Archive for the ‘Dog days’ Category

Everyone needs a healthy obsession. Right? Not obsession, really, but it’s feels good to be a fan of something worthwhile. For some people it’s movies, or comics, or the Tour de France. Just a way to derive happiness from a good story, someone doing what you couldn’t do in your wildest dreams but seems completely awesome.

For me and about 70,000 other people, it’s watching the 2019 Iditarod. I’m American, and I was born after it started, so I’ve known about it in the vague sense of “this is a super-long race with dogs that happens in Alaska, ALSO DO YOU KNOW HOW COLD IT IS THERE?”

But, in the fall of 2018, I somehow stumbled upon the Twitter feed of Blair Braverman, a woman living in Wisconsin with a pack of adorable sled dogs that she races with. She’s a fantastic storyteller whose Twitter threads – including photos of the dogs – are instant classics that are usually some combination of informative, heartfelt, or hilarious. (She also writes for Outside magazine, among other outlets.)


Not Blair’s actual team but an approximation of her view for a lot (a lot) of days.

I am a big fan of dog Twitter – it helps to find joy to equalize the wave of upsetting and unsettling things that the rest of Twitter brings. So I had already been following Matt (@dog_rates and @dog_feelings) and Gideon (@IvePetThatDog) when I found Blair.

With Blair comes her fan base. The #uglydogs. (There’s a story behind that.)

They’re artists, writers, teachers. Data nerds. A composer.

Some have a background in sled dog related things, but most don’t.

But Blair has managed to make us all care about what she’s doing, and the team she’s doing it with. The UglyDogs have turned their nervous energy to fundraising for underserved Alaska schools while Blair is out of touch. (No outside help or contact allowed as long as you’re in the race.)

I, in addition to being awed by the idea of days and days in the freezing wet with minimal support, am honestly kind of terrified for her. She of course had to prove her outdoorsy mettle before even being accepted to this race, BUT STILL. I can’t believe how hard this must be.

The winner of the Iditarod has already rolled in to the finish (mile 998) (I watched a live feed – 2019 isn’t all terrible – and tearing up for Pete Kaiser), and she’s been sheltering in a cabin at mile 681 for…a while.

There’s been bad weather. There been a lot of water on the trail where there should have been ice. She’s returned four dogs from her team, and there is very little intelligence as to why. The press isn’t that interested in people at the back of the pack (although due to her rabid following we probably know more than we would otherwise).

Really, though, whether or not she finishes her race at 681 or in Nome, it’s an incredible achievement. Not just on the course, but that she managed to bring together so many people to “watch” and care about people and places far away from them. It is one the best uses of social media I’ve seen, and I feel so privileged that I’m able to watch it unfold.

Follow Blair @BlairBraverman and her husband, Q, @QuinceMountain for incredible content. You won’t be sorry.


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I am getting back in the groove of things in one particular area of life.

I used to run. Sort of. I never ran very far or very fast, but I reached a level where I didn’t feel like a fool for saying, “I have to go out for a run,”(versus a jog) or taking up precious suitcase space with my running shoes and clothes.

It is something that I stopping doing upon our aliyah. In addition to the emotional and mental shocks to the system, arriving in the summer had a deleterious effect on my physical being too.

(Read: It was HOT. Hot hot hot. All day. Into the night. Fry your kishkes kind of hot.)

I tried to deal with the heat by getting up progressively earlier to run, until it crossed the line of ridiculousness. I am a morning person, to be sure, but once I was waking up at 4:50 (to leave the house at 5 to be finished at 5:45) was “too late,” I sort of gave up. Because of course then I had to go to ulpan and parent my people all afternoon and learn how to do things like buy yogurt and not cry when other people spoke to me.

A year later we joined a health club. Despite the expense, I had a hard time getting motivated to go run on the treadmill. Frankly, treadmill running is boring. The gym was often crowded. I never felt comfortable.

The health club membership lapsed. The weather remained hot for six months a year. I tried other exercise programs in fits and starts, like jumping rope while watching TV or being tortured by Jillian Michaels. Nothing stuck like running had.

Finally, in the middle of this past winter (that’s “winter” to you North Americans), when the weather was cooler, someone posted on a local facebook group that she wanted to run in a pack on a weekday morning. So I went. Even though she was training for a half marathon (!), she was willing to run at my pace. I didn’t fare too badly. We met once a week for a few weeks, before her race training took her away. But in the meantime I felt like I was gaining strength. Stronger, going for longer distances. I missed running with a person (I am more social than I thought), but just those few weeks had kickstarted me back to the elusive feelings of accomplishment. I reactivated my iTunes account. I signed up for RunKeeper.

