Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 1832

This is weird. I was raking leaves in the front yard this morning and I see a letter blowing across the yard in the wind. I pick up the letter and it is addressed to me. What are the odds of that happening? Probably the mailman dropped the letter, or maybe I even dropped it myself when I picked up the mail yesterday. There was no mail delivery today though, so why was the letter still here? If it got lost yesterday, it should have blown ten miles down the road by now.

You certainly couldn't accuse me of being idle today. The dogs got their morning and afternoon walks. I removed all the standing water from the roof. I even made it to the gym. I should have dealt with the roof a lot earlier. It was a mess. Not only was there three inches of standing water, there were all the leaves from two large oak trees, an elm tree, and the neighbor's pecan tree. I was surprised that there wasn't a flock of ducks to greet me, because the wind and the leaves had combined to create little duck ponds all over the roof where the water would probably stagnate forever. Several readers have wondered why I don't just use pumps to automatically remove the water from the flat roof. Been there, done that. It doesn't work. The abundant leaves and tree dirt quickly clog even the most robust pump and it doesn't take long for the motor to burn out. The roof isn't really level either, so if you use a pump, you have to continually keep moving it around to get all the puddles. Believe it or not, it is actually easier to take a big push broom and just push all the water and debris off the edge of the roof. It's good exercise too, although I suspect that this activity isn't helping my shoulder much.

I wish the weather would clear up. The dampness and cold is aggravating Dot's arthritis. Her rear legs seemed a bit shaky today and we didn't end up going very far on our evening walk. I don't want to push her too hard, but it's not good to let her just sleep on a soft dog bed all day either. Both my vet and my own human doctors have emphasized the importance of staying active. I think the dogs and I both have the same attitude towards exercise. It's hard to get started, but once we get the old joints moving, we feel better. It's hard to get Dot and Dash out the door on a cold day, but they're both wagging their tails and enjoying all the smells once we're underway.

I was hoping that my physical therapist could just direct me to the machines I could use to build up my shoulder while I was  doing my regular workout. It turns out it doesn't work that way. The stretching exercise I need to do to free my tight shoulder capsule are completely different that the things you normally do at a gym to build strength and endurance. It looks like I'm going to have to do both.

I've still got a small amount of Christmas shopping to finish and I'm trying to figure out how to get everything done without fighting the mobs at the shopping malls. The only thing I've come up so far is to arrive at the mall right at 9 AM when it first opens. It might still be crowded, but at least I'll be able to find a parking place. If I wait until later in the day, I think it will be hopeless. The malls used to be almost empty on Christmas Eve, but I think there has been a sharp increase in procrastinators like me. I tried Christmas Eve shopping last year and it was just as crowded as any other day. I won't be doing that again.

Willow is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 1831

I must be getting more confident in the roof. I haven't been up there all week, even though it's been raining almost every day. I know there's a ton of standing water up there, but I still can't bring myself to tackle the laborious job of removing it all. Maybe tomorrow. Of course, I could go to the gym instead and expend the same amount of energy in a warm, dry place. Eventually, I'll have to go remove the water, because it's certainly not going to evaporate in this kind of weather.

The weather's been damp now for long enough now that the dogs are getting exceptionally muddy on their walks. My boots are caked with mud when we return, and even my pants are muddy. Cleaning the dogs paws and my boots before we go inside again seems to add another ten minutes to each walk. I wish we had a mud room like some Northern houses have. Everyone with Dalmatians needs a mud room.

Today was full of busy little chores. The dog blankets got washed, the sheets got changed, and I made a trip to Sam's Club to buy toilet paper, shop towels, detergent, and other sundries in bulk. I don't know when we started buying a three month supply of stuff like this. It wasn't always this way. Buying commodity items in bulk does save money, but it also uses up all your closet space. It took me quite a while to figure out where to stash away all the toilet paper.

When I was going to sleep last night I watched the last Craig Ferguson Show. I didn't know that the final show was going to be last night and just switched it on accidentally. I've always liked Craig Ferguson better than Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers. There is an irreverence to Ferguson's comedy that appeals to me. The show is gone though, so I guess I'll just have to go to sleep a little earlier. It's weird how many of these "final" shows I've seen over the years. I remember seeing Jack Paar's final broadcast when I was a kid. I saw Johnny Carson's final show and Jay Leno's as well. I think I even remember seeing the last Ed Sullivan show. David Letterman will have his last show pretty soon as well. It's hard to believe now, but I saw the Late Show With David Letterman live once during a trip to New York. I used to see a lot of shows. Aerosmith, Simon & Garfunkel, Phantom of the Opera, The Rolling Stones, Jersey Boys, The Who, Cirque du Soleil, and countless others. Somewhere along the line, a fear of crowds replaced a love of live performances and I quit going to shows. No regrets though. Peaceful scenes like this morning's foggy lake shore are much more appealing than watching a loud band in a crowded arena.

