Category Archives: Dogs

Moments of Intentional Happiness

Recent little moments of happiness I refuse to overlook:

Cracking open a crisp, refreshing coke and taking that first cold pull.

Going to a new agility class with Toby (same teachers, higher level), and having him not only hit every obstacle (he knows) perfectly, but run the whole extra-long course.

Walking in the door at home with Toby and having Parker rush up to greet…him.

“Cuddle-watch”ing with my hubby — the name we have given to our ritual of cuddling up in bed together almost every night (and some afternoons) to enjoy some TV on DVD. Last night? (Spoiler alert!) Maxwell proposed to Fran! (Yes, we are watching The Nanny. I have a good husband. Who actually enjoys it. And yes, we have a TV in our bedroom. Despite common wisdom, best thing we ever did for our marriage!)

Watching my hubby’s friend have his socks charmed off by Toby.

Working on a current writing project, and actually liking what I wrote.

Unloading the dishwasher for my hubby (typically his chore) just because I can and I love him.

Doing homework help tutoring today, and feeling like I really got through to the student…even on an AP English essay (have I mentioned I teach math?)

Laughing over a fantastic episode of Big Bang Theory with my hubby.

Waking up to a puppy curled against my legs and a kitty curled against my shoulders.

Sitting on the couch and having my puppy come and circle up next-to-and-half-on me.

Stopping to remember and enjoy the little moments.

Sorry there’re no pictures. I figure she’ll forgive me over at Bad Mommy Moments.



Filed under Dogs, Life

Less-puppy super bowl

My hubby threw a super bowl party today for some reffing friends and his boss.

I have approximately zero interest in sports, and y’all know how social I am (especially with strangers!). So…I was totally looking forward to this! (/sarcasm)

First reffing friend walks in the door.

“Look at your dog!” (Who is jumping all over him. Yes, I’m a dog trainer. No, my dog is not “well-behaved” in the conventional sense…but he’s perfect to us!)

*pets Toby enthusiastically for several minutes*

“Man, I almost asked if I could bring Bear, but I figured, nah, that’s not something that’s acceptable…”

At which point I cut him off enthusiastically, “You totally should have! Man, that would have been awesome! …It would have given me something to do!”

He looks crushed, and mumbles something about wishing he had.

I said, “That’s OK, we’ll invite you over again and you can bring him.”

He spent the entire night playing with Toby and Parker.

When he left, he told us if we ever go out of town he would totally dog-sit Toby because he had fallen in love.

My hubby sure knows how to pick ’em :-D

And if any of y’all ever come over to my house?

Your dogs are totally invited.

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Filed under Dogs, Life

More books

It’s another post about books! I know, you’re thrilled. But I just started the 2011 A-Z Challenge, I’m three books in, and the one I just finished almost made me cry, so now I have to write about it/them.

In the order I’ve tackled them, here’s what I’ve read so far:

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamist Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, Elissa Wall & Lisa Pulitzer

I’ve been on a polygamy kick recently. I love and am fascinated by sociology, studies of culture, of how we tick and how we interact, of what is “normal” to others versus “normal” to us. This fascination is why I love fantasy and science fiction: every (well-done) book is basically a big thought experiment in another “normal.” I firmly believe that getting outside of your normal is necessary to being a well-rounded and intelligent person, and I love books that take you there. This one is one of my rare non-fiction reads, and it will plunge you into a world outside your comfort zone.

This book is definitely biased, as is clear in the title’s use of language. But still, it is an insider view into a large polygamist sect in fairly modern times, and how difficult it can be to break free. The story is fascinating and appalling all at once, as Elissa tells us the story of her life, starting with her parents’ marriage (her mother is her father’s second wife) and coming up to present day after she testified against Warren Jeffs for his responsibility in her repeated rape. Elissa was born into the FLDS church and raised in polygamous families (yes, plural, her mother was “reassigned” to a new husband when her father was deemed incompetent by the prophet). She attended FLDS school, wore FLDS clothes, was brainwashed and indoctrinated with FLDS teaching, and at 15, since she was proving troublesome, was married to her first cousin. This is not a light read, but it is extremely detailed and fascinating, and it does have a fairly happy ending (as real-life stories so rarely do). I recommend it to those interested in the topic; if you’re not particularly interested there are definitely lighter reads out there that can still give you a glimpse into this intriguing lifestyle.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

