Dog Park Art

While I’ve been trying to convince the Internet that saying Police Lives Matter as a response to Black Lives Matter is racist, and explaining that it’s not helpful to try to be inclusive by saying All Lives Matter, Rob has been creating Dog Park Art.

Kiddie-pool Leo

Kiddie-pool Leo (apparently Leo signed this one)

Katch

Katch

Sparkle Pups

Sparkle Pups

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Writing outside with wifi and dogs

backyardwriting-web

 

I am so close to finishing my novel, Fight Like a Lady. And by finishing, I mean writing an ending so I can go back and revise the hell out of the beginning and middle. The climactic scene involves a gun, so you can imagine how much I felt like working on it when I heard the news Sunday morning about the largest mass shooting in recent American history.

love is love

Found this on FB. Would love to give credit if I knew who made it.

For the record, I am an LGBTQ ally. And I support, with all my heart and soul, a ban on assault rifles. Truly, I hate all guns and my original plan was for my fictional world to have no firearms at all. Or cigarettes. But I changed my mind.

I would love to tell you I was banging out my ending in these awesome pictures Rob took of me in the backyard on Sunday. The ugly truth is that I’m doing research, looking at grisly photos of gunshot wounds, feeling rather disgusted by the combination of search terms I’m typing into Google.

At least I got to do it someplace beautiful with creatures I love by my side.

backyardwriting2

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Blog the Change for Everyone

This news story irritated me this morning (emphasis mine).

A dog described as an American Bulldog was visiting a Temecula home Saturday afternoon when the dog mistook kids playing as aggressive action, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. …

The dog, described by animal control officers as an American Bulldog, was with three children when the attack occurred. …

The dog, described by animal control officers as an American Bulldog, will be held in quarantine for 10 days.

Look at the pictures. It’s pretty obviously an American Bulldog. By saying “described as” every time the breed is mentioned, the story conveys, “They say it’s a bulldog, but since it attacked children, it’s probably a pit bull.”

I agree with the animal control officer quoted in the story who said she’d lock her dog up before leaving him alone unsupervised with children. In my life, being good with children is not a requirement for a companion animal.

I’m working on a novel about rescued pit bulls, and I recently received a critique that said:

I know that there are many defenders of pit bulls as wonderful misunderstood gentle creatures but as I write this another little boy locally had his face ripped off yesterday. Literally. And it was the family dog. It would be a hard sell for many of us to believe there is not a structural problem with that breed and frankly we don’t want to hear about how wonderful they are, especially in the face of their sometimes shocking dangerous behavior.

(I’m familiar with that story, and while the owner insists that dog was a pit bull, it looked an awful lot like an American bulldog to me.)

Pretty harsh words, but they came at the end of an otherwise insightful and helpful critique. This isn’t a fringe opinion I can afford to disregard. Maybe I’ll give her words to a character in the book.

I’m just so tired of prejudice.

dalai-lama-we-can-let-the-circumstances-of-our-life

I didn’t post anything here at the time of the Charleston church shooting, but here’s what I wrote on Instagram:

Not unspeakable. Not unthinkable.

Unconscionable. Not just on the part of the shooter. But that racism and hate exist to this degree in our country. That guns are ubiquitous. That deranged white killers are given flak jackets and arrested peacefully while black teens are beat up, harassed, and shot in the back by police.

Some people respond to the news of another mass murder in America by saying they have “No Words.” I have a lot of fucking words.

#CharlestonShooting #BlackLivesMatter

Something that broke my heart about the Charleston shooter is that he reportedly almost changed his mind about killing those people because they were so nice to him. That there was a moment where he was like, “Waitaminute, all those things I’ve been taught about black people might not be true.”

The bulldog article above is minor compared to the systemic racism in our country, but it struck me as I tried to think of something to write about for the Blog the Change hop. It’s the same discrepancy that we see in news coverage about dog bites. If a Golden retriever attacks someone, there’s something wrong with that dog or that situation. If a bully breed does, there’s something wrong with the entire breed.