I'm kind of surprised that my stretching exercises actually seem to to be increasing the mobility in my bad shoulder. I've only been doing the exercises for three days now and I"m already seeing an improvement. Who would have thought...

Lexi is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 1830

I finally put up the Christmas tree today. Every year there seems to be a few less ornaments. Some have broken. Others have gotten lost. Even though the tree is starting to look a little threadbare, I still like it. All the ornaments are Dalmatians we've collected over the years. You don't see these Dalmatian Christmas ornaments in stores anymore, but I suppose they're still pretty easy to find online. The dogs used to be interested in the tree, but not anymore. They won't be interested until little wrapped packages filled with tasty dog treats go under it.

I went to a different restaurant for breakfast today. I didn't feel like going to the same place two days in a row. It's interesting that all these little neighborhood restaurants have their own audience. My favorite place is an eclectic mix of hipster beards, Apple laptops, and yoga pants. The place I went to today seems to be where all the school teachers go for breakfast. There's another restaurant where everybody seems to be over 80, and a fourth where everyone is always in a hurry. This food is pretty good at this place, but I seldom go there because I can't stand to be around people in a hurry.

I started my physical therapy exercises today. Oddly, they seemed easier here at home than they seemed at the gym last Wednesday. The only problem I had was whenever I tried to do the exercises where I needed to lie on my back on the floor, the dogs thought I wanted to play with them and they started jumping on me. Some of the exercises required the use of a cane last Wednesday. I'm not ready for a cane though, so I used a collapsible carbon fiber microphone boom pole instead. I wonder how long I'll continue doing these stretching exercises? They're both painful and boring. I don't think this is a good combination.

Dot seemed reluctant to go outside today. I can't really blame her. It was cold and rainy for the third day in a row. I almost took a good camera with me today, but I was afraid that the mist would unexpectedly turn to rain and get the camera wet. The light is soft and pretty on days like this. It's somewhat counter-intuitive, but grey days often produce the best pictures. Maybe I'll take a camera tomorrow.

It doesn't feel like Christmas is just around the corner. Very few people send Christmas cards anymore and I haven't been to an office Christmas party in years. Hey, I've got a tree up now though. Maybe that will get me in the spirit.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 1829

After another damp and foggy morning walk, I went out for breakfast a day early. I guess I could have made myself oatmeal or an omelet but I just didn't feel like fixing anything. It's probably not a good sign that these lackluster moods are becoming commonplace, but you gotta do what you gotta do. A good breakfast still helps kickstart my day whether I make it or not.

I actually had quite a bit of work to complete before Dot's afternoon physical therapy appointment. My retail accounts are already starting to develop ads for Valentine's Day and there are always new dogs and cats to showcase on the rescue websites. I got everything finished just in time to feed Dot and Dash their rice cakes for lunch and get the car ready to take Dot for her weekly appointment with the underwater treadmill.

I wish Dot could talk so she could explain to the vet what happened to her leg a few days ago. I explained the strange episode with the lame leg, but after a thorough examination the vet could find nothing wrong. Dot was strong during her treadmill workout as well, so the leg remains a mystery. I'm sure there is a connection between the lame leg and the tremors and general weakness in both rear legs. It's hard to pin down anything specific though. She's just getting old and doing the best she can.

I was delighted to see that the Dow closed up over 400 points today. There were big gains yesterday as well. These two positive days still haven't erased the huge slide that just about destroyed the entire year's gains, but at least it was a small ray of sunshine. I hope Janet Yellen continues to say things the market likes, because without a 401K or pension, I'm depending on my investments to keep a roof over my head during retirement. It's weird when you realize that Wall Street is a total crap shoot, and yet your entire future depends on it. I guess it really doesn't matter. When you look at ISIS, ebola, North Korean hackers, climate change, and the occasional stray asteroid, Wall Street worries are just small potatoes.

I just realized that although I have taken care of Dot's physical therapy for the day, I still haven't done my own physical therapy exercises. When am I going to find time for this? There are four specific stretching exercises I am supposed to do for at least twenty minutes twice a day. I need to lie on my back on the floor for the most important of these exercises, so I can't do them at my desk either. I wouldn't mind exercises I could do sitting at my desk since there are long periods where I just stare at the screen, waiting for the next idea to hit.

So, do I go back to my favorite restaurant for another breakfast tomorrow? Decisions, decisions. If I'm not too busy, I might put up the Christmas tree. If I don't get it up soon, I'll be putting it up after Christmas.

Alvin is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 1828

It was another wet, cold day. As soon as the dogs finished their breakfast, they hopped right back in bed again. They didn't want anything to do with this day. Since they wouldn't budge, I just crawled back in bed myself. Eventually we pulled ourselves together and took our morning walk. I always have trouble getting the dogs outside on damp days, but once we're on our way they show no desire to return home again. I think the smells must be more intense in damp weather, because they both love to smell things.

