» Archive for June, 2009

MinuteRant: Quality of commercial tuna declining?

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by kara

Is it just me, or is it getting more and more difficult to find a decent can of tuna lately?  It seems that a few years ago, you could open up a can of ordinary tuna and see recognizable FISH flesh, not just mush.  Now, if you buy anything less than albacore tuna, you have a can of what looks like pureed fish mixed with water.  Hard to drain, no recognizable texture, kinda repellent.

So is it just me?  Was commercially processed canned tuna always like this?  Or has the quality fallen off in the past decade?  And if so, why has it fallen off?  Have there been changes in the handling methods that degrade the quality of the tuna, or is it just poorer quality meat that’s making it into the cans?

I admit that lately I’ve been springing for the more-expensive “albacore” tuna simply because it still looks like fish when it comes out of the can.  *sigh*

Book shopping at the dollar store leads to new reading experiences

Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by kara

I love to read and used to spend a LOT of money buying books.  In the past, I belonged to two book clubs and had ‘frequent flyer’ cards for three bookstores. I dropped a lot of cabbage on the latest offerings by my favorite authors.  And that’s pretty much why I bought books–so that I could read the very latest release from the authors I follow faithfully.

Back then I also had quite a lot of books, which took up a lot of room and gathered dust and caused more than one strained muscle during household moves.  I have, however, learned a little bit from moving household several times over my adult lifespan.  The most important lesson is that something is only valuable as long as you’re willing to move it.  Accordingly I’ve pared down my book collection, keeping only those books that are truly irreplaceable to me, i.e. books that have been inscribed by the gift givers, autographed copies, my own ‘first copies’ of a favorite book.

With our recent changes in fortune I’ve also had to change my spending habits related to books.  I go through books like some people go through Kleenex, so it’s not really money-wise for me to constantly buy new books, especially now that we are an under-employed family.

In order to feed my habit, I’ve always shopped at used book stores, and as we’ve become more frugal over the past couple of years I’ve become a consistent patron of my local lending library.  McKay Used Books here in Knoxville is a true mecca for readers and fans of movies, music and video games.  They buy and sell all sorts of media and while it’s nice to be able to trade-in a used book or movie, it’s still a tad expensive to buy my weekly ration of books.  And the library doesn’t always have what I’m trying to read, which leads to a lot of delays in reserving a copy–or disappointment when the book just isn’t in the library’s stacks and isn’t likely to be due to budget constraints.  I’ve had to curb my desire for the latest and greatest and content myself with re-reading some favorites.

Just a little while ago, I started browsing the selection of hard-backed books at my local dollar stores.  These are brand-new books, not always best-sellers, and it’s not likely I’ll find something for which I’ve been searching, but many are interesting and for $1, they’re always a good buy.  Because of that bargain price I can be a little more venturesome in choosing a book by ‘new’ authors (or authors who are ‘new to me’) or in a genre for which I might not pay full price at a bookstore.

For example, my most recent shopping trip yielded “Beau Brummell The Ultimate Man of Style,” a biography on the dandy by Ian Kelly.  I’m not one to gravitate toward biographies unless they’re about someone I admire, but the man who was the origin of the modern-day business suit had a fascinating life, which Kelly manages to illustrate lushly.

I’ve also discovered a new author in Wendy Corsi Staub, whose series starter “Lily Dale:  Awakening” is aimed toward teenage readers, but her writing is quick and entertaining even for a 40-year-old teenager.  She sucks the reader swiftly into Calla’s life and the story for a quick and enjoyable read.

I just finished “The Mercy of Thin Air” by Ronlyn Domingue, a story about a forward-thinking flapper who lost her life in a swimming pool accident but continues to inhabit the living’s plane of existence while trying to discover what became of the love of her life.  And I also lucked out and found “Dancing With Dogs,” by Mary Ray and Andrea McHugh, a book which describes how to train your dog to perform basic obedience moves which you can then choreograph and perform to music.  I bought three of these, one for Karen, Leslie Ann, and myself.  What a treat, to be able to find such a fitting gift at such a reasonable price!  But I’m disappointed because the ones who REALLY need to read this book (my DAWGS, duh!) have not yet read it and are refusing to train themselves.  *sigh*

While new, the books themselves are not always releases from the current year, but that’s not an issue since I’m only after entertainment–I’m not getting tax code information or cutting edge technical tips from them. I’m having fun with this diversity of reading, and even better, the books are cheaper than buying a pre-owned paperback at the used book store.  And when I finish a one, I can turn it in for more credit at the used book store!  Give it a try.  You might find something new to read, as long as you’re flexible and adventurous!

