Sunday, November 20, 2005

You had me at woof (and meow)

Lately I've been a little freaked out about my children aging faster than me. My beloved Flounder, a black lab, will be 8 years old the beginning of December. To me she's still that 10-pound roly-poly ball of fluff I brought home (only mysteriously 10 times bigger than that now!). Where does the time go.

She's a pretty healthy normal, somewhat gargantuan Labrador. However in the several months, there's been a lot more "garumpf" when she gets up from sleeping (a full time job), and less running around the backyard. I noticed she was getting very sore at doggie camp and tends to lay down more than sit. So we checked it out. Ol' Flound-dog is getting arthritic. Poor baby. We've put her on a new (and expensive!) drug Rimadyl.

Excuse me, is that a Labrador between your legs?
Yes, the old Flounder has returned. She's been back up on the bed, having an easier time getting up and down the stairs and more frolicking in the backyard. One of her favorite things is to come up behind me and pop her head between my legs, like some sort of clown act. And luckily we've found cheaper and reliable routes for the meds. I would do anything for the furries to make them happy and comfortable (well, short of a steak dinner every night).

Since I am a worrisome mom, I did a complete blood panel on the Flounder - part was required for the drug but also to get a baseline on how she is doing. Happy to say all parts are good and functioning. The part that makes gas is functioning exceptionally well.

Flounder is not my oldest though. My black cat Sebastian will be 14 this Spring. He's always been a curmedgeon but since the white cat Toby came into our lives (who I think will be 9), Sebastian has acted much younger than his age. Next trip to the vet though, he will also get a senior panel.

My fourth baby is Sarah-dog. Besides a bit of doggie autism and other mental issues, she's pretty healthy. She's also a mixed breed (German shepherd, which she takes very seriously, and something brown dog) which tend to be healthier and longer-living than purebreds. She's about 2 years younger than Flounder. She's my tattletale. I always know when a cat is someplace that he shouldn't be or that I've left Flounder outside, or a delivery is here, or that the house is being attached by squirrels. She'll let me know. Usually in a grab my arm/sleeve with her teeth "timmy-has-fallen-in-the-well" approach. She's also my worrier. She's very attached to Flounder. She likes to watch over her in the backyard and at doggy camp -- maybe a little too much for Flounder's taste. Her last report card from doggy camp said "likes to help supervise." Yup. That's my Sarah-dog.

Clean up on Aisle 9
I think my next baby will be human. In addition to all the normal reasons for having a baby, I think of my furry babies. Flounder loves babies and I know both dogs will thoroughly enjoy clean up around the high chair. My human children will be licked probably more than wet-wiped. Sebastian will probably be annoyed that there will yet another filthy vile creature in the house. He really wanted to be an only child. But I think Toby will enjoy a human baby (until the toddler years when both cats are likely to spend all their time hiding).

I cannot imagine my life without pets. I grew up allergic to everything with fur. I had a couple of dogs as a kid but they couldn't sleep in my room. I took two years of allergy shots specifically for pet dander before Sebastian came into my life. I had about six months of sniffling, sneezing and wheezing. Then became immune to the fur. Good thing. My house is now covered with it. When my first husband wanted a divorce, the first thing out of my mouth was "you're not taking the dog." The fourleggeds are priority in my life.

The girls (the dogs) are now outside barking their heads off at nothing (on the quiet neighbor's side of the house who must *love* them). The boys (the cats) are sitting on Mark's desk looking out the window at birds in the trees. I think for Christmas, I'll get them one of those bird feeders that attach to the window. It has a two way mirror so the birds won't see the wide-eyed drooling cat on the other side but it will send the felines into a foaming frenzy. The girls already have monogrammed holiday bandanas and collars. I think I have a dozen new squeaky toys and will probably bake dog cookies.

So for now, I worry. But I also enjoy. I don't take the short time for granted. There's plenty of rump rubs, lap cuddles, treats, walks, rides, and catnip. In return I get something you can't quite explain to someone without a pet - unconditional love and all that goes with it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Coffee, grunge and blue skies??

The first two days I was in Seattle, I spent my time between the Comfort Suites Seattle Center and the Bell Harbor Conference Center for a conference. A great place to stay. They have free high speed internet (so I could check on the girls on the doggy cam at Camp Bow Wow). I had forgotten a network cable and they gave me one. The conference center is really nice - with a Odyssey Maritime Discovery museum on the first floor. It sits right on the water so has gorgeous views of the sound.

