Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Monkey Is Important

Ty doesn't know why the toy monkey is important. He just knows that it's important to me. He looks at me intently when I tell him that it's very important that he brings the monkey to me. But he's not a Labrador. Ty is a Chihuahua, and so it's very hard for him to hold his attention span long enough to remember how important it is that he bring the monkey to me. But he's a team player, so he tries his best.

Friday, January 29, 2016

More Progress For Spot

The doggy Prozac doesn't do much for her Spot's cranky moods She has the big dog syndrome like so many other Chihuahuas. But the medication is helping her be more playful and relaxed much of the time. Today she was playing with her puppies, for the first time in a long time.

Normally when Spot wants to play with another dog, that other dog becomes very afraid. But whatever vibe she's putting off on the Prozac, the other dogs seem receptive. All three of them were playing earlier, and I caught some of it on camera!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pancake Genius

Zoey, my pancake princess, knows that I am making pancakes from the moment I get the big red mixing bowl out. I make other things with the mixing bowl like pizza, so she must go by the time also, since I'm a creature of habit. Either way, she knows when I'm making pancakes.

Too bad Spot doesn't really like pancakes. She'll eat them hot off the griddle, or if I slather a piece in peanut butter, but she won't eat them out of the fridge like the rest of the pack will. I've been looking for a good recipe with peanut butter, though I've been thinking about other snacks.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Clock Watcher

Ty has a perfect internal clock. Whether it's bed time, dinner time, snack time, or whatever time--if it's five minutes past that time, then Ty will let me know. Sometimes he just wants attention, but usually when he jumps into my lap, all I have to do is look at the clock to see what he wants. He's a Chihuahua with an acute sense of time. If we're ten minutes past whatever time, he starts getting agitated. But if we're more then twenty minutes past whatever time, then he will usually bark to let me know that something critical isn't getting done.

He's doing much better today. Until I figure this moisture problem out completely, he does well with the Metranidazole and it's good to have a nice stash of that now.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Taking Our Lumps

Yesterday I hit my head getting out of my sister's car, and did a compression injury to my neck. It felt like a lightning bolt hit my left shoulder because of the bad disc in my neck. I screamed, my sister screamed and then went into paramedic mode. Everyone gave me drugs and alcohol. This batch of my brother's beer was almost 9% alcohol I think. I don't remember much of last night, other than I woke up feeling great.

...and immediately took Ty to the doggy ER with this same stomach infection my dogs have been trading with each other the last few months. I had some Metronidazole squirreled away, but used it all treating Ty the last few days. When I ran out, he went back having blood be the only thing coming out of him. I was adamant that they should give me a double batch of meds, and put a note in my chart so I can get it refilled quickly if I need to, which they agreed to.

The vet also agreed that I'm producing the bugs getting my dogs sick in my RV with all the problems I'm having with moisture and mildew. It's not really bad seals causing my problem so much as condensation. My other sister kept saying "tarp that f'er" on the phone but leaks aren't the problem. I need another de-humidifier I think with this record winter. Drive 6 hours south and it's a huge drought. Here in Oregon, everything in the state is wet. The vet thinks the pack is genetically predisposed to this microbe. It makes sense because Smokey hasn't been hit by this, and he's not related to the other three dogs which all had this bug. The ex has Tidbit and Bear, which means they have the same genetic vulnerability. At least they are in Sacramento which is usually 100 degrees and ... not wet.

Ty and I are both sore tonight, but like that line from Goodfellas, we all take a beating once in a while, and my beating came with some vague memories like the movie The Hangover. And I had a good conversation about Labradors today with a cute mom in the vet's office. Ty is a chick magnet, and he hams it up, too. People say "Oh what a cute dog" and Ty straightens up a little. He's a team player.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cost Effective

Even though it's a lot more work than I was expecting to make my own dog food, it turns out to be cheaper than I was expecting. There's no sales tax in Oregon, and Winco beats Walmart on pretty much everything, including price.

I figure it's about $25 a month including the vitamin supplement--probably less.I haven't priced bagged dog food lately, but I'm guessing that $25 compares favorably to a decent dry food like Iams, and there's no way Iams is better than chicken and rice with vegetables..

