Tuesday, August 19, 2014

High / Low

High / Low is a game that John and I play at dinner sometimes, and we were sure to play it each night while his (our) niece was staying with us for two weeks, as part of our Christmas gift - which was sending her to her first summer camp.

The day she arrived, August 1st, I had the highest high and the lowest low that occurred on the same day, in the same incident, that I had had in a long time.

That morning, despite having read a story precisely about this happening, I walked Reno with the retractable leash. I know it's not a good idea, but he likes it a lot since it gives him a little more range than the normal 6' leash, and it gives me a welcome break on the occasional walk - I don't have to pay as much attention wary of tangling since the leash takes care of it for me.

But you see where this is going. In quick succession, on a route we never walk, I walked into a spider web. I gave a little "eep!" and tried to wave the threads from off my face. While doing this, I loosened my grip on the leash, so it was lightly secured in my hand.

However, the "eep" and scuffle of my foot scared Reno. And he darted away (as he does to every crushed leaf, cracked branch, scuffed foot, garbage truck, siren, car door, shouting kid, bouncing basketball… and so on…). Usually, no big deal. But you, of course, recall the loosened grip.

Yup. Down went the leash handle, BANG, on the sidewalk. And then it zipped up toward Reno, retracting as retractable leashes are wont to do.

And off he went.

Like a freaking shot. I've never seen him run so fast. If he even could hear me over the clatter clatter clatter of the leash bouncing behind him, he was out of ear shot in under eight seconds. This was a moment that it would have been really nice to be a runner. But as it was, I reached VO2 max in about sixteen seconds, long after I'd seen the last corner Reno rounded and had no idea where he was headed next. I stopped shouting and started texting John in desperation.

He asked if he should come home, and I said no. He said I should go home, get the car, and drive slowly around the area I last saw him, and call his name.

Low point.

So I walked, jogged, ran, walked again, huffed and puffed my way home. As I walked, I sent a crazy email to my boss that read, "Not sure when I will be in today; dog ran off and I have to look for him."

I started to sniffle and cry. How could I have done that? How could I have dropped the leash? I kept seeing him, flattened out and running full tilt, tail between his legs, glancing back in terror at the horrible clattering monster that wouldn't stop chasing him. Was that the last time I'd see him? Oh god. I remembered that he had on his citronella collar but not his real collar with his tag. Not that he would let anyone get near him, and sure, he is microchipped, but it feels like a long shot.

With a stitch in my side and a hitch in my step, I rounded the corner onto our lawn and for less than a split second - for less than even a full thought - I couldn't believe the insult of a god damn cat on the front porch.

But no!

Not a cat!

A little red dog! A panting, ears folded back, nails-scraped, tail wagging, waiting patiently, leaning against the front door little red dog!

I couldn't believe it. I kissed him on the face, let him inside, and took off one beat-to-hell retractable leash.

High point.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'm a massage (groupon) whore.

(Using the word whore in a blog title might be inviting weird Google searches, but there's just no good substitute for it!)

I admit it. I am a massage whore. I scour Groupon, Yipit, Amazon Local Deals and LivingSocial for massages. I'll drive to Tigard on a Saturday morning. I'll figure out how to sneak out of work early on a weeknight. I'll go to a basement studio, a studio connected to your house, I've been to two studios in little converted sheds that felt like kids' playhouses with a massage table, hippie music, and a waterfall machine in the corner. For when I win the lottery, like my friend Bill, I've started keeping a list of who I'm going to share it with (because you don't want to make that decision in the heat of the moment of winning; you want a list that you've thought about in calm, considerate moments to refer to). And along with the folks who I'm going to buy a car, or give a down payment for a house to, or just write a nice check, I have a list of the things I will begin to do.

And getting 2 to 3 massages a week is very high on that list. It is an item on that list that could start immediately. Others will require some weeks or months of planning. And sure, I'd like one everyday, but my newfound lotto-winning life isn't going to be longer than 24 hours in a day, so capping it at 1 to 3 per week seems logical.

In the meantime, until this lottery-winning happens, I content myself with online massage deals and enjoy the experience of new masseuses, new styles, new studios, new music, new fragrances. Oddly, the weirdest massage I've had this year was in Honduras… where I had three… because apparently it is common there to slather on baby oil, to assist the masseuse. And I mean slather. For each massage, during the whole hour, I experienced seemingly endless drizzling. It took more than one shower and one dip in the ocean to feel like it was really gone. (I'm sure this killed coral and I will do karmic penance for it.)

