Wednesday, July 29, 2009

OK, this dog isn't perfect after all

I've been trying really hard to take a photo of our new dog for you all. He is so cute. And so huge. I want a photo with him next to our dining room table, or the piano. Anything to show the size of him.

Trouble is, every time I get out the camera, he wants to investigate. So he walks or jogs toward me, tail wagging, trying to lick the camera lens. "Sit, Stay" means nothing to him when the camera is involved.

All I've managed so far is blurry close-ups of his face and tongue.

I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcoming Our New Friend

We got a new dog last Tuesday. Not that any dog could ever replace our beloved Basset Hound Woody, who died last month, but we all were wishing we had a dog to complete our little family. We were thinking of a medium-size dog, such as a pug or a bulldog or a beagle or a small hound dog of some kind. Something big enough to scare away burglars with its bark, but small enough for the kids to handle.

Two weeks ago my husband went to the county animal shelter and there, in a small hot cage in the middle of the Arizona desert, was a St. Bernard. My husband has always loved St. Bernards, but has never wanted to get one here in the hot hot desert. We have both always felt it is a little bit cruel to bring such a big, furry, adapted-for-the-snow dog to the desert-climate Phoenix metropolitan area. It's just too hot. But there he was. Here, in Arizona, apparently abandoned. And if not claimed or adopted, doomed to die at the shelter. As my husband said, the only thing worse for a St. Bernard than living in Arizona would be dying in the gas chamber at the animal shelter in Arizona, for a crime you never committed.

He had been found - a stray - rather than brought in, so they didn't know exactly how old he is. They guessed he was "about 4." And there he sat, panting. Hot, matted, dirty, looking sad... and still beautiful. My husband said he had sweet eyes.

My husband looked at some other dogs, too, and was particularly interested in a cute little pug with bright eyes and a sweet disposition. It had been brought in by owners who could no longer keep it, so they knew that it was good with kids and other pets, house-trained, and up-to-date on its shots. The pug was the rational choice. The St. Bernard tugged at my husband's heart.

So one week ago - last Tuesday, the first day my husband's two favorite dogs were available for adoption - my husband returned to the shelter with our daughter to see how each dog would react to a child. The pug already had been adopted. The other dogs my husband had been mildly interested in had already been adopted or had a "lottery" going to see who would get them. No one else was even looking at the St. Bernard - just my husband and daughter. The staff said no one else had expressed interest all week.

The workers brought him out to the "yard" so my husband and daughter could look at him, pet him, evaluate whether to bring him home. He was a mess. His tail was dirty and matted and so heavy that it dragged the ground. The matted clumps attached his tail to his butt and hind legs so he couldn't even wag his tail. His fur was so dirty and stringy that he looked like Chewbacca from Star Wars. He was beyond "been at the shelter for a week" messy and into the "been neglected for weeks or months" range of messy. He felt a little thin beneath the thick, matted fur.

And yet his eyes were kind and sweet, and he smiled at my husband and daughter. He was gentle and friendly with my husband, my daughter, other people, and the other dogs in the yard.

So my husband adopted him. And brought him home and spent the next 4 hours giving him a bath and brushing the worst of the knots and matted clumps away. (We're still working on a couple of particularly stubborn clumps). Our new dog didn't seem to like the water but tolerated the bath, and genuinely seemed to enjoy the brushing. He alternated between patiently standing, sitting, and lying down, and seemed to smile the whole time he was being brushed. It turns out he has typical St. Bernard coloring - white with brown spots - and he no longer looks like Chewbacca. And his fur is so soft! And now that he is able, he wags his tail every time we pat his head, which happens often....

And oh, what a sweetie he is! We took him for a walk to our favorite pizza place. He trotted happily along, as dogs do, sniffing and peeing here and there. He greeted everyone we passed with a smile and a wag. People would ask if they could pet him and we would warn them, "We just got him so we can't guarantee he won't bite, but he seems friendly so far, so if you want to take the chance, you can pet him." Invariably, they would. And invariably, he was sweet and gentle and kind and happy for the attention.

We passed the dog park. Other dogs barked and ran next to him on the other side of the fence. He looked at them, wagged his tail, and walked on. No growling, no barking, no pulling on the leash (good thing - I think he weighs almost as much as me!).

Fire engines drove by, sirens blaring. He looked around, watched with interest, but did not seem overly concerned.

Bicyclists rode by. He watched and wagged his tail, but did not bark or chase them.

