Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Scrabble Friend

I have a friend about whom I know nearly nothing. That is the state of affairs in this modern world. I don't even know whether to refer to this person as he or she, but I've been picturing a woman at her iPhone so I'm going with it. That's my first assumption.

I've been playing Scrabble Free with my anonymous guest for the last two months. We're in our third game and except for a few scant clues, I'm clueless about her.

I know she gets up at 7:00 am on Sundays. She has more time to play on the weekend and I thought I lost her a couple of weeks ago because she didn't play for more than fourteen days. I picture her as a working woman who had a big project to finish. That was my second assumption.

I also imagine her as my age or older and a little bookish. Who plays Scrabble that isn't? Still, that's my third and fourth guess about my friend.
I must not be far off though, because she comes up with words like noble, fungi, and coot.

She's tenacious because she's lost every game so far and is still playing. That makes her a better woman than I am too.

Plus, she has a thick enough skin to have tolerated when I used the words urine and poop successively. Oh, I might have quit over those words, assuming that was a little creepy. I only used them because I got triple word scores on both of them.

There's a little chat bubble at the top in the game, but it only works with people who aren't anonymous. Bummer! Wouldn't it be cool, like having a Scrabble/penpal? She could tell me what state she lives in and I could tell her I like quilting. I'll bet we both have white dogs. I'd like her to be from Maine. I like Maine and we'd be from opposite sides. There I am again, with presumptions five and six.

Shoot, I could put her in a novel, the bookish older woman who plays Scrabble with the librarian because her husband doesn't want to play. He's more of a poker man. Guesses! It can go on and on.

I have to tell you that I play this kind of game all the time, guessing things about people. Most of the time, it's too easy. Airports are great for this guessing game. You have lovers parting, adult children reluctantly returning home. You have evidence of divorce with kids flying alone. You even have trysts. Oh, tell me it isn't fun to see the couple who is determined to become members of the mile-high club. Even you can spot them!

I even imagine stories for the car I hear passing my house at 3:00 am. I picture people inside, in despair, in ecstasy, or even struggling to stay awake.

My Scrabble friend offers me so few real clues about her life. Even the words she chooses are sometimes predestined. I'm always a little sad when the teacher on the game offers the same word I've picked even though that means I actually thought of the word that gives me the highest score. Couldn't I be more original?

I'm going to keep playing with my anonymous friend. We get along so well and so far, she has no flaws, except that she gets up and plays Scrabble on Sunday at 7:00 in the morning.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Update on My Ghetto Kitty

Do you remember when I wrote about how I inherited my Grandma's sick cat after she died? Did I tell you how Buddy wasn't supposed to live longer than six months to a year? Did you know he has congestive heart failure and likely has colon cancer too? That was fifteen months ago and yes, my sick kitty, Buddy, is still kicking. Literally. No, he's not pouting from the old cardboard box as often as before. I suspect that's because I haven't had much time to sit at the computer lately.

Right now, I'm in bed, still in my own guest room because of crate training versus my insomniac husband. Buddy is lying across my stomach, purring loudly because periodically, I'm stopping to rub him with both hands. He may also be purring because the dog is locked in his crate for the night.

I can almost remember reading something about purring and healing. The details have disappeared in the mists of my mind. Maybe it's from a fantasy I read, but I imagine, as the two of us sit quietly together, that his vibrations are healing us both. There is so much love there.

Not only is Buddy still alive, but he seems to be well enough to give poor Teddy a ration of shit every time the poor guy has the nerve to come in out of the rain after peeing outside. Really, is that any way to teach a puppy to do his business in the yard instead of on the carpet? Poor Teddy won't walk past him, despite the fact that Buddy is declawed. The fury is just too much for the poor guy even though he's bigger than either of the cats now.