Now the weather is turning warmer again. But I am less concerned. I can run in the evening now. Putting a 7 and 9 year old in front of the TV for 30 minutes in the evening, alone at home, is a possibility that I couldn’t have contemplated four summers ago. I can deal with the heat better. I seek the shady side of the street.

But mostly I am more forgiving of myself. If I don’t run 5 kilometers, I run 4. If I don’t run 4 kilometers, I run 3. If I run with the dog, we run two and a half, and then I am grateful that I don’t usually run with her; she’s a terrible pacer. If I don’t run in the morning, all is not lost – I can run in the evening. Or later in the morning. Or 2 kilometers instead of none. It all counts.

I haven’t signed up for any races, so far, but I might. Perhaps in the fall. In the meantime, the Boston Marathon bombings cast a pall over the worldwide running community. Community in the largest sense, because everyone who has put on a pair of running shoes and run even one mile can appreciate the challenge of running 26 IN A ROW ALL AT ONCE. Running is a sport that, if you take away the fancy shoes and high-tech clothes and energy gels and corporate sponsorships, really can reach a wide swath of people. So reading the stories of people who had run in the Boston Marathon that day – and those who had come to watch – was inspiring and touching. I decided late in the day on April 15th, watching Twitter bury network news once and for all, to run a marathon’s worth of distance in two weeks.

It took me an extra day; I finished my 42.2 km on May 1 instead of April 30. It was hot towards the end; I forgave myself. I had a lot of support. There were thousands of us around the world running for Boston. There was a Twitter hashtag and a Facebook group. When solidarity runs cropped up in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I wanted to go, but they were at inconvenient times. So I made my own run locally; about 25 people came. I ran my own 5K in 33:30, which I haven’t come close to matching in the two weeks since. I’m back to slow and steady, apparently.

I’m going to get through this summer. Running. (I hope.)

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Yes, there was a phantom post that I 20% wrote, then deleted, but WordPress decided to be all “Wha? I cannot let you do that! Instead I will post it and make you look like an idiot!”

I will get back to that post, though, because it contains Important Aliyah Information about…men’s pants. Don’t thank me; I am a GIVER.

So, really, my brain is not working so well. Because that puppy we found? She is still with us. But we want to find her a home that is not here. Puppies? Are WORK. And while she is lovely and has amazing potential, we have a dog already, who is her own kind of commitment but does not wake up at 5 am to go out, eat four times a day, or relieve herself in the house (usually). These are all temporary things, I know, that evaporate over a dog’s lifetime. But in here and now, I don’t know that I have these particular rainy, busy weeks in me.

I have found a ton of parallels between puppy watching and baby raising. Keep them safe, warm, fed, clean (this is actually easier with diapers). Referee sibling fights-slash-play. Enforce bed time and potty breaks. Never let them out of your sight unless they are in a safe space. Etc.

Doing this while having another dog, two kids, a husband, and part-time work is…busy-making. At the same time, we rescued this puppy on purpose, so we don’t want to turn her out in the street or give her to the city pound.

For a period of time, I wanted to keep her. She’s adorable! But I think it was for the wrong reasons. I guess I wanted something to baby and to “raise right.” My kids vacillate between amazing and extremely trying these days. The dog we already have came housebroken but has her own issues that we can’t seem to solve ourselves (one of these days we are going to pay a trainer), so I was looking at this puppy as a chance to do puppy training correctly and fabulously.

I think what finally put me back to rational thinking (besides the fact that my husband was against it from the beginning…which, you know, a puppy is not a goldfish or something small and contained) was when the little one peed on the big one’s bed–in her apparent quest for dominance. This was after the big one had peed on her own bed earlier, as a show of “this is my space.” Endless fun with the pee and the washing of dog beds.

I have already facebooked and tweeted about this, but please, if you are in Israel and you (or someone you know) are willing to be a good mommy/daddy to this puppy–who is smart! learned her name and how to sit and is fine in the crate and goes 6.5 hours at night at 8 weeks and has had her first set of shots–please get in touch with me.

