Category Archives: Pets

The Truth: Dog Adoption is Work

Our first dog was purchased from a breeder as a scrappy 6-month-old puppy. He was the last of his litter and his picture on the internet was love at first sight. Sure we had to potty train him, but he came with no emotional baggage. He was secure, feisty, and ready to love.

The scrappy picture stolen from the internet that stole my heart with Simon.

This scrappy picture from the internet stole my heart.

Odi, on the other hand, is a completely different dog. We are probably his sixth placement, (wherever he started, pound, rescue group, adoptive family, rescue group, us). The family who adopted him before us returned him because he was taking their 3-year-old son’s toys. I can imagine it was more than just the toys.

I laugh that unlike Simon, Odi is an actual dog. He likes being outside, exploring, getting into trouble.

I laugh that unlike Simon, Odi is an actual dog. He likes being outside, exploring, getting into trouble.

Odi is a ball of energy in the mornings. He wants to play for hours. He has marked in our house. He chews. He scratches at invisible pests even though he has been flea-free for days. We’re helping his tummy overcome the stress of a new home with a bland diet of rice and boiled chicken fed four times daily. There was a moment on the beach yesterday where he looked around and did not recognize anyone. He bolted back toward the car, stopping to see if a stranger was anyone he knew by tapping her ankles with his paws. She looked startled, I got there just in time for him to turn and wag his tail. Thankfully he remembered me.

Put simply, Odi is work. Adopting a dog sounds so beautiful, a saved life, a happy home. And, it is these things, with time. But the work comes first. He offers so many glimmers of a wonderful companion. He plays with Simon without aggression, he sleeps happily in his crate, he is affectionate, calm with people, gentle. He gets Simon to move his butt off the couch. He plays fetch. He loves the backyard. Everyone who has met him has been in awe that we’ve only had him for such a short time, that such a happy, well-mannered dog was homeless.

He is amazing, but he also requires more work and patience than a dog who has never been abandoned. He hates getting in and out of cars. He refused to walk into Petsmart. One out of a hundred people makes him cower behind our legs as though we’ve crossed paths with an evil witch. He likes dogs the most. It is clear he has a history we will never fully understand.

Friends with similar stories give us hope, reassuring us their now well-adjusted dogs were no where near as calm after only a week. Odi is calm, I’ll give him that. I just have to admit I thought rescuing a dog would be a little easier. I don’t regret it and I’m sure his list of challenges is minor compared to many others like him. I’ve already fallen under his spell. He just requires more energy than our lazy little guy lying on the couch next to me. But, I guess that’s why we got him in the first place…

We're hopeful the love and consistency will pay off.

Odi is definitely special. We’re hopeful the love and consistency will pay off.

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Where did spring break go?

Spring break ended in a blink. I finished four books, adopted a dog, wrote my last essay to clear my teaching credential, watched two movies (Sessions + Ruby Sparks), went to yoga, submitted two short writing pieces (one was accepted!), and walked by the river. Yesterday, the grand finale, we packed up the dogs and drove to Muir Beach, our favorite hike.

The pet-friendly beach is leash free and the huge hill promises a view down the coast toward San Francisco. I used to look forward to the Pelican Inn as our after hike reward, but now I recommend just the beach. The Pelican is too crowded and the food has lost its magic. Still, Muir Beach was the perfect way to end a week off, even if that week disappeared faster than I’d like.

Odi California Friends

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Welcome Home Otis/Odin (aka Odi)

Our newest family member.

Our newest family member on the left.

About a month ago, yoga cat disappeared. We were sad. Our dog was sadder. He destroyed long-time favorite toys, sniffed every inch of ground on our walks, and just looked generally depressed whenever he was left home alone. He and yoga cat used to play chase to pass the time and we almost always found them in the same room, together, when we got home.

Lacking the chase exercise, he began to put on weight. Suddenly, the dog door he had used for years was a little too small. I finally drew the line when he got stuck. Yes, stuck. His harness was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or got the pomeranian stuck in the dog door, depending on how you look at it.

