Saturday, October 27, 2012

We've Moved!

Maybe it's the season of the year but I've decided that I've been in a "Hot-Flashed Funk" long enough.  It's time to turn over a new leaf.  So.....I've renamed my blog and moved it to a new website.  You can find all of my past posts and read my new posts at The Purling Pundit .  Come on over and join me.  The coffee is always on (and cake or donuts are usually on the table).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Tough Lesson Learned

I've been debating with myself about how to write this post.  Actually, I haven't wanted to say anything but felt I couldn't leave you all just hanging, wondering what had happened.  It's been a tough two weeks trying to adjust to having a new puppy in our home.  I thought I could do it but it turns out that I couldn't.  Auggie has a new home now.

Here are some tough lessons that I learned through this process:

1.  You can never expect a new dog to replace a dog that you've lost.  I have desperately missed Fresca the Wonder Dog who was my constant companion for almost 15 years.  I thought that a new puppy would fill that gap and take up where she left off.  Auggie will make his new owner a wonderful companion but he will never be Fresca.  It was unrealistic to expect that and unfair to him to put that expectation on him.

2.  Consider your lifestyle long and hard before committing to a pet.  I've known this but somehow that went out the window in the excitement of the moment.  I'm a sedentary person. I thrive on HOURS spent at the computer or in a recliner curled up with a book or my knitting.  This is hardly the personality of a person who is a good match for an energetic little puppy.

3.  Be honest about your personality needs.  I have never been a person who has a lot of patience.  The only time I am patient is when I'm engrossed in a clerical task.  When I was raising my children, it was the Commander who would step in when I was becoming unraveled.  He is a very steady person.  He'd take over and give me a chance to regroup and calm down and then I'd be back in the thick of things.  With a new dog or puppy, you need a lot of patience.  I thought by being home all day, I'd have an easier time training a puppy.  Instead I had more time to be frustrated.  I also need LOTS of structure/order to my day.  I can't handle chaos or a bunch of things happening at once.  I have to assess one thing at a time, deal with it, and then go on to the next item of business.  When I'm rushed or stressed, I fall apart.  I don't think puppies read that manual.  They are, by definition, chaos with a tail.  I've been in a perpetual state of stress since Auggie came home.

4.  Do you have other demands for your time?  Do you work all day?  Getting a dog is going to be tough.  You'll need to make arrangements for a dog walker or someone to come over during the day.  In my case, I'm called down to Texas frequently to help out with the grandchildren.  I knew this beforehand but had  blithely told the Commander that I'd just take the dog with me.  Reality hit home when I saw Auggie in action and realized that it would be some time before I could comfortably take this little guy down to a house of toddlers.  For one, he'd eat most of their toys.  Two, he'd chew up their house.  Three, he'd probably pee all over it.  And four, he was firmly in the nipping stage and they were too young to understand being careful around sharp, little puppy teeth.  With time and training, these behaviors would disappear but I don't have time.  My next Texas trip is December.

5.  Do you have a support network?  I've often been envious over the years of friends who have family living near them who can "pet sit" for them when they travel.  I've never had that luxury since we've been a military family living far from family.  Luckily, with Fresca, I had friends with a dog who was Fresca's best friend.  We ended up trading dogsitting duties with each other when we'd go on vacations.  I certainly couldn't ask them to watch a puppy who wasn't housebroken and still had a puppy's destructive behavior patterns for 2-3 weeks at a stretch.

To make a long story short, I was fast reaching the point where I was exhausted and almost starting to hate this little puppy.  I felt like I couldn't let my guard down more than 1-2 minutes at a time and then I'd have to rush him outdoors or rush to clean up after another mistake.  I knew that I'd made a terrible mistake and I didn't want sweet little Auggie to suffer from my lack of good judgement.  Luckily, I have a terrific friend.  She had one of his littermates and she stepped in to take him until she could find him a good home.

Auggie now has a new mom.  He has gone to live with a lady who is a widow who had also lost her dog awhile ago.  This lady is experienced with puppies.  Indeed, she fostered six Labrador puppies not too long ago.  She understands the challenges.  She also lives on acreage so he'll have room to romp and run.  His new mom has a friend who is a dog trainer and has offered to be available to help if she encounters any special challenges.  She has grown children nearby who love dogs and quite a few grandchildren who adore Auggie.  I'm so happy for him.

