Wine in a box, online scrabble and Vietnamese fried rice…

Michelle brought home this BOX of wine last weekend to make sangria for our neighborhood party. I have to admit, I was rather dubious to drinking anything out of a box, especially wine — but since it was only for sangria, how bad could it be? Well, it turned out to be pretty darn good! Apparently, Bota Box scored 95 points at some State Fair back in 2008. I don’t know if I would have given it a 95, but it is really good. Some of the best features are that 1) it comes in a box — the equivalent size of 4 bottles — and it’s made of recycled paper instead of glass (think, camping, picnic, hiking, where you don’t have to worry about breaking anything), and 2) it’s the size of FOUR bottles, and 3) it’s about $20 bucks, or about $5 bucks a bottle. When was the last time you paid $5 bucks for a 95 points bottle? Because it’s not glass, you’re not subjected to sunlight or spoilage or any of that. Pretty cool. I should get bonus points for endorsing this product. People! Bota Box. Available at your nearest gourmet supermarket.

Speaking of points and such, Michelle went off the deep end again (surprise!) and bought a whole bunch of cigars. I cannot say with absolute certainty, but we are now well over 300 cigars. The surplus are being stored outside of the state-of-the-art humidor. Eeek! But, that also means, if we smoke one cigar every other night (it usually takes us two nights to finish a good fattie), it would still take us over a year to finish this stash. The most impressive thing is that Michelle manages to find unbelievably good deals online. Our favorite cigars to date are (top five) Gurkha, Man-of-War, 5 Vegas, Partagus, Black Pearl, Fonseca. (OK, so maybe that was more than 5. We actually have a fluctuating top 10 every time we try something new.) They were all Dominican  Republic or Nicaraguan/Costa Rican. As a surprise/treat, she special-ordered a bunch (like 20 or so) real Cubans from Switzerland. (Who knew that you still can’t buy anything Cuban in the USA, even though the embargo was “lifted” by Obama.) Anyway, they were quite a pricey lot, and to be honest, we did not like any of them. Not even the one that was quoted at $20 bucks per stick. Maybe it was because of the way they were stored. I would definitely not turn one down, if we should/could ever travel to Cuba. But these cigars are nowhere near our top ten. I don’t know if it’s the wrapper or filler or what, but we did notice that the Cubans were lighter in color, drier in smoke, and pepperier (is that a word?). The ones we favor the most tend to be dark and oily, mellower and creamier. Michelle has been keeping a journal (with band stickers!), so maybe one day we can post the ratings and notes, with pictures!

Michelle has her Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRB) board meeting tonight, so I am left to fend for myself. Between the Bota Box and my Nub, I managed to get my assed kicked thoroughly by Amy playing scrabble online. I am convinced she’s cheating. I just don’t know how. She’s ahead by about 100 points. And that was BEFORE I started drinking the Bota Box. I should just give up scrabble and stick to dominoes. At least I don’t have to think too much.

I took the afternoon off because I had to take Gingersnap! to the vet. She hadn’t gotten any better by this morning, and I had to call in to make an appointment. Montclair was already double-booked, so Little G! was placed on the urgent care list. Ginger! was so well behaved, to my surprise, especially because she was by herself and Madeleine wasn’t around for support. But the poor thing; she was having such a terrible time with her tummy. She couldn’t hold it any longer, and pooped on the examination table! I was mortified. But what a wonderful vet (they’re ALL great there). Dr. Grandrath immediately said “Oh, that’s great, a fresh sample!!” and proceeded to clean everything up. I’m still mortified; I mean, it was really stinky really liquid poop! Gingersnap!, the poor girl, got all embarrassed and put herself in a corner, ears down. Dr. Grandrath presribed metronidazole and bland food. So I made white rice and boiled chicken breast for her. Boy, you’d think that girl hasn’t eaten in months! Hopefully, two doses or so of this stuff and she’ll be back to normal. At least we’ve confirmed that it’s not coccidia or giardia — that was what plagued her as a young pup, and from the stool samples that I brought in, I was a little nervous that that might have been it. We still don’t know what it is, but at least the inflamation will go down.

Since I had to make Ginger! some hot white rice, I decided to make Vietnamese fried rice. Well, at least prep all the ingredients for it. You need day-old rice in order to make this dish, so by tomorrow, the rice will be perfect. I’ll post the recipe later — maybe tomorrow, but let me say this: if I could eat spaghetti and fried rice everyday, without putting on a single pound, I’d be in heaven.