Wednesday night, the conference had a formal dinner at a place called Dimitriou's Jazz Alley. The food was fantastic. We were entertained by a Bay Area singer named Lorraine Feather. Unfortunately a good portion of the folks there talked loudly over her singing. So I felt kind of badly for her but bought her CD. She writes lyrics to old Jazz tunes (Fats Waller, Duke Ellington) and they lyrics are really fun.

Thursday the hubby joined me. During the day, I finished my conference and he worked at the Seattle office of the company he works with (doing computer *stuff*). We wandered off from the Comfort Suites that evening and headed to a little pub called McMenamins Queen Anne. They have their own beer (I tried Terminator Stout) and great Ahi tuna tacos.

Friday morning we took the hotel shuttle to Pioneer Square. Seattle is a very pedestrian city with great mass transit available. You don't need to rent a car. Many hotels have airport shuttles or you can take the Gray Line Downtown Airporter like I did. Mark got a car to get him to his office, parked it at the motel and then to get us to Olympia and back to the airport.

In Pioneer Square, we took the Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. Ends up the original Seattle burned down. It had been plagued with flooding and plumbing problems so the heads of the city, decided they would knock down a nearby cliff and build up the city. But in the meantime the owners of the buildings wanted to get on with it, so they rebuilt in stone and brick in the same place. After these buildings went up, the city built walls around them, filled up the streets with the cliff and other stuff. So now the first floors of these older buildings are underground and the street level is at the second story. The tours take you under the sidewalks and view a lot of fun things. They are led by people in theater and comedy and the history of Seattle is given to you very tongue-in-cheek.

After the tour, we ate paninis and limonada at a little mediterranean place (Mediterranean Mix) off Pioneer square. We ventured back out and walked down to the piers and the waterfront. I have to mention the weather. It was 50s and 60s and blue sky. Yeah - kind of weird for Seattle for this time of year. We had to stop in Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe on Pier 54. It's a combo shop and museum of the weird. There are human and animal mummies, a siamese calf, shrunken heads and more.

From there we took 185+ steps to Pike Place Market. Good thing we're from a high altitude so didn't have heart attacks. We visited a bunch of shops below the market, watched them throw fish, smelled gorgeous boquets of flowers. We bought some cinnamon hazelnuts, then ventured a little farther up hill to Westlake center. On the way to Westlake, I saw a sign for Three Dog Bakery and had to get the pups some treats from our trip. I put my cinammon hazelnuts in the same shopping bag. I got some odd looks munching on something I was pulling from the Three Dog Bakery bag. At Westlake Center we boarded the monorail back to the Seattle Center. It’s a quick trip but fun being so high above the streets (and a good way to rest weary feet).

We had started the day under the city and we ended it high above the city in the Space Needle. We watched a rain storm roll in from the north. There was a wine tasting from a Washington vineyard (NorthStar out of Walla Walla). The Stella Maris Columbia Valley Red was very tasty. We headed back down the elevator and up the Queen Anne hill for some dinner.

We chose a place from the guidebook called Ten Mercer, about 5 or 6 blocks from our hotel. As we walked up hill, the light rain turned into a torential downpour and came at us horizontally. We got to the restaurant soaked, walked in the door, looked around and noticed everyone seemed a little dressed up. We were in wet jeans. After some discussion about reservations (no) and tables (yes, please), we sat at the bar and tried another local wine. Ends up there was both ballet and opera shows that evening (which is why people were dressy). After that initial dinner rush, more people came in wearing jeans and less formal wear. Dinner was worth the walk in the rain and the service was fantastic. Yum!

Saturday we drug our weary legs out of bed, checked out of the hotel, and headed back to the Seattle Center around the corner. This time we went to the new Frank Gehry-designed building(?) housing the Experience Music Project. The building itself is a sight to see. Very curvy, metallic, colorful blop (like something dropped from the needle). EMP is a music museum/interactive experience (thus the name) mostly focused on Pacific NW musicians, including Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. After that we visited the Science Fiction museum (housed in the same building). Lots of fun stuff there. Both museums are the ideas of Paul Allen (the other half of Microsoft). It was funny to see a lot of the items on display in the Sci-Fi museum were from his personal collection. Software geek = sci-fi fan. Imagine that!

