Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Best Day Ever

As the title suggests, Monday was a good day. Not just a good day, but a day that was bloody life-changing.

It started when my phone rang and the caller said she was with Montgomery County Animal Services. Right then my heart skipped a beat, because my only recent connection with them was that day, one of the worst days in my life, when I had them come to take Marshal away. Many times since then I have wished I had done something different, and I assumed that Marshal had paid the ultimate price for my lack of calm decisionmaking--despite my last communication with the shelter, in which they said they would do everything they could for him. 

This call, like a ray of pure light into the dark, guilt-ridden recesses of my soul, relayed the information that Marshal has been at the shelter all this time!

Apparently everyone there really likes him. 

He is still a bit shy and scared, but he brightens up every time he gets to be with other dogs and he's been participating in play groups. 

They haven't been able to find a placement that they thought would be good for him, but they are now talking with a rescue that has a soft spot for pit bulls.

I told them I would do anything in my power to help, including talk to the rescue, hire a trainer, pay for boarding, camp out in his kennel to pet him all night. They said they'd give my information to the rescue and keep me posted. 

This was nothing less than redemption from a dark force that has haunted me for 10 months. I am so glad there is someone else out there who believes that a worthy dog should be given every chance, and that some of those people happen to be running shelters. What Marshal needs--a calm home with one or two very dog-friendly, non-reactive  dogs, in a non-urban area and with a yard, shouldn't be that hard to find, and I'm going to pray with everything I've got that he finds it.  

To cap off this incredible morning, the afternoon was equally extraordinary.

Over the weekend, I was invited to play mbira for a Zimbabwean embassy open house. I was nervous, but I went--and so did Mokoomba, who play amazing traditional-popular fusion music from Zimbabwe. We played a little together, and they ended up spending Monday afternoon at my house!

We jammed, talked, played with the dogs. It was absolutely joyful.

It was incredible to play this music I love so much with musicians of such caliber. 

Fozzie was anxious but happy to make some new buddies. 

Dahlia was in love. I think it's easier for a deaf dog to be around that much music.

So inspiring. 

Mokoomba is on tour now and you won't want to miss them if they come to your town! Check out their tour dates here and hear our living room jam session here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Calmness, Relaxation and Sleep

Lots of great hikes and joyful times this fall and winter, but lately I find myself busy with activist projects and building an online audience for those! If you'd like to know more you can find me on Twitter at @vegsister and find my nonprofit work at @PEERorg. 

But I do still have a few interesting thoughts on dog-related topics, and a lot of cool pictures :) So I'm going to shift the focus here and just start posting shit that feels right, and not worry too much about format. 

Here's a post I didn't get to finish up back in October. We all have our ways of processing stress. I walk the dogs, write, and then lie awake all night, while Florian runs his mouth like a fire hydrant, curses like a longshoreman, and smokes like a chimney all day only to pass into an impenetrable coma and sleep like a log all night. 

Fortunately, there is help for both conditions. You my remember that I've found help for lifelong insomnia from herbs and supplements. Turns out that some of the same compounds help Florian too! 

When he really gets going on one of his stressed out tirades, I've discovered that Kava Kava tincture dials him right down. 

Ranting Florian becomes peaceful, spaced out, slightly smiling Florian, and we can go on a nice hike and enjoy the scenery.

On a gorgeous day in October, we brought the dogs to Catoctin Mountain Park with its historic Iron Furnace

and literally wandered around, 

smiling and laughing, 

the morning's anxious rant about something absolutely inconsequential but at the time all-consuming, 

completely forgotten. 

Not sure if it was the Kava Kava, which is in tincture form so acts immediately, or the Cortisol Manager, which is more long-acting,

but taken together the results were outstanding.

I'll note here that I do think Cortisol management is key to those of us who experience anxiety and insomnia. If you've ever been told that your insomnia is "all in your mind" and that you can control it if you just make an effort, you know what it is to want to put a health care practitioner or well-meaning friend into a deep, immediate sleep with a swift punch to the temple.

Our sleep systems are a finely-tuned machinery of tissue, chemistry, and mental states. Of course there is a physical component to chronic insomnia. I'm pretty sure that my brain chemicals are out of whack and I produce too much cortisol, hence, I sleep only when I address that.

But lately, most of the time, life seems to be addressing that for me most days! For the most part I've been sleeping with no chemical assistance the past couple of months. 

I don't know why, as there's no huge difference in my habits, thoughts, or mental states between this good-sleep time and other times. I do think that relaxation and sleep feed on themselves, and a good sleep groove tends to self-perpetuate. 

That was a lot of words! Time for a bit of silence. Peace to you all. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Catching up: Christmas on the Beach

It's been forever since I posted, but it's time to catch up! We'll start with the holiday. Florian was in Switzerland with his family,

so I spent my Christmas on Dewey Beach with mine. My sister rented a big house for her family, my dad, Uncle Johnny, Aunt Nancy, my cousin and her kids, 

so I got a nice little cottage just for me and my dogs so Genghis and Fozzie didn't have to spend Christmas glaring and lunging at each other. 

What a joyful time. Up in the morning to walk along the beach 

and enjoy the sunrise, 

let the dogs sniff and roll around,

and meet a large, rusty pipe used for dredging sand, 

that for some reason Dahlia decided was the best thing she had ever seen. 

Drop off the dogs to nap at the cottage, then off to the main house to make food and hang out with my human family. 

Brussels sprouts--Johnny's favorite!
It is so relaxing to be right by the ocean. 