Of course we will be cautious over the coming weeks and months. It takes time to trust a dog not to "snap." Especially one that is as tall as your dining room table and nearly three times as heavy as your six year old. But he is off to a good start. He seems kind and gentle and unflappable. He seems to love sleeping on our cool tile floor in the air-conditioned house. He hasn't tried to pee in the house, but instead gets up and walks to the door when the need arises, and pees nicely on the bushes in the back yard. He was obviously well-trained by someone, probably well-loved at one time. But he is also a little head-shy, as if someone, at some time, may have smacked his head with their hands.

My kids cried the night we got him, and again last night, about missing Woody, their beloved and faithful friend. There were big sad tears and declarations that they will always love him best and never forget him. No dog will ever replace him in our hearts.

But they have also smiled frequently this past week, and they seem genuinely happy to have a big, soft, sweet teddy-bear of a dog to love and pet and care for.

After much debate, we named him "Sparky," after the ASU mascot.

Then we watched the movie Beethoven, which is about a huge St. Bernard and his little terrier friend (I've been advised it was a Jack Russell Terrier, but I'm not an expert, so I could be wrong). Turns out the little terrier friend in the movie is named "Sparky." So we've accidentally and rather ironically named our huge St. Bernard after the tiny terrier in the same movie. (It's ok by me. I've always been a fan of ironic pet names. I once named my tiny tiger-striped kitten "Spot," for example.)

Welcome to our family, big sweet furry dog, welcome to our family!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Most Criminals Just Aren't That Bright

I had intended to make "stupid criminal tales" a regular installment, but then I got sidetracked with other things. So here is stupid criminal tale number two.

If you missed my last stupid criminal tale, go here and enjoy!

Here is another actual true account of a criminal case I once worked on:

A Circle K convenience store was robbed one morning in Phoenix. The robber was enjoying an "old west" fantasy, as he wore a red bandanna over his nose and mouth, and a cowboy hat, and brandished a .45 while demanding money. The store clerk apparently had not been "dropping" his money into the safe as often as he should have, because he gave the robber hundreds of dollars from the cash register. This was, of course, captured on the store's video camera.

A few days later, the police arrested a suspect. They searched his home and vehicle.

During the search, the police did not find a hat or bandanna or any cash. They did, however, find a photo from one of those cheesy photo shops where you can have an old-timey looking photo taken while you are dressed up like a hooker or a cowboy or a circus performer or whatever. It was a picture of the fellow they were arresting dressed in Western garb, posing with his girlfriend. He wore a cowboy hat that looked remarkably like the one described by the Circle K clerk and captured on the Circle K security video, and a red bandanna draped around his neck, which also matched the one on the Circle K video and as described by the Circle K clerk. In addition, he wore the photo store's costume chaps, vest, and cowboy style shirt. In the photo, he was holding a .45 and flashing a fanned-out handful of cash at the camera, and grinning from ear to ear. The girl in the photo was dressed up like a hooker from an old Western movie.

The police thanked him politely for providing them with such great evidence, and hauled him off to jail. The subsequent investigation revealed that the photo had been taken in the afternoon, on the day of the robbery. The cheesy photo was Exhibit 1 at trial, and pretty much destroyed his "SODDI" ("Some Other Dude Did It") defense.

Here is some practical (not legal) advice, in case you ever decide to break the law: Generally, if you want to avoid being convicted of your special crime, it would be a better idea to destroy the evidence, rather than to take (and keep!) a photo of it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My First Fishing Lesson

When I was a kid, probably about eight years old, maybe younger, my Grandfather (yes, the one who died in May) took me fishing. My Grandpa loved to fish, and wanted to instill in me that same love of fishing.

I was young, so I don't know exactly where we went, but it was beautiful. We drove a long way from my Grandpa's house, out to where the roads were curvy and the trees were tall. We carried the fishing gear from the car to a curvy, wide, meandering stream. There were tall green trees, beautiful green grassy areas, nice benches to sit on, and occasional bridges across the stream.

My Grandpa showed me how to attach the bobber to the line, and the hook.

My Grandpa showed me how to put the bait on the hook, and then he let me try it for myself.

He showed me how to cast the line out into the water, and encouraged me as I practiced until I could do it well.

He told me how to watch the bobber and feel the line to determine when a fish was nibbling.

He showed me how to "set" the hook when the fish nibbled, and how to reel them in.

