Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pet Daddy

There was a running joke around my house that Zoey considered me her pet. But now that I'm out in the world alone with 4 Chihuahuas, it's not so funny when she doesn't listen to me. She is so smart and stubborn, I figured for sure that she would be hard to train.

She's been a trouper, though. Just like her brother, Tidbit, I was able to see all those milestones of understanding: when she learned that "come here" meant come here, and when she learned that listening to me on the leash when we are out on walk is for her own safety.

Once it dawned on her that I was her guardian and benefactor and not her pet, our relationship changed. I hated to burst her bubble but I have to keep her safe, and she has to listen to me for that to happen.

There must have been hail or something. I had a weird dream of a storm but woke up and it was sunny for the first time in about a month. But Zoey has been at my feet all day, and that only happens when she's pretty sure that we're under attack.

And just like usual, she woke me up, I scolded her, and Ty got upset and left to sleep in the crate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Playful Spot

Spot is normally a more serious Chihuahua. She's whelped puppies and it's given her a stern demeanor ever since. But she's been on doggy Prozac for a couple months, and we've all been couped up through a month of rain here in Oregon, so even Spot is having playful moments.

It's very rare that I can get a camera without interrupting her. Hopefully Google won't take it down because it's got the radio playing in the background.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Good Pain Or Bad

Good pain or bad. It's been one of the mantras of my new "life 2.0" adventure. The aerobics and weight lifting have been amazing, but I needed to add a few things to my routine, like good cardio and stomach crunches. I figured I would have to buy some tummy cruncher device on Amazon or from Target or something, but after a little research I figured out that I can do them while I'm on the stationary bike: two birds with one stone.

But oh boy, an hour on the stationary bike every day feels the same the next morning at my age as I remember fighting full contact martial arts when I was a teenager. I also was on the track and cross country team, and the last week feels like waking up every day after a track meet or losing a fight.

It's something I forgot as an adult, with the responsibilities of having a family and a job. But the bad pain from neglecting my health to meet deadlines and be in 7 different places at once was much worse than the pain from two half hour sessions a day on the bike or crunches or weights.

Just 6 months ago I couldn't hold a 5 pound weight over my head with my left arm for more than a couple seconds. The messed up thing is that with the nerve impingement, the left arm starts shedding muscle mass pretty much the second I stop using it, so it doubles the effort that I already had to double just for being my age. I have to work 4 times as hard to get the same results as my brother the body builder.

My genius scientist sister was telling me about some "abundant universe theory" that says the people who want something bad enough will always have it as long as they put in the work. Basically the universe rewards hard work, even if the reward isn't always in the form you expected it.

The second mantra "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" is the one I'm having the hard time with, especially being a decent cook. I spent Christmas with my middle sister who seemed fixated on ordering a pizza on a day they don't deliver. So, I made us baked 3 cheese penne. And today she was off work, and we pigged out on a couple pizzas. I definitely need to work on living up to that saying, but it's a good start, and an hour a day on the stationary bike erases more than a few sins.

Good pain or bad is in my mind when I try to have that sprint at the end like we did in cross country-- having a "kick" it was called. I wake up every day feeling like the day after Master Lee said "Mark, you students are undisciplined, come forward and grab my belt, please." But it's the same good pain of a job well done, and it's building a momentum where I can be president of a company.

My brother said that if I'm not walking my 4 dogs in the freezing rain every day, which I'm not, then I should be doing 90 minutes a day total on the bike. Easy for someone 17 years younger than me to say!

Zoey decided she didn't like the stationary bike, but she's changed her mind and now she's focused on figuring out what I'm actually doing and if it's somehow a convoluted test for more treats. Ty just peeks out, sees the bike says "nope" to himself and burrows under the blanket until I'm done.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my readers and everyone out there on the vast Interwebs! Regardless of what you believe or celebrate, I hope this has been a good time for you. It's been a great time for me and the four doggies.

