Blu, the Dog

His name is Blu, because of his gorgeous, piercing blue eyes.  We left off the ‘e’ because we named our other dog Skye and gave it to her.  Sort of a play on the whole Adam and Eve thing – Adam gave Eve a rib – Blu gave his e to Skye.

Blu is a full breed Siberian Husky.  The breed ‘standard’ for size is about 55-60 pounds for males. Blu is 80 pounds, and he is not fat.  In addition to those stunning eyes, he comes with a pure white, long double-coat.  The damn dog is gorgeous, and I get many compliments on how beautiful he is whenever we are out.

He’s great with people and other dogs and is not the type of dog that would ever bite or cause harm.  In other words, he’s absolutely useless as a guard dog, though he does howl very nicely.

He’s an indoor dog and needs a lot of exercise.  Our yard isn’t sufficient for him, so he gets to go for walks and I frequently take him to the dog park to play.  With the Las Vegas summer approaching, he’ll spend the majority of his days inside and I’ll go back to my routine of taking him out at night instead.

I didn’t want this dog.  Don’t get me wrong.  I adore him and I would never give him up.  He just wasn’t on my list when I decided I wanted a dog.  That decision came from someone else in my household (who shall remain nameless).

I wanted a German Shepherd, which I also got.  I named her Skye and she’ll get her own story later.  For now, let’s focus on the devil-dog, Blu.

He’s cunning and highly intelligent. He watches TV. Yes, he really does.  He will sit completely still, ears perked up and watch any TV show that contains dogs or cats.  Yup, Animal Planet is his favorite channel.  He can sit through an entire one-hour show, especially if it is one of the dog agility shows.

He can open doors with handles.  He was doing this by six-months of age.  We had to install door knobs instead of handles throughout the house because of him.

He plays with balls like a cat.  He’ll bat the ball around the house all by himself.  He’ll do it with bones too, which can be dangerous.  He especially likes to do this just before I’m ready to feed him dinner.  It’s his little before dinner playtime.

He will listen and sit only when he wants something. Blu is completely food-driven.  You can get him to do almost anything you want with a piece of cheese or a carrot.

He has a variety of howls that he uses, depending on what he wants us to do for him.  He rarely barks and it doesn’t sound normal when he does.  He’ll bark a little when outside with Skye if a stranger walks by.  Again, it sounds odd and eventually he carries the bark into a howl, so it’s really kind of difficult to take him seriously.

He loves laying on the cold, tile floor, especially by our bedroom door when the air conditioner is on and there is a draft.  He absolutely refuses to sit still in the car when we are heading to the park, forcing me to remind him to stay in the backseat, so that I don’t end up crashing into a building.

He pees on all the bushes in the backyard, and has created pathways (also known as holes) in these same bushes so that he can run through them.  He chases bees, which have not stung him to date,  miraculously.  I hope he isn’t allergic to them.

He knows numerous words including ‘cheese, carrot, bone, park, treat, outside, potty, play, eat, sit, stay, down, speak, paw, car, back, off, ball, water, home.’ The words involving food get his attention very quickly.  The rest, not so much.

There’s always more to say about Blu.  This picture when he was still small pretty much sums it up.  He’s a troublemaker, defiant, and beautiful.

 

I Hate Laundry

It never ends. It’s there every day, no matter how often I do it.  Why won’t it go away?  Better yet, why do I have such a difficult time mastering it?

I can’t be the only person who hates to do laundry, at all levels.  I take that back.  I don’t mind putting the clothes in the washer, adding soap, playing with the cool digital controls and hitting ‘start.’

I have a nice high-efficiency top loader that we got last year.  It has lots of features and even plays a little tune at the end of the washing cycle rather than producing an annoying buzz.  My only complaint is that if you put too many clothes in it that have arms and legs (that would be all shirts and pants), they do tend to get a little wrapped up in each other.  More like twisted, snarled and tied, in ways that no human doing yoga could ever imagine.

I’ve learned to overcome the yoga poses in the machine and grab the right garments to easily get the knots out, so it really isn’t that big a deal anymore.

The clothes manage to get into dryer in a timely manner and it does a nice job of getting them ready for the next phase.

I call it the ‘sitting in the dryer’ phase.

For a couple of days.

Or more.

Maybe it’s the laundry basket that I hate, because once the clothes get there it means I need to do something with them.  I call this the ‘staging’ phase

Where they sit another day or two in the basket.

On top of the dryer.

Waiting to get folded, or put back in the dryer to be DE-wrinkled because I need to wear them again, whichever comes first.

