Monday, July 30, 2007

I MUST be premenstrual . . .

. . . because I sobbed like a baby when I read these. Thank God for the pole separating me from Dr. K's line of sight!

Just A Dog

From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog," or, "that's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog." Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog."

Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog,"and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise." "Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. "Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person. Because of "just a dog" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. "Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day. I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog" but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a human."

What Animal Do I Speak Of?

Their love is like no other, their heart as pure as gold.
Yet while going on a friendly walk, they're faced with stares of cold.
They're so very close to human, in how they act and what they do, unless you've known their devoted love, it's impossible to explain to you.
They are greatly more misunderstood, than any other breed.
We tend to punish this loyal dog, instead of mankind's deeds.
They are always and forever clowns, with a wish for center stage.
Yet while displaying this sense of humor, most people disengage.
They, oh, so want to make new friends, and run and jump and play.
Yet when they happily approach, most people shy away.
Often I've seen children poke, or hop on for a ride.
And when I felt they might get mad, they've only beamed with pride.
I've seen there children yank and pull, with nary a reaction.
Yet media's not interested, unless they've put someone in traction.
When other dog's have made the news, this breed's name they affix.
But when this brave dog saves the day, they call him "boxer mix".
They love to snuggle up real close, to give lots of loves and kisses, yet they suffer more than any, from unfair prejudices.
Their tails wag hard and hips twist, too, more so than other mutts.
So those of us who know the breed, we call them "wiggle butts".
What animal do I speak of, whose love is so unique?
If you've truly known one, you know of whom I speak.
There is no creature on this Earth who will ever make you merrier.
The animal I do speak of, it's the American Pit Bull Terrier

By Patty Letawsky

I am an Animal Rescuer

My job is to assist God's creatures
I was born with the drive to fulfill their needs
I take in helpless, unwanted, homeless creatures
without planning or selection
I have bought dog food with my last dime
I have patted a mangy head with a bare hand
I have hugged someone vicious and afraid
I have fallen in love a thousand times
And I have cried into the fur of a lifeless body too many times to count
I have Animal Friends and friends who have animal friends
I don't often use the word "pet"
I notice those lost at the road side
And my heart aches
I will hand raise a field mouse
And make friends with a vulture
I know of no creature unworthy of my time
I want to live forever if there aren't animals in Heaven
But I believe there are
Why would God make something so perfect and leave it behind
Some may think we are master of the animals
But the animals have mastered themselves
Something people still haven't learned
War and Abuse make me hurt for the world
But a rescue that makes the news gives me hope for mankind
We are a quiet but determined army
And we are making a difference every day
There is nothing more necessary than warming an orphan
nothing more rewarding than saving a life
No higher recognition than watching them thrive
There is no greater joy than seeing a baby play
who only days ago, was too weak to eat
By the love of those who I've been privileged to rescue
I have been rescued
I know what true unconditional love really is
for I've seen it shining in the eyes of so many
Grateful for so little
I am an Animal Rescuer
My work is never done
My home is never quiet
My wallet is always empty
But my heart is always full

Author Unknown

Heaven's Doggy Door

My best friend closed his eyes last night, As his head lay in my hand. The doctors said he was in pain, And it was hard for him to stand. The thoughts that scurried through my head, As I cradled him in my arms, Were of his younger puppy years, And Oh... his many charms. Today there was no gentle nudge, With an intense "I love you" gaze. Only a heart that's filled with tears, Remembering our joy-filled days. But an Angel just appeared to me, And said, "You should cry no more, God also loves our canine friends, He's installed a doggy door!" -Author Unknown

The Rescue Rainbow Bridge

The young pup and the older dog lay on shaded sweet grass watching the reunions. Sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes a whole family would approach The Rainbow Bridge. The young pup playfully nipped at the older one. "Look! Something wonderful is happening!" The older dog stood up and barked, "Quickly. Get over to the path." "But that's not my owner," whined the pup, but he did as he was told. Thousands of pets surged forward as a figure in white walked on the path toward The Bridge. As the glowing figure passed each animal, that animal bowed its head in love and respect. The figure finally approached The Bridge and was met by a menagerie of joyous animals. Together, they all walked over The Bridge and disappeared. The young pup was still in awe. "Was that an angel?" he whispered. "No son." The older dog replied. "That was more than an angel. That was a person who worked for rescue."

A Dog's Prayer

Treat me kindly, my beloved master for no heart in the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me. Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do. Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear. When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper. Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger. And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest... and I will leave you knowing the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.

How Could You

When I was a puppy I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad," youd shake your finger at me and ask "How could you?" but then youd relent and roll me over for a bellyrub.

My housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of nuzzling you in bed, listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs," you said), and I took long naps in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.

Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.

She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love."

As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch because your touch was now so infrequent and I would have defended them with my life if need be.

I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams. Together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone from being "your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure on my behalf.

Now you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. Youve made the right decision for your "family," but there was a time when I was your only family.

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the paperwork and said "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog or cat, even one with "papers." You had to pry your sons fingers loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please dont let them take my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about respect for all life. You gave me a goodbye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too.

After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked "How could you?"

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you that you had changed your mind that this was all a bad dream...or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited.

I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day and I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table, rubbed my ears and told me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears weighs heavily on her and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood.

She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured "How could you?"

Perhaps because she understood my dogspeak, she said "Im so sorry." She hugged me and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldnt be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. With my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not meant for her. It was you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.

May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.

Copyright Jim Willis 2001

Friend to Friend

You're giving me a special gift, so sorrowfully endowed.
And through these last few cherished days, your courage makes me proud.
But really, love is knowing, When your best friend is in pain.
And understanding earthly act, will only in vain
So looking deep into your eyes, Beyond into your soul.
I see in you the magic that will, Once more make me whole.
The strength that you possess, Is why I look to you today.
To do this thing that must be done, for it's the only way.
That strength is why I've followed you, and chose you as my friend.
And why I've loved you all these years... My partner 'til the end.
Please understand just what this gift, You're giving, means to me,
It gives me back the strength I've lost, And all my dignity.
You take a stand on my behalf, For that is what friends do.
And know that what you do is right, For I believe it too.
So one last time, I breathe your scent, And through your hand I feel,
The courage that's within you, To now grant me this appeal.
Cut the leash that holds me here, Dear Friend, and let me run,
Once more a strong and steady dog, My pain and struggle done.
And don't dispair my passing, For I won't be far away,
Forever here, within your heart, And memory I'll stay.
I'll be there watching over you, Your ever faithful friend,
And in your memories I'll run...a young dog once again.

by Karen Clouston

Starfish Story

An old man was picking up objects off the beach and tossing them out into the sea. A young man approached him and saw that the objects were starfish. "Why in the world are you throwing starfish into the water?"

"If the starfish are still on the beach when the tide goes out and the sun rises high in the sky, they will die," replied the old man.

"That is ridiculous. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. You can't really believe that what you're doing could possibly make a difference!"

The wise old man picked up another starfish, paused thoughtfully, and remarked as he tossed it out into the waves,

"It makes a difference to this one."

More About Andy

Andy's original post was a courtesy post by a Maryland rescue, but he lives in Kentucky - a bluegrass boy! - and I found his profile under his original rescue, True Heart MinPin Rescue. Here's his foster mom's update:

"18 months old 25 pounds Neutered Up to date on vaccinations, heartworm tested, microchipped Several guesses have been made as to what he is. Miniature lab, lab/weimeraner, vizula. It's hard to say. He's very well proportioned with lean lines. A cross between a jumping bean and a couch potato if there is such a thing. Loves to run and play with all dogs at the park- male or female, size doesn't matter. Still wants to chew - sticks, mulch, ratty tennis balls with the covers half off and rawhides. Rides very well in a crate in the car to the dogpark with his foster sister who is a heeler cattle dog mix. Would do best if he was crated while owners were at school or work since he tends to seek out magazines and shoes. (I'm sure sis helps) Andy has a lot of energy and needs someone who has another active dog willing to play and wrestle. He'd be an excellent candidate for agility training. Can respond to basic commands but should be worked with everyday. Doesn't seem to wear out but will get up on the couch and will burrow behind where you're sitting. Sweet,loving dog who enjoys life to the fullest. Dislikes: firecrackers and water. Has no interest in being rinsed off with a hose, getting in the creek or a child's swimming pool. Could have been a bad experience with water in his "past" life. Firecrackers are understandable. Hasn't truly been cat tested but when he sees one he's curious. Same for birds and squirrels."

