YoBaCaRy

That’s Just a Suggestion, Right?

It’s fall in the Pacific Northwest.

Okay, it’s fall in the entire western hemisphere, but I reside in the PNW, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

Apparently it rained a lot in October, setting world records or something here. I was so busy that I admit, I didn’t really notice that there was an apparent deluge. But perhaps that’s a testament to my rain gear? I mean, I noticed there was rain, but there’s always rain after the middle of September here and it really didn’t seem any more than it usually is. I know these things because as of yesterday, I’ve lived here for 15 years.

It was dark, cold and raining the night I arrived too. In fact, it was dark, cold and raining until sometime between Christmas 2001 and the first day of 2002. That was when I realized that the mountain view that was in the description of the house my ex and I bought – the one that we thought was just put there as a blurb and we figured was a realtor’s lie – was actually true. I vividly remember him shouting at me to get out of my hibernation-induced stupor to come outside and look. Mountains! Glorious beautiful sun-capped mountains!

A few more months of adapting to constant drizzle and cold dampness after a few years of sunny South Florida winters , then a summer of glorious blue sky and perfect temperatures, after a few years of South Florida’s unbearable sticky and humid summers, and I was in love. And I still am.

Fall always encourages me to cook. Well, at least since I actually learned to cook.

My mother was a fantastic cook and an even better baker. The bar was so high there that I figured my contribution was to lick the beaters and wipe – or maybe that’s swipe – the bowl with my index finger. I was really, really good at that. So good in fact that my mother called it my Educated Finger. I didn’t even care about the whirring beaters of her trusty electric mixing bowl, a machine that became legendary in my house while growing up, mainly because so many magical things started inside it.

My mother also wasn’t very good about following recipes or writing down her favorites. She improvised. A lot. The very gifted are annoyingly good at that. Thus, on the few occasions when I expressed some minor interest in learning how to cook, the directions were extremely difficult to follow. Or maybe that was just me and my impatience.

I was far more interested in the pay-off than on the waiting to be paid part.

My mother did give me a Betty Crocker cookbook one Christmas after I had graduated from college and gotten my first apartment. I cracked it open and became instantly overwhelmed. She helpfully offered to share with me some of her favorite recipes that also happened to be staple dinner fare at my house growing up.

Of course, I had to write the recipes down myself. That was mostly because no one could read her handwriting. This also trusted that she was remembering them correctly.

Luckily, my own handwriting back then was somewhat legible and I still have those handwritten recipes tucked in the back of the Betty Crocker cookbook. A cookbook that I actually learned to eventually use, although it was still many years later.

The impetus for learning how to cook was my brilliant idea, in my 29th year of life, to cook the entire family Thanksgiving dinner.

Honestly, I think it went pretty well. My sisters seem to remember otherwise. Something about the stuffing I used for the turkey.

Fast forward many years and I grew to enjoy cooking. I’m still not a good baker, but I’m quite positive that has a lot to do with repressed memories and fear of maternal conflict.

I don’t cook a whole lot these days as 1) I’m busy, 2) I never learned how to downsize my cooking and still cook as if seven other people live here with me, and 3) I can only eat so much by myself. I realize I have four canines that helpfully offer their services on a regular basis, but as much as JaYoBaCa are spoiled on a regular basis – and yes, they have eaten off the fine china thank you very much – I’m not that over the edge. Yet.

The cool, drizzly and shorter fall days inspire me to cook. Mainly I cook stews or soup this time of year. I can make a big pot of something and have it for the entire week or freeze a portion of it for later. This satisfies both my desire to cook and create something over time, as well as for instant gratification later when I’m super hungry and inclined to make Very Bad Food Choices. Not that I’ve ever eaten a pint of ice cream for dinner or anything. With hot fudge sauce. Last week.

I purchased some beef stew meat a few days ago. It looked great, was on sale and met my vision of a warm and hearty fall meal.

My original thought was to use my slow cooker. The only problem with that is that Youke is a counter surfer. Therefore, I can really only safely employ my slow cooker during a time when I’m home all day and able to supervise, er, guard. I am positive it is not in the best interest of my future grumbling stomach to trust Youke in the presence of tantalizing warm and spicy stew scents wafting through the kitchen all day.

I also knew I didn’t really want to make a traditional beef stew, heavy on the starchy gravy and laden with potatoes and carrots.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to spend time pouring over my small accumulation of cookbooks – sorry Betty Crocker – because these days we have The Internet.

I found a recipe – or as my mother liked to call it – a receipt – for Cuban Beef Stew. Yum! This appealed to my taste-buds and love of spice.

Of course I did not look to see if I had all the ingredients on hand. Improvisation is the mother of invention, is it not?

The first substitution was the sherry. Despite a Thanksgiving many years ago that had a very heavy sherry theme, I apparently used it all. Cognac seemed like a good substitution, so that’s what I used.

Let me also mention that I did inherit from my mother a rather intense dislike for measuring. The dogs started sneezing, so I might have been a bit liberal on the cognac.

I also discovered I had no garlic around. This clearly shows that it’s been a while since I last really cooked. No problem though, just was a little more liberal on the onions.

I am famously heavy-handed when it comes to spices. I view those measurements as mere suggestions. Therefore, I added about five times as much cumin as the recipe I found suggested.

Next, I found that I did not have any pimento-stuffed green olives around. No problem, I found I inexplicably had a jar of pimentos. So sans green olives, I added them.

Now, read on at your own risk, as it gets dicey from here.

Turns out the jar of pimentos had an expiration date of 2013 on them. Saw that after I added them in to the stew. No worries, I thought. They smelled fine and the jar had been a bitch to open. They were fine.

The recipe also called for a can of tomato sauce. No problem, that’s a staple and I knew I had some. Except that I couldn’t find any cans of tomato sauce. I found jars of prepared spaghetti sauce and cans of diced tomatoes, but no plain old tomato sauce. This puzzled me as I clearly recalled seeing some recently.

After some digging around in the pantry, I finally found a can of tomato sauce. However, the can looked very sketchy. Quite rusted and the label was very faded. I threw it out and dug a bit further. I found another can of tomato sauce. It too looked old, but the can wasn’t as rusty and the label seemed in better repair. I rinsed the dust off of the can and opened it.

