Monday, December 29, 2008

"A sleeping puppy is a good puppy"

I recently heard someone say that a sleeping puppy is a good puppy and I couldn't agree more! Sasha is exhausting, but I think we are both adjusting pretty well. We make sure to take a 20 - 30 minute walk in the morning before I go to work and again when I get home in the evening. That usually either tires her out or gets her even more worked up. I think this morning's walk just served to ramp her up because when I got home from work, she had shredded the bed sheet that I use to cover her kennel when she's in it. It's a good thing I used old sheets, towels and blankets!

She's growing like a weed. Her legs are getting longer, her body is stretching out and she's what the adoption woman would call an "agressive chewer". She's a big fan of chewing on my hands, which we are working stopping post-haste! She also has several toys that she takes her aggressions out on. Her favorite is "Dolly", which is a pink squeaky toy whose arms and legs are tugs. Poor Dolly. She's been sewn up twice already. A mere 4 days into having her, her belly was ripped open and stuffing was coming out. Fortunately, a little thread and a needle and she was as good as new. Tonight, I stitched up Dolly's neck and shoulder. Her head was slowly being ripped off. Anything that squeaks, rings or chimes usually gets her attention pretty fast, so she spends tens of minutes constantly biting down on Dolly's belly to make her squeak over and over. She's a very smart dog!

She adapts to most situations pretty well. Over the holiday, she went with me down to Troy's family farm in southern Indiana, where she had a great time playing with Wally, a chocolate lab that lives at the farm. We then took a long ride up to Fort Wayne to my parents' house. I don't think my mom's cat, Loo, was thrilled to have a new houseguest, but Sasha had a great time and adapted to a new front door where she would stand when she wanted to go outside. She's wasn't quite sure what to make of the snow though and insisted on finding some grass before she would do her business. Once the rain fell and the snow melted, she had a great time rolling around in the yard getting wet and icky. Fun! We then visited Troy at his house when we got back from our holiday excursion. She loves Troy and his house. He has a much better runway for her to race down and back and she loves her Troy! There is MUCH tail wagging and jumping for his attention when he comes to visit us.

She continues to do well at learning "sit" and "lay down". She knows that if she wants out of her kennel or if she wants to go outside, she has to sit. She's even getting steadily better at ringing a bell when she wants to go outside. I know I'm biased, but I'm certain she's brilliant.

Unfortunately, she's also stubborn. I swear all I ever say is "no", "what are you eating?" and "drop it!" It was easy enough to teach her how to sit and how to lay down, but I haven't quite figured out how to teach her to "drop it" or "leave it". Luckily, we start training classes early in January. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for teaching these skills, I'm all ears!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace on Earth. Good will to men (and puupies and kitties)


I guess the spirit of the season has gotten into the animals in my house. While I was making some cookies and hot chocolate (the perfect Christmas Eve snack), I went into the living room and what did I find? Phoebe and Sasha sharing the couch! Okay, I admit it. Sharing may be too strong a word. Sasha was fine with Phoebe being near her, but I can't say the feeling was mutual for Phoebe. Phoebe was keeping her eyes firmly affixed on the interloper and I could distinctly hear a low gutteral growl eminating from her. She is certainly not pleased with the newest member of our household.

Fortunately, Sasha is getting much better about not going after the cats every time that they move. The trainer suggested I use a spray bottle of water and a can filled with coins. Any time Sasha goes near one of the cats, I spray her and LOUDLY bang the can of coins. My hope is that eventually she will learn that when she goes after the cats, all hell breaks loose. After a few days of this, she is already giving the cats a wide berth most of the time. I'm hopeful that by the time she is MUCH bigger than them, she will just completely leave them alone rather than thinking of them as her own personal toys.

In the meantime, she is growing bigger every day. She is constantly learning (and chewing). She's gotten very good at "sit" and knows she has to do it before I will let her out of her kennel, before she is allowed to go outside to potty and before she gets her "Dolly". "Dolly" is a pink stuffed dog toy that has a squeaker inside of it. She loves it and it's been patched up once already after she ripped a hole in Dolly's belly. Currently, Sasha is working on tearing her head off. I'm certain she'll be successful at some point.
When I first got her (a mere 3 weeks ago), I found it hard to believe that she would eventually have the standard German Shepherd ears that stand up. But today when we were taking a ride in the car, she was looking up at me with those sweet brown eyes and I noticed that one of her ears now stands up and the other one is still floppy. It cracked me up! It's just hilarious. You really should see it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Make room, please