Of course, there are days when staging doesn’t exist.  Clothes make it from the washer to the dryer, transfer to the laundry basket while still warm, make it to the bedroom, get dumped on the bed, folded immediately, then they make it to the ‘pre-final’ phase.

The top of the dresser.

90% of all clothes placed here will remain here.

Indefinitely.

They actually end up here in both the pre-final and ‘beginning’ phases.

The beginning phase is where you take the nice clean clothes from the pre-final phase, wear them, and then put them back on top of the dresser (in a new pile of course), where they wait to get to the ‘laundry room’ phase.

This can take a couple of weeks.

Or more.

I’m sure you’ve determined by now that I do have a pretty good system.  It works for me, even though I do get irritated with myself for rarely getting to the ‘completed’ phase, which is where the clothes make it to their designated locations, like the closet or actual drawers in the dresser.

But if I did that, I’d have nothing to write about.

Blu Should Have Been Named Something Else

My dogs are about to turn three at the end of May, and they continue to amaze me.

Especially Blu.

We did a lot of research before buying dogs, and I KNEW that a Siberian Husky was prone to being a bit, let’s say, stubborn.

However, I think that is the wrong word to use for him.

Over time, he has trained us to work around his lack of obedience. As he grew, one of the first things he learned to do was pull down the door handles so that he could get into any room that he wanted.

We switched to door knobs that he couldn’t turn.

If we leave a door open in any room, we have to go check the trash cans to see if he was scavenging, and look for missing bras.

Doors are always closed in the house.

We trained both dogs to use a bell at the back door when they want to go out. Blu learned early that the bell was a good way to get outside frequently, regardless of whether or not he had any business to do. He has a little ‘routine’ that he does. If you let him out alone, he’ll wander in the direction of the potty zone, and then take his sweet time for a while. Next he’ll come around the pool and head for the grass. Once he hits the grass, he knows that we are going to come get him because the dogs are not allowed in the grass.

He then lays down in the grass and waits. Once we are within reach, he bolts. Most of the time he heads back to the potty zone, because he never actually DID his business when he first went out. Then he’ll try the routine a second time, at which point we generally win.

Recently, he has decided that he wants to be a lap dog and enjoy the leather couch. Of course, he is not allowed on the couch. He knows this. He jumps on the couch and we yell at him to get down.

He stopped jumping on it and we thought he was finally trained.

Not so fast my friend.

He has decided that an alternative to the couch should be the ottoman, where he parks himself frequently, whether or not we are in the room. Unfortunately, we aren’t as disciplined about making him get off the ottoman because he kinda looks cute doing it. Our bad.

So for some reason, he has now decided that he should start getting on the couch again. I caught him there a couple of weeks ago and chased him off. He also managed to leave a nice wet spot, hopefully from licking, right smack in the middle of one of the cushions. I got out some leather cleaner and made the couch look reasonable again. When I was done, I left the room, and within TWO MINUTES, guess who was on the couch?

He wasn’t just sitting on the couch. Oh no, he was lying down across the whole thing, with his head hanging off and his tongue sticking out. He made himself quite comfortable and it appeared as if he was saying, “Hey there, look at me, I’m on the couch again!”

So, I solved the problem. We made a stick out of newspaper a while back, which he doesn’t like. I made a couple more and stuck all of them on the couch over the cushions, which seems to work for now.

Now, Blu seems to know that my other half has allergies, and when the dog hair gets to be too much, it really does affect him. That may have been why he was spending all his time on the couch, especially on his side. It’s not that he doesn’t like my other half, I think they have a mutual admiration for each other. I just think Blu likes to bust our chops anyway he can.

So now that the couch was off-limits, Blu really didn’t have much to work with.

Except the bedroom doors.

Both dogs know when the doors are closed. They also know when the doors are closed, but not properly latched. You can guess where I’m going with this, right?

So my other half heads into our bedroom the other day and I immediately hear screaming, as he chases Blu out of the room. The door was obviously not latched the last time he went in there, so this one is on him.

In any case, Blu did not just enter the room and head for the bathroom trash can. He decided to make a pit stop. On our bed.

On ‘his’ side of the bed.

Specifically on ‘his’ pillow.

The dark brown sheets totally gave up the pure white hair.

This is how life rolls in our house with the dogs. And now that Blu has proven that there is little we can do to ever get him to respect our space, I’ve renamed him.

Defiance.

That about covers it.

$9.99 a Month – Message and Data Rates Apply!