I will admit that I'm still very emotional over the whole thing.  I've cried many a tear over this decision but I know that it is for the best for all of us.  I'm not used to failing at things and I do feel like I failed Auggie but yet, in my heart, I know I made the right decision.  Hopefully by being honest about this difficult time, those of you who are considering adding a dog or puppy to your home can learn from my errors.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It Sure Isn't Mac and Cheese!

We drove down to Frederick, MD last weekend to have a late-birthday celebration with our daughter, Laura.  She had asked if we could have lunch at an award-winning restaurant in Frederick.  The chef had been named "Chef of the Year" several years ago by the Restaurant Association of Maryland and has won other awards and his menus are works of art.  Well, we're pretty much plain farm-fare folks or Tex-Mex aficionados but it was her birthday, after all, so we said, "yes."

We took little Auggie down to meet his cousins, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and he was really happy to play with them.  In fact, he was SO happy that he spent the first 10 minutes chasing Sadie Ann all over their yard.  She finally ran up a tall flight of steps to their upper deck so we all retired into the house.  We hadn't even been inside more than 2 minutes when we heard a big "thud."  Sadie had ran down a half flight of steps to go to their lower level and Auggie had launched himself after her, not realizing that he didn't know how to go down steps yet.  He had fallen down the flight and was at the bottom.  True to his little "tough guy" persona, he shook himself and went to the top of the next flight to look down at Sadie.  We retrieved him before he could repeat his performance.

Soon it was time to crate the dogs and head off to the restaurant.  We had chosen a 3-course lunch.  You had to pick two courses of regular food and then a dessert.  I chose goat-cheese ravioli for my first course.  Here is what arrived.  I took one look at the plate and my first thought was "Someone spit on my food."  When the waitress left us, I said to Laura, "Who slimed my food?"  She laughed and told me that this was called "foam air" and it apparently is all the rage in haute cuisine.  Alrighty then!  Don't ask me what the rest of the stuff was.  It looked like some clover leaves and some seaweed bulbs but Laura said it was fennel and I forget what the green stuff drizzled over the raviolis was.  It did taste ok, though.

The Commander got something with avocado in it.  This is what it looked like.  That green log was avocado paste.  Don't ask me what the rest was.  Our son-in-law got something that looked like twigs but it had dried apple in it.  I have no idea what the rest was.

Laura assured me we needed to order an order of maple bacon glazed donuts so we did.  They were fine but I had to butter my bites.  They were a little dry but maybe it was because we weren't seated until the 2 p.m. seating and they'd been out for awhile.

For the main course, I had a lobster omelet with hen's eggs.  I was a little leery of ordering this when the emphasis seemed to be on HEN EGG.  I wondered what was the catch.  Maybe this was code for some weird type of egg but my son-in-law assured me that the eggs were from regular chickens.  OK, it sounded safe enough.  It came with stuff drizzled over it and was bland but I was afraid to ask for salt and pepper.  I didn't want to insult the chef seeing as how there were no condiments on the table.  I guess they figured his food should be expertly seasoned.  Well, maybe for an expert palate.

None of the dessert choices looked particularly appealing but Laura said to go for the one that had the words "chocolate" and "Marshmallow" in it.  I did.  this is what they brought out.  Words failed me.  That tan smear on the side of the bowl was the marshmallow.  The brownish stuff was very chocolately ice cream that had been freeze-dried (flash-dried?).  Then there was some lacy chocolate thing stuck in a dollop of some unidentifiable ice cream.  It wasn't DQ!

The Commander opted for a cheese sampler plate for dessert.  I kept smelling stinky cheese as I chipped away at my chocolate ice cream.  The fusion of smell and taste was NOT very compatible.  When he was finished with it, I told him, "You're not kissing me with THAT cheese breath."

