Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Dogs get their prime socialization between 8 weeks and 16 weeks.  This is the time they need to be exposed to as many new situations as possible - young children, cats, cars, parks, cows, etc.  After this window closes, they may never be comfortable with new situations.  Stick them in the back yard this entire time, and they will become fearful and unconfident.

Once there was a beautiful shetland sheepdog puppy named Spencer.  He was first owned by a college student, who did not have much money or time.  To save money, he didn't buy a crate or kennel; he got a wooden box with some air holes in the top.  Since he was studying all the time, he didn't spend much time with his new puppy.  He left him in the box nearly all the day long.  Once the dog was grown, the student realized he didn't have the resources to care for this dog, so he took him to Dallas Sheltie Rescue.

Shelties are herding dogs.  Their job is to watch for danger, and warn when something is wrong.  They have tons of energy so that they can chase after sheep all day through the hills.  Take a dog like this, hard wired for attentiveness and exuberance, then restrain them in a sensory deprivation tank during their formative years, and you have a recipe for a nervous, unsocialized, anxious dog.

Spencer was returned from his first home back to sheltie rescue.  My mother-in-law, Marion, was contacted because she had successfully homed one of their other dogs.  She was skeptical, but she gave Spencer a chance.

He was a very nervous dog.  Impossible to walk on a leash because he was afraid of the wind blowing the grass.  Terrified by mailboxes and garbage cans.  Skittish around other dogs.

In fact, he didn't know how to talk to other dogs.  He got into a big fight twice with our old mellow Terlingua, and bit his housemate Fox so badly he needed stitches under his eye.  Both dogs were by far his senior, and he should have known better.

When he stayed at my house for "boarding," I soon learned I had to "kick" him off of the covered patio in the morning to make him go pee, or else he would anoint my kitchen with his urine.  I'm sure he had agoraphobia, because I'd shoo him off the porch and he'd bunny hop to the big oak tree, huddle under it panting, then he'd pee, and bee-line back to the safety of the indoors.

Eventually, Spencer did get accustomed to life in his new household.  The loved being petted by Marion, and he enjoyed playing with her grandchildren.   He loved wrestling with Fox.  He liked the routine of family life.  He still always gave an alarming shrieking yap every time the phone rang.  The open wire kennel had to be put away or he'd spend all day huddled in it.  He never, ever, learned to walk, even though he was patiently taken many times by patient Uncle Volker.

He did get brave enough to walk to the mailbox, and he loved to walk to the car when Marion was bringing in the groceries.  He'd happily sniff everything and follow her back and forth from the car to the refrigerator.  But he'd never leave the safety of the driveway.

That's what old Spencer was doing today, following Marion in with her groceries, when a large red truck came barreling down the alley.  The sound of it startled Spencer, and its front wheel clipped him, and its back wheel crushed him.  The truck sped down the alley, never stopping.

Marion called me after to tell me that Spencer had died, and I still can't believe it.  This poor, long suffering dog did not deserve to die this way.  It was almost as if his fear of the big, fast moving world came true.

We had been talking about getting Marion a new dog, and now she is left without any furry "little guy."  So I am trolling the internet, looking for the right dog (or two) for her.  It is tragic and shameful how many dogs are looking for a new home, for good reasons (foreclosure, death of the owner) but mostly bad (new baby, no time, just plain abandonment).  If there is anything good that comes from Spencer's loss, it is that another dog will get a second chance, just like he did.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday Colin and I made a pumpkin pie from scratch, even roasting the pumpkin and everything.  That was the last thing that my oven baked.  Late last night I was going to pre-roast some veggies, but the oven wouldn't get warm.  Anthony determined that the igniter was out, should be easy to replace.  However, no one would be open at 10:30 pm to sell us one, and certainly no one would be open on the holiday.  I was so tired and tried not to sink into despair.  Emily remembered that my nifty microwave also has a convection oven feature, and I thought, I can do this.

It all turned out great.  I was very thankful for the precooked smokey Greenburg turkey.  It took a while to rotate the roast veggies, stuffing, and then roast potatoes.  The broiler in the oven still worked, so we reheated the meat on the bottom of the oven with the broiler on.