People of color who do bad shit are labeled terrorist and criminals, while the actions of white men are attributed to mental illness or some other factor that isn’t the fault of the entire race.

I don’t know how it happens that people can feel hate toward certain other people because of the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation, or gender identity. I don’t know how we begin to fix that.

Can we start with dogs? Can we convince people who like some dogs but not other dogs, that the dogs they’re afraid of are basically the same as the dogs they love? They have many of the same wonderful qualities. And you know what? Your purebred whatever has a lot of negative qualities too.

I’ve snuggled a lot of pit bulls during the past year. Not one of them acted aggressively toward me. In fact, the worst “bite” I got at the Humane Society came from a black lab who grabbed my wrist with his mouth. It left a bruise, and that dog was adopted within days. At last report, it was a happily ever after situation. I wish my purebred dog would snuggle up against me the way the shelter pit bulls do, instead of hopping off the couch to get away from me when I smother him.

I’ll admit, I love dogs more than I love most people. So for me, it’s a pretty easy leap to love all dogs, no matter what they look like, how they were bred, or whom they bite. While I can’t promise to feel the same way about all people, the best I can do is speak out against racism and injustice when I see it.

This post is part of the Blog the Change for Animals Blog Hop.

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When famous people die

After Kurt Cobain killed himself, one of my mom’s college students said she was so distraught that she couldn’t turn in her assignment.

As a college student myself at the time, I thought that was a pretty shoddy excuse. I mean, light a candle outside your local record store, listen to Heart-Shaped Box on repeat, but do your damn homework. It’s not like you knew the guy. He was a tortured artist after all. His untimely death was sad, yes, but hardly a shock.

Heath Ledger’s death a few years ago, on the other hand, was shocking. Like Cobain, he left behind a young daughter. He wasn’t a known drug addict, but if the stories are to be believed, I can see how he could have accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs.

I learned of Michael Jackson’s death while checking my email in the Tokyo airport. I may have said, “Oh my god” out loud. Unexpected, but not beyond belief.

Brittany Murphy. Corey Haim. Lots of stars die suddenly.

"Glee" Cory Monteith

Last Saturday night, I got into bed feeling bummed out about the state of a world where a young man can be killed legally for wearing a hoodie (Even if Trayvon Martin did pummel George Zimmerman and smash his head on the sidewalk, didn’t he have a right to stand his ground?). Another news alert popped up on my iPod: Glee actor Cory Monteith found dead in a Vancouver hotel room.

I actually gasped. I know I said “Oh my god” out loud. Just a few days earlier, out of nowhere, I told Rob about Monteith.

“He checked into rehab for substance abuse. What kind of drugs could he possibly be taking? Why would he need to go to rehab? Couldn’t he just kick it on his own, Charlie Sheen style?”

Obviously, I didn’t know what I was talking about. My ignorant assumption was based on his squeaky clean appearance. The fact that he was dating costar Lea Michele, and she was standing by him, proud of him for taking this step. I had googled him to see what he was being treated for. Vicodin? Maybe cocaine? I couldn’t exactly picture him shooting heroin at a Glee cast party. Or smoking meth while Lea warms up her vocal chords. I couldn’t imagine him being a serious enough alcoholic to warrant a stint in rehab.

Is that why I’m particularly broken up about his death? Is that why, when I saw the news alert yesterday that the cause of death was a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol, my insides clenched from the tragedy of it all?

I’m a Glee fan, yes, but Finn Hudson was never my favorite character. If they’d written him off the show for other reasons, I wouldn’t have cared. I am a Lea Michele fan, though. That girl can sing anything.

I found myself hoping the couple had been having serious problems, as though that might make the loss easier for her. My heart breaks to think that at the time of his death, she thought everything was going great, that her boyfriend was clean, and she’d talk to him later that day. I guess it would be worse if they’d had a terrible fight, and that’s why he decided to get some heroin.

