The bionic dog

This summer was an expensive but fun one for us. Kitchen remodel. Month at the beach. New right knee for our yellow lab.

At the dog beach.

Adios, home equity. It was nice knowing you.

But as I said to my wife the other day, “Money, you can’t eat it when you’re dead.”

She said, “that doesn’t make sense.” And she was correct. It doesn’t. Sometimes, the stuff just comes out of my mouth.

Earlier this year, our yellow lab tore her ACL in one knee, and had a partial tear in the other. The vet told us it’s common for the second knee to tear 100 percent after the first surgery. And he was correct. It did. We had hoped it wouldn’t, but last week we noticed Luna limping and keeping it off the ground, a bad sign.

Off to the vet my wife went. Second tear confirmed.

It was less of a decision of whether to do the second surgery – another 5K burned – as it was of when to do the surgery. After a day of discussion, we decided to do it right away. We can’t stand to watch Luna limp around, not to mention that it must hurt. So, in she goes this week for the second bionic knee filled with screws (pretty much what holds my brain together). After that there is a three-month recovery period (the first month is the hardest, because we have to restrict her to the dog bed, except for going out to fertilize the lawn). In four months, she’ll be pulling a sled again. Or should be to earn back the cost of the two surgeries.

To pay for the operation, we’ll be cutting back in 2013. We placed a vase on the dining table and scraps of paper in the mouth of a nutcracker. Each time we save money, we write it down and drop it in. Last night, I lowered our DirecTV subscription. Goodbye, Laker’s games. Hello, $300 saved over the next 12 months.

Oh, that wet dog smell.

My daughter also gave up Little Pony episodes, which she wasn’t thrilled about. She almost got a late-night ass-chewing from my wife when she said: “you aren’t giving up anything, Mama,” not comprehending the money going out the door was also earned by her mother.

We’ll be thinking up other ways to cut out spending in 2013. I gave up Christmas presents from my wife and daughter. And the landline phone may be going – why do we have it and two cell phones?

And, as Luna’s picture made two 2013 dog calendars, we’re thinking of letting people take their pictures with her for 5 bucks a pop. I can tell you exactly how much this plan will make – $15. Five from my wife, my daughter and me.

All of this for the love of a dog we raised from a pup alongside our daughter. What choice did we have?

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Mesmerize me

Here are a few things that get my attention and hold it.

Dogs playing. We keep our two dogs in the kitchen during the day because the puppy works for a demolition company and chews the s**t out of everything if we let her loose in the house. I often walk in and find the two of them fighting each other in a playful way that makes me wonder when blood will start spraying like a Monty Python movie.

I hang out, watch them duel, feel thankful they don’t have antlers, and forget why I walked in the kitchen.

M&Ms, Smarties, and/or saltwater taffy, of course.

Go Broncos. Finish 2 and 14 and draft Andrew Luck, please.

Football games. What can I say. Even after all these years, I still like football and the Denver Broncos. And I’m sticking to my guns about Tim Tebow – he has heart but no NFL QB skills. When will the fans start yelling, “Quinn, Quinn”? However, football still has the power to make me plant myself on the couch for three hours.

Victoria’s Secret Commercials. I’m embarrassed to admit this one. Okay, I’m not. I can fast forward through a TV show at top forwarding speed, read on my iPad at the same time while I listen to music and talk to my wife, and still catch the quick flicker of a VS commercial.

And every time I stop, rewind and play it, my wife shakes her head and wonders why she ever decided to go out on a date with complete idiot like me.

I’m not sure, but I love her so much I’m building her a time machine.

Tricky commercials. One of the first lessons I taught my daughter was how commercials don’t tell the truth and deceive us. Beer ads don’t use exotic locales like AA meeting halls and skid row. Banks don’t loan people money because they’re nice. And only one in 100,000 people is going to learn the Chinese alphabet on an iPad (an app used once by my daughter who had to have it). And much to my disappointment no bird ever flew out of a box of Coco Puffs.

But I watch certain commercials like one might watch a magician perform a trick – how did he do that? I know, or at least I think I do.

Would you think less of me if I told you I've seen this movie over 10 times - or parts of it 10 times?