The holidays have always been the times where the dogs see the least amount of attention, so it was very gratifying to have a quiet Christmas with just me and my Chihuahuas.

I've decided that this is the perfect point in my life to go all-in on self-employment and if possible, to focus on local and remote work clients and stay here in Hillsboro near my family. I'm just going to keep my head down, keep with my health and fitness, save for a little piece of land, and enjoy my doggies.

Being able to build end-to-end web sites and large systems, the only weak link in the chain for me has been the graphic art. But at some point it dawned on my that three of my siblings have degrees in graphic design and my sister the mathematician does more graphic art than the rest of us, so gee, maybe it's a talent that runs in our talented family.

The new logo came out good, but then my friend took it and added the drop shadows, and booyaa, I have a decent logo. Now there's no part of a web site, back end system, or generic app that I can't build, even if I do still fumble through Adobe Illustrator sometimes.

NorthWeb Technologies!

It even kind of looks like a Christmas ornament. Fitting since that's the day it was designed on.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Where The Warm Things Are

My Chihuahuas have been sleeping on the heater vents for years. We had a big house, and Spokane is cold, so any dog that wanted one could claim its own heater vent. But of course there were squabbles.

Now, in this smaller space, the powerful heater makes the whole place warm instantly. One thing they don't tell you about a big house is that it can take a couple minutes for the hot water to reach the faucet, and you'll have lots of cold spots even with so many vents.

So, none of the dogs have an interest in the vents except Zoey. She picked one out and she keeps looking over at me to get my attention. Every time I look at er, it's like she's trying to tell me

"Here, Pet, here's where the warm comes out. We need to both sit over here, Pet."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ty Sniffs Eyes

I've never seen another dog go straight to sniffing someone's eyes before. Whenever he jumps on my lap, he has to sniff both my eyes. He does the same to the other dogs. I just watched Smokey wince a little when Ty sniffed his eyes. They all pretty much stand still when he sniffs their eyeballs. We've all found that it's better just to go with it.

Still more unrelenting rain except with 70 MPH wind gusts to go with it. Zoey still thinks we're under attack and has taken to never being more than a few inches away from my feet at all times. When her pet's feet takes him to a safe area that's not under attack, she plans on being with them. I took her to the laundromat yesterday, but it rained and the wind gusts actually made the truck move. She kept standing on the center console, looking out the window, waiting for the monsters to come finish us off.

It's probably time to measure her and Spot for a thunder coat.

What looked like a quiet Christmas might turn into some steady work. I knew that health and fitness would have a huge impact on my career at my age, and I still underestimated it. I'm months ahead of where I thought I would be, and I don't just feel good enough to go earn my keep, I feel good enough to go rule the world. But I'm still not quite where I want to be, so I'm also content to let my new body stabilize so I know what size clothes to wear.

The new stationary bicycle is either perfect or the instrument of our future doom depending on whether you ask me or Zoey.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Junk In Her Trunk

My honey bunny is losing her girlish figure. She's starting to get junk in her trunk from all those late night pancakes. There's no easy way for a man to tell his girlfriend that she needs to eat less pancakes, but my girlfriend is a dog, so I can just start giving her less. It's actually a good sign, because it's been a struggle to keep all their weights up.

Today was a good birthday, and also the first sunny day of December. I think it's rained every day of December here, so it least it waited until I got home to rain today. Normally I take this time of  year off, but normally that's when all the stress starts. The lights, exterior decorations, decorating the inside, wrapping presents, the tree.

This year I can soak in all the holiday spirit without any of the work or expense. It felt a little strange at first, like I was being a slacker, but now it feels great just focusing on the people and little doggies I love, and not worrying about a strand of lights that stopped working or that Christmas day plumbing disaster.

In fact, I think we'll wait until after the holidays to tell my girlfriend that she needs to go easy on the pancakes, just like I would for a human girlfriend ;-)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pancake Princess

Whenever I spoke to them, my Corgis would always strain to listen. I used to say "Dancer, little Timmy is trapped in the well" and she would lean in, trying to comprehend what I was saying. I used to joke that the Corgis were smarter than the kids, and listened better.