As a city, I think most Indianapolis drivers are fairly courteous. If you turn on your signal indiciating that you would like to change lanes, they generally will make room for you. As a motorcyclist, I very often take advantage of this courtesy when I'm at a light and I need to get over. I generally get the attention of the driver I would like to merge in front of and use hand signals to ask if I can get over. About 99.9% of the time, they nod in a way that says, "certainly". As I said before, this is most definitely not the case everywhere. In fact, in my hometown of Fort Wayne, it's a tough sell to get another motorist to let you into their lane. It stands to reason that this should not be the case. Fort Wayne is considerably smaller than Indianapolis (250,000 vs 1,500,000) and people in smaller towns are nicer, right? Apparently not. Perhaps it's that we big(ger) city dwellers know the feeling of trying to make our way through heavy traffic on a daily basis and wish others were nicer to us, so we hold out hope that they will be by being nicer to them.

Unfortunately, I've noticed a disturbing trend lately. When I signal to get over, rather than making room for me, LOTS of people have been speeding up so that I can't get over. What's going on? Is it the rush of the holidays? Is it the downturn in the economy that makes everyone want to take care of #1 at all costs? Is it simply the breakdown of polite society? Come on, people! Let's turn this around. We're the midwest. We're nice people. We Hoosiers are nothing if not hospitable! So, let's take this hospitality to the streets. If someone signals to get over, let them over. I promise it won't affect your drive time. In fact, perhaps if we all adopt this policy, we'll get to our destinations safely, cheerfully and on time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So much time...(cont) AKA Stuff that's totally doable!

We've covered items that I know won't be done, but what's doable given my time/money constraints?

#12. Run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon - This one has been modified to "Complete the Indianapolis Mini Marathon" and I'm already registered for the 2009 running. Come out and support me and all the other runners on May 2, 2009. It's a great time!

#16. Workout at least 30 minutes 500 times - Thanks to the puppy, I'm back on track. I had been a couch slug for the last couple of weeks, but that's certainly not a lifestyle you can have if you have a puppy. We're out for 30 minute walks at least once a day and 15 - 20 minute walks another time. I'm certain that as she gets older and becomes an adolescent dog, she will need even more of these outings.

#18. Wear make-up every day for one month - My problem so far has been the weekends. Since I don't really get dressed up to go out on dates, weekend make-up has somehow become a thing of the past. I'm either gonna have to modify my expectations (it IS my list, right?) or buckle down for those 8 days out of the month. Still, not an insurmountable task.

#19 and #20. Be in bed by 10 PM and up by 6 AM every day for a week - My hope is that once Sasha's bladder gets a little bigger, we can make it through 8 hours without a bathroom break. (I actually don't have a problem - most of the time. LOL) The 6 AM isn't a problem since she's usually raring to go, but getting to bed by 10 PM seems a bit early for her right now. She's rather nap on the couch than actually go to bed, I think.

#30. Bowl a 500 series - Every week I keep trying and trying. Some weeks I get closer than others. I have 16 chances left to do it during my bowling league. I think I can...I think I can.

#85. Read 50 books - I'm sure I could squeeze this one in....I think. Suggestions of short, interesting, quick reads would be greatly appreciated.

#98. Try out one new recipe once a month for 6 months - Heck, I'm 5/6 of the way there. One more recipe certainly isn't going to be a stretch.

If you have any suggestions for completing these items or any other items not crossed off of my list, I would greatly appreciate your help. Know how to drive a manual transmisson and want to let me borrow your car to practice? Great! (hahaha) Have an extra hot air balloon or limo laying around that you need a passenger for? I'm your girl! Have a worthy charity I can make a donation to when I'm finished with the items I'm gonna finish? Who can I make the check out to?

So little time and so much to do! AKA List items that WON'T get done.

As of today, there are only 209 days left to complete my list. YIKES! I know I've said it before, but it's time to buckle down. So far, I've completed 39/101 items. Not too shabby, really. So, a review and then I need your help!

Let's start with items I KNOW are not going to be completed in time:

#15. Weigh less than 150 pounds
- I've been quite lax in my diet and workout routine lately. I could blame the dog or the holidays or a busy schedule. The truth of the matter is I just haven't done the work. Those Biggest Loser people can do it in a mere 6 months, but they've got Bob and Jillian (and no jobs to go to or animals to attend to). Perhaps a good bout with the stomach flu could get me pushed in the right direction....or not.