Things I worry about less as I age: Making nice

Saturday, June 20th, 2009 by kara

When I was younger, I was a social butterfly.  I used to want everybody to feel comfortable around me, and like hanging out with me.  In order to make people feel at ease, I’d hold off on expressing my true feelings about what the people around me said or did.  Don’t misunderstand, I was just as judgmental then as I am now–I was just better at hiding it when I was younger.

I think we’ve all experienced those moments when, during a casual conversation a companion expresses a viewpoint that is shockingly different from our own.  When something like that comes out, one can either express their disagreement and try to change the other’s mind, or walk away from that person, or just ignore the disconnect and change the subject.  It depends on the issue:  Some issues are merely irritating while other issues are morally crucial.

For example, I have friends whose political views differ hugely from my own, and since I know they’re not going to change their minds and I’m not going to change mine, we just don’t talk about politics.  On the extreme end of the issues spectrum, I believe that animals are sentient beings and should be cared for as such, regardless whether they’re domestic companion animals or livestock;  people who disagree and feel that animals are merely property and thus aren’t due the consideration and care that we humans are mandated to provide for them are usually unpleasant enough to me in that and other ways to make it worth my while to avoid them completely.  If I’m that uncomfortable with a person’s values, then I shouldn’t force myself to associate with them if I can avoid it.

But I didn’t always recognize that my values were valid reasons to terminate a relationship.  When I was younger, I enjoyed being a part of a diverse crowd and as a result, I would overlook comments that truly irritated me in the interest of maintaining a polite comfort level among my companions.  I became an expert at masking my shock and/or surprise at stupid comments and changing the topic swiftly.  Sports is usually a harmless and neutral topic, and back in Michigan a reference to the Red Wings was usually sufficient to redirect the conversation to a less-irritating area.  Unfortunately, the Wings don’t play all year long, and I’m not really a sporty-minded person, so I’d have to think quickly and choose the sport appropriate to the current season

Nowadays, I’m just not as eager or willing to hide my bemusement.  No longer do I have the willpower and self-control necessary to hold back the “Holy crap, you just said that piece of stupidity out loud” facial expression.  I’m less patient with people who strike me as annoying or ignorant, and I didn’t really know why I becoming less-tolerant–until it occurred to me that it’s okay to express my intolerance of stupidity.  Lord knows that no one else bothers to hide their intolerance of what they perceive as stupid.  And it feels good to let someone know that I disagree with their point of view–when I voice my own opinion, I validate my opinion.  And if the other person is offended, that’s fine because I don’t really want to spend time with that sort of person anyway.  Dissembling (i.e., ‘making nice’) is a form of lying, and it bothers me to lie.  I don’t ‘make nice’ very well as I grow older and become more honest.

Time is short!  Why spend it with someone who irritates you?  Why hide your umbrage when that’s greater than the satisfaction you get from that relationship?  Shakespeare’s Polonius advised his son, Laertes, “This above all:  To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  I look at it like this:  Even though you may offend someone by being truthful about your feelings for them, you’re doing the right thing in the long run.

“Invisible fences:” Pros, cons, worthwhile?

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by kara

Most dogs enjoy hanging out outside and investigating their yard, barking at the birds/other dogs/FedEx truck/USPS truck/the wind, and laying in the sun.  You do, however, want your dog to stay at home in his own yard while he’s enjoying the outdoors.  The best method for keeping your dog safely contained is a functional fence, either a chain link or wooden fence that’s tall enough to dissuade your dog from challenging it, and sturdy enough to contain your dog if something should come by and challenge your dog’s authority in the neighborhood.

The fence also protects your dog from outside nuisances, like rowdy neighborhood kids with sling shots and pellet guns, and loose dogs wandering by on the street–a good fence will not only keep your babies safe at home, it will also protect your furkids from many different elements which you may not even have considered as threats.