Dear MobChance,

Thanks for subscribing me to your service – at 4:31am on December 2, 2011 (while I was sleeping.)

I appreciate that you felt I needed to get your Brain Teasers three times a week so that I could increase my knowledge.  I realize that my IQ needs improving because you apparently have the ability to communicate with me on a level that I am unaware of, thereby determining that I needed some mental help.

I get many, MANY text messages on a regular basis, and somehow I managed to overlook yours.  Today, when I was reviewing my cell phone bill is when I realized that you had subscribed me to your SPECTACULAR service!

Wow!  Only $9.99 per month!  And I get three Brain Teasers a week!  How wonderful.

After looking at my bill and realizing that I was subscribed to your service, I kinda wanted to know how that happened.  Actually, I didn’t know it was YOUR service until after making a phone call to the number on my cell phone bill (that didn’t go well), and then hunting down the text message and visiting your website.

So here I am on your Brain Teaser site – reading what you get for $9.99/month.

Three brain teasers a week – that’s not bad – figure four weeks in a month, you get 12 brain teasers, and it’s only $9.99.

I was actually expecting one of those ‘But WAIT … there’s MORE’ notices to pop up on the screen.

Nope.

And guess what.  Those brain teasers that YOU subscribed me to?  I NEVER GOT EVEN ONE!

That’s right – it is now December 29, 2011 and somehow you subscribed me (while I was sleeping) and I never got ONE SINGLE TEXT with a brain teaser since then.

So please remove your $9.99 fee from my cell phone service .. never mind, I already called my cell phone provider who is taking care of it.

And next time – please try to subscribe me when I’M AWAKE .. and then also provide what you CLAIM TO OFFER.

Happy New Year

Who Touched My Thermometer?

So I got in my car today and finally decided to FIX this issue I’m having with a display device.

Yes, it needed to be FIXED!  I mean seriously needed to be FIXED!

How long can I drive around looking at the thermometer reading, and the temperature controls in CELSIUS without going crazy?  I can’t read CELSIUS.  I live in the United States.  We use FAHRENHEIT, even though it is a bigger word and harder to spell.

The funny part is that this little issue came up a couple of months ago.  I sat down in the car, went to adjust the temperature and stared at the screen for a bit.  It didn’t look right.  Was it broken?  No, it was reading CELSIUS.

I didn’t switch it to CELSIUS.  How did it do that BY ITSELF? I didn’t even know there was an option to change.  Yes, I’ve owned the car for 11 years, and I have a handy-dandy manual (that I’m sure I read once, maybe), but really, who knew?

After a little thought, I realized my son probably did it when he was driving.  Of course, interrogating him did no good.  He ‘noticed’ it was CELSIUS, but he didn’t know how it happened either.  He ‘claimed’ he got in the car and it was like that.

Sure.

So, driving down the road today and finally deciding to FIX IT, I got out my handy-dandy manual.  I swear I only read it while I was at red lights!

There it was … Switching from FAHRENHEIT to CELSIUS.  It had its own heading and everything.

And it was really simple, which explains why it happened in the first place.

Now I can look at my comfortable inside temperature of 72 degrees FAHRENHEIT again. On cold days, I no longer have to look at 3 degrees CELSIUS, which I’m going to guess was about 40 degrees FAHRENHEIT.

But I don’t really know, or care.  I’m just happy I can tell what the current temperature is again.

The Dogs – Part 2

It’s been almost 2 1/2 years since we got our dogs.  Hard to believe it’s been that long already.

No it isn’t, who am I kidding.

The dogs have taught me a lot and I’m very happy that we have them.

Skye has taught me that it doesn’t matter what time I go to bed, she will be whimpering by my bedroom door every morning at 7:30am, like clockwork.  Blu has taught me that when he paces in the house, he needs to go out and poop.  I’ve learned that they understand a lot more than I originally thought they would, so I am careful with the words ‘park, outside, play, treat, carrot, bye-bye, eat, ball.’  Those ears perk right up with these keywords, and I better not disappoint them and not follow through.  It can cost me a variety of things including chewed bathtub drain covers, blankets and bras.

They know when I’m happy or sad, and they do tend to adjust their behavior based on how I’m feeling.  If I’m in a bad mood, they find a comfy location and take a nap.  If I’m in a good mood, they are staring at me wondering when they will get to go out and play.

