Rudi

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I’m not sure* who had the bright idea to schedule a vet appointment at 9 a.m. on the Monday morning leading up to a short holiday week, but, I’m the first to admit that really, that’s just asking for trouble. Still, I woke up plenty early, giving myself and Rudi** plenty of time to get ready and out the door long before we were due at the vet’s office. I even managed to trick Hollie into staying in the bedroom with Jared so she wouldn’t bark when we left. Basically, I nailed it.

As I pulled out of the neighborhood, patting myself on the back because I’d even left myself enough time to stop and get coffee, I heard a weird thump thump thump noise coming from the back of the car***. I pulled over and put on my hazards and proceeded to look under the car. You know, like I would know if something was off.

(Here’s where I should say that, while I don’t consider myself particularly girly — I’m not afraid of spiders or big bugs and I don’t think anybody would call me a delicate flower when it comes to my workouts — I … don’t do car stuff. I mean, I HATE doing the whole throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and-call-for-a-big-strong-man thing, but cars intimidate me. There’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong and since I don’t understand it well, I generally prefer to let someone who knows what’s going on step in.)

So, I look under the car and don’t see anything, so I think, “Hey, maybe something was stuck under there, like a bottle from someone’s recycling or something, and it dislodged when I stopped.” And at this point, I was running out of time to stop for coffee, so I hopped back in my car and headed toward the vet’s office, bummed that I won’t have time to stop for coffee now but glad we’ll still be able to get there on time. Because, you think the idea of something being wrong with my car stresses me out? Not compared to the horror of being late. *shudder*

A few miles later, just on the other side of the halfway point, I hear the noise again — maybe even louder. THUMP THUMP THUMP. So I pull into a neighborhood, and, yes, call my big strong man.

Me: The car is making weird thumping noises.

Jared: Have you checked the tires?

Me: To … see if they’re still there? Um, they’re there, for sure …

Jared: *sigh*

Me: And also I don’t have a flat! Is that what you meant? That’s what you meant.

We decide I should keep driving, albeit slowly (I only heard the noise when I went over 35 mph) to the vet, and Jared would meet me there and see what he could figure out.

I arrived with no further incident (unless you call driving 35 mph down the road an incident, which I’m inclined to do), stopped the car and walked around to let Rudi out. And that’s when I saw the problem: A plastic bag on with some leftover veggie dogs in it, stuck underneath the roof rack.

Jared and I had gone to a pool party the day before, and we’d grabbed the leftover veggie dogs because, well, most people aren’t all that into them, and who am I to waste veggie dogs? I would be a fool to do so!

Not sure who tucked them up there coughJaredcough, but considering what I was CERTAIN I was going to have to spend to get my car fixed, you can imagine how happy I was to see that the only problem my car had was some leftover veggie dogs on the roof.

(Shame to waste them, still, but far better than what I would’ve had to pay to get something fixed. And far less embarrassing than taking it in and having them present me with a bill alongside my leftovers, right?)

Rudi dog

All was well at the vet, if you don’t count the fecal sample extraction. (Rudi totally counts it.)

And, for those of you wondering, Rudi was totally fine — just an annual appointment, and she was a very good girl who made everyone fall in love with her and give her treats.

*Fine, I know exactly who it was. Me. Damn you, Past Kristen.

**If taking one dog to the vet equals 1 unit of craziness, taking two dogs at the same time is some sort of equation with an exponential nature of the like that I can’t even fathom because I didn’t pay attention in algebra (except for FOIL — that, I remember), but let’s just say it’s waaaaaay more than 2x the crazy. So, unless I have an army to back me up, it’s one animal per visit.

***Yesterday — literally, yesterday – I was thinking about how happy I was that my car, even though it’s a few years old, was holding up fairly well. So basically this was all my fault.

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I’m still here, still kickin’, still paying for the domain so I’m thinking maybe I should actually, you know, use it.

I’m going to try, I swear, and isn’t this a good start? I think it’s a good start. Rudi does too.

Hollie thinks it sucks. In fact, not seen in this picture is me holding the white dog back with my left arm as she barks her head off at the ridiculous hat that made its way onto Rudi’s head. Thank god pictures don’t include sound.