It passed the sniff test.

I threw it into the stew.

As I was about to recycle the can, I looked curiously at the top for the expiration date.

First, let me explain that of course I knew it was past its so-called expiration date. But I also know full well that those are just helpful suggestions.

From The Internet:

Most expiration dates on foods in cans range from 1 to 4 years—but keep the food in a cool, dark place and the cans undented and in good condition, and you can likely safely double that shelf life from 3 to up to 6 years.

Turns out that particular can of tomato sauce was supposed to be “best used by XXXX 2009.” The XXXX part denotes the date in 2009 that was illegible.

Hey, it was just a suggestion, right?

I let Camm and Brady lick the spoon and they seem alright.

My stew is still simmering and for the best flavor it needs to sit a day or so. I guess you’ll know if things didn’t go well if I don’t post any updates for a while. Or ever.

Soul Sister

camm-in-the-leaves-5-yrs-old(Photo credit: Angie A.)

I’m fond of saying that allowing Camm into my life was the best mistake I’ve ever made. In truth, I cannot imagine ever having passed this girl up.

Camm becomes five years old in a week’s time. She entered my life at 18 months old. She appears to be a grown up in this picture, and while she’ll always be a bit of a puppy to me, she truly has grown up a lot.

For the first time in many, many years, I have a houseful of adult dogs. It’s a wonderful thing.

I love teenage dogs (tiny puppies not so much) and still often consider the addition of a new one, but I truly love the known qualities I have and how everyone knows where they fit. I enjoy the relationships they have with me and with each other. In other words, I have a good dynamic going on and I don’t want to fuck it up.

I enjoy a special connection with each of my dogs and my relationship with each one is unique and different, largely based upon their personalities and our personal history.

Another thing I’m fond of expressing is that in a household of very large personalities, Camm has the biggest one of all.

If you’re into astrology, Camm is a Scorpio. Actually, she was born nearly on the cusp of the sign, but her personality is all Scorpio.

Scorpio is nothing, if not fierce! The 8th Sign of the Zodiac, the Scorpio loves a good fight, and can give ‘intensity’ a run for its money (worth). To put it simply, the Scorpions are strong, commanding, intense, passionate and zealous. Driven, dedicated and loyal, they also are ambitious and security-loving.

Focused

One of the major strengths they have is their ability to focus. If a Scorpio-born has decided on something, it’s almost impossible to divert them from their path.

Brave

The Scorpio-born will never lose their sleep over disruptive times and failures. The Scorpio will take it head on regardless how difficult the situation may seem.

Balanced

The Scorpio-born are jovial and passionate, but not immature and careless. They are quite mature and balanced, and you will prefer to remain in the company of a Scorpio as they are interesting personalities.

Faithful

The Scorpio-born are trustworthy and faithful. It’s great to have a faithful Scorpio around. He will always stand by you if he has promised he would.

Ambitious

Power, position and money are the key motivators for a Scorpio. The Scorpio are an ambitious lot. They will aim for the stars and will ensure that they reach there.

Intuitive

The Scorpio-born are lead by their instincts and they take the right decisions at an opportune time. They are so intuitive that they can easily read the mind of other people. 

Negative Traits

Jealous

The Scorpio tend to be extremely possessive and jealous. And the jealousy more often than not disturbs their relationships and affects their peace of mind.

Resentful

The Scorpio are very sensitive and can get hurt easily by negative treatment and comments.

Manipulative

Manipulative and domineering as they are, Scorpio-born have a knack of getting things done their way.

We can argue about anthropomorphizing, and I’d argue that words like manipulative should be replaced with phrases such as getting what she wants and doing things to assure that that happens, but the above description fits Camm to a t.

I am also a Scorpio.

And speaking of anthropomorphizing, Camm at nearly five years old reminds me of myself in my late 20s and throughout most of my 30s.

See, it takes a bold, wise-ass bitch to truly appreciate another one.

Intensity. Camm has it in spades. Especially when she wants something. That intensity, the kind where she practically vibrates with desire and her eyes are like laser beams boring into the object of her wishes or the subject of her will,  is scary to those not appreciative of it.

There was a time in my life where I’d have been moderately well-off had I been paid a dollar for every time someone called me intense, mainly co-workers and ex-lovers. That word is a trigger for me. While I see being intense as something that is not bad, it is often used with a negative connotation.

Mostly it seems to mean that people are scared as shit about you and don’t know how to handle it.

So while there are certainly many times when Camm is a bit too confrontational, a bit too bossy, times when she snarks first instead of actually seeing what the situation is, I can appreciate it. In fact, I have to admit there are many times when I admire it.

True confession. I might be wearing a frown and be telling her she shouldn’t be doing something, but inside, I’m laughing my ass off. This is probably why she continues to be the wee bossy naughty bitch that she is.

Part of me hopes that Camm learns to tone it down a bit, much as I have, but on the other hand, I love that she is true to herself. I guess dogs don’t really know any other way to be. That is actually awesome.

Next Level

Having a dog is a wonderful.

Having a smart dog is wonderful, challenging and sometimes scary.

Having a border collie is a whole other level.

Saying a border collie is intelligent is like saying Albert Einstein was a kinda smart dude.

Behind this sweet, innocent, beckoning face is an intelligent life force plotting her next move toward world domination. Or at least how to best get what she wants, when she wants it.

camm-smiling

A border collie, at least most of them, truly can outsmart the average human. Or at least the uninitiated human to the way of the border collie. Think not? Then I challenge you to hang around with a ball-obsessed border collie for any length of time.

Camm took it to the next level this evening.

Last week, on our way to see The Relationship Counselor, Camm discovered she could roll down her own window in The Living Room on Wheels, which made her immensely happy and me immensely surprised. There I was, driving along when I felt a breeze where I shouldn’t have. I looked around and saw Camm sticking her nose straight up in the air, air scenting the breeze from her partially rolled down window. Luckily The LRoW comes equipped with child safety locks, which I activated for the first time that day.

I’m going to have to remember that latter bit.

I gathered all four dogs up late today for a quick romp before dark at a favorite spot. They were all incredibly happy and excited about this. The LRoW fairly tingled with electric excitement as we drove there.