My husband had been trying to convince me he needed a friend for weeks. I was reluctant. What if Luna came back? Did we really want the added expense and work of another creature in our house? Did we feel like potty training a puppy? I was staunchly on the no side, but my husband persisted and I gave in. It would be his dog. He had to pick it out, do the work.

He found a pure-bred border collie puppy down in Modesto. My gut said no. I didn’t want a puppy and I was nervous about having such a smart, possibly high-energy dog. So, I did what any good wife would do and got back on Petfinder to look for a decoy. Success. A wire-haired terrier with grey polka dots on her ears. She looked a lot like Simon’s favorite girlfriend down the street. The dog was supposed to be Simon’s new friend, after all.

My husband, the good sport he is, approved of a quick trip to Elk Grove to check her out at a sanctuary for homeless pets. Poor creature, she was a mess, and Simon had zero interest. He is breed-ist and prefers dogs with poofs similar to his own. Fortunately, in the back of one of the dog runs, Alex spotted our new dog, a border collie mix who patiently wagged his tail while all the other mutts howled in pandemonium.

Our gentle boy.

Our gentle boy.

Alex asked if he could be brought out. It was love, for Alex at least. For Simon, well, he still didn’t show much interest, but as the dog checked him out, they showed no aggression to each other, which is unusual for Simon with boy dogs. This dog was one of the gentlest we had ever met. Even the roaming cats were of no interest to him. As Simon barked like a mad man each time a cat crossed our path, Otis did nothing but wag his tail. All good signs, we decided.

Turns out our pal Otis was the spoiled beast of his previous rescue family, but he kept taking the toys of the three year-old child and it was just too much for the family to handle. He had gone to obedience training, received every medical service imaginable, even had a DNA test to determine his breed combination, (apparently schnauzer, border collie, and cocker, but I’m not convinced). In his year and a half of life, he somehow ended up on death row at a pound and then was rescued by this animal group, adopted, then returned.

The two week trial sold me. Here was this dog with all these pluses, if it didn’t work, we could bring him back. We felt like he picked us. He was so happy to see us through that chain-linked fence, so patient as he watched Simon and wagged his tail. On the car ride home, he snuggled his new friend the entire way. Last night he slept without objection or a single noise in his crate. Today he and Simon stomped around the backyard for hours while I did some spring yard work.

Fast pals.

And I thought I was Simon’s best friend…

I wasn’t sure if it would be hard to love another dog like I love Simon, but I think Otis will at least come close. He’s eager to please, kind, and affectionate. He loves Simon like he’s known him forever. Somehow he makes our home more complete, happier even, I guess my husband was right.

The only part we don’t agree on is his name. Alex wants to call him Odin after a pagan Norse god. I immediately took to calling him Oats and Odi for short, which for me goes more with Otis. I guess this dog will have two names, depending on which family member you ask. Although, really, we have both been calling him Odi, so I guess that’s his name. And, it does have a pretty great song to go with it, Odi, Odi, Odi, Oh! Smart boy that he is, his ears already perk up when it plays.

Alright, he does have one bad habit for us to break-- he seems to think the planter box is a play box... Although looking at the horrible post-winter state of this box, I don't think I can complain.

Alright, he does have one bad habit for us to break– he seems to think the planter box is for play… And, yes, there is a reason I did all that yard work, winter left our backyard a mess.

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I thought you were dead.

I thought I killed you, little plants, by letting winter have you.

You are stronger than you look,

Green again,


Life is powerful,

I should not so easily forget.

May spring reveal its magic in other ways, as well.




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The Secret to Forgiveness is Love.

The March Bloggers for Peace challenge is to write about forgiveness. Instead of writing about any one instance of forgiveness, I offer a simple idea. The secret to forgiveness is love, and love is a choice. If you decide to love, then you can also decide to forgive.

