standing silhouetted against the sunset (at 11am), noble and proud, with sleek muscles and cascading mane and tail.

The reality was a little different.

He was tall, certainly, at 17hh, but he looked perpetually ready to tip over onto his nose, from the weight of his head, which was far too big for his skinny body. His mane was scraggly, with the occasional dreadlock, and he had a knob on his chest the size of a door handle. He flicked an ear at us as we approached, but never lifted his head above shoulder height – as if it were too heavy to carry it that far off the ground.

My instructor sighed and spun her wheelchair back around toward her friend; “I think he’s a little big for my students.” She was ready to dismiss him out of hand, but something in those wide-set brown eyes stopped me. I asked if I could still try him out.

They saddled him for me and put him on a lunge line, so I could watch him trot and canter. My instructor watched dubiously, arms folded, before finally finding something she could compliment. “At least he has pretty good balance.”

He was off on both front feet, but I got on and trotted a few circles, then cantered half a circle at my instructor’s friend’s insistence. The ride was underwhelming at best, with his short, off-kilter stride and the heaviness with which he leaned all his weight into my hands. I dismounted, disappointed.

They asked me to walk him down the aisle to cool him out; as they handed me the lead rope, he very quietly leaned in and with large, velveteen lips, took the rope from my hand. He stood watching me with sad, kind eyes, his rope dangling from his mouth as if he knew no one could ever possibly want him. And my heart broke in that instant.

Before I knew it, I was at home, carefully broaching the subject with my mom: “So I got an A on my English test today and I bought a horse and I think I’m going to be an editor for the school paper next year!” Fortunately she came around, and that dollar I paid to make it a legal transaction turned out to be the best investment I’ve ever made. It bought me my best friend, my partner, my confidant, and the absolute love of my life.

From the moment he saved my life in early 2001, Windsor and I have had an indescribable bond; a connection unlike anything I’ve ever had with any other creature, animal or human. He would spot my car coming down the driveway and meet me at the fence, ears forward as if he couldn’t believe it had taken me that long to get there. He follows me around the field, his broad face bobbing along at my back, stopping on my heels when I stop, and thrusting his nose over my shoulder to make sure I haven’t forgotten about his presence. In quiet moments, he’ll press his face against the length of my torso, dozing quietly while I lean on his forehead and stroke the velvet and whiskers beneath his chin.

We competed together for years, winning first place in all but three hunter classes we ever competed in, and taking reserve champion at the 2001 USDF Region 1 Junior/Young Rider Team Championships. I spent one summer rising every morning before the sun to make it to a job at a summer camp so I could save enough money to trailer him down to Nashville with me. Then 4 years later, I stuck him on another trailer and moved him down to Austin. I’ve suffered through depression and an eating disorder – something I’ve kept hidden from most of my friends and family to this point – but every time, his unconditional love and quiet acceptance pulled me through.

So I vowed to care for him for the rest of his life. It’s the very least he deserves. When Charming and I moved to DC in 2010, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave Windsor in Austin, because at his age, the trip might have killed him. As a side note, I don’t know Windsor’s exact age – they told me when I bought him that he was around 12-15 years old (which would make him 24-27 or so now) – but the last vet to float his teeth about 2 years ago estimated him to be closer to 30 at that time. So really he could be anywhere from 25-33 at this point.

Though it was a financial hardship, I was content to continue spending about $450 a month for full board because he was at a great stable where I knew he was well cared for. Unfortunately, everything changed last October when we learned that the stable owners were selling the property and moving out of state. The barn became a co-op, meaning costs when up, and services went down. There was no longer anyone monitoring the horses full-time. So I began making other arrangements, and through my farrier found a lovely couple about 45 minutes away with a 30-acre farm and two donkeys who would be happy to take him and let him live out the rest of his life in quiet country peace.

We waited through the holidays (and in the ensuing months, he has had some amazing people at the old barn who loved and cared for him as their own), but this past Sunday, we finally made the move.

He has never trailered well – he stands with his feet planted together and tips whenever you go around a corner or brake – but after a rough start that sent my heart right up into my throat, he made the 40-mile journey like a champ, and we went back Monday to check up on him again. The two mini donkeys are rather nervous of him, and their relationship seems to be rather Pepe Le Pew right now – when we arrived Monday, he was following them around the field determinedly “Come to me, my little objects of art! I am going to collect you!” But I think they’ll eventually come around.

Odessa (left) keeps watch on the Great White Monster, while Pearl grazes. 