Dear Diary,

Today was a spa day! Madeleine and I got groomed and pampered at All About the Dogue. All my nails are short again, and my coat is super soft and shiny. I like going to the spa, because afterwards the Mamas love to snurfle us and tell us how good we smell! I thought we always smell good, but Mama M. said we were beginning to smell like dogs. I suppose that means we smell like humans after spa days. They always take such good care of us there, and when Mama L. comes to pick us up, they put these silly bandanas on us. And you know how I feel about wearing anything! But it makes the Mamas smile, so I can put up with it for a little while.

Mama L. went to see Amy Lee today before she picked us up from the spa, and as usual, she’s covered in bruises in again. Amy also got her to play something called scrabble online, so she’s been glued to her computer and not paying us any attention. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I started whinying a bit. Then Mama L. thought I had to go outside, so she walked me several times before she realized I just want some attention.

OH!! Mr. Sprinkler, the scary monster up the street, popped out AGAIN tonight! He was spewing water straight at me. I thought he sleeps all day and only comes out in the morning, and up till tonight I was ok. But now it’s clear I’m just not safe up there. Maybe he’s mad at me for peeing in his yard.

I was just not myself after that. I was too restless and couldn’t settle down so I followed the Mamas everywhere. That drove them crazy, until Mama L. played Squeaky Lion with me and Laser Light with Madeleine. Now everything is back to normal and I can go to sleep now.

It’s been a long day!

One more dog poem…

Shelter Dog

I buried a part of me
when I buried my Ridgeback,
planted a tree in his memory,
and closed the kennel gate
once and for all.
Or so I thought.
Then here comes Bucky–
rambunctious, unschooled Bucky,
giddy with freedom,
in need of a home.
I unpack the leash,
the whistle,
the rulebook;
teach him the basics:
sit, stay, and come.
And how he comes–that dog,
streaking across the meadow,
barreling toward me–
happy, effusive Bucky
on a direct collision course
with my legs
and my heart.

–Carol Ann Lantz

Snarling and Growling

When we were a tad younger — oh, twenty years or so ago, Lisa Savage and I both lived on Castro Street. She was nearer to the top of that hateful hill, and I would crawl up the hill because I was dating her roommate. Well, ok, that wasn’t the only reason — I mean, Lisa was already my friend, and of course I would have gone to visit. Anyhow, one day, for no particular reason that I can recall, other than maybe we were feeling a little frisky, and after much snarling and growling, I pounced on Lisa unexpectedly as she was sitting on the couch. This startled the bejesus out of her, and a knee shot up from nowhere straight into my head. It was interesting having to explain to people how, exactly, I ended up with a black eye.

I stopped pouncing on her after that, but the snarling and growling continued, even as we became roommates later. And no, it was not because I was “grouchy” every morning. I like to think of it as an endearing form of communication.

Madeleine and Gingersnap! love to play all day, especially when they’re not otherwise napping or waiting for food to fall from the heavens. When they play, they snarl a lot, heads down, lips curled, ears pulled back, teeth and fangs exposed. The snarling and growling and barking can sound extremely fierce and fearsome, but they often precede other silly behaviors, like flopping on the ground or chasing each other around the kitchen island. My favorite is when one is on the couch and the other races back and forth on the ground, trying to get in the right angle of attack. Or when they both have their claim on a chewstick — both holding on to the ends of the rawhide and growling loudly in protest. When something in the environment suddenly interrupted their play, the girls’ faces would instantly shift into neutral, alert expressions while they try to focus on whatever had stolen their attention. Then, as if on cue, Madeleine and Gingersnap! would put their viciously scary faces back on, and turn toward one another like grizzly bears. Their expressions are so exaggerated and so obviously fake that they always make us laugh.

And that’s why I snarl and growl at Lisa Savage.

Dear Diary,

Madeleine was really mean to me today. I don’t know what got into her, but she was snarling and growling at me all morning. Even Mama L. noticed it and was really concerned. Madeleine cornered me this morning and made all the hair on my back stood straight up. Mama L. had to intervene and yelled at her a couple of times. I haven’t seen her so mean in a long time, and I didn’t even do anything. Mama L. said it must be the rivalry thing between siblings; I just don’t think it was fair at all.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, we have a new monster in the neighborhood! He lives at the second house in from the corner. He waits for me, when I have to do my morning walk, and then he jumps out and throws up water at me. Mama L. said that his name is “Sprinkler”, and that he’s not a monster but just a thing and that I’m “over reacting”. And then she tried to get me to come up to him, but I just couldn’t do it. He’s just too scary. And if he’s really a thing, like Mama L. said, then how come he always know when I’m just about to get to his yard? This has happened every day for the past week now. Right around 7 in the morning, when I have to go real bad. It would be all quiet, and then he would pop up out of nowhere and spit water at me! I don’t want to go anywhere near that corner, but Mama L. still tries to make me. I just stayed behind her, though, the whole time.

