What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Squeakers. The level of noise in my house is probably more subdued than most. There aren’t kids screeching or multiple adults knocking around. The television or a webcast is usually running in the background just to provide some ambient sound. Maybe that’s why the sudden onset of every imaginable style of squeaky toy for dogs has left me slightly twitchy. Even with that said, I’m prepared to declare that dog toys with squeakers in them are absolutely tools of the devil, conceived in Hell itself and delivered by Amazon. If they can make whistles that only dogs can hear why can’t they rig toys to squeak in the same range? If feels like a wholly undeserved slice of the large and growing pet toy market.

2. Home Depot. Amazon has me trained, I suppose. I put in an order and two days later it ends up on my porch. Home Depot has a lot to learn from that model. I ordered something last Friday and it’s still sitting at the “order received.” A call to their customer service line gave me the stock answer that items usually ship in between 7 and 10 business days. I did, however, arrive home to find the item sitting on my front porch… even while a day later the tracking still says it’s just an “order received.” Hey, I’m happy to have it so I can get it installed over the weekend, but how the actual fuck is that an acceptable model of fulfillment in the internet age?

3. Lighting. I’ve gotten on board with some aspects of an automated home. I love my Nest thermostat. I love my security system – and it’s various environmental sensors that keep an eye out for smoke, carbon monoxide, and unexpected water in the basement. I’ve toe touched into the broader world of automated lighting – mostly using individual programmable switches and timers for various outlets and fixtures. It’s a system that works well enough given my somewhat fanatical adherence to routine. Still, there are some things I’d like to automate that are a little more involved and others I’d like to have a finer level of remote control over. This has led me down a deep and growing rabbit hole of home automation tools and systems… and into a growing awareness that doing what I want to do is going to be a not inexpensive effort. There’s more than a small part of me that wonders if the old mode of “flip switch, light turns on” isn’t really good enough. Of course then there’s the other, larger part that wants to exert detailed control over my environment that’s almost surely going to win the day. In this case, I suspect lighting is just the catalyst for a much larger and deep rooted annoyance.

Comfort over style…

I’m old enough now that even the name of the process you go through to train a puppy not to piss all over the house has changed to something kinder and gentler. What we use to call housebreaking has transitioned to house training. I’m not sure the process is any different, but I suppose we’re all supposed to go along with the semantic shift where “breaking” is too fraught with negative overtones… or at least that’s how it seems on the internet.

In any case, the last week and a half has been all about housebreaking. Even though Jorah is six months old and rapidly headed towards seven, he’s effectively a brand new puppy when it comes to knowing the finer points of living in a home. That’s fine. We can deal with that. At least he’s got a six month old bladder and doesn’t need to go out every 30 minutes.

The biggest issue has been that we’re all effectively reduced to living in the kitchen – surrounded by easy to clean and sanitize hard surfaces to mitigate the inevitable accidents. It’s a fine arrangement if you’re a dog and have beds, food, water, and everything you might need. It’s less fine if you’re me and might want to sit down on something other than a hard wooden chair. 

Friday evening, in a fit of comfort over style, I moved my spare recliner into the kitchen. And yes, I just unabashedly admitted that I do, indeed, have a spare recliner. It’s not quite as comfortable as the one in the living room, but in comparison to sitting at the kitchen table it’s a blessed relief. 

It took me a few hours sitting in the kitchen on Friday night to realize the room I’m now complaining about being stuck in is easily twice the size of my entire first “adult” apartment in southern Maryland. Its two rooms and three quarters bath maybe accounted for something like 250 square feet. That’s probably a generous estimate through the rose-colored remembrance of times long passed.

Look, I’d still like to get to the point where I can safely use the living room again, but I appreciate the little bit of perspective reminding me that I’ve had it far worse, for much less payback.  

Sorting the schedule…

Still trying to get the new morning routine down. Getting out of the house in the morning has temporarily become an Overlord level planning effort. But this was the first day of needing to be up and out of the house while running against the clock. I presume with repetition we’ll all get a little better at that.

Perhaps the more difficult part is now that we have the new pup along, the order of operations has changed. Instead of showering first while Maggie lays around in bed for another 30 minutes, it’s straight up and outside, then feeding, then shit, shower, and shave, then more outside, and so on. Getting my still sleep-addled head around these nuances is, at best, a work in progress.

If it were a person throwing my well established routine out of sync like this, they’d be cancelled immediately… but since the cause has four legs and an endless supply of adorable looks, Jorah gets a pass. And some ear scratches and belly rubs, probably.

Dog people of the internet…

So I was reading things on the internet. Yeah, I know I should just stop right there. For all the good that it can provide, the loudest voices on the internet seem to be those of judgmental twats who have nothing better to do than tell everyone exactly how they should be living and why they’re wrong if they don’t.

Hell, maybe I’m one of them, but at least I’m polite enough to keep my judgements safely locked up here so that people have to make an effort to get to them instead of just spewing myself all over Reddit.

It’s been over a decade since I had a puppy in the house. Most care and feeding issues are falling-off-a-log kind of things, but I wanted to get a better feel for how working adults take care of their new canine friends when they, you know, have to go to the job that pays the bills and buys the kibble.

According to a never ending list of sanctimonious asshats on Reddit, the only acceptable things for someone employed to do is to 1) Quit your job and stay home 24/7; 2) Move in with someone who is willing to stay home 24/7; 3) Hire a dog walker to come to your house twice a day for 30 minutes while you’re at work; or 4) Enroll your new dog in day care.

Any deviation from one of those four approved courses of action will find you condemned as a heretic and only slightly better than someone who raises fighting dogs for a living.