Either way, how does a person begin to get over it?

At one of the lowest points in my life, after Isis died, Glee made me smile. Lea Michele specifically. Her performance of Firework, which I later downloaded, filled me with just enough optimism to know that I would feel whole again.

FIREWORK – RACHEL | GLEE from christianjn on Vimeo.

Here she is singing with Monteith. Probably not a song that will cheer anyone up.

In the background: A freeway falls into the river

Skagit River Bridge

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background, I give you Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River. Allow me to zoom out so you can see how close my old office used to be to this freeway.

bridge collapse diagram

This bridge has been in the background of my life for the past 10 years. From late 2006 through 2013, I could see it from my office window. Leo and I used to walk right there all the time, on the dike along the south side of the river. I still travel across the bridge on a regular basis, or rather, I did until yesterday. Earlier this year, my office moved across the river, about a five-minute walk off the right-hand edge of the photo.

It takes a lot for Skagit County to make the national news. Like a mentally ill man getting his hands on a gun and killing six people, for example. Or a freeway falling into the river. Three people were injured, no one was killed after an oversized truck knocked Interstate 5 into the Skagit River at about 7 p.m. last night.

Think about that. A catastrophic failure of engineering on a public roadway, and no one was killed. Mentally ill man plus handgun: six dead.

I’m just saying.

I don’t eat Paleo, but my dogs do

Have you heard about the potentially controversial research that dogs, through evolution, can now digest carbs in a way that wolves could not?

When I heard, and decided to blog about it, I was astonished to see how little I have written about raw feeding. A mention here or there, sure, but nothing significant since I first started feeding Isis raw meat in 2009.

I’m a believer in the nutritional benefits of feeding a dog raw meat. Humans are the only creatures that cook their meat, after all. Based on the information I had at the time, I fed Isis a prey model of 80 percent muscle meat, 10 percent bone, 10 percent organs. She seemed to thrive on the diet with a glossy coat and nonstinky breath.

She died very suddenly within two years of being put on this diet, but I have no reason to believe the diet had anything to do with her death from a thymic hemorrhage. I had recently added vegetables and nuts to her diet, at the suggestion of a holistic vet. I don’t think the vegetables or nuts killed her either. She had seen both the holistic vet and our regular vet within a few months of her death, and neither found anything medically wrong with her as a result of her diet, or otherwise.

Leo has eaten raw meat since I brought him home. Because he was extremely lean at about seven months, the holistic vet suggested I supplement the meat and bones with a grain-free kibble. He has eaten a combo of raw beef, deer/bison/llama bones and Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream formula ever since.

As a puppy, Leo works on a bison neck

As a puppy, Leo works on a bison neck

Mia was a little smelly and dull-coated when we got her, but shortly after transitioning to this same diet, her coat glistened and her breath got fresher. She did gain some weight from overfeeding, but otherwise is terrifically healthy.

So I won’t change my dogs’ diets based on the news reported today in the Los Angeles Times, NPR and the BBC. (I offer you three links to give the choice of reading, listening or watching the report).

The way I understand it is that dogs are capable of digesting grains. That doesn’t make it more nutritious than their historical diet. That doesn’t mean that they will live healthier, longer lives by eating a corn-based processed kibble.

I’m amused by the paradox between this research and the Paleo Diet, which is based on the idea that humans should still be eating the things they ate before the agricultural revolution. So, dogs have evolved to eat grains, but humans haven’t gotten there yet?

I don’t dispute the health benefits of going paleo, but I digest cake, bread and french fries just fine, thank you very much. I do know that I would be better off eating more vegetables. And I believe that dogs are better off eating a diet primarily consisting of raw meat and bones.

I think I haven’t blogged much about this before because I wanted to stay out of the fray, but I’m ready to stir the pot. So let’s hear it: My fellow raw feeders, what do you make of this news? Other dog lovers, where do you stand on a high-protein versus high-carb diet for your pooches?

