Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Weekend of Cooking, Partying, and…Training?

On Saturday, aureth and jenwolf were hosting a party over at their place. I thought I’d try to make a couple of new dishes to bring: Spicy Baked Plantain Chips and Salsa Verde. The plantain chips did not turn out well – a bit leathery, unfortunately. They were close to burning, but could have used a bit more time in the oven to crisp up. The salsa verde was… well, it wasn’t up to my standards. Way too salty, and the four Serrano chiles in the recipe made it mighty damn hot! This was a good reminder that I really need to only make tried-and-true recipes for these sorts of things.

mirkowuff arrived Saturday afternoon with his malamute, Chase. Buddy seems to be feeling better (though his appetite still isn’t up to snuff – possibly due to the continued antibiotics) and so greeted Chase with a wagging tail…and then spent the next hour trying to mount him. Oy. At this point I have to assume it’s a dominance thing. Chase let him know it wasn’t appreciated, and eventually they got things sorted out, but it was certainly comical to watch. We were a little late to the party because Mirko wanted to watch some basketball thing or something with his alma mater. He spent the rest of the evening squee-ing about the game 🙂

The party was a lot of fun. Jim’s brown ale was excellent, and the company was wonderful. I wish that we could have stayed later, but we had to get up stupidly-early the next day, so we grabbed hartree and Mirko and headed back to our place.

On Sunday morning, Hartree and Mirko and I left before 8 AM (well, left the first time – we had to double back because I forgot my ticket. Doh!) for the Illinois Rail Museum Snowflake Special CTA Tour. This was a 9-hour tour of the Chicago elevated train system. We were joined by dexcat, rustitobuck, and linnaeus. The tour went from Rosemont (right next to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare!) to downtown, out to UIC, down the South Side to 61st Street, then north to Evanston, with numerous stops and detours along the way. I have to say I was very much impressed by the IRM’s organization, and the quality of the tour was very good as well, with near-continuous narration provided by a pair of very knowledgeable fellows. I took over 180 pictures, and I’ll post some of those soon.

We had lunch in The Loop, stopping at the Qdoba on Randolph. We were unexpectedly joined by a rather loquacious train fan who was maybe 10 years old. He talked a blue streak, and while he knew his stuff, it was amusing to listen to him rattle on about the wisdom of the Circle Line while his parent nodded wearily beside him with that look of, “Oh thank God, he’s talking to someone else for a change.” After lunch we had time for a quick stop at Intelligentsia Coffee, then it was back on the train. All in all, I have to say that it was about seven hours of an interesting tour – the last two hours really dragged and it was a bit of a relief when we pulled back into Rosemont. takaza, roho, and genet met us there (with Chase, who went home with Mirko from there). The rest of us went down for dinner at Smoque, which was excellent, as usual.

And here we are at a new week. I have some errands to run after work, then I’ll grill up dinner while Dan works on the FCN con book. It sounds like we’re going to go see “How To Train Your Dragon” tomorrow night at one of my favorite local theaters, so we’re off to a great start to the week!

One Sick Doggy

(Yes, this is more of me being an obsessive new parent over our dog. If that’s not your thing move on to the next post on your Friends Page 🙂

It’s been something of a roller coaster these last two days. You see, Buddy got sick.

I took Buddy to the vet on Wednesday for his distemper booster shot. No problems, and the vet also gave me a follow-up round of Panocur for the whipworm problem, just to make sure everything is taken care of, as well as a 6-month supply of flea/tick/mosquito medicine. $186, yowch. When we got home, I made the mistake of letting Buddy out of the car without a leash, thinking he’d head straight over to the door into the house. No, instead he led me on a chase across half of the neighborhood, never letting me get closer than 10-15 feet. I finally tackled him and brought him home. The unfortunate result of this is that unless we can get him more training, Buddy cannot go anywhere off the leash, not even the dog park (after all, if he doesn’t come when called, we’ll wind up chasing him around when it’s time to leave).