But, look, here’s the thing… I’m old enough to remember a time when dog wakers were a thing that only the rare city yuppies and the occasional actor or actress had. I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no such thing as “doggy daycare.” And I’m certainly old and experienced enough to know that having a job and having a dog is not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the dog people of the internet tell you.

There’s very little that I won’t do for my animals and I agree that in an ideal world, dogs would have their people with them all day every day and be able to come and go as they please. We, of course, live in the real world, where on average the dog who has to spend a little more time between bathroom breaks indoors instead of out is still far ahead of the one who spends months or years sitting in a shelter. The dog people of the internet, though, do seem to have an unhealthy fixation with the ideal.

It’s one of many cases where I am happy to invite the people of the internet to bugger right off.

Minutes and feet…

I’ve missed a couple of regularly scheduled posts this week. I’d feel badly about that, but at least in part it stems from the introduction of a new puppy here on the homestead. To be honest, after a decade of having grown dogs, I’d forgotten (or perhaps mentally blocked out) just how much work goes in to sharing your space with a young dog.

The nice people at the Delaware SPCA put Jorah’s (formerly Sonny’s) age at about 4 months. He’s old enough to have his adult teeth, so he’s not a “puppy puppy,” but still young – even if he’s not quite full of energy. Actually, the opposite is mostly true. The boy like’s his sleep… and for that I am very thankful.

We survived the first 36 hours together – no accidents, no problems interacting with Maggie or Hershel, and he took to the crate like a dog who has spent a lot of his young life in cages of one sort or another. Being a shelter dog, I don’t guess that should come as a surprise, really.

We had out first “moment” this morning, though, with me trying to get through the normal Saturday morning routine of opening the mail, paying bills, and basically tending the behind the scenes items that keep the household running. Jorah, tethered to the desk and only a few feet away was determined to chew my chair, the desk, his leash, the bed, and generally anything except the small mountain of toys assembled to distract him so I could get in a few minutes of work.

That’s all the long way of saying Jorah is now getting some quality time back in his crate while I write this.

I’m not complaining here. Given the start he had in life, I’m amazed he’s as good a dog as he is. He’s got all the potential in the world and now I need to keep reminding myself that this is a process where success is measured in minutes and feet, not hours and miles.

Good for the soul…

I’ve known for a while now that being a one dog household wasn’t going to suit me in the long run. I wanted to give some of the raw nerves time to settle, to adjust to life without Winston, and understand Maggie’s new health issues before charging off to fill that particular void. That was the right decision, of course. Bringing home a new dog in these few weeks of the year when work is at its most exhausting and when I’ve been a lot more emotionally fragile than I’d like to admit was a recipe for nothing good. For a moment in my life I’m exercising a rare modicum of patience.

I’m watching, though. Researching. Finding rescue organizations that sound like they won’t be too overbearing and intrusive to deal with. Weighing the pros and cons of puppies versus older dogs and trying to determine what might be the right fit when the time comes. I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t also admit to seeking out the bulldog breeders, too – even after swearing long ago that I’d never consider having another one. Despite the litany of known problems, the wrinkly little bastards have an undeniable charm to them.

I’m not quite ready yet. I want to get over the hump with the current Very Big Event so I’m going home closer to my baseline level of aggravated and annoyed rather than at an ampped up, spontaneous nose bleed level of seething rage with which I currently contend. I’m almost there – assuming I avoid having a stroke between now and the first Friday in May.

That’s the objective date I’ve set for myself to start looking in earnest – going beyond flicking through thumbnails on websites. Truth be told, knowing that the search for the next member of the pack is just over the horizon is probably what’s let me keep plugging away the last few weeks without completely slipping off the rails. As it turns out, even dogs that aren’t yours yet, purely notional dogs, are good for the soul.

Specialists…

I’m old enough to remember taking the family dog to a vet who ran his practice out of a converted shed in his back yard. Treatment for most any ailment was a shot of antibiotics and a bland diet – his weapon of choice was boiled hamburger and rice. It was the middle 1980s and the very notion, at least in the mountains of western Maryland, that there should be anything remotely like a “specialty” vet didn’t cross any of our minds. Dogs got their rabies shot every 3rd year, ate table scraps mixed with their dry food, and all lasted for somewhere between 8 and 10 years.

Flash forward 30 years…

My bulldog, being typical of his breed, assembled an impressive roster of medical professionals on his “healthcare team.” Cardiologists, allergists, orthopedic surgeons, and anesthesiologists over the course of treating his many various conditions. My labrador, now into old age herself, has already acquired a opthmologist. In the coming weeks it’s likely we’ll add a radiologist, an oncologist, and a general surgeon to her list.

Veterinary medicine as it exists today – with the ability to diagnose and treat the family dog in a remarkably similar way to how how I’d be treated if I walked through the doors at Hopkins with the same symptoms – is a marvel. It’s also a money making juggernaught, but that’s a separate discussion. The practice I’m taking Maggie to this week in hopes of working up a final diagnosis and beginning outline of a treatment plan includes easily a thousand or more years of combined experience in emergency medicine, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, radiology, neurology, oncology, and ophthalmology, in addition to maintaining six surgeons on staff. Their posted resumes are suitably impressive (yes, I’ve read them all). I’m cautiously optimistic that all this will translate into identifying what the best options look like for the road ahead.

I’m walking into this week with just enough knowledge based on internet deep diving and journal article reading to hopefully ask reasonably informed questions. I’ll be counting on this bunch to know the line between what science can do and what science should do. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m thankful that the state of the art has grown beyond crate rest along with boiled hamburger and rice, but there’s more than a little bit of me that misses simple, country diagnostics and treatment – and its inherent acceptance that the power of medical science to extend life has, and should have, logical limitations.