I’ve never liked guns

Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds? These weapons are not for hunting deer – they’re for hunting people. ~Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)

These things? Never useful.
~Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I found myself in a discussion about guns the night before the Sandy Hook shootings. While I am strongly anti-gun, I don’t hold it against my friends who exercise their second amendment right to own guns and enjoy an afternoon at a shooting range. I asked how easy it was to obtain a gun in Washington and a guy I don’t know very well piped up and said he just bought a shotgun. He went on to describe modifying it so he could load more than the usual number of bullets in it.

My friend said, “Oh, for hunting.”

The guy said, “No.”

In the awkward pause that followed, I wondered if this was the sort of person capable of committing a mass shooting. He clarified that he bought the gun to keep his home safe from intruders, and mostly, he just liked the sound of cocking a shotgun.

Probably the conversation would have taken a different turn if it had taken place after Friday’s shootings.

Say what you want about whether the second amendment guarantees your right to wield an assault weapon, but you cannot refute the fact that many fewer children would have died on Friday if the shooter hadn’t had access to his mom’s guns.

Mentally ill people would still find a way to commit violence, but the death toll would be lower. I’m reminded of the book and movie, We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which (spoiler), a (fictional) school massacre is committed with a bow and arrow.

At least if we make it harder for mentally ill people to get their hands on guns, when these tragedies happen, we can focus our attention on mental illness where it belongs.

Here. This blog can help get us started.

Information Officer

When you hear that 80 percent of Americans say the economy is a significant source of stress, don’t you think the other 20 percent must be in serious denial? Of those surveyed, only 48 percent report being depressed or sad?

I’m depressed about the economy, and in particular the decline of The Newspaper, even though I’m “safe.” I got out of the newspaper business 3 years ago to work for a state university. Good thing I got out of that business 10 months later, since they’ve got money problems too. I have many, many years before retirement, so there’s time for my retirement accounts to bounce back to their former glory.

There’s been no sign that my business will have layoffs, or that I would be on the chopping block if there were. Meanwhile, my peers at newspapers are getting laid off or having their salaries reduced by 5 -10 percent.

One of my duties at my current job is to pitch stories to these newspapers. But they have fewer reporters than ever, so I’m guessing they’re struggling to cover breaking news and city council meetings.

We’ve kept up with this evolving world of journalism by updating our website. (I don’t actually know if that’s why we changed it, but it’s a fortunate side effect.) Our homepage is like our newsletter. With “press releases” that read more like news stories that happen to tell only the stories we want to tell. We might be biased, but we’re still journalists.

This is actually good for my career. Our quarterly newsletter is a 16-page magazine that comes out (as the name suggests) four times a year. So I went from writing between one and three stories a day at a newspaper to having four to seven printed in a magazine every three months. Slowed my work flow significantly.

Now, my stories can be published online as soon as I write them and have them approved. And there are no limitations on space. I can include photos, audio, video at my discretion. So this should motivate me to find more stories, write more stories, be more productive!

Except I’m too depressed about the economy.

Un-American Girl

Feeling guilty about a review I posted on Amazon last week.

The book is From Baghdad to America and it is the sequel to From Baghdad, With Love and it’s about a dog. Also the war in Iraq and the Marine who rescued the dog and moved with him to La Jolla.

(Hey, La Jolla readers, have you ever seen this guy at the park? Be careful, his dog has PTSD.)

As my review says, I really enjoyed the first one. The second one, not so much. Maybe my standards are too high, because I judged it against books written by writers, not written by Marines. (No offense to any members of my family who actually are Marines.) I’m not being snotty here…I don’t think he’s a great writer. Period. Reviews that rave about what a great writer he is, how clever, how expressive, etc., have an implied “for a Marine” after each of those sentiments.

I didn’t think he was a good storyteller when I read the first book, but it was such a wonderful story, it didn’t matter. Here, I think it does. As I said.