#26. Get married or be planning my wedding
- HA! Enough said. After all, who wants a family when a puppy is so much work!

#32. Buy a new car
- Short of the wheels falling off of the one I have (which could totally happen), I'm pretty sure this isn't in the budget. For more insight, see #34 and #36 below.

#34. Pay off my credit cards
- I'm definitely making progress, but this is more a mountain than a molehill. I think perhaps it was biting off a bit more than I could chew to think I could do it in just 1001 days. If I win the lottery, it's entirely possible, but short of that, I think we're gonna have to chuck this one. For now.

#36. Have $XXX,XXX in my 401(k) plan
- HAHAHAHAHAHA Ohh. stomach hurts from laughing so much. When I started this plan on October 18, 2006, I needed to earn about 9.50% (taking into account my future contributions) in order to get to my goal. By the end of 2006, that number had dropped to 8.75%. That's certainly not impossible considering that I'm young and quite aggressively invested. In April of 2007, my company added a Roth 401(k) option to our regular 401(k). I took advantage and lowered my required earnings to 8.00%. It was definitely headed in the right direction! By the end of 2007 (beginning of 2008), I had received two raises (which raised my contributions as well as my employer's matching contributions), increased my deferral percentage and had a pretty great year of earnings. These factors all combined to drop the interest rate I need to earn down to a paltry 5.00%! Woohoo. I was well on my way and my plan seemed to be working. Enter economic meltdown. Despite raising my contributions again (all those stocks are on sale right now, so I had to snag them up!) and getting yet another salary increase, the 38% loss I've taken this year really hurts. As of Monday, I need to earn 92% from now until next July in order to hit my goal. HAHAHAHA I think I've got better odds in Vegas!

#37. Have 9 months of earning in my savings
- I've done a pretty good job of saving consistently, but I think this one might still be a bit out of my reach. Again, a lottery win would definitely push me over into the success category.

#68. Take 3 photography classes
- Unless they are VERY brief classes (perhaps a one day seminar?), I don't think this is gonna get checked off of the list. And I really wanted to do it too. Darn.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Psst...Come close...I have a secret

After several days of feeling like a zombie from sleep deprivation, I did some internet mining and came up with a few possible ways to put my puppy to sleep and to get her to sleep through the night. Up until then, she was waking me up between every 45 minutes to an hour with a blood-curdling noise that sounded like someone was strangling her. I'm guessing that's because she hasn't really gotten her bark yet. A woman can only take sleep deprivation for so long before desperate times call for desperate measures.

So, here is the magical formula that I have hit upon for getting my 9-week-old puppy to sleep through the night:

1. I put a battery-operated clock that ticks into her kennel. Her kennel is a metal grate one that expands to fit her size as she grows. Right now it is set pretty small, so I just put the clock on the other side of the divider so that she can't get to it to chew it up. I remember we did this when I was a child and we had a new puppy. I guess it's supposed to simulate the beating of the mother's heart.

2. I placed one of my workout t-shirts into the kennel. It was dirty, of course, so it smelled like me. I chose a t-shirt that I didn't really care about just in case she decided to use it as a chew toy. For her, the smell of my sweaty pits is apparently comforting. Peee-ewww.

3. I covered the entire kennel with a bed sheet - kind of like one would do to a bird cage. That keeps it warm in there, out of the sight of kitties and keeps her from being distracted by me. If she can't see me, she doesn't insist on being with me.

4. Most importantly, I make sure she is good and exhausted. We play with a ball and she chases her tug as I swirl it around my legs, we take a long walk and occasionally go to have a little play date with the dogs that live on either side of me. She LOVES to play with the little terrier that lives next door.

The verdict
: Before these night time rituals were put into place, there was about 20 minutes of barking, howling, etc before she would settle down. She would wake up and start howling about 6 times throughout the night and if I got up to go to the bathroom, that really set her off. The first nightof this experiment, there was about 10 minutes of howling in the beginning, but she slept (or was at least quiet) for a glorious 6 hours! It felt like a lifetime to me. Night #2, there was about 5 minutes of ruckus at the beginning, but 7 hours of sleep. Finally, the last two mornings, I have had to wake her up. On Saturday morning, I actually got up and checked to make sure she was still alive at about 8 AM. She was and we both went back to sleep for a bit. YEAH!