Movies I’ve seen five times or more. If I’m up late on a weekend and a movie I like comes on, one I can recite the dialogue to, I can’t stop watching it. Even with the power of a DVR at my fingertips, I stay up way too late and suffer the next day.

Examples include: Predator, Road House, Ronin, Heat, Bullitt, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and a myriad of others. I can’t explain it but if I record the movie and watch it the next day it’s like eating a day-old bagel my daughter forgot to seal in a bag – stale.

Stay alert.

How I spent (and didn’t spend) my summer vacation

I didn’t spend summer in the hospital. [Fox applauds, then passes out.]

I feel like I won the lottery by not going in, though the pattern for me has long been one without summer hospital stays. With falling leaves, colds and other viruses on the way, you can bet that I’ll soon be returning to hell.

Ebony and Ivory, living in perfect harmony on the beach

I didn’t spend June, July or August coughing up blood, though summer hasn’t officially ended.

And if you’re a betting man or woman, I’d bet on the blood thanks to the blood thinning shots I’m stabbing into my McGriddle-fattened six-pack twice a day. And I’ve just tempted fate by mentioning it on the blog, which means I’ll probably be in the hospital coughing up blood within the next two or three days.

I did spend June working on what the Donald would call a “super-big, important, super-large” project at work. It was a success and once again I proved it’s better to be lucky than good, and assembling a talented team always makes one look better than they truly are. Go Team Unknown.

We did spend the summer with a new puppy – a goofy, mischievous, shower-squeegee stealing, whining, scared of her own shadow, mystery of a black lab that I wanted to give away, but was outvoted by my wife and daughter, who are both attached to the black shadow-thief. (That’s all I can write about the dog, otherwise my friend @onlyz tunes out at this point and starts to read the back of the vegan muffin package.)

I didn’t spend this summer blogging or watching TV, but I did spend it reading. I read over 8,000 pages and enjoyed every minute, staying up late and making the most of when time takes its mandated-by-law break.

Malibu coastline on a nice summer day.

I did spend the hot months milking every bit of fun I could. I filled every weekend with an activity and dragged my wife and daughter to all kinds of places. From the American Idol concert, to the beach, the circus, a dog agility trial and canyon roads we’d never driven. We didn’t take a summer trip this year thanks to the blood-thinner shots, but we still had a great time and spoiled ourselves by eating dinner at restaurants more often.

The end of a great concert at Theatricum in Topanga. Check out a play here if you're in Los Angeles.

Monday, Labor Day, we ended the “holiday to holiday” summer with the annual benefit concert at Theatricum in Topanga. What an amazing afternoon filled with talented singers singing Burt Bacharach songs. A great way to finish my favorite season of the year watching some of Los Angeles’s most talented musicians, like Inara George and Sara Melson, play music for two hours.

So, I’m happy with the job I did having fun this summer. I cannot guarantee I’ll see another one. I hope I do, but it’s not written in stone that I will.

Now it’s time to focus on autumn and the Denver Broncos winning and me staying out of hell and not catching colds or the flu or coughing up blood. I’m optimistic, but know sometimes there is nothing I can do but ride out ill-timed surprises.

Here’s to a healthy fall and winter to all.

Some weekends are different than others

Last weekend started with the American Idol concert and ended with a 1 a.m. Sunday night visit to the emergency vet. That’s the beginning to the end without a middle. Oh, and there were police and fire trucks, too. Not an average weekend.

The American Idol concert was my daughter’s first large-scale concert. It wasn’t The Who or Springsteen or anyone great, but it wasn’t bad for karaoke.  It did convince me that America doesn’t vote for the best singers. And the show manipulates the results and finds ways to push favored singers to the end.

Oh, and Pia was robbed. How did she get voted off so early? She sounded better, looked better, and was more poised than second-place Lauren Alaina, who danced like a Disney Animatronic bear.

Being in a large crowd at the Nokia Theater also reinforced my theory that people are getting angrier these days. Two knuckleheads sitting on the isle seats next to us got bent every time someone had to leave to get food or use the restroom. Then, they didn’t want to move to let my wife and daughter back to our seats. It’s an American Idol concert you twits, not a play where if you miss one word the meaning is lost. You’re at the end of the aisle, what did you expect when you bought the seats?

