Bad owner. Bad owner.

After 13 days of living in our house, Cali is doing better. She’s still shy in certain situations, like the gardeners making noise, but in other situations, she is more confident. We can walk her around the block now without burning through a pack of dog treats, and she’s less fearful of barking dogs and other outside noises. Or, at least she can walk away from them, tail down, instead of planting herself.

Best of friends

Clearly, the only thing separating Cali from Labrador greatness and more confidence is me.

Example: We walked her to the pet store tonight to socialize her. All went well and she was doing great. Then, as we stood there debating whether to buy the $5 or $3 clicker, a man with a large Malamute came up to us.

“He’s half wolf,” he said.

“Is he friendly?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

My wife held our yellow lab and she let her sniff the Malamute. The man made some comment about the dog not being trained. Cali put her nose over Luna’s body to sniff the dog. Bold little pup. Good sign. I noticed the owner held the leash tight, transmitting tension to the dog.

Now here’s why I should wear a t-shirt with “I’m an idiot” on it when I’m out in public.

Giant wolf dog. Strike one. Untrained giant wolf dog. Strike two. Man holding leash of giant wolf dog tightly. Strike three.

A full moon moved from behind the clouds at that moment or the wolf dog became jealous of the Disney-happiness of our two labs because it growled and snapped. Wolf-dog’s owner must have expected this because he reeled him in with both hands, fast, like a swordfish on the line.

He apologized and I ignored him, as I was irritated.

Friendly, my ass.

I have no doubt the man will wake up one morning with one leg missing and wolf dog grinding away on his femur.

So, Cali freaked, of course. And I felt like an idiot, a common feeling. But a she seemed to recover quickly. We won’t know how much impact it had until the next time she meets a new dog. We signed her up for puppy classes with my daughter, which will help socialize her with other dogs, as long as they’re not part werewolf.

So, as of today, the dream of owning two Labradors has been realized and is as fantastic as I thought it would be. It feels good to be lucky some days, even when it’s accompanied by stupidity.

Cali throws us a bone

Friday night, with our daughter at her first slumber party, my wife and I  sat on opposite ends of the kitchen floor and discussed the skittish pup. We were tired from a stressful workweek and at wit’s end with Cali California. Though we’d once trained a headstrong dog, and built up the confidence of our late fearful, unpredictable chow mix, and considered ourselves knowledgeable about training dogs, Cali had us stumped.

We questioned our ability to train and pick pups, as we didn’t see the skittish tendencies when we chose her. And we wondered if we kept working hard with her, and put the time in, would she improve – could she improve?

Despite both of us staying home the entire week, we’d made no progress, and, one might observe, gone backwards. And we sat there defeated, disheartened by the 32-pound sleeping pup.

Cali is more relaxed now and less spooked if you approach her

How are we going to fix her? Us?

Rule #1: Never blame the dog.

Cystic fibrosis and hospitalizations entered the conversation, of course. What if this happens? What if that happens? How can we get through these situations with this pup?

How did the dream go south from a week ago? What did we do wrong?

And then Saturday came. And with it a transformation. Using treats, we got Cali around the block twice. And after spending an hour in the backyard with her, she calmed down and didn’t bolt at the sound of a car door shutting or a distant bark.

I hung out with her at night on the patio.

Calm, everyone’s calm, Cali. You can be calm, too. It’s all good. We’re just hanging. You’re safe. 

Then Cali gained some confidence playing with our other dog. And her tail wagged more. And she blossomed into a happier, playful member of our pack. And our stress melted a bit.

We have a trainer coming tonight to give us some tips about shy dogs. We are not taking any chances with Cali. We don’t want to make any training mistakes and have her regress or keep her fearful ways. The progress she made was the thin sliver of sunshine we needed to regain hope that better days are ahead, and the black dog we thought we’d discovered at the breeder was the one sleeping on our kitchen floor.

Now we just have to be patient and let Cali come to us.

