Category Archives: Dog

Lessons from my dog

Jack is not the kind of dog I wanted.  I had this vision in my mind of the kind of dog I wanted before I adopted Jack.  I wanted this really cool, laid back dog.  An outdoorsy, sporty running and frisbee partner.  I wanted a goofy, friendly, lovable mutt.  Sure, Jack is a few of these things, but far far far from most of these things.  He’s goofy in the sense that one time on a groggy morning jog, we were both not quite awake while running down the road alongside all of the parked cars when I heard a “thunk”.  I looked down to see a dazed Jack who had just run straight into the bumper of a parked car.  He’s not laid back in the slightest.  If I sit with him outside a coffee shop, good luck to the person who dares make direct eye contact with such a lovely pup.  Jack turns from adorable dog to the kraken in a split second. I especially love it when the passersby see this and step back with an audible “woah.”  No pressure there!  This past summer, Jack developed this horrible teenage back-talk in the form of growling, lunging, and nipping to both me and especially boy.  We don’t know what to make of it, where it is coming from, and how to react to it.  We both know it’s 100% unacceptable.  We typically pull his head down to meet the floor until he can calm down, but the stress in this household peaks for a solid 12 hours after those events.  Boy yells at Jack, Jack snarls at boy, and I separate them into different rooms and flutter back and forth trying to make amends and discuss remedies and work to put the household back on the same page of respect and discipline.

Recently, in an unfortunate and lightning fast turn of catastrophes, Jack bit boy.  He has nipped in the past, the easy-to-identify herder’s nip that says “hey, you’re going the wrong way, mister.”  This bite?  This wasn’t a herder’s nip.  This was a sheer white noise panic I don’t know what else to do because you just swatted my rear with your socks and I’m scared bite down and naw until I realize what I’m doing and start hi-pitched yelping and screaming in fear.  I think our neighbors thought we were killing poor Jack that night.  Seemingly unprovoked, Jack worked his way into a blind panic that had him squealing before boy even touched the poor pup.  In a bad decision by boy, he swatted at Jack with a pair of socks and Jack’s squeals turned into a bite which turned into realization of what he was doing which was too late because boy had his face to the ground with blood dripping from his wound all over Jack’s fur.  Jack’s eyes were fully dilated and his teeth were out.  I ran up to both of them and we kept Jack in position until he calmed before boy stood up to wash his wound.  Ears back, shaking, in a half tuck position, Jack had blood spots and fear all over his face.  I took a wet towel and helped him clean himself off as much as he would let me.  I sat with him a good 15-20 minutes before letting him sleep by himself in the living room.  Boy sat with him alone for another 15 minute before coming to bed.  It wasn’t a good night for anyone in this household.

The worst part of this?  Whereas before I felt like I could trust that Jack would not bite, he is now in the category of a dog that can and will bite.  This changes things.   This changes a lot of things.  I always have to be on guard.  I will never fully trust my dog again.  We have stricter limits in the household.  Jack can only come up to snuggle on the couch when he is invited.  He is blocked off from the bedrooms at night.  If he becomes territorial of an area that is not his own bed, he has to leave the room altogether.  He hates it.  We hate it.  Every night we sit on the couch, Jack stares at us from his bed on the floor with big glossy puppy dog eyes.  Every morning at 6:00 am his nose is pressed up to the door waiting for one of us to wake up and open it.  On weekends he lays by the door until 10 or 11 am, whereas before it was a weekend treat for all three of us to indulge in a very long morning snuggle fest.  None of us like it, but it has to be done.  And sometimes I can’t help but think, this is not the kind of dog that I wanted.  And I want to curse and kick rocks about it.