That night because my back was still messed up from putting together our new grill I took a muscle relaxer and went to bed early. Dan woke me up – sometime, no idea when since I was in a bit of a haze – to tell me that Buddy had thrown up twice and wasn’t doing well. I acknowledged him and quickly fell back asleep.

On Thursday morning when the alarm went off, Buddy was right there by my side, poking me with his nose and shivering like all get-out. I filled his water bowl, and he promptly drank the entire contents – with predictable results. At least I got him outside before he vomited. I tried giving him a little water at a time and had similar results (again, getting him outside just in time!). That was it – time to go to the vet. My back was still pretty lousy anyway, so between the two problems I felt OK about calling off for the day.

When we were finally seen by the vet, he wasn’t quite sure what the problem was. Buddy was running a 103.4 degree F fever (normal is around 101), which explains the shivering. The vet didn’t think it was due to the distemper booster since Buddy hadn’t shown any reaction to the initial shot, but wouldn’t rule that out either. He took the general approach: treat the symptoms, and hit it with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. In addition to giving Buddy a shot of epinephrine and a steroid, he gave me a prescription of Flagyl (an antibiotic good against anaerobic bacteria and protozoa) and told me to dose Buddy morning and night with one teaspoon of Pepto Bismol (administered via syringe) and 25 mg of Benadryl. (And that was another $85, though at least he didn’t charge for an office visit.)

I took Buddy home, and the poor guy was obviously miserable. I gave him the pills and the Pepto (he’s OK about the pills, but clearly didn’t enjoy either those or the Pepto) and waited for those to take effect. He was reluctant to lie down, probably because of breathing issues or just not feeling well, but as the Benadryl kicked in this caused a problem. He would stand with his head down, staring at nothing, and start to sway. Eventually one of his legs would give out and he would stagger a bit, then begin again. After about 20 minutes of this, and when he almost staggered into the TV stand and nearly whacked his head, I led him over to his bed and slowly pulled his feet out from under him until he was laying down. I could see his thought processes were something like “But I don’t want to lie down, I…OK I guess I’ll just lie here for a whilezzzzzzzz”.

By evening his fever was gone, but he was obviously still dopey from the antihistamine. He generally dozed the night away, though he ate the half-can of food we put down for him during the night. This morning, after an epically-long pee (which is good – much better than throwing the water back up!) he slowly started to show a little more appetite. The vet wants us to keep the pills going through tonight, but I think that by tomorrow he’ll be back to normal (though he’s very sleepy now!).

While I would never draw a direct parallel between owning a dog and having a child, I can say that I have a deeper appreciation for those with kids, and what they go through when their child is ill. It’s nerve-wracking, exasperating, and stressful. I have to say it was very much worth it for me when I came downstairs this morning to see Buddy looking at me hopefully and hear his wagging tail thumping on the sofa.

Company, Meetings, and Dog Stuff

Well, that was a fun-but-busy weekend!

On Friday takaza and I finished up the last bit of housecleaning from the week in preparation for guests. I went ahead and bought a gas grill and propane tank, too. We’re not getting rid of the charcoal grill, I assure you! I love that smoker too much. No, this is for weeknight cooking, when we don’t want to fool with getting a proper charcoal fire going but would like something grilled and quick. I still believe that the flavor and cooking qualities of charcoal are superior, but when we had a gas grill in North Carolina we used it at least 3 nights per week. Now…I just need to put the fool thing together 🙂

fordshepherd and baja_hyena drove in on Friday night (arriving late enough that I had already gone to bed!), and r_bear flew in on Saturday. We decided on a late lunch at one of my favorite places that we hadn’t been to in ages, The Firkin. Their beer selection has always been top-notch, but we had found their food so-so. The beer was still excellent, but the big surprise was that the food was fantastic as well! We had a really enjoyable meal. We finished off the rest of the evening hanging out at our place and chatting (and, um, imbibing just a bit).