I’m not good in crowds anymore.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with me spending a lot of time reading the Game of Thrones books, dinner with friends, watching Team USA lose (heartbreaking), and a faux ABBA concert Sunday night. Nothing like Swedish pop to put a smile on your face and at the same time create the contradictory feeling of queasiness that you’re about to bring up your tri-tip sandwich to the opening bars of “Dancing Queen.”

But then there was late Sunday night.

At around 10:30 p.m., I noticed four police cars outside, which made me think that shredding my jury notices for the last 20 years wasn’t such a great idea. But they didn’t come for me – yet – instead they were after one of my neighbors.

So, of course I had to watch a bunch of police officers standing around – it takes 7 to arrest one person – throwing their gum wrappers on my lawn. Then, two fire trucks showed up and the fire department ambulance. That led to my neighbor being taken away screaming, handcuffed and strapped down to the gurney.

All of that took almost two hours.

Stick an electrode on her head and activists would be breaking her out of my house.

Then I went outside with the dogs and noticed our yellow lab had a lumpy head, gross, and a swollen muzzle. A dime of blood blossomed on her head. Executive decision: Trip to the emergency vet where they gave her a steroid and Benadryl cocktail for the mystery insect bite and me a $200 enema for owning the mutt who stuck her head in the wrong plant.

My dog also received the make-over bonus of a 4-inch square shaved on her head for the oh so 70’s look of a laboratory research animal. My daughter broke into tears when she saw her in the morning, having slept through the fun during the night.

So, that was the weekend. Thanks to Game of Thrones, it’s taken me three days to finish this post. I can’t wait to finish the last book and get back to my life and blogging.

Happy summer.

My life of unfinished blog posts and other odds and ends

I’ve written a fair amount of unfinished blog posts lately – and I have plenty of excuses: work, more work, books, summer, dogs, and life. The good news is work is easing up this week. So, I’ll be able to read more and write more blog posts I’m unhappy with that will end up unpublished.

The ebbs and flows of blogging still amaze me. Sometimes the posts come fast and furious day after day. And then there are the lulls and the long walks through the desert looking for anything to write about. I wonder if the see-saw nature is due to my OCD or just part of blogging. Or both?

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Cali lost her ovaries and uterus today. I watched spaying and neutering procedures on youtube so I would know exactly what happened. Once again the female of the species draws the short straw with a more complicated procedure. I could probably neuter a dog in a clutch if I had to – cut, squeeze, stretch, snip, repeat steps 2 -4, stitch. Looks pretty straightforward in the video. The spaying procedure? Not so easy. It’s more invasive and complicated. It’s no wonder my wife and daughter got down on the kitchen floor with Cali when we brought her home. Amazons unite and sympathize.

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The clock runs until it doesn't (Creative Commons)

We went to our friends’ house  for a 4th of July party. We’ve gone to the same party over the years since our daughter was light enough to hold for longer than a minute. Yesterday, she went with blue hair (washable dye) and it made me think of the different little girl she’s been at the same 4th of July party over the years. From baby to 9-year-old in a breath. And she’ll be 18 by by the time I breathe out. Each year she participates and interacts more in the conversations and holds her own. But I can’t help but feel sad that her childhood is so short and there is nothing I can do about it. Tick tock.

Stay young.

Work and more work

Work was a bear this week, eating me alive. I left late Sunday night and drove east to the lovely but highly polluted city of Ontario. Then I spent most of the week there getting up at 6 a.m to do treatments and work from the hotel. Then to the office by 8, on my feet all day and back to the hotel around 10 each night. A couple hours of treatments and to sleep at midnight.

The resting place for our black mutt

Before I left for the trip to the capital of polluting big rigs, we buried our black mutt on Father’s day. We sprinkled his ashes in the ground a few feet from our chocolate lab and planted a new plant on top of him. My daughter cried a lot. She loves dogs at age 9 more than I think I did as a kid, though we were not allowed to have them in the house, which made our relationship with them different. She’s grown up with a yellow lab for a pillow.