Seth, Nick's cat, seems to be reasonable when meting out his corrections to the dog. Don't get too close. Don't bark. I eat first, but you can walk on past in the narrow places if you're polite. On the other hand, Buddy isn't that worried about the puppy's feelings. His message is different. Don't look at me. You smell. Go out the door but don't bother coming back in. In fact, why don't you cease to exist altogether, okay?

Teddy totally understands his position as bottom dog. Buddy is making sure of that. I never would have thought it possible that this sweet and loving cat would be so crabby with any other living being, let alone a sweet little white puppy, but it's true. Buddy is still kicking.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not All Fluffy Puppies and Ice Cream

I don't know what to write. You see, I have something to say, but I hate bugging you with the sad stuff.

Mike is so tired. I don't get to the point that I pray very often. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I try not to bug God about the little stuff. I try to be grateful.

I'm praying now. Mike is tired and overwhelmed. I'm not very good at taking up the slack, I guess. Who would have thought that if I went to quilt night, it would feel like too much for him at home. The dog behaved badly. Mike still thinks we made a mistake. I'm really glad we brought Teddy home, most of the time. Don't ask me about cleaning up five carpeted stairs and the landing at 11:00 pm last night.

There isn't anything I can do to convince Mike that this is the right thing for our family. It may be right for Nickie to have the adoration of a dog. It may be right for me to have a walking buddy and someone to talk to during the days. Yet it may not have been the best choice for a man who has no energy left by the middle of the evening. There's nothing for me to say except "I'm sorry." I had thought that Mike was ready. I had thought that he knew what we were going to be in for.

So now I'm praying, that we can muddle through, that the training I signed up for will help us, that Mike will get enough sleep tonight, and that nothing else will happen to wrench what little control of our situation we have out of our hands.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, November 27, 2011

'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett

So in all this hubbub I call my life, in all of this complaining about stress, I forgot to tell you that it hasn't gotten so bad that I had to stop reading.  I wouldn't do it, you know, stop reading.  In fact, I've been reading better things since I'm getting better sleep with my slightly older puppy.  Last week, it was almost as though the book I was reading was helping to get me through.  Did you ever read a book like that?  And for the first time in a very long time, I'm going to call a book 'important.'

'The Help,' by Kathryn Stockett is an important book.  The last book I described as important was 'Fugitive Pieces,' by Anne Michaels, a Canadian poet.  That was in 1996.  They don't come through me that often.  Oh, I've read some of the classics that I missed in college.  Did I ever tell you that having Ian McKellen read 'The Illiad' and 'The Oddessy' to me on audio books was the nicest way to experience them.  And yes, they were important books.  How could something that has survived for that long not be important? 

So if you're like me and it's taken you a while to catch on, 'The Help' is Stockett's first book, about black women raising white babies for white families in the civil rights era.  There's already a movie!  This book isn't just a history lesson.  Stockett breathes life into her characters.  I just wanted to slap the character, Miss Elizabeth, for her casual cruelties. Even the names fit.  Can you imagine being saddled with a name like Skeeter for your whole life? I love what this author has done.

I was thrown by the language of the characters at first, but I'll admit that it rang clear in my mind once I read it as though I was listening. I even heard my own twang come back just a little bit like it does when I talk to my mom who still lives in the same house I where I grew up in Southern Indiana. Maybe being sleep-deprived from getting up with a puppy made me susceptible to the language, but that's good work, to pull out an old accent with just the written word.

What makes 'The Help' an important book is that I was struck by how stuck in the middle a person could get, trying to make things right.  Black or white, it would have taken courage to do the right thing in such a heated environment.  About eighteen years ago, I marched in a protest against a law passed in Seattle banning sitting on the sidewalk.  It is a stupid law, one that has no purpose but to 'protect' storefronts from the unpleasantness of homelessness.  I was appalled by the passing of that law so I marched with a couple hundred other people in protest against it.  Yet I have to admit that never once, during that march, did I have the courage to actually sit down.  I was afraid I might be arrested.  I was afraid of what the police might do to me.  That was nothing compared to what happened in the South in the '60s.  Nothing. 