This book and author were pointed out to me by the fabulous Corey when she did her book giveaway, and I secured my own copy when I wasn’t lucky enough to win one. (It’s OK. I have still won her give-aways. Twice. Only drawing(s) I’ve ever won!) The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl, Anna, who was conceived by her parents using science to ensure she would be a perfect genetic match for her older sister. Her sister, Kate, has a form of cancer that is aggressive and “learns” each treatment thrown at it, meaning that once you’ve used a treatment it will never work again. At this point in the book Kate is near death, not from the cancer, but from a kidney shutting down in response to the aggressive treatments it has had to endure. Anna sues for medical emancipation, meaning that she can make her own medical decisions instead of letting her parents decide for her, in order to avoid having to give up a kidney against her will. The book follows the family during the legal struggle and includes many flashbacks to give us background.

Each chapter of the book is told from a different character’s point of view, and I must say, I love that every character has their own font. The book is good, and definitely pulled me in. It was a page-turner and I went through it quickly. But boy is it high on melodrama! Reading the reviews, it seems Picoult’s books aren’t always this high on the melodrama, but this one screams “Lifetime Original Movie.” So if you go into it, go into it knowing that that’s what you’re getting into (complete with corny ending!). But if you don’t mind, and you want some engaging brain candy and/or are interested in the topic, then this is a good, enjoyable book that really does look at some hard questions. Things like, what obligation does Anna have to be a donor to Kate, given that she is the only one who can be but that being a donor is dangerous, painful, and has life-long implications? What happens when a baby, conceived for her cord blood, grows up? How can parents make medical decisions for their two children, when what is best for each is opposite? The ethical questions are fascinating, and are given a fair shake in this book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

This book is fabulous. I’ll just start right there. Fabulous. I totally get why it is a New York Times Bestseller. It is appealing to almost everyone. There is no niche target audience here. It’s just good.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the point of view of Enzo, a Shepherd-Poodle-Terrier-who-knows mix. I know, sounds like a corny concept. It makes a great book. And looking at reviews, people who aren’t animal-lovers agree. Which I get. Since the other major aspect of this is racecar driving, something I have absolutely zero interest in (really not a big sports fan at all, let alone car racing), and yet, in this book, it’s made fascinating.

The book starts at the end of Enzo’s life, and then Enzo takes us on a recap of all he has witnessed. Enzo was brought home by Denny when he is just a puppy, and watches as Denny goes through life: finding a wife, having a daughter who he is devoted to, becoming a semi-professional driver. And then he watches as it is all torn apart, by fate, by others’ selfishness, by trickery and lies. Enzo is there for Denny through it all, with a unique and insightful look on everything as it happens. As one reviewer on Amazon says, “Bad things happen to good people in this novel, and then worse things, and soon you are so angry, so hurt, so tear-stained and concerned that you do not think for one second to step back and say, hey, wait, this is just a story! A shaggy dog story, at that!” This book Sucks. You. In.

It is fabulous. There is no way to describe it. No way to convey its power. All I can say is: read it.

(As I was reminded today by a client and friend, a warning (and semi-spoiler alert): a dog dies in this book. This is no real spoiler, as I said, the book starts at the end of the dog’s life. But still, if you have lost a dog recently and are still hurt by that loss, this book may be too painful to handle for now. But remember it. And when you’re ready, come back. Because Enzo’s view of death for a dog is a beautiful, if heart-wrenching, thing.)

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Filed under Books, Dogs

What passes for humor around here

Me: I need the balls to go out and do xyz.



Filed under Dogs, Life

Wordless Wednesday: Turkey, please!

Toby, Brigid and Sage (in-laws' dogs) waiting for turkey scraps...

May your holiday season be full of joy and hope!

This post is part of Wordless Wednesday with 5 Minutes for Mom


Filed under Dogs, Invisible Illnesses, Wordless Wednesday

Another form of security theater

I flew with my service dog this weekend, going home. I am about to undertake a mini-rant about that experience. And knowing me, the “mini” is relative. Fair warning.