But recently, I had my first myofascial release massage. If you haven't had one, try it! It was not exactly enjoyable during the massage, I won't lie - it is intense - but afterward, for a couple days, my back felt more neutral than it has in months. Perfectly relaxed with no areas of tension, and a true difference in my posture and muscles. What's the lesson? I guess that it pays to be a whore sometimes, when you try something new.

Monday, July 7, 2014

13 Weeks.

I keep saying that if I don't write it down, I'll forget, or be unable, to see if Reno is making any progress. So I'm writing it down.

We took him hiking three weeks ago. He has his own backpack because anybody, no matter their species, has their own backpack when they head out with John:



He loved hiking. He did not love the other dogs, whether they were off leash or on.


We brought him home 13 weeks ago yesterday. And so 13 weeks in, I am documenting that he has gotten more comfortable in our house. He can go up and down the stairs confidently, which was not the case originally. He still cannot go in the kitchen. He loves his kennel (aka his house) and sleeps easily in it every night for 8 to 10 hours.

He stays to his blanketed-spot on the couch nearly always, and has not jumped on the coffee table since that first day. He started wagging his tail, which when it began, was when we noticed that he had NOT been for a month! He now wags us a welcome in the morning, at night after work, and when we cross the room or have been gone for 3 minutes or more.

He jumps at fewer noises in the house, but still jumps at some.

And most importantly, let's chat about the reactivity. I'm not sure if he's less reactive - though I can say we are better at managing it. I can duck a dog heading our way before he even sees the thing. I can position us behind a parked car or in a stranger's driveway so that we can practice watching the dog walk by without his going over threshold. With me, he can currently handle a distance of across the street. Any closer, such as an unexpectedly chained or fenced dog, and he is over threshold in three seconds flat. It seems he can handle a closer dog with John.

One thing that has improved, without a doubt, is his recovery time. If he does go over threshold and starts lunging, growling, snapping and acting like he wants to devour the other dog, he can recover within one city block now.

Another improvement is that he has learned not only his name, but he's learned Sit and Shake! He is working on Down, Sit Pretty, and Come. I include Come in the 'working on' category because he's at about 80%. And 80% is really good but that other 20% is the time you really want him to obey. I don't know if any dog is 100% on the Come command. At the dog park, and on his long line, he has 90%+ recall of Come. We have not ever used it a true off-leash situation (because he's never been in one). So I call it 80%, to be safe.

But this past weekend was a slight digression from his improvement in anxiety reduction, thanks to the fireworks. Friday night the last ones that woke me up were at 2:05 AM. That erases any excuse that it's for the kids. I hate neighborhood fireworks. For Reno, the vet prescribed Xanax:


It worked for a while, and then it stopped. Next year, Xanax for me and a sedative for him. He is just today coming down fully off the heightened cortisol of the 3rd, 4th and 5th's all-day explosions. This dog has PTSD and I'm not even trying to be funny. 

Of course what I'd like to see is for him to be able to pass an oncoming dog (first on the other side of the street, and eventually on the same side) without having a reaction. I'm not sure this will ever be possible; everything I read is not encouraging. But, at the 13-week mark, I can say he definitely is less anxious on walks - he does not cower at EVERY bicycle, loud car, shuffling foot, crunchy leaf. He only cowers at some of them. He used to pass all people with rolled-back ears and a low posture. He now is more perked up, almost looking like he could go over threshold, but he never does. He is less interested in people who are not me, John, and Auntie Beth (John's sister, and his bi-weekly dog walker). 

He does not bark in the backyard ever anymore (thanks, we think, to the two weeks of the citronella collar), and now likes it out there - he goes out willingly and stays out there without us even, from time to time.

He is rarely interested in birds now; he saves that energy for squirrels - and cats, and dogs, of course.

He still sheds a ton; I think we're screwed on this one. When he's anxious, it seems to increase from the normal rate of Daily Shit Ton to a momentary Are You Dying? level. 

In three more months, I'll remember to update on his reactivity, his leash-pulling tendencies (which are still fairly high, depending on the time of day) and his anxiety. Hopefully by documenting, there will be continued improvements seen, and thus we'll move away from feeling so on-the-fence about adding the little red leaner* to our house. 

*Little Red Leaner is one of his nicknames; when he greets us in the morning, he likes to lean into us, or put the top of his head on your shin, or even on the floor, curling over and leaning in for maximum back scratchin. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oh, yeah, and we went to Honduras in May.