We had:

Greenburg turkey
Ham (Colin ate SIX BIG slices)
Gravy with cream and herbs
Alice Water's mushroom stuffing
Roasted sweet potatoes and acorn squash
Green salad with arugula and tomatoes from the garden
Cranberry Orange relish (new and improved)
Roasted rosemary potatoes
Colin's pumpkin pie
Henley's pecan pie
Italian carrot cake
Chocolate cheesecake
3 types of Pinot Noir

I always make my stuffing/dressing with mushrooms and herbs, and was excited to find Alice Water's version, similar to what I've attempted.  Instead of broth, though, she uses milk, which made it like mushroom bread pudding.  AND I used my truffle salt that I got in San Francisco, and that made all the difference!

I love how much my kids have come to love this holiday, full of food and family and gratitude.  Colin said, as he returned to the table with a plate of seconds, "Thanksgiving is AWESOME!"  Bring on Christmas!

Monday, November 23, 2009


OK, I fell off the PoMo wagon.  We've had multiple house guests, parties to host, home improvement projects, as well as all the usual activities.

I am slightly sad not to have made my commitment this year, but please know it is because I am having WAY too much fun.  And this is just the start of the crazy holiday rollercoaster!  Hopefully, I'll come up for air occasionally between now and New Years!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo Haiku

Fran's farewell party
Third time's a charm, still so fun
Prosecco goes POP!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lame Day 20 post

Tired from work
Tired of cleaning the kitchen (and Anthony does it a LOT)
Tired of NaBloPoMo

Excited about Emily coming tomorrow
Excited about (farewell) party for Fran
Excited about new paint
Excited about Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Hour

I usually end my appointments with some sort of query to make sure we've covered everything -- do you have any more questions for me?  anything else before I walk you up front?  see you in a week for your recheck!  --something along these lines.

Today I ended my second to last appointment with, "Is there anything else you need?" since I just answered a bunch of questions and did some refills.

The cat owner sighed, and said, "Well, I really need a margarita..."

Sorry, you'll have to go down the street for that!  Ha!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The gift that keeps on giving.

So my wonderful mother watched my children while I was gone AND cleaned my house.  There was a time this would have embarrassed me, but now I just feel gratitude.  She also changed all the sheets and did all the laundry.  Today being Wednesday, the day I usually make a feeble attempt to clean and straighten the house, I suddenly found myself with all this freedom.  It was great to just relax with houseguests (Lindsey and Fran), then do some food shopping and cooking, before the kids came home for their usual Wednesday after school activities.

I am thinking I really need to find a maid service!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who's on Primo?

Colin says to Fran: How do you say 'no' in Spanish?

Fran: No

Colin: No

Fran: No

Colin: What?

Fran: Que?

Colin: What?

Fran: Que is what in Spanish

Colin: No, I mean no

Fran: No

Colin: What?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Home again

The end of the vacation always sucks.

Flying from West to East sucks.

But coming home to two little kids, jumping up and down like cheerleaders, arms waving, voices shouting, happy hugs -- totally worth it!

Special thanks to my mom for making this mini-vacation possible - in more ways than one!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend in brief


Sleep in!
Lots of walking
Farmer's Market
Wine and Cheese tasting
L'osteria del Forno for dinner (our long time fave in North Beach)


Sleep in! (again!)
Rent bikes
Golden Gate park
Golden Gate Bridge via bike
Blue & Gold Ferry
Sea lions!
Martinis at the hotel restaurant bar
Thai food (someone at the bike shop told us about a local Thai dive.  We ordered FOUR entrees.  There were so many good things on the menu, we wanted to try them all!  Plus, we'd skipped lunch.  And, we biked for 6 hours today!  We ate 75% of all the dishes.  It was SO GOOD but the best was the green curry.  And, $40 for 4 entrees and 2 beers, in SF.  Nice end to a long weekend.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh what a night

I have to tell you about our excellent meal last night: I had heard buzz about Flour + Water from people like Ruth Reichl, so I had to check it out.  The restaurant is small and warm, lots of earth tones and candles, and lots of shared tables.  The wine list is nearly all Italian.  We started with a margarita pizza with arugula.  The crust of this pizza was transcendent.  Thin, crispy, chewy, and dotted with scorched bubbles, steaming from the woodfired oven, gently wilting the fresh arugula on top.  I had been to the bathroom and could smell the pizza as I approached the table from 10 feet away!  Then we split the papparadelle pasta, which came with a wonderful ragu with tiny bits of pork shoulder as tender as jelly.  The housemade pasta was so good, perfect in texture and flavor; it really could stand on its own.  We were seated close to the semi-open kitchen, and I loved watching the chefs calmly churn out dish after dish, sharing tasting spoons of the entrees before they plated them up.  The only hiccup was that the side of oven roasted yams came long after our entree was finished, but that was OK since I was happy to eat them as dessert!  Tiny orange cubes, browned corners, anointed in brown butter, sage, salt, and parmegiano reggiano kept my belly warm for our walk to the concert.