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Reason #2564

that I love my husband:

On his last day between jobs (a 3 day “vacation” that consisted of telephone calls to old work, telephone calls for new work, errands, and kid-shlepping), we rescued a puppy.

A tiny ball of fluff that is probably ownerless, needs 24/7 supervision, cries at night, and had to be defleaed. (My brother and I did that; Taxman took the kids to the dentist.)

But the other option was to leave her defenseless on the street. Never in one million years would he have done that.


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Live from Modiin

Since moving from our small rental apartment to our more spacious pad, we’ve all had to adjust. The kids each have their own room. This is usually good and occasionally cute (they’ve been known to have “sleepovers” on Friday nights), but sometimes comes with the “S/he is in MY ROOM! Get him/her out!” Business as usual, eh?

I could not love our basement/toy room/trash heap any more. I go down there about once a week; yell at the kids to clean up the mess; they don’t but pretend they are for about 20 minutes. Rinse, repeat. Awesome.

But the best feature of our house is the yard. The kids love the open grass. Taxman loves the citrus trees. I love the ability to throw everyone outside.

Then there is the dog. Her relationship with the backyard is a little more fraught. On the one hand, she loves to run around. She runs so fast the yard is actually very small for her, but she doesn’t seem to care. She also has a soccer ball she likes to maul while she’s running. When things get boring, she eats grass. Then I make her come inside. If she eats too much grass, she throws up, in which case I put her out in the yard again and it starts all over.

But, as she’s discovered, we are not the only ones who use the backyard. There are birds that flit in and out. Moths, mosquitoes, bees, and snails.

And the cats. Neighborhood cats that use our back fence as an allee of sorts. This makes the dog crazy. She has a thing about cats. Like they should not be allowed to exist and should be barked into nothingness. It’s not her most attractive quality.

Of course, the cats are not on a timetable. Sometimes one passes through all day; sometimes we get three or four in the space of an hour. The dog, however, is determined to keep us safe from the feline scourge, so she sits in front of the sliding glass door for hours at a time. When she spots one–or even just the leaves of the olive tree fluttering in the wind–she begins to literally shake from her adrenaline (or doggie equivalent?) rush.

I jokingly asked the vet if we were dooming her to a nervous breakdown. “Oh,” he said, “I have a friend whose property opens up to a place where there are always ducks coming and going. He calls it duck TV because his dog just sits and watches.”

So that’s what we have. Except it’s cat TV. Broadcasting starts at around 6:30 in the morning, when she starts griping about being cooped up in our room (where we keep her bed during the night). Downstairs, she settles herself in front of the glass doors. Prime viewing location. And she watches, beginning in a ramrod straight pose. Eventually, after being fed and walked, she’ll lie down and watch. This is punctuated by OMG REAL CATS CROSSING THE YARD HOWZAT LEMME AT EM. This part entails a lot of very loud barking and throwing herself against the glass. Finally, at noon or 2 or 3 in the afternoon, she collapses in a heap of exhaustion and post-adrenaline burnout.

Ramrod-straight back

Constant vigilance. Stage 2, post morning constitutional.

The enemy has been sighted.

Nap before afternoon shmira (guard duty).

So just is case you thought that being a dog might be boring; let me assure you that it is not. Frustrating, perhaps. But not boring.

edited to add: I forgot the best part! The dog will only respond to her name when she damn well pleases (that is to say, not very often), but say “Cat!” and she’ll rise from a dead sleep and run to the window. Or stop harassing the kids when they’re eating. Or jump off the couch. Or…the list is endless, really.

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There’s so little in parenting children that’s clear cut. (Except for keeping your kids safe. Of course.)  For which there is just one “right” way. Where you can completely discount personalities or situations.

“Parenting” a dog is nothing like that, I am discovering.

ND has some quirks. We mostly live with them because:

  • a) it makes her fit right in to the family (what, we have quirky? really?) 
  • b) her overall deportment is good
  • c) she’s not destructive

But she was a bit of a loose cannon out of the house. We’d take her for walks (leashed), and she would ferret out every discarded piece of food in a 50 foot radius. Bits of bread and chicken bones in particular. And woe unto you (read: me or Taxman) if you tried to take anything away from her. She would bite. Real biting, with teeth. Over a quarter of a chicken carcass.

(It’s weird, because she is transformed into some fierce, wild-eyed animal. At home she lets AM stand over her food dish and wags her tail as she eats, but on the street, with a scavenged piece of trash, she’s the meanest junkyard dog you’ve ever seen.)