I rolled into the parking lot and was pleased to see that there were no other vehicles there, indicating we had the place to ourselves.

I struggled into my coat as I exited The LRoW, pocketing my mobile and my keys as all the dogs barked in excitement inside the vehicle. Or so I thought.

I went around the rear to let the boys out and was greeted by Camm, grinning ear to ear.

Hmmm… how in the world did Camm get out? Had I temporarily entered a fugue state and forgotten that I’d let the dogs out already?

“How’d you get out??!” I exclaimed. (Because I talk to my dogs and fully expect them to answer.)

No answer, but she did pogo stick up and down and lead me to the other side of the vehicle. It was then that I noticed the window was rolled down.

Camm apparently opened her own window when I was parking and jumped out when I got out – all completely unnoticed by me.

And how do I know she didn’t roll the window down earlier? Because I actually looked at the window when I parked. So in addition to being smart, she’s also very fast.

I really hope she doesn’t think she’s taking one of the cars anywhere. I don’t think insurance companies look favorably on canine drivers.

Perfect

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Youke.

Just because.

Mostly because he is perfect. Most of the time.

Mission Accomplished

Braved the first frontal attack of what is being called “the strongest storm in 50 years,” and which is “potentially historic,” and that some have dubbed “Stormaggedon” to retrieve this today:

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That is Youke’s Fourth of July collar.

He lost it on a hike with a friend this summer. Late July, I think. Or maybe early August. I know it couldn’t have been beyond the first week of August as there’s no way I would have left a Fourth of July collar on him into August. That’s just not proper.

Notice the rust on the bear bell and on the link to his Batman tag. It’s been in the elements for a while.

The day he lost it, I only noticed it was gone when we were headed back. My friend asked if I wanted to go back and look for it, but I declined. I knew it was useless given all the lush greenery that time of year. I kind of figured that he’d lost it when he was poking around in the underbrush by a creek, where the greenery was especially dense. Also, there were lots of prickles there that I didn’t feel like getting poked by. I told her I’d go back and look another time, but that in all likelihood, it would show up sometime in the fall, when all the growth died back.

I did go back twice this summer to look, but of course didn’t find it. Then, I got too busy starting in September and forgot all about it. Until this week.

I was out dog walking when I got a call from an unknown number on my mobile Tuesday afternoon. I usually don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers, but I saw it was a local area code and for some reason, I answered. Turns out, it was a good samaritan calling the number on the tag attached to the lost collar.

She informed me it had been hanging off the railing of the bridge structure that crossed over the creek bed and had been there for a few days. Obviously, she was a regular on that trail system.

However, while Tuesday and Wednesday were absolutely gorgeous, sunny, blue-skied filled and slightly crisp days, I had no time to go for a hike, even a quick one, to get it.

Instead, I went this morning.

This morning it was dark, even at 9 am, it was extremely wet and it was not warm. Not cold really, but not exactly warm.

Luckily for me, I have hiking partners that absolutely do not care what the weather is and that are game for adventure any time. They also don’t worry about needing a lot of wet weather gear, or really any gear at all. And best of all, they are always ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Therefore, I piled Jasmine, Youke, Brady and Camm into The Living Room on Wheels and off we went.

The dogs were ecstatic. They probably thought I was unemployed again. It’s been a while since we just randomly took off in the morning for a hike.

This is the beauty of being self-employed. Off for adventure, and return in time to work. I just need to remind myself that this is doable and a good thing to do when the days start getting darker and shorter. The time is growing short for our usual late day or evening outings.

Of course, I also need to not dwell on the fact that I’m putting in even more miles by playing with my own dogs. Instead, I need to focus on the fact that I can eat like a horse and get away with it.

I watched the dogs zoom in circles around The LRoW in the parking lot as we started out. The fantastic thing about this weather, and the time of day, is that no other people are out and about. The dogs got to be completely off leash, which delighted them immensely. Youke and Camm started playing chase and tag games, while Brady and Jasmine explored all the bushes and peed on all the things.

There is just something deeply contagious in the joy of a dog out exploring the woods. A dog, or at least mine, doesn’t care about the rain. The rain enhances the sounds and smells of the forest. A dog doesn’t care about the mud. The mud is simply another element and is embedded with the prints of woodland critters. A dog could care less about a fallen tree on the trail. It is merely something to clamber over, perhaps over and over again as part of a game, or it is an obstacle to jump over so the other side can be explored more diligently. A dog doesn’t get cold just because the sun isn’t out. A dog doesn’t care that soggy leaves stick to its coat, that pine needles are scattered across its face, or that its belly is covered in rich, dark mud.

A dog lives in that spectacular moment, surrounded by fresh scents, the sounds of thousands of things, its bladder and bowels emptied, accompanied by its beloved human and the canine companions it knows best.

I looked at all four of those open-mouthed, side tongue sticking out and bright-eyed faces looking back at me as we headed back down the trail and felt their joy stealing over me. Even when I had to point that we were going to the left – back down the trail – at the sign post, instead of right and off in a new unexplored direction, their happiness never left.

I suspect there’s a lesson in this for us all.

Fact v. Vision in My Head

Subtitled:

I Am So NOT Killing it.

or

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

So, I locked my keys in my Jeep today.

It was the first time in 18 years that I’ve locked myself out of my vehicle. Until the moment I realized I had locked my keys inside, I was totally awesome today. Until I wasn’t.

This seems to have been the theme of my week.*

This will not be a post about JaYoBaCa. Today, they played mere background roles. They’d like you all to know that their roles should’ve been much, much larger.

The day started off with me deciding to be sly and dressing in running tights, a skimpy tee-shirt and a fashionable pullover. I looked totally athletic, totally pulled together and totally like the poster child for the snotty little city I live in.

People, this is real. I live it everyday: Activewear

It really doesn’t matter the specifics of the city, although I truly feel my particular town is fast approaching – if it hasn’t already surpassed, the ultimate snot factor. As in a house that costs below $500,000 in this town is a complete shack. And I’m not kidding. My own house is barely above the shack factor, but that’s because no one’s peeked inside and seen how dirty it is because I never have time to vacuum and clean anymore.