The ingredients are pretty cheap:

6 pack large boneless chicken breasts - $11
Large pack frozen vegetable medley - $1.88
10 pound bag large grain rice - $4.60
3 month supply vitamin supplement - $12.95

Now, one cup of rice, about a third of a bag of veggies, and a large chicken breast make 3 days worth of meals for 4 little dogs.

Of course some of the ingredients end up in my food. I make a mean chicken and rice burrito.

And a loaf of artisan bread costs probably 10 cents. The olive oil I use to grease the pan almost costs more than the rest of the ingredients combined haha.

Ty is ready for his share anytime. He's a team player.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I drive a Chevy Suburban and had pictured a Labrador riding shotgun, not a Chihuahua. But that's OK, because Ty is just as loyal as a Lab but much cheaper to feed. He even has his own dog bed just for the truck. For longer drives, the doggies always ride inside their crates seat-belted in, but for shorter trips, I sometimes bring them along. Ty is a real gentleman on the road.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More Injustice

Ty is pretty sure that since his mommy, Spot, takes twice as long to eat, and since she eats behind a baby gate barrier, that means that Spot is getting twice as much food as everyone else, because that violates the rules of the kingdom. Ty is the rule keeper of the kingdom, so he lets me know if there's a violation of the rules, like his mommy is still eating long after she should have been done.

What Ty doesn't remember is that the baby gate is for his and his sister's own protection. Spot was taking an hour to eat, and no other dog could eat until she finished, which she never seemed to do. Any dog such as Ty who figured that Spot was too far away from a particular food bowl to defend, would find out how fast Spot and run across a room and bite.

One time I picked him up and put him on his mommy's side before she was done, and he whined like "NOOOOO PUT ME BACK PLEASE SIR." So, Chihuahuas are highly intelligent but have a poor long term memory. Hmmm, like their owner.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Food Lawyer

Ty was away from the pack for two years. When he came back, we didn't want to get too attached to him. Then he went to another home, and came back a couple months later. Even once we accepted that he was our dog, it took him a while to fit in. Chihuahuas have a unique pack structure on a good day.

Now he is all about the rules. Every dog is equal. All dogs get the same amount of the same treats at the same time. Last night, Spot wouldn't eat her dinner in one sitting. Later in the evening I gave her the rest of her dinner bowl, and Ty went crazy.

He kept barking like "two dinners is against the rules! favoritism!"

Lenny was a team player, and Ty is the only one of his six offspring with a sense of justice. And I don't blame him for not wanting to feel like he's excluded in any way from the pack. He's like the little sister with pigtails, keeping everything fair by letting dad know who's breaking the rules. At least that was my sister.

And gotta love Chihuahuas. As I was typing this post just now, Zoey was barking from the bedroom. I walked in there to find her on the bed, hiding behind my street clothes I had left on the bed during my workout. But the covers were bunched up under the clothes, making them poof up a little, and she thought it was a stranger laying on the bed and she was barking at it!


Zoey really doesn't like the stationary bike. Sometimes she just stands on the floor and stares disapprovingly at my pedaling feet. She'll sit there the whole time I'm on the bike. Every once in a while she will sigh.

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Another rough weekend, hanging it with my family and having to cope with a 3-cheese pizza with leftover steak on it.The steak was left over from a family dinner, and I figure the pizza cost me about two bucks to make.

I made my twice baked potatoes au gratin with bacon for the party last night. The whole plate cost me about 5 bucks to make. As a bachelor the first time around, I would've paid $20 for a full batch of potatoes au gratin, so I've been thinking about a small catering operation. The only way I ended up being able to get food this good the first time around was by having a girlfriend who could cook.  The dishes and pans for everything I make have been scraped clean the last few years, and most of my signature dishes reheat well. My brother buys his meals from a meal delivery place, and I was thinking I could do that, too.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Everything Hurts

Today I hit a new fitness milestone: I can curl the same barbells that my brother does for his workouts. And my sister the paramedic was explaining medically today why my workouts need a day of rest once a week. Yesterday I pulled a muscle in my chest just stretching during my day off. I've never had anything this close to this much muscle mass in my chest. Or my arms. Or my legs. Ok maybe my legs during track a million years ago. All these new muscles hurt, but I guess it makes sense since these new muscles were created out of pain.