To look out to the horizon and take in all that space, 

let the mind relax on the vast, blue peacefulness, 

and let the waves wash over all those jagged edges left by a challenging year. 

The best pictures were of the sunrises, 

but the best moments were at night, on the balcony with Johnny and the astronomy binoculars, where he showed me the Orion Nebula. I spent the following evenings walking on the beach, dragging the dogs along long past the point where they were tired and wanted to go sleep, because I could not get enough. 

Just the feeling of being alone with them, listening to the waves, under the bright stars, walking and walking.

Then lying down one night, looking up just in time to see a shooting star. 

Magical. I'm going to just take it as a sign that 2017 is going to be better than we think, and act as though ongoing principled, peaceful engagement and activism can make a difference! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Davis and Thomas West Virginia

Well its been an eventful week, and some of you know that I have been very politically active over the past year. However, I'm just not going to go there. In the words of my favorite candidate Bernie Sanders, I have nothing polite to say

Let's talk about some recent outdoor adventures instead. On a recent weekend we decided to go check out Davis and Thomas, two tiny towns in the mountains of West Virginia. 

Started with Davis, very tiny but with a picturesque lake and park right in the middle of town, 

next to an abandoned motel that could have been part of a horror movie set and very close to a hippie store, 

which advertised itself as a hippie store and which of course we checked out.

And that was about it for the sights to see in Davis, except for a store that sold a few pumpkins and apples and that had this dog in the living quarters behind the shop. After ascertaining from the proprietor that the dog was in fact alive, I was able to go back and pet him and admire his extraordinarily stiff paws. 

Dogs are ridiculous. 

On to Thomas, which had a few more shops but more along the lines of antiques, Christmas decorations, and kitschy clutter than my preferred sort of shops, which feature 13 varieties of all-natural lip balm and vegan jerky.

There actually was a store with vegan jerky, so it wasn't a total loss.

Off to the nearby George Washington National Forest to park the van 

and camp. 

Some cuddling with the dogs to try, and fail, to stay moderately warm through the night.

Love our camping trips but it might be time to move to motels for the season.

The next morning, it was a relief to get up to a sunny day and check out Blackwater Falls State Park, which is right in Davis' back yard. 

Gorgeous waterfall and a boardwalk that allows an amazing view. 

and a cool forest with big rocks and trees that found their way around them. 

These trips are not always the most comfortable. But the chance to escape with my people and see something beautiful and new is worth it!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Wellness Poultry Lovers Variety Pack from Chewy.com

This month, our friends at Chewy.com offered an entire case of canned Wellness Poultry Lovers Variety Pack
Who could turn that down? 

You may remember that I am blessed with at least one dog who is a picky eater and turns up his substantial nose at many foods. 

Usually, I'll set down his food and he'll eye it warily, pace around a bit, sniff it, wander away, and then only eat it when Dahlia comes close and says Hey, are you gonna eat that?

But he seemed to love this food! I set it down and he dug right in.
Seems like a good product too, with wholesome ingredients like meaty snacks, grains, sweet potatoes, and vitamin supplements.

I always get a little uneasy when I do a dog food product review and talk about the ingredients, because I can say wholesome and hearty all I want--the meaty parts were once living breathing animals I would have loved to know. 

Not eating meat myself has never been difficult, and I haven't missed it all these 27 years. But I think my pups would miss it. So I get all our kibble from the Petsmart dumpster so we're not supporting those industries (it ends up in there when the packaging is slightly damaged but the contents are perfect), and mix it up with canned food from Chewy, or sometimes scrambled free-range eggs and cheese, or sometimes tuna or veggies or whatever I'm eating. 

Its a funny place we're in, as animal lovers who especially love our dogs! But we do the best we can. 

Dahlia sure felt good about the canned food, and I can only assume she said a prayer for the chickens silently to herself. 

But then, Dahlia feels good about most things. Tomorrow maybe we'll share some broccoli and oatmeal. 

Thanks again Chewy for the high-quality deliciousness--and for offering a large selection of vegetarian options, which we'll be checking out!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A few more days of summer staycation

Well I forgot to post this post in September, when it was timely! It's a little cooler now, but not much else has changed. 

Vermont was a tough act to follow with respect to outdoor fun with the dogs, but we've been giving it our best shot.

On these hot late summer days humans are not much different than dogs. Both species like nothing more than to find a body of water and just roll around in it.

Good time to scope out a new swimming hole. 

This one is on Seneca Creek very close to where it joins the Potomac. Mostly shallow, but deep enough that the dogs had to swim 

when as always, Florian insisted on going back a different way than we came. 

I'm not complaining; it was actually quite magical walking through the water as the sky darkened and it started to rain, and then thunder. 
The dogs got very tired and a little anxious, especially Dahlia as she is so short and had to do a lot of swimming. 

Seems to me that it takes dogs years after they learn how to swim, to actually have confidence in their abilities. 

Fozzie, by this time, loves it. 

Dahlia enjoys getting in the water but feels safer on land, so was trying to find a path through the woods for most of our watery way back. 

Poor little things.

After that exhausting day we didn't feel bad leaving them home for a dog-free date day. Right where Seneca Creek joins it, the Potomac is very wide and perfect for kayaking.

We spent the day just paddling all the way up, past dozens of great blue herons and blooming riverside shrubs, and back down under the bright blue sky. So relaxing. 

After letting them rest for a day, time to get the dogs out again. This time to the Patuxent Research Refuge, a great place close to home for walking,

viewing wildlife, cooling off

and just enjoying being outdoors, in a beautiful place, with my favorite people.

We'll just keep doing this as long as the weather's good. And then we'll do it even more once its not!