We’ll call this magical place The Eastside. This is fact because this town is positioned east of Seattle, WA and east of Lake Washington.

Because I get to drive around a lot these days, visiting various neighborhoods and occasionally stopping for coffee at the official coffee place of The Eastside- Starbucks, I frequently witness the various prototypes that reside here. The most common daytime prototype is The Eastside Blonde.

The Eastside Blonde is typically wearing athletic wear, these days usually the running tights that are so popular, is blonde and is wearing her hair either in a sleek ponytail or perfectly coiffed, cut and colored. The highlights are perfection. I know this is a fact because I’m friendly with a few of the colorists/stylists that do those foils. The Eastside Blonde is often tall and leggy, with perfectly perky boobs, but can be shorter and sometimes a bit plumper. She is always not sweaty. That’s right. Despite the uniform of gymnasts, long-distance runners and hot yoga aficionados everywhere, The Eastside Blonde is never sweaty. Even after completing her hot yoga class located conveniently within the same shopping plaza as the Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Sometimes she sports a slightly rosy glow, but she is always decidedly unsweaty. She also usually carries a paper cup emblazoned with the Starbucks insignia as she rushes by, sometimes kids in tow, often laden down with a recyclable shopping bag and she carries out her daily routine and is incredibly busy. So busy.

So, being the sardonic bitch that I am, I occasionally like to think I’m being exceptionally funny and clever and dress in the uniform of those I most like to make fun of.

One time, while attending a dinner event at the local country club, back when I was married to someone that cared about being part of the local country club, I wore a stunning 1950s-style dress that had little martini glasses printed all over it. I accessorized with charming kitten heels and pulled my hair back with a perky barrette with a bow on it. I proceeded to act like a Stepford Wife the entire evening.

No one got it.

Still, I’ve never let one disappointing experience prevent me from continuing onward.

That is how, today, I found myself in printed running tights, a skimpy white tee-shirt and a fashionable pullover. I didn’t match per se, but I was very coordinated in a fashionable sense. I know this because at one time in my life I actually cared about such things. It helps that although I am not tall and leggy, my thighs don’t touch when I walk. This is not because I have the apparently coveted “thigh gap” – because I don’t. This is because I’m walking somewhere around at least 25-30 miles a week  walking dogs.

I’m also sort of blondish right now. This is because I’m trying to convince myself to just let my hair go gray and face the fact that I’m no longer a brunette with wide blue eyes, but am likely a white-headed older lady with blue eyes that don’t take crap from anybody.

I feel that I started off the day fitting in well with The Eastside, even though I do get sweaty. I even planned on a trip to Starbucks for the favored fall drink, a PSL. (And if you don’t know what that is, then clearly you’ve been living under a rock that has been untouched by the aroma and flavor of pumpkin spice for the last few years.)

Things probably took a turn for the worse when I opted to go to a small, local and specialty coffee  shop that serves far superior coffee. Actually, I intended to get a matcha green tea latte, my latest obsession. Instead, I ended up getting a 16-oz triple Hawaiian Silk (because homey decided if I have to say “grande” ever again I might have to choke on my own vomit).

This decision was made after I’d already done half of my dog walks for the day. I continued on to my last client of the day.

I suppose I should not admit to having some favorite clients, but I do. This particular guy is a bit older, but still very spry, and a little bit sad and lonely because his person works super long hours at a big techie-type company based here that pretty much dominates the world. Also, it is owned by the richest person in the world. I should add his person isn’t all that crazy about the long hours either, but at least he had the good sense to hire me.

Since this guy, we’ll call him J-Dog, was my last client and because he’s super sweet and I enjoy his company, I figured I’d walk him a little bit beyond the allotted 30 minutes. Still, I’d been super efficient all day and figured I’d have time to get back home and play a bit with my own dogs before heading out again to take care of a late day scheduled visit.

At the end of the walk, I played a bit with J-Dog in his owner’s apartment. Sadly, I then had to take my leave.

This is when I realized I had no car keys. Panic ensued. I checked and re-checked my dog walking fanny pack (yes, I wear one and that is an entire other blog post), I checked the lone tiny pocket within the waistband of my sleek and spiffy running tights. Nope. Occupied only by my very uncool and old-fashioned flip phone. I peered helplessly inside the windows of my Jeep. No keys to be seen, anywhere. I dimly recalled that I threw them down in the driver’s seat as I was pulling my fashionable, and yet slightly too warm, pullover over my head. I surmised that the missing keys were lying underneath the abandoned pullover that had been thrown in the driver’s seat.

Luckily, I am a member of AAA. Luckily, I had my uncool flip phone with me.

I informed the kindly woman who answered my call and immediately asked if I was in a safe place (AAA is so caring and thoughtful) that I was in a safe place but that I did not have my AAA member number because of it being locked inside, along with my keys. We were able to resolve the matter of me being a member though thanks to modern technology, and the fact that I gave her my name and address and she verified I’m in their system.

Then she asked for the address of my location.

Um….

I was in the parking lot of a giant apartment complex that is labyrinthine. I also don’t memorize client addresses.

Just then though, I noticed some maintenance workers in a nearby apartment. I asked them for the address of the apartment location. No surprise, they didn’t know it either. However, one of the guys did locate it on the back of a shipping box he was unpacking and gave it to me to relay to AAA.

I was told the AAA contractor would be there lo later than 4:45 pm. It was presently 2:45 pm.

This was when I realized I had only a skimpy white tee-shirt over running tights.

The back-up plan was to utilize my client’s apartment for the wait, but that felt improper and invasive.

Therefore, I decided it was appropriate to engage in a little bit of exercise, to not only warm me up a bit, but to help pass the time.

I utilized my client’s door step as a bench and proceeded to perform a few push-ups, several forward lunges and some back lunges.

If one is going to wear activewear, they really should be prepared to be active. I figured this was a good opportunity. I confess I stopped a few times and tried to act all casual when a couple of kids coming home from school walked by. Also, when the mailman appeared to be watching me.

Thankfully, the AAA contractor arrived within the hour.