While I was reading 'The Help,' I actually woke up in the middle of the night when the puppy whined to go out and was still afraid for some reason.  It took me a minute to wake up enough to remember that the puppy only needed to go out and that my fear was just a residual from a compelling book. It's that good.

Some of the criticisms of Stockett's book rip into the accuracy of her portrayal of a domestic worker in the early 1960s.  Ida E. Jones, the national director of the Association of Black Women Historians hated the book for its vernacular and for trivializing the problems of black domestic workers during that time.  She said the book stereotyped both black women and men, ignored sexual harassment, and was degrading because of the language Stockett used to characterize the black women.

I am not a black woman, so what can I say to that?  I didn't experience the deep South, nor do I remember much of that time period.  What I can say is that this book struck a chord.  I did feel the heat of unrestrained prejudice as a child. There were many reasons why I moved away from home after I graduated from college, but that was definitely one part of it.  Hatred made life feel less safe, even for a pasty white-bread girl like me.

So I stick by my opinion.  'The Help' is an important book, even if, while you read it, you realize that the scenario may very well have been worse than it is portrayed.  I think Stockett should be proud of her work, even in the face of that criticism. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Never the Right Time

We are still working on making it work.  I have to tell you that the love affair with our puppy is not perfect.  Oh, he's adorable, eager to learn, and affectionate.  He is not our problem, exactly. 

How do you know when it's the right time to get the perfect dog?  I can tell you now, that everyone in the house needs to be enthusiastic and as well-educated about what will be expected as possible.  Everyone.

Dogs take a lot of work.  Puppies make more. 

Teddy is not quite house-trained.  That will take more time and he is getting better at it.  He's only thirteen weeks old.  We've gone from having multiple accidents each day to usually having only one.  Last night, I took him out twice within a half an hour and he turned around not ten minutes later and peed on the carpet.  He just looked up at us and peed.  No whining, no agitation, no going toward the door with intent.  Oh man.

To be honest, that's his only problem.  He sits on command for just about everyone.  He doesn't nip nearly as much as he used to do.  We have to train him not to jump on little kids, but that will come.  He whines sometimes, but it's for understandable things, like yesterday, when we let him meet his friend, Beau, but didn't let him play for longer than ten minutes.  He didn't understand that it was a chance meeting in the library parking lot and we didn't have time for the long walk we'd had with him the weekend before. Okay, it was annoying to be stuck in the car for fifteen minutes while he whined and we'd left the squirt bottle in the house.  I even tried to give him treats while he was silent for a ten or fifteen seconds at a time, but that did little to end our suffering.

So, how do you definitively train a dog not to whine and not to pee in your big house? I've read lots of books, but I'm not sure I'm following the methods consistently. It's time for us to get Teddy signed up for puppy manners class.  I called the recommended trainer the other day, but she didn't call back.  Bummer.  It's just like training a puppy.  I'll have to try again.  I'll have to be persistent and consistent. 

The other thing that I'm working on with Teddy is preventing him from pulling on his leash.  My hands hurt the other day when we walked with another of his dog friends, Rex.  I'll have to explain to my friend Suzanne that I need to do quick reversals and lots of starts and stops to keep Teddy's attention on me instead of on Rex.  My hands hurt after that walk.  Teddy is getting stronger and more willful.  I swear, I will not be battling this dog on the leash his whole life. 

But really, those are not the problems, not the primary problems.  The main problem we have is that Mike is still too sick with whatever is causing his insomnia that he doesn't have enough energy for Teddy.  Oh, he's not cruel.  He never is, but he just doesn't have it in him to be persistent and consistent, even to pay attention near the end of the day when he wears thin.  I'll admit that I'd been leaning on Mike to be responsible so I could catch up with my sleep, even to cook that big meal for Thanksgiving.  I could have penned Teddy into the kitchen with me, but I didn't.  I thought things were okay.