I feel a sense of relief now on one level, knowing that he has two humans devoted full-time to his care and well-being, but also a gnawing sense of uncertainty, because I can’t predict how the stress of this move will ultimately impact him. And I feel like in selling him to these [absolutely wonderful] people (which was a decision we made because of the inevitable circumstance when end-of-life decisions will have to be made for him), I’ve broken my promise to him and shirked my responsibility to care for him in his old age.

More than anything in the world, I want him to be happy and well cared for, but it’s so hard to know if I’ve made the right decision for him. I took him away from his horsey friend Brew, from Brew’s owner who doted on him, from a little 10-year-old girl who was grooming him and (lightly) riding him and who was devastated to see him go, and from the comfortable home he’s known for the past 4 ½ years. At 30-some years of age, I put him through the pain and stress of a trailer ride and dumped him off at a strange property, with new people and two donkeys who won’t get within 15 feet of him. And then I left him again. What if he gets depressed and dies? I will have killed my soul mate. 

Officially, I'm no longer a horse owner, something that has been a huge part of me for the past 12+ years. Though nothing has really changed in that I can still visit anytime I'm in Texas, the difference is a visceral ache in my chest, and a small tear in my soul that will never quite heal. I love you, Windsor, from now until forever. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meeting Tarzan

When we first started looking for a house, one of my primary concerns was being able to own a dog. We wanted a big fenced yard and lots of places to go for walks, and we got it. I grew up with dogs my entire life – a German Shepherd x Collie mix named Morgan, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Kelly, a Jack Russell named Haley, and Haley’s son, a Jack Shih-t (Jack Russell x Shih Tzu) named Gizmo – so not having one of my own for the past 10 years has been difficult.

I’ve pestered Charming endlessly about getting a dog (or 3), so when a former colleague forwarded me an email about a rescued pit in a foster home who desperately needed to be adopted, I took the leap and contacted the foster family.  

Sheer joy. Tarzan is pretty happy, too.
And Saturday we met Tarzan. 

He’s absolutely gorgeous – a solid white pit bull (or possibly Argentinian Dogo – hard to tell), probably around 2 years old, with a super-friendly, sweet personality. He was found as a stray at a Carmax in VA (which is kind of fate-ish, since I used to sell cars…ok, stretching it?) and has been with his foster family for about 4 months. Unfortunately they have a dominant male pit who is kind of getting tired of Tarzan’s presence.

The foster family brought him over and we hung out with him and played fetch for a little bit (until he decimated the ball), and then they left him alone with us for about an hour and a half while they got lunch.

We tried to get him to just relax and hang out with us on the couch, but he was a little wound up, so I gave him a squeaky toy which he completely dismantled and destroyed in about 45 seconds flat. Then he followed me to the kitchen where he sat quietly and watched me assemble appetizers for our Ravens watch party (GO RAVENS!). He never begged, and he never counter-surfed – which is amazing, since from a seated position he can pretty much put his nose on the counter – but he just hung out quietly and kept an eye on me. In case I should need someone to clean scraps off the floor.

Then we decided to take him for a short walk around the neighborhood. He’s not food-motivated, but he’s definitely squirrel-motivated. It didn’t help that the squirrels in our neighborhood have got the whole dogs-on-leashes thing figured out and just perch on low branches to taunt passing dogs.

Within the span of two blocks, we met two neighbors (one with a small child), and Tarzan was awesome. Super-friendly, only tried to jump once before I corrected him, and the best part was, as soon as the intros were over, he was content to sit quietly and just hang out while we chatted.

He’s just about everything we want in a dog – young enough to still be trainable/socializable/active, but old enough that he’s crate-trained, housebroken and starting to learn some basic obedience skills. We want a dog we can take hiking and to parks and just out with us in the summer, but also a dog who will be content to just curl up on the couch and watch Dexter with us, and he really seems to fit the bill.

So why haven’t we committed? I’m concerned about days when he’ll be home alone for 10 hours in a crate. Hopefully that won’t be too often, because we do have a screened back porch with ceiling fan and doggy door to the yard where he could live most days, as long as the weather is tolerable. But in extreme cold or extreme heat, he’d need to be in the house, which would mean in a crate, because he definitely does like to chew things. All the things. Charming leaves the house at 7, I leave at 8, and we both get back around 6pm – that’s a long time to make him stay by himself.

And having a dog will definitely put new requirements on our time – we generally do come straight home from work, but on days when Charming has Crossfit, I’d be obligated to go home and feed/walk the dog, or if I wanted to go to the barn after work, Charming would have to come straight home.