I withdrew my applications to medical school.  It took a lot of discussion and reaching out to those I trust 100% with my very sensitive emotional self.  And then more discussion with both those who are in medical school, those who aren’t in medical school, and those who want to be in medical school.  You see, in undergrad I knew what I wanted to major in the minute I walked onto campus.  I dove into courses my freshman and sophomore year and was surrounded by juniors and seniors in several of my classes.  Good on me, I thought.  Getting this stuff out of the way so I can get it done.  But in the end?  I always felt a bit slower than everyone in the class.  I struggled.  I stressed.  I felt like I couldn’t keep up.  I didn’t enjoy what I was doing.  And when I look back, there are a few classes I wish I could take again, because if I did?  I would take the time to enjoy them a little bit more.  I would stop worrying about my grade on the next paper and relish the material a bit more.

I could get into medical school for next fall.  It only takes one acceptance, right?  I think I could swing it.  But would I be ready?  And when I asked myself if I would be ready, I meant would I be ready to enjoy it?  To relish it?  To immerse myself in an environment that feels both right for me at the moment?  I prepared for the MCAT and I filled out those applications, and I knew all along I was pushing the envelope of what I was ready to take on.  I don’t want to be scared about anatomy and physiology my first semester in medical school because the only place I have seen it up to this point was a few chapters in the MCAT prep book that told me exactly what I need to memorize without an ounce of context.  I’m not ready.

Sometimes I can’t help but think, this is not the type of person I want to be.  And I want to curse and kick rocks about it.

I wouldn’t choose to adopt another dog if I could go back in time.  Jack’s given me too much.  He’s taught me about myself and despite his poor behavior at times, I am a staunch defender of who he is.  He’s Jack.  He’s scared at times and we all get confused at how to handle it and when we act bad he acts worse.  And some days, we get it right.  We exercise him just enough, we give him just enough discipline, set the limits just right so that he feels safe and protected, and he gives us just enough love to show that we did it right.  We’re figuring it out.  We make mistakes.  A little blood is shed.  We learn.  We move on better than what we were because we have dropped our expectations and accepted what comes.  Good.  Bad.  The in-between.

I’m playing it by ear.  Learning how to keep myself immersed in healthy relationships.  Weeding out the bad.  Dismissing preconceived notions of who I need to be and who I think people expect me to be.  Not taking it personally when people recommend vocational school or nursing school.  Deciding that the in-between is the best place for me.  And letting myself enjoy it.

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To all that care:

Jack caught his first frisbee mid-air today.  I turned away after throwing it to swat at a mosquito and then glanced back in time to see him 2 feet off the ground securing the disc in his mouth.  He dropped it right after he caught it, more interested in the blades of grass that were so surprisingly exciting to my little ADHD dog.  But this is a big day, one that has been long in the making…


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for the sake of not disappearing altogether

Needless to say, it has been busy.  And this is a quickie.

Consumer free Christmas? Well, not by choice.  I haven’t bought or given a single gift yet.  And I have no plans on cramming in last minute shopping.  When the idea of shopping stresses me out, why would I go do it?  Totally planning on hitting up colleagues and family with Happy 2009! gifts 🙂

Or make that no Christmas? Gasp! Never! However, I’ve had the same question from several people – do boy and I celebrate Christmas since we’re atheist?  Are you KIDDING me?! OF COURSE!  Silly geeses.  What do we celebrate?  Each other.  Family.  Our good fortune.  And oddly enough, our favorite television show is Eli Stone.  We’ve been following this one from the start (and too soon end) and it centers around a Christian man who believes he’s God’s prophet.  We ENJOY the show, the very Christian show, that America has decided to cancel.