Fencing can be expensive though, and there are some neighborhoods which don’t allow homeowners to install a functional fence in any part of their yard.  If you’re a dogparent or are planning to become a dogparent, it’s best to investigate your neighborhood’s zoning rules regarding fencing before buying a house there. Seriously, it’s quite the bummer if you can’t use your own yard in the way you’d like just because of the subdivision’s bylaws, and this may not have been something you’d considered before buying a house.  Learn from our experiences and check out the neighborhood’s zoning and bylaws before you buy!

Although your dog may love the Great Outdoors, you probably don’t want to hang out him every minute he spends outside.  You do still need to take measures to keep him safe and secure though, and that’s where a fence comes in.  And don’t even get me started on the “backyard dog chained to his dog house” situation–if you’re going to chain your dog outside, be aware that you’re putting your animal on the defensive by leaving him exposed to every other animal to come into HIS yard and challenge him, while forcing him to stay in one spot–he can’t even run away and hide from another aggressive dog who’s roaming loose!  Chains also restrict a dog’s movement and can cause injury to his back and neck.  Would YOU want to be chained to your desk at work, or to the sofa in your livingroom?  Didn’t think so.  Please don’t chain your animal!

Some dogs just naturally stay in their own yards, having no desire to ‘go walkabout’ or chase joggers or cars or other animals.  These petparents are fortunate indeed!  But I still wouldn’t trust furkids completely.  They ARE animals, after all, and as such they operate by a different set of motivators of which we are completely ignorant.

What about invisible fencing?  It’s invisible, so your yard looks the same as it did before installation, provides a barrier (of sorts) to keep your dog in your own yard, and doesn’t cost as much as traditional fencing.  The idea behind invisible fencing is that positive and negative reinforcement TRAINING keeps your dog inside the boundaries of your yard.  Essentially, the fence is as effective as your training was thorough.  Right after the fence is installed, and during the initial training period, you use flags as a visual marker to show your dog the boundaries within which he can roam.  When the dog approaches the boundaries while wearing the electric fence’s matching collar, he may receive a small warning shock, or hear a warning tone or click that tells him he’s getting too close to the boundary.  Showing your dog this warning zone, and rewarding his immediate return to the safe zone, reinforces his presence in the yard positively.

If he attempts to cross the boundary, he experiences a real, live shock that is intended to dissuade him from wanting to leave the yard.  I’ve seen some dogs who’ve learned to respect the invisible fence boundary completely, but I have some reservations about their effectiveness.

First of all, the boundary is only effective as long as your dog stays inside it.  If your dog manages to figure out that after enduring one big shock he can roam free, what’s really to keep him in?  Worse yet, if your dog DOES manage to bust out of the invisible fence, he’ll get a shock when he tries to come back IN to his own yard.  Negative reinforcement training for returning home!  FAIL.  This is kind of like laws intended to control illegal firearm possession and use:  ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’

Another problem I have with invisible fences is that (like a chain) they keep your dog in the yard, but they don’t prevent other animals from entering the yard and threatening (and possibly injuring) YOUR dog.  That would be kind of like handcuffing yourself to the kitchen sink faucet, while propping the front door open and letting any Tom, Dick or Harry wander in off the street.  Think about it:  You’d feel pretty vulnerable, chained to the faucet, while strangers rifled through your DVDs and sampled the contents of your refrigerator, wouldn’t you?  Think of how your dog might feel if all the loose dogs in the neighborhood could come into HIS yard, but he wasn’t allowed to run away and hide.  He might feel threatened, and forced to defend his territory, and being confined, he’d be at a disadvantage.

Invisible fences also don’t prevent people from stealing your dog.  Granted, regular fences don’t always prevent that either but a four-foot cyclone fence with a lock on the gate will certainly slow down a bait-dog-napper more than an invisible fence would do.  A privacy fence also offers your dog protection from rowdy neighborhood kids, and by blocking his view of the outside world a little bit, might keep your dog a tad bit quieter.

Regardless what type of fence you have or are planning to install, please don’t allow the fence to be a substitute for your presence.  I myself am guilty of just letting my dogs out the backdoor to hang out in the yard, when I should be spending time with them out there.  Whether it’s playing, exercising, training, or just enjoying the sun with your furkids, be with them when they’re outside–you’ll both be happier for it.