Pomplamoose apparently booked this show months ago, before they achieved cult status on YouTube.  The little cafe was already packed to the gills - standing room only, no one else getting in - nearly 2 hours before they were set to go on.  We managed to belly up to some of the cafe windows, and actually this turned out to be a primo spot - we had a direct view of the stage, and they opened some of the windows so we could hear pretty well.  I don't like the deafening aspect of live music anyway, and there is no way my short self could have seen much being inside.

They had a great drummer with them, and the show was excellent - high energy level, amazing keyboarding, solid vocals.  I did miss all the harmonies that you get on the videosongs.  In person Jack is even more crazy and caught up in the music - his whole body jiggles, and he could not stop rapidly jumping up on his teeny tiny stool to egg on the crowd, then slamming back down to manically play the keys.  And Nataly is even more his foil: calm, introspective, strumming her bass and effortlessly singing.  Jack was so wild and sweaty at one point he even took of his pants and remained that way the rest of the evening. (he did have boxers on)  We met them briefly afterwards, and they were of course gracious and joyful, just like they are on their videos.

While they were clearly overwhelmed by the turnout to their show, we were not surprised.  Their last show only had about 40 audience members.  No doubt their next will be even larger, and not free.

We wished we could have had Anna and Colin there (since they are huge fans), but we doubt they could have lasted for this late show, especially with the time change.  Also it would have been so hard for them to see, although maybe two little people could worm their way to the front.

One last note -- Nataly announced their last song, and then said well, we have actually one more, but it would be too difficult in the crowded cafe to leave and come back for an encore, so they were going to go ahead and play the last two songs, but then that was really it, OK?  Ah, so refreshing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

If you're going to San Francisco...

After a traveling day where we really had to roll with the punches, we are happily in beautiful SF.  Eating now at Flour + Water, later Pomplamoose!  Details to come...

Sent from my wireless device

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You've been a great audience! Goodnight!

Regina was awesome.  She sounded so good.  She played with a full band, by herself on piano, by herself with guitar, a capella, and it was all captivating.  I still can't get over how she can play piano with one hand, drums with the other (OK, it was just a chair but she did have a drumstick), and sing full voice and on pitch.  She did pull that ruse where she thanked us profusely and sincerely, and said this would be the last song, when she hadn't even played some of her most popular stuff.  So after the crowd cheered, she came back on and played another five songs.  I totally enjoyed those songs, and then she thanked us again and exited, and the lights immediately came on, and the background music, so you knew there wouldn't be any more, and we left.

But why do they even do that?  Act like they are done for the night, just so you will beg them for more songs, which they have prepared, just in case you insist?  Regina was so warm to the crowd, and seemed so genuinely touched by all the applause and shouts after her songs - why play the game?  Anyway, totally great performance, amazing voice and musicianship, every one of the songs written by her.

Now, back to packing packing packing.  Leaving for San Francisco in the morning!  The song they played after the lights came on last night was EW&F's September.  Nice premonition for Pomplamoose!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I hear in my mind, all of this music...

I can't believe how lucky I am -- tonight I am going to hear Regina Spektor!!!  Fran is coming with me, and Anthony is holding down the fort. THEN, on Friday Anthony and I are getting away for the weekend.  We are going to one of our favorite cities, San Francisco, where we are going to hear Pomplamoose!!!

I don't go to that many concerts, and now two in three days... my brain might explode.

Sent from my wireless device

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I find the crunch of acorns underfoot very satisfying. But not the crunch of snails. After the summer from HELL we've had a very wet fall. There are gastropods all over the sidewalks and it is impossible to miss them all. Too often the snails meet suddenly with death with an audible, sickening crunch.

For a while we had a small accumulation of dead leaves two paces from our doorstep. We squashed a few snails, then more would come to consume their dead brethren, then they would get squashed, too.

Today there was a snail on a leaf on my windshield. The window was also foggy, so I turned on my wipers, flicking the snail-leaf combo to the ground before I backed out. Or so I thought. By the time I reached the freeway, the snail started hauling his long body and house across my windshield again. The first part of my drive is low velocity from all the traffic, and I watched his undulating efforts. Past a certain exit things accelerate, and as I drove 40, 50 miles an hour, the wind pulled the snails shell away from his body. He pulled his antennae in, hunkered down, and clung to my windshield.