But the Chihuhuas are even smarter than that. It's still amusing when I think of Ty's previous owner telling me that he wasn't that smart because he wasn't listening to her. He wasn't listening to her because she wasn't the boss--he had her trained. No, the problem was that he was too smart.

I remember the time I told his brother "squeak! squeak! you gotta make the toy squeak!" and Tidbit looked at me, looked at the toy, and I could see the understanding come over him as he ran around the room making the toy squeak.

Zoey looks at me with the same intensity as Dancer, but she's even smarter. And when the Chihuahuas strain to understand me, their little heads turn back and forth like they were little toys themselves, which is much cuter than the solemn look the Corgis gave me, though Zoey does remind me of Dancer.

And unlike my elderly mother, who will sit in her chair yelling at her cats and dogs, who completely disregard her, my dogs know that I mean what I say, even if I sometimes joke around. My serious voice means stop and listen, and my pancake voice means pancakes are coming.

Sometimes there's a game involved, or a hidden meaning or trick. And it's funny to see them strain to listen, especially when they all do it at once. It's rare that I can catch it on video because they don't like non-food objects pointed at them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hot Water

My hot water heater had sprang a leak. I put of fixing it, and paid for it by having it fail completely. So, no matter what solution I came up with, I was going to be without hot water while I waited a week for the parts I ordered on eBay. The photos showed that it looked like it was cracked around the drain plug. This was either going to cost $5 to fix, or $600 and another week.

It didn't help that we had been getting cold temperatures and a biblical level of rain. I had to boil water for some of the dirtier dishes and wear lots of deodorant. But with temps dropping below freezing at night, the hassle of not having hot water was compounded. Not to mention this rig uses massive quantities of propane for the central heating.

So, cold and wet, I made quick work of it, and my mission was a success! It's a neat trick to go by photos. That way you can take your time looking at something and studying it in detail without standing outside in the rain. But what looked like cracked metal in the original photos turned out to be the cracked plastic from the faulty drain plug. For once, the "let's just see if this 5 dollar part fixes it" turned out beautifully.

And last night, I found the perfect recumbent stationary bike for my cardio. It folds up, which is important, and got good reviews. I had assumed that somewhere like Target or Walmart would be the best place to get one. I found mine at Walmart and checked Amazon just for giggles, and they had it at the same price with Prime shipping. Way easier returns if I don't like it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Relationship Status: Chihuahua

The nurse was standing in front of a terminal screen, going through my medical history. "No alcohol or drug use: check. No depression: check. Are you sexually active?" and I said "No, but I have a serious girlfriend."

I could almost see the little gears above the nurse's head as she was trying to understand my answer. I finally said "My girlfriend is a Chihuahua" and she said "Ahhh, my sister's boyfriend is also a Chihuahua."

My girlfriend misses me terribly even when I'm only out running errands. She usually gives me a scolding when I come back, but she doesn't stay upset very long. She goes from scolding to sweet.

"No, you can't go out with your friends"

Life just keeps getting better for me and the pack. I have most of a comprehensive life plan which involves being self employed and working mostly from home with my girlfriend on my lap. We all answer to someone, but I think having several smaller clients would give me the most freedom and flexibility by not putting all my eggs in one basket.

And rather than enjoying some of the benefits of being a bachelor again, like night clubs and/or a human girlfriend, I think I'm just going to keep my head down and stay focused on my own health and fitness. I'll put that energy into the business and my doggies. It's all clicking into place. Now I need a stationary bicycle, about 5 less pounds, and then I'll go buy a couple sharp suits! I was fortunate in my early career to have good mentors, who taught me to dress for the corporate world, among a million other things.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chihuahua Blanket Fort

It had been almost 20 years since I bought any kind of linens or blankets or any of that sort of thing. I knew that I liked the smaller throws as dog blankets. I just wasn't finding what I was looking for online or inside stores, until Target put some of these plush fleece throws out. They have the full size blanket versions for only double the price, but I'm already set for human blankets, and the larger ones aren't as good for Chihuahuas.