Poor Mike has mentioned a few times now, that getting Teddy was a mistake.  I know it.  We should have waited if we were going to make it work for Mike.  At the beginning, I was completely overwhelmed with Teddy's needs to go out, with his nipping, and with his whining.  More than once, I regretted that we brought him home when we did, but lately, I've been feeling as though we can handle it.  I thought we were coming out of the woods, getting into the swing of things, catching up on our sleep.

Well, I'm catching up on my sleep.  Mike is still sleeping as little as he has been.  He's not through wondering if there ever would be a good time to bring home a puppy.  He's not sure we should have made this decision.  I hope he's not seriously thinking that we need to find another home for Teddy.  I want Teddy.  I will work harder to make it work.  I'll take the weight of caring for Teddy.  I'll help Mike catch up on other things that need to get done around here.  I'll make sure I don't sign up for anything extra with school and Cub Scouts.  I can make this work.  I just have to remember that when Mike gets tired, that I wanted this more than he did right now.  I wanted this for Nick too.

I need to pull Nick into a quiet room and remind him of his solemn promise to help out if we got him a dog.  It wasn't a casual promise we asked of him, so I'm going to hold him to it.  I'll try to keep Mike's illness out of it.  Poor Nick is worried about that enough as it is.  Yet I have to help him shift his thinking, remind him that if he whines enough, it makes the situation harder for all of us when we could use a little less whining around this house.

As I write, Mike is on the couch with Teddy, pulling on one of his toys.  I should remember that the situation isn't completely bleak. We can make it through and Teddy is going to be one amazing dog.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Food that Makes It Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I'm grateful for the four days in a row that our family gets to play, to work on overdue projects, and to just hang out together.

There are a lot of reasons that Thanksgiving is so great.  There are no presents, little cost, no worries about buying the right present, no discomfort about receiving those strange presents, no thank you notes.  Thanksgiving is low key.  You might visit your family, but it's no crime if you don't. There are no religious stresses to it.  Anyone can be thankful.  All you need to do is think of one thing that makes you happy.  Like Oprah says, having gratitude is good for your attitude. I like to cook when I have time, so locking me up in my kitchen with some loud music and the basic ingredients makes me happy.  I like eating that classic meal. But what is the classic Thanksgiving meal?  It's different for everybody.

This year, I brined my turkey and put butter under the skin.  It smelled so good coming out of the oven, I surprised myself by stealing some before it cooled.  Usually, the turkey is the least of it. Our tradition is to have turkey, cauliflower and cheese sauce, candied yams, green beans, stuffing, canned jellied cranberry sauce, and gravy.  Later, out comes pumpkin and lemon meringue pies. 

So here it is, Lily Wallace's classic cheese sauce that makes our Thanksgiving really feel like Thanksgiving:

Mix 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. flour in a saucepan over low heat until it's melted and blended together.  Add 1 1/2 cups of half and half.  (Cream would be too thick but regular milk isn't quite rich enough for Thanksgiving or Christmas.)  Whisk out the tiny lumps and then, after it has thickened nicely, take it off the heat and add 1 1/2 cups of shredded 7 year old cheddar from Wisconsin.  Stir until the cheese is melted into the sauce.  Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet makes this amazing cheese.  Oh, you can use any old cheddar, but if you want that special holiday cheese sauce, this is the place to get it.

Mike's mother was an extraordinary cook, so when we got married, he began to teach me her recipes.  It was tragic that she died two years before we got married, but while we were dating, she did feed me well and treated me like a well-loved daughter-in-law.  Mike never once complained about my cooking, but he's still teaching me his mother's techniques.  Thankfully, I'm a little better at it than I was. 