I think my shoulder must be worse than I thought. Today was my first physical therapy session and some of the initial stretching exercises brought tears to my eyes. You'd think it would be easy to lie on a table and bring my hands behind my head, but it just wasn't happening. I could see my therapist wince every time she heard popping sounds coming from my shoulder as she manipulated the joint. We did a series of simple exercises to loosen the muscles around the joint and after about fifteen minutes I was able to rotate my arm about 15 degrees further behind my head. This is going to be a long, slow process. For the past several years, I've been compensating for the loose shoulder by tensing the muscles on the right side of my back in an attempt to keep the joint in place while I walk the dogs.  Now these muscles are very tight and are restricting a full range of motion. I think things are worse than they used to be, because I remember I could do some of the stretching exercises we tried today as recently as three years ago when I had physical therapy before. At any rate, I promised to do my exercises the best I could and I will see the therapist again next week. I still don't want to consider surgery at this point.

I wanted to check on a package on the UPS website today and discovered I couldn't log in because I'd forgotten my password again. I hate sites that keeping asking you for a ridiculous combination of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols before they'll approve your password. I can never remember these complex passwords. What's even worse is that many sites don't allow you to re-use a password that you have used before. It doesn't take long to completely run out of easy to remember password ideas. I'll be glad when you can just use a fingerprint or retinal scan to identify yourself. Apple is getting there with its new fingerprint recognition technology, but so far you can only use your fingerprint to unlock the phone. You should be able to use it for everything.

I wish I could teach Dash to read the weather radar. I thought I'd found a nice little window between rain showers to take the dogs out to do their business this afternoon. Dot, as always, peed and pooped quickly and efficiently. Dash was oblivious to the approaching rain and dawdled around until the rain caught up with us. He eventually pooped, but we were all drenched by then. By the time I finally got the dogs back in the house, cleaned their paws, and dried them off with a bath towel, the only sensible thing to do was take another nap. We ended up right where we started, in a big dog-pile on the bed.

Duke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 1827 - Blogiversary

I'm finally getting over my cold. For the first time in over a week, I woke up feeling reasonably normal. It was nice to get through the day without consuming an entire bag of cough drops or box of Kleenex. Usually, when I catch a cold, it only lasts for a few days. This was a nasty one. I've still got a bit of chest congestion and cough occasionally, but it looks like the worst is over.

I continue to be amazed at how few things it takes to completely fill up my day.  Either I'm getting a lot slower, or simple things are becoming more difficult. I had only one fairly routine website assignment today, and I still struggled to get everything finished. Household chores and paying bills seemed to eat up most of my time today. I'm thinking of switching a number of monthly bills to EFT payments, because writing checks and addressing envelopes is so time consuming. Was it always this way? Carpal Tunnel or not, it is becoming increasingly painful to write anything manually anymore. I find typing much easier. Cooking meals seems to take longer than it used to and walking the dogs takes forever. I really enjoy walking the dogs though, no matter how long it takes. Dot takes baby steps now, but I can tell this is still the high point in her day. Dash doesn't seem to mind going slower either. I think he's learned that he has more opportunities to snag something nasty to eat along the trail, now that I concentrate more on keeping Dot from falling.

After I finished today's website assignment and paid a big stack of December bills, I took a little gift card from my favorite clothing store and went shopping. These holiday gift cards the store mails out to regular customers every year are a brilliant marketing ploy. Somehow, I always think I'm going to save $50 and end up spending $200 instead. It never fails. I keep forgetting that this store isn't Kohls.

I also finally got around to taking care of my meager Christmas list on the Amazon website. I was pleased to see that regular shipping will still get there by Christmas. I wasn't quite as pleased when I noticed that several items in my shopping cart had a small notice that said "usually ships in two to four weeks." Hmm. "That's not going to work," I thought and abandoned the checkout procedure to start over again with gifts that shipped immediately.

Here's how forgetful I'm getting. Yesterday was my Blogiversary and I completely forgot about it. Oh, well. I guess we'll celebrate today. In case you haven't noticed, I've been blogging six years now without missing a single day. I wonder if anybody's been reading for six years? Writing this ongoing journal is a weird little accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless. I don't think I've done anything this consistently before in my entire life. Tomorrow I start physical therapy for my shoulder injury. We'll see how consistent I can be with that.