They brought us individually-wrapped mini loaves of coffee-cake bread with the bill.  Let's just say that I could have bought a Coach handbag for what this meal cost us.  After we returned back to PA, the Commander said to me, "I don't think I've ever spent that much on a meal."  It was an experience I don't think we'll ever repeat.  I, for one, would have enjoyed a $1 box of Kraft mac and cheese much more but it wouldn't have been much to blog about, eh?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Pups and Feelings of Disloyalty

I wonder if other folks who get a new puppy after a beloved dog passes away go through a period where they feel rather disloyal to their deceased dog?  Our Fresca the Wonder Dog passed away in the Spring and Auggie joined our home this pass week.  Call me crazy but I've been on an emotional roller coaster for several days as different little things that Auggie does remind me of Fresca and then I'm hit with waves of sadness as I think of how much I miss my "girl."

Perhaps I should chalk it up to "new puppy mom hormones."  Or maybe it's just all part of the grieving process that pet owners go through who chose to add another animal to their home.  Here's an example.

One of Fresca's favorite toys was this stuffed cow that "moo's."  It is the only thing of hers that I kept after she passed away.

Auggie loves this toy.  He bounces around the living room with it, attacking its ears and horns and happily chomping on its belly.

Auggie has VERY sharp puppy teeth.  I suspect Fresca's cow won't last long if Auggie continues at the pace he has been going with this toy.

So I have a confession to make.  I can't bear the thought of that toy being ripped to shreds.  It's my last physical link to Fresca.  I swiped it from Auggie when he was distracted with another toy and I'm going to put it up where he can't get it.  I still need to be able to give the cow a quick hug on the days when I'm particularly missing my Wonder Dog.

It's been a day of "firsts" for Auggie.  He had his first nail trim and did pretty darn well.  He got his first dog license.  Although, when the clerk asked me if I'd ever registered another dog with the township, I found myself telling her about Fresca and how she had passed away and I almost found myself crying at the counter.  Sheesh.....get a grip!

Auggie also had his first "play date" with his sister, Kinzie and Kinzie's big sister, Sadie.  Wow, Kinzie is no longer acting like a little princess.  She was getting the best of Auggie for the first half of their play date and then the tides turned.  Suddenly Auggie had her number figured out and was a lot more successful in pinning her down and knocking her over.

I'll leave you with this picture of Auggie and I sleeping last night after our show finished up on TV.  The sneaky Commander snapped it while we slept.  We seem to have similar expressions.  Oy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not Quite on the Same Page Yet!

Day Three with Auggie our Westie and we're still trying to learn each other's rhythms.  So far we've discovered that the little guy likes to watch TV.  He's quite enthralled with what goes on on the big screen and will settle down on your lap for a good long stretch.

We've learned that keeping him in the big crate on one floor while we sleep on the other floor at night isn't working because he didn't make a fuss to let us know that he needed to go out.  Instead he wet in his crate while letting me sleep through the night until 5.  I'm a light sleeper and was awake off and on all that first night expecting him to bark or whine when he needed to go out but I didn't hear a peep out of him.  We had the crate divider in, too, so he would have a small space.  The prevailing theory is that a dog won't soil their sleeping space/den.  Uh-huh.    We now have him in the small portable kennel and are putting him next to my side of the bed and I'm setting my alarm for the wee hours of the morning to get up and take him out.  It worked last night.  He kept things dry and he stirred and woke me up again at 5 a.m. to let him out again.

I've read so many books on how to potty train/crate train/stop biting and nipping/etc. that I'm going cross-eyed.  Apparently Auggie hasn't read those same books.  I mean, the prevailing wisdom is that a puppy will need to relieve itself 15 minutes or so after eating.  Auggie interrupts his meal to walk into the middle of the kitchen and let loose.  And how the heck do you distinguish the difference between sniffing for a spot to "go" and just exploring the scents of new surroundings?  Our little guy doesn't do the circling thing that my other dogs would do when they were ready to go.  He just lets loose.  Consequently, I'm spending LOTS of time running out with him to the dog yard.