Dog is still freak. Why? because last Friday, after finding a sugar ant invasion in our new apartment after the first hard rain, I suffocated drowned a trail of ants across the hallway with a giant puddle of Raid ant killer.  I was proud of myself, too.  I hate hate hate bugs which is why boy usually handles bug situations before I get a chance to even see them, hence the drowning.  I was making a little swimming pool of Raid in the kitchen when I heard a tongue lapping in the hallway.   Jack found the puddle, and the little guy has such an oral fixation he has to put his tongue on everything!  And he doesn’t just lick, he goes to town savouring things such as poop, garbage, and apparently Raid.  I had a fit that sent Jack into an all-day pouty mood and called the ASPCA poison control to go over the ingredients and how Jack might react (and let me tell you, unlike the human poison control center, the ASPCA poison control center is not free.  $60 per consultation which is unfortunate in case someone chooses NOT to pay the fee and take the risk of waiting it out…)  Jack was fine, but I spent a whole day wondering if he was lethargic or just pouting because I used my mean voice at him.  And the advice from poison control?  Give him a treat so he can get the bad taste out of his mouth otherwise he’ll drool and foam at the mouth because he can’t spit.  Dear Jack, if it tastes bad, maybe you should have your tongue all over it!!!

and lastly.  I haven’t slept since Saturday night.  Last night I pulled my first all-nighter since those good ‘ole college days to get through my last final this evening.  I have a lot to say about this semester, but I’m not sure I’m ready to say.  Some of it is humiliating but most of it is frustrating.  Lessons learned – I will not be taking two 4 credit classes alongside working full time, and I will not beat myself up to the point of paralyzing anxiety over not understanding completely new and unfamiliar material.  Unfortunately, I’ve earned a few scars physically, emotionally, and on my transcript.  Nothing that can’t be undone, but it will require 2-3 times the effort and a complete fear of physics.

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Adoption Day

Today’s Jack’s adoption day.  I don’t know when his birthday is, so we’re celebrating adoption day instead.  And I put together the cheesiest Jack slide show with pictures from when I first adopted him 1 year ago.

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I don’t understand the question

Remember those required school tests for vision and hearing?  Once a year during an English class, we were all herded into the library to look through equipment from the 1970s and answer questions about what direction the “E” was facing using 3 fingers and to raise our hand corresponding to the ear we hear the beep in.  And then there was the part I always dreaded because I failed it EVERY time.  The red ball.  Is it inside the box or outside the box.  Simple, right?  No.  Because I never understood the question.  Up until high school, instead of thinking the question was about if the red ball was within the lines of the square or outside the lines of the square, I thought they were asking if the ball was IN the box or OUT of the box.  Like in 3d space.  So the ball was in the middle of the square and I’d be debating where it was in space.  And they passed me every time.  Probably thinking they’ll pass the dumb girl because obviously something’s not right because she can SEE the ball.

Then in high school chemistry we had to make an edible 3d model of an atom.  I spent hours with my mom at Michael’s craft store perplexed by this.  I didn’t understand why this was so difficult for me to figure out and what were the other students doing?  In the end I showed up to class with orbits of twizzlers suspended with fishing wire from a marshmallow ball nucleus and life saver electrons.  What did everyone else do?  Sheet cakes with a frosted atom design.  This never even phased me.  Because frosting on a sheet cake as 3d?  That makes no sense.

This not understanding the question is a repeated theme in my life.  The smallest request becomes a brain teaser because I can distort questions in my head to mean something entirely different.  And most of these questions involve spatial things.  In high school geometry we had a test question that featured 90 feet long howling coyote-like wiener dogs in the desert.  And, no lie, I asked my english teacher (who was the then wife of the geometry teacher) if she really did see these dogs on her honeymoon.  Why did I ask this?  Because spatially, I had no idea how long 90 feet was.

Yeah.  You say I’m a retard, I say my imagination is spatially challenged.  (but really, I can’t be alone in this.)

So I am having the problem again in chemistry.  And I sit in class with a nuclear chemist of a professor who understands numbers and physics as translates into graphs and orbits and my eyes fill up with tears over and over again because I can’t SEE it.  I have no idea what he is talking about because there is no picture in my head and the numbers and letters of the 3 axes we’re dealing with mean NOTHING to me.  Absolutely NOTHING.

And I come home in near tears, again, with boy trying to fix everything.  But he doesn’t understand.  He just wants to fix it.

