Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Ode to the Brownie

No, I’m not talking about the small girls who sell amazing cookies, though y’all probably know I love the Girl Scouts, they hold a very special place in my heart. 

The “Brownies” I’m talking about are roller skates. The old-school, brown roller skates that you borrow when you visit a roller rink. They are well-loved, dirty, smelly, and have lovely orange coordinating wheels and toe stops. I skated on these beauties for my first month of roller derby. Which, to say the least, was really, really, REALLY hard.

As I understand it, when you have your own skates, everything about them is adjustable and/or upgradeable: the wheels, the bearings, the cushions, the trucks, the plates, the shoe, the laces, the length and size of the toe stop, etc. I am only just beginning to figure out what the hell all this even means, and why one might want a looser truck or a higher toe stop than the next woman. For now, because I’m attempting to figure out how to skate on new skates and wheels, everything will pretty much stay the way I found it.

The brownies are tough to skate on, in that they are made for going forward, and that’s pretty much it. You aren't able to feel your inner/outer/front or back wheels, (like we are supposed to be able to do in our own skates), turning is quite a bit challenging, and doing anything on a toe stop feels like an impossibility. Some have said that if you can learn anything in brownies, then quad skates will be “easy”! So, instead of investing in skates from the beginning, I bought really good safety gear and borrowed skates from the roller rink.

I was able to learn A LOT of new skills on my borrowed brownies:
Stopping – T-stops and Plow stops
Skating on one foot – both on the straightaways and on the curves
Falling – both the single and double-knee kind, and the “rock-star” fall
Hockey stops
Backwards skating
Turning around
Fast feet
Transitions – from forward to backward and vice versa
Walking and running on my toe stops
In theory, I also learned how to do a Mohawk. I can’t actually DO one of these yet, but I’m sure I’ll get there!

These skates helped me to figure out this this is my new sport. That maybe, just maybe, if I can do anything resembling skating, including this pretty long list of skills above on this challenging of a skate, might actually be able to play some roller derby!

So while I am very excited to figure out the nuances of my new wheels, I am thankful for what I learned in these old school skates. They were a great place to begin, and I will always think fondly of my entrance into this new world, while being extremely grateful that I no longer have to endure a practice wearing these skates. 

And now I present to you, My New Skates:
They are definitely not cute, but I can turn and feel my edges in them, so the bedazzling will have to come later. For now, I'm so damn happy not to be in brownies they look beautiful to me!
When I figured out that the laces they came with weren't working for me, I used the Google machine to find different lacing options:

Displaying IMG_20140516_162917.jpg

After a couple of practices, I chose to go with the laces on the right. Which also happens to be my left skate. :) Apparently in order for me to feel my toes, I need to not really do anything with the first few holes, so the lovely star laces are just for show. 

Displaying IMG_20140522_214313.jpg
My new skates, with new laces and toe stops! Wrigley is clearly as excited as I am. 

Added bonus since this post took so damn long to actually get published: 

After I got my new toe stops, and being in a hurry to replace the current ones (read: too impatient to wait until I got to the next practice to have an expert help me), I googled “how to put on gumball toe stops”, and learned that the top three things people apparently google are “how to put on a ….. 1. Condom. 2. Dog harness 3. Eyeliner.”

Yep, you can’t make this stuff up. 

This post, brought to you, apparently, by Google. 
[Dear Google, can I get a little something for my free advertising? I've started this new hobby, and it's getting a little pricey!]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Be. Here. Now.

Back when I used to work for a different Big Ten university, I had the opportunity to go to a one or two-day-long seminar on . . . . shoot . . . something - change management/campus climate/etc. (oops!)We talked about the concept of "Be Here Now," and apparently that's all I retained.
Probably because I got this cute desk plate:

One of the things I learned early on with Wrigley is that I HAD to be present when I was with her. Great Danes are apparently highly social animals, and can easily suffer from separation anxiety. [Apparently I ignored missed that bit of information in my research.]

I learned VERY QUICKLY where the phrase "follow you around like a puppy" came from. When I first brought her home, Wrigley literally followed me everywhere. No seriously - EVERYWHERE.
I needed a drink of water - she came to the kitchen. And then back to wherever I was.
I forgot a snack to go with said drink of water, she came back into the kitchen. And then back again.
Washing the dishes from the snack? She'd be sitting in the kitchen next to me.
Water goes through the body . .. you get the picture.
She was everywhere. Constant. Ever present.