Speaking of our dog yard........Auggie likes to eat rocks.  He also likes to stick his nose down and tunnel through the mulch.  He likes to dig in the mulch too and it doesn't take long before he is down to the landscape mat covering.  Oy!  He has also discovered our heat pump and all the wires and hoses leading out from it and is determined to chew on those.  No matter how I redirect him, he goes right back to it.  So I'm now having to take him out on a leash and stand out there holding the leash so he can't bother the pump and cords.  As for standing out there, one book said to just stand there and not interact with your dog until he goes.  That's hard to do when said dog is tugging on your pant legs or chewing on your shoes or biting your socks (and thus, your legs).  I read in another book that you could try spraying mouthwash spray slightly ahead of his muzzle when he tugs on your pants and this should cure him.  The Commander was out shopping tonight so I asked him to bring some back.  He couldn't find any.  I had to laugh when he asked if I thought the air freshener spray up in the bathroom would work just as well.

This is my first time trying crate training/potty training.  Before we always set up a wired enclosure in our kitchen lined with newspapers and then would take the puppy out from that.  This crate stuff is hard to figure out.  It sounds like they are to be out only when you are watching them every second or if they just went potty outside.  Then you can reward them with some play time.  You have to potty them after a nap, after eating, after playing, and if a certain length of time has gone by.  If they go, you can reward them with some play time.  But wait, doesn't that mean then that you have to take them out again?  Oy, maybe I should build a temporary little hut in the dog yard for myself.  I'm out there enough, eh?

I just ordered one of those leashes that snap around your waist so you can tether the dog to you as you go about your daily activities.  This way, he can't bounce off (and he moves fast) and get under furniture.  He thinks he's made up a new game called "Hide and Go Seek and Make Mommy's Knees Creak."

Auggie does seem to have some tendencies that I think we could make work for us.  The other day he grabbed a rubber broom and headed out of the kitchen with it.  Now this is a tiny puppy and it was a big broom but he managed to grab it and drag it through the doorway and down into the living room.  When we grabbed it from him, he streaked back into the kitchen and came bouncing out with the dustpan.

Butter my biscuits, if he didn't go around the room trying to scoop up his toys with the dustpan.  Now if we could take those cleaning tendencies and develop them, maybe we could get him to wield a dust rag, too.

Guess where the broom and dustpan are now being temporarily stored?  His nice, new dog bed is sitting on one of our living room chairs because he tried to rip it to shreds.  Our living room curtains are draped over the Florida shutters since he also tried to eat those.  Maybe he's part shark.    Well, gotta go and finish reading some more of those training books.  Baby's napping!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meet Auggie MacDuff!

Meet the newest member of our family - our little 9-week old West Highland White Terrier, Auggie MacDuff!   We headed up to midstate PA yesterday on a gorgeous, crisp day with my friend, Judy and two of her grandchildren and Judy's dog, Sadie, to pick up our puppies.  Judy was getting a littermate of Auggie's - a little girl Westie.

The Commander had picked out Auggie from the litter when he was 5 weeks old when I was in Texas so I had never met him.  I was a tad nervous wondering how I'd feel about the little guy.  Well it was love at first sight.  Here is a picture of our first moments together.  I think the feelings were mutual.

Judy and her little Kinzie got along well, too.  Kinzie was so funny to watch compared to Auggie.  Auggie is all boy and Kinzie was such a little princess.

The two puppies shadowed Sadie all over the room, pouncing on her and pestering her.  Of course, she retaliated by "sliming" them - licking them all over.

This is Sadie and her new little sister, Kinzie.  I think they're going to have LOTS of fun together, don't you?

Judy and her granddaughter tried to help me get a shot of the puppies where they aren't a blur of motion.  Kinzie is saying, "Be sure you photograph my best side."  Auggie is saying, "Ma, Ma......what's she doing?  Let me down.  I've got places to go." His little feet were a blur of motion.

Towards the end of our time at the breeder's, little Kinzie conked out.  You'd think that Auggie would have been tuckered out, too, wouldn't you?  You'd be wrong.

He had swiped Judy's camera case and was making off with it before she realized what had happened and was able to retrieve it from his little jaws.

We got some last minute instruction from our breeder along with some paperwork before it was time to make the 4-hour drive back home.  At this point, Auggie settled right down to sleep contentedly in my lap.  I told the gang that Auggie's philosophy must be "party hardy and then collapse and sleep."