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I might, on occasion, be guilty of anthropomorphizing my dogs to some extent — I mean, they are the recipients of most of my witty commentary during the day, and, you know, they don’t laugh, per se, but they seem to get the joke more often than not (and give me a better reaction than some of the humans I’ve met to boot) — but there’s no doubt in my mind that they really do smile.

I just got back from a run with them (well, with them each separately. They’re not bad on leash these days on their own, but put them together? And may god have mercy on your soul), and without a doubt, Hollie was beaming.


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So, it was a crazy summer, and I don’t think I actually documented some of the craziness that went down here. You might recall that we had a real scare with Rudi, who spent a week in the University of Florida Small Animal ICU — she’s fine now, and back to normal. But, apparently, her temporary absence (and maybe some behavior changes that were imperceptible to us) created a bit of a change in the relationship between the dogs. Which we learned when we went up to New York for a wedding in July and got a call from my friend Fitz, who was watching them, saying that they’d gotten into a fight. Like, a real, serious fight. One that left Rudi with a pretty big gash, and, as it turned out, a broken tooth.

Gratuitious Rudi picture from last summer.

Fitz and her family took care of the dogs, getting Rudi back to the UF emergency room for stitches and treatment. (Hollie had just a few small nicks and was basically fine.) We were home a couple of days later, and figured we’d have a trainer come out to work with them, but it was just so hard to believe — they were just like normal, sleeping on top of one another, playing together, being cute and cuddly and snuggly. We kind of assumed it was a fluke, as did anyone who’s ever seen them together. They’re besties, and so lovey! Nobody believed it could repeat.

Until it happened again, this time, when I was there. And, you know how all the experts say NOT to jump in the middle of a dog fight? Yeah. Listen to them. When they’re in the middle of a fight, they just see red. They don’t hear your voice, they don’t see you, they don’t know that you’ve stupidly put your arm in between their mouths because OF COURSE they won’t bite you. (They will.) At the end of it, everybody was bleeding and two of us needed a trip to the doctor.

(Needless to say, immediately afterward, the dogs were back to snuggling with each other. Weird.)

But I’ll tell you, the emotional toll far outweighed the physical for me. Not so much because I got in the middle of the fight — I know dog owners have a hard time dealing with that, but I honestly did understand that they weren’t going after me. I mean, I’m the moron who stuck my arm in their mouths. But I was terrified that the situation wasn’t rectifiable. I was worried that I had created an environment that wasn’t safe for the dogs I’d taken in and promised to care for. I was worried I’d created a situation that wasn’t safe for people to be around.

See? Only best friends share a water bucket.

We called in a local dog behaviorist right away to assess the situation, and were fully prepared to hear that we’d need to find a new home for Hollie. At that point, I was ready to do whatever was best for the dogs and whoever they were around. Happily, he determined that there were no real aggression issues — it was really a case of misplaced anxiety (apparently this is quite common). Basically, it comes down to this — Hollie is a spaz. This is not news. Rudi lets her go only so far before stepping in to let her know that enough is enough. Prior to Rudi’s hospitalization, Hollie always listened to her, but afterward, she started putting up more of a fight, which meant that, in order to get her point across, Rudi escalated her message. And then they tried to eat each other.

The solution? We now keep a closer eye on their play, and when it’s clear that Rudi is done and Hollie is still trying to play, we step in. We’re also doing obedience class. Hollie has passed the beginner class and is more than halfway through advanced beginner. We’re doing all the same training at home with Rudi, and, as a matter of fact, I’m planning to take Rudi to the class in Hollie’s place tonight to see how that goes. If it goes reasonably well, I’m seriously considering enrolling both dogs in the top level class, which deals with working off-leash and in public.

I have to say, I never understood the importance of obedience training before. I mean, sure, I saw why it was helpful and important to have them sit, stay, come, and all that on command, but I had no idea how it would change my relationship with them. I can take either dog for a walk without them pulling (although I’m not quite up to walking both of them together — that’s, like, advanced, man). I’ve learned that a lot of Hollie’s loudmouthing is done out of fear, and while she’s still loud as hell, she’s getting better about realizing that, if I’m saying it’s okay, it really is okay.

I won’t lie — I’m completely nervous about taking Rudi to class tonight. She’s a little unpredictable around other dogs, and she’s got Hollie by 20 pounds, so when she wants to do something, it’s harder to correct her. But I know it’s the right thing, and I’m so excited to see where we are in another couple of months.