Which was adorable and endearing and also sometimes annoying and frustrating at the same time.

Until I came to terms with the fact that I had chosen to bring this puppy into my life - not the other way around. And I needed to give her this needed and wanted attention, otherwise - what was the point of me getting a puppy? I didn't buy a decoration for my living room; I added a four-legged baby to my family, and I needed to treat her as such. She needed love, attention, boundaries and my time.

The "attention" part of that has been a little challenging at times. That's where the "Be Here Now" concept came into play.

When we first went out on walks, Wrigley was obsessed with every sidewalk crack. Every. Single. One. I wish I was exaggerating here, but sadly, I'm not. Sometimes it felt like it took us an hour to walk around the block or cross the street with all of her sleuth work.

She also had to investigate anything that was outside the normal "stuff" she investigated (like the grass, bushes and trees). This investigating mostly looked like smelling and sniffing, but sometimes it also turned into tasting. This is when I had to pay the most attention. Wrigley was always putting something into her mouth: dirt, ants, bits of trees, grass, dandelions (Wrigley LOVED dandelions - I wish the city would have hired her for the amount of them that she ate last summer), and anything else that looked good. Which was often trash, food waste and other items no one would want their puppy to put anywhere in her mouth. The problem was, she was fast!

If I wasn't paying attention to the world around us (i.e., the ground and sidewalk ahead), she'd have something she shouldn't in her mouth before I would even realize it. This meant that during our 25 trips outside to "do her thing" I had to PAY ATTENTION to Wrigley. The end. Nothing else. No talking on the phone, checking email, talking to another human on the sidewalk, nothing. If I did any of those things, my dog was eating rocks and twigs and goddess-knows what else. Which I would then need to pry out of her cheeks. I haven't mentioned yet that puppy teeth are crazy sharp, so this was not a fun way to spend my time. And so, I started paying better attention, and being in the present with my puppy.

This was great for us, as indicated by the amazing bond that we currently have. I also didn't need to take her to the vet for any emergency surgeries because she swallowed something she shouldn't. Granted, it also meant that any attempt to multi-task was out the window. I couldn't talk on the phone while walking my dog. Wrigley knew that all attention wasn't on her, and she would refuse to walk if I were on the phone.

She'd just lay down in the middle of the sidewalk, full bladder and all, waiting for me to be ready to walk her. My house is in a constant state of disarray and laundry is never folded because then I would be spending time on me . . . not my dog.

Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and it WAS ridiculous. And completely obnoxious. And a little bit sweet. And a ton annoying. But that's what my smart puppy has brought into my life. She forces me to be in the present, and if I'm not, and if I'm not playing with her or rubbing her belly or holding her paw while I'm reading a book, she's sad and annoyed and acts out. And because she's smart, she pays attention to what other things in our house matter to me, and she targets those items, because she knows it will get me to stop what I'm doing and give her attention. Her favorite go-to items are my shoes, because I will, in fact, stop washing the dishes or eating my dinner to save my shoes.

And so, I'm [thankfully] forced to live in the moment and be present when I'm with my puppy. Which hopefully has bled into the rest of my life. I'm clearly not perfect, and I can't spend all my time at home just sitting or playing with my dog, even though that's what she'd prefer, but I'm getting there. So I'm thankful that she has reminded me to Be Here Now.

These timely reminders, this one floated via facebook, are also helpful:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wrigley at Eleven Months

Wrigley has changed so much since I got her (and wrote that first post), it feels impossible to catch up. Especially since I live with the aforementioned puppy. So I'm going to attempt to continue to catch up on our life together, but today I'll focus on the now.

Wrigley has learned:
Sit! Stay! Down! Come! Leave it! On your mat! Shake! Heel! Off! Wait!
As I write this list, especially like this, it seems like this should be longer. I guess that's because it doesn't include things like polite greetings (both for human and canine friends), on and off her leash, Wrigley has successfully completed three courses through our favorite trainers at Dog's Best Friend - Puppy I, Puppy II and Intermediate classes. She's made a lot of friends in these classes - this is one of my favorite photos from our last class, this is Wrigley and Tyke.

Things I want Wrigley to learn:
1. All of the above, without needing to practice.
2. How to use the bathroom. Indoors. I haven't gone down this road yet, but I'm tempted: (She is extra smart and tall enough . .. gotta get some perks, right?

Wrigley is obsessed with:
1. Anything peanut butter.
2. The end.
3. My shoes - the more expensive, the better.
4. All things on the kitchen counter.