We are now beginning the slippery negotiating of crate/potty training.  It's amazing how much I've forgotten and it's also amazing how different each dog is when it comes to the "signs" they give when they have to "go."   I'm confident that Auggie and I will both figure it out.  In the meantime, I foresee a LOT of fresh air in my future.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall and Leafy Sweaters

I've been knitting up a storm these past few weeks knowing that I might not have the luxury of spending undivided attention on what's on my needles the next few weeks with a new puppy in the house.  I'm rather hoping that he will want to snuggle on my lap but NOT want to attack my yarn but I'll let you know if my hope and the reality happen to coincide.

Anyway, with the leaves turning colors here in Pennsylvania, what better project to finish then a nice comfy garter-stitch sweater?  If you aren't a knitter, I'll give you fair warning.  Most of the rest of this post is going to be about knitting.  You have my permission to wander off, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and cuddle with your furry friend(s) or your honey.  As I was saying, this particular pattern is called Lily and it is from the book Essentially Feminine Knits.  It features easy-peasy garter-stitch knitting until you get up to the yoke of the garment and then a very easy lace pattern.

The lace chart is just 38 rows and it results in a lovely border of leaves going around the sweater.  What could be more perfect for Fall?  And my goodness, is this sweater ever comfortable.  I can already tell that it is going to be one of my "go-to" sweaters this fall and winter.

The knitting is quite easy.  I only had one hiccup.  I'm not terribly sure how it happened but, when you get to a certain spot on each of the garment pieces, you have to bind off a certain number of stitches on the right side and then put the remaining stitches on a holder.  I did that for each piece.  However, when you are ready to do the yoke, you put all the pieces together again on to one circular needle and start knitting the yoke.  After a few rows, I realized that I had one spot where my garter-stitch wasn't right.  It looked like I had a row of stockinette on just one section.  Of course, it would be right in the front.  AARGH!  I ripped out a row and tried to undo and redo the offending stitches to make them be purls instead of stockinette but the end result was a raised area in the front and a small 2-row section of stockinette in the back.  Hey, at least the stockinette was no longer visible on the front.  I could live with the raised area.  I call things like that "design elements."

Here is what I think happened.  I think I bound off the number of stitches required in that section and then FINISHED KNITTING THE ROW before putting those stitches on a holder.  For the rest of the sections, I must have bound off the stitches and stopped at that point and put the rest of the stitches (not yet knitted) on a holder.  That is the only way it could have come out differently.  So be warned if you are making this pattern.  STOP after you have bound off the stitches and put the rest of the stitches on a holder.

There was one other thing that had me a bit confused.  When the time came to put all of the pieces onto the one needle, I wasn't quite sure how those bound off parts were supposed to line up.  There are some pictures shown but I guess I needed a "blow-out" section showing all of the pieces lined up for assembly.  I took a gamble and lay it all out with bound stitches to bound stitches when laying it out flat and then took my circular needle and picked up all the stitches that were on the holders as I came to them.  I STILL couldn't quite visualize how it was all going to be seamed but lo and behold, once it was finished, I just seamed up the side seams and then I seamed the sleeve seams and that left me with one obvious small seam under each arm that I seamed and everything was good.  Yay!

This particular sweater was knit out of Cascade 220 yarn, a wonderful workhorse of a yarn in my all-time favorite color, which I call "Spring green."

On the dog front, my fellow "expectant puppy mom" mentioned that she had purchased a pink Bobo for her puppy.  I'd heard of these Bobo toys and most of the comments about them were that dogs found them irresistible.  So when I went over to the pet store today to pick up something, I decided to swing over to the toy aisle and check them out.  There were quite a few in many styles.

I was looking at this one and trying to find the squeaker to check out the sound.  I finally located it and boy, did it have a great squeak.  Just then I heard whining.  I turned around and here was a lady and her dog.  The dog was going nuts.  He was doing everything but crawling on his belly over to me.  He was whining and looking at me with a big grin and finally he sat on his haunches and gave me a look that said, "Please, oh, please....could you toss it this way?"

"Well," I told his owner.  "If THAT isn't a ringing endorsement by a doggy customer, I don't know what is.  This Bobo is definitely going home with me."