Knock on wood that I haven’t been spending much of my time at doctors lately. I have spent a lot of time at the vet with the dogs. It seems like I’m there with one of them each week. Yesterday, it was Luna. I welcomed the break from work, as I was moving slowly and not very productive early in the day. Luna has some “upset stomach/vomit on the rug” thing. Test results back today. Then, another trip this week or next to have Cali spayed.

The universe is happy when I’m speaking to someone with “Dr.” in their title, I guess. The only good part about the vet is not having to fill out 5 pages of medical paperwork and questions. The vet doesn’t care about who the parents of my dog are and what ailments her grandparents had. With real medical paperwork, I take the express train and line through those annoying questions.

Though I felt pretty good this week, it had its share of feel-bad moments. First was eating too much pizza for lunch on Tuesday and watching my digestion go south for the week, which is always a joy at group meetings and exceptional fun when standing in front of 50 people presenting.

Then my feet and lower legs swelled up thanks to the heat and Wednesday’s triple BBQ-meat lunch. I ate what could best be described as a small mountain of salty tri-tip, pork and chicken on Wednesday. I don’t know if it triggered a gout flare up, but I have to email the doctor and figure out what’s going on. By the end of each day, I was pretty creaky.

If I have any wish for my daughter today, it’s that she doesn’t work for a large corporation when she’s older – unless it makes her happy beyond belief to do so. And maybe I’m projecting my own wishes onto her, but there is something wrong with working for one. I can’t put my finger on it today with my tired brain, but I will in a future post. I just hope she does something really fun and is her own boss. Knowing her, she’ll be kind of bossy no matter what. Her poor future husband has no idea. 🙂

Stay rested.

The marshmallow thief and other snippets from life

I was standing in the living room this week when Cali ran out of the kitchen with a large bag of marshmallows in her mouth. My wife had left a cabinet open and opportunity presented itself. I felt like a shortstop fielding a 37-pound ground ball. I saved the run from scoring.

The innocent face of the thief

It turns out she’s quite the puppy thief, this one. Anything she can put in her mouth goes in her mouth. But there’s some mischief mixed in.

My daughter was on the floor drawing and Cali ran into the kitchen, grabbed the bag of markers and ran out, which irritated my daughter, who didn’t see the humor in it. Especially after the 5th time Cali tried it.

Cali has become quite the fun pup, and our “Socialize California” mission is paying off. (Does that make us Socialists?) She’s much more confident now and sounds and barking dogs don’t phase her as much. She’s doing great in puppy classes. We feel proud of the work we’ve done with her. Now we just have to cure her of her thieving ways.

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Cali got sick this week. Diarrhea sick. I got sick at the same time – my own stomach issues. Coincidence? After a chicken and rice diet (Cali), and Pop Tarts and Popsicles (me), I got better but Cali didn’t. So it was to the vet for a sample from her back end, which the vet staff gave us some hell about, as they wondered why were testing her if she was not showing any other signs of illness, and she had had the stool test a month ago.

Ah, summer

Because we’ve owned dogs our entire lives and something is not right, okay? Shut up and take our money.

The vet’s office called the next day to tell us the test was negative. What?

We were happy it was, but confused. So, I called the vet just to see what else it might be. When he called me back, he said the second test was positive for giardia. Vindication for us, antibiotics for Cali.

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I had a clinic appointment this week. My PFTs were up, but not back to the pre “flu from hell” levels. I felt happy and sad. Happy they’re better, but sad I may not get back that lung function. I also need sinus surgery. We’ll plan it the next time I go into the hospital. It’s like having your car repaired – making a trip in just to fix the door handle is a pain. I’ll wait until I’m due for a major service to repair everything.

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Work has been nuts lately. So, I’ve felt like reading more than writing. I just finished Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, which took me a while to get into but was excellent in the end. But I like Franzen’s other book The Corrections better. I have three or four unread books on my Kindle left to go this summer, though “summer” may be too kind of a word to describe this season, as it’s been warmer in Alaska than here in L.A. I’m writing this while wearing a parka and using icicles and flavoring to make homemade Popsicles.

Stay warm.