And boy, these new ones sure are popular. Last week I realized that folding down the dog couch into a full size bed didn't really take up any more floor space, and I added a couple extra new blankets, and booyaa, instant Chihuahua blanket fort!

Above, Ty has claimed the junction where the blankets meet

Of course, because they are just like children, even with enough blankets and bed space for a dozen Chihuahuas, there's still some growling and bickering from time to time. That and Spot has another version of her "Spotblock" where she decides to plop on top of a dog that's under the blankets. At this point whatever dog she's Spotblocked can't leave, or even move for fear of being nipped at through the blanket.

So other than Spot randomly deciding she's a mommy again and none of the puppies can leave the nest, the blanket fort is a big success. Zoey usually sleeps on her own throw inside the crate, but she's been Spotblocked the last couple times. I will hear her whining, at which point there's not much I can do other than calling an impromptu pancake time, at which point Spot forgets that she's a foul tempered monster and lets poor Zoey out. Reaching my hand inside the crate isn't wise.

Smokey is usually at the bottom of one of the blankets and only growls if Ty steps on him. He would never admit it, but I think he likes the extra warmth when Spot picks him to lay on top of. Sometimes they're like an old married couple. He will stretch, and she will growl and nip and him through the blankets, and he'll stretch some more...

Above from a couple weeks ago: Zoey being Spotblocked

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Early Gifts

Yesterday my little sister set off an early gift giving chain reaction that's still going today.

My brother Matt gave me this awesome coffee cup. He said "the two things you love the most: coffee and Chihuahuas" haha.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Floating Away

Here in Oregon, we've been getting biblical rain, booming thunder, and even a short power outage. One of the things about living in a large RV is that they are meant to function without external power. All that happens is that my fridge and water heater switch over to propane, and they switch back when power comes back. My UPS can run my desktop computer for about an hour before it gives it a command to gracefully shut down.

This is the craziest rain I've seen in my life, and I've lived in the northwest the last 10 years. My trailer has a couple small leaks, but I must be doing well because almost every one I drive past is covered with giant blue tarps. I have the engineer mentality. I would rather see the leaks, know where they are, and fix them ... if it ever stops raining.

Zoey still thinks we're being attacked, and seems to think that the attack is stronger in the bedroom, but she's getting better about overcoming her fears and sleeping with me. She didn't leave the bed last night, and there were a few instances where I thought we were being attacked, just because it was like being in a hurricane or something.

And Zoey isn't as bossy about waking me up. This morning she just nuzzled me until I woke up. I read somewhere that you don't try to soothe an animal that's scared of thunder or loud noise, because that just reinforces that something is wrong and gives them more anxiety. So, we've been having better luck with me saying "Zo Zo go night night" until she lets out a heavy sigh and goes back to sleep.

There's another interesting dynamic at play, too. Ty's papa, Lenny, used to get upset if I was giving a command to one of his offspring that wasn't listening. So, if I called a dog or told it to bring me a toy, and that dog didn't follow orders, Lenny would come to me, or bring me the toy.

So, it bothers Ty when Zoey doesn't listen, so usually as I'm saying "go night night" for about the third time, he jumps of the bed and goes somewhere else. It was that loyalty that made Lenny such a special dog, and it's gratifying to see that in Ty.

Smokey doesn't care about any of that. When Ty leaves, Smokey takes his warm spot.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Chihuahua Hunger Games

It started with Zoey trying to play with Ty, which made Ty afraid. He went and hid. Then Spot got playful, which made Zoey afraid. So, Spot ran back and forth squeaking the monkey. She just kept spinning and squeaking and throwing the toy monkey in the air, and the mood became contagious.