Her yams are simple, but difficult to get just right.  When you do, there's nothing like them.  Peel and boil a large yam until just soft when you stick a fork in it.  Slice it into quarter inch slabs and lay them on an oiled shallow pan.  Slice a stick of butter and place them on the yams.  (You don't really need a pat of butter on each one. The melting butter will spread it around enough.)  Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, probably 2/3 cup total.  Bake with your turkey at 350 degrees for about an hour until the edges get crispy, or in a slower oven at 225 degrees for longer.  Longer and slower is better. The hard part is taking them out at just the right time.  I don't always slice them to the perfect width and some get done before others.  It's a good Thanksgiving when half of them are perfectly crispy and chewy at the same time.  This stuff will gum up your teeth, so take out your retainer before you tangle with them. 

Now, there's something about the way the flavor of the candied yams mixes with the cheese sauce on my plate that just says Thanksgiving to me.  Plus there's a little bit of sage in the gravy and the flavor of the cranberry sauce that's usually mixed into the fray.

Now, my friend Ruby and I have different ideas about what is absolutely required to make a Thanksgiving meal right.  She makes a special cranberry sauce and an ambrosia that can't be beat.  Her boy requires apple crumble.  Her daughters need pumpkin pie.  Mike insists that it isn't Thanksgiving (or Christmas) without his grandma's lemon meringue pie.  See the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk recipes for that one.  For me, it used to be squash pie and my grandma's whole wheat honey yeast biscuits.  Oh man, I can't even make those biscuits any more.  By themselves, they'd kill me with the carbohydrates.  But they were a lovely memory of Thanksgivings growing up.  I'd never had cheese sauce or lemon meringue the way Mike needed it, but I'm a happy convert to his classic Thanksgiving meal. 

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, I am just as grateful for those leftover flavors that mingle on my plate and say that I can keep celebrating, being grateful, for a few more days to come. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Walking With the Pack

Yesterday, Teddy and I went walking through the woods on a trail instead of in town on a sidewalk.  It was nice.  The air was clean, wet, and cool.  The leaves still crunched under our feet.  Teddy was intent on meeting every person on the trail.  Some dogs love balls, some sticks.  Some lunge after birds or squirrels.  Teddy is intent on getting over to that next person.  My husband keeps telling me that I should drop Teddy off at a doggie daycare when I have a busy day planned.  It would give Teddy that time with other dogs that he really craves.  It's a good idea.  Really, it is and I'll do that soon, on a day when I'm busy all day, but yesterday was not that day, not just yet. 

In the morning, I had an appointment to get my hair cut.  My hair dresser, a dog-lover, asked me to bring Teddy in to see her when I was done.  She and the next customer oohed and ahead over him.  This little guy has been invited into so many places not usually frequented by dogs.  After that, Teddy and I went for a walk in the woods by Lake Tradition.  Lake Tradition is along I-90 at the High Point Way exit on the South side.  There's a great network of trails there, but these days, you need a Discovery pass to park. The most notable trail for dog walkers who need altitude gains is the one called Poo Poo Point. I headed toward my favorite, the walk around Lake Tradition and the Swamp trail.  Teddy bolted from person to person, but when we were finally on our own, it was all about how soon we were going to turn around and find our car. But Teddy would only handle twenty minutes of walking before he sat on my feet and begged me to turn around.

Today, all of us went on a familiar trail near home and happened to pass the home of one of Nick's friends, who was out in his backyard playing soccer.  The nice thing is that they have a new dog too, a beautiful black lab mix, about a year old.  Soon, we had an impromptu dog-walking party.  This other dog was  big, but he tolerated Teddy's puppy jumping and overall excitement.  Suddenly, with their three people and a dog and our three people and Teddy, we were a proper pack.  Teddy was prepared to go wherever this big-kid dog was going to take him.  He happily walked more than twice as far as usual with none of his usual propensity to walking away with whatever group of people or dogs that come along.  And he never once sat on my feet and begged for me to carry him home.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Morning Routine

We have a new morning routine.  You wouldn't think my morning routine would mean much to a die-hard night owl like me, but it does and I'm not used to it yet. 

