Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Wonders of the Self-Serve Dog Wash

I have officially washed my last dog at home. This milestone has been achieved thanks to my having recently discovered the Eighth Wonder of the World - the self serve dog wash. It's amazing! I've heard of these places for years, but always had the opinion... "why in the world would I go to the trouble and expense to transport the dogs somewhere to bathe them, when I can do it right here for free?" 

I can now offer lots of reasons. For starters, there's no struggling to hold the dog in place. While Lady, Lucky, and Katie never actively fight being bathed, you do have to manage their steady and consistent desire to leave. I often don't realize I've just spent an hour holding back 50, 75, and 90 pounds of unhappy pressure until later, when my whole body aches. At the self serve dog wash, a handy tub tether holds the dog safely and easily in place while you work. 

Exhibit A: photo of Katie, chained to the wall of doom, awaiting her fate. 
A shelf next to the tub holds an impressive array of shampoos, conditioners, and assorted dog beautifying products. I used our own moisturizing shampoo from the vet, because I don't like the perfumey smell of most commercially available dog shampoos, but I did take advantage of the dispenser of ear wipes. 

Another advantage of the self-serve dog wash is that you can get someone else to do the nail trimming for you. It costs extra, but last time I clipped the dogs' nails I nicked Katie's quick and it bled forever. This traumatic experience left me with Nail Clipping Phobia. I'll have to get over it, because I'm not going to pay someone to do it every month, but I was sure happy to have help this time. One less thing on my "to do" list!

Another reason to love the self serve dog wash is that when Lady inevitably does this...

...I don't get completely drenched. Wearing the waterproof apron provided by the staff kept me remarkably dry throughout the entire dog washing experience. This particular self-serve dog wash even had a greeter who met us at the door and escorted us back into the tub area. Meet the Ambassador of Clean:

The grooming facility is only a mile or so from my house, so I took the dogs over there one at a time. It was interesting to see how each dog's individual personality was reflected in his or her reaction to our self serve dog wash adventure.
Katie responds to all new experiences with grim, somber acceptance. 
(Afterward, when she realizes she has survived, she becomes giddy with joy.)

Lady believes that getting bathed is an affront to her dignity. 
Also, it wasn't her idea. She likes to call the shots.

And then there's Lucky, who reliably smiles through any adversity.

Here's to a squeaky clean New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie Monsters

The Christmas Elves have been hard at work!
Baking goodies to share with friends and family.
"I could have sworn I dropped a cookie!..." 
"Where did it go?"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Like This Every Year

When the time comes for serious Christmas gift wrapping, I like to set up a wrapping "station," where everything is close at hand. The other day I caught part of a television special on HGTV about Aaron Spelling's manor. That house has entire rooms dedicated to wrapping gifts! But alas, not being among the rich and famous, my wrapping area is a table. So, I get the table covered, bring in the bin of wrapping paper, set out the tissue paper and ribbon, retrieve the gifts that need to be wrapped, locate the tape and scissors, return to the table and...

If I shriek "Lucy! What are you doing?!" and shoo her away, she looks positively indignant. She stalks away looking at me as if I am some irrational being whose sole purpose in life is to interfere with her comfort and happiness. But the next time I turn around, she's back. Usually when the curly ribbon comes out.

I wonder if the friends and family who receive these gifts 
ever wonder about the little dents in the ribbon...

I couldn't even take the photo without kitty interference - LOL!

Finally, Lucy gets tired of playing "kill the curly ribbon," and gets comfy on a scrap piece of crumpled up wrapping paper. I acquiesce and let her remain there, moving everything to the other side and working around her. It's all about the cat, after all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Unexpected Visitor

This little hummingbird has been hanging around since mid November. At first I was certain I had imagined the familiar buzzing sound that zipped past. All our resident Ruby-Throated hummingbirds have been gone for weeks. But it turned out to be a real live hummingbird, not a figment of my imagination. At first I worried myself into a frenzy each night that the temperature dropped below 32 degrees. But the Internet provided a fascinating glimpse into how hummingbirds cope with cold nights by going into a slowed metabolic state called "torpor." If you have time, read the linked article. It's fascinating!

When the little bird continued to show up into December and nights dropped even colder, I called the local hummingbird experts at Wild Birds Unlimited for advice. They recommended putting out fruit in an effort to attract fruit flies, which the little bird needs for protein. My first effort, placing an old banana and a pear core on a plate under the hummingbird feeder, succeeded only in nourishing some nocturnal visitor that very first night. It was gone in the morning. My latest effort seems to be working better. I had a large suet cake cage in the garage, and with a little improvisation have been able to make it work.