Hannah is today's Dalmatian of the Day

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 1826

I got impressions made of my upper teeth at the dentist today. I'd never had this done before and it was certainly an interesting experience. First they fill all the little gaps between your teeth with a special putty, so the liquid silicon impression material they use to make an exact mould of your teeth doesn't get stuck in your mouth when the material cures and hardens. Since I still have a cold, I was afraid I would start coughing during the procedure and screw everything up. Staying still while the first base impression cured was fairly easy. When the dentist started to make the second fine detail impression using a different type of material, he told me that I would need to breathe through my nose for four minutes while the impression material cured. "This ought to be interesting," I thought. I'm still very congested and breathing through your nose isn't something you often do with a bad cold. I tried to breathe very slowly through my clogged nasal passages and hoped the four minutes would be over quickly.

Dot gave me a scare today. When I got out of the shower this morning, she was standing near the bathroom door and refusing to put any weight on her left rear leg. The limp was pronounced and fairly alarming. I gently manipulated the leg to see if she might have had a cruciate tear. Older Dalmatians often tear their anterior cruciate ligament and I'm always afraid that this might happen with Dot. Her rear legs are so weak anyway that a tear could happen any time. I've seen many cruciate tears and Dot didn't seem to exhibit any of the obvious symptoms. I have a feeling that her leg fell asleep. She also could have slipped off her dog bed while she was having a dog dream and had difficulty getting up again. At any rate, she wasn't in any pain and could support her weight on the lame leg when I tested her. I rested with her for a while and then we walked slowly around the house when she was ready to get up again. Within thirty minutes, she was completely back to normal with no limp at all. I'll probably never know what actually happened.

I worked on getting all the Santa Paws equipment we used this weekend put back in its proper place today. Some of the stuff goes under the bed, some goes in the storage warehouse, and some I use all the time. Since we won't be doing this again for quite some time, there's no sense to clutter up the entry hallway any longer than necessary.  The house looks much better now that this stuff is hidden away again.

My Jawbone UP band broke today. Janet and I have each broken three of these things. I still think the little UP band is the most inconspicuous and unobtrusive fitness tracker out there. You quickly forget that you're even wearing it. I love the technology, but the quality is terrible. I've never had one of these things that's even lasted a single year. Sometimes Jawbone will sent you a replacement band for free. Other times they won't. It just depends on what kind of mood they're in. I doubt that they'll send me another replacement this time. I'm probably on a Jawbone blacklist by now. I'm hooked on these little activity trackers, but I don't think I'll get another one. Maybe I'll just wait until the Apple watch comes out next Spring.

I still need to do my Christmas shopping. We need to put up a tree too. For some reason, it's hard to get in the mood this year.

Jasper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 1825

We're done! I don't know how we made it through this year's busy event schedule with a sick Santa and an even sicker photographer, but somehow we persevered. Today, along with our many customers, we photographed some of our own rescue dogs. Brown Sugar, shown here, is one of the reasons I continue to do these photos. She was so sick when she entered our program that the volunteer who helped transport her to Dallas was afraid she was going to die in the car before she could get her to our vet for an evaluation. Brown Sugar had a very serious case of heartworm disease that had already damaged her heart. Working with our vets, it took us almost a full year of treatment before we were able to get her healthy enough to adopt. It looks like Brown Sugar might have a good Christmas though, because I think she has finally found a home.

It was the photos we took at last year's Santa Paws events that helped pay for Brown Sugar's lengthy rehabilitation. Each and every year we have success stories like this and some of them, like today's Dog of the Day, return from time to time to let us know they are still doing OK. I'm way too tired and have too many aches and pains to do this sort of thing much longer, but helping these Dalmatians is one of the few worthwhile things I've ever done. I'm sure I'll be back next year. I love seeing these guys succeed against very long odds and find their forever homes. Santa and I tell the group that for each additional year we age, we need to make these events one hour shorter. Everybody just laughs, but we're serious. Five hours per event is a killer, especially when scheduled back to back. Maybe we'll feel differently next year when we're well again, but right now we're lobbying for four hour events.

I'm surprised that so many people came out today since it was cold and rainy all day. I feel bad about leaving Dot and Dash for so long on rainy days like this, but luckily Dot doesn't get as upset as she used to. Dot has always had a terrible phobia of storms, but now that she's getting older, she sleeps so soundly that she doesn't even hear them. I checked in on the dogs several times today using the nanny cam, and even though I could hear rain pounding on the roof, Dot was still sound asleep. Dash looked a little worried, but he always takes his cues from Dot. If it's OK with Dot, it's usually OK with Dash.

It's back to the dentist tomorrow. I need to get impressions made for a retainer that will keep my upper teeth in place during the long process of getting implants to replace the teeth I have damaged. I was really hoping to have a little more money next year now that the dogs cancer treatments are finally winding to a close. No such luck. It looks like as soon as the cancer bills end, the dental bills will begin.

Can you believe it's the middle of the month already? Thank goodness for Amazon. I haven't even started my Christmas shopping yet. Amazon always gives me a few extra days to procrastinate and I don't have to wrap the packages either. I don't think I'll ever wrap a package again.

Lance is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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