Impossibly tough decisions and sadness

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by kara

I can’t put this off any longer.  It’s a heartbreaking topic, and I have to write about it for two reasons:  The first is that writing about it helps me to process and understand and eventually accept it, and the second reason is to make others more aware of how difficult and worthwhile and joyful and heartbreaking animal rescue can be.

On May 12, I made the decision to euthanize my foster dog, Coalby.

One minute he was a beautiful, vital, wiggly, soft, furry boy and the next he was a lifeless body.  I made that decision.  I gave the word. I killed him.  Well, I didn’t actually kill him–the vet gave him the injection, but I put his euthanasia in motion so in my mind it might as well have been me pushing down the plunger on that syringe.

In case you’re wondering, yes, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  And yes, I felt indescribably terrible about doing it.  I cried for days and am still crying about it better than a month later.  It’s no small decision.  It’s a horrible weight on my heart.  I made the decision to take the life of a living being who was dependent on me for food, shelter, love and guidance.  He trusted me and I sent him to The Bridge.

Coalby was at the local animal shelter when he came to Cocker Companions Rescue on October 3, 2008.  He was a gorgeous dog, and young and healthy, to boot.  He was picked up as a stray, and had shown significant aggression toward other dogs while he was in his own crate, so we were very cautious with him.  We didn’t have any foster homes available who could take him, because everyone had either other dogs or cats  (or both) in their homes.

However, OUT of the crate, he was a beautiful, wiggly lovey-boy who wanted to play with tennis balls more than anything else in the world.  He was an athletic dog, very energetic and active, a truly happy guy with an endearing habit of turning his head to listen to people when they talked to him.  Although he had some issues, he seemed to be a very promising young man.  Because he had acted aggressively toward other dogs, Coalby ended up living in boarding until October 28, which is when I decided to foster him, to see if we could learn more about his behavior and get him accustomed to living in a real home.

My four kids were amazingly receptive and welcomed Coalby with open paws.  (Belle, Riley, Skipper and Gigi are wonderfully patient and kind dogs, and have been so accepting of all the foster dogs that have come through our home–I owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude.)  I kept Coalby separated from the rest of the herd for part of the day, and allowed them to mingle occasionally when I was home to keep an eye on everyone.  Coalby was still very possessive of his toys, so we decided to pick up inside toys, and let them play with outside toys in the yard where there was more room and less opportunity for anyone to feel cornered or challenged.

Since Coalby was a beautiful all-black cocker, he was very popular on our Petfinder listing.  He got a lot of attention, but his toy possessiveness and intolerance for other dogs gave many would-be adopters pause.  Finally, in November, he got noticed by a woman who wanted to bring a fun, athletic young dog into her and her husband’s home.  We emphasized Coalby’s need for ongoing training and EXERCISE to manage his tennis ball obsession, and they agreed with our plan for him, insisting that they’d follow through with continued training and exercising Coalby to help wear him out and keep him calm.

Then in the middle of April of this year, Coalby’s petparents contacted Karen back, telling her that he had been aggressive with people outside their immediate family, and that they didn’t feel capable of managing his aggression.  Karen and I were both shocked because of all Coalby’s quirks, he had never shown aggression toward humans.  We couldn’t say for certain that we knew him well enough to rule out aggression to people, but he hadn’t been at our house for very long, and we hadn’t had any visitors while he was fostering here.  We wanted to know more about what was going on–and of course if he was aggressive toward people, we’d do the right thing.

When Coalby’s petparents brought him back to us, I was surprised at the difference in his personality.  Instead of being the happy, outgoing, engaged boy he was back in October, he seemed detached from anyone and everyone around him, preferring to mouth his tennis ball instead of approach people for love and petting.  Okay, we figured that he was pretty traumatized at leaving his adoptive home, so we gave him a few days to settle in.  He didn’t show any aggression toward any people right away, so I brought him back home to hang out with us for a while and see what was going on.

Over several days, Coalby seemed to loosen up a little bit and we started seeing the happy, lovey boy that we knew from before.  He was still obsessed with his tennis balls, however, so we were careful to keep them away from the other dogs.  And then one night, Coalby growled when Rick tried to pet him while he was eating.  Rick said later that he didn’t know if it was a real growl, or if Coalby was burping.  After several more similar incidents, we accepted that Coalby had changed in some way over the past several months, and not for the better.