First, there are two types of animals covered by law: service dogs and emotional support animals. Service dogs are dogs which are trained in tasks and/or jobs which specifically help a disabled handler. The dog is trained in public access and in tasks, and has full access to all types of housing, all areas of public, and air travel. Emotional support animals are pets for a person with a psychiatric/emotional disorder. The animal is not trained in any way, but just provides emotional support to their handler by their very presence. They have access to housing and air travel, but have no general public access rights.

The above is totally correct.


Under the DOT, who governs the rules for service animals flying, psychiatric service dogs (public access trained and task trained) are grouped into the same category as emotional support animals (untrained pets).

So. When you travel with your extensively trained psychiatric service animal you have to meet all the requirements the DOT has put in place for a special-case pet. Including one big one, which the DOT specifically says in other places in their rules is restrictive and unreasonable for service dog handlers.

That rule? You have to have, on letterhead, from a mental health professional, a letter dated within one year of travel stating that you have a DSM IV condition, that the animal is required either on the flight or at your destination, that the professional is treating you, and the details of the professional’s certification.

You have to carry this letter every time you fly. You have to get a new one every year. And whenever asked, you have to present it. In addition to answering any questions they may have about everything except the details of your disability, as all service dog users do.

In a year of flying with Toby I have never been asked to present the letter. He is clearly trained, and clearly identified as a service dog. I have been asked if I have it, but only by well-meaning people who want to make sure I know the rule in case someone else decides to get bitchy about it. They can tell he is not just a pet.

Until today.

I am in the airport waiting to fly home (where I can’t get web access, so this will be going up later). Earlier, I checked in to my flight. The woman watching the line asked if he was a service animal. I assured her that yes, he was, and offered documentation. She declined it. I went to check my bags and print my boarding pass. No questions. Went through security. No questions. Went to my gate. No questions.

Got to my gate. Went, of my own free will, to the ticket agent to ask if I could preboard since I was traveling with a service animal (as I usually do when traveling with Toby, that way the two of us getting situated doesn’t slow others down. It is allowed, and that info is confirmed on their website.). She pulled up my file and saw that he was technically an emotional support animal in their system. How did she see this? I had marked it on the information when buying the ticket. Even though the question was “Is he a service animal or an emotional support animal?” and it galled me to write emotional support animal when he is a trained service animal, I knew the intent of the question so I did. Me being obedient and trying to work with the system getting me screwed #1.

She looks at me and asks (very abruptly and accusingly), “Is he a service animal or an emotional support animal?” I remembered their phrasing and said, “Well, he’s, well, to you, an emotional support animal, but he’s really a psychiatric service dog.” Me being obedient and trying to work with the system getting me screwed #2.

She glared at me and I said, “I have his documentation, would you like it?” She asked, “Has anyone looked at it yet?” I replied, honestly, “No.” MBOATTWWTSGMS #3.

She said, “Well, then, I have to see it.” I agreed, and pulled it out of the folder in my bag where I had kept it. It was on letterhead. It said everything required. It was perfect.


It didn’t have a date. The regulation is that it has to be a letter from withinin one year on letterhead that hits those four bullet points. But having a date is not a bullet point, so I hadn’t noticed it was missing when running the checklist in my head. She examined it for a long time and said, again very abruptly, “This has no date on it.”

I turned pale. “Really?” I said. “I am so sorry, do you want me to call the person who wrote it to get her authorization? I have his previous letter, too, which expired just a few days ago that I can show you.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” the agent told me, annoyed. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that was the end of it, and making a mental note to update the letter ASAP. “Did you fly out here with this letter?”

“Yes,” I answered, confused. She tried to find my flight out and couldn’t. When I realized what she was doing I said, “We didn’t fly on your airline (Southwest), we flew Horizon.”

She looked at me for a long second. “OK,” she said. “I’m going to let you on.” (Said as if she was doing me a big favor). “But only because you are flying home. If you were outbound, I would have to deny letting you get on the flight.”

At this point I am shaking and unsettled. “Alright,” I tell her. “Thank you,” I say gratefully. Grateful, because even though she was abrupt and rude she really does have the power to deny my fully trained service dog, who has met all of the additional requirements placed on an emotional support animal including a letter meeting the fairly detailed requirements with everything but a date.

She was doing her job. She was taking it to the letter of the law and being vaguely bitchy about it, but she was just doing her job.