I don't have a fence or another dog. Still, if they're looking for adopters as far away as Maryland, maybe they'll make some exceptions.

I also found a year-old male Shih Tzu for adoption in Annapolis. No photo but they say he's a real sweetheart. His name is Bo. He might be too small for me but since T-Bone LOVES Anyhc and wants an Anyhc-sized dog, I though I'd send away for more info.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Too cute!

Check out this cutie Gizmo's first bark!

What do you think?

This is Andy. He's a "Labrador Retriever, Pointer" mix, according to Petfinder. Looks just like a chocolate lab, only . . . he's just 25 POUNDS! Here's what his foster has to say:
"Hi, My name is Andy, and this is a courtesy post for me. Everyone likes me, so everyone wants to have pictures of me on their site. haha. I look like I'm a real big boy, but actually I only weigh 25lbs. I am a really good boy. I love dogs, kids, adults, and I even like cats. I'll be about 1yr old soon, but don't know when. I was there when it happened, but to young to remember. I am crate trained, house trained, up to date on all my vaccinations, neutered, and microchipped. See, so I come with everything."

Meet Fatty. This little cutie has some adorable pug features but he also has a bit of a snout instead of a smush-face, which means fewer health problems, and he has nice long legs so he can keep up on a hike and will pee in the rain (toy-sized dogs don't like to go when they have wet grass up their schnoodle - not that I blame them!) Here's what his foster says about Fatty:

"Breed: Pug mix
Sex: Male
Age: Approx. 6 months
Color: Black with white
Size: Approx. 18 lbs.
Status: Available v
Good With Kids: Yes
Good With Cats: Not Yet Determined
Good With Dogs: Yes

The only thing big about Fatty is capacity for love. He's a friendly and affectionate boy that enjoys attention. Fatty has a lot of bounce and prance in him, so he's always ready for some playtime. Fatty's owner took him to a county shelter because she could no longer afford a dog. Is there room in your home for Fatty? He never skimps on giving his heart!"

You may remember Belvedere! He is still available for adoption. I love his perky little face - he sure is a cutie! Only thing is, he's not recommended for a home with children. Seems he was treated badly by a previous owner and needs a family where he will be handled gently. Here's what his foster says about Belvedere:

"Belvedere is a 20# bundle of energy. He is good with most other dogs, but often plays hard. He has been handled roughly in the past so is still overcoming his fears. He needs love, patience and training to help build his confidence with new people. He is crate trained, house trained and has jumping beans in his feet. He is affectionate and very sweet and will do best in an adult home. He is a gem, although still in the rough."

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not Dead

I'm not dead. Really. It's just that I've actually had to WORK while I'm at work. I know, I couldn't believe it either. But now I have sent Dr. K off to her weekly BNI meeting and I finally have a few hours to get some real work done.

First, let me say that I have started a diet and I am hungry. If my writing sucks today, chalk it up to hunger and give me a couple of weeks to get my head on straight.

I am doing Diet To Go. They cook the food for you and you pick it up twice a week at a pickup location of your choice. I made my first pickup last night so today is my first day on the diet. The food is actually really good but the portions are, um, a little more modest than I am used to. I know, I know. That's a good thing, right? Except for those first few uncomfortable days when, as with any addiction, you have to break through the crazy, "Eat. Eat! EAT!!!!!" voice and can once again view animals and small children without calculating their calorie content in your head.

I had a fantastic dinner at Mama Eus's this weekend. I love Mama Eus. And she has the coolest friends. We had all kinds of marvelous eats and Mama and her friend Regnig Htims had me cracking up all night.

Luap and Yellek offered to give me a ride, which I accepted. There was a tiny inkling of a chance that they might come up after dinner, which actually prodded me to clean our apartment. See, the whole time that we have been considering moving, neither of us has done any of the "big cleaning" stuff. T-Bone takes care of the regular day-to-day things like dishes and laundry. He's also in charge of the bathroom. I mostly dust and vacuum and put things away. But we had both been kinda shrugging and saying, "Oh, we're moving soon anyway so we don't really have to clean." On top of that, the maintenance people had done their semi-annual changing of the HVAC filters, which meant that I'd had to unload and move one of our bookcases so they could get to the HVAC unit. Books, magazines, and newspapers were strewn everywhere. So I rolled up my shirtsleeves and dug in.

It's amazing how fast cleaning goes once you get started. It's just getting off your tuchus to go and do it. I got everything fairly clean and tidy, which made T-Bone very happy because a messy house makes him Crazy with a capital C. It felt really great to walk around the clean apartment. I really like having a tidy place to dwell in.

I'm still patrolling Petfinder. I wish we had enough space for a Lab. Oh, well. This dog is our starter dog and as soon as we have a little more space, we can give it a brother or sister. I know with my head that I will be gaga over any dog that is mine. It's just that Labs are so pretty and goofy-happy. And you can wallop on them, which makes them great dogs to have with kids.

Once we are on the lease at our apartment, we can get a dog. But first, the guy whose name is on the lease has to write a letter saying he no longer lives there. That letter is what is holding the whole process up. I keep urging T-Bone to get this guy to send the letter. Unfortunately this guy thinks we tried to trick him by saying we were moving and then deciding to stay. He thinks we plotted to tell the management that he is subletting so that we could get on the lease. HAHA - way more organized than we could ever dream to be. So he might decide not to write the letter out of spite. I rather think not - if he refuses to write the letter, he'll be paying three months worth of rent on the place. But at this point, we are just waiting for him to make the next move.

Ooh ooh ooh! I have a Crazy Dr. K story!

So she comes in today and says, "I want your opinion on something. My husband thinks I pushed something too far. Oh ho ho, honey, he ain't seen nothing!" She tells me that they had had a very scheduled evening planned, which included going to the gym, grabbing something to eat and catching a late movie. Apparently they showed up at a cafe at 8:50 and the cafe closed at 9:00. The manager was closing out the register and told her that they weren't taking any new orders.

"So I said, [insert really whiny neener-neener tone here] 'Well, your sign says you're open until 9. I guess you're deciding to close earlier than you're supposed to.'

"So he sighs and says, 'What can I get you, ma'am?'

"And I'm like, 'Oh no! Don't tell me you're closed and then offer to get me something! Far be it from me to disturb your closing down procedure!'"

Dr. K broke off as a patient entered the office. "Oh, hi! Good to see you!" Turning back to me, she said, "Anyway, so that's what happened." I thought she was trying to be discreet. Except after considering her patient for a moment, she tossed the idea of discetion out the window and rehashed the whole scenario for the patient. The patient's head reared back a little and she stared with a deer-in-the-headlights look as Dr. K assaulted her with her gripefest.

"So we didn't eat there." she continued. "But after we got outside, my husband was like, 'Why did you have to act that way?! Why couldn't you have been nicer?' Well, I just don't think that you should let people treat you that way. If they're doing something wrong, I'm gonna call them on it!" And then, using one of her seemingly endless supply of obnoxious cutesy phrases, she chirped, "Know what I mean, jelly bean?"

Now if the patient hadn't been there, she would have asked me what I thought. I could have told her that if someone I loved had behaved that way in public, I would be mortified beyond belief. I would question why I ever chose to be with that person. I would have explained - again - that retail workers are people with their own humanity and their own capacity either to serve you well or to dismiss you as a righteous bitch unworthy of their time. That if you treat people like underlings, they will treat you with resentment, indifference, and spite. And that frankly, I am shocked that she is not shocked at herself and I wonder how she can continue to excuse her scathing disrespect for her fellow man and still call herself a Christian.

However, the patient was there and was nodding in timid agreement. She looked terrified. I shrugged my shoulders and decided that Dr. K would almost certainly provide me with another "teachable moment" in the future. I could offer some, er, guidance then. "Ah," I told her. I handed her the patient's treatment card and sat down at my computer, effectively closing the exchange.

She led the patient back to the treatment room and adjusted her.