Sunday brought the Midwest FurFest staff meeting. It was quick and relatively painless, and after the meeting I was able to give some tours to folks who needed to see what was where. We had an early dinner at Red Bar in the Hyatt, and while the food wasn’t bad the prices were, um, hotel-like. In spite of that, I suspect I’ll be eating more than one meal there during the convention. Ford and Baja hit the road after the meeting, but RB and graywolf769 came back to our place and we hung out and chatted for a while. After Gray left for the ride back to Indiana, we watched a bit of TV and went to bed.

Dog-wise, we hit a great milestone this weekend. We tried giving Buddy the run of the house when we went to lunch on Saturday and again when we were at the staff meeting on Sunday. In both cases he behaved himself perfectly! As far as I’m concerned the crate is a thing of the past for him (thanks for the loan, roho and genet!). He seemed so much happier when I went home to walk him at lunch today, so I think we’re making the right decision. Health-wise, his digestive system seems to be working much better and he’s slowly gaining weight back into a more healthy range. We’re going to need to buy him a new harness because the medium-sized one is quickly becoming too tight! He was also a perfect gentleman all weekend with our guests, snuggling right up to them 🙂

So, now the new work week has started. There’s nothing crazy going on at work, thank heavens. I’ve got an appointment with my optician this afternoon, then I’ll probably go to work putting Boxee on an old server we have (not sure if I’ll put Windows or Ubuntu on there for the OS – we’ll see what happens). The new gas grill needs to be put together too – Dan may do that today or I’ll do it tomorrow. Generally speaking, though, it should be a pretty low-stress week.

(Oh, and if you’re waiting to reserve a suite for Midwest FurFest, watch this space! And , and Twitter, and our website, and our forums…)

The State of the Dog

So, we’re one week into dog ownership. How has it been?

Overall, I have to say that we are very happy dog owners. We have established a daily routine with Buddy and he seems to have adapted to it pretty well. Between takaza and me, we’re walking him through the neighborhood about 3-4 miles each day. The only downside is that on weekends he has to go out at around 6 AM. It’s a good thing I don’t mind waking up early on weekends!

We took him to the vet last week for a full check-up. The vet agreed that Buddy is around 8 and 9 years old, based on his teeth. He is unfortunately afflicted with all the things that go with older dogs: bad teeth, bad hips, and bad eyes (early signs of cataracts). The bad teeth probably explains why he rejects all hard food. He tested negative for heartworm, but did test positive for whipworm, which is apparently pretty unusual. Fortunately, a short round of anti-parasitic meds should clear that up. The vet also gave us a painkiller for his hips (Previcox, a Cox II inhibitor); that seems to make a difference.

Buddy has only had one accident in the house, and it really got me to thinking. At his foster home he was used to being let out immediately after being fed. We had hoped to break him of that habit, but when we didn’t let him out right after eating he simply couldn’t wait and peed on the carpet. I don’t fault him one bit for that (OK, I wasn’t happy, but it cleaned up fine), and realized that part of the familiarization process is as much him training us as us training him. I think it’s amazing and gratifying that we have had so few issues with him, and it makes me very glad that we decided to adopt him.

I did a little doggie shopping yesterday, using a PetSmart gift card that Dan got through credit card rewards. We picked up a new dog bed (nice and floofy), some more dog food, and some chewy treats that contain glucosamine and chondroitin. He loves the treats, and seemed very happy with his bed as well.

We spent the weekend hanging out with roho and genet, and their pretty-but-brainless Samoyed, Brianna. I should point out that both Buddy and Brianna are fixed, but that sure didn’t stop buddy from trying to mount Brianna every chance he got. Fortunately, Brianna had no problem demonstrating her lack of interest (with a snarl and a snap) and eventually he settled down.

On Saturday we watched a few shows off the DVR and made country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and sauteed escarole. On Sunday we were joined by Linnaeus, and we celebrate Pi Day with homemade pizza (pies), chocolate cream pie, and key lime pie. Linnaeus also brought over an awesome toy for Buddy: a raccoon (of course) made of the same canvas used for fire hoses. Buddy loved it!

And here we are back at work today. Dan and I are making lists of stuff we need to do before company arrives this coming weekend. I’m catching up on some MFF work, and hopefully some stuff for Anthrocon as well.