When we let them out in the backyard, we always worry that they will return to their old ways and start ripping up sprinklers, eating bushes and tinkling in the grass.  If left alone long enough, they probably would.  For the most part, they are pretty good and have fun, and only occasionally dig a little and rip WHOLE branches off the bushes.  Skye sticks her front paws in our pool and gets drinks.  Blu avoids it like the plague.

When we first got two dogs, it wasn’t easy.  It’s still a little extra work, because walking two 80 pound dogs isn’t as much fun as walking one.  They need to run and get their energy out first, and then they’ll walk.  I solve the problem by putting them in the car and driving them to the dog park where they can romp and play and I can walk peacefully around the park.  It’s a win-win.

In many ways I’m happy that we have two, since they do entertain each other and when I’m gone all day, they have companionship.  I can also take them out individually if I want, as long as the one staying home has someone with him/her.

I love my dogs and I look forward to spending a lot of great years with them.

How to Apply The Four Laws of Simplicity

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

This was originally written by Leo Babauta.  His blog is zenhabits. I’ve made some changes to his article, making it even simpler.

You can find hundreds of books and guides on simplifying your clutter and life. Most are too complicated.

We need a simple method of simplifying.

I personally (me, not Leo) have tried lots of different strategies. Many are difficult to stick with, others are just too hard to actually even start.

So here is a simple method of Four Laws of Simplicity (apologies to John Maeda) that you can use on any area of your life, and in fact on your life as a whole:

1. Collect everything in one place.

2. Choose the essential.

3. Eliminate the rest.

4. Organize the remaining stuff neatly and nicely.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. – Confucius

Let’s use the worst junk drawer in your house as an example. It has take-out menus from restaurants that closed down, ashtrays from when you used to smoke, fridge magnets, rubber bands, paper clips, chopsticks, instruction manuals for old appliances, rubber stamps, matchbooks, outdated coupons and more. The drawer smells bad too.

Rather than spend all day sorting through it and still have a mess, let’s use the 4-step method:

1. Collect. Empty the drawer and put everything in a pile on the counter. Everything!

2. Choose. Go through the pile and pick out just those things that are important and put them in a separate pile. Be picky.

3. Eliminate. Toss the rest out. Throw it in a garbage bag or find a new home for it. Donate it to charity or give it to a friend if you think they might want or need it.

4. Organize. Put back the essential things, neatly, with space around things. Clean the drawer out first, of course, and put the very small pile of things you chose back in the drawer, grouping like things together and leaving space around the groups. Having space around things makes everything look neater and simpler.

That’s it. You now have a very nice, simplified junk drawer, with (let’s hope) a much less funky smell.

This simple method can be applied to every area of your life. Just keep it simple as you go. Focus on oen area at a time, apply the method and viola! If you don’t have much that you need to simplify, just do one a week. If you have a lot, do it every couple of days.

The basic concept is literally to work on small areas at a time. Each one that you successfully simply will make you feel good and hopefully keep you motivated to continue the process until you’re done.

The process will work on just about any area of your life:

Closets. Again, one area at a time. A shelf, drawer, floor, whatever needs work. Put everything in a pile, pick out what you want or need. Send the rest packing! Put the important stuff back on the shelf, grouping like things together and leaving space around the groups. You could use containers for groups of things, using clear containers and labeling them. Or just leave the shelves fairly empty, and get rid of most of your stuff. When you are done, try to keep the floor clean as that makes it look quite neat.

Your desk. Same plan, clear the desk of everything except your computer and/or phone. Put supplies in a drawer, and file the papers. Toss out the rest. Then do the drawers of your desk the same way, one at a time, leaving space in each drawer. It’s so much more relaxing to work in a simplified environment. After you’re done with the desk, do your walls.

Your work tasks. Have a long to-do list (or a bunch of long context lists)? First, add project or task to your lists to complete them and then choose only the tasks that you really want to do, or that will give you the absolute most long-term benefit, and put those on a separate, shorter list. The rest of the stuff? Eliminate them, delegate or put it on a someday/maybe list to be considered later. Then only focus on your short list, trying to choose the three most important things on the list to do each day.

Your commitments. Everything from work to personal can be streamlined if that is what you need or want to do. First, make a list that includes hobbies, clubs, online groups, civic groups, your kids’ activities, sports, home stuff, etc. Anything that regularly takes up your time. Now pick out the few of those that really give you value, enjoyment, long-term benefits. Toss the rest, if possible. It might be difficult to do that, but you can get out of commitments if you just tell people that you don’t have the time anymore. This will leave you with a life that only has the commitments you really enjoy and want to do. Leave space around them, instead of filling up your life.