Up until a few weeks ago, I'd get up and write some junk in my notebook when the alarm went off at 6:45 am.  Then Mike and I would wake Nick, make his lunch, and chatter with Mike in the kitchen as we danced around in the very small space there.  Nick would get his breakfast, grab a shower and the alarm would give Nick the ten minute warning.  (Have I ever told you that I love my iPhone?  I have four or five different alarms set on it to streamline my week!) The boing-boing sound was more effective than my nagging and if Nick wasn't ready at all, he could get his act together and still catch the bus in those last ten minutes.  Around that time, I'd kiss Mike goodbye and usually I'd follow him downstairs to chat a bit more while he put his shoes on.  Then, I'd stand at the window and wait to see if he looked up and waved.  He started doing that more than fifteen years ago and it always struck me as warm and cheerful, so I try to be there when he looks up.  Nick would crash out of the house at 7:52, never looking back, and the bus would come at 7:54 and I'd be on my own again.  Now, that was a routine that I liked.

Now, my morning routine has changed because Mike has decided to keep getting up at the same time after daylight savings ended and because of Teddy.  Now, when you're out and about with the cutest puppy in the world, you can't really complain about the schedule he makes you keep.  You can talk about all the cute tricks he can already do, speculate about his heritage, and generally admire his soft fur, floppy ears, and the cute way he stands on the feet of people he likes.  Some of the time, I'm standing there wishing people would let me complain about the hours Teddy makes me keep, but they just say, "Oh, it's like having a baby in the house, but it's over more quickly."  That's it for compassion regarding puppy-induced sleep-deprivation.  I shouldn't ask for more, their faces say. I should be buoyed up by his cuteness.

These days, I get up once in the night, then at 5:20 am, if Teddy doesn't wake me up, Seth walks around the bed crying as if the house is on fire.  I always lie there thinking that I could have slept more than another hour if the cat would just leave me alone.  Even if I'm quiet, Seth's wailing causes Teddy to wake up and then he whines that he needs to go out.  When I open his crate, he lies there for a bit looking up at me as if to say, "I really have to pee, but this sleeping bag is so warm and cozy, I don't want to get out of it." Eventually, he comes out and I hustle him up the stairs past the pee spot he was surreptitiously using on our way outside.  I get completely woken up by the cold fresh air, the drizzle on my head, and the wetness seeping into my socks through those handy ventilators on the sides of my dirty pink knock-off Crocs. 

Then, if Teddy gives me the jackpot, doing everything he can do out in the backyard, I can relax a bit.  I've been trying to go back to sleep at 5:45 for that last much-needed hour of sleep.  By then, Mike is in the shower and when my alarm finally goes off for real at 6:45, he has gone.  He told me he likes getting in ahead of the traffic, that he can come home earlier at night.  He told me that by leaving me be, he's trying to let me sleep as much as I can, but I feel bereft at his absence.  No making-lunch dance in my narrow kitchen, no morning chatter, no waking Nickie up together, and no wave.  I miss the wave.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Day Off

Happy Veteran's Day!

On Wednesday, Nick's Cub Scout Den did the colors for the Veteran's Day assembly at school. Nick lead the boys, bringing in the American flag and leading the congregation in the Pledge of Allegance. I was proud of him. Many of the kids sang or read poetry and essays. Then the veterans stood as we applauded them. There was a slide show honoring many others. I hadn't been to this assembly before. I was surprised to see how many of the students had family members in the military, in many cases, more than one. It was moving, thinking about how these soldiers were willing to give his or her life for our country, for our freedoms.