The beauty of this secret is that it does not apply to just lovers, or family, or friends. It applies to anyone. Strangers even. Have you ever imagined love for a person who is pissing you off? I swear, it changes the mood. Suddenly you start to see the person a little differently, to imagine what brought him or her to this moment where your paths have crossed so tumultuously. If there is an opportunity to hold a grudge or judge another person, there is also an opportunity to love.

I kid you not. In the most basic expression of this, I forgive my students all the time. In the middle of a really good tantrum, they often say terrible things. I am hated, threatened, you name it. Children or not, it is often tempting to feel angry. When I force myself to focus on my love for them, any inkling of anger is diffused, (in fact, these thoughts usually make me smile, which in turn just confuses the hell out of them and sometimes results in smiles on their faces too). Love conquers all.

Of course, some things in life may feel too terrible to forgive, but I still believe this is a choice. You choose whether to hold on or let go. It’s funny. As I sit here and type now, I realize that the hardest person to forgive very well may be yourself. So, for tonight at least, I’ll forgive myself for my own imperfections. Thanks Bloggers for Peace for helping to spread the love (and forgiveness).

For more great Peace Cats, check out:

And, thanks for sharing your peace cats, Rarasaur! (Check out other hilarious/inspiring/poignant ones here…)

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Good Riddance January, Hello Video Blog

I envisioned this post as my monthly Bloggers for Peace entry, but I have to admit I’m not feeling very peaceful. January was an intense month. While I kept my cool through the intensity, I’m hoping February will bring a shift in energy.

If I followed astrology, I would be certain some planet was in retrograde or crossing or whatever happens when people act nuttier than usual. The full moon, maybe… Or maybe it’s just January. I’ve heard that more people die in January than any other month. Something about holding it together through the holidays, perhaps?

I get that it is a bit of a let down. Suddenly the festivities are over. The parties are done, everyone goes back to work and their regular lives just as the coldest cold sets in. Last year I was sad to let the holidays finish. This year I didn’t mind. I was ready for 2013. But then January caught me off guard.

Sure it had its good moments. It certainly went by quickly. I’m still in the middle of leaving a note for a different student each morning, my daily act of kindness. The notes have earned me hugs, puzzled looks, smiles. I survived my first clothing-optional hot springs visit, (I remained clothed if you missed the earlier posts). I did yoga nearly every day. That’s probably the best part, hours and hours of yoga. I even taught my students to hold themselves in tree. It’s our peaceful, yoga contest when we need a break.

I’m just glad January is over. All 31 days of it. May February bring a little more daylight and a little less intensity.

And, what the heck– I was going to over-think my first video blog, but instead I give you the real me. Unscripted, after a long day of work… Sorry for the lame sound synching and the lack of focus… I’m already talking myself out of it as I type. Must hit publish before I change my mind, part of my goal to be brave and really put myself out there as a writer this year. Here it goes.

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Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to Work I Go!

I know as a teacher I should be the last person to complain to go back to work. I get breaks and I mostly like my job. Not such a bad life. Still, each time a break comes to a close, I go through a brief funk. It’s hard to let go of the time to write, to do yoga, to sleep, to see friends and family… It requires a shift in my brain to my other self.

Today I went back to work, the kids follow tomorrow. This evening I continued my longest consecutive string of yoga ever. I have been doing yoga everyday for a couple weeks and I am finally beginning to see why instructors encourage this– I feel amazing and am able to do more than I ever have been in the past, (even when I was doing 3-4 days of yoga/week). I share this now in hopes it helps to keep me dedicated. A little reminder to my future self.

I could never bring myself to invest the time or money to go to a yoga studio daily, (especially since most classes are 90 minutes and just getting there/home adds another 30 minutes to my day). However, I recently discovered that watching yoga on Hulu Plus is actually pretty productive, (even if the ads and cheese factor can be annoying). It is the missing piece I needed to break up my studio visits and a nice change of pace from the routines in books.

Coming home to yoga this evening, I realized there really are ways to make life feel more balanced and better after work. Now it’s time for a little tech-free quiet as the last ingredient to my evening… Tomorrow, kiddos, day one of my peace project, and some more yoga!