Taxman and I theorized that perhaps she had a deprived childhood, as it were. As a foundling, we literally have no idea how she survived the first 10 or 12 weeks of her life. Maybe she needed to fight for chicken bones and bread crusts to survive.

So I asked the vet about the biting and pitched the idea of early psychological trauma. “Hmm, maybe,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. She is displaying an undesired behavior, and you need to stop the behavior.”

In other words, we have to show her who is the boss. Because it’s not her. This is not a child we are raising up to be independent and to make her own decisions. There is no room for negotiation. Whether it’s this or something else, when the chips are down she has to listen and obey.

Sounds kind of strict. But as I said, raising up dogs and raising up babies are not the same.

The vet suggested that we put a muzzle on her during walks, which not only prevents her from biting but prevents her from opening her mouth in the first place. He put one on her to demonstrate, and she wasn’t happy. Her resistance made me nervous, because the vet is a lanky Dutch guy and I am…not.

But in our house, ND was more relaxed; I was able to put the muzzle on without any problems.

Although it kind of killed me. It was like all the joy had been sucked out of her. We went for a walk, and she sort of dragged her tail behind her. We came upon another dog and she couldn’t bark, which was a shock to both of us.

But time after time, as I took her out with the muzzle on, I finally felt relaxed. I didn’t have to constantly scan the ground in the park for party leftovers. I didn’t have to worry on trash day.

Being a dog, ND has bounced back from the insulting addition to her wardrobe. She wags her tail and hops up on short walls. She still tries to take it off with her paw at least once per walk, usually after we’ve seen a dog she wants to bark at or something she wants to eat. (So, you know, it’s working.)

The down side is that she looks menacing. Because if you didn’t know better, you’d think that she’s muzzled because she is a threat to the general public. She’s not. She’s a threat to herself and (potentially) the person on the other end of the leash. Not to the kids toddling up to pet her or the mailman or the plumber (whom she barked at, then proceeded to try to lick to death as he laughed and explained he had had a dog who looked very similar).

“Does she bite?” people ask me.

“She eats things that aren’t good for her,” I explain.

The vet anticipates that over time, she’ll get so used to not being able to eat whatever’s lying around that she won’t even try.

 I…don’t know about that. But for now, this is the new reality. We’re working with it. This too, this aesthetically unpleasing and negative connotation dripping piece of dog ownership, this shall pass.

She’s still cute.

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Scene: Hall bathroom, giving ND a bath.

Me, to Taxman: Look at her fur. She’s totally punk!

AM: Look, she’s punk! (half-second pause) Ema, what does punk mean?

Insert maniacal laughter

Taxman: There’s a blog post.

Me: Go get the camera.

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This Dog’s Life

ND-the-mostly-grown-pup has definitely settled in. She has stopped nipping at the children. Except for when they REALLY piss her off, which is more often then they should–there is a semi-weekly “ND is our pet; you need to treat her kindly; you cannot hurt her” discussion.

Once we changed the clocks to summer time she stopped rousting us out of bed at 5:something. Which was awesome, but now we must get our trisim in the living room fixed (so they go down all the way) or it is going to start happening again. She’s kind of like a living snooze bar. She trots in at 6 or 6:15, wants a scratch under the chin, then returns to the living room (where she sleeps) for another 15 or 20 minutes. (Then she comes back and barks until someone gets up.)

She’s still got some annoying puppy issues–she jumps up on people, charges cats, and pulls the leash like she’s about to uncover buried treasure–but she’s really a good dog, flexible with the small apartment living, equally happy to go for a long stroll, to hike in the woods, or to nap on the couch. She runs in to lick the kids in the morning. Whatever her faults, she is always happy to see any of us. (Especially Taxman.)

One of the things I have come to appreciate about her the most is her Sunday routine. It consists of the usual early morning rally, breakfast, walk, seeing everyone off to work and school. Then sleeping. For pretty much the entire day. I theorize this is because she spends half of Friday and all of Saturday being harrassed by the children. Even when Taxman, AM, and I go to take a nap. Miss M reads on the couch, but also cuddles up to ND–and probably pokes her for 90 straight minutes.

Anyway, Sunday. There is the six-hour sack out. I usually feel pretty wrung out myself on Sundays, so I pad around the house in pajama pants, doing laundry, dishes, writing work, whatever. It’s a gentle entry into the week.