This was all very good, but now I had no time to play with my dogs and I was also starving. I popped into the nearby toney organic food store near the apartment complex on my way out and purchased very expensive organic black plums, a container of probably organic garbanzo bean salad mixed up with some ancient grain that is super-good-for-you-and-full-of-antioxidants-but-you-can’t-spell-it. Also, I purchased water in super pretty plastic bottles. It was all far too pricey. Except surprisingly for the pretty water. Actually it was cheaper than most bottled water. I’m sure it is also organic.

When I arrived home, I ate half of the magical garbanzo bean salad, figured someone as active as I have been should imbibe in something healthy and nutritious. But I was still hungry, probably because I gulped it down in five minutes.

So, I then had the rest of Jasmine’s 13th birthday celebration tiramisu cake. I would’ve had some ice cream too, but I finished that off the other night.

I realized as soon as I had the creamy delicious and sugary goodness – watched carefully I might add by four pairs of intensely staring eyes imploring me to share – that it was a mistake.

I’m quite positive that most wearers of activewear do not stand around in their kitchen gulping down a healthy slice of tiramisu cake. It just seemed like a good idea when I was doing it.

On my way to my last client of the day, I felt the garbanzo healthy goodness and the tiramisu naughtiness hit my stomach. Usually this causes a crash in energy level for me and I want to nap.

Unfortunately, I’d agreed to walk an energetic dog for an hour.

As things so often happen though, it turns out eating that tiramisu was a good thing and I benefited from the sugar load.

As I walked outside with my Australian Shepherd charge, I felt a surge in energy kindly provided by umpteen calories of sugar.

Now, I’ll add that this is the kind of dog I normally love to walk. Energetic, quick-paced, wants to take numerous pee breaks and sniff things, but super quick about it. Not much lingering with this guy. Some of my clients could probably literally sniff one spot for 10 minutes. But at the end of a busy day, never mind the end of a busy week, a dog like this can be just plain taxing. Not tonight.

I walk fairly fast as it is, especially for someone that is not long-legged, but tonight, I might have entered speed walking territory. Let’s just say my energetic Aussie was not quite so prance-y when we ended our multi-mile walk this evening.

I also might have possibly burned off the tiramisu caloric intake.

But now my ass hurts from those lunges I did earlier today.

 

*Also noteworthy this week, was an encounter with local landscaping maintenance men.

Because all the fancy and pretty houses and neighborhoods need to continue looking fancy and pretty, The Eastside employs a lot of gardeners and landscapers. Earlier this week, I was walking another favorite dog and a crew of landscapers started whistling at her. I think she’s kind of adorable and I figured they thought she was too.

Because she is extremely reactive and can be very vocal, she carries a tennis ball in her mouth on our walks. It’s an arrangement she actually decided upon, but that I’ve encouraged. It’s interpreted by those that know nothing about her and her intense fears as being cute and silly. I figured the gardening guys thought so too, and smiled at them as I walked by.

Yet the whistles continued, as did some chatter is Spanish.

It then dawned on me that maybe they weren’t whistling at the dog.

 

 

Rehab

Rehab. Much as that word just makes me want to channel my inner Amy Winehouse and start singing, rehab is a good thing and this is about Camm.

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“Human Mom said I gotta go to Rehab/ I said, why so slow, slow, slow/ Yes, I am black / And when I come back, you’ll know, know, know…”

I have been finding Camm’s rehab a bit frustrating in all honesty. The frustration stems from the fact that I am getting zero to nothing for information.

My regular veterinarian’s office simply said take it slow for a week or so, on-leash walks, then she should be good and bring her back if she was continuing to limp. Granted, the practice sees pet dogs and has no experience with dogs that work or do sports. I highly doubt based upon what I’ve seen that the practice really sees dogs that are all that active.

I received a recommendation from a person whose opinion and experience I trust very much – Mr. Bob with the Magic Hands (or so think Brady and Youke) about taking Camm for underwater treadmill work-outs. Immediately upon her release from the splint/bandage apparatus, I made an appointment with a local clinic that states they do rehabilitation for pets with injuries. The practice even claims to specialize in animal sports medicine.

If the extremely elderly, infirm and/or overweight dogs I’ve seen coming and going do any sports then I must be considered an Olympic medalist, and I’m not.

Still, I took Youke to this clinic several years ago when he suffered from some still-to-date undiagnosed injury that was most likely in my opinion an iliopsoas strain. Four months of natural  herbs, acupuncture and Vitamin B shots and no diagnosis. But since he’d rested all that time, spending months sleeping on my bed, he turned into a flabby, sad dog, concerned that he’d never play Ball again in his entire life. I decided life was too short for a young active dog to be sad and not enjoying life, so we quit with all the smelly natural supplements, said we’d rested enough and started hiking, chasing balls uphill, and eventually started back at agility.

But I’m not a vet, nor am I a dogs sports medicine expert.

Yet I sometimes find myself playing that role when I cannot get answers.

I knew better than to just release Camm and hope for the best. Even if she never does agility again, I want a dog that enjoys hiking with me and is able to clock in some miles. And here’s the thing, if she’s agile enough to go hiking, then wouldn’t she be agile enough to play agility?

In addition to the underwater treadmill, I opted to try laser treatments as well. I’ve never done them. The jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.

I saw an immediate impact from the underwater treadmill after the first time.

In Camm’s case, because she was already so incredibly fit, and surprisingly didn’t lose as much muscle mass in her rear leg as one would’ve though after 12 weeks (ahem …!), regaining muscle in the rear has not been my major concern. I’m very good at helping my dogs to become fit and muscular. Perhaps a little too good, according to Mr. Bob.

My main concern has been her actual foot.

The muscles in the foot atrophied incredibly and her ability to flex the foot and move it properly – like a fit athletic dog in the prime of her life – was severely compromised. That is to be expected since it was immobilized for 12 weeks.

The underwater treadmill has allowed her to start gaining back the flexion in her left rear foot. Until she started getting that back, the movement of the foot itself, and the ability to build muscle again in the foot itself, was compromised.

But Mr. Bob also warned me that the underwater treadmill, if continued for long, can also build muscle very quickly and too much in the rear end, something I don’t want.

I know these things, but I cannot seem to get a straight answer about next steps and what I can be doing from the so-called experts.