Student #8 has a happy note waiting on her desk for her day as my secret student.

Student #8 has a happy note waiting on her desk for her day as my secret student.

My room is ready for a new year and 30 happy kiddos.

My room is ready for a new year and 30 energetic kiddos.

And, you get to see my cat play with a toy whale because she's cute...

And, you get to see my cat play with a toy whale because she’s cute and we know she loves yoga too… yes, still.

Happy balanced Monday!

Happy balanced Monday!

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I Get Lost in My Mind

This morning I awoke earlier than usual to my dog convulsing at the edge of my bed. Worried he might vomit, I shooed him straight out the door to the backyard. Then I realized he could hardly walk. He was shaking. He could not breathe. I scooped him in my arms and wrapped him in a blanket. I held him on the couch until his breath steadied and his body was still.

I was afraid he was going to die. I breathed and whispered sweet words to him. I reminded myself of my childhood dog and her seizures. I convinced myself it was those stupid flea pills. He let me hold him for an eternity, then shook it off, ate breakfast, and went back to sleep.

The last couple days I have been lost in my mind. Yesterday, I wrote almost the entire day. I finished part of an essay to prove to the state of California that I deserve a clear teaching credential, (as if my survival through a grueling residency program and my first year on my own were not enough). I poured two or more hours back into my pitch, sculpting word by word.

When I write, I often disappear from everything else. I get sucked so deep into my mind that the day disappears into darkness. Sometimes I forget to eat. Last night I forced myself to take a break to do yoga. Pandora playing in the background, I wrote down the name of this song. This morning, after Simon was tucked back into my spot in bed, I sat and listened. Then I cried. I get so lost in my mind. I’m grateful to be awake.

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I should be… But I’m not.

I should be working on NaNoWriMo, but instead I’m blogging. I think I might be a blog addict. There is something about the instant gratification of an audience. Plus, blogging allows me to write about the here and now, instead of the somewhere made up in my brain. Not that that place isn’t fun…

At least my students kicked some NaNoWriMo butt this year– read their stories this afternoon, amazing. Many of them wrote thousands of words. Talking dogs, romantic rendezvous, magical kingdoms…

So, here I am, typing away. I have only written half of what I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. If I spent the time I worked on my blog writing that story, I would probably have at least double the words, if not more. But, it’s hard not to start here when I write each night. It’s like my warm-up space… Except now that I am only giving myself an hour each night to write, I don’t know how I am going to do both. My husband suggested scheduled blog nights, but I’m not sure I work like that. When I want to write, I want to write.

How do you balance your blogging versus other creative work? Do you start here, like I do? Or do you force yourself away?

Look at that, a fifteen minute post. I may actually have time for some other writing yet! Okay, I lied, now that I’ve reread it all and added pictures more like twenty-five minutes… Really leaving this time… I hope…

The upside of less writing time, I stuck to my yoga/spiritual practice goal this evening, (even though it ended up taking me almost two hours). And, here’s some proof yoga cat was not just a one-week aberration. In fact, she’s still in there right now. Didn’t take the hint when I rolled up the mat on top of her…

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Yoga Cat & Other Obstacles

Despite my best intentions, life has felt challenging lately. Even home yoga. I would like to introduce you to yoga cat. She is nothing like yoga dog, who stops by, stretches, wags his tail, and then moves on. Yoga cat likes to be in the way, the entire time. Every day since I decided to take my home yoga practice more seriously, she has been on my mat from start to finish. I have done locust poses at odd angles, tree balanced precariously over an outstretched cat, warrior with my hand a dangling invitation for her to take a good swat, and seated meditation with a purring ball of fur pressed against my legs.

Like many obstacles, she is part joyous distraction, part menace.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why not just move her? But, that’s the thing. First, she’s not an easy creature to move. My husband and I joke that she’s half ferrel. She does what she pleases unless you’re willing to risk an altercation. Second, I have tried to view her as an added challenge to clearing my mind and focusing inward. If I work hard enough, I can tune her out, even if every once in awhile I receive an unexpected slap of her paw or have to move some of my poses to the carpet.