She has not brought it up again, so I suppose she'll go home and tell the poor man that everyone agrees with her. I've been squelching the urge to say something. I can't exactly offer my reflections unsolicited - at least not if I wish to remain gainfully employed. But I think that if she does ask again and if I preface it with, "I'm going to be totally honest," then she will hear what I have to say.

But this holding my tongue is killing me! I want to say something so bad! How do people get like that? How do their lives become so completely stripped of moments when they have to serve others that they lose any shred of compassion for people or even basic understanding of the psychology of management - i.e. don't piss off the help!

All right, I'm going to go eat my sandwich now.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Diary of a Dog Walker

I've been spending a lot of time recently searching for my firstborn on As I consider what to do on days when I am working ten hours a day, I have researched several different dog-walking services in the DC Metro area. Here's an article from the Washington Post written by a former dog-walker.

Diary of a Dog Walker

You would think walking dogs would be easy. I'd learned to walk before I was a year old--and that was half the dog-walking job.

But Washington is a place where some people threaten lawsuits if they find a bubble in their no-foam lattes, and you learn fast in this age of puppy Prozac that their dogs can be just as demanding. So when I tell you I was a dog walker, I'm really saying I was a gourmet chef, doggie psychologist, and pet trainer.

I found the job through Craigslist and figured upward of $20 an hour walking dogs was easy money. The dog-walking service issued me a cluster of keys for the dozen or so homes on my route along with poop-pickup bags.

Clients go to great lengths to ensure that their pups get good care. Many consider their dogs children, and who would allow their kids to be treated like animals? They ask their neighbors to spy on you to be sure you're not shaving minutes off the clock. Some count Milk-Bones to monitor the number of treats being fed. Owners even hide in their house or install nanny cams to make sure you're doing your job.

A couple with two Jack Russell terriers named George and Gracie left instructions that their dogs be fed homemade chicken soup poured over a bed of white rice, warmed exactly 15 seconds in the microwave and left to cool for 60 seconds. Mallory, who worked for the same dog-walking service between art classes at Montgomery College, faithfully followed the instructions, and every time she did, the dogs flew into a Pavlovian frenzy when she opened the fridge.

Once, distracted by this canine melee, she forgot to heat the food. The owners, who were on vacation in Hawaii, had set up a computer cam. They saw the infraction and called the dog-walking service to complain. George and Gracie never ate cold soup again.

A Dalmatian named Cassidy was on a raw-food regime known as the B.A.R.F. diet (bones and raw food) designed to replicate a canine's natural diet as a carnivore. This dog literally ate raw meat on the bone. Flip to the other side of the spectrum to Pippin, a sensitive-stomached pug who opted for such delicacies as veal baby food mixed into his kibble. A stickie on the fridge read: "If Pippin doesn't take to the food, I find he rather enjoys being spoon-fed." Any real dog walker will do whatever it takes to keep those tails wagging and clients happy.

Because many dog owners are pet lovers, I've seen an array of animals on my route. Turtles wanting a leaf of lettuce, iguanas who need misting, fish that crave bloodworms. I have to say cats are the most peculiar.

I admit that cats can outsmart me. During visits, cats--like all pets--need to be seen to ensure they're happy and healthy while their owners are away. Some cats don't want to be disturbed. It takes time to learn their hiding spots--inside the box spring, atop window treatments, behind the couch. Some walkers have spent an hour searching, only to find the cat in a place they had already looked.

Dogs are more predictable. It's the owners who are full of surprises. They're always forgetting to cancel service and often return home to find their dog missing. Sometimes the dog walker walks in on an owner.

A cowalker arrived at a Bethesda mansion while the parents were away on vacation to find the house littered with beer bottles and a four-foot bong while Woody, the chocolate Lab, was jumping in and out of the swimming pool and racing through the house. There was no sign of the suspected teenagers. Because we're charged with leaving houses as clean as they were when the owner left--no excuses--she cleaned up the mess.

Dog walkers are a pack; we cover for one another and help out as needed. Chanda, a cowalker, arrived at a house to find a puppy with its head wedged between the bars of its cage. The dog was standing on its tiptoes so it wouldn't strangle itself. Chanda couldn't pry the bars apart, so she called me, and I raced over with bolt cutters.

Then there is the call none of us wants to get: dog walker in distress. Zoë arrived early evening at a home in DC. During her house check, she found a surprise in a bedroom--an "early deposit" as we call them in the business. She cleaned it up with a handful of paper towels and flushed them in an upstairs bathroom before taking the dog out.

She returned 30 minutes later to find what she described in a quivering voice as "raining inside the house--from the ceiling, from the lighting fixtures--water everywhere." I was there in ten minutes and saw an inch of water on the kitchen floor. Zoë told me the toilet was clogged and she didn't have the strength to turn off the valve. I ran upstairs to plunge the toilet and turn off the water; I texted another walker on my two-way and called in a wet vac. The owners were expected home that evening.

The cowalker with the wet vac arrived, and we began cleaning. We must have sucked 100 gallons of water from the kitchen floor. The howling of the wet vac and the noise from the hair dryer I was using to dry a computer keyboard were enough to drown out the sound of the front door opening.

I could use a whole lot of words to describe how this homeowner reacted, but to sum up, she was really, really mad. I unplugged the vacuum and told her not to worry, that we were licensed, bonded, and insured. I didn't try to talk myself out of trouble like a downtown lawyer. I just left. I'm a dog walker, and some messes are just too big for poop bags.

Dogs generally assume the characteristics of their owners. Workaholics beget energetic "pop-a-lots," nicknamed for their nonstop pogo-jumping by the door. Humans who enjoy their meals and television time usually raise dogs that lean toward the rotund; those take a little longer to coax off the couch for a rally around the neighborhood.

Dogs can be as quirky as their humans. Boudreaux, a Catahoula, suffered from acute separation anxiety. When I arrived to walk and feed him, he was man's best friend. When I tried to leave, doggie drama. He knew the jingle-jangle of my keys meant I was leaving, and Boudreaux loathed to be left alone. He'd run to the door to block me, growling as the fur on his back stood up. After a few narrow escapes, I left a note for the owner asking for a solution. She put a Ziploc bag filled with Cheese Nips by the door and advised me to scatter them across the kitchen floor. When Boudreaux went to sniff them out, I bolted.

Once you learned how to work with each dog's eccentricity, you had a friend for life. Buddha the Shar-Pei liked her wrinkly skin kneaded like dough. Wilbur the pug liked having his tail uncurled and scratched. Boomer the mutt wanted the Animal Planet cable channel left on all day, and his owner requested I place nuts on the outside windowsill so Boomer could watchsquirrels.

Then there was Vince the dachshund, who hated men. He would lie under the sofa, playing hard to pet, staring right through me when I called for him while shaking his leash. I lured him out with a square of American cheese, or as we call it in the dog-walking trade, "canine kryptonite," for its ability to render dogspowerless.

I learned from the owner that Vince didn't respond well to male voices; she suggested I try speaking in a higher pitch. The next day I arrived with my finest falsetto, and by the end of the week I didn't even need the cheese. Still, Vince seemed very happy when I would leave. He always made me feel like he was walking me.

Ben Pekkanen ( retired from dog walking and is working in film and television while finishing a master's in fine arts at the University of Maryland.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Owed to the Spell Checker

In honor of all those who suck at spelling and/or typing.

Owed to the Spell Checker
Submitted By: Allen Reynolds

I have a spelling checker -
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.
And now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a wear.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to bee a joule
The checker poured o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
That's why aye brake in two averse
By righting wants too pleas.
Sow now ewe sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas


Would it be helpful if I changed the blog's template to something less obviously not-work-related? It occurred to me today that a boss glancing over one's shoulder might figure out that the screamingly pink page you are viewing is not entirely concerned with accounting or the travel industry.

Fat People Biking

I've been having this kind of yearning for a bicycle recently. I like biking and lower Montgomery County, unlike Boyds and Clarksburg, is really set up for biking with extensive bike paths and even the occasional bike lane on the highway. Biking is much easier on your joints than running or even brisk walking, which really attracts me. I don't want to be hobbling around at 50 because I tried to stay fit at 30!