Wish me luck! I think we’re all going to need some special treats tonight.

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A big part of the reason we chose the house we currently live in is because it’s an excellent space for entertaining, and, if you know me, you know it doesn’t take much for me to decide to throw a party. Like, say, my dog not dying — as far as I’m concerned, no better reason, right?

Fortunately, I have a lot of incredibly awesome friends who feel the same way, and who had zero reservations about heading over to our house on a Monday night to celebrate my sweet, healthy pup. And drink wine. You know.

Rudi couldn't wait for her guests to arrive. Such a good little hostess.

And, get this — not only did we have a bunch of the regular crew show up, but two of her doctors from her stay in the ICU came! (One didn’t make it, but he explained that it was because he was stuck in the ER until 11:30. Apparently he didn’t realize that it would’ve been totally acceptable to show up at that point.)

As far as Rudi goes, things continue to look good. Her numbers are within the normal range, and though we’d still be happy to see the creatnine come down just a smidge, we can certainly work with where it is if need be. As Dr. Bandt told me yesterday, it’s back to normal life now. I’ve never been happier.

(Okay, fine, I’d be happier if more of the shrimp salad I’d made for the party had been left over. What’s that? You want the recipe? Fine. It was basically shrimp, which I chopped up into large chunks, mayo, celery, green onion, shredded carrots, dill and salt and pepper to taste — I’d send you to the recipe, but I printed it out and promptly forgot where it came from. It was delicious, but I really wanted to make Mango-Curry Shrimp Salad in Wontons, but somebody thought it sounded like too much work. For me. Not him. Why did I listen again?)

So, it’s not just me, right? It’s fun to come up with a reason to throw a random weeknight party. Now, squirt gun to your head — if you had to throw a party, like, tomorrow night, what kind of fun reason could you come up with for doing so?

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In case you didn’t already hear all about it on Facebook or Twitter, we had a bit of a scare last week when Rudi got into some people meds and went into renal failure.

I’m not going to make you wait for the outcome — she’s doing great and has a real chance at a full recovery. You know, after a week in the UF Small Animal ICU. A week in which she made every doctor and student working with her fall madly, deeply in love with her, of course, but a week in the doggie hospital nonetheless.

Home and happy as a, well, a dog rolling in the grass on a sunny day, I guess.

She had maybe a 50/50 shot going in, and when we walked in with her, I did my best to accept the fact that we very well might not get her back. I believe this acceptance may have come out as me yelling at the doctors, “This SUCKS! This super, super SUCKS!” in between my hysterical sobbing and nose blowing and crying into my sick dog’s coat, but, you know, we do the best we can do in those situations, right?

Fortunately, her numbers began improving fairly quickly after admitting her, and though it took days before I allowed myself even a glimmer of hope that she’d be able to come home, let alone have the possibility of leading a normal doggie life, I did a lot of thinking. I mean, I really am a believer in many things happening for a reason, and considering how this was extra painful for us because Yuki’s death still feels so recent (even though, yes, it’s been close to three years now), and I just can’t believe that this would happen without the universe having some reason.

Don’t ask me why, but I really felt like I was supposed to learn some lesson (other than “if it’s not 6 feet in the air and locked behind a steel wall, dogs, even if they’re well-behaved and never get into anything anymore, can get to it”). And somewhere between her bloodwork showing numbers that were frighteningly high and showing numbers that were sparkling with promise, it hit me — I’ve completely taken her for granted.

I’ve taken her presence for granted. Hollie’s too, for that matter. And I’ve definitely taken for granted the effect she has on people. I mean you should have seen the way the veterinarians and students and staff lit up when they saw her. And if she can do that while fighting for her life in a place where people are rushing from one emergency to the next, what else could she do? She’s always had a way of making people smile — she’s a silly, floppity, sweet girl, and people take to her instantly. Why am I keeping that all to myself?

So, now that things are looking up — she’s home, her numbers are practically back to normal (and likely will be within the next week) — I’ve decided that I’m going to work hard to share her. I’m going to really focus on training both dogs well so that we can take them more places. Jared and I used to take Yuki everywhere; it was easy because we just had her and she was so sweet to everyone, but once we got Rudi, we backed off because, well, I was lazy and it was more difficult. No more. We’re going to have two dogs who walk well on leash and politely sniff other dogs without going batshit crazy. That’s the first order of business.