Maybe someday I'll be like a bodybuilder and feel the pain of my workouts as a pleasurable sensation. But for now it's good enough to have good pain that doesn't hold me back or keep me awake at night, and that's better than the bad kind of pain which it drowns out. I'm starting to think I might even be able to function in the long run without surgery or pain management, both of which I've already been surviving without. They say the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, but this time I think it actually might be light.

Ball Boy

When I was a kid, my parents used to watch tennis on TV. Every time someone dropped a tennis ball, the ball boy would run out and scoop the ball up in one fluid motion.

Today I was dicing a cooked red potato to fry up with some sausages, and whatever was on the knife--about three pieces-- fell off onto the floor. I usually pick up what little I drop before the dogs can get to it, but Zoey rand out just like a ball boy and scooped up the potatoes and fled in the scene in one fluid motion. Even the other three dogs sat there frozen for a second in surprise.

Her papa, Lenny, could eat potatoes, but Spot can't, and so all the offspring of spot don't tolerate potatoes well. I will be surprised if those pieces make it all the way through her without incident. The puppies tolerate fried potatoes like fries and my Potatoes O'Brien, but that the tiny ball boy had other plans.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day Of Rest

My brother let out a big laugh when I told him that everything that hurts is new. Muscles I didn't have a month ago are sore. I even had to take my shirt off to point to a muscle on my shoulder that I didn't recognize. Turns out I have deltoids now, and they are sore.

I spent my whole adult life making excuses for not exercising, but now I only sit a day out like today, where I'm too sore to climb on the bike. Now I just want the process to move along faster than it is.

The last house I owned was covered in mirrors, which we mostly left up after finding out what a 6 foot by 6 foot mirror weighs and how hard they are to work with disposing. I have a big mirror in the RV but there's jackets hanging in front of it. So it's always a surprise when I catch a glimpse of myself and see parts of my body that didn't exist a couple months ago.

Progress feels great, so it's hard to take a pause in my workouts even if taking a day off is better for my progress. My brother says I should take a day off every week, so I'm going to start doing that. It's hard not to see it as an excuse or slacking.

At least I'm in good company on my fitness journey and there's so many people to advise me and so many books to read. I'm dealing with some very common fitness issues like when not to work out and how to burn body fat.

Zoey still wants nothing to do with my workouts. The other dogs just burrow under the blankets so they don't have to see the big scary machine, but Zoey glares at me the whole time like she's saying "I'm not fooled, Pet. You brought that monster here and you can take it away."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Shiny Coats

Years ago when we got the Corgis, we didn't know what we were doing as far as feeding. We started out with Purina, until a couple people told us to go with Iams. We saw a noticeable difference in their health.

Then, Smokey got allergies, and after a while we figured out it was from the food. So we switched to grain-free and that made all the dogs look healthier. Around this time our vet admitted that our dogs were healthier than hers.

But when all my dogs started getting sick here in Oregon, I started cooking chicken and rice with vegetables and a vitamin supplement for them every day. So far this is the biggest bump yet! Feeding with a grain free diet is the healthiest I've ever seen an animal, until now.

Old man Smokey is frisky now. Ty is probably the second best specimen of a dog I've ever seen, next to his mommy Spot who I can only describe as magnificent. Zoey just has this amazing, shiny coat. It's perfect, and I wonder why more people don't make their own dog food.

DIY dog food is more work to prepare, but that's about the only downside. I can make it for about the same price as Iams if I vary the protein with beef and beans, but I do that anyway. They look a little lean with just chicken.

Another upside is that there's nothing to run out of, and no reason to make special trips to get dog food once or twice a month. Their food is just a few more things on my grocery list.