At 60 mph, he suddenly detached. Involuntarily, I said, "Oh!" and tried to see him in my rearview mirror. I'm sure he was flattened by one of the many cars behind me. Oh well. I don't love the snails, but I don't like watching or hearing their demise.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Full Plate

I am tired today after a full day. I had 3 dentals and a spay scheduled, and managed to squeeze in a C-section. Yay! Those are always fun, especially when the delivered puppies are healthy. My afternoon was busy, too, mostly because I had two 5 o'clock appointments due to a small scheduling hiccup. One of them was a truly crazy owner who had to tell me all her crazy theories about what was wrong with her dog. He's a collie who used to weigh 65 lbs and now weighs 118 -- but he doesn't overeat! It's all because of the steroids he took in May! Listening to people like that is wearisome. The other 5 o'clock was a truly crazy lab with a comminuted fracture of her toe. She resisted the first two doses of sedative I gave her and needed a third just to get the splint on her. I'm sure she'll be back for a rebandaging of her splint before the scheduled 1 week check up.

I hope you guys are enjoying the synopsis of my day, because you'd have never heard it if not for NaBloPoMo!

Sunday, November 08, 2009


I love the way Colin talks, and I know a lot of his quirks will be fading fast. When he reads to us, he still over-pronounces the past tense of words. Looked becomes "look-ted," and there is "jump-ted," and "climb-ded," etc.

Also, for some unknown reason, he has always said "exturb," instead of disturb. Like, "Anna, you're exturbing me!" She always corrects him, but exturb persists. One morning I even heard, "I sense an exturbance in the force..."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Old age is not a disease

At work today I saw a 15 year old golden retriever that I've been seeing for a few years. About 18 months ago I told the owner that her spleen was enlarged. This usually means a tumor, could be benign or not. I recommended an ultrasound to further evaluate the spleen, then a big surgery to remove the spleen. I spent a long time explaining this to the owner in person and later on the phone. Eventually she called me and said she was going to try a treatment a friend recommended to her, cottage cheese and flax seed oil.

Seriously? For a tumor in the spleen? I know my plan was expensive, and if you can't afford it that is really okay. But don't fool yourself with this treatment.

Fast forward to today. Apparently the tumor is not malignant, because the patient is still alive and happy. Only now the tumor is enormous. The dog has a pot-bellied appearance and his back is hunched to accomodate the tumor. "He may be uncomfortable, but I don't think he is in pain," I said. "Of course, the tumor could burst at any time, and that would be an emergency." Probably it would kill him.

"Well, I'm really just relying on you to guide me here," the owner told me.

Inside I think, "Are you joking?!?" but in reality I say, "I still recommend an ultrasound and full bloodwork to evaluate him, then removing the spleen if we don't find anything else."

She looked at me, shocked, and said, "But I thought you said he was too old for the surgery."

I said, "No, I said we'd do an ultrasound first to see if he was a good candidate. We do surgery all the time on older patients." She then requested estimates, and I gave them to her.

I hope that she will consider my plan. I think she loves her dog, but she is not very savvy when it comes to making medical decisions for him. Sometimes I think people like this don't deserve golden retrievers that live to be 15.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Look at the cute visitors I had at work today!

My sister's family picked up their new Viszla puppy in Austin today, and I got the first viewing. She is so precious! Her name is Vindaloo, or LouLou for short. We left her at my clinic and went and ate Indian food to celebrate. When we came back she was napping, all cuddled up like this:

When she woke up she looked at me with her gorgeous green eyes!

I am hoping they had a safe, uneventful trip home and have a quiet night tonight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ft. Hood, Texas

After my first job as a vet ended, I worked for a while as a civilian contractor at the Ft. Hood Veterinary Treatment Facility.  After 14 months of being overworked and underpaid, this job was a respite.  The clinic saw pets owned by military families.  We offered basic preventative and outpatient care only.  I got to do lots of spays and neuters on the animals adopted from their shelter.  Occasionally I saw a few of the only remaining cavalry horses, kept at Ft Hood for ceremonies.  We started at 8:30 and ended at 3:30.

It gave me a deep perspective on military life, working with the people in the Army at the VTF.  They really give up so much of their personal life to serve.  Most of the decisions about their lives are made by the Army.  I saw the dynamic between enlisted and officers.  I saw how it wasn't just the soldier in the army, it was the whole family.  I saw how quickly these people bonded to each other, since they all shared the same military lifestyle, and no one stayed at any one post for too long.