The funny thing is that this little hummer seems to have taken up with the group of birds I feed regularly. When the chickadees, titmice, cardinals, rufous sided towhees and juncos appear for their morning breakfast, so does the little hummer. They hang out together in the large rose bush outside the kitchen window.

Yesterday morning, it appeared to be feeding (or trying to feed?) from the blossoms of the Pieris Japonica shrub under the hummingbird feeder. The temperature gauge next to the bush read 22 degrees, but the hummingbird seemed perfectly fine, flying back and forth from the feeder to the rose bush with the other birds, and then to the Pieris shrub. It was camouflaged pretty well perched in the branches, but using my telephoto lens and contorting my body a bit, I got a photo of it from the front.

I've been studying photos on the Internet, and my best guess is that the little visitor is a female Allen's hummingbird. But she could also be a Rufous hummingbird. The Rufous lives on the West Coast, and Allens is common only in coastal California. How did you end up here in North Carolina little hummer? Too bad you can't talk!

The feathers on her back are so beautiful, a bright emerald green!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Toys!

Lady loves her toys. And this week, much to her delight, it was time to get the Christmas toys out of the attic. She has a ridiculous number of toys, so some get "rotated" to the attic for a while, then returned a few months later to a great fanfare of dog joy. But the Christmas toys go away for the entire year, which makes them EXTRA SPECIAL.

Lucky and Katie don't really share Lady's enthusiasm for toys. Lucky will play for a few minutes when he gets caught up in the excitement, but he never seeks out a toy first. And Miss Katie, it's hard to figure out what's going on in her little border collie-lab mind. At first it seemed that she didn't like toys. She appears interested when the toys come out, but then she quickly tiptoes away once the other two start to play. Maybe she's afraid she's going to be trampled. That might be it, because it's obvious she's curious. She'll lurk around when Lady and Lucky are playing, occasionally sneaking in to pick up a toy that one of the other dogs has abandoned, then quickly making off with it to her bed. But Lady loves the toys. She loves to hurl them into the air and pounce on them. And chew them.

I should note that Lucky's disinclination to initiate play is in stark contrast to the opening of new toys. He loves to receive a new toy. Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile may recall the toy story drama when these Christmas toys arrived! In any case, Lady thinks it's just fine that her siblings don't like to play with the toys as often as she does. More fun toys for her! As you can see in the next photo however, she's not taking any chances. She's got Santa secured safely under her right paw, and Christmas Worm under the left.

(And look who came over and inserted herself into
my last shot... formerly camera-phobic Miss Katie!!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Workplace Hazards

When starting a new job, it's common to be asked to read and sign off on a Policy and Procedure manual. Some are more lengthy and involved than others, but this is generally part of any new employee orientation. When I worked at a wilderness-based residential treatment center helping youth build log cabins, the policies and safety guidelines could have filled a small library. It was probably reasonable to expect that if I accidentally cut my foot off with a chain saw one day, they'd want to pull out the signed piece of paper to say "She was warned!!! We tried our best!!!"

Now that I work at a desk, the workplace hazards I'm supposed to recognize and avoid are less extreme (think eyestrain and carpal tunnel). But never in my policy and procedure history have I seen any mention of the workplace hazard I now find myself contending with. 

You see, I've recently moved to a home office. I've worked from home in the past, and there are pros and cons. Personally, I prefer working in an office setting, but this is going to save me a small fortune in gas. My office was an hour away from my house, and I was driving there 3-4 times a week. So I've been rearranging furniture, shopping for supplies and moving files for a month, and now aside from a few remaining needs, I've got my little home office all set up.

(isn't it cute??)
It's just about perfect, except for the unfortunate fact of Lucy's litter box being right across the stairwell in the laundry room. And that in and of itself wouldn't be so bad, because every effort is made to keep it clean. But it's the strangest thing - I've noticed that when I go downstairs, turn everything on and get to work, Lucy takes it as some sort of sign do I put this delicately?... 'take care of business.' 

It's almost as if she figures I'm taking care of business, so she might as well too. But it creates a quite toxic work environment. I recently learned that my organization provides a one-time home office "allowance" that home-based employees can spend on supplies. Perhaps my first purchase should be a gas mask??

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Welcoming Committee

Three happy smiles, 
Forty eight toes click-click-clicking and prancing, 
tails wagging with glee. 

"You're home! You're home!"
"We've missed you so!"
"This is the happiest day of our lives!!"
"Welcome home!"

Is there any greeting as wonderful, as true, as perfect, as a dog greeting?