I have always been weirded out by pictures of birds and monkeys on peoples' shoulders in foreign countries. But at this nature preserve, the monkeys were free to come and go - no cages, no nets, no barriers. Zoo animals in the US have names; so did these guys. If they wanted to come when called, and wanted to sit in your shoulder for a sunflower seed, they did. If not, tough luck. And if they wanted to relocate on Roatan from this location, they were free to do so. So I decided it wasn't so bad, and let this dude rest his gentle little feet on me.


Example number one of the off season. Sunset. 100% empty chaise lounge chairs, 5:50 PM on a Friday.



Hammocks on the deck of each hotel room. It's also 89 and full of humidity, but I regret not buying one of these lovely rope hammocks at a roadside market.


Example number two of the offseason. Black Rock snorkel site, a six minute walk from our resort/hotel and amazing underwater sites. 11 AM on a weekday.


Hammocks at the ice cream parlor in West End. The way to enjoy ice cream.


Dinner on swings! 


It was fun, even if our server thought it was weird we ate a whole meal in the swings, and not just cocktails (as most folks do).


Scarlet macaw I did not want on my shoulder.


John, suspicious of the capuchin. 


John, friends now with the capuchin.


Example number three of the offseason. 25 seat dive boat - 1 diver, 1 instructor, 1 captain, 3 snorkelers. $15 for a 2-site morning trip, and room to stretch out! 


Example number four of the offseason. Late afternoon swim, 4 PM on a weekday, and very few people disturbing my lazy salt-suspeneded back floats. 


Sun kissed. It was eight days without makeup, and without a bra. That's how I define vacation.


Above and below: 5 year anniversary night (the night we arrived). Silly, blurred photos, but a happy wood anniversary! 




Monday, June 16, 2014

Comin' up on the Jesus Year...

I've generally been the youngest in the group, whatever the group may have been… playground, locker room, homeroom class, new job or office, new tribe of friends. And as many of near-peers turn 33 in the year before I do, I get to look ahead this summer to my coming Jesus Year.

You're familiar, right? Even Urban Dictionary has an entry. And it's perfectly succinct: it's the year to get things done.

Over the last couple weeks, between a relaxing vacation, the new dog's ongoing antics, increasing work responsibilities, SIBO diet living, and the wonder of these long pre-summer days and evenings, my personal philosophy has (suddenly) expanded.

Please allow me one bit of back story first. Every family has it's lore and legends; in my family, there's a piece of lore that places me at about age 8 or 9, when my mother was having some normal-for-her, low-level, anxiety-filled, long verbal run-on about life, and challenges, and what does it all mean. When she turned the question to me, I said, "Don't ask me, Mom. I'm just a kid." Everyone laughed. And in a similar episode a few months later (as noted, this sort of out-loud rumination was the usual at home), I quipped back, "God, Mom. The point of life is that you make mistakes, and then you learn." (I do not remember the former exchange; I do remember the latter. We were at Murphy Lake and I wanted to touch the antlers of the stuffed elk in velvet on the wall but knew I was not allowed to.)

So this may have been my own self-stated guiding philosophy about life - from age 9, until very recently.

And suddenly… it feels sudden, having bubbled up in the past few weeks… I've decided that life is now about two other things entirely. It's about losing judgement, and it's about not being first.

I am a very judgmental person; I know how you should live your life, AND why. And I will happily tell you. Or if I don't know you, or you won't listen, I'll happily tell one of my friends. And now that I'm walking a little red dog around the block in a damn raincoat, a sweet little red dog that goes ballistic at the sight of another dog, I'm thinking, "Well, fuck." I didn't teach the dog to bark like that; he's not reactive because of me. But it sure as shit looks that way. And I don't love putting a raincoat on a dog, but he reacts to it a lot like he reacts to the Thundershirt and any way to take the edge off his anxiety is a good way to go. So I mosey along with our raincoats, and realize that I would normally look at me and judge the hell out of me. Uh-oh. Jesus Year. That means I have to start understanding people better. Give them more slack. Really, deeply believe they're doing the best they can with the tools they have - and not just say it.

And secondly (ha ha!), it's time to no longer be first. Who is not first in their own lives? Well - parents, for one. And spiritual leaders. And people dedicated to their jobs as deep vocations and true callings. In other words: the good eggs. The good eggs don't think about being first, and don't think about putting their own desires, satisfactions, whims, needs, moods, recognition and preferences first. The good eggs do make certain their own needs are met - sure, of course they do. But they do so mostly because it makes them better people who can turn around and better be able to serve and love the world. And you know what? For the first time in my selfish little life, that sounds really delightful. I get it. I paid lip service to not being first, but all along, I knew this was my movie, my soundtrack, and you were all supporting players. But this new philosophy - boy, does it take a huge load off. I don't have to be the center of my own universe. I can cook, read, play, love, work and write - like I do, and enjoy, of course - but it all doesn't have to be So God Damn Important. What a relief. To loosen my grip.