I’ll leave you with a thought I had as I walked Buddy back after today’s lunchtime walk. I’ve joked with friends about not wanting a cat because I didn’t want a box of crap in the house. Instead, I’m walking through the neighborhood with a bag of crap in my pocket. Oh, that’s MUCH better. All of you cat owners, feel free to tell me to shut up 🙂

Buddy Has Two Daddies

Or, Reflections on 24 Hours of Dog Ownership.

* In walking Buddy around the neighborhood this morning I met more neighbors than I have the entire seven months that we’ve lived in our house.

* The fact that you and a stranger each have a dog is the basis for striking up a friendly and chatty conversation. And everyone loves a shelter dog.

* Buddy spent the night in our bedroom last night, outside of his crate. He crashed out on his bed and pretty much stayed there all night. Dan and I kept waking up worried about him or thinking we heard whining, but he was just fine. This is very promising.

* Speaking of crates, Buddy wasn’t really sure he liked his. He had to be bodily escorted in this morning, though once in he laid down and didn’t complain. When I put him back in the crate after walking him at lunchtime he strolled right in. Maybe it was just a case of getting used to it?

* Adopting an adult dog is a fascinating case of trying to deduce the dog’s training and history by his behavior. He is crate trained – we knew that from his foster family. He was obviously not allowed on the furniture by his past owners, since he steadfastly refused our invitation onto the sofa. It looks like his foster family fed him the very first thing when they woke up, since he was positively bouncing off the walls when I came downstairs this morning. He gets one can of Pedigree in the morning, and another in the evening. We need to see if we can work in some dry food to get him a bit more fiber because, uh, he kind of needs it.

* The only strange quirk I’ve noticed about Buddy is that he tends to sleep with his eyes open, which can be a little freaky. You think he’s asleep and you look down and his eyes are rolled back in his head. Eep!

So far things have been going very well. I’m very pleased! Plus, it means we’re going to be getting more exercise each day, which is also a Very Good Thing. I know I’ve already walked a mile and a half just today, and there will be more tonight.

A Weekend Full of Fuzzies

On Friday night, takaza‘s mom brought over her new kitty, Bud.

From 2010_03_05 – Bud the Cat

He’s a sweetie with a terrible story: he was shot with a shotgun, but the vet was able to patch him back up although he lost one of his front legs. He gets around amazingly well and is healing up quickly considering it’s been less than a month. He’s a little purr box, and it’s great to see Dan’s mom with another pet in her life.

On Saturday, we celebrated genet‘s birthday! We went her and roho to Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Evanston and had a really awesome lunch. I had a very tasty Southern Eggs Benedict with Creole Hollandaise. Dan’s Cajun Biscuits and Gravy were excellent as well! After brunch we stopped by Happy Husky Bakery because the guys there are so nice (and Ginger and Astaire, the titular huskies, are indeed happy and friendly!) and picked up a few items at The Spice House. From there it was down to Ruff House Pets to look at some of the dogs that New Leash On Life had at an adoption event. We saw some real sweeties (I was quite taken with Dug, who was indeed a true representation of the film Dug), but none of them that really clicked with us. So it was on to the next adoption event, this one at the Highland Park Petco put on by Castaway Pet Rescue.

Wow. I can’t say enough good things about Castaway. Kathy and Debbie clearly believe in the work that they are doing, but they also know that the more dogs they place in homes, then the more dogs they can rescue out of shelters with euthanize. We really liked working with them (and it was so refreshing after our last experience!) and it seems like we asked all the right questions. We met two dogs we liked, Merlin and Buddy. Merlin was a bit of a handful – very sweet, but headstrong and clearly a behavior “project”. Buddy really clicked with us, though, and after discussing it between us and with Roho and Genet we decided to put in an application for him. We celebrated by coming home and hanging out at our place, watching fun videos and getting Genet drunk 🙂 By the end of the evening I had two emails from Castaway promising to set up an adoption appointment with Buddy’s Foster family on Sunday.