Going out of town would also be more difficult, since my mom and stepdad might not be willing to deal with a dog this size (and their dog might not tolerate him). We have our bachelor/bachelorette weekend coming up in early May, then the wedding at the end of May, then we’re gone two weeks in June for the honeymoon – that’s a lot of time we’d need to find someone to care for him.

And lastly, of course, Charming was mildly allergic to him – not as bad as he is with most dogs, but it could become an issue if we got Tarzan, and then Charming’s allergies got worse.

Basically, I think he’s the right dog, but I’m trying to make sure we’re the right owners, if that makes sense. I’ve also been thinking about getting another horse, to add that into the equation, which would put even more demands on my (and Charming’s) time.

So basically, I still have no idea what we’re going to do. We’re going out of town this weekend, and I told the foster family we’d let them know something early next week. I’m just hoping we’ll know something by that time…     

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hobby Lobby's fight against contraceptive coverage

Hobby Lobby, that miasmic abyss of half-finished picture frames and glittery appliques, is currently embroiled in a legal battle over – what else – a woman’s right to access health care. Because I guess the more women who get (and stay!) pregnant, the more women who will need vast troves of bunting and cross stitch patterns.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that Hobby Lobby’s owner can’t discriminate against his female employees just because he thinks they’re all icky slutty whores.

Corporate general counsel and stater of facts pertinent to nothing Peter Dobelbower asserted during the case that “Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan.” Well that’s nice. No one is asking you to. Since birth control and the morning after pill (Plan B) do NOT INDUCE ABORTIONS.

But alas, nothing is more American than believing your misplaced religious beliefs trump our secular laws, so Hobby Lobby owner and judgmental prick David Green is defying the federal ruling and continuing to deny affordable birth control and Plan B coverage to his employees by manipulating the start of his plan year. When this righteous disobedience blows up in his face, he’ll likely owe $474mill+ in fines. Per year.

That penalty money is more than enough to cover contraceptives for all 13,000 of his female employees, plus buy enough indulgences to forgive any sin. But that’s not the issue at all, because this contraceptive coverage debate has absolutely nothing to do with Green’s (or anyone else’s) personal relationship with an apocryphal nonentity.

Claiming that your religious liberty is infringed upon by someone else exercising their religious liberty (to put their own health first, etc.) kind of negates the whole idea of religious liberty.  If you can’t worship your God-of-choice because I don’t believe he exists… well, welcome to Iran.

And don’t give me that shit about “well it’s his money funding their slutty behavior…” No. No it’s not. Once that money is given as compensation (which is what benefits are) in exchange for work, it is no longer his money. He is giving the money to the insurance company, which in turn pays for the birth control so it is available to women at no cost. Once that money hits the insurance company, it’s no longer Green’s money. None of his pure Christian dollars (which have certainly never gone toward purchasing shellfish or pork products or any other things he’s religiously opposed to) are directly purchasing birth control pills or enabling women to have indiscriminate, Jesus-defying sex.

Naturally though, Green plans to oppose both the mandate and the penalty, because he doesn’t want to face any consequences for his actions. Seems like he should have thought of that BEFORE he spread his legal legs, amirite?? Maybe he should just build a wall of aspirin between himself and the federal government…  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Invisalign update

When I switched to the newest set of retainers last night, I realized something: this is the last tray for my bottom teeth. I’ve somehow made it through 30 weeks (15 trays) of Invisalign without breaking/losing/destroying any of them. How awesome is that?

I still have 8 trays (16 weeks) to go on the top teeth, which I think means I’ll be done with the final tray around May 8, just in time for the wedding. I am SO looking forward to being able to take pictures from more than my one tooth-hiding angle!

I have gotten a teensy bit lazier about wearing the trays as instructed as I’ve gotten further into the treatment – I’m a bit less conscientious about brushing and putting them back in IMMEDIATELY after eating, and sometimes I’ll leave them out for longer stretches of time because I forget or I get sick of lisping all the time. But for the most part I’ve been wearing them consistently and correctly, and I’m really seeing a difference.

My bite has changed drastically, which I really notice when I try to bite off a hangnail or something. I can’t seem to find/align the edges of my teeth like I used to, but that’s probably a good thing. I also can’t gnaw on my bottom lip the same way I used to, which is frustrating and has radically increased my chapstick expenditures.

So without further ado… here’s a comparison of week one to week thirty. You can see how much the tooth to the left (in the picture) of my two front teeth has rotated around. I never really had an issue with my bottom teeth, but they’re noticeably straighter, too.

I still have a little ways to go, and I'm hoping to have them all whitened and the Ugly Tooth filed/evened out once the aligning is done, but I already feel so much better about my smile. I wish I'd done this years ago...