There’s always Monday.

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On costume day at school, child awakens, unprompted, at 6:00. Merry Christmas!

(Not relevant to anything: I was awake already. Thanks ND! ND was excited about Purim dawn.)

Unrelated thought: from what I understand, it’s very common to have rain on/around Purim, but there isn’t any in the forecast until the end of next week. Because of leap year? Discuss, while I am grateful that Miss M’s borrowed kallah dress will not be rained upon.

Purim sameach!

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We’ve got a new member of our family.

She’s a black-and-white mutt, 9 months old. Code name ND.

No, we haven’t taken leave of our senses, although that seems to be the trending thought among some people we know. (Mostly people who don’t have dogs.)

The truth is…we have always wanted to get a dog. Like from before. Before we made aliyah, before we had kids. Back when we lived in a 1.5 bedroom rental apartment we talked about growing up and having a house with a yard and kids and a dog. I grew up with a dog, living in houses, and missed living with one; Taxman was the surprise element, growing up in a city apartment, no dogs around. But there it was…the future hypothetical.

The future is, apparently, now.

After Keshet-the-ironically-named-black-dog spent the night, I started to feel the pull more. There is just an added element of contentment when you’re sharing your life with a dog. I can’t explain it better.

Because I grew up with a dog (that we raised from puppyhood), I did not have delusions of what this life would be like. I knew there would be walks in the rain and vet visits and muddy paws and food stolen from the table and messes. (Childhood dog once chewed through a $5 bill.)  But also licks and love.

I knew I didn’t want to adopt a tiny puppy. I knew I didn’t want to buy a purebred dog. I wanted to adopt a healthy, young, neutered, mixed-breed dog, good with kids, not too large, ok with being left alone for a few hours at a time. It was actually really easy to say no to adorable tiny faces, age 8 weeks, because I knew I could not, right now, invest the time into house-training and training-training.

ND came with her own story: found on the street by a college student as a tiny puppy, who then house-trained and kept her for seven months. Of course, most college students here have part time jobs in addition to studies, so her irregular hours made it hard to keep a dog. We all met last Friday, and we were deemed worthy successors. I had second thoughts–an overnight trip in the spring, three weeks away in the summer–but Taxman assured me we’d manage.

We hadn’t told the kids this was even a possibility; our correspondence about ND was a secret from them, because we didn’t want to get their hopes up for no reason. So surprise! was…understatement.

So far, we’re all adjusting. ND has a lot of that to do, what with these noisy creatures underfoot. They do, however, DROP FOOD FROM THE TABLE. Worth it.

We’re forced to take a few walks a day, even in the rain, at night, et cetera. We’re forced to take the stairs because Miss Priss is afraid of the elevator. By the end of the week I assume we will be going to bed earlier, because, like a toddler, once ND hears you moving around, HEY, HEY, IT’S MORNING! FEED ME! WALK ME! PLAY WITH ME! (Then, two hours later, she’s zonked and taking a nap. Must be nice.)

The kids take turns giving her food and water and helping to put on the leash. They’re happy to go out on walks with her (as company–she is too strong for them to handle alone). Miss M actually leapt out of bed yesterday and dressed without reminders because ND was waiting for her kibble. Um, whoa, should have done this dog thing YEARS ago. (Kidding.)

The lovely college student, pained to give her up, explained that we had to give her love and affection but also rules. It all sounded vaguely familiar to…parenting. Then she said that ND was not allowed on the furniture. So we made her a little bed on the floor. First night, I checked on her during my bathroom run…and she had helped herself to the couch. No dummy, this dog.

She’s a little nippy and mouthy and jumps up. We’ll work on that. She yowls when she has to go out. We actually appreciate that. She’s anointed Taxman as her pack leader, but is thrilled to see any of us when we come in the door, even if we’ve only been taking out the trash. (Alissa explained to me that dogs have no sense of time passing, so 5 minutes or 15 hours is all the same to them.) We hope that we’re going to spend years with her, so we have no qualms about investing the time to teach her not to jump, not to nip, not to climb on the kids. The trickiest part so far is trying to discipline her in front of the kids, who are either yelling or giggling when I’m trying to get the dog back on the floor and get my hand out of her mouth.

Really, though, she’s a sweetie. Lots of potential. What more could we want in a new, long-term companion?

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