I decided to deliberately try to provoke him, and tested Co-Coal with some yogurt to see if I could get him to growl while he ate it.  I had my hands all over him, petting him and rubbing him all over while he slurped up vanilla low-fat yogurt, and even took the bowl away and gave it back several times–he didn’t make a peep.  I reported this to Karen with great relief.  “Coalby is still a good boy!  He didn’t challenge me even with a bowl of yummy, lovely yogurt on the line!”

Then, later on that day, I tested him again while he was eating his regular kibble–and got a real, serious growl this time.  That’s not good.  A rescue dog can’t be aggressive toward humans over anything, ever.  Over the next few days, Coalby started to guard his food, or his toys, or just his ex-pen.  We’d reach down to pet his head and he’d growl as if we meant to take his tennis ball, and fix us with that scary “thousand yard stare.”  Or even scarier, he’d whip his head around as if to snap at us without even a warning growl.  So we tried to find out if Coalby had a ‘trigger’ that we could reliably use to cause the aggressive behavior.  If we could identify a trigger, we could then remove that trigger and avoid any further aggression.

Does it happen when there’s food around?  Does it happen when there are toys around?  Is it just tennis balls, or is it all toys? Is it food in general, or is it particularly yummy treats?  We tried taking just tennis balls away, then we tried taking all toys away…we tried every combination we could think of, and unfortunately we couldn’t nail down that behavior to any one element.  Coalby was becoming more unpredictable by the day, and he didn’t have any problem with challenging Rick and I.

Who knows what happened in his little head?  Maybe this was the real Coalby coming out, and we just didn’t have enough time to get comfortable with him before.  Maybe this was just the way his viewpoint of the world was changing as he aged.

The only reason I can find for how we could have missed seeing this behavior in him is that he didn’t spend enough time with us to truly relax and let us see his true nature, which was alpha male through-and-through.  Karen and I agonized about what to do with him.  I could still see his amazing personality (he really WOULD cock his head to the side when he listened to you!), but I was becoming more and more afraid of him.  It was impossible to tell when he’d allow you to pet him, and when he’d stiffen and snap if you reached toward him.

I know that the first time Coalby stayed with us, my dogs were very cautious around him, and darling little Gigi was traumatized by his extreme alpha presence in the household.  She showed me her fear when she looked me in the eye and wet on the carpet right in front of the door to the deck.  But I honestly thought that she was more upset by the presence of a new dog in the household, as she hadn’t been with us for very long herself.  I should have seen her fear and recognized what frightened her, but I wanted to believe that with the right home and the right training and enough exercise, that Coalby would thrive.

Karen and I talked about Coalby at extreme length;  well, she talked and I cried and blew snot bubbles out of my nose while I blubbered.  I really, truly wanted Coalby to be a safe, dependable friend, but I couldn’t keep him with me and I didn’t have the expertise to work him through this behavioral problem, anyway.  Karen said that Coalby MIGHT be salvagable if he could live and work intensively with an experienced trainer for a year, maybe longer…and that trainer couldn’t have any other dogs or cats, and probably not any kids, either.

We don’t know anyone like that.  And knowing all of Coalby as we now did, we couldn’t adopt him out to anyone else who was any less experienced with dogs.  We decided to send him to The Rainbow Bridge, so that he wouldn’t actually get to the point where he hurt someone.

Talk about a terrible weight on your heart.  A horrendous responsibility.  Taking a life, even for these reasons.  I know there are worse things than death, especially a peaceful, easy death.  If Coalby had been adopted out to a less-than-enlightened family, he might have been beaten to death as punishment for biting a family member.  Or he could have been sold on Craig’s List as a bait dog for dog fighting.  Or he could have been dumped in a remote area by someone who didn’t want the responsibility of an aggressive dog, ending up poisoned or hit by a car or attacked by a coyote or shot for sport by callous kids…

I told myself that we’d rescued him from being an unwanted stray, and that we’d given him a second chance to have a happy life with a family, and that’s all we could do for him.  But there was just something in him that didn’t allow him to live peacefully alongside humans and other dogs, and for everyone’s safety he needed to go home to The Bridge.  In that way, we’d save him once again from being an unwanted stray.