Initially I was told rehab would be months and I shouldn’t even expect to bring her back to agility until the spring, if ever. In fact, I was warned to only walk her, slowly, on leash .. for weeks apparently, and to continue the underwater treadmill and laser therapy, at oodles of dollars.

I cornered the rehab vet last week and asked again about next steps. I also discovered that the x-rays I’d had my regular vet send over had never even been looked at. Uh-oh. There also seemed to be confusion among the staff as to whether Camm had surgery or exactly what the nature of her injury was. More uh-oh.

Last week I was told that Camm is looking good and that I should consider ending the underwater treadmill exercise (good, because the package of 10 I purchased ends this week) and that she could probably be doing “regular” stuff soon.

Huh? What happened to next spring and maybe never?

Therefore, Camm is now on my rehab plan.

My rehab plan doesn’t involve inflatable balls to balance on or pills or regimented exercises. My rehab plan entails fields, trails in the woods, hills to climb, lots of interesting things to sniff, fallen trees to jump over and to play king of the mountain on, sometimes a harness to pull against, sometimes a breeze to run into, puddles to walk in, jump in and splash through, and definitely a Ball to chase.

We started my rehab plan late last week with a walk in the woods. This week we’ve already taken two walks in the woods, a romp in a couple of fields, a couple of on-leash walks through local parks on a harness to encourage pulling, and we played Ball a few times. And we did find a few puddles to soak her foot in. Actually it was more like a full body mud treatment, but whatever works, right?

I even took Camm over a jump in the backyard late one day this week, had her do a couple of jump-wraps  and had her do the weave poles once. I never practice agility stuff with my dogs on agility stuff, but that was for me to see if she’d be broken after I did that. She wasn’t.

Camm was a very sweet, and patient, patient for the past three and half months, but the joy on her face I see again when out walking through the woods and being able to play with her sister and brothers is not something I see when she’s doing underwater treadmill or laser therapy.

I think she’s gonna like rehab.

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Chinchilla, Please!

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“Mom, I want this thing.”

“Hey, please can have a chinchilla?”

“Don’t bother me now. I’m talking to my new friend. Chinchilla.”

“Don’t make me leave yet! Not done staring at chinchilla!”

“For birthday, no pork chops. Chinchilla, please!”

Brady made the acquaintance of a chinchilla this summer and has been intrigued ever since.

Actually, make that obsessed.

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But in a sort of okay way. I actually don’t think he intends to hurt it.

Nonetheless, this chinchilla creature – I call him Chin (I actually have no idea if it’s a him or a her, but in my head it’s a him) must be studied intently. Very intently. Also very closely. Preferably from about an inch away, although even closer would be nice.

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Surprisingly, Chin is not very offended by Brady’s interest. He usually comes out of his little house and hangs out with Brady. I’m guessing that in some inter-species way, Brady is communicating that he really doesn’t want to eat Chin. He just wants to be close friends. Very, very close friends.

Chin doesn’t want to be close friends with Youke. Youke also likes to stare intently at Chin. This has proven a little bit difficult though because mostly Brady won’t move out of the way to allow Youke a better look. Since Brady is the bigger dog, and the more growly dog, Youke relinquishes the staring to Brady. Unless Brady doesn’t accompany me to Chin’s residence, which also happens to be the residence of two favorite characters, “Jack Lemmon” and “Walter Matthau.”(For more on this, read Sexy Senior.) Then Youke feels free to do a lot of staring at Chin.

However, Youke’s intent is clearly not quite so benign. I’m fairly certain that Youke would like to bite Chin. It’s pretty hard to make friends when you bite them first.

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The funny thing is that Chin seems nearly as fascinated with Brady as Brady is with him. I’ve caught them more than once nearly nose to nose, mesmerized by each other’s presence.

Brady’s newfound desire to be friends with a chinchilla reminds me of when he first came to live with me and his feelings about cats.

When I adopted Brady, I had two cats. Spencer, my elderly male orange cat, and Satan- or Satie-Cat as she’s more commonly called these days since as she’s aged her satanic tendencies have diminished.

Spencer preferred dogs over other cats. This was because he was tormented by the two female cats I had at the time when he fell from out of the sky and to my feet. Okay, really he fell as a kitten from out of tree, knocked the wind out of himself and I picked him up and brought him into my house to revive him. He never left. Remarkably, dogs liked Spencer as much as Spencer liked dogs. He was adored by my first dog I had as an adult and converted my husky mix that thought cats were horrendous and were solely good for chasing to worshiping the ground he walked on. As the years went on,  Sylvie the dog and Spencer the cat would actually play with each other. Spencer did much the same for Jasmine. Jasmine was actually a bit afraid of cats when she came to live with me, but Spencer taught her that some cats are wonderful. And Spencer was there as Youke grew up. I caught them many times playing on the bed and then falling asleep cuddled up against each other. Sadly, Satan had nearly the opposite effect and she is the reason why Jasmine and Youke no longer want to have anything to do with cats.

When I adopted Brady, it was highly suggested that he not live with cats as he seemed a bit too interested in them. That’s code for, will chase down a cat and hurt or possibly kill it. However, since I have a good track record for taking the message of Rodney King to the next level among four-legged critters, I decided that he could eventually learn to live with a cat.

Indeed, it started on day one when Spencer greeted Brady at the top of the stairs and did not run away. In fact, he rubbed up against Brady’s face. Brady was confused. What sort of chicanery was this?

As evil as Satan used to be, she always started off by being deceptively nice and friendly. This further confused Brady. Whereas Spencer would rarely take a swing at a dog, Satan though nothing of it when Brady got too pushy. Hence, Brady learned R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

For the first few months Brady was with me, he though the cats should be not only closely watched – as in with his eyes crossed and his nose being tickled by their fur – but they should also be herded. Spencer wasn’t troubled by this at all as at the time he was pretty elderly and didn’t really move much. Satan was another matter. With time, and many, many helpful suggestions from me and even more helpful messages from Satan that involved unsheathed claws, Brady learned that while incredibly hypnotic, cats were often not very nice or very, very boring. Cats sleep a lot.

Spencer died about a year after I got Brady. Satie-Cat still likes to rub herself against the dogs, but only Brady and Camm. She knows Jasmine and Youke dislike her for her prior mean unpredictability.  Youke dislikes her so much that he gets this odd little twitch in his lip if she tries to be friendly with him.