That must be a strange experience for a soldier. I've heard that soldiers in uniform are thanked profusely when they go anywhere in public. I wonder if it's embarrassing for them. It would be for me if I were in that same position. Still, it's so much better than what we did to our soldiers during the Vietnam war, yelling at them, calling them 'baby killers' when all they'd done is have the nerve to be drafted into an unpopular war. I wonder at the damage done to those soldiers, the homelessness, the way so many of them went off kilter. Post traumatic stress disorder. I know the name for it now and it is common, even now, for our soldiers to come home with it and struggle to get treatment for it since it falls under mental health. Oh, I believe our culture is so backward when it comes to mental health. Even the phrase, 'He's gone mental,' stands in the way of people getting the help they need.

But these days, our veterans are revered, at least within our country.

The whole family is home today, since the kids are off from school and Mike took a vacation day. I like these days.

First, I slept in because Mike woke up early and took on house-training duties with the puppy. He also opened the door for Adrian, who came over early when his mom left for work. We goofed off and had bacon and eggs for breakfast, then got our act together.

Then, the guys dropped me off at a quilt show and headed up to the gun range. I was excited about seeing the quilts, but sad that I missed Adrian's first time shooting a real gun.

So far, we have taken him to swimming and karate lessons, taught him to ride a bike, and have taken him for his first ride on a horse. We've done a lot with 'our boys.'

Still, sometimes I like doing the girlie things like baking and quilting, things the boys don't want to do with me. They benefit from the results, though.

Now, we're going to Sky High so the boys can jump. I'm not jumping today. I'll use the time, and the break in the heavy rain to take the puppy for a walk. Mike's going to get some work done. I don't know why he never jumps. Maybe his knee bothers him more than he says.

Later on, we'll get everybody into their uniforms and head over to a ceremony to retire old flags. Did you know that what they do is burn tattered flags to take then out of service? Puts flag-burning protests into perspective, doesn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I have a good exercise program. I've tried this one before and it worked very well for me. I'm on the walk-my-dog exercise program. I'm about to leave to go for a walk in about 20 minutes. So far, I've walked every day but one since we brought Teddy home. Oh, he couldn't go very far at first, and I ended up carrying him in my jacket. that jacket will never be the same after walking with him in the rain. His distance is increasing and soon, he'll be challenging me to go further and faster.

Nick is getting more walking time in too.

The problem I'm having with having a puppy is the house training and the whining. Do you know how hard it is to train a dog to be quiet, then train him to speak when he needs to go out? Plus, this dog is so tuned to being with us that he just wails when I leave the room even for a moment, like to get something out of the freezer. I read that I'm not supposed to support behavior that I don't like, so sometimes I have to wait as long as twenty minutes to get back into the kitchen. Really, I'm just waiting for a five second break in the sounds he's making so that I can go in and tell him, "Good quiet, good quiet."

The other thing I read is that I'm supposed to use single words when he does stuff so he gets the idea. I've spent years learning this complicated language called English and it's hard to revert to single syllable words. Since I'm with him all day, all day is teaching at this point. It's kind of like when I spent all day with Nickie, back when he was a baby and by 5:00, I just needed to talk like an adult for a while.

So now I'm at Tully's enjoying a breve Fireside Chai tea latte and some precious time to myself. It feels wonderful, though I'm a little annoyed at myself that it's still all about Teddy.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Teddy has learned how to 'sit' and 'down' just by telling him he's a good boy when he does it. Then I give him a treat. He's learned to 'slide' down the stairs too, just because I laughed and gave him a treat.

If he does it and I like it, I give it a name, sometimes a signal, and I give him a treat. Being excited about it helps too.

You should have seen him last night, trying to thing of something else to do that would earn him a treat. He sat. He slid into a down position. He jumped on my leg, then backed up into a sit. Over and over, he did this until I was done. He wasn't done yet and kept trying.

Nick has gotten him to do some things, but he needs more practice with the words and the praise. Teddy is trying so hard, until he gets into the tired phase and nips at anything and falls all over himself. He's going to be an amazing dog, but I'll be grateful when we get past the house-training and the whining.

Thank you for listening, jb