So I may or may not have heated up some marshmallows in the oven on some foil (I know, but neither of us has a microwave and we were soaking the burner pans in easy off and I was desperate) and may or may not have dumped roasted marshmallows into a bowl of cookie crisp (I would never buy cookie crisp but boy did because of a 2fer at Target he couldn’t resist.)  And I sat in front of the television eating marshmallow and cookie crisp watching Stealing Beauty explaining to boy that for a girl of 15, this was by far the sexiest most romantic movie EVER.  A girl who writes haikus at the top of old newspaper and looks straight into the camera and turns away to inhale a cigarette before tearing off the haiku and holding above a flame and letting her words burn and then, and THEN!  she loses her virginity to the shy Italian boy who wrote her anonymous love letters!  OMG.  How I wish I was Liv Tyler in that movie.  But instead, I am 27 years old, frustrated with learning the stuff I remember learning in high school, eating a bowl of marshmallow and cookie crisp, with a dog wearing a cone around his neck resting his head on my lap.  So to take the humiliation off of me, I will instead put it on Jack.

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random in between the studying

It’s hard core midterm season.  Although so much of it is lost to fret and worry, I can admit that this drive, the marathon studying for 5 hours straight on a Sunday afternoon, this is what keeps me in school.  I like it.  But here are some random thoughts from the moments in between my studying (which is not much.)

  • Is fall proposal season or is this just a mid-20’s symptom?  All over the place I am hearing about so-and-so who just got engaged.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great.  But once a wave of proposals and weddings hits, it pushes me far away from wanting what seems to be the trend.  But I guess everything comes in waves.
  • I like hearing the phrase “first world problem”.  Now I can use it on people when they are describing the difficulty in finding the right pair of work shoes that are comfortable enough to go out in for drinks or the necessity of quality trivets.  It’s a delicate way to let you know I could care less and maybe you should too.
  • I don’t like facebook.  In fact I hate facebook.  Not only do I keep getting constant reminders that I am moving up in ranks as the most athletic of my friends and maintaining my rank as least merry person, I had to delete my friend’s message about my raging hormones disrupting several girls’ cycles because it would be visible to all my colleagues (that was you Mrs. M!!).  My colleagues just wouldn’t be able to handle the notion that my hormones are THAT infectious (b/c, oh, they are.)  I just don’t like facebook.  Please, don’t poke me.
  • Are you satisfied with what you contribute to society now or do you even care?  I know, it’s a loaded question, but I’m not judging you on your answer, just curious.
  • In case you were wondering, the whole brushing the dog’s teeth has gotten much better with patience and perseverance.
  • On another dog note, I was running this morning with Jack on the road (asphalt being softer than concrete) and I heard a ‘thump’.  I looked down to see Jack stumbling out from having run head on into a parked car.  A car didn’t hit my dog, my dog hit a car.  He continued on with his tail and head down ego damaged, but soon after forgot and was bouncing around.  He needs blinders.
  • Lastly, I’ve been working hard to manage my stress level this fall.  It always bites me in the ass during midterms and, in turn, I bite everyone’s head off around me.  So what have I been doing?  Using my personal days as ACTUAL personal days.  And it has been helping a ton.
  • Maybe this will be lastly.  The other stress reliever – the dog park.  And the weird thing about the dog park is when you start to talk to people at the dog park.  Did you know that about 1/3 of the people at the dog park don’t have dogs?  You may think I’m joking, but when you live in such an urban area as Oakland or Berkeley, it’s hard to find a place that accepts pets.  So I imagine this is where people come to get their fill of dog play.  Or stress-relief.  I think it’s nice.


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something’s wrong with people

I read this on Wandering Bella‘s blog.  So I’m forwarding it on.  Because for those of you who have met Jack or read about Jack and know how important he is to me, you’ll understand why these guys need to be saved.

Go here – – make a donation.