I mean - a bit. I'm not letting go, just letting up. I still think you're a huge fucking asshole if you take the outside seat on a bus. Just move goddamn over, dude.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Products.

The list of products purchased for one little shelter dog, who no one would have missed from the world had we not gotten him (I refuse to say adopted; he is not a child):

  • Walking harness
  • Leash
  • Front-clip walking harness
  • Kong toy
  • Second Kong toy
  • Head halter
  • Dog bed
  • Kennel
  • Doghouse
  • Special couch blanket
  • Interactive chewy ball
  • Container to hold both kongs and chewy ball
  • Two toys and one nylabone he will not use
  • Citronella spray collar
  • A series of 7 disgustingly ugly Ikea rugs for the main level of our home so that he can stop skittering across the hardwoods in terror
  • Clicker
  • a LOT of treats
  • Thundershirt (monogrammed - thanks to John, not me; he loves personalization!)
Sigh. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Negatory

SIBO test results: Negative!

NEGATIVE! SIBO GONE!

My methane was zero; my hydrogen was low enough to be normal, or at least non-SIBO. I feel like a Beagle Freedom Project dog - hesitant, tentative, eating things I want, but still sticking to what I know best most meals.

It's been a crazy almost-two-weeks since the news. Not so much because of the food, although that's interesting to explore, albeit obsessive in terms of tracking every bite at every time and connecting that to bowel movements to see what things agree, and which don't. But more than that, it's Life with Reno that's kept things a challenge.

My house is dirtier. My clothes sometimes have hair on them. My mornings start earlier and involve a walk. I check the clock at work and think about what he might be doing. His anxiety and leash aggression are not especially better, though I think we're more used to it. He's an inside dude - he is the gentlest, sweetest, most timid dog inside a house. Outside, we've discovered, his threshold for nervousness is literally a blowing leaf. One leaf? He's at a one. A blowing leaf and bicyclist? He's at a two. Add another dog? He's off the charts. So we've started having walks where we aim to keep things at no more than a one or two. This involves standing still on the sidewalk a lot, as he sniffs and stares, keeps his ears tippy-top tipped up, until he calms down a little and we can move on. It's very Zen.

When we get back, all that sniffing, stopping, seeing, staring, sighing, startling, skittishness and sensing… it results in a bunch of this:


Monday, May 5, 2014

Teeter Totter

I have been so sure the SIBO is going to be gone. And then I get struck with fear, and am so sure it is not gone. I can't do this diet for much longer; well, in fact, I'm not doing it now. I have been sneaking little cheats more days than not. So my punishment will surely be SIBO forever, right? So it goes - back and forth, back and forth - or as my brother said when he was a toddler, "Back and thorf, back and thorf."

The results are not in yet, and today is a day where I am certain it is gone. I have noticed that I "recover" digestively from the cheat foods faster and faster; it must be gone, then, right? But I still need a little time to recover, so it must not be gone then, right? Gah!

And in the middle of it all, we're getting used to Reno. And he's getting used to us. He looms large in my daily existence; I think about him (ahem, I worry about him) when I'm away from the house. Is he bored? Is he getting into trouble? Is he eating the rawhide bone and not just chewing it properly? If he's in the house, does he have to pee or poop? If he's outside, is he scratching at the fence or digging? All the anxiety, at this point, is outweighing the fun parts. Yes, he's cute. And yes, it's lovely to sit right now with him curled up on his blanket at the end of the couch (we're doing pretty well with keeping him to his 'place' there). He is funny when he's in sniff-mode on our morning walks. But he also could give two shits about loose-leash walking most of the time, and pulls all of his 19 pounds against the leash, and then barely acknowledges my existence when John is around, he is mostly too timid to go up the stairs, and he sheds like a bastard. Life was a lot easier before he was around. I can't remember why I wanted to get him so bad in the first place.

He also hates the rain, which is really funny. He stops every third of a block to shake - which makes walking a long process - and sometimes will not come out from under a tree when it's raining hard. He stood under my legs the other day and looked me so plaintively; what the heck is this wet crap?! So the natural next step is... to buy him a raincoat! Tah dah:




But even I question - does a doggie raincoat really need a hoodie on it? 

And no - we have not used it yet. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Third Time's a Charm?