Soon all three were playing with each other, and running around, with the two girls spinning around. There was running, and squeaking, and jumping, and more squeaking. All but Smokey, who was growing at anyone who came too close. He's a grumpy old man.

If these were four Labradors, the plan to get a large travel trailer would have been an awful plan. But something the size of a studio apartment is perfect with four Chihuahuas. They didn't like the big house anyway, because it was dark and scary. Even the kids thought it was scary at first. So even with a big house, the seven (!) Chihuahuas mostly stayed in the gated off area of the kitchen and family room. We experimented with giving them access to the whole house, and that always turned out badly. Except for little Tidbit who was small enough to squeeze through the bars and roamed the house.

So, a cozy space is the perfect size to hold the Chihuahua version of The Hunger Games. Whatever we're playing, Spot always wins. Somewhere I have an older video of Zoey and Tidbit playing with each other, both spinning around at the same time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Un-Lady-Like Behavior

I dated a girl in high school who used to chew her toenails, and I used to tell her the same thing I tell Zoey now: That's not very lady like behavior. But unlike my girlfriend, Zoey sharpens hers to be razor sharp like a cat's claws.

Yesterday I clippy'd her claws, and today she's sharpening them. If they get too sharp between clippings, then I can just take the points off them with the clippers. In many ways, Chihuahuas are more like cats than they are dogs. Highly intelligent, scheming and manipulative team player cats.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

White Dogs Can't Jump

Ty was the pick of the litter. Within a few days of being put up for adoption, an elderly woman stepped forward, admitting that every minute was the agony of thinking someone else would have him. I knew she was elderly, but I honestly thought they would have much more time together.

When he came back to us, it was clear that his owner didn't allow him up on the furniture. It was funny watching him try to jump up on a couch or bed, and over two years later, it's still funny. Sometimes he forgets how to jump, and it will take him 3 or more tries. Sometimes he'll even stop, turn around, and whine at me like it's my fault.

Usually I won't help him, and all he gets are words of encouragement. He's a great jumper when he doesn't overthink it, though.

He had another owner briefly, before he came back to me again. But I think he still sometimes hears the voice of his first owner, telling him not to jump on anything. They had a special bond, which is why I kept calling him Ty when everyone else reverted back to calling him Scout. Ty is who he is.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sleeping Bear

Whatever Zoey did to me in my sleep, it got her a loud "bad girl!" and tossed onto the floor. This has been a good technique in my life, having siblings and roommates. You poke the sleeping grisly bear, it lets out a booming, angry growl, and you have immediate second thoughts about poking it more.

Not Zoey. She must've heard something or had a nightmare, because the millisecond she hit the floor, she jumped right back on the bed and curled up to me. I was awake by this time and realized what was going on: she was scared and probably caught my eyeball or something pawing at me to wake me up, invoking the angry bear response.

She's been trying to paw at my face since a few weeks after she was born. Shortly after that, someone remarked that she thought I was her pet. Ever since then, I've been trying to translate what she's trying to tell me, like "Pet, gimme some pancakes" or "Pet, open your jacket so I can crawl in."

Last night was "Pet, wake up! The end is nigh, pet! Use your thumbs and get us out of here!"
She's not scared of the sleeping bear.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blanket Boy

Every time I look over, I see Ty nestled into his new favorite blanket with a dog smile. It's extremely soft, and instead of burrowing in it like every other blanket, he likes sitting on top, nestled into it. Chihuahuas are primadonna dogs normally, but he's taken a liking to this blanket like I've never seen. Ok, he liked the duck that much. When he came back from his first home, he came with about a car full of stuff, and among all that stuff was his favorite possession: A full size stuffed duck meant for practice with large retrievers. Him and his papa Lenny vied for that duck for about a year when it just kind of dissolved under the stress of a year's worth of tug-o-war.