And of course, dinner time is now fun time. Every meal and snack is real human food which was mostly forbidden before. To say there is enthusiasm for dinner is putting it mildly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Spotologist II

People would always ask me why my dog wasn't right in the head, and I would say "Do I look like a Spot-ologist?" But now I'm her only advocate, and I've had to dig deep and try to be a Spotologist. She's less overbearing when she can "run out the crazy" like she did at the cabin, but here in the city it's not possible to let her run loose, and she freaks out if she sees another dog or human on a walk.

Yesterday I was eyeing the local park which looked empty on a sunny day. But today it's raining again, so we wait like before. I'm hoping the doggy Prozac will make her at least functional on walks, and together they will make her close to normal. Record rains aren't helping my efforts in Spotology.

After dinner what I do now is just put her in the crate for a few minutes and let her get over her dinner time anger. For whatever reason right after dinner, she will come sit on a dog under a blanket and not let that dog go anywhere. The poor victim is Spot-blocked and usually cries for me to come referee. Dinner brings out her mommy instinct.

But there have been improvements, and those alone make it worth continuing the meds. She's more cuddly and eats her dinner like a champ every night.

The music blog is coming along. This one will be the wide audience blog. I never started blogging to make money or get page hits, but at this point of my life neither would hurt. "Don't we all" was the reply when I told someone that I wanted to get paid to listen to music" and I countered that I had actually taken action towards that end. I need to find a way to somehow work a Chihuahua into the new blog. Hmmm.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Money Is Abundant

My sister wants me to repeat this affirmation out loud every day. It's hard to argue with her as she has an abundance of money. Affirmations are powerful and they work. Since we grew up extremely poor, and since this is my second life, I'm going back to basics.

The main strategy of my life 2.0 is to just stick to the plan, and focus on being so awesome that I create my own force of gravity that pulls what I want into orbit. But you can't just focus on what you want. You have to focus on being worthy of what you want. You have to set the stage to receive what you want. You don't ask the genie for a suitcase of money. That's a trap. You ask the genie to be a good person, and good people don't starve. You ask the genie for a fair shot at what you want, not for more wishes.

So, it's my version of my sister's philosophy. Money is abundant, because it's just an idea, and ideas are abundant.

Zoey does not align with my health and fitness philosophy. She sneers at me every minute I'm on the stationary bike. This photo was taken on the bike with my phone because it was just too funny the way she was looking at me like an irritated girlfriend. One my sisters had a big breakup yesterday. She says her next boyfriend is a little dog.

"Stop your shenanigans, Pet!"

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hot and Cold

Breezing through workouts is a sure sign that they're not hard enough. But as I make them harder and get into the zone, I overheat like a fat kid running a marathon. Luckily, it's cold here. Really cold. Stepping outside just after a workout into the high thirties is invigorating. Being hot and cold at the same time feels great.

Spent the day with two of my sisters. I took Ty and he did good. He's a team player. I saw Johnny today, and he looks great. It was probably two years ago where I had a dream--a horrible dream. I don't remember who, but someone in my dream told me about the coming changes in my life, and showed me nightmarish visions in extreme detail. I would lose everything I cared about except for a few of my dogs. The dream was pretty specific about the fate of the cats, too. So, I'm not surprised to be sitting where I am with my kitty in a box on my nightstand.

I don't know what I believe. But having a dream with a specific set of details where every one of them comes true over a two year span makes it hard not to have some sort of beliefs. Every single one of the details came true so far, except one: Johnny cat. I wasn't surprised to find out that he caught the same feline pneumonia as Salem, and like Salem, he was an old man that nobody had thought to give boosters to.

What I was surprised about was that they treated Johnny in time, and he's looking as healthy as I've ever seen him. The dream / premonition / whatever was very clear: when it was over, I would be reborn: happy, healthy and ready to go off into the sunset and have a quiet life, or my version of a quiet life, with a few little dogs, including Zoey.

I've only told a few people this, so it's liberating to write it down. I can spend time second guessing myself what I could have done to stop anything that happened, but like my mom would say, everything happens exactly how it is supposed to happen.