I probably won't satisfy my yen for a bike any time soon. If things go according to plan, I will soon have a hairy hiking buddy to accompany me on my walks. Ever since my dismal performance walking with Dad a few weeks ago, I have been waking up an hour early and driving over to Brookside Nature Center, where I treat myself to a 45-minute mini-hike. I really really miss my Black Hills hike that I used to do every morning with Telmah. It took us along a trail with steep ups and downs so it was a nicely intense circuit training route that kept my heart rate elevated the entire time without me having to run. The Brookside trails aren't nearly as satisfying but if you go fast enough, you can keep a pretty rapid heart rate.

This morning I decided to try a different park. I checked out the trail guide on the M-NPPC website and decided to test out Meadowside, which Maryland natives may remember as the home of the Smith Center, site of the one-week "Outdoor Ed" that is mandatory for all sixth graders. I loved Outdoor Ed but I don't think I have been to the park since then. But Mapquest guaranteed it was an 8-minute drive from my home, about the same as the drive to Wheaton, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

One thing I don't like about the Brookside trails is that many of them are paved with very large sharp rocks. The paths are intended to be riding trails for users of the nearby Wheaton Riding Stables and they have been prepared to withstand the abuses of horses weighing several thousand pounds. I have been searching for trails that will be appropriate for a canine companion and the Brookside trails seem like they would really tear up a dog's paws. I know dogs have very thick tissue on their pads but I tried walking the paths on Tevas to kind of simulate the feel and it was quite painful.

So off I went to Meadowside. I parked and grabbed my little print-out map, trying to figure out where the heads of the trails were. After a couple false starts, I finally got onto Rocky Ridge Trail. The trails are very compact - a new trail branches off every few minutes - which is great for a morning walker because you have a lot of control over how long your walk will be. Only have 15 minutes? No problem, you can just do a quick loop. Got a little more time? You can plan walks of varying lengths on the park's seven miles of trails. You will see streams, lakes, ponds, meadows, a covered bridge, a restored pioneer settlement and tons of wildlife.

And there are plenty of opportunities to travel paths that are more hilly to give you an opportunity to get that heart rate up. It still is not as perfect as my Cool Spring Run hike but then I wasn't able to explore everything today. One thing I will say is that the compact dirt trails were not nearly as overgrown as the less-used Black Hills trails on the western side of 121. As Dad can tell you, I live in terror of poison ivy but I have completely forgotten what it looks like. A trail wide enough to walk through rather than wade through is a big plus for me. And the fact that they are dirt trails, much more forgiving on canine paws and human joints, is also a great feature. I think this may become my new favorite local park.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting New York Times article about body type and biking.

July 17, 2007
The Bicycling Paradox: Fit Doesn’t Have to Mean Thin

Andy Hampsten, the former pro cyclist, the only American ever to win the Tour of Italy, the first American ever to win the grueling Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France, does his best to discourage casual riders from signing up for the cycling trips he leads in Tuscany.

“All of our trips are designed to satisfy experienced riders,” Mr. Hampsten writes on his Web site. To train, he suggests, “you should ride at least 100 miles a week for at least 6 to 10 weeks” on routes with “as many hills as you can find.”

So I had an image of what our fellow cyclists would look like when my husband, son and I arrived in Castagneto Carducci for a cycling vacation. They would look like Mr. Hampsten, who at age 45 remains boyishly thin and agile, bouncing with energy.

I was wrong. For the most part, our group consisted of ordinary-looking, mostly middle-age men and a few middle-age women.

These were serious cyclists. One of them was Bob Eastaugh, a 63-year-old justice on the Alaska Supreme Court who said he rode mostly to stay in shape for his true passion, downhill ski racing.

And our trip was challenging. The longest hill was 15 miles, the steepest had a 15 percent grade, the longest one-day ride was 90 miles, and the terrain was never, ever flat. It is hard to imagine that a group of middle-age adults could have handled an equivalently difficult 10 days of running. What, I wondered, made bicycling different?

It turns out that others, too, have been struck by the paradox of bicycling fitness.

“When I first got into cycling, I would see cyclists and say, ‘O.K., that’s not what I perceive a cyclist to be,’ ” said Michael Berry, an exercise physiologist at Wake Forest University. Dr. Berry had been a competitive runner, and he thought good cyclists would look like good runners — rail-thin and young.

But, Dr. Berry added, “I quickly learned that when I was riding with someone with a 36-inch waist, I could be looking at the back of their waist when they rode away from me.”

He came to realize, he said, that cycling is a lot more forgiving of body type and age than running. The best cyclists going up hills are those with the best weight-to-strength ratio, which generally means being thin and strong. But heavier cyclists go faster downhill. And being light does not help much on flat roads.

James Hagberg, a kinesiology professor at the University of Maryland, explains that the difference between running on a flat road and cycling on a flat road has to do with the movement of the athlete’s center of gravity.

“In running, when you see someone who is obviously overweight, they will be in trouble,” Dr. Hagberg said. “The more you weigh, the more the center of gravity moves and the more energy it costs. But in cycling, there are different aerodynamics — your center of gravity is not moving up and down.”

The difference between cycling and running is like the difference between moving forward on a pogo stick and rolling along on wheels. And that is why Robert Fitts, an exercise physiologist at Marquette University who was a competitive runner, once said good runners run so smoothly they can almost balance an apple on their heads.

Even Mr. Hampsten has been surprised by the cycling paradox. He recalls a woman from San Diego who went on one of his trips. “She was quite overweight,” he said, and even though she claimed to be an experienced cyclist, he worried that she would have trouble keeping up with the group. He was wrong.

“She rode so well,” Mr. Hampsten said. “Her cadence was very efficient. I was just amazed and delighted.”

As for the effects of aging, serious recreational cyclists do slow down, but they are not penalized as much as runners by the passing of years, Dr. Hagberg said. It’s because cycling, while grueling, is not as demanding as running.

“The best example of that, in a bizarre way, is the Tour de France,” Dr. Hagberg said. “What runner could go out six hours a day for three weeks and not be totally trashed after a day or two? That’s a microcosm of the aging issue.”

Still, even the best serious recreational cyclist is almost a different species from a professional rider. How much faster, our touring group asked Mr. Hampsten, would a professional rider go up that 15 percent grade during a race? About twice as fast as the fastest in our group, he replied.

And how about recovery after racing? Mr. Hampsten used to compete in 100 races a year, including the Tour de France, and he would recover by going for a long, relaxed ride. It sometimes took him three hours of cycling to warm up after a hard race. Then he’d continue for another two hours.

But recovery does become a limiting factor for professional cyclists, Mr. Hampsten said. It’s why most professional riders can no longer win long, multiday races after age 32.

“It’s almost eerie that at 32 years, you stop winning,” Mr. Hampsten said. “The endurance seems to stay, but recuperation doesn’t come around.”

When Mr. Hampsten retired, he was 34, “and I hadn’t won a race in two years.”

Now, he estimates, he is 80 percent as fit as he used to be.

But 80 percent for Andy Hampsten is still impressive. As soon as our cycling tour ended, he headed out on a fast ride that included a long hill to the town of Suvereto, taking a road with 187 switchback turns.

“It is my favorite road to ride,” he said.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nobody's Sweetie

Why do people call me "Sweetie?" If I am not your daughter or your lover, guess what? I ain't your sweetie.

This drives me f%&king INSANE!!!! I am not your sugarplum, noodlekins, shnooglypie, poopsie-woopsie. There is no sentence that is improved by a casual acquaintance adding the word "sweetie." Only people who have seen me naked have earned (and I do mean EARNED!) the right to call me Sweetie.

"Do you know where the stapler is?" Reasonable question.

"Have you seen the stapler, Sweetie?" Come over here so I can staple your tongue to the counter.

"Oh, you have GOT to see these X-rays!" Cool!

"Hey Sweetie! Wanna see these X-rays?" Diagnosis: bitchslap imminent.

It is just so condescending. I. Am. Not. Your. Sweetie. Why don't you just pat me on the head and give me a peppermint?

And people don't just do this when they are in a position of power, like a doctor or a professor calling me Sweetie when I am their patient or student. That is annoying enough. But I was talking to a mortgage lender, filling out paperwork for a $300,000 loan, and the guy goes, "Okay, Sweetie, I just need you to sign right here." Wait a second, I almost said. You want me to pay 6.375% interest? I'm not gonna. You're not the boss of me!