Human foods she wants to eat:
1. Everything cinnamon and sugar: cinnamon rolls, bagels, etc.
2. Fake cheese: think: Velveeta
3. Anything I happen to be eating.

Winter fun for Nancy Drew:
1. Wrigley finally grew out of the "let's-lick-every-sidewalk-crack-in-the-city" phase, and then it snowed. Now we're in the "let's-sniff-every-damn-snow pile-on-our-walk" phase. It's awesome, especially when the windchill is 40 below zero.
2. Wrigley is not a fan of the cold, but she loves, loves, LOVES the snow. She likes running in it, chasing it, watching it fall and eating it, in no particular order. She especially loves playing in the snow with any of her puppy friends. Personally, I'm thankful I invested in some snow pants so we can "enjoy" this time together.
3. I'll say it again: Brenda, you were right. Puppies love snow. [I was wrong.]

The Teenage Years
1. Wrigley is currently like a teenager: she is staying up late, sleeping in, and doing everything on her own terms. This is both endearing and annoying at exactly the same time.
2. Baby girl knows how to get my attention. She has a special run, which is essentially a trot across the living room that announces "I've got something I shouldn't . . . you'd better stop me!" This "something" is often a piece of my footwear, a Christmas ornament or a used dryer sheet.
3. Last week, Wrigley noticed that she was tall enough to see out our front windows - which overlook a park, street and sidewalk. We now have more barking from her as she announces her desire to be playing with everyone in the snow.
4. This is very different from the obsessing she does from the porch. "But momma, WHY can't I go play with those dogs/people/squirrels/snowflakes?"

Apparently this is all Wrigley wants me to share. My teenager is currently behaving like a two-month-old . . . needing some attention, which will force the end of this post. She's no longer willing to be put off via treats and bribes of peanut butter. Tomorrow I'll tell you more about this concept I've grown accustomed to, in a post I'll title, Be Here Now.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Texts from my Puppy

I know, Wrigley can't text. 

But I'm pretty sure that's only because she doesn't currently have a cell phone.
Yet. I assume this is all a matter of time. She is a pretty smart puppy!

I am very lucky to have some great people in my life who are willing to take care of Wrigley while I'm gone. They are also awesome enough to send me updates, as they know while I'm gone I miss my fur baby. And to make the updates even more great, they sometimes send me photos.

Here are some of my favorites:

From MB in June: "So I took Wrigley out and she peed and then laid down on her side and refused to get back up." "Now that we're back inside . . . plenty of energy."
Me: Welcome to my world!
Next day from MB: PS. . . I look like I used to be a cutter. Apparently my arms taste like bacon."
Me: Laughing so hard I'm crying. So sorry! She's showing you love!
MB: I feel it . . . literally.

She also loves to jump on your couch just to make someone come over and pull her off.

Wrigley enjoying the view:

From Debb in June: No thank u, I really don't care 2 poop, nor do I care to go for a walk right now - but thanks 4 asking!
"Did u think ur bed was 2 tall 4 Wrigley 2 get up on? Not any more! Also I can now text with one hand while using the other 4 petting!"

From Alicia in August: "Hi Mom! I feel so much better with that cone off my head! :) I pooped and peed for Aunt Alicia and ate my lunch and medicine. Hope you're having a fun day! Can't wait to see you tonight! Love, Wrigley

From Geb in August: Wrigley had a little over an hour of loving from the fam. . . two walks around the block - peed twice (once after a big drink) she did poop. No accidents. Lots of treats that she did work for :)

Hope the run was good! P.S. Looks like she went to town on the basket since yesterday . . . that did not happen on my watch! :)

From Debb in September: Wrigs is gr8! Nose seems fine. We walked thru hose spray - 2 funny! And don't worry, she sniffed all neighborhood recycle bins! Ur safe! She is SO BIG! Wow!

From Geb in October: Wrigley was a good girl . . . but she misses her mommy! Also she did not like posing for pictures.

Kim in December:
"She was not in her kennel. .. .
me: What? Seriously? Where was she?
""Yep . . . bottom gate was locked. She met me at the door. One ornament down. . otherwise seems OK."

From Mike in December: 
Just me and the girls watching the Badgers. Have a great time in Florida!

From Heather in December: 
"PS - the girls have been playing nonstop. Maybe Wrigs needs a sibling?

"Wrigs got a slurp of bourbon and ginger. She liked it. Beg (her drink) was less impressed." Sorry Becci!