Standing out in the 35 degree cold after my workout tonight, I had another one of those epiphany moments: The dark cloud is gone and the metamorphosis is complete. The stuff I had to get through I got through. I did it. And Johnny got lucky. Even the vet and my sister say he's lucky. They didn't think he was going to make it. It's the second time Johnny has cheated death, and the second time for me, too.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Go Big Or Go Home

As my new life picks up, it's going to be difficult to find the time to cook for me and the doggies. Tonight I made baked 3 cheese penne with fresh minced garlic, Italian sausage, mushrooms and even bacon bits on top. It took two hours, though the last half hour it was in the oven while I was on the bike.

Cooking might as well have been rocket science in my 20s while I was struggling to be a computer programmer. Being disciplined then meant eating at Taco Bell for $2.35 a day. I had a cat. That was the extent of my responsibility. We both ate from cans.

Now it's not only hard to eat fast food, it's hard to eat restaurant food. Things like drinking and going to restaurants is really just something I only do socially now.

I thought all this work to cook for one would be a deal breaker and that I'd be eating sandwiches during my recovery. But it's been the opposite. Not having snacks or easy food has kept my grazing down and thus my weight. If I want something to eat, I need to plan it an hour or two in advance.

And all the food related problems involving the dogs disappeared when I started making a batch of chicken and rice with pancake snacks every few days. Some days making dinner for me and the dogs will take 3-4 hours just because I won't cut corners.

So my business plan keeps my home cooking and adds another blog. For the most part the siblings who nursed me back to health are on board with my business plans. My brother thinks I should have pursued the TV producer who was interested in my outdoor blog. As the kids would say, meh.

My dogs are greedy. They get chicken and rice with vegetables every night and they still watch me cook for myself like it were a concert performance.

New Blog: Mark Knows Music

The three things I care about the most are my family and friends, my little dogs and music. I have lots of hobbies I am passionate about like cooking and the outdoors. But I've never been moved by a camp stove or stopped the car to hear about a new recipe. I've never worn a kitchen utensil screen print t-shirt. And it's not links to pocket knives and flashlights that I send the most to family and friends, though I do send those too.

No, it's links to music that people most get from me. So it's only fitting that I start a blog named Mark Knows Music, because most of what I do is listen to and look for new music. I like all genres, but I've been on a folk binge lately. There's so many talented new artists out there. Most of my friends my age seem to be stuck with whatever they listened to in high school. I still like classic rock, but I've heard every Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin song a million times. I want something awesome that I've never heard before, in a genre I don't hear on the radio every day, though they play plenty of this stuff on the radio in Portland.

The time spent looking for music seemed excessive so now I can multi-task and share all the gems I find! And I can point my family and friends to the new site, so I will save on all the time sending people links. Even if it never gets any page views (which it will) then it will still be worth it just to share music with friends.

Friday, January 8, 2016

On The Clock

It was six months in bed, barely able to move. Then it was six more months dealing with the emotional, physical and financial disaster that being in bed for six months caused. Then, finally, six months focused primarily on health and fitness.

The mind is only right if the body is right, and the body can only be right if the mind is right. So, when one is not right, both aren't right, and they both seem a million miles away even with a solid foundation. For the people without a solid foundation, that's usually it. I'm lucky, but I've always been lucky.

It was like being in a coma and waking up 10 years later to find everything and everyone in your life gone except for your grownup siblings standing around the bed. I was the successful big brother looking out for my younger siblings. I was supposed to be there for them, but they were there for me.

So now here I am, reborn. It was hard not rushing my recovery, but I didn't. I told myself I would take the right job, but I fulfilled the conditions of my unemployment without the right job presenting itself. The timing of it ending was as perfect as I hoped it would be: with me in top physical condition and free to do anything I wanted to.

My fantasy of being self employed was always plan A. And in the last couple weeks, that fantasy became a detailed plan. Then a more detailed plan.

So, from this point out in my life, I'm not going back to the corporate grind for any amount of money. I'm the president right now of a very small empire, but a viable and sustainable one that's only going to get bigger.