Luna is perfectly in the way.

I actually think yoga cat is a good metaphor for life. Anything worth doing is going to have obstacles. You can either put in the work anyway or switch your attention elsewhere. I am pretty sure if I pulled out a different mat she would just follow me to a new location. I have to remind myself this as I push through obstacles in other parts of my life. Even if I switched directions, there would be something else. Thankfully, meditation, yoga, blogging, reading all help. And, doing yoga over a cat might just be part of the fun.

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Thankfulness Thursday: Three Posts Left…

Three weeks left, so three thankfulness moments:

Each morning this week I’ve awakened a half hour before I need to get out of bed, giving me time to appreciate my snuggling dog and husband. More often than not, I’ve been the middle spoon. Tuesday I lay awake and realized there was nowhere else on earth I would rather be. No where. Sharing one pillow with a dog and a spouse may not seem like heaven to many, but it is to me. Now if only the alarm didn’t have to go off at 6AM…

So grateful for these two guys!

A student in my class wrote me a letter today. She asked me to please talk to her in the same voice she used with me, calm and quiet. Unfortunately, she was caught in the crossfires of some stern words to another student. I did not yell, but I was short with her. Her little note humbled me. Instead of feeling bad I just felt like she was right. I apologized and kept the reminder with me all day. The same student is working on casting a kindness spell on our classroom. Maybe it already worked on me. As long as she keeps her spells positive, I am grateful…

Waiting on my doorstep this evening was a box full of herbal tinctures, vitamins, and teas. I’m on an experimental quest. I’ll spare you the gritty details. Most of us have one medical challenge or another (or maybe multiple). I feel fortunate mine is minor compared to many. However, doctors cannot fix it. Pain killers have been my only option. Recently, I discovered a different path. I’m seeing a woman who combines physical and mental healing with massage and home treatments. Might sound a bit hippie to some, but I feel empowered. Might just transform into a full-on hippie yet. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude…

Today was challenging but writing all that made me feel better. Maybe you should give Thankfulness Thursday a shot too. Only two weeks/three posts until Thanksgiving!


Don’t forget! Thankfulness Thursday linkup at Domestic Fashionista. It’s funny, I almost wrote about watching some of my students battle writer’s block as we’ve started NaNoWriMo in my classroom. Turns out Ashley over at Domestic Fashionista already had this topic covered for the week! Great minds…

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Yoga Dog Monday: Looking for Converts

Monday nights are usually hot yoga night for me, my chance to unwind, get a little exercise, and leave feeling like a new person. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I’m a big yoga advocate. It majorly relieves my stress/anxiety, numbs my chronic neck pain, and keeps my pathetic left knee functioning.

A couple weeks without yoga and I’m a mess, a realization that has driven me to practice at home when I can’t get myself out the door to class… Like, uhh, tonight. In all seriousness, it has taken years for me to develop the patience and discipline to do yoga at home without giving up after five minutes, but it’s finally starting to pay off as I focus on poses I need most instead of being at the whim of an instructor.

And, the unexpected side benefit– more time with yoga dog! When I do yoga around the house, I am attacked by Simon. Without fail, the mat comes out, he starts stretching, then he ends up trying to lick my face while I’m meditating on the floor. I’ve been attempting to capture yoga dog in action for days. Unfortunately, the camera comes out and he runs away, (yoga dog is one cheeky monkey!).

Simon is a bit camera shy about his yoga moves…

But, I finally caught him in his favorite pose, downward dog.

Anyway, back to the point of all this– I believe there is a yoga style for everyone, whether it be hot yoga or Vinyasa or what have you. Heck, as my conservative, P90X-doing hot yoga buddy said the other night, “You don’t even have to be a hippie!” So get out there, try it if you haven’t and try it again if you have! It took me years to find the right style/instructors to keep me hooked, but now I’m going on two years of consistent yoga-ing and couldn’t be more pleased!

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