There was one more thing that worried me today. I heard this song for the first time. Mama L. was singing it, and she sounded real happy. But it can’t be a good thing. How could the “Dog Days Are Over” be a good thing?

Dog is my co-pilot

Joan and Nick, our neighbors across the street, gave us a copy of “Bark”, the dog culture magazine. Considering the fact that they have no dogs, I thought it was pretty cool. Of course I immediately sing up for my own subscription. The magazine is full of great stories and oodles of pictures of smiling dogs, not to mention good training tips.

For example, I wish I’d known about the following “Water Rules” before we took the girls down to Piano Lake at the Glass House:

1)  Do supervise your dog in and around water. (Check)

2)  Don’t force your dog into the water; it will only raise his fear level. It is also a betrayal of his trust in you as a fair leader. Learning to swim is a process that needs support and encouragement; reinforce water curiosity and exploration with praise, toys and special tidbits. (OK, we didn’t really force them into the water; we carried them in. Who knew it was a process? It was supposed to be a natural thing, right?)

3)  Don’t allow your dog to swim in water you wouldn’t swim in yourself. Beware of toxic algae blooms, submerged objects (on which a dog could be impaled) and trespassing into areas guarded by agressive wildlife. (Check)

4)  Do be sure your dog has a solid recall. Can you call him away from the water’s edge? From a floating ball? From ducks in a pond? Teach recall on land first, then add shallow-water recalls before gradually building in distance in deeper water (a whistle blast is a good distance recall signal.) Practice this everytime you’re in the water. (Eh. We practice. I wouldn’t call it “solid”.)

5)  Do make sure your dog is wearing a properly fitted, quality canine life jacket during training or conditioning activities. And, because a life jacket adds drag resistance, wearing it may actually serve to build more endurance and strength than swimming without one. Wearing a life jacket while boating gives your dog a chance at survival if he’s bumped overboard. (Check. Check. Check.)

~Deborah Lee Miller-Riley, founder,
 Canine Water Sports, Monroe, Conn.

Dear Grandmaw B.,

We are writing to you to ask for your help. Well, I am, anyway. It seems that the Mamas have fixated on me being “not in shape”, and have taken it upon themselves to exercise me every week now. You know what that means, don’t you? It means endless walks that take hours to complete with very little reward at the end. (Mama L. gave me a tiny TEENY little piece of chicken-wrapped banana as my reward.) Little G! is, of course, oblivious to everything, as long as she thinks it’s food or fun, which almost everything is. Plus, with those long italian grey-hound legs of hers, she doesn’t get as tired out as quickly as I do. And she’s in good shape, from chasing Mr. Squeaky Lion all the time. Although the other day I overheard Mama M. saying how Little G! has “back fat”. It’s probably a good thing that Gingersnap! didn’t hear Mama M. said that, coz then she’d be asking me what that means and it would take me all day to explain. (She’s not the brightest bulb in the Christmas tree.)

Speaking of Christmas, are you coming back out anytime soon to bring us goodies? We could really use some. The latest thing that the Mamas got for us is this big cage thing that they put in the front room. I’m not really sure what it is for. Mama L. has been trying to get me to go in it, but I don’t think I will by myself. I mean, there’s really no point to it. She keeps dropping chicken treats in it. Of course, Little G! went right in and gobbled them all up before I can get to them. But still, Mama L. could easily give me chicken treats anytime she wants to — I wouldn’t complain — so I’m not sure why she’s going through all that trouble. It makes me a little suspicious, if you ask me. Last night Mama M. crawled in it and she was having so much fun giggling with Gingersnap! that I crawled in too! It really wasn’t a big deal. But why go through all that trouble?

Last Friday, our yard man came and demolished the back yard! You should see it, Grandmaw; it’s gigantic! There’s nothing left but dirt and the orange tree. Ginger! and I had a great time chasing each other around, now that we have so much room to play in. That is, until the Mamas saw us and yelled at us for getting dirty! Honestly, what are we supposed to do? I am hoping that the Mamas put in a big dog park for us, but I’m not so sure that will happen. Mama L. kept saying something about vegetables. Well, as long as I get to chase Little G! around and around, I don’t care what she grows back there.

Licks and love,

Madeleine