Since two museums are not enough in one day, we hit the Museum of Flight near Boeing on our way down I-5 to Olympia. It's full of all things with wings. If you think my hubbie had fun in the Sci-Fi museum, he was a kid with cotton candy on Christmas day here. The museum includes an air park outside. They have a Concorde you can walk through. The only problem they had covered the seats with a plastic bubble on each side so you had barely enough room to walk through. It got jammed up at the cockpit so it was slow going. I was 30 seconds from hyperventilating - didn't realize I was that claustrophobic!

We headed down to my w-Dad's place outside of Olympia for the night. My hubby hadn't been out there to see his place yet. It was a quick visit but I'd be in trouble being the state without visiting! Sunday morning, he and his wife Marcia took us to this place down the road (Kennedy Creek) to watch Salmon spawn. Not only do they swim upstream but they like to run in very shallow water. They are big guys too and not very pretty. The Kennedy Creek area is somewhat rain foresty - lots of moss and mushrooms.

Then back to the airport and home to the pups and kitties.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Orange hands and other hazards of travel

I took a week off to head northwest to Seattle for a conference. I went out by myself (my hubbie arrived two days later). Traveling by yourself, you tend to be more aware of your surroundings and the drama in them.

I took the bus to the airport. The last stop before the airport picked up several airport employees. John, the fuel handler trainer sat in the seat across the aisle from me. The first call on his cell phone was to Rick - a new guy whom he apparently forgot his name but was training him. They discussed fuel stuff and the day's schedule for training. Then there was a long pause on John's end with a lot of uh-huhs. Then he said "yeah - I've been through that but mine was 12 years, not three." More uh-huhs. Then he says, "well ... I would put her stuff out on the front lawn and say goodbye. You got to cut your losses, man." Who knew Dr Phil was masquarading as a big, burly manly fuel handler man on the airport bus?

I love to travel to Washington and I love Frontier airlines. However the Seattle gate is at the end of the A councourse where about 500 gates are all stuffed in a corner. It's always a mad house. But fun to listen to the gate people try to steal the overhead paging system from one another.

"Attention Flight 844 to Sea..." interupted by "Last call for passengers on flight 63...." interupted by "Missus Pigg, Missus Ima Pigg, please come to a white paging telephone." Then they start to get testy and you hear "Att ... las... missus... 844 ... final... gate... grrrrr..."

As I am sitting reading the same sentence in my book over and over (ADD on overload), a mom and her 2-year-old sit down next to me. I am a kid magnet. Usually the ones with boogers, drool, dirt on their shoes. She's cute but is practically in my lap. She gets her dirty shoes on my skirt. I move farther to the right edge of the seat. Then mom hands her a bag of cheetos. This woman gets high marks in my book (not!). I stand up. She looks at me and I feel I have to say something. "Uhm - I'd rather not have orange hands touch me..." and I wander off to settle between a sleeping Japanese business man and a nicely dressed older couple - neither of whom have cheetos or boogers all over them.

Luckily when I board the plane - mom and the orange kid are no where in sight.

My friend Jospeh and his wife Ariela once visited Denver from their home country Israel. Ariela is a very talented artist. So one of the places I took them was the Denver Art Museum. Joseph got a kick out of the Native American area but then was done. He headed back downstairs to the couch by the front door. He finds observing people more fun than art. I like art but he's right on the people watching.

The gate I was facing said "Philadelphia" on the marquee. However, the plane at that gate was going to Las Vegas. It was very amusing to watch people run at full speed stop about 20 feet from the gate person and just look stupified. She would say "Vegas?" and they would nod. She would gesture them over. In the midst of the paging wars - you would hear her say "Flight 666 (or whatever it was) is now boarding at gate 56." So it was funny to watch people given those instructions but be faced with accidentally going to Philadelphia instead. Most of them were likely already liquored up for Vegas (baby).

However - I wondered about the gate people. I mean, really. How hard is it to type on the little keyboard and make the marquee say Las Vegas? But that would take the fun out of it, now wouldn't it?

Blasted Technology

Wrote a lengthy blog last Thursday night from my hotel room in Seattle. Free high speed internet comes with speed bumps. Hit one of those bumps when I tried to publish and the whole thing disappeared. Sumofa...

Guess I need to learn "save as draft" more often or perhaps use a text editor.