"Exciting news from here. Some dog barfed on the patio outside. We didn't know about it until the dogs went back outside and started fighting over who got to eat it. Now June isn't talking to Wrigs."

"This isn't where I sit?"

My friends are great. That's one of the many reasons later this week there will be a post titled "It takes a Village." Until then, I'm so thankful for these messages - and not just because they're hilarious, but when I'm gone, I DO wonder what my baby is doing and how she's behaving for whomever is helping us out. So these help me out a lot. Many thanks, my friends!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My life in Four Hour Increments - June 10, 2013

Update: This post was written in June, about a month after Wrigley came into my life. I'm pretty sure it never got posted because I meant to add photos.
And then eight months went by. Pretend it's warm out:

***My Life in Four Hour Increments***

I've been meaning to write for some time now, but pretty much all free moments are devoted to the puppy. I got to spend some time on the porch this weekend, and did a nice brain dump of some stories to share. The most important part of this is that I got to sit on the porch and write. Wrigley has become a huge fan of the porch - she loves people and puppy watching, AND . . . she gets to sit on the furniture. Pretty sure she loves that part the most, as she's not allowed on the furniture in the house.

So, I got to write, and enjoy the ambiance of the porch on a cool summer night. Life is good!

This is going to be the most disjointed blog post yet, as I'm going to take that brain dump and attempt to make it a semblance of a list of fun puppy stories.

1. My life is planned into four hour increments. So during the week I pretty much go to work, sprint home, take out and attempt to play with Wrigley, sprint back to work, and four hours later, I come home and do it again. While also trying to push off dinner time as long as possible. This is mostly so I don't have to get up at 4:00am. I'm getting close to four and a half hours. . . . which means that 5 hours of puppy bladder strength is just around the corner!
"I'm sorry, Momma, that you are in a hurry to get back to work. But the weather is so lovely, I think I'd rather lay here in the grass, thank you very much, and enjoy the breeze and the bugs and the not-being-in-a-crate. You cool with that?"

2. During our second week together, we had some long days. Like the one that day that I got to wash Wrigley's crate pad three times in one day. ONE DAY! Definitely getting my use out of my washer and dryer.

3. My dog likes to eat rocks (and dirt and grass and dandelions and wood chips). With all the washing of her crate pad and blankets, I find a lot of rocks and pebbles in my dryer. Awesome perk. [Yes, I did contemplate saving them for amusement. That thought lasted for a good 3 minutes.]

4. Wrigley is pretty good with loud noises, which is helpful since we live on a main thoroughfare downtown - lots of sirens and people and loud noises. She seems to really like watching the skateboarders - maybe she'll be a trick dog in the future!

5. Danes aren't apparently that bright. But I got myself a smart girl - she's figured out how to get out of her crate. I've taken to adding two locks/caribeners to the doors. {Thanks to a helpful hint from a friend who suggested two - only adding one can be dangerous because smart puppies could get stuck squeezing out of the opening.}
This is Wrigley trying to figure out the combination. Why is there a combination lock on her crate? Because this happened when she figured out how to open the door: 


6.Wrigley LOVES meeting people. In fact, she clearly looks snubbed when someone walks past her on the sidewalk who doesn't want to say hello and give her some loving. It's pretty cute. I've tried suggesting to her that not everyone is going to want to meet her, but that logic has yet to sink in.

7. This weekend Wrigley met two cats. One did NOT LIKE Wrigley AT ALL. The other one didn't mind a puppy with ginormous paws . . . until she did.

8. At least a couple times a week a stranger asks if they can take a picture of Wrigley. Of course we say yes. Some friends suggested we ask for a donation for her treat and food fund. Not a bad idea.

9. I find myself talking to my dog. A lot. Like .. . pretty much all the time. I've even started singing. My friends K Savvy and P-Bad should be proud. The most recent song for her is to the tune of No One Mourns the Wicked. It goes something like this . . . "Puppies can't be trusted....."
We only need one line. Because Puppies CAN'T Be Trusted.

10. Wrigley behaves like a toddler before bedtime - she sprints around the house, pulling all of her toys out of her toy box, getting all bite-y and clearly exhibiting a tantrum fit, yelling in her own way, "I'm not tired! I'm not tired! I'm. NOT. TIRED." Until I coax, pull and eventually shove her into her bed. She emits a few requisite barks, and then falls asleep immediately. After the barking and biting is over, it's pretty freaking cute.