Or the other day I visited an apartment complex as a prospective resident. As I'm leaving, the woman hands me a packet of information. "I think you're all set here," she says. "Just let us know if you have any questions, Sweetie. M'kay?" Eww.

I REALLY don't understand women who go around calling each other Sweetie. It's as if we just started grabbing each other's boobs or whistling at each other's rear ends as we walk down the street. (*NEWSFLASH* This makes women feel threatened, not admired!) And when women use "Sweetie," it is always accompanied by this smirking shit-eating grin that just smears across their faces like an oil slick of condescension.

I have a name. Learn to use it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mancub Meets Jungle Gym

I got to see the mancub for the first time on Saturday. He looks perfect! Not too thin at all. T-Bone said he is 41 pounds and 41 inches tall, which the pediatrician said is just right. He does seem to have some sort of obstructive respiratory issue, however. The doc recommended having his adenoids removed but I really don’t want to take out lymphatic tissue unless absolutely necessary.

He is an explosion of energy! T-Bone had given him a stress ball to play with. The mancub immediately turned on all the ceiling fans and started throwing the ball into the blades so he could watch it go whizzing around the apartment. After narrowly missing several glass vases, he next pounced on the mop, which he swung around the kitchen for several minutes before using it to prod the knife block closer to the edge of the counter, so he could grab hold of the knives themselves. While I built up a fine sweat chasing the mancub around the apartment, T-Bone sat placidly chatting on the phone and ignoring us both.

In his defense, he had had an extremely frustrating morning trying to assemble the mancub’s new booster seat. He was clearly exhausted. But after about twenty minutes of snatching the mancub from the jaws of death and averting imminent destruction of property, I nailed T-Bone with a beady-eyed stare. “Let’s go to the park!” I chirped.

T-Bone looked up.


So we threw the mancub into the car and headed for the park. The mancub chattered happily for exactly two minutes and then, realizing he’d forgotten the stress ball at the house, began to scream. “Where is my ball?!!!” he shrieked. “I want my ball!!! DADDY, I WANT MY BBBBBBAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!” He grabbed for the door handle, intent on flinging himself from the car.

“Put on the child locks!” I yelped over the screaming.

“What?!” T-Bone bellowed.


T-Bone quickly clicked the locks into place. Unfortunately, he had already rolled the windows down where they remained, locked in the down position. I gazed around nonchalantly at the stoplight, trying to ignore the other drivers’ horrified stares as the mancub’s howls rang out over the landscape.

Once we got to the park, we dug around in the backseat trying to find the mancub’s shoes, which he had flung off in his fit. Properly shoed and wiped clean of mucus and spit, he immediately tore off in the direction of the playground. He squealed with delight to see big children bursting from the end of a particularly long covered slide and started trying to climb up from the bottom. I grabbed him by the butt and, hauling him out of the slide, carried him thrashing and screaming to another area of the playground. I set him down, only to watch with dismay as he tore off again for the wrong end of the slide. After about the fifth repeat of this scene, I mildly considered allowing him to learn the hard way why this was a bad idea.

I finally succeeded in getting him interested in a more age-appropriate slide. We went down together over and over again while T-Bone snapped photos. After plunking down at the end of the slide for about the seventeenth time, the mancub leaped up. “I have to pee!” he announced, yanking down his shorts and Pull-Ups and proceeding to urinate all over everything, happily oblivious to the stupefied gawks and whispers of several other children.

I looked at T-Bone. He gave me a helpless shrug. “No, no,” I tried. “Let’s go to the –“ I stopped. Oh, never mind, I thought. What was I going to do, pinch him off midstream and hustle him to the nearest restroom? And how do you say, “In America we use this thing called a toilet,” without sounding like a jerk?

The wind had blown several used paper bowls into the playground area. The mancub raced around, scooping up the plates and squashing them down on his head like hats. “Mancub!” T-Bone hissed, accomplishing more with a single flick of his finger than I had with all my racing around. “Leave it!” One look at Daddy’s glare and the dirty paper plates dropped from the mancub’s fingers.

It was already late evening. After about forty minutes of playing, it was getting too dark. We decided to go home. The mancub had again shed his shoes, which funnily enough he had dumped in the backseat of one of the playground’s wooden cars. We each took a shoe and shoved one foot in. Grabbing him by the hands, we said, “Okay, time to go home!” We swung him by the arms all the way to the car. He was too busy laughing to notice that we were leaving and didn’t even whimper as we drove away. T-Bone dropped me off at the apartment. I ran upstairs and searched around for the stress ball, finally finding it lodged behind the washing machine. I tossed it down to T-Bone from the balcony. After watching them drive away, I washed down my birth control pill with a healthy swig of rum and crawled into bed.

Cool Op-Ed from New York Times

I thought this was a good op-ed from the marvelous Paul Krugman at the New York Times.

I will post more soon about our weekend with the mancub!

July 16, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
The Waiting Game
Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask President Bush. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said last week. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

This is what you might call callousness with consequences. The White House has announced that Mr. Bush will veto a bipartisan plan that would extend health insurance, and with it such essentials as regular checkups and preventive medical care, to an estimated 4.1 million currently uninsured children. After all, it’s not as if those kids really need insurance — they can just go to emergency rooms, right?

O.K., it’s not news that Mr. Bush has no empathy for people less fortunate than himself. But his willful ignorance here is part of a larger picture: by and large, opponents of universal health care paint a glowing portrait of the American system that bears as little resemblance to reality as the scare stories they tell about health care in France, Britain, and Canada.

The claim that the uninsured can get all the care they need in emergency rooms is just the beginning. Beyond that is the myth that Americans who are lucky enough to have insurance never face long waits for medical care.

Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred Thompson, who declared recently that “the poorest Americans are getting far better service” than Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending that insured Americans always get prompt care, when most of us can testify otherwise?

A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.”

A cross-national survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of how hard it is to get medical attention on short notice (although Canada was slightly worse), and that America is the worst place in the advanced world if you need care after hours or on a weekend.

We look better when it comes to seeing a specialist or receiving elective surgery. But Germany outperforms us even on those measures — and I suspect that France, which wasn’t included in the study, matches Germany’s performance.

Besides, not all medical delays are created equal. In Canada and Britain, delays are caused by doctors trying to devote limited medical resources to the most urgent cases. In the United States, they’re often caused by insurance companies trying to save money.

This can lead to ordeals like the one recently described by Mark Kleiman, a professor at U.C.L.A., who nearly died of cancer because his insurer kept delaying approval for a necessary biopsy. “It was only later,” writes Mr. Kleiman on his blog, “that I discovered why the insurance company was stalling; I had an option, which I didn’t know I had, to avoid all the approvals by going to ‘Tier II,’ which would have meant higher co-payments.”

He adds, “I don’t know how many people my insurance company waited to death that year, but I’m certain the number wasn’t zero.”

To be fair, Mr. Kleiman is only surmising that his insurance company risked his life in an attempt to get him to pay more of his treatment costs. But there’s no question that some Americans who seemingly have good insurance nonetheless die because insurers are trying to hold down their “medical losses” — the industry term for actually having to pay for care.

On the other hand, it’s true that Americans get hip replacements faster than Canadians. But there’s a funny thing about that example, which is used constantly as an argument for the superiority of private health insurance over a government-run system: the large majority of hip replacements in the United States are paid for by, um, Medicare.

That’s right: the hip-replacement gap is actually a comparison of two government health insurance systems. American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) because it has more lavish funding — end of story. The alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do with it.

The bottom line is that the opponents of universal health care appear to have run out of honest arguments. All they have left are fantasies: horror fiction about health care in other countries, and fairy tales about health care here in America.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Who Should You Have Voted For in 2004?

Sorry, I know these are getting lame, but this one was too funny . . .

I should have drunk the Naderade!

You Should Have Voted for Ralph Nader.

Sorry - Shirts and Shoes are Required in the Voting Booth.

I Need to Chill

Okay, I know I need to chill but . . .

I really hate it when somebody is struggling with something and then another person sees it and laughs in a jolly just-between-us way at how cute it is that someone's having trouble. Dr. K does this all the time. For example, today I was pushing a rolling chair from one room to another. Since we still do not have new carpet, our carpet is peeling up in places to reveal exposed wood. The chair kept getting caught in the little divets as I was trying to push it and I kept hearing Dr. K laugh every time I hit one. When I asked her why, she said, "Haha, I can hear you in there with the chair!"