Nowadays, Brady still occasionally has to watch Satie-Cat very closely, usually sitting on the couch with his nose a centimeter from her curled, sleeping body, his eyes boring into her and willing her to open her eyes. He also sometimes still follows her from room to room and even will cut around the kitchen to head her off from the living room where she likes to perch on the back of the couch. Then he’ll helpfully suggest she go a different route. This would be useful if she was a sheep. The cat’s savior is usually her bestie – Camm. Camm adores Satie-Cat and Camm will tell Brady off when she thinks he’s being too obsessive. Then she’s gently place Satie’s head in her own mouth. While this looks frightening to the uninitiated, I’ve actually seen Satie solicit this behavior.  Satie tolerates this well, even the pawing, although I’ve suggested on many occasions that she doesn’t have to and have also helpfully suggested to Camm that this is inappropriate. Oddly, Satie just goes right back up to Camm for more.

Perhaps when Brady first met Chin he though Chin was a cat? Upon closer inspection, and whiff, he likely realized that this was far from true, but he also knows now that Chin isn’t a bunny either. Chin does sort of resemble a cuter looking rat. Chin is clearly some sort of exotic creature – perhaps half cat, half bunny – that Brady is convinced he should have in his life.

So much so, that I seriously have wondered where a chinchilla would live in my house.

Is it wrong to get a chinchilla for your dog?

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“Here to see my friend. Open the door NOW!”

The Roommate, and Other Special Things

I’ve recently said some unkind things about Brady. More specifically, I’ve used a quite a few expletives.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t love him. It just means that I see him for the dog that he is and am honest about it. And you’ll never catch me calling him, or any of the other dogs, my fuzzy-wuzzy little fur-babies. Because they’re not. They’re dogs. Wonderful alien beings that seem to feel and know more about humans than humans know, but that have their own personalities and quirks, which sometimes means they are assholes and sometimes means they are the most incredible living beings on earth.

Last week was not kind. But the weekend was sort of magical.

I won’t go into the details of what made last week not so great, except to say that Wednesday Jasmine did a lot of puking and Thursday Brady did a lot of pooping.

Being the kind and considerate dog that she is generally, Jasmine cleaned up most of the messes herself. In fact, I didn’t even know she was puking that much until I went to bed and found the wet spots in the carpet upstairs. However, I stepped merely in a wet spot, not a puke mess. The one puke I actually saw in action, I caught her in time to rush her outside to do it.

Brady was another story. I came home Thursday to a mess on the carpet downstairs. Naturally I accused Jasmine. I later realized it was probably Brady, but since he’s never soiled inside, he was the last of the four I would’ve considered. Given that it was an unkind week, I was tired and grumpy, and became livid when I came home to that mess. Even Camm had to give up trying to console me.

Camm would make a great therapy dog – for me. Whenever I get upset – in an extremely sad or mad way – she does her best to calm me down. Often this works, but there are days, like last Thursday, when I’m so far over the edge, that even she knows it’s best to keep her distance.

Long story short, Brady had an extremely upset tummy. Unfortunately, the combination of explosive diarrhea and gorgeous fluffy pantaloons is not good. I lost count of how many times I popped him in the bathtub to wash him off after Bath #3.

Brady does not enjoy being bathed and is typically not too cooperative. By the end of the evening – somewhere around 11 pm, he was actually hopping into the tub himself and resignedly let me soap up his butt and rinse down his feathery tail and rear end.

He was literally squeaky clean. I probably should’ve used conditioner too.

Therefore, after a long evening, a long workday and a long evening drive, I was exhausted when I arrived at the hotel last Friday night for an agility weekend.

The dogs were also a little stressed from my unpleasant mood of the prior few days.

But they were in for a huge surprise.

A friend had offered to share her room with me and the dogs for the weekend. And because she was the judge for the agility trial, she was without her own dogs, therefore, no worries about rooming with my four dogs.

My friend knows my dogs well and they adore her, but there is a difference between a few hikes, some petting at a trial and actually rooming with JaYoBaCa for the weekend. I was a little apprehensive. I wasn’t worried about Brady’s exploding butt as I was pretty sure he’d literally pooped himself out. I was worried about how crazy and obnoxious they’d all be.

Turns out that having Auntie P. as your roommate is THE. BEST. THING. EVER.

All fours dogs were extremely excited and happy that Auntie P. was actually staying in the room with them and conveniently SLEEPING IN THE OTHER BED. There was much hopping up and down on beds, hugging of Auntie P. and licking of Auntie P.

There was also initially some confusion. To sleep with Human Mom as usual or to sleep with Auntie P.? Since this was so unclear for a while, there was a great deal of hopping from one bed to the other. And since they are athletic dogs, this was easily accomplished by merely jumping from bed to bed.

Eventually, and much, much later that night, Youke, Camm and Jasmine decided the usual sleeping arrangements would suffice and slept with me.

Brady did snuggle with his beloved Auntie P. for a while, but eventually, he too chose his typical sleeping place somewhere on the floor.

The best part was the mornings. The dogs were clearly delighted that Auntie P. was still there each morning and chose to snuggle into bed with her while I took a pair of them outside and then rotated the other pair outside.

I was a little worried since Auntie P. was the judge for our trial and Youke and Brady were running this weekend.

I need not have been concerned. Apparently, both boys have a very strong work ethic. In one gobsmacking moment that occurred during the trial, I walked past Auntie P. with Brady on the leash beside me. I expected him to drag me over to her as he tried to wriggle his way between her legs like he ordinarily does when he sees her at agility trials. Nope. She even walked up to us and petted him, but he gave her a cursory glance and barely paid her any attention.

“Sorry, Auntie. Can’t say hi right now. I’m busy doing ‘gility stuff.”

It was almost like he knew she was the judge.

Neither he nor Youke ever glanced at her during their runs in the ring that I ever saw. I guess there’s something to be said about the work ethic and intensity of a border collie.

Still, I’m glad Camm wasn’t running this past weekend. Of all the dogs, I think she was the one most beside herself with Auntie P.’s presence as our roommate. Every time my back was turned, and even when it was not, there she was making goo-goo eyes at Auntie.