It’s such a huge responsibility.  It would have been so much easier on Karen and I if we had been able to just send Coalby somewhere else and say “SOMEBODY will take care of him and do the right thing by him, even if it’s not us.”  But we know what he’s like, and we know what could possibly happen to him if he got into the hands of someone else who wasn’t as mindful of his well-being.  And we know that working in rescue means very often having to make these tough decisions, and taking responsibility for ending a life mercifully.

Karen and I were there with Coalby when he went to The Bridge on May 12.  He had his tennis ball and a tummy full of Zuke’s Peanut Butter Treats, and Karen’s and my arms were around him.  I held his little face in my hands and rested my forehead on his, and told him I loved him.  When he went limp it felt like my soul was being torn out of my body, but somehow it hurt worse than that ever could.  I hope he forgives me.  I hope that he’s whole and happy at The Bridge, and that he’s having fun with all our other furkids who’ve gone there before him.  And I hope that when it comes my turn to go to The Bridge, that he remembers me and cocks his head to hear me call him, and that he brings me his tennis ball to throw for him.

Things I worry about less as I age: Bravado

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 by kara

So our gutters are clogged up (again) and my wonderful husband was about to climb up there and dig them out last Saturday.  He was going to do this hisself because we are underemployed right now, and cannot afford to hire someone to come and do for us.  He was hesitant about getting up on the ladder, so I went to exchange my faux-Crocs for actual, lace-up shoes and climb up myself.

Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, does it?  Just climb on up there and use the garden trowel and the hose to show those downspouts who’s boss.  And I’m way shorter than he is, so I’m naturally more nimble.  Well, it’s not all that simple. Ya gotta see our house.  We have a ranch-type house, which is actually a bi-level.

This means that one end of the house looks like a plain old ranch which is kind of built into a slope, and the other end of the house looks like a two-story home.  We have a six-foot folding ladder which we set up on the back deck, that allows us to reach the roof on that side of the house.  This does NOT, however, protect us from falling arse-over-teakettle off the opposite end of the roof, which boasts almost a 20-foot-drop to the hard-packed clay of our Tennessee yard.  Or to the unforgiving cement of our driveway.

And of course the downspouts that are clogged are the ones at the high end of the roof.  For Pete’s sake, there is a BIRD’S NEST on one of the downspouts at the high end, and I worry about the baby birds leaving the nest prematurely and splatting in the yard!  This is quite an unforgiving height, people!

I got to the top of ladder, had my palms touching the shingles, and then I looked off to my left, toward the high end of the roof.  I saw that drop, almost as if for the first time, and I contemplated the consequences of falling off that end of the roof and landing with an ominous thud sound on that hard-packed clay ground.  It struck me that if one of us fell off that end of the roof, that it would undoubtedly mean hospital time.  SERIOUS hospital time, if not actual death, or worse.

Keep in mind that in my earlier days, I was very adventurous and somewhat athletic.  I mountain biked, played softball, Rollerbladed, and in my spare time I served two communities as a volunteer firefighter.  In that capacity I did many silly things, including capering about on the roofs of peoples’ houses, and I did them with alacrity.  I’m not certain why I was so foolhardy back then.  Part of that bravado can be attributed to indestructible, fast-healing youth, part of it to not wanting to be seen as weak by the people around me.

And I can now acknowledge that I did have a delusional trust in my turn-out gear’s ability to protect me from any and all harm, although that might have been a tad naive:  I’m not certain how steel-shanked rubber boots and a fire helmet could protect me in the event of a 12-foot fall, but then again I never devoted a lot of thought to that potentiality.  I only knew that if I followed procedure and wore my equipment properly, that nothing bad would ever happen to me, ever!

Yep, I was delusional.

When I was a firefigher, I was much younger and therefore capable of withstanding more damage and healing more rapidly.  I was also covered by health insurance courtesy of my full-time jobs and the fire departments.  So just in case something awful DID happen to me, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’d have to try to walk off a 12-foot-drop from a steeply-pitched roof rather than go to the emergency room.

There was a combination of powerful forces influencing my decision last Saturday:  1.) I’m older and don’t bounce as well as I used to, so there’s a good chance of me being seriously injured, and 2.) I’m uninsured now, which means that I have to be careful about treating an embedded splinter with respect in order to avoid huge medical bills–much less DOING SOMETHING STUPID LIKE CLIMBING UP ON A ROOF TO CLEAN THE DAMNED GUTTERS.  Plus, I am a tad older now, and my flexibility, strength and reaction time is just a bit ‘lesser’ than it was at my peak.  I really shouldn’t be tempting fate.