Come on. I'm not asking you to come help me or anything but at least recognize that I am not performing for your entertainment.

I get the impression that she views this as bonding, like I know all your little peccadilloes but I like you anyway. That might be the wrong impression, since I am influenced by hearing her "it's okay!"ing and "that's all right!"ing me all day long. She might just be clueless and mean-spirited. But I think she just has this twisted idea of how to pal around, which involves laughing at people who are struggling.

Am I just a cranky witch or do you know what I'm talking about?

Lil T Update

So T-Bone went and hung out with Lil T last night. For those of you who don't know, Lil T just arrived from Cameroon with his aunt and uncle and T-Bone drove to LaGuardia on Tuesday to pick them all up, along another little boy whose dad had found the family in the airport in Cameroon and asked them to take his son to America. Isn't that amazing? So they drove the little boy from New York to Maryland, where someone met them to take the little boy to Boston. Seems like it would have been a shorter to go from New York to Boston but I guess something must have prevented it. T-Bone told me that the other little boy was whining and complaining during the entire drive but that Lil T explained to him that he was behaving badly.

T-Bone says, "Lil T has not forgotten me at all, not one little bit." He told me Lil T ran up to him and hugged him and was just so happy to see him.

They are off to the pediatrician today because we are a little concerned that Lil T might be too thin. T-Bone said that he also has a perennially runny nose. When he lived here, I used to worry about his labored breathing. So he will get his check-up and then we will take whatever the pediatrician says and go from there. All prayers and good wishes are welcome!

I believe that Lil T will be traveling to Atlanta soon with his mom's family but as soon as they get back, we will try to find a time for all of use to get together for some fun in the sun!

The Madness of Supreme Court Appointee George

What is going on with George Bush??? Is he in fact truly insane? He is claiming that every document or person ever created by or associated with his office can remain shielded in secrecy as part of his "Executive Privilege," a concept not even mentioned in the Constitution. I understand that the President should not be compelled to reveal, for example, that CIA operatives are infiltrating the Russian mafia in Odessa. But the privilege to conceal information in order to protect Americans is not carte blanche to abuse your power and then cover it up.

Presidents from Jefferson to Clinton have tried to use executive privilege to hide their dirty laundry. But what does it say that our current leader refuses any degree of transparency on any issue? Harriet Miers can't testify to her part in the politically motivated firing of eight U.S. attorneys. E-mails about Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping of Americans' communications won't be released. Cheney's communications regarding collusion with the energy industry are secret. I understand that people need to feel free to advise the President openly without fearing that their thoughts will be subpoenaed. But when the focus of the investigation is alleged wrongdoing on the part of the President, he no longer has the right to conceal evidence.

This thing with Harriet Miers is making me crazy. George just looks like some madwoman scurrying here and there shrieking, "No no, you can't look there! No, not there either! Get out! Get out!" and waving his broom at the Congressional pestilence.

We need a president and a leader, not a paranoid lunatic.

Bush asserts executive privilege on wiretapping subpoenas
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg Published: June 28, 2007

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush moved one step closer to a constitutional showdown with Democrats on Thursday, as the White House asserted executive privilege in refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents related to the dismissal of U.S. prosecutors.

The move prompted Democrats to accuse the White House of stonewalling, and seemed to put the legislative and executive branches on a collision course that could land them in court. It was the second time in Bush's presidency that he has formally asserted executive privilege, the power first recognized by the Supreme Court in a 1974 Watergate-era case.

On Thursday morning, the White House counsel, Fred Fielding, telephoned the Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which had issued the subpoenas, to inform them of Bush's decision. The president also intends to invoke executive privilege to prevent two of his former top aides, Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Sara Taylor, the former political director, from testifying, officials said.

"With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path," Fielding wrote in a letter to the committee chairmen, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan. He said the committees had issued "unfettered requests."

Conyers, in a telephone interview, called the letter "an appalling response to a reasonable question," adding, "This is reckless; it's a form of governmental lawlessness that is really astounding."

The letter seemed to lay the groundwork for how the administration will respond to a separate, unrelated, round of subpoenas, issued by the Senate panel Wednesday to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Justice Department for information about the domestic eavesdropping program run by the National Security Agency.

Administration officials said they had not decided how to respond to those demands, but experts said it seemed clear that the White House would refuse to comply there, too.

"Given the way in which both the U.S. attorney matter and the N.S.A. matter are now percolating through committees, I would be very surprised if there were not a major showdown over executive privilege," said Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University and an authority on executive privilege. "It might not get to court, but there will have to be some very high pressure negotiations at a very late stage to avoid that."

The clash pits the congressional right to conduct oversight — in this case, an investigation into whether the Justice Department allowed partisan politics to interfere with hiring and firing of U.S. prosecutors — against the president's right to unfettered and candid advice from his top aides. Experts disagree about how a court might rule.

Shane says Congress has a strong argument, because it is making a specific claim that it needs information to conduct an oversight investigation, and "specific claims of necessity usually outweigh general claims" like the one the administration asserts, arguing the president's need for unfettered advice.

But David Rivkin, who worked as a lawyer in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, argues that the president has the stronger case, because Congress has only weak oversight authority in the area of hiring and firing U.S. prosecutors. "In this area, executive power is nearly absolute," Rivkin said.

The next step is for Democrats to decide whether to try to negotiate with the White House or to vote on a contempt resolution, a process that could take months and would lay the groundwork for sending the matter to court. Democrats did not say Thursday how they intended to proceed, although by the sound of their comments, negotiations did not seem likely any time soon.

"This is a further shift by the Bush administration into Nixonian stonewalling and more evidence of their disdain for our system of checks and balances," Leahy said.

The dispute dates from February, when Democrats began investigating the dismissals. The White House offered lawmakers access to certain documents as well as private interviews — not under oath, and without transcripts — with top aides to Bush, including Miers, Taylor and Karl Rove, the chief political strategist. The Democrats, demanding formal testimony under oath, rejected the offer. That led to the subpoenas, though Rove has yet to receive one.

Some Republicans, including Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a strong critic of Attorney Alberto Gonzales, have pressed the administration to agree at least to transcripts. But on Thursday, Specter backed off, saying now that the president has invoked executive privilege, Congress should take whatever information it can get "on the president's terms" to avoid a protracted legal battle.

"This investigation is lagging very, very badly," Specter said, adding, "and while the investigation is lagging, Gonzales continues to serve."

The first time Bush asserted executive privilege, in 2001, he inherited claims from the Clinton administration. Representative Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana, was demanding information from the Justice Department pertaining to the tenure of the former attorney general, Janet Reno, but the Bush administration refused, saying it would set a bad precedent. Burton backed down.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


And so the downward spiral continues . . .

Executive privilege battle intensifies over Bush's refusal to let Miers talk
Associated Press - July 12, 2007 12:03 PM ET

CAPITOL HILL (AP) - A House panel has cleared the way for contempt proceedings against former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Miers today obeyed an order from President Bush and did not appear at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing. Miers had been subpoenaed to testify about the firing of 8 federal prosecutors.

Addressing the empty chair, the panel's chair, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, ruled that White House claims of executive privilege were out of order. Current White House counsel Fred Fielding has asserted that executive privilege gives Miers "absolute" immunity.

The subcommittee voted 7 to 5 to sustain Sanchez's ruling.

Former White House political director Sara Taylor appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the matter yesterday. She answered some questions but not others, leading the panel's top Republican to comment she might be on safer legal ground to have said nothing.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

To the Shanty Born . . .

Thanks FreshSnaps for this fun quiz!

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Curious As A Cat

Fun questions from Curious As A Cat:

What is the best way you know to make new friends?

I'm not much of one for making new friends. Even when I do meet fun new people, I very rarely follow up with them. I guess I feel like I am imposing on them instead of reaching out.

I posted something on craigslist once asking for cool girl pals. I met several neat women that way but one day I just stopped responding to their e-mails. I don't know why. It just felt exhausting always to be trying to be "fun," even fun in the ways that I like to be fun. I guess I just really enjoy my own company. I get lonely for friends sometimes but it takes a lot of work to build a deep friendship and I haven't had that kind of time since I was in college.