The Curious Case of Cali California

I’ve never owned a skittish Labrador before. But I do now.

We need to turn that frown around

At first, I chalked it up to shyness, her moving to a new home, and her age, 15 weeks, when we bought her. I’ve never started with a puppy this old. And though the breeder did a good job of socializing her to people, I don’t think the pup ever made a trip out of the kennel grounds to places with noise – other than barking dogs.

No washers and dryers rumbling, or UPS and FedEx trucks bouncing up and down the street, or gardeners mowing lawns and blowing leaves.

There is some cowering, and a mild fear of me, at times. Not all the time. If I sit on the ground, she comes to me with licks and kisses and is happy. When I stand up, she’s weary. My tripping over the puppy gate twice and making a big racket didn’t promote a positive first impression.

She seems better with my wife and daughter, making me think she never had anything to do with men, or the men she met scared her. When my wife raises her hand to signal “sit,” the pup sits. When I raise my hand, her tail goes down and she is tentative.

The question is . . . is she the dog for our noisy family? It’s been weighing on my mind this week.

Our plan is not to give up on her. We’re being aggressive in helping her, but not in a bad way. We’re making sure we socialize the hell out of her every chance we get. She rides with us every where now, even to McDonald’s, where she made me proud by wagging her tail when I put the bagged McGriddle next to her. Got to love a dog that loves McGriddles (I suspect they all do, as I’ve never known a vegetarian dog).

We’re following the advice of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, who recommends socialization over parvo-shot quarantine. We won’t take Cali to a dog park, but we’re going to take her everywhere else – now. Otherwise, we’re afraid we’ll lose her.

Today, we saw some improvement. Her tail was up more and wagged – a good sign. She seemed happier. But she still had her fearful moments and was impossible to walk on the leash, planting her English lab bottom on the ground, refusing to move.

It’s baby steps with her. Success won’t come easily or overnight. I see the confidence in her at times, and sweetness all the time. I just need to figure out how to get both 100 percent of the time. Cross your fingers or your paws. And send suggestions if you think they’ll help.

Puppy kisses are fleeting

Each hospitalization forces me to ramp up the fun and happy moments when I’m not in captivity. The clock is ticking. And I’m doing my best to fill our days with activities and concerts and you name it. If it sounds fun, we do it. I cracked open the piggy bank and put the cash collecting almost zero interest to good use.

And our most recent purchase was our best. We are now proud owners of a black lab puppy named California, or Cali for short. Or Cali California for long.

Play, play

We wanted to adopt a mutt, but we needed a dog this time we knew would be predictable, fit in well, and make life easy on my wife when I’m in the hospital. And I’ve wanted another black lab for a long time. So, I put away the guilt of not adopting, and the jealousy of not having cool, hip dogs like Dr. Nanos and Jessica’s, and found a local Labrador breeder.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my wife and I wanted an older dog to fit in immediately with limited work. My daughter wanted a puppy. So the universe guided us to a 15-week-old black lab – older with a larger bladder and less nipping. And she is perfect for us. A little on the shy side, but mellow, curious, well-socialized, and subservient to our yellow lab.

We feel so lucky to own two Labrador retrievers; a dream fulfilled.

The arrival of the pup this weekend gave us many laughs and “ah” moments and reminded me why I put up with daily treatments, IVs, hemoptysis and the hellish moments and stress of CF to gain another day.

Because when that day is like the one we had when we brought the puppy home, and the puppy kisses we got, and the smiles on our faces, and the fun of buying pet supplies and dreaming about the future of the new dog, and the sheer joy of living in a moment where nothing stressful exists, well, it makes the experience of cystic fibrosis bearable.

I thank the universe for dogs.

Letting the dog come to us

The big discussion topic at our house has been the new dog. What to get? When to get it? Adopt or buy? How old? Puppy or 1-year-old?