Second? Once she’s properly trained, I’m getting Rudi, and maybe Hollie, too, certified as a therapy dog. I want to take her into nursing homes and hospitals, and take her to schools and libraries so she can help children learn to read aloud. If I’m getting a second chance at having her in my life, you can be damn sure I’m going to use that second chance to make a difference.

And I won’t lie — I’m also giving myself permission to take a break during the day to just sit with the dogs and get in some snuggles. I swear it’s good for the soul, and I know they enjoy it. And you know what? I’m giving you permission, too. To snuggle with your own pets, I mean, not mine. Although, I mean, if you really want to, I guess you could cuddle my dogs, too. See? I’m a sharer!

Final thought, for my Gainesville and surrounding area folks — I cannot recommend UF’s emergency animal care enough. The doctors we worked with were absolutely incredible, the facility is amazing, and, in the case of an animal facing renal issues, there’s the ability to do dialysis plus one of the best kidney specialists in the country. Rudi loved everyone there to the point of being excited when we returned for her check up. While she always wanted to go with us at first when we visited her during her stay, she was also happy to go with the doctor or student who took her back, which let me know that she was being loved and treated well when I wasn’t around. And we were treated well, also — everyone was so kind and informative and understanding. Special shout outs to Dr. Bandt, Dr. Genovese and Katie, who made this terrifically difficult time a little easier on all  of us (and earned a friend for life in one special black dog).

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In addition to not understanding basic concepts like moving, dogs do not understand pacing. Yesterday we were graced with perfect, sunny, 65 degree weather. Jared was home and, while we’re both still recovering from the plague, we got lots of sleep and were highly motivated to spend some time outdoors. So, off to the dog park we went.

Within seconds of pulling into the parking lot, the dogs turned into whimpering, whizzing little fuzzballs, fur on end with excitement. “Oh my god, mom! Dad! MOOOOOM! There’s another dog! He’s peeing! PEEING!!! Let me out let me out let me out let me oooouuuuuut!”

So we let them out, and WHOOSH! They were off. And to think that, once upon a time, we thought Hollie might not be able to run.

Who's a gimp? Not this dog.

More than one paw on the ground is obviously overkill.

We got their attention again, however, with the Chuckit, which is definitely one of the best dog toys we own.

Rudi's running ability was never in question. ZOOM!

There was running and jumping and barking and panting and playing … for about half an hour.

Oh, Hollie. You'll never catch up, but it's cute that you try.

And then, they both crashed in a nice, cool, shady patch of dirt. You know, like dogs do. It would’ve been swell to hang out for a couple more hours, but shoot, I had almost 100 photos to edit just from the time we did spend there (I blame the fancy new zoom lens Jared got me for Christmas), so maybe the shorter visit was for the best.

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The last few days have been a whirlwind of exciting things, and I want to go into detail on all of it, but the whirlwind won’t stop for blogging, apparently, so I’m just going to have to stick with the highlights for now.

First things first — I got a new camera! (Take that, number 33!) This was not a rash decision by any means. We’d saved up gift cards, and done research, and finally, this weekend, I realized there were a number of things I really wanted a Big Girl Camera for on the horizon, and, well, why not just do it now? And, to top things off, a nice guy at Best Buy gave me his 10% off coupon to use, out of the blue. I wasn’t even showing (much) cleavage!

I’ve quickly learned that the curse of owning a really nice camera is that you tend to photograph everything, and, well, I have so many pictures that it’s almost impossible to edit down to a few of the best. So, I’m saying screw the best, and I’m just going to show a couple of favorites. And you’ll like it. (Well, I hope you’ll like it, anyway!)

We went to St. Pete Beach with the dogs. I won a slogan contest at I Love Dog Friendly, and the prize was two nights at a pet-friendly hotel. We chose the Tradewinds Island Grand because, for one thing, it’s a gorgeous property, and it’s near where we got married, and my parents were spending a week in the area, so we thought it would be fun to hang out with them for a couple of nights. AND IT WAS.

The hotel was great — we particularly liked the little fenced in play area and the doggie room service.

island grand welcome

A warm welcome and gorgeous view.

ball fire hydrant

Classic Hollie. No interest in the fire hydrant or ball. Just hunting lizards.