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mommy guilt


He went in for his vaccinations today.  And what was seemingly harmless turned into a traumatic experience, more for me than for him.  He trotted happy-go-lucky into the Berkeley Humane Society Vet office remembering that this is the place where he gets those yummy treats and gets to flirt with all the ladies.  (oh, the ladies love him.)  The vet tech came in and told him how cute he was and explained how she was just going to take him in the back to give him his shots.  So I stood up, paced around – this wasn’t new.  Last time they took a blood sample in the back room while I paced.  Waited.  Paced.  Sat.  Read about dog breeds.  Finally they came back out.

“Well,” the vet tech said, “he was a little difficult.  He is just really scared of strangers.”  Well duh, was all I could think.  His leash was all wet.  “Did he pee?” I asked, knowing fully well that he would.  “Yes, but we had to muzzle him because he lunged at a vet tech.”  I think my expression dropped to a what the fuck?  face.  Seriously.  I was pissed.  She said they kept giving him more and more treats to gain his trust before they could give the shots.  Fine.  But seriously?  You are going to put my dog in a muzzle before you think about maybe calling me into the room to be with him? 

I’m sure they have their reasons for not allowing parents into the back room while giving shots or taking blood.  But I’m so upset that they put my dog in a muzzle without my permission first.  He was wearing a pinch collar all the while and his last vet tech noted his aggressive fearful behaviour, but she got to know Jack before taking blood and he was fine.  At least they recognized it as fear.  But I have been fuming about this all day.  Jack?  He could care less.  He’s been a tad lethargic all day, probably from the stress rather than the vaccinations.  Me?  I feel terrible. 

Boy and I discussed options for his behaviour back when we decided on the pinch collar.  We discussed a gentle leader, pinch collar, and a muzzle.  We decided that the best learning tool for Jack would be the pinch collar.  I just didn’t think the muzzle would give people the right impression about my dog and would reinforce the fearful behaviour if anything.  And then the vet, of all people, put one on him.  I just wish they had come to me first and asked me to stand with him to calm him down. 

This experience tops off my mommy guilt after a horrible experience I had recently at PetSmart.  I went in to get some items one day when a sales rep from a dog food company WOULD NOT MOVE!  She kept cornering me in every aisle talking about her dog’s flatulence.  What’s worse?  She wouldn’t say flatulence or gas, she kept using the word FART.  I hate that word.  Poot, gas, bubbles, whatever.  But I really hate the word fart – it reeks in itself.  So what did I end up doing?  Nervously stammering about grabbing whatever I saw off the shelf and leaving with $40 worth of stuff I didn’t go in for. 

The next day I was like man, my dog doesn’t need this crap.  So I went back to return it and grabbed some Milk Bones for kong stuffers.  In the car I asked boy to give Jack a treat for being so good and after he opened the box he just said “Turn around, go back.  And don’t look.”  I was busy driving and couldn’t look anyway, but when I returned to the parking lot I looked over.  The inside lip of the Milk Bone box was COVERED in bugs, little weavel-like bugs.  I was horrified.  Disgusted.  I brought the box back in and told the guy what was up.  “Why don’t you just exchange them.”  I was like HELLS NO!  These are weavels!  You probably need to clear out the whole shelf.  I went to the next aisle, grabbed a single treat for Jack and stormed out.  Not only did I not get an apology, the guy kept going on and on about how those bugs show up in corn too and they’re harmless.  Yeah, I’ve shucked corn and seen bugs, but it’s not the same.  At all.

I had a break down about how I don’t know what I’m feeding my dog and I wish I could make all his food for him from scratch and I am NEVER shopping at PetSmart again.  (Really, I’m not.)  And organic food only and Trader Joe’s does not sell food from China so guess where he’s getting his treats? 

“Are you going to write a letter to PetSmart about this?  You really should.” said boy.

“No.  I’m passive-aggressive, remember?  I’m going to blog about it instead.”