I was big on adoption, and still am, but it hit me this week that this will the last dog I own. The dog will most likely outlive me. My wife and daughter will be the ones to take care of it. And, I hope, it will take care of them.

Salt and pepper shedding. Can't wear black or white clothing.

There is one dog I dream of having more than any other: A black Labrador. Yes, not very unique as a member of the most popular breed in the US, but it’s the dog I grew up with and wanted five years ago before my wife and daughter used mind control and convinced me to get a yellow lab. I’m glad they did because our yellow lab is a honey.

But black labs are the best. They were the original color and there’s something special about them.

I’ve considered other dogs. A Bernese Mountain Dog would be a close second, maybe first if they lived longer, which they don’t. 8 to 10 years is old. And a German Shepherd would be a strong third, or tied for second, but my wife doesn’t want to worry about an aggressive dog.

So, I’m waiting for the universe to deliver our dog. Will it be a mutt from the rescue society? Will it be a black lab? Or will it be Clifford the Big Red Dog?

And though my daughter wants a puppy, it’s too much work for the first two months. I have a lot of paying work to get finished – too much to raise a pup. I would like an older dog, around 1, which could seamlessly join our pack.

We’ll see. It could happen this weekend. It could happen in three months. Who knows? I don’t. I’m going with the flow and waiting for signs – or phone calls. Either one works


Mother’s Day is not just for Moms

As the event planner for our family, I scheduled quite the weekend of fun. I made sure I did what I wanted to do and brought my wife – the mother of our child – and said child along for the ride.

Yes, I am the world’s least thoughtful husband. I stopped just short of buying myself a gift.

At one point, my daughter thought it hilarious, in her 9-year-old way, to state all of the work my wife does and compare it to how little I do. This wasn’t on my list of events for the weekend. But that didn’t stop her from delivering this bonus gift to her mom, at my expense. Ouch.

This is what you'd call industrial size fun if you were into washing clothes. Is anyone into washing clothes? Wouldn't it be better if we wore plastic and hosed each off? Creative Commons: Cherrycoke

Then my wife joined my flogging and asked me if I ever did laundry before we met. I must have. But to tell the truth, I don’t remember how I did it.

I don’t think I can operate our current washing machine. I’d have to stare at it and hope my Jedi powers would jump start it. But I do remember putting quarters in the machines I once used. Quarters in, wash. Quarters in, dry. Walk away without a date.

I can say this: I hated washing clothes.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. I’m sure I’ll get another beating on Father’s Day. But, the male lion did defend himself with the building of our bathroom, a deck, the furnishing of the house, and the planning of this weekend, which without me would have left the two ladies in my life sitting around playing Uno and watching HGTV – all in the house that I built with my bare hands while wearing a manly tool belt and oozing a certain man musk that attracted every feral cat in the neighborhood.

I saved my wife and daughter from the mundane and episodes of “House Hunters.” Growl. Now let me take my 16-hour nap while you hunt for my dinner.

Every angle of this building looks cool

The fun started Saturday with “The Songs of Patsy Cline” at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. We’re not big fans of Patsy Cline songs, but we were of the talent singing the songs. And, having never been to the amazing hall, an attraction in itself,  I decided it would be a fun thing to do on the evening prior to Mother’s Day.

Come along, ladies, you’re my invited guests.

Five jammed lanes of L.A. traffic killed our plans to eat dinner in a historic downtown firehouse, now transformed into a restaurant. So, we improvised and ate chicken curry, peanut butter and jelly, and saltwater taffy at the concert hall cafe.

Oh, and what a building it is. It lived up to every photo I’ve seen of it. And the inside – equally jaw-dropping.

The concert delivered voices best appreciated in person. Inara George of Bird and the Bee fame and The Living Sisters hosted and brought tears to my eyes with their harmonies. Guest stars included John C. Reilly, the actor, who is an excellent performer, John Doe of X fame, who my wife couldn’t stop talking about after the concert, as if he would be a better husband than I, because as we all know, rock stars make great husbands, and Zooey Deschanel, who my daughter knew of from Elf, the movie.