I think the best way to make new friends is to join some organized activity where you and several other people will definitely be together at a specified time each week. Then you can get to know each other and hang out in your free time. But I'm probably not one to give advice on all that.

What foreign language should everyone have to learn in school?

Spanish. Duh.

Of all the people you know, who is the best at getting to the heart of things in serious discussions?

Honestly, I think my bros are probably the best at getting to the heart of matters. We all feel very comfortable with each other and trust each other. We don't mind being vulnerable by sharing our feelings or expounding on our opinions. We know we could be challenged in our beliefs at any moment but that's okay because we tend to speak respectfully to one another. Well, at least my bros speak respectfully to me, not sure about how they speak to each other. ;-) But yeah, probably my bros. Oh, and Anaid. That girl doesn't mind calling things as they are ever!

What is your favorite characteristic in boys/men?

Men who feel comfortable expressing appreciation for those around them. The ability to encourage another person by thanking them or celebrating them to another person speaks of so much confidence and self-knowledge. It is very attractive.

In your family, who is the least like the rest of you?

I feel like all of my bros and I share one wavelength or another. Luap and I are at very similar places in our lives and dealing with a lot of the same fruatrations, e.g. lack of house, wish for children, preoccupation with choosing a career. Niv and I are on the same wavelength about social responsibility and civic involvement. Semaj and I are both deeply interested in living a God-honoring life. And Nevets and I share a lot of the same humor and hobbies.

In your opinion, who do you think would benefit most from meditation?

Meditation? Or medication? Just kidding!

I think I would definitely benefit from more time divorced from distraction. I have a lot of free time but I tend to clutter it up with other people's voices: television, reading, listening to the radio, talking to T-Bone, blogsurfing. I used to spend an hour every morning in silent contemplation and it was wonderful.

What is your favorite characteristic in girls/women?

Honesty. Women who openly acknowledge their faults and either make an effort to work on them or just give themselves some slack for not being perfect and focus on using their gifts to the best of their abilities.

If you were 6 inches tall for a day, what would you do?

Take a picture of myself and sell it to the National Enquirer!

No, seriously, I am not interested in what people say behind my back - I am probably happier not knowing - so I wouldn't spy on anyone. Maybe I would ride on Telmah's back for a little while. Or ride on the back of a bird! That would be super dope. As long as it didn't eat me.

I would definitely dig out all that change I can't reach underneath my seat.

If I could get to DC then maybe I would ride around in Cheney's breast pocket with a mini-recorder capturing all of his diabolical plots. Or Karl Rove. Hmmmm . . .

The Hunt for Living Quarters

Yesterday after work I went out to look at apartments. T-Bone and I are thinking about moving and he wanted me to check out Grove Park in Gaithersburg. I had read about them on, where only 4% of respondents had recommended them, so I was a little apprehensive. I know that for the most part people who respond on that kind of website only do it when they have something to complain about but I expect at least a 30% or 33% recommendation rate. Needless to say, I was little wary.

First I checked out Saybrooke Apartments, also in Gaithersburg. T-Bone had visited them before and really liked them but our move-in dates didn't gel with their availability. When I drove in, I was pretty impressed by the clubhouse and grounds. Saw several neighbors walking dogs - definitely a good sign. The sample apartment seemed nice. A little less living space than we currently have - no breakfast nook, which is too bad because we have an office set up in ours and I love it. But the master bedroom was spacious and the second bedroom was nice too. I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Then I headed over to Grove Park. Terrible! It was so institutional-looking, with dirty brick walls and smoky windows. One of the complexes looked like the front had caved in and they had scaffolding set up like they were trying to repair it. Grove Park is one of those endless complexes that looks like a warren for drug lords and thieves to run free. Several young shirtless men stood in little pods all throughout the complex, just staring at each other and occasionally spitting. Nasty! The apartments are about $100 cheaper but I think I'd rather spring for the extra $100 than live there.

After I drove through the complex - no, I didn't even bother getting out to talk to the management - I decided that since I was already pretty close, I would swing by Mom and Dad's to see the dogs and say hi to whoever was home. Telmah and Anyhc greeted me enthusiastically and then we all ran upstairs to check in with Mom. Mom and I decided to go out to Mi Rancho for dinner and margaritas. Yum!

We had the terrible waiter, who I started calling The Dud. He got our orders wrong several times but at least we had 'ritas! We talked and laughed and had a great time. She even ordered a carry-out meal for T-Bone, which he fell upon ravenously once I finally got home. T and I watched TV for a little while and I actually got to bed around 11pm - second night in a row that I got my requisite 7+ hours of sleep!

T-Bone left this morning to go pick up Tabong and his family from LaGuardia in New York. He gave me a quick smooch and headed out the door while I hauled myself out of bed. I weighed myself this morning, which I had been avoiding for the last few months. Terrifying! I have GOT to lose weight NOW! Yikes! So I packed up a bunch of veggies and hummus and some homemade bread so I can make a veggie and hummus sandwich for lunch. And now here I am, boring you with the details of my last twenty-four hours. :-)

Yum Yum!

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

Food Fight!

You Are an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

On the surface, you're a little plain - but you have many subtle dimensions to your personality.
Sometimes you're down to earth and crunchy. Other times, you're sweet and a little gooey.

Not my fault - Luap started it up again!

You Are a Carnation

You are down to earth and grounded.
You tend to be more traditional than trendy.
Your confidence gets you through anything.
People trust you and are very loyal to you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Okay, okay, I'll stop . . .

You Are a Mai Tai

You aren't a big drinker, but you'll drink if the atmosphere is festive.
And when you're drunk, watch out! You're easily carried away.

Guess I'd Better Get Cracking . . .

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Monday, July 9, 2007

You Are . . . Addicted!

You Are Bert

Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you loveable - even if you don't love them!

You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you

You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil

How you life your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others

Image of the Day

This image makes me feel peaceful and soothed. I wish I could just float away to Arizona for a month or two . . .

I've Been Sucked In Too . . .

You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you've accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you're not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you'll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy - or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!

Blame It On The Rain . . .

You Are Rain

You can be warm and sexy. Or cold and unwelcoming.
Either way, you slowly bring out the beauty around you.

You are best known for: your touch

Your dominant state: changing

Laidback Sunday

Dad and I watched SiCKO together last night - it was just as powerful as the first two times! I still cried like a baby when the woman got the Cuban inhalers. Whoever scored that movie did an incredible job - the music hits all the right emotional cues. Dad seemed to enjoy it too.

We also went for a long walk with Telmah and Anyhc. Dad could have gone farther but I had to put an end to the madness. It's the first time I've pooped out in a long time and it made me realize even more what cruddy shape I am in. I definitely need to get out there and move more. I know that once I have a dog, I will be much more motivated to get out there. Walking without a companion just doesn't feel complete to me and T-Bone is so exhausted by his work - poor Binky - that he's not usually up for walking by the time I get home. I'm super-excited to get a dog - can you tell?!

Telmah had a great time chasing sticks, although his technique is to bellyflop into the water, paddle around a little bit and then look for the stick. He kept swimming right past it so Dad and I stood on the shore and directed him with a lot of pointing and fake stick-throwing: "Look, Telmah! Over there! Go get the stick! Oh, GOOD BOY, you got the stick!!!" Dad even had to throw a rock in after the stick so that it would make a splash so Telmah would know where the stick was.

Anyhc does this really funny thing in the water. She stretches out with her hind legs behind her and then just scoots along biting the water. Then she'll leap up and dash to the muddiest part of the shore, where she will smear her little body along until she is entirely encased in mud. Ewww!

After we got back from out walk, I was really beat. I showered and started reading a book. Dad watched the Tennis Channel for about two minutes and then he was like, "Wanna go out on the canoe?"

"Um, I was actually thinking about taking a nap," I said sheepishly. I really wanted to go because how often do I get Dad and me time? But I was really bushed.

So Dad looked downcast for about a second and then he said, "Telmah, wanna go on the canoe?!" Telmah thumped his tail to say, "Sure boss, whatever you say!" and they went off to the lake to go for a canoe ride. When they got back an hour or so later, Telmah looked very happy so I guess they had a good time. I hope I can get out soon with those two.