Tomorrow I'm going to drop by Target to see if they have any more of these soft fleece throws. I might get 2 or 3 more if they have them out.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

King Of The Mountain

We've been trying out different fleece throws. It's good to have a couple of the thinner ones for the tiny Zoey-sized crates, but I like the more plush ones for the larger crates. I got this gray one the other day, and now Ty loves it. He will actually come tell me when he wants it. He was going to jump the baby gate to get to it earlier today, and I'd rather he not know that he could probably easy clear that gate. It took a while to realize he was whining about the blanket. He normally only does that if he thinks that I forgot dinner time.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Doctor Dad

Being married and raising children to adulthood gave me all the skills of a chef, maid, psychologist and combat medic, among other things. Just like my sister the paramedic, I can provide medical assistance with kids screaming, dogs barking, etc.

I didn't know what it was that was coming out the tail end of Zoey, so I probably pulled it too hard. It turned out to be about 8 inches of string! I have this plain, white cotton blanket that's starting to get a little ratty and should probably definitely be retired. And since in the winter they all burrow, I didn't see her trying to eat part of the blanket because she was sneaky.

A few times I've seen animals do this, so it's not my first rodeo pulling something out of a cat or dog. I also had a cat years ago that swallowed about of a quarter of a spool of thread, which I spent several hours pulling out the front end.

What's funny is that I was already out today buying a replacement blanket. We used to have all these plain cotton blankets for when guests came over, but they don't work so well as dog blankets. The throw I bought from Amazon was way too thin, so I started going to stores and holding them in my hand first. 15 bucks seems to be about what I'm looking for costs; a good quality fleece throw without some obnoxious pattern or Spiderman or some other deal breaker, though maybe Ty would like the Spiderman throw. I got a plain grey one and a red one with white snow flakes--the best I could find.

Zoey so far looks good. No red flags like swelling or bleeding, and she was running around wagging her tail and ate her dinner just fine.

It's a game every parent is used to playing, called "guess when my child is sick enough to rush to the ER and pay the $1,000 bill that you know is coming right behind." So far there's no signs that we need to hop in the truck, but doctor dad has the patient under observation.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Missy Miss

Who would have guessed that my little princess, my honey bunny, my tiny jealous girlfriend would get away with far too many shenanigans and have a snitty attitude about it with the others.

I can almost hear Zoey telling the other dogs: "This is my pet, and I have him trained, so back off!"

So, we've been working on that a little. We've started having timeouts and getting tossed onto the floor if she gets growley, bitey or bossy. Since Zoey is possessive and her mommy is crazy (though the Prozac is helping) the poor boys have to walk on eggshells.

Sometimes Ty will jump on my lap and let out a little whine, like he's saying "Uh, sir, sorry to disturb you, sir, but I was wondering if you could use your great power to move my mommy and sister a food to the left in the blanket fort, so there's enough space for me. It's cold, sir, I implore you. Winter is coming, sir."

We're trying now to take the princess down a couple notches.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dinner Champ

Spot has been a thorn in my side at dinner time for years. The ex used to just pour kibble on the floor in a fenced off area, since she's food aggressive, scared of dishes and bowls, and is a very picky eater. All attempts to get her to eat from a bowl, plate, paper plate, paper towel, paper bowl--anything, always failed. People would say "if she's hungry enough, she'll eat" but she's too fearful to overcome her fear most of the time, no matter how hungry she is.

Now, she powers it down like a normal dog, licks the bowl. She still has to be fed in a fenced off area, and I still need to mix in something like cottage cheese into her dinner, otherwise she will just pick out the stuff she likes and leave a pile. If I slather her dinner in something with dairy, she will eat it all.

So, with the doggy Prozac, a low profile, beige tone bowl, and mixing a little dairy in, I finally can get her to eat chicken and rice like a normal dog would, which is fast. Tonight was the first time in her life that she finished eating first. She's a dinner time champ!

Now I finally have a complete and comprehensive answer to "If you don't like her being fed on the bare floor, then come up with something better."