Now I have a new problem: The litter box has become a veritable magnet for her. She loves to dig in there and grab out EW! I don't get it. When she gets bigger, I can put up a gate that the cats can get through, but she can't. For now, does anyone have any solutions for this dilemna? How can I teach her that despite its allure, the kitty box is off limits?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sasha update - end of Day 2

Sasha update:

1) She's getting quite good at the "sit" command. It helps that I give her treats every time she does it right. ...and that her butt is only 5 inches from the floor.

2) Once she got over the initial frustration of being trapped in a wire kennel a few feet away from me (read about 20 minutes of whimpering and barking), we all slept quite well the first night. The second night was not so great. It started out pretty well. She whimpering for about 1 minute and then laid down. However, she was back up and being vocal at 12:45, 1:15, 2:30, 3:15. Finally, at 5:45, we got up and went outside to potty.

3) Potty training is going quite well. I think she's learning that when we go outside, that is her chance to relieve herself. Now we just need to work on a routine, growing a bit bigger bladder and learning to tell me if she has to go out at other various times.

4) She is 8 weeks old and has 2 speeds - hyperspeed and dead to the world. She's VERY cute when she's exhausted and sleeping, but it takes a LONG time to get there. She has a TON of energy. I've promised her a long walk tonight when I get home. Wish me luck. Her preferred speed is running. This may be the best weight loss plan ever!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The newest family member

Since having to put Troy's dog, Sisko, put to sleep in August of 2007, I have been missing him a lot. While I have two cats, I've been especially missing the great doggy-lovin's that I got when he was a part of my life. I've also been feeling like I wanted to add some security to my house. As a single woman, I would rather not keep a gun in the house and I'm certain the cats wouldn't give me enough warning nor would they deter a would-be burglar. So, in the spirit our president-elect, I searched for a new puppy. Actually, I intended to get a little older dog so as to avoid all the puppiness that includes biting, chewing, potty training, etc, etc, however, after a brief search on the internet, I found a couple of 8 week old German Shepherd mixed puppies. They were going to be available for the first time today, so Troy and I went to check them out. I didn't intend to get one today, but you know how it is with babies, kitties and puppies - their cuteness makes it nearly impossible to say no to them.

After spending a couple of hours playing with the two puppies, I decided on one that was named Aubrey. (I have since changed her name to Sasha). I bought out the pet store, or so it seemed, getting all of the required puppy gear.

It's 7 hours later and she's sacked out on the couch next to me. The kitties are dealing and things have gone quite well with them. After a bit of hissing and a lot of sniffing, so far, so good. (Keep your fingers crossed.) I'm gonna take Sasha for some obedience classes, so I'm hoping she will continue to be well-behaved. If you have any tips/dos/don'ts, please feel free to share with me. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Road Rage - Part 2

As a kid, my family didn't have a lot of money, so we very rarely took vacations and when we did, they were nearly always long weekend road trips. We'd drive up to Michigan and go to the lake shore or to the Indiana Dunes. We drove to Minnesota to visit my dad's family and ventured to southern Indiana to see the sights. We'd pack a cooler with sodas and juice, sandwiches and brownies.

Back then, the destinations didn't really matter to me all that much. I enjoyed riding in the car. I'd take along my pillow and blanket, books, dolls, cards and other games to play with my brother in the backseat. If it was a really great (or long) trip, we'd fold down the backseat in our family station wagon and really get to stretch out. We'd each call dibs on one of the two cubby holes that were built into the side of our car where we'd stow all of our prized traveling possessions. We'd make games out of seeing who could spot the most unique license plates from different states or play the "I'm going on a trip..." game. (You know the one...1st person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take an apple. 2nd person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take a banana and an apple. etc, etc ad nauseum). We'd ask Mom if we could stay awake and, although she always said yes, we'd fall asleep before we'd crossed the state line.

As I made the trek this weekend from my parents' house in Fort Wayne to my own in Indianapolis, I passed a lot of family minivans (the updated station wagon, really). What I noticed saddened me. Nearly every one of them had a pop down TV playing a movie from DVD or maybe even a television show brought to them via satellite. First of all, don't even get me started on how distracting a TV can be for a driver even if he/she can't actually see it. Second, it makes me wonder if families ever interact while they are traveling anymore. Have we, as a generation, forgotten how to spend quality time with one another? Are we teaching our children that some electronic device must always be entertaining them? They are inundated with Ipods and the handheld Nintendo DS. They can pop in their favorite Dora the Explorer DVD while riding down the interstate in the middle of Kansas. Is it really "seeing" the country if all you're looking at is the box in front of you?