Your wardrobe. This one can be tough (especially for me!) However, do you really need all those t-shirts, shoes, bras, socks and clothes you no longer fit in? How about those ratty jeans? Do you wear everything in your closet? Bet not. Again, start with one drawer or section of your closet at a time, put everything on your bed in a pile, choose the clothes you really love and actually wear on a regular basis. Donate the rest and put the ones you love back in your drawers or closet. Leave space around the clothes — don’t stuff your drawers full.

If you’re having a hard time parting with some of these items, here’s a personal tip from me (again, not Leo). I hang all my clothes, except for bras, panties, socks and PJ’s. Take all the hanging clothes and turn the hangers around on the rod so they are facing opposite the way you normally hang things. As you wear clothes and re-hang them, put the hangers the normal way. After a few months, you’ll immediately be able to tell what hasn’t been worn and you can then get rid of it!

A room. Start with your furniture. If you don’t love and use it, get rid of it. Then clear every flat surface in the room, from counters to tables to shelves to desktops. Choose the stuff you love, and get rid of the rest. Leave the flat surfaces as clear as possible, only putting back a few choice objects. Now do the drawers and cabinets the same way. Also do everything on your floor that’s not a piece of furniture, leaving the floor as clear as humanly possible.

Your email inbox. We all do it. We leave everything in the inbox. How many messages are in there? How old are they? That’s what I thought! Take all the emails and put them in a separate folder. Scan through the folder, choosing only a few to reply to and putting those in a separate folder. Delete or archive the rest.

Those are tips from both Leo Babauta and me. Hope they work for you.

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness. – Henry David Thoreau

The Dogs – Part 1

It’s been a year since I got my dogs, after over 20 years being pet-less. Well, except for the bird and the fish. The bird flew away and the fish don’t play with me, so I don’t think they really count.

It took numerous discussions in our household to accomplish this major lifestyle change. NUMEROUS. Some heated.

Everyone had an opinion.

Mine was the only one that actually counted.

After finally agreeing to dogs, we had to pick dogs. I wanted a German Shepherd. Since the entire reason we were getting dogs was because I fought long and hard for them, I was going to get my Shepherd. Period.

“But I want a pretty dog” my husband said. What? Shepherds are gorgeous dogs! What is he talking about. “I want a Husky.” he added.

So I go online and read about my Shepherd (because we ARE getting the Shepherd no matter what he says) and about HIS Husky.

“You realize this dog will be difficult to manage.” I point out.

“Look at their colors, look at those eyes, they are beautiful.” That’s what he said.

So to make a long story short, after researching until I knew more about dogs than I did about my kids, we finally agreed to get BOTH.

I got lucky and found puppies for both breeds fairly close to us and we went and picked them out. They were five days apart in age. Perfect! They’ll be lifelong partners. They’ll play together and amuse each other. They’ll never be lonely. They’ll be so much fun!

Good idea? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the dogs. The kids love the dogs. The husband regrets the decision every, single day. He likes dogs, he just doesn’t want the responsibility.

So in the beginning, there was poop and vomit and most of the time the poop was really diarrhea.

In the house of course.

On the carpet.

Fortunately, it was mainly in their room. Yes, my dogs got their own room. It was empty because my daughter moved out, so why not? We setup their crates in there and left the room empty so they could play. And poop.

The poop was never intentional. We took them out and worked very hard to potty train them. It took about four months to get them to where they only occasionally did it in the house. By six months, we were almost poop-free.

Along the way we took them outside and let them pee and poop in the yard and we would occasionally leave them out there for a bit to play. In our beautiful yard with green grass, gorgeous shrubs and plants, and a pool.

It took them roughly two months to turn the grass brown.

They also ate the sprinkler heads, dug up the brown grass and attacked the bubblers around the shrubs, in addition to actually ripping chunks of leaves off the plants.

The bubblers were the most difficult part to figure out because we would have to wait until they came on to determine which ones were gone. Except for when the black plastic tubing was actually strewn out on the brown grass.

By the time they were six months old, the word “divorce” was used on a daily basis by my husband. Most of his other comments included the words “I hate dogs.” I learned to tune all of this out and keep working with the dogs to get them to behave better. I’ve been fairly successful, though I have slacked off a bit lately.

Oh, I haven’t shown you what they look like.

Skye – female – German Shepherd
Blu – male – White Siberian Husky

We’re still together and the dogs are still here.  I mean really, look at them.

All grown up now. Do they look like trouble makers?