This afternoon we met with Kathy from Castaway and the adoptive family, who live nearby. We met with Buddy (and their other dogs, including Tulip, an adorable – and huge – great Dane/akita mix) and chatted briefly. We double-checked to see if Buddy had any bad habits – trash-surfing, chewing, separation anxiety – and he was clean on all counts. We signed the adoption papers on the spot, and Buddy walked out the door with us. We stopped by Petco and invested in quite a few goodies (dog food, grooming stuff, harness, etc.), then came home. We took some time to take some pictures to show off our new cute family member:

From 2010_03_07 – Buddys First Day

I headed out again to pick up a few more things at Meijer and Petsmart, and to stop by Roho and Genet’s. They were kind enough to lend us Brianna’s crate since she isn’t using it (thank heavens because after pricing out crates…yikes!). We’ve been spending the evening relaxing and getting used to each other. He’s sacked out on a pile of blankets and seems very happy. We’ll be taking him to the vet this week for a check-up (it’s suggested in the adoption contract, and a good way to establish the relationship). We need to work on making sure he’s comfortable with his crate, too – that’s a job for tomorrow I think.

Train Tour Is a Go!

After seeing the great response yesterday’s post about the 2010 IRM Snowflake Special on the CTA tour received (and hearing that I’m not the first to buy a ticket – hat-tip to linnaeus!), I have purchased my ticket for the tour! As a reminder, it starts at 9 AM on Sunday, March 28 at the Rosemont station. For folks coming in from out of town, we have crash space if needed.

So…who else is in?

Get Your Train Geek On!

It’s time for some full-on train geekery! I had mentioned this on Twitter and it sounds like there are enough people interested that we’re going to get a group of folks together for it. What is it?

It’s the 2010 IRM Snowflake Special on the CTA!

This event is a fundraiser for the Illinois Railway Museum. For $43.00 ($42 + $1 handling fee), you can join us on Sunday, March 28 for a tour of the Chicago Transit Authority El lines. “Beginning at 9:00 AM at Rosemont station (River Road) on the Blue Line, the trip will travel on almost every line, plus lots of non-revenue and yard trackage.” There will be lunch stops in The Loop, and the train returns to Rosemont station at 6:00 PM.

Yeah, it’s a long day. But I figure it’ll be fun with a group, and if we get tired we can always bail and head back to Rosemont on our own. So…who’s interested?

Where Have I Been?

Now the The Month From Hell is over, I can finally come up for air.

The last few weeks have featured a whole lot of early mornings, late nights, and working weekends. I’m looking forward to having a little more normalcy in our lives now.

Saturday sucked – I was at work from 8:30 until 4:45 PM putting the finishing touches on the final report for the project at work. Nothing like having your boss, his boss, and HIS boss keeping an eye on your work as you’re writing the report. I got a nice round of kudos once it was done, though, so that was nice.

Yesterday was a real hoot. takaza, rustitobuck, and linnaeus took part in the Fox Lake Polar Plunge, a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. I posted a sample of the pictures I took on Facebook, and you can see the full album here. Thanks to roho, genet, rolliebear, and RJ for showing up and providing moral support. After the event we went home and the swimmers showered, then we got some lunch. Roho and Genet had to take off, but the rest of the folks hung out at our place for the afternoon, chatting. It was a lovely way to spend the day! After folks left we watched The Amazing Race. I have to say that I’m really liking the cowboys – they’re smart, they play the game well, and they’ve got a great sense of humor. As for who will be gone next, my money is on either the detectives or the brothers.

So it’s a new month, and I’m looking forward to working on some new personal projects. I have some MFF work to take care of this week, and we need to get the builders into our house to take care of some warranty work. We’re working on possibly adopting a pair of adorable dogs, but the shelter is being amazingly picky about things and we may get turned down, though I’m still not sure why. I’ll be calling them today and figuring out what’s going on. Also, we’ve got some planning to do on our fall trip and Memorial Day festivities as well. Oh yeah, and there’s this Anthrocon thing I need to start planning for…