And reel them in I did! I caught 3 good-size fish that day! My Grandpa proclaimed that I was the youngest expert fisherwoman in the entire state! He was so proud of me.

When we got home, he proudly told my Grandma and uncles what a great job I had done fishing -- and catching, which we all know is the hard part. (After all, anyone can go fishing, but not everyone actually catches anything!) We had delicious fresh fish for dinner that evening, and my grandpa once again proudly proclaimed that it was "thanks to my fine Granddaughter's expert fishing skills and my beautiful wife's wonderful cooking skills" that we were eating so well that evening. (He really knew how to pour on the praise).

A week or so later when I returned home from my Grandma and Grandpa's house, I told my Dad about how Grandpa had taken me fishing and that I caught 3 big fish. He was impressed and asked, "Where'd you go?" I thought he probably wanted to go there himself, as he loved fishing, too.

I said I didn't know exactly, but it was beautiful, and I described it for him.


"Oh, the trout farm, huh?" he said.....

So much for my "expert" fish-catching skills.


But you know what? To this day I remember the fishing lesson, the fun we had, and my grandpa's real pride in me. Even my Dad's cynical response a week later couldn't take that away.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

My husband and daughter left about a week ago to go camping by the beach on Catalina Island, scheduled to return late tomorrow night. I talked to them by phone a couple of times since they left, and they've had lots of fun fishing, playing in the surf at the beach, swimming, snorkling, building sand castles, hiking, biking, playing cards by the evening light, enjoying the vast numbers of stars in the night sky...

They also had an unfortunate incident in which a critter ate all their chocolate Poptarts. So much for breakfast!

So two nights ago, I heard the door open at around 1:00 a.m. I sat up in bed, in a bit of a panic wondering who it could be and freaking out thinking I must have forgotten to lock the door. Then I heard my husband say to my daughter, "Ok, go climb in bed. See you in the morning."

Wha...? I thought, with relief that it wasn't a criminal but also feeling disoriented and confused, thinking, They're not supposed to be home yet! I turned on the bedroom light and walked out into the living room and sure enough, there's my husband carrying in a suitcase.

"You're home?" I said.

"Yes," he said. "We decided we just wanted to come home a little early."

"Are you sure I'm not dreaming?" I asked.

"Absolutely," he said. "I'm here for real."

"Well, welcome home, hon!" I said, smiling, and moved toward him to hug and kiss him.

. . .

And then I really woke up, still in bed alone, lights out, front door still closed and locked, no one but me and my son in the whole house, and I realized that I had in fact been dreaming.

* * *

Yesterday evening my husband called. He said they have decided to come home a day early. They should be arriving around 1:00 a.m. tonight (in about an hour).

I am not going to sleep until they get here. I don't want to have to wonder whether I'm dreaming when he and my daughter arrive! (I also can't wait to see them!!)

The Ribbon Game

Raine's post, here at True Confessions of a Single Mother, reminded me of this story. (And by the way, she has some entertaining tales over there - if you haven't already, you should go check out her blog).

One of my friends, I'll call her "Nan," hosted a shower for me when I was pregnant with my second baby. It is not traditional to have a shower for a second baby, and I think she knew I would resist, because she planned it as a surprise party so I wouldn't have time to object. Looking back on it, I think she really wanted to host the shower because she wanted to make us all play silly baby-shower games, because the hostess of my first baby shower didn't do games.

One of the games Nan planned was the "Ribbon game" described in Raine's post. Only we played it with regular old string. The basic idea is that you pass a roll of ribbon or string and a pair of scissors around the table, and ask each person to cut a length of string that is long enough to go around the pregnant woman's belly at its widest point. Whoever comes closest wins a "fantastic" prize, such as a set of plastic hair clips, or a kitchen towel, or a crappy picture frame that the hostess received as a wedding gift 12 years ago and never used, or, if they're really lucky, an expired gift card to a restaurant that went out of business two years ago. It is up to the hostess to select the "prizes."

(Nan, if you're reading this, yes you selected much better prizes than these examples. But so many of the baby showers I've been to have featured truly awful prizes, that I am thinking you broke with tradition in selecting prizes that people actually wanted!)

I had the same experience with this particular game as Raine - almost everyone in attendance (including my husband!) doubled the amount of string needed to wrap around my belly, thereby demonstrating beyond a doubt that my friends perceived me as only slightly thinner than a Hummer. Games like this are probably the reason that husbands traditionally are not invited to baby showers. He had some serious "splainin" to do when his string was twice as long as necessary!