While they were gone, Mom and Anyhc and I hung out and had girl time. At some point Semaj the Betrothed emerged to say he was going to get something to eat. We said we were thinking about ordering a pizza and he did a Telmah and perked up real fast, haha! So we ordered pizza and watched bad TV until it was time for me to go home. And then I drove too fast since I knew I was going to see T-Bone and finally got home, where I fell into bed and slept soundly.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Oh Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Mr. President! We got those candles that just keep lighting, no matter how many times you try to blow them out.

My Health Care Plan

I cannot immediately change health care policy in this country but I can make an effort to improve my own health. With that in mind, I have been thinking about implementing the following strategies to improve my health:

1. No high fructose corn syrup.

2. No hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

3. Considering that most of the meat in my diet is consumed at lunchtime, I would eat an all-vegetarian lunch.

4. Five servings of vegetables a day.

5. At least seven hours of sleep a day.

6. A vigorous walk at least three times a week.

What do you think? Sustainable? Too hard? The first two seem really hard to me but both high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils are so bad for you that I really should cut them out. Number 4 and Number 6 should be easy but getting to bed has always been a challenge for me even when I know I will pay for it the next day. I would also like to sign up for a class in some physical activity that I find interesting: figure skating, tai chi, ballroom dancing or the like. Thoughts?

Book Learnin' Meme


Q1 - Hands Off: Hugging is now a punishable offense at a Fairfax County, Virginia, school. School children at Kilmer Middle School in suburban Washington, DC, are now under a zero-tolerance touching policy. They're banned from poking, prodding, hugging, and even high-fiving one another. In your opinion, is this a good or bad thing?

That's crazy! As a massage therapist, it makes me really sad. It seems like lazy administration. The rules need to be more complex to govern the complexities of touch: high-fives are okay, holding hands is okay, groping a buttock is not okay. I understand that counselors at the school claim to have been told by some female students that the girls are uncomfortable being hugged by boys but too intimidated to say anything. But is the solution to ban all touching and allow the girls to graduate still uncomfortable with certain types of touch but unable to set clear boundaries for themselves? Or would training in self-assertion, including asking girls to role-play setting limits with their peers, be a better approach?

I believe that role-playing to the point where girls roll their eyes and make fun of the exercise is better than doing nothing because at least then the language of self-assertion becomes part of their vocabulary. When I was a kid, "I'm not comfortable with you touching me like that" was a joke phrase that we used to sling around but when you were serious, everybody knew.

Clearly aggressive touch can only be sanctioned during sports activities, and then only within the parameters of what is allowed by the game. I understand the appeal of having a zero-tolerance rule and then allowing adults wiggle room in the enforcement because kids will pore over the rules and then stretch them to the limits of what is permitted. And as I recall, there was not a lot of non-aggressive non-sexual touch going on in my middle school, so the truth is that most kids probably aren't missing out on warm fuzzy hugs and hand-holding. But still, it seems sloppy and lazy to me.

Q2 - School Lunch: Did you bring a bag lunch to school or did you buy your lunch in the cafeteria? Did any of the schools you attended--excluding college or prep school--offer breakfast?

I always bought lunch. My mom didn't really have time to make lunches for me. When I was in elementary school, I always bought my lunch from Mrs. Kramer and then hung around by the little wooden desk where she sat in the auditorium talking to her. In sixth grade, they created this mentoring program where each of the faculty mentored one of the sixth graders. Even though she wasn't strictly faculty, I begged for her to be my mentor. She made me feel comfortable and appreciated. She took me to Burger King every Friday and then at the end of the year, she gave me a pin with a picture of a girl herding sheep on it, which I still have.

Q3 - Paying for Performance: Starting this fall, New York City students and their families could earn as much as $1,000 a year for doing well on standardized tests and showing up for class. As part of the City's new Opportunity NYC program (a conditional cash transfer program aimed at helping New Yorkers break the cycle of poverty), families can earn $25 or $50 per month for 95 percent school attendance for elementary, middle, and high school students; $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences; and $50 for obtaining a library card. An improvement in scores or proficiency on standardized tests at the elementary and middle school levels can earn a family from $300 or $350 per test; while at the high school level, a student can earn $600 for each passing grade on individual Regents exams. Incentives of $25 will be earned for both parental review of the test and discussion with teachers; high school students can earn $50 for taking the PSAT exam, and will share $600 with their parents for annually accumulating 11 credits, and a $400 bonus for graduating. Again, in your opinion, is this a good or bad thing? Should we be offering cash incentives for academic participation and performance?

(This is a really long-winded response since I'm trying to figure out what I think as I write and I don't really have the luxury of going back and editing while I'm at work. Sorry!)

I don't really see this program as a cash incentive program as much as it is compensating families for the wages they lose by being involved in school programs rather than working. The amount of money provided doesn't replace lost wages but it may be enough to bring parents into meetings and encourage kids to study rather than feel they have to work.

Families are rewarded for test scores, however, rather than exceptional performance on projects requiring creativity, innovation or leadership. The school system is struggling to provide the best education possible within the framework of No Child Left Behind. I don't believe that NCLB allows teachers the freedom to inspire kids because the stakes for low test scores are so high - you lose all of you federal funding, which is a significant portion of many school districts' budgets, if the scores fall below a certain point. I love the idea of having standards, which is what NCLB tries to implement. But NCLB punishes the most vulnerable students by robbing struggling schools rather than offering further support and intervention.

NCLB also fails to recognize the greatest responsibility of a educator: to teach its students how to learn. Curiosity and creative expression are the characteristics of a budding leader, not the ability to regurgitate facts in the extremely narrow ways that standard testing allows. But school administrators don't have the option to change the federal law, only operate within it. With that in mind, I admire the pioneering spirit behind the cash for performance program and believe we should give the program a chance. Who knows, may it will inspire better test performance from the students and more support from their families.

Many objections stem from the belief that hard work should be its own reward. When I read this, my first thought was, Why should they be paid to go to school? However, in a community where academic performance comes second to the community obligations of gang and racial affiliations, good grades just don't give kids that warm fuzzy feeling. Nothing brings pride as much as protecting each other and demanding respect whatever the cost.

If a young person is to grow up believing that school is important, he or she needs a lot of support from an adult who believes unquestioningly in the value of education and respects the child. Only then does the adult have the authority in the eyes of the kid to offer valuable advice. We want to emulate the people who make us feel valued and admired. Many parents are so burdened by keeping body and soul together that they simply don't have the emotional reserves to care for a child beyond food and shelter. They leave before their children, they are numbed by their worries and overwhelmed by their responsibilities when they stumble in from work at night. I don't know if that is condescending but having lived on a very low salary with a husband and without children in this country, I can guarantee that it is true for many many low-income parents. So if the families aren't inspiring academic performance and if the peers aren't, if the other community institutions, the churches, clubs and extracurricular activities whose numbers have been steadily diminishing can't inspire the kids, then that leaves money.

Yes, the money would be well-used to pay teachers more, to update facilities and materials. But it will take a lot more than the program's allotted 53 million dollars in private funding to make significant change to teacher salaries or to make more than superficial improvements to the schools themselves. I am curious to see how the program works. But let's keep in mind that this is a temporary solution aimed at destroying the cultural more that tells kids that academic achievement is "for pussies." If the program is successful, there will be a time when it becomes obsolete because the kids will have grown up to find good jobs and economic security and will have the energy and resources to teach their own kids to appreciate education.

I fully recognize that I don't live in the areas of New York where these families live. I don't understand their daily lives or speak with any authority about what they do or do not need. But the people who decided to give this program a chance appear to be listening to the residents and researching various methods. Having discovered a similar program in Mexico, they are open-minded or desperate enough to give it a try. I think we should too.

Q4 - High School Reunions: Have you ever been to a high school reunion (yours or someone else's)? If so, what was it like? If not, is it because you refuse to go to one? If so, why?

I didn't go to my five-year college reunion because I hated college. I didn't go to my ten-year high school reunion because I felt embarrassed about being fat and I thought it might be kind of lame. In retrospect, I wish I had gone to the ten-year reunion because I really loved high school and would have liked to have seen what all the kooky people I went to school with have done with their lives.