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Back in the early days, when J and I were dating and just married, it was so weird to say good bye to each other for more than, like, the day. Now granted, I’m a more emotional person than most (and yes I cry at commercials and movie trailers all the time), but I would actually get teary if he was going out of town for two or three days.

(It was different, by the way, if I were the one leaving, because WOO HOO vacation!)

Now that he travels for work — a lot — that has obviously changed. After all, his first day of his current job was actually a two week trip to California and Puerto Rico, so we kind of had to get used to that quickly.

People are always asking me, “Isn’t that so haaard?” with a sympathetic tilt of the head. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried when we first realized just how much he’d be gone, but the thing that’s most surprising is how easily we both settled into things. I might talk to the dogs a bit more than I used to, and I definitely expect them to respond more often, but it’s very rarely lonely. And the nice thing is that, when he’s home, he’s really home. And since I work from home and we share an office, I get to see a lot of him when he’s here.

(Added bonus — when he’s been gone for a few days for work, I’m truly and genuinely excited to see him. How many people are that thrilled to see their spouses walk in the door after work?)

In fact, I just realized something last night. I’ve been trying to schedule my life around when he’s home; turning down offers for ladies’ night parties and other activities with girlfriends because he was in town and, well, didn’t that mean we needed to spend time together? And the irony of this is that it’s more important than ever that I have these friendships because there are so many days and nights when I’m on my own and would love to have something fun to do.

(Let me be very clear — at no point has J ever asked me to stay home with him. I mean, sure, he likes having me around — WHO WOULDN’T? — but he’s always encouraged me to hang out with my friends, and I’ve done the same for him.)

I read something the other day about how people don’t sleep enough during the week, and they try to make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends, but it doesn’t work that way. Getting more on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t change the fact that you got so little the rest of the week — you’re better off aiming to make each hour of sleep you can squeeze the best it can be.

See where I’m going with this?

It’s not that I don’t love sitting around and doing nothing with my husband. I honestly do — Sunday afternoon happy hour on our back porch is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. But I also think it’s important that, rather than look at how much time we can spend in the same house, focus on doing more fun things, even if that means less time together.

So, I broke the cycle. He’s home this weekend, but I’m spending Saturday kayaking with friends. I don’t think we’ll have too hard a time squeezing in some fun on Sunday, especially if it’s anything like Sunday before last.

Hollie's first off-leash experience

Tired, happy girls

Also: THIRSTY. And cute.

Yes, those were gratuitous dog pictures, but Hollie just turned a year old and it seemed appropriate. You’re welcome.

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I have an answer for almost everything. Yes, it’s entirely possible that my answer is purely fictional, and that, by the time I’m finished, I’ll be fighting back the giggles because I got you to believe whatever I’m saying, but still, I pride myself on coming up with answers. And, when the question is about me, you’d better believe I’ll have an answer for you.

Hey! That's me! With new short hair (and Jared and Rudi)! And yes, we're tailgating. How did you guess?

Except for one question: Why did you cut your hair?

I’ve been getting this question a lot (understandably, because my hair is now considerably shorter than it’s ever been), and I’ve been giving a lot of answers, but at the risk of sounding pathetically philosophical, none of those answers really, well, answer the question. I mean, I’m not lying when I say that I’ve been drooling over Michelle Williams’ hair on the cover of Vogue (it’s a wig! did you know that?), and it’s true that I was certainly ready for a change. But, I think the reason I gave the go-ahead was a little deeper than that.

Other people seem to be able to define me a little better than I can define myself. People say I’m athletic, or preppy, or a fashionista, or a million other things. And they’re all true, but I swear to god, I learn something new and surprising about myself every day. So, I guess I wanted a haircut that made people, even the people who’ve known me my whole life, take a second look at me, and maybe see the edgier side of me, or the fact that I can, on occasion, be spontaneous (you know, with the right planning and as long as I know what’s going on …).

Is it completely insane that I’m putting this much thought into why I chopped my hair? I mean, I don’t know why it’s not enough for me to just answer, “Because I thought it would be cool, and IT IS.” But hey, that’s just another side to me — I’m also complicated, apparently.

(In other news, how cute is Rudi in her little t-shirt there? It’s one of my old ones, but let’s be honest — it looks better on her than it ever did on me!)

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