The only person who was even *close* with the amount of ribbon was my 4 year old daughter. And she was nearly exact. Seriously, she was off only by half an inch or so.

So I thanked my beautiful and wonderful girl for not making me out to be fatter than I was, and then asked how she got the length so exact.

She said, "Well, I know that I can just barely wrap my arms all the way around you for a hug, so I knew the ribbon needed to be as wide as my arms."

Smart kid, that one.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm Just Glad It Wasn't Me (TAT #5)

Time for Tova Darling's Tuesday Awkwardness Festival, better known as "Totally Awkward Tuesdays." It's fun to play. Just write about an awkward moment experienced by you or someone close to you, link to Tova's Totally Awkward Tuesday post, and put a link to your blog on her blog. Then go to Tova's blog and read everyone else's awkward stories. It's loads of fun!

Today's story isn't really about me, although it was sort of my fault...

A long time ago, I worked for a judge at the Courthouse. A friend of mine worked for a different judge down the hall.

Each judge's "chambers" included a reception area, offices for the law clerks, and - behind another door - an office for the judge, with a private dressing and toilet room. The secretaries and law clerks were not supposed to enter the judge's private space to use the judge's bathroom, but were required to use the "public" restrooms down the hall. (I put "public" in quote marks because although they were shared bathrooms, they mostly were used by employees, not the general public. So they were usually quite clean and not crowded, but they did require a little walk down the hall.)

I used to work on the weekends occasionally, and since the judge wasn't there, out of laziness I would use the private restroom in the judge's chambers, rather than walking all the way down the hall. I mentioned this to my friend once, and she was shocked - truly shocked!! She had never done that! I was embarassed to be seen as some awful rule-breaker, but as I explained to my friend, they clean the restrooms on Sunday night, so it's not like the judge ever had to be exposed to any of my germs or anything, or ever even knew I was in there. So what's the harm?

And then a few weeks later, I came in on a Monday morning to find the carpet torn out of my friend's judge's chambers, furniture all over the hallway, and people frantically running back and forth with cleaning supplies and measuring tapes and fans and boxes and Lord knows what else.

Turns out my friend had decided I was right, there was no reason to use the public restroom all the way down the hall when the judge's bathroom was right there, and so she had used it.

And then the toilet overflowed....

And continued overflowing....

And then it overflowed some more....

And she had to call security to assist her in turning off the water and calling the plumbers.

The carpet was a soggy, ruined mess.

And on that Monday morning, everyone in the building was talking about just how it happened.

* * * * *

I never used the judge's bathroom again.

Note: Tova published her post early this week, so I followed suit. That way I won't have to deal with it in the morning.

Changes and Choices

So I made a few changes, as you may have noticed.

I went to a three-column format, and changed the color scheme and fonts.

Do you like it?

Is it too much purple? I like it, but it is rather "bright" now. I hope it's not too much.

Also, how many of you have tried the "black boxes" widget? It's lots of fun. I've found some interesting blogs by clicking through the little widget.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pulitzer Project - New Review Next Week - "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

For those of you reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy with me: I'm planning to post the review sometime within the next week.

So finish reading the book if you haven't already, so you can comment on the book and / or have fun criticizing my review of it.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Great Rattlesnake Adventure of 2009

Warning: some of the photos will be a little gross, so if you aren't in the mood for it, come back another day.

Last week, my husband and our friend, we'll call him Jim, took LMS ("LegalMist's Son") camping overnight. It turned into quite an adventure!

They hiked, they fished, they caught crawdads in a trap, they went canoeing, and they killed and ate their dinner. Rather accidentally. Here is what happened:

They arrived mid-afternoon and began setting up camp. Jim had brought his dogs along, and LMS noticed one of the dogs, we'll call him "Dude," looking at something near the edge of the camp site. He wandered a little closer, and then called out, "hey Uncle Jim, what's Dude doing?" Jim looked over and saw that his dog had startled a rattlesnake, which was now beginning to rattle and assume the strike position. Holy crap!

LMS probably saved Dude's life by alerting Jim. Jim called LMS and Dude away. My husband took photos. Here is a photo of the snake in strike position:

They thought the snake would slither away after Dude moved away from it, as snakes usually do. But it didn't. It began moving toward them. They moved to the side. It moved toward them some more. So Jim grabbed his shotgun and shot it.

It didn't die, so he shot it again.

It still didn't die, so he found a large stick to hold it down with, and then cut off its head.