I had to take a picture of the empty stage because I wasn't allowed to take a picture of the performers. No, one wouldn't want a picture promoting them on a blog now, would they?

Sunday included a trip to our favorite local secret hideout of talent – Theatricum Botanicum. I used the term “secret” because this outdoor theater is one of the best values in L.A., and showcases incredible performers.

We watched Momentum Place presented by Take Note! and Lexi Pearl. The show  mixed acrobatics with comedy and the reading of the written word. It was fantastic.

The highlight for us was a comedian/juggler/contortionist named Scot Nery. Here’s his web site:  If you ever get a chance to see him, do it. He put on one of the funniest “clean” shows I’ve ever watched.

I’m grateful to have weekends like this one, as we made the most of the two days we had. I only wish they weren’t so fleeting.

I can’t wait to see what my wife plans for Father’s Day. Probably a mani-pedi, or something delicious like watching reruns of Sex and the City, or talking about our feelings.

Payback can be cruel.

Why CF clinics aren’t located in high-rise buildings

It’s a good thing they don’t put CF clinics in high-rises. 10 floors or above today and I would have base-jumped. Me talking to myself on the way down: I have a feeling I forgot an essential piece of equipment. 

photo by goldduck, creative commons

Take a deep breath, now blow, blow, blow, keep blowing, blow

The news pushing me out the window: my PFTs did not recover from the last bout of the flu and IVs. I tried to fight the virus for too long before admitting myself to the Hospital California (“you can check out anytime, but you can never leave”) and damage may have been done.

“Oh, the horror . . . the horror.” (It always makes me feel better to think of pudgy, bald Marlon Brando at times like this.)

Will jumping from clinic’s third floor kill me? Can someone sharpen a dozen spears and place them in my landing spot? Will Martin Sheen shoot me at the end of the film?

Would it be like Groundhog Day if I kept leaping from the hospital room each day, only to be brought back to heal? Will Bill Murray play me in the sequel? Too old.

We probably should have gone longer with the IVs. But then again, I would have had kidneys the size of beach balls when I left, and the joy and bragging rights of going a week without peeing. Watch me drink this five-gallon bottle of water. Gulp, gulp. Gone. Nothing coming out. Magic. Let’s see David f’ing Copperfield top that?

My most excellent doctor believes my sinuses may be contributing to my low numbers and reinfection. So, I started Cipro today and have an appointment with a new ENT next week. I’ll play along with my doctor and hope he’s right. He usually is. However, this time I doubt it.

My decline was a combo of the flu biting me in the ass, going under for my Bluetooth chest port, and the amount of fluid they filled me with Willy Wonka style, which makes me think how much the hospital is like the Willy Wonka factory. Fall in the chocolate river and you’re hosed. Eat the blueberry candy and you’re a balloon. Kiss a nurse and . . . magic gumdrops fall from the sky? That sounds okay. Hold it. Where am I going with this? I got distracted by the image of the nurse with the rump-rounding shoes again. Happens six times a day.

I’d just like to say “thank you” in advance for honoring me with the “most motivational CF blog post” award for this one. It’s an honor and I’ll make sure I’m holding the trophy in my hand when I jump out of the clinic window.

Our Mutt Departs

We had to put down our 15-year-old mutt recently. I wrote a post about him and his life, but for some reason I couldn’t click the “publish” button.

Everything in the hospital is fair game to write down and share, but the heartbreaking experience of having to say goodbye to 15 years of your life and a dog who protected your family when you were in the hospital or away on business feels too painful.

I was surprised how much this mutt meant to us; we were wrecked. And watching the vet put our dog to rest is something that will never leave me.

We have his ashes and a place picked out in our garden for his burial. Like we did with our chocolate lab, we will pick out a special plant to bury him under. The plant we chose for our lab is beautiful, healthy and flowers purple and white.