So, since more families are deciding to travel by motor vehicle instead of flying this year, I have a challenge for you this holiday season. Pack the Ipods and DVDs away. By all means, take them because everyone needs a break from "together" time now and then, but trying talking to each other. Find a radio station playing all Christmas music and sing along as a family. Point out all of the amazing holiday decorations along the way to Grandma's house. Pack a travel Scrabble game and see who can make the best word using Z.

My wish for everyone this season is not for more toys or games or sweaters you'll never wear. Instead, I hope that you are able to find the joy in one another and find a way to make memories with your family and friends that will last longer than that package of fruitcake that Aunt Gladys insist on giving every year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Rage - Part 1

I recently returned from a trip to Dallas, Texas with a couple of my girlfriends. Most of my vacations entail me riding my motorcycle, but we flew instead, so I didn't have a car and I wasn't responsible for driving us around. All I can say is, "THANK GOD!" I've driven in a LOT of cities and towns across this country while traveling by motorcycle. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that Dallas drivers are insane. First, there are so many of them and second, they are not generous. They don't leave enough following space and they nearly refuse to let you onto the freeway.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that this is the direction the drivers of our nation are headed. It seems to me that getting a driver's license isn't all that difficult and, call me old, but I think it should be. It should be taken seriously. A car is a 2 ton lethal weapon in the wrong hands. Over 55,000 people die needlessly on our highways every year. What is it going to take for us to change this statistic?

A recent proposal made by Indiana lawmakers would change the age and other requirements for getting a license in the state of Indiana. ( The proposed law would increase the minimum driving age by 6 months. This would mean that for a person who takes a drivers education class, the minimum driving age would be 16 and 6 months. For a person who has not taken classes, the age would be 17. Many might say that this is age discrimination. Yes, I agree. But there's a reason for that. While 16 and 17-year-old account for the smallest percentage of drivers, they account for the highest accident rate. It's not that they are bad drivers necessarily, it's simply that they are inexperienced. The proposed law would also require at least 50 hours of supervised driving with an instructor or other adult. 10 of those hours would have to be at night. I think that's a brilliant idea. The best way to get that experience that teenagers are lacking is by actually driving in an environment where someone else can fill in the gaps of their knowledge when they need it.

One of the final requirements is that probationary drivers may not use a cell phone (handheld OR handsfree) while in the car until they are 18. My thought? Why even let them do it when they are 18? I don't think anyone should. Generally speaking, there are no conversations that are so dire and pressing that they need to made WHILE driving a car/truck/SUV. By all means, have a phone with you for safety reasons, but keep your eyes (and mind) on the road. Apparently not everyone agrees with me. One of the comments left on the WTHR website was a woman saying that students should be taught how to drive with a cell phone as part of their education because they are going to do it anyway. If that is the rationale, then shouldn't we be teaching how to apply mascara or lipstick while careening down the road at 50 mph? These are behaviors we should be discouraging, not teaching.

Although this legislation is aimed at teenagers, I think all drivers should take a skills or a refresher driver's training course once every 6 years or so. We all tend to slip into bad habits and need to be reminded about the proper way to operate a motor vehicle.

Short of that, my hope is that more drivers will remember (and put into practice) 2 simple behaviors. #1) The 2-second rule. I remember being taught this when I took Driver's Ed MANY moons ago, but apparently it's fallen by the wayside. The rule states that the distance that should be maintained between you and the car in front of you should be no less than 2 seconds worth of space. That means that when you're traveling at 70 mph, there should be MUCH more distance between you and the car in front of you than when you're traveling 35 mph. The best way to test this in practice? Pick a spot on the road or maybe a sign on the side of the road. When the car in front passes that spot, you start counting 1-1000, 2-1000. If you reach that same spot before you've finished counting, you're too close. When the weather is bad or it's night, those 2 seconds should become 3 or 4. #2) Pay attention! I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that if people would stop fiddling with the radio or cell phone or chowing down on their Big Mac and order of fries, at least 90% of accidents could be avoided. What a shame that that one is put into practice so infrequently.


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