I rationalized this all out and convinced myself I was being sensible and careful by forbidding Rick to go up on the roof, and declining to climb up there myself.  But there was still that little, smirky voice in the back of my head whispering “Chickenshit.”  The bullheaded, stubborn part of me wanted to push through this fear.  Even today, the bullhead still wants me to put some long pants and tie a long rope around my waist and drop it over the ridge vent to tie to the truck bumper in the driveway, and get this shite done.  And the chickenshit part of me says “Don’t be stupid.  Let it go.”

So I’m gonna just let it go.  The gutters can overflow until we can afford to hire someone to come and clean them out for us.  Now all I have to do is get over the shame of being chickenshit scairt.  But being chickenshit scairt and in one piece is better than being broken, or dead.

MinuteRant: You don’t NEED to use all of that six-foot-long dog leash!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by kara

I attended a local gathering last week for human and animal fans of rescue, and while scanning the crowd I noticed AGAIN that lots of petparents have no idea how to restrain their furkids properly in public.

A leash is a tool intended to help the petparent maintain control of their furkid.  Our dogs and cats and ferrets and rabbits may enjoy hanging out with us in public, but they lack a certain awareness of their surroundings.  They’re ignorant of the finer points of behavior in a crowd, and must depend on their parents to guide them.

The leash allows petparents to keep their furkid close to them at all times, and to monitor the furkid’s response to external stimuli, such as the darling three-year-old child of man with the stick of cotton candy bigger than her head.  Tighten up on that leash, please, sir!  Just because you HAVE a six-foot-long leash, madame, that DOESN’T mean you have to USE all six feet!

There’s a loop on one end to go around your wrist, just in case you lose your grip on the leash.  SO PUT YOUR HAND ALL THE WAY THROUGH THAT LOOP and then grab the leash a little further down!  If you stick your fingers through the loop and hold on to the very end of that leash, your furkid has a whole lot of area around you in which to wander unmonitored.  That leaves your pet vulnerable to getting stepped on by other people, or picking up some tasty tidbit of trash which you don’t want them to throw up on your carseat later, or maybe even getting tangled with a stranger and injured in the resulting fight.

On a less-dangerous but more annoying note, allowing your animal to wander at the very end of its leash means they’re getting in other peoples’ way, blocking their path, and maybe even tripping them.  This is just RUDE, my friends.  Please stop to consider the other beings around you, and be polite by not blocking the way!

It always amazes me how much land a Great Dane can occupy.  That area is squared–nay, CUBED–by the factors of a six-foot lead and the owner’s outstretched arm.  There’s a lot of traffic that comes to a halt because of a big dog at the end of a long lead held in the owner’s fingertips.

Just as hazardous, though, is a toy breed at the end of a FlexiLead.  Chihuahuas seem to be much more confident than they should be, given their size, and you will ALWAYS find a Chihuahua at the very end of their Flexi.  Flexis may be more dangerous than a regular nylon or leather lead because they multiply the distance factor so hugely.  Your dog is sneaky:  He can get into trouble when he’s only two and one-half feet away from you, so consider what he can accomplish if he’s 10 or 12 feet away!  And Flexis are insidious–the cord is very lightweight and can be difficult to see in a crowd.  A distracted owner remains connected to their dog, even though 12 or 15 feet of cord may have played out between the two.  The owner regains consciousness, decides to look for their dog, releases the lock on the Flexi, and 12 feet of spring-assisted cord zip back into tension through the air, cutting off limbs of innocent bystanders and throttling other nearby pets.

All right, the hyperbole was awfully heavy in that last paragraph, but have you ever had a rope burn from a Flexi?  OWIE!  There are limited applications for the Flexi, and walking in a heavy crowd is NOT one of them.

Petparents, take your furkids with you whenever possible, but be considerate of them and of others around you.  Don’t let your pet wander at the end of its leash, and PLEASE make sure that whichever specie you decide to love, that you can safely control them in public.  Oh, and it would be NICE if you’d carry poop bags with you and USE THEM WHENEVER NECESSARY.  People who like dogs don’t necessarily like dog poop.  Thank you.