Coming up this Tuesday, I take my third SIBO test. Drumroll please. It hardly seems fair to be eager to take it, and it seems foolhardy and pride-goeth-ing-before-a-fall to say I think the bugs will be gone… but eager I am, and gone I think they shall be.

It seems unfair and foolhardy because the little bit out there on this issue online shows that many people require a year, or two or three, to get rid of their SIBO. Who am I to think it is going to be gone 3.5 months after starting treatment?

But the proof is in the pudding. Or in the toilet bowl, my friends. My world there is a very different one than it was for the last year or longer, and I just feel like the bacteria is gone. Come Tuesday, I'll take the test, and in another week or so after that, I'll get the results - and if it's there, or if it's gone, I have no idea what comes next.

This sort of intense dietary restriction can't be done if you're looking ahead. It can only be done one day at a time. So I don't know what I'll "get" to do and eat and experiment with come May; I just gotta get through Tuesday first, and then waiting on the results.

But in the meantime, nothing like a true distraction… how about… a new dog!

Meet Reno.

He likes to sleep, and bark at other dogs when he's on the leash. (We're taking a class for this soon. We're registered.) He's about 4 years old, they think, and was a stray from Los Angeles who must have had a family at some point, since he's housebroken. He's also terrified of anything in your hands, and was clearly hit with things, but he's coming around to us. We're getting to know each other. He does not like the rain. He does like the fireplace:


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two weeks after the two weeks.

Oh, the two weeks were glorious. The things I dined upon! Pizza, breadsticks, ice cream, frozen yogurt, a bagel, a biscuit, a slice of sour cherry pie a la mode. Potatoes - french fried, mashed, and fingerlings a-roasted. The kati roll from Bollywood Theater, a polenta soufflé, a chocolate brioche and lemon tart from Maurice. (Bill, if you're reading, the polenta soufflé was worth writing home about.) Bread, bread and more bread. With butter, and jam. A slice of so-chocolatey-it-was-almost-black cake.

And then there were the things I forgot to eat. Pasta. I didn't think of it, not once! And no Frank's noodles, and no sweet potatoes. No oatmeal!? Indeed, no oatmeal. I didn't bake because I didn't want to restock any flour, sugar, or chocolate for just one recipe.

And then there were the things I ate that were not good. No surprises here: a Chips Ahoy cookie, a granola bar, a Fig Newton (that was ok, but not great). Anything processed tasted like nothing; like cardboard and sugar. If my eyes were closed, I'd never have known it was a Chips Ahoy. It could have been shortbread.

But alas, even two glorious weeks come to an end. There were exactly three things I think about still. One, the biscuit and two, the cherry pie from Lauretta Jean's. I mean, if this Captain of Team Cake is thinking about a slice of pie, you know it's out of this world. And the biscuits. Oh, the biscuits. They are worth every calorie of butter, worth every bit of gluten. And Three, ice cream.

Look, there's nothing like ice cream when you've not had sugar in 9 weeks, and neither dairy beyond hard cheese, butter or kefir. Ice cream is amazing. Ice cream is everything Anne of Green Gables thought it would be at her first picnic, it's everything you waited for at the beach as a kid. Ice cream is the miracle at your grandmother's World's Fair and I take back any time I didn't appreciate ice cream for the glory that it is. I work with a group of folks who have ice cream every day at 3 PM - it's one of the engineering groups' rituals - and I'm not precisely accusing them of not appreciating ice cream, but I am saying that generic Safeway brand creamsicles can't, just can't, hold a candle to real Rocky Road. Or a premium vanilla-bean-flecked vanilla. Or Salt and Straw honey strawberry balsamic with cracked black pepper. Or a Ruby Jewel sammie.

But I digress. I had a bit of ice cream, it's true.

Then the two weeks ended. And I had to strictly go back on the SIBO-approved diet. Which I've been on for two more weeks. And in about two MORE weeks, I'll get to take the bacteria test again.

Much like last time, where I thought it would show I made progress but was not healed, this time, I feel it's going to show that I beat it. The bacteria will be gone. And what comes after that? I haven't asked yet. This whole process only works if you stay in the day you're in, and not think too far ahead - I mean, I never could have said I'd eat meat, eggs, fat, veggies and some fruit for months. So I can't say what will happen and how I'll do, but I'll tough it out another couple weeks and then test, and then tough it out a week while the results get analyzed, and in the meantime, I'll share some of my infinite variations on meat-and-sauerkraut with you!

(I actually won't because that would be terrifically boring. But I will post some regular updates on life and health, and to the four people who still read along - thanks for sticking with me and my microbiome!)