He’s not a terrible writer or anything. He does express his feelings quite precisely. I’m just saying the book could have been better. But next to all those reviews about how life-changing and important this book is, I feel kind of like a jerk. Insensitive to the plight of combat veterans.

My review says I found it “ridiculous” that he thinks he doesn’t have PTSD. What I really meant was “offensive,” but I changed it.

Seriously, it offended me. It does a disservice to combat veterans, like him, who don’t want to admit they have a problem. Case in point, this New York Times article. Except reading that article made me feel bad again, for dissing the book. Like I ‘m shooting down a heartfelt effort to raise awareness. Which I don’t mean to do — my criticism is meant to suggest ways the story could be better told. How it could have moved hard-hearted Anti-Americans such as myself, instead of frustrating me to the point that I’m thinking, “Yeah, yeah, you saw a lot of people get blown up. I get it.”

Tell me more about what it was like for the dog. You’ll get through to me.

See, I was moderately affected by the aforementioned NY Times article about combat vets and alcoholism. Then I clicked through to this first-person column about a 50-year-old dude who had a heart attack. And got really choked up. Do I relate more to 50-year-old documentary producers than I do to combat veterans? Yeah, probably. Still, it says something about the power of a personal story versus sweeping generalizations.

In the journalism community, we call that “putting a face on it.”

What’s up, Blogosphere?

Got some bears in the news.

Man jailed in India for riding around with a bear on his bicycle:

That’s not my photo, btw. Courtesy of Associated Press.

We’re trying to domesticate them closer to home, too.

The news around me is that I’m all about upgrading this week. I’ve been wanting a widescreen TV for quite a while. Don’t have any pressing need to actually pay for HD cable, I just think it would be more fun to watch movies on one of those things.

Eventually I’d like a 40-42-inch in the main TV-watching room, and a 32-inch in the bedroom. I thought I’d get the 32-inch first…but then we’d wind up only wanting to watch TV in the bedroom, so I think I’ll put it in the big room and then when we get the big TV, move the small TV to the bedroom. Pretty sure a 32-inch widescreen will be better than what we have now.

I’d be all for getting HD cable, but evidently, you need a whole different TiVo for that. I learned this while shopping around for a new TiVo because the $5 garage sale one in the bedroom is dying. And really, there’s no going back. I simply can’t watch The Today Show without the ability to pause and instant replay. Rob’s put on a brave front, but I think he’ll suffer without a constantly rotating assortment of Seinfelds in the queue.

I’ve found a $40 “new in box, barely used” TiVo on Craigslist, so that ought to tide us over. It seemed so silly to pay $100+ for a new standard TV TiVo, only to have to upgrade it in a few years to an HDTiVO.

Very confusing. I think I’ve determined that it’s OK to have an HDTV without HD cable (although not preferred, I understand), but you can’t have HD cable without HD TiVo…so that upgrade will have to happen simultaneously. And expensively.

Right.

Then there’s the cell phone thing. I’m eligible for an upgrade! I don’t even care if my phone has a camera in it, and I’m not going to pay $30 more a month for all that GPS, data, BlackBerry nonsense. But I do rely on my cell phone as my primary line. The home line is for business. Call my house, the answering machine doesn’t even mention my name. I don’t mind. Gets me off the hook for ever having to answer the thing.

Is it tragic that I’m tempted by something called the Pantech Breeze, which was designed with senior citizens and the disabled in mind? Big buttons, big display, easy to navigate, what’s not to like? I think though, that I’ll be going with Motorola RZR2, which if you’ll click through, you’ll see that I will get paid to purchase. $24.99 minus $50 rebate = -$25.01, which of course is +$25.01 in my bank account.

Now, I know I have a lot of readers here, so if this phone sells out, or the deal is no longer available by July 1, when I am eligible for the upgrade, I’m going to be so pissed at all of you.