My daughter and wife went to the craft store and bought a do-it-yourself stepping stone for him. They placed his dog tags in the center of the wet cement and decorated it with colorful broken glass and dog tokens. This weekend we will have a ceremony for him and sprinkle his ashes in the earth.

We’re talking about adopting another dog. I’m going to fill out the paperwork for a local rescue shelter tonight. It’s sad to look at all of the available dogs online. As no fan of humanity – I’m far from perfect too – it reminds me how wasteful and lazy we can be by not spaying and neutering animals. And for reasons I can’t explain, I keep connecting the buffets we ate at in Vegas last week with animal shelters. There’s a link there. I know it. My shallow mind won’t let me pursue it and go deeper. Or, I just don’t want to examine it.

Life goes on. The clock ticks and tocks. And the earth revolves until it doesn’t.

Las Vegas goes up in smoke

Many years ago, during one of my last business trips to Germany, I went to a grocery store to buy chocolate. As I was waiting to pay, a wall of cigarettes next to the conveyor belt stared back at me. They were impossible to miss, and not locked away like they are in the states.

Anyone buying groceries could see and touch them, even children.

The display bothered me and gave me a sense of hopelessness about cigarette smoking disappearing from our global economy. I grew up with two parents smoking. So, feeling defeated, I decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

And I did. But not by turning into a smoker.

When I returned to the states, I bought Altria/Philip Morris stock, which we own to this day. If people were going to ruin their lungs smoking, I wanted to benefit from it. So, now my wife and I look at smokers and hope they’re sucking on a PM brand cigarette and helping our stock go up.

And, after spending five days in Las Vegas this week, I can report back that smoking is still in fashion and our stock’s future looks bright. Every casino we walked through to get to a show smelled like an ashtray, except the Bellagio, which has a great filtration system. I even made the choice not to gamble, despite my love of it, because I didn’t want to smell or inhale cigarette smoke.

We found ways to avoid the secondhand smoke and walked miles each day to discover cool places. And for the first time in several trips, I didn’t have c-diff or cough up blood – a huge win.

I also checked off two items from my bucket list. I took my wife and daughter to see Love at the Mirage. And, we finally saw “O” at the Bellagio. I heart Cirque du Soleil.

We went to see David Copperfield at the MGM. He could use some help from Cirque du Soleil. A video stream of old quotes about his magnificent past played before the show and reminded us that he was once the greatest magician in the world. Past tense. Now he’s average and tells a lot of crude jokes. We still enjoyed some of the great tricks he had left in his bag.

Oh, and I ate goat, my own Food Network-like moment. It didn’t taste like chicken, but was good despite its greasy, fatty qualities.

Here are some pictures from the week.

We had a rocking good time here.

Pete Rose was signing autographs in the Mirage Mall. No wait to meet him. The guy in the Rose jersey works at the store. My wife pointed out the "oddness" of someone who bet on baseball signing autographs outside a casino. Please don't let this guy into the Hall of Fame.

The Mirage houses a cool dolphin and big cat exhibition. But after seeing "The Cove," I had a hard time getting excited about dolphins in captivity. I kept wondering how they got there and if swimming in circles in a small pool was the best place for them.

The Bellagio had an amazing spring display in their atrium. Lots of flowers, a ferris wheel and butterfly house.

Harrah's Casino took a different route with its spring display.

Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. When you're a lion looking for some afternoon delight, and 200 tourists with cameras are watching, it makes its way to the Internet.

I dig Hipstamatic. It gives a display of heads some bonus creepiness.

Who are these scary "O" fans?

We went to Adventuredome at Circus Circus and had a great time playing games and winning the world's cheapest-quality stuffed animals. This picture is from the parking garage elevator. It's not everyday you see handwritten numbers for the floors. Nothing says "this is a quality establishment" quite like magic markers.

The best part of the trip? McDonald's in the hotel. Jackpot.