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I came home from work today and found boy passed out on the couch.  Thinking I was being oh so sneaky, I took this picture:

And as I downloaded the picture to post it, I noticed some other pictures I didn’t know about.  Apparently, having finished my genetics final the night before and in need of a night with no studying, I downed some wine and crashed on the couch.  So this is what I get for thinking I’m so stealth-like…

Jack’s feet were like that for a while, or so I’m told.  I even got kicked in the face a few times and didn’t seem to notice.  It was good wine.

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tough call

The dog park is a weird place, socially.  There are definitely social circles, those people who go there every day, twice a day, bring a dog brush and run it through the coat of any dog that passes by.  Weird.  I have my does and don’ts.  Like don’t bring your lunch to the dog park, spill your fries, and let the dogs clean it up.  Not cool.  Don’t feed my dog a red vine because that’s what you give your dog as treats.  Don’t use that brush on my dog.  And my #1 peeve – don’t bring kids to the dog park!  The dog park is for dogs, not for kids to run around.  With kids around, I have to block Jack off from whatever half of the yard the kids are running around on.

Today at the dog park a dog fight broke out.  It happens, often with the big dogs.  After the fight broke up a man charged over to a woman and said “what’s your name?!  my dog’s bleeding, it was your dog.”  The woman apologized and the chow was bleeding from the ear, so the woman apologized.  However, since the man was aggressive in his approach, OF COARSE her dog lunged.  She was visibly shaken by this man’s approach.  He also accused her dog of biting his hand where he had a spot of blood.  He made her write down her name and information, and she was so upset she had to leave. 

I’ve seen this woman at the dog park before.  She has a pitt mix puppy.  And I’ve never seen a problem with this dog before.  The dog did not instigate the fight, just charged into the brawl when it started.  Here’s what I think, knowing that legally the woman whose dog bit is entirely responsible for everything – but you stick your hand into a dog brawl, it’s likely to get bit.  I’ve had to pull a pitt off of Jack before, Jack was obviously pinned under and the owner wasn’t budging so I took him by the collar and yanked so Jack could get out.  There have been times where one dog is obviously aggressive and the owner is not taking the right preventative steps, people at the dog park usually step up and let the owner know unless he/she takes responsibility for training the dog, the dog is not welcome.  Especially in Berkeley where the majority of dogs are rescues.   But by the same token, I accept there is a risk of Jack getting injured at a dog park in a brawl.  I also worry when he attacks, but if someone takes special interest in Jack I usually give them a warning not to approach him directly because he will get fearful and respond in a lunge.  So far the worst experience I had was Jack going after a man and the leash escaped me and the man bounced around and around and around which just instigated Jack.  The chaotic dance of Jack lunging and this man bouncing around went on for a good minute or so.  To top it off, he was blocking me from my dog so I couldn’t reach Jack and I was so pissed by this man’s reaction.  It’s one thing to train a dog, it’s another to train a person how to respond to a dog.  Anyway, this was just a tough call.  The woman whose dogs started the fight has a history of dog brawl instigations, and the worst part is, she stands back and yells which, in my opinion, increases the chaos level.  I admit, I have a good dog and I’m lucky.  Just like I would never get a car bigger than my Jetta because I wouldn’t be comfortable driving it, I don’t know if I could get a dog bigger than 30 lbs because I don’t have the emotional fortitude to deal with the stress level in training.  But I learned after several bad experiences with Jack that me getting stressed makes a situation worse.  What does work, I make eye contact, stay calm, point to my nose, and make Jack focus on my nose until whatever chaotic is occurring goes away. 

Dogs are dogs.  They fight, play rough, and it’s important to know triggers and what they best respond to.  But I was upset by the entire situation and unsure who was right and what was fair.  I hope the girl and her dog are okay, I hope this doesn’t keep her away from the dog park because it’s so important to start socialization early.  I understand how seeing your dog bleed can be jarring, but how you react is also important and returning the aggression on the girl didn’t accomplish anything.  When Jack is a little older I want to adopt a little brother or sister for him, but I know this situation will stay in my mind when we go through the rescue process again.

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