11. Wrigley has recently figured out that she can fit under my bed [it's on lifts for more storage]. Pretty sure she has commandeered this space as her own personal fort. I try to capture pictures of her peeking her front paws and nose out from under the bed, but it's thus far been pretty hard to capture. Never fear, I am nothing if not stubborn. This picture is going to happen!

12. Sometimes it takes us an hour to walk around our park, which even with a few friendly hello's, should only take twenty minutes. This is not always helpful, especially with that whole four-hour-increment life style we've got going on. Sometimes it takes so long because Wrigley decides to do this:

Needless to say, life with Wrigley continues to be pretty damn awesome. I think I'll keep her. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Catching up on Life with My Baby Giant

Wrigley is turning a year old in a week. This seems completely unfathomable to me. Didn’t I just get her? She's still such a puppy! How can she be ONE already? And yet . . . Haven't I had her forever? Isn't she going on 13 already?

As some friends recently commented, and I concur . . . I can't remember what my life was like Before Wrigley. I wish that I had been able to better document the beginning of our life together. I took a million photos, jotted down a few notes, and posted a few thoughts on the baby girl on facebook, but she literally has taken over my life, and so I didn't take time to properly record and reflect. I am going to attempt to do a little catch up over the next week to bring you up to speed before Wrigley turns one. My gift for the blogosphere is to get out a post a day for the next week.

If nothing else, I'll be able to share some photos so you can see how this puppy:

turned into this puppy:

turned into THIS puppy:

And now I've got this awesome extra large puppy:

Puppy Leave

What do you call it when you're on vacation, but you're doing the opposite of relaxing because you are training a new puppy? Puppy Leave? Puppernity?

I have had Wrigley for five days.** Here are some things that have changed:
1. My entire life.

End of post.
Ha ha. :) Okay . . . . I'll give you a little more specifics.

1. I will never need an alarm clock again.
2. I'm an insomniac, and I have never been so exhausted.
3. I wash my hands 8000 times a day.
4. My floor is littered with dog toys.
5. My shoes are all in closets or stored on high chairs/shelves. (See #4 - Wrigley likes to trade one for the other).
6. I take a lot of walks. Where I watch my puppy investigate Every.Damn.Sidewalk.Crack in Madison.
7. I've accidentally flushed a waste-bag-holder down the toilet. The saddest part about this so far is that I had JUST refilled it with a new roll of bags. Hopefully this will continue to be the saddest part of this debacle, and not that I'll need to bring in a plumber.
8. When I go to a store with any kind of pet supplies, I have to check them out (groceries/Target/Walgreens/etc).
9. I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to delete apps off my phone so I will have more storage memory for all the photos I'm taking. I won't tell you how many I've taken already - but mostly because I'm too tired to count. It's a lot.
10. I'm turning into my mother. No phone conversation is without at least ten breaks so I can tell Wrigley to "stop chewing on fill-in-the-blank." Sorry friends and family. I can only hope this will get better, but I'm not confident enough yet to make any promises.

I don't want you to think that I'm not loving this new experience. I am. Wrigley and I are definitely co-chairs in our mutual admiration society. I'm quite smitten with this cute pup. She's changed and grown and learned so much so far. She is very smart, and I am quite proud of all the progress she's made already!

Here are a few things that Wrigley has learned so far:
1. "Good girl."
2. Her name is Wrigley. :)
3. Sit. [Well . . . we're still working on this one, but she's getting there!]
4. Instead of needing to be carried outside to "do her thing" (go potty), she confidently walks down the hall, into the stairwell and outside! Stairs are really hard! Momma is quite proud of this feat. Wrigley still needs a little encouragement to go down, but she's got the hang of going up them!
5. If she's scared about something new, she slows down and walks closer to her momma.
6. Walking across streets is Stressful! Sometimes she sits down in the middle of them. Then momma is stressed! We have been lucky that so far the cars waiting have found this to be entertaining.
7. Wrigley is extroverted and stubborn, just like her momma.
8. People love puppies! And this puppy loves people! In fact, when someone walks past us and they don't acknowledge her, Wrigley clearly looks offended and feels snubbed.
9. Toys are awesome. Especially the washable ones, in case someone has an accident. Also awesome? The deodorizing odor neutralizer. (Sadly) we use this a few times a day.
10. Her momma loves her a whole lot.

**Please note, this WAS written when she was home for 5 days. But it's taken three more to get it published. Such is my life now.