I think Brady’s newly cleansed and super fluffy butt might have had the incidental impact of cleansing his attitude of late.

Brady and I worked as a team this weekend. Let me restate that. Brady and I were a dream team this weekend.

Brady and I ran in 12 runs and earned 10 #1s. Granted, there are not a lot of dogs that run in his particular division and this was not a huge trial, but his times were often the fastest in the entire class or within the top three fastest times. And we ran clean in 10 of those runs. Again, we just couldn’t get those Chances qualifying scores. His awesome performance earned him Elite Large Dog- Second Place in the Columbia Cup in last weekend’s NADAC agility trial. He also won me a fabulous tee-shirt that brags that we ran clean in all four Regular runs.

More than the accomplishment though, was the flow and fun of our runs. We synched as a team and it felt marvelous.

Youke and I also had a successful weekend. I made some silly handler errors with Youke, which he obligingly followed. My incredibly bad habit of peeling off too early and not holding support haunts me with Youke. He is so pressure sensitive and the instant pressure is released, he peels off with me. Still, he was super happy to play and the pictures from the trial all show his crazy train face, which is the look he gets when he thinks something is super fun and awesome.

Jasmine and Camm got to walk the fairgrounds and do some exploring. Not so notable for Jasmine, but very much so for Camm as she’s walking for the most part without a limp at all now.

In fact, this evening she got to do something she hasn’t done for a couple of months. She got to come on a walk with her brothers and sister through the woods.

Life is pretty good.

Some pictures from the weekend. All agility photos taken by Joe Camp. Candids are by me.

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Intensity

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Power

 

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About to blow the contact ….

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And contact blown!

 

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Is this right?

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Got it!

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Making dirt fly.

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Wheee!

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Wahoo!

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Woosh!

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JaYoBaCa

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Brady and his pretty ribbon

Nailed

Be careful who or what you name your dog for. Case in point:

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots

Oct 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) on the field before the start of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve made no secret of Brady’s hot-headedness nor his lack of patience for dumb handler moves. Brady deserves full credit for the fact that I’ve become a better handler. Sadly for him, and painfully for me, I’m still a work in progress.

Today, we came to the conclusion of a new world record.

A world record in my world and a world record since playing agility with Brady.

I’ve gone nearly the entire summer without being nipped.

That ended today.

At least it was during a private session with our Relationship Counselor.

Whoa! Did The Relationship Counselor know this happened? How good is The Relationship Counselor if she can’t save one of her disciples from being domestically abused?

First of all, it happened in an instant. Literally. Secondly, a tug toy had just been in play and how was either I or The Relationship Counselor to know if it was an accident, or not? Except the tug toy was on the ground at my feet and the nip was directed at my shin, several inches to the diagonal above the tug toy.

I’ll admit, I was confused and at a bit of a loss. I told The Relationship Counselor so and opted to err on the side of forgiveness. It must’ve been a mistake!

But it wasn’t. Oh no siree. It was very deliberate. It just took my much slower human brain much longer to process exactly what happened.

I was working on building more distance skills with Brady and Youke today. Because Youke is pretty much The Best Dog of All Time, it was a super fun session and he worked his little heart, and brain, out.

Brady actually has some very solid foundation skills in this respect and the session was also very good.

However, it drives him bonkers when I walk while he is performing weaves. It is a great source of angst. The Relationship Counselor has made me see it is not so much the walk as it is the slowing down or speeding up that drives him berserk. If I maintain a steady pace, whether a run, skip or walk, he’s fine.

In today’s session, I started out at a walk as he entered the weaves, and was practically crawling as he neared the end. This caused him to creep forward through the last four weaves, head down, staring at me.

I made the mistake of laughing. I did not pay attention to the very large “fuck you” that followed the stare.

The Relationship Counselor proceeded to show me a better way to handle the sequence. Although I now realize he was silently swearing at me as she was helping me, I wasn’t paying attention at the time. I went to gather Brady up to re-work the sequence and he hit me in the shin. With his teeth.

“Did he just bite you?!” exclaimed The Counselor.

“I’m not sure,” I answered truthfully. “I think he was going for the toy,” I said, even then, I was doubtful. “I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

I then worked the sequence with him. Perfectly I might add and with emphasis and firm intent. The emphasis and firm intent was because as I was taking him through the short sequence, I was becoming extremely pissed off. Motherfucker hurt!

The Relationship Session aka agility lesson ended on this good note. Brady was quite pleased with himself and pranced back to the kennel to wait to be leashed up. As The Relationship Counselor and I talked a few minutes about a few minor details, I started feeling something trickling down my leg.

I knew I had not peed my pants as 1) I went just after I arrived for the lesson, 2) I am not yet wearing Depends and have no bladder leakage issues, and 3) I had not just splashed in some water.

I decided not to call attention to what I knew was going on as 1) The Relationship Counselor is very squeamish, and 2) I did not want to be responsible for her passing out, especially as another student had just arrived on scene. Also, as discovered from a past incident, The Relationship Counselor stocks only tiny inadequate band aids.

However, as I bent down to clip on Brady’s leash I took a quick glance and saw bright red blood running profusely down my leg and pooling into my bright blue sneaker.

Yay. Another Curt Schilling  Moment, courtesy of Brady. Not the first. And unfortunately, probably not the last.

I wiped up the blood as best as I could when I got up to my vehicle and proceeded to still take the boys swimming as planned. I contemplated washing the wound out in the water at the lake, but we were in a sort of swampy area and there were small children on the fishing dock. No need to scare the children with my gaping wound.

When I got home, Jasmine and Camm greeted me and immediately issued their concerns. Both followed me into the bathroom as I cleaned up the dried and caked blood and washed out the bite, applied antiseptic solution and placed a large square bandage over it.. I could barely move in fact as both of my nurses were gravely concerned. Even Youke, stayed at the periphery.

You know who wasn’t concerned and instead was downstairs rearranging pillows on the loveseat as he bounced around with a toy in his mouth?

Brady only realized something was wrong when he went to give me his after-dinner hump.

“Hey there! You know you have some blood on you? Did you get hurt mom?”

Fuckhead.

Good thing I adore him.

Brady is handsome