What pisses me off is that I have a fully trained service dog, but because my disability is psychiatric, it is treated as if it is less real than a (more obviously) physical disability. I say “more obviously” because psychiatric disabilities are physical. My brain does not work right. It is not just that I haven’t decided to try hard enough. My wiring is wrong. And my dog, by his presence and by his tasks, helps keep me alive and lets me go out in society. If I was in a wheelchair, no questions would be asked.

It also pisses me off because needing the damn letter is so stupid. Honestly. The rationale behind it is that it is easy to fake having a psychiatric disability to fly your pet for free. Fine. So make untrained ESAs bring letters, since they are just pets. But psychiatric service dogs are trained. Extensively. Just like balance-assist dogs. Or autism dogs. Or hearing ear dogs. And, just like with those dogs, it is visible in the training. Plus, this law only applies to psychiatric service dogs. It is specifically said it would be an unfair burden for other service dog users. But if you want to fake getting on a plane, all you have to do is say you have a seizure disorder and this is your alert dog. Even easier to fake, as seizure disorders often don’t show up for weeks at a time, no one expects to see any symptoms! And seizure alert dogs are much more well-known than psychiatric service dogs.

Plus the only reason I almost lost my place on my flight was I was trying to be obedient! I could have side-stepped the prohibition at any of the three points above, just by answering differently. I could have side-stepped the whole thing just by not asking for a pre-boarding pass and flying more under the radar (no pun intended). I probably could have even farther avoided it by acting more confident (you know, not having a psychiatric disability). If you’re trying to sneak your dog on, it’s easy to avoid the rules. But if you have a legitimate disability, it is a hassle to meet all the extra requirements (the letter is just one, the biggest, but not the only). Even though for last year I was never asked for my letter, I still had to obtain it, carry it at all times, and keep track of it between flights. So frustrating!

It’s just another type of security theatre. To prevent people from brining on pets and claiming them as service animals, they punish legitimate service dog users with a bunch of hoops to jump through. And anyone wanting to sneak a dog on can do it just as easily, by claiming they have a seizure disorder (something more people are going to be happy to claim anyway, as psychiatric disorders are so taboo in our culture). It’s just like how the TSA now has to squeeze our breasts and run their hands along the underwire in our bras to look for contraband, when anything that could fit their could go in like a tampon just as easily. Does it make us safer? No. Does it hassle a lot of lawful people? Yes.

I don’t mind losing freedom or going through hassles for a procedure if it is effective at what it is doing. But when it’s not, it ticks me off to no end. And more to the point, it sends my anxiety through the roof. In this case, a lot of untrained minimum-wage workers have the power to deny me what is, essentially, a life-saving treatment, on a whim. It’s been over an hour and every muscle in my body is still tense.

Oh well, at least I have my psychiatric service dog here to help me calm down and re-center. I didn’t have a panic attack, in part thanks to his presence. And he has been performing one of his tasks to help me re-center as I sit here, waiting for my delayed flight.

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Filed under Dogs, Invisible Illnesses, Life

WTH Wednesday: It’s all about Toby

Oh yes, it’s Wednesday, and even though I didn’t win their 1 year anniversary prize (*sniff* *tear*) I’m participating in the ever-popular What the Hell Wednesday!

WHAT THE HELL, fleas???? Seriously! At the beginning of LAST month I took Toby to the groomer..who found fleas. Fleas! I have never had an animal with fleas!! Eweweweweeeeeeew! So I sucked it up and dealt with them. Revolution. Regular flea baths. Diatamatious earth all over my house AND in his fur (and the cat’s). Predatory nematodes in the yard. Vacuuming regularly. Changing the sheets often. And I won!! The fleas all died!!

…for a week.

Then they came back. But Toby’s fur is too long for me to find them.

UGH!!!! WHAT THE HELL fleas?!?! Couldn’t you just stay dead!?

He’s at the groomer, getting shaved down again.

Next up, what the hell was I worrying about at the beginning of my last post? My therapist is awesome!! And I got an e-mail back from her today, after I sent her information and the request for support/a letter, thanking me for the information and saying she’d do whatever she could to help support me. YES!! :-D Big, giant sigh of relief. But really, she’s been supportive the whole time, I don’t know what the hell I was so worried about :-)

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Filed under Dogs, Invisible Illnesses, Life