You may not know this, but when you cut off a rattler's head, the head can still move and bite. So now there was this rattlesnake head sort of jumping around on the ground, with its mouth opening and closing. Rather gruesome and scary, like something from one of those cheesy horror movies that you think could never really happen... but it did.

Here is a picture of the snake's head, taken while it was still moving around opening and closing its mouth and trying to bite:

They dug a hole and managed to bury the head without anyone getting bitten.

And, sort of like a chicken with its head cut off, a rattler's body still moves after the decapitation, too, so now they had this rattler body still sort of squirming around.

Here is a picture of the headless body:

Note the large bulge in the middle. Apparently it had just eaten lunch and was lying around digesting when my boys happened upon it.

Jim skinned it and cleaned it (and removed a dead but still intact ground squirrel from the mid-section where the bulge in the photo above was), and they cooked it (cooked the snake - no, not the ground squirrel, too - what are you nuts?!) for dinner along with the steaks they had brought.

At first, LMS declared he did not want any. He was probably grossed out by seeing the whole snake slaughter, skinning, and cleaning process. But after being convinced to try it, he decided he loved it and kept asking for more.

Have any of you ever eaten rattlesnake? I have. They serve it at the "Cowboy Club" restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, among other places. Like chicken or pork or any other meat, if it is prepared well it is quite tasty. I'm sure the guys didn't have any fancy spices or sauces for it, but I also know my husband is a great cook, so I'm sure it was prepared as well as it could have been under the circumstances, and so I'm not surprised that LMS ended up loving it.

Now this all sounds (and probably looks) rather violent, and I am not advocating random killing of rattlers for fun. They are worthy of respect, and they have their place in our ecosystem just like any other wild animal. But I also don't advocate standing around waiting to get bitten by one, and if it's threatening people at a campsite, I have no qualms about killing it. Better it than my kid, that's for sure!

And I am glad that, once they killed it, they made use of it by having it for dinner. No sense wasting perfectly good food.

My son is so proud of his "Steak and Snake" dinner, and of the fact that he saved Jim's dog by calling Jim's attention to the situation.

And he has really enjoyed the shock value of his story when told to his grandmothers.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July Holiday Wishes

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Does anyone else remember the big bicentennial celebration in 1976? I was 10, and it was awesome. Best fireworks I had ever seen. (Probably helped that we moved to a big city from a smallish college town, but the 200 year thing had a lot to do with it too.)

Remember bicentennial quarters? I used to collect them, in a round cookie tin. I had hundreds of them. Then one day during my freshman year in college, I discovered that I had about a hundred fewer quarters and six or seven "IOU" slips of paper totaling $25.00 in the tin.... Turns out my friend from down the hall had discovered my "stash" of quarters and used them for her laundry now and again... oooh was I angry!

Last night I was talking with my son about why we celebrate the Fourth of July and the meaning of the fireworks that we will go to see. It struck me that he will most likely live to see the tricentennial celebration (he will be 73 in 2076), and I likely will not.

But I will darn sure enjoy our country's 233rd birthday celebration tonight! We're having BBQ beef, potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, and for dessert, some awesomely delicious brownie bites that my husband and I made last night, with a small spot of cream cheese & a chocolate chip on the top of each one. They are soooo delicious.

Then we'll head to downtown Tempe to see the fireworks by the Mill Avenue Bridge at Tempe Town Lake.

I love this holiday!

Happy Fourth of July, to all my favorite Independent Bloggers!

(And happy day to all our friends across the pond, too. I'm guessing you guys don't find much to celebrate about American Independence Day, but I'm so glad we're friends anyway, and I hope you have a great day!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Timing is everything

Hope this isn't TMI, but husband & I were ... well, let's just say we were having fun together after midnight ... and the phone rang at a most inopportune time.

I answered, since my daughter is away in Virginia and you just never know what might go wrong... I was hoping it was a wrong number.

It was my friend's husband. My friend is having a baby. She's due in two weeks, but the baby is arriving now. She needed someone to come stay with her other 5 kids while she goes to the hospital to give birth.

So here I am, wide awake at 3 a.m., glad I could help but (if I'm honest) also wishing I were still at home snuggling with my guy. And then again I'm grinning ear to ear, because I'm so glad it was happy news and not bad news, at 2 a.m. when the telephone rang.

If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that babies come when they're ready. They do not wait for it to be "convenient" for everyone else.

I can't wait to meet the new little one.