Ever since we moved into our house I’ve been lamenting the fact that our neighbors have made little effort to be social. It didn’t help that the week after we moved in, the house next to us and the house across the street were both vacated by renters whose leases were up. I had pretty much given up on making friends in my hood, but as with most things in life, as soon as you stop trying, they happen naturally.

Jim and I took the dogs for a walk yesterday evening, and while we were on our way, we heard an older man call out to us form his front yard, asking for help. He stood in his yard, attempting to reposition a wrought iron fountain taller then himself, and was failing miserably. I took the dogs while Jim jumped in to provide assistance.

Our neighbor, Yaakov, had such a thick Russian accent that it was difficult to distinguish exactly what he wanted done with the fountain, but through sign language and patience, Jim was able to work with him to transport it to its new home.

Yaakov thanked us profusely and continually told us he would pray for us. He insisted on running into his house to get us cans of soda and beer, despite the fact that we declined the offer multiple times.

It was a strange way to meet a neighbor, but imagine my delight that at long last we had made contact with someone in our neighborhood. We were so excited that as we continued home we introduced ourselves to another neighbor down the street.

Bill, a gay, 60-year-old retired school teacher, was thrilled to meet us and tell us about marrying his partner a few months ago in Cape Cod. He didn’t offer us any beverages as Yaakov had, but we were confident we’d made a good impression.


Sick as a Dog

When we adopted Bruno, he was eight weeks old and completely malnourished and dehydrated. He’d been kept with 30 other dogs in one pen, and I don’t think he got too much face time with the food bowl.

It took a week of vet appointments to get him back to normal, and I’m happy to report that at six months, he’s the picture of perfect health.

We thought we’d avoid another sick pup and go for an older dog when we were ready for a second, but apparently, general malaise is a common theme among pound pups. We adopted Molly two weeks ago and she’s underweight and has a sparse, rough coat.

She’s covered in cuts and scrapes and has a case of kennel cough that makes her sound like an asthmatic chain smoker. We’ve been nursing her back to health with good food and medication, but I’m sure it will be a few more weeks before she’s on top of her game.

The majority of people I know who’ve rescued dogs from shelters have had similar experiences with health problems, and I’ve had several friends tell me this is why they won’t adopt, and will only work with breeders.

While the vet bills are costly, and recovery can be a slow road, I don’t have it in me to shell out an obscene amount of money for a purebred dog, when there are millions of homeless pets available. I understand both sides of the issue, but something tells me I’m a rescuer for life.

Another Lesson in Puppy Raising

I sometimes wonder why I bother spending a good portion of my paycheck on new toys for the puppies. No matter what brightly-colored/squeaking/furry/flying toy I am convinced will entertain them, they seem most content chasing and eating birds or chewing tree branches. (And then throwing up on the carpet).

Speaking of birds…over the past few weeks Bruno has been catching birds and bringing them into the house through the doggy door. We can tell when he’s “hunting” by the ear-piercing squawks and clouds of feathers.

We’ve been able to save a few of his victims by distracting him with other treats, but we had our first casualty last weekend.

I guess this just goes to show that certain instinctive behaviors will never be won over by Bobos and Kongs.

It’s a Doggy Dog World

I have to believe that for dogs, going to the dog park is the true equivalent to a child going to Disneyland.

We’ve only recently begun bringing Bruno to the park, because he had to finish all of his shots first, but he has experienced nothing but pure joy every time. When we first take his leash off he spends about 15 minutes sprinting around the perimeter of the park. He gets so excited he sometimes forgets his brakes and runs full force into the flank of another dog. Fortunately, his puppy-ness seems to be a plausible excuse for his less-than-perfect manners, because he’s yet to have received so much as a growl.

Once he’s gotten his initial ya-ya’s out, he then enjoys stealing toys that other people brought to use with their dogs. Yeah, he’s that kid, but his intentions are innocent, he simply wants to keep the games going as long as possible. We don’t have a prayer of catching him until he’s been there for at least 30-40 minutes and is starting to fatigue. At that point, we try to tackle him to give him water, otherwise he is too excited to rehydrate on his own accord. It’s like stopping for a pit crew; after some water and petting he’s off again at lightening speed.

The dog park labels the two separate enclosed areas “Active Dogs” and “Passive Dogs.” This is just a polite way of saying “Spazzy Dogs” and “Wimpy Dogs.” I assume you understand that we will never go near that passive nonsense, we come with our A-game to party hardy.

It’s fun to do something for another being that makes them the happiest they’ve ever been. Since dogs lack significant short term memory capabilities, every day that we take Bruno to the park is therefore the best day of his life.

Ew Yuck Gross

Two days before we left for Belize I had an incredibly gross experience. The whole incident was so personally disgusting that I debated not even writing about it. However, after receiving animated reactions every time I retold this story, I decided it was worth sharing.

Let me first express that I detest all insects. All of them. Ok, I admit that butterflies are pretty, but I start to tremble when I remember that they start out as caterpillars. Ladybugs are the only other insect I can partially tolerate, only because they are not physically disgusting.

My most vehement hatred relates to a few unique species: spiders (too many legs), roaches (too resilient and they make noise when they run), mosquitoes (blood suckers), ants (militant) and worms (no explanation needed). Worms! These mini snakes are terrifying and grotesque. I still recall gagging when we read ‘How to Eat Fried Worms’ in elementary school. You can surely imagine my horror when I realized there were worms all over my kitchen.

The discovery was prompted by Bruno scratching at the tile floor. I know this usually means there’s some sort of bug that he is hunting. When I looked down and saw that it was a tiny white worm, I held back a gag while scooping it up and throwing it out (much to my puppy’s dismay). Then, the dreadfulness elevated when I spotted a second worm, and shortly thereafter saw that my entire kitchen floor was covered in them. Probably 100 worms, all inching about in different directions, unaware just how unwelcome they were.

After shrieking and leaping onto the safety of the carpet (yes, just like the hot lava game) I did the only logical thing I could think of; I called Jim. My hysterics must have been entertaining but Jim said that I should try to get rid of them and then call an exterminator. Ah, yes. An exterminator. Just the sound of it is music to my ears.

I conquered my fear and armed myself with a roll of paper towels, a trashcan and a bottle of OxyClean. My strategy was to spray a bunch of the worms and then rapidly scoop them up and throw them out. This took quite a while because there were a lot of worms, and every so often I panicked that they’d get out of the trash, so I had to make a trip out to the dumpster.

After about an hour, a second shower and a call to a pest control company, I felt a little better, but was still too nauseated to eat breakfast.

The exterminator initially thought the worms invaded via a dead log Bruno dragged into the house. However, upon further research and a conversation with a different exterminator, I learned that these worms have been appearing in houses all over the Phoenix area. He told me they’d probably had 100 calls of identical complaints in the past few weeks, and they still weren’t sure what caused it all.

Thank heavens there have been no recurrences since the initial event. I’m still mildly traumatized but thankful it appears to have been an isolated crisis.