Staring Monday, I'm on the clock. It'll take a week or two to get an Oregon driver's license and form an Oregon corporation, but in the meantime I still might line up some clients. I may just start advertising on Craigslist to build web sites, taking out ads, pushing on my blogs, etc. even before then. I'm going to start small and simple, and then gradually grow the business and land larger, corporate or small business clients. Hire me!

Through it all my dogs have been there for me. I might even get business cards for Zoey. I'm still thinking of a title for her. Maybe Executive Vice President Of Playtime.

"The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Team Player

The offspring of Lenny and Spot are all magnificent beasts. They were blessed with superb health and intelligence, but only 2 of 6 got Lenny's ability to listen and obey. Zoey listens but doesn't obey and from what I've heard, her two sisters are about the same. Just today I was holding her up before dinner saying "Zoey, where's the chicken and rice? Where's your dinner?" and she would look around, from the counters to the table and around the room, before finally looking back at me like she was saying "I don't know pet. We were all hoping you knew where dinner was." At least she's making strides in the obeying department.

Now, Ty is a team player just like his daddy was. Lenny wasn't always the best behaved dog, but he was loyal to a fault. Ty is loyal like his papa but also has that regal demeanor of his mommy Spot. When people ask me why I like Chihuahuas so much, their ability to follow orders is not the first thing that comes to mind.

But Ty follows orders. He's like a Chihuahua with the disposition of a Labrador. He's really the perfect dog. His brother Bear is the same way. Bear lives with the other half of our estranged duo. I really miss Bear and Tidbit but it's enough knowing that their safe.

The business is coming along, the workouts are going well, and the dogs are healthy. But they are kind of getting cabin fever from all this rain and cold weather. I ride the stationary bike twice a day but the doggies are getting restless. I might have to start walking them in the cold. I went for a walk with my brother and his Huskies the other night and it was pretty dicey with all the ice, so we'll see.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Is Coming

The neighbor told me yesterday that it had rained 45 days straight, and that makes 46 as of today. But it stopped raining briefly enough to snow. It actually stuck to the ground for a few hours, before getting rained on and turning to slush.

Zoey has stopped hiding when I ride the bike, but she still doesn't like it. The whole time I'm exercising, she's giving me disapproving looks. I managed to grab my phone when I was on the bike and snap a picture without her facial expression changing!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy Warm Winter

The doggies have their own couch here in my travel trailer. It folds into a full size bed without taking up any more floor space, so I decided to keep it folded down most of the time to give the doggies more room for their pack living space.

Central heating in this rig is first rate, except that it burns through propane at a ridiculous rate. There's just no sense spending all that money when I could have a small, efficient space heater, so I picked one up at Target.

Now the space heater points toward the dog bet and crates a little bit, so that whole area stays warm while my bedroom stays cold, which is perfect. It's toasty warm under my fleece blanket where me and Zoey normally sleep, but the other three have their choice of cozy spots to sleep.

It's so warm that Smokey has been sleeping on top of the blanket instead of under it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

During cross country season in high school, I used to run 10 miles a day not even counting our regular practices. I would run the mile from Garden Grove to Mile Square Park, do two laps around the park and run the mile home.

But my mom raised us as a single mom working two full time jobs. As soon as I was old enough to get a work permit, I got out and worked. School, sports, friends--all that was secondary to survival. Working warehouse work and anything that paid the bills in the 1980s, I would come home every day and write computer code, first on paper, and then finally when I had my own computer.

I was probably 28 or 29 before I realized that I wasn't struggling. But I wanted a family, so I still kept my head down and focused on my goals. Strangely none of my goals involved taking good care of myself or having fun. I just worked and took care of my family.

So, now in my life 2.0, I try to channel the kid who used to win track meets. I used to get "runner's high" but to me it was more like runner's hypnosis. I could just go to my happy place and come back when I was done.

The first week of the stationary cycle, every day I would get on the bike feeling like someone who had been mugged the previous day. I just got mugged and now I have to ride a bike. Then I started doing stomach crunches. Then I started doing aerobics on top of that.

Finally I'm getting in the zone instead of just feeling like the victim of a beating. I'm starting to feel more like an athlete than a middle aged man.