I met people from all over the United States, plunked down at this huge facility between the plains and the hill country in Texas.  It did seem that small towns were over-represented.  These small town folk had lived in places like Germany, Hawaii, and Korea.

This was the time was between the Gulf War and the Iraq War.  It was peacetime, but the Gulf War was still in short-term memory, and these soldiers knew the dangers of their jobs.  There were lots of helicopter pilots and tank drivers.

Ft Hood is really huge - bigger than some counties in Texas, perfect for maneuvers and war games.  It was so big it was one of the few military bases you could enter without going through a mandatory check point, although I did have a military ID and badge.

After a few years, the nice captain in charge of the Veterinary Treatment Facility left, and her replacement was simply awful.  I was ready for a more challenging job, and a good opportunity came up in Austin where we had moved.  I was sad to say goodbye, but it was time, and a lot of my friends were already gone anyway.

I was thinking of these people as I drove home today, hearing about the mass shooting that happened this afternoon.  If I had been working at the VTF today, I probably would have been held there in the "lock down." I know these soldiers are under so much stress, but I can't fathom how one would turn on his comrades, especially one who is supposed to help them with this kind of stress.  The military life was not for me, but I have a lot of respect for those who chose it.  I am crying inside for them today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Anna could not get her nose out of a book yesterday. I had to tell her things repeatedly. She'd look up at me like she was coming up from underwater.

I understand. I was exactly the same way at her age (just ask my mother). But then every time I'd ask her to go in her room and do something, 10 minutes later I'd go in the and find her in her book again, tasks not done. Eventually she got overtired and overwhelmed, and I had to take charge and put her to bed. I tried to explain to her that you have to do your tasks first, then reward yourself with your reading. If I read all day like I want to, I'd never make dinner, do laundry, or do any of the things I need to do.

Today I did all my chores and pre-made dinner before the kids got home. Shortly after they get home, we have to go to gymnastics then piano. We don't get home until our usual dinner time, so its good to have everything done ahead of time. While they are doing their activities, I indulge in a little reading time of my own - usually my only chance all day. Only today, when it was time to leave, I couldn't find my book anywhere. I wanted to cry. Tick, tock, time to get in the car, and still no book. I was trying not to freak out, but I was pretty upset. Anna said sympathetically, "Want to read one of my books?"

Sadly, its still MIA.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What I missed Halloween Weekend

Anna was Padme Amidala, heart and soul.

With cousins, Henley and Rian.

Colin was Boba Fett.

With pal, Katherine.

Sorting the loot.
Thanks for the great pictures, Anthony.  I actually sneaked a peek at them on my smart phone during the keynote address Saturday night!

Monday, November 02, 2009

More on the Dental Forum

Ah, the Dental Forum. Three days of getting jazzed up about vet dentistry by people who are totally obsessed with it. They put my passion to shame. My friend and technician, Luis, traveled with me, and I could see him getting the bug, too.

In addition to many many lectures, I did a wet lab on fracture repair. I love these! We took a plastic model of a mandible with a nice clean fracture like this:

Then practiced wiring and placing acrylic splints on it, over and over. Isn't this cool?:

I explained to Anthony that the wires would actually go in the soft tissue/gingiva between and circling around the teeth, anchoring them down. He turned green and nearly retched! I think this is so awesome, but he can't even watch me do oral surgery. I can't wait for the next patient hit by a car or kicked by a cow so that I can all the king's horses/all the king's men/put him back together again. I realize this urge is not normal, kinda like the surgeons on Grey's Anatomy are always itching for a major trauma. Looking around the conference, I realized veterinary dentists have this peculiar desire, however have really bad hair, unlike TV. (Also I am thinking I should start telling people I am interested in veterinary oral surgery, not veterinary dentistry, since I do far more surgical procedures than cleaning/cavity filling, and ALL my patients are under anesthesia.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Here we go again

I haven't posted much lately. I was gone most of last week, getting motivated and informed at the annual Veterinary Dental Forum. I love this conference. However, this year I HATED the timing -- over Halloween weekend. I guess most of the planners are older vets who DON'T have children. Children who rank Halloween right up there with Christmas and their birthdays.

After Halloween ends, of course, up comes NaBloPoMo. I have a love/hate relationship with this event. Like the Danskin Triathlon, it keeps me disciplined and in shape (at least it keeps my blog in shape).

So, watch this space for daily updates, at least for the next 30 days.