Archive for Dogs

Time flies faster as we age

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Trina

Alex barks, strains and emits a low growl that increases in volume. I know that growl. All ninety pounds of black lab rear up, testing the strength of his leather leash and the power of my grip. Too late I see a German shepherd looping toward us. My blood sounds loudly in my ears like waves crashing a rocky shore.

The large dog’s owner stands in his yard, makes no attempt to corral his dog, even while Alex continues growling and lunging. I make a futile attempt to drag Alex away.

“Gizmo is friendly,” the man says. He is actually smiling.

“My dog is not!” I yell. Alex is a rescue dog and even three years after we adopted him, he is still aggressive toward other dogs.

Hanging onto the plastic bag of poop I captured from earlier in the walk with my left hand, I jerk Alex’s leash with my right hand. It is like trying to drag a tank. Struggling to keep my footing, I wonder why I am still clutching the bag of poop like it was solid gold. I throw down the bag, grasp Alex’s leash with both hands, while using my body to block Gizmo.

Dragging ninety pounds of a Labrador in the opposite direction he wants to go is impossible. So as the laws of physics decree, I tumble face forward. Eat gravel. Fortunately, the bag of poop cushions my fall. I am astonished that I’m still holding the leash. This is only a small victory because at the end of his leash Alex has Gizmo by the throat.

In a daze, aware of an ache in my knees and blood dripping from my chin, nearly overpowered by the stench of dog shit clinging to my shirt, I stand up. I grab both of Alex’s back legs, hauling him off the larger German shepherd. I hope Gizmo’s owner is right about the friendly bit, because if Gizmo attacks me, I’ll have to let go of Alex and run.

I notice Alex’s legs are bloody either from my cut lip or Gizmo’s teeth.

Gizmo’s owner runs up–a little late for the party. He grabs Gizmo’s collar and drags his dog away muttering “Sorry . . . so sorry.” He doesn’t look back, doesn’t ask if Alex or I needed help.

“You’ve got to keep your dog on a leash, man!” I yell and mutter, “Asshole.”

I wipe blood from my mouth. My upper lip is split where it had lost the battle with the gravel, but at least I didn’t break any teeth. I pull Alex to the side of the road on wobbly legs. “Sit,” I command. He does. How nice. What a model citizen.

I sit on the curb. Tears run down my cheeks and I am aware that I’m shaking. I wipe the moisture away with my hand. The smell of dog shit grows stronger and I realize I’ve just smeared the stuff on my face. I wipe my hands off on the grass and then check Alex for injuries. No blood in his teeth or on his tongue. He must have only gotten Gizmo’s fur. I couldn’t find any cuts on him either. He is lucky.

I am not. My knees hurt. Both are scraped. I brush off my knees, smearing brown stripes down my legs. It could only be dog shit. I fume, cursing Gizmo’s owner. I’m a mile from home. I’ll have to walk back covered in dog excrement. Angry, and, I admit, embarrassed, I curse myself for not bringing my cell phone. I stand up. Or at least try to. My legs don’t hold. I sit hard on the curb, probably adding a bruise on my bum to my other injuries.

 

My grandmother said that time passes more and more quickly as we age. I didn’t understand her words when I was twenty and she was still alive. Now with my 48th birthday approaching, I understand. It seems like only a minute has passed since that day in July when Alex made Gizmo’s acquaintance. I was walking Alex early in the mornings then to avoid the brutal Carolina summer heat. Now, when I walk Alex in the early morning–in a route that takes us nowhere near Gizmo’s home–it is still dark and I’ve traded the shorts and tanks I wore this summer for gloves, a hat and an insulated sweat suit. Now I’m suddenly crunching acorns under my feet and the leaves remaining on the trees have traded their greens for the colors of autumn.

Likewise, time seems to be flying by faster the harder I work at my day job. I have put in hard hours for months at the testing company where I develop science questions. Hard because the project is massive: 30,000 questions. And hard because we have been understaffed. At first the challenge was enough. But, now I want more. As the company gears up with additional staff, I am ready to take a lesser role.

I thought by now I would have made some progress on  THE RIPPER. Instead four months have passed without me opening the Word doc containing the novel. Likewise I have sent out no story submissions. Life is passing me by.

But it took a coworker to help me see how fast. I mentioned that I am the fiction editor of Pig in a Poke to a new manager and he asked me to send him a link to the magazine. When he e-mailed me that he was reading my blog, I was embarrassed. My last blog post was over a month ago.

I’ve started a new writing project that I think will help me get back on track. I am only in the contemplating stage. I’ve made notes and am thinking about how the story will come together. It will take a close up look at how dissociative identify disorder (DID) affects a woman, her relationships and her children. It is different from anything I’ve done so far. I’m excited to get started, which should motivate me to work on it.

I think THE RIPPER novel will take the back burner for now. The characters have grown cold. I think part of the reason I had lost momentum for my writing is that I couldn’t get excited about Rosa’s character.

 

Pig in a Poke update:

Harry has 11 poets lined up for the January issue. I have accepted three stories, but am considering several others. I am still deciding on a few stories sent in as far back as September. If you haven’t gotten a rejection it means I think your story has merit and may place it in the January issue. I have sent rejection letters to all those I know I won’t use. I’m going to try to read all the submissions by next weekend so I can reply to writers.

Yesterday I read ten stories, rejected two and am considering the others. I have 21 more to read before I make my final decision. I plan to read 10 more today and the rest next weekend. The good news is that the quality of stories I am receiving for the Pig is high. I think this last round of submissions is the best I’ve received. But, the high quality makes it tough for me because I will have to reject stories that are good.

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Sick dog

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by Trina

I had planned on posting about my work over the last year–I am working on several short stories and a novel that I’ve given the working title of THE RIPPER. But life intervened in the worst way–assuring me I’ve chosen an appropriate new title for this blog.

Harry and I woke at three in the morning yesterday to a very sick dog. It was the smell that woke us: dog vomit in the living room and worse wafting from upstairs. Harry and I followed the scent upstairs to discover that Alex had used Harry’s office carpet as a bathroom. Normally he would never defecate in the house–he is very housebroken, so he must have been so sick he couldn’t make it outside, poor guy.

Harry immediately called the emergency vet in panic–what we saw on the carpet let us know that Alex was excreting blood. The vet said that bloody stools can be a reaction to Ramidyn (Carprofen), the anti-inflammatory Alex had been taking for his broken tail. Although she couldn’t promise he’d be okay, she thought Alex could wait to see his regular vet at 9 am.

Meanwhile, neither of us could eat anything. The smell was too nauseating. The odor from upstairs permeated the whole house, even the bedroom and kitchen. So I made soap water and we tried to free the carpets of the worst smell I can imagine. It was so cloying that my gag reflex kicked in before the job was even started. Harry did better.

At 9 am, thinking we had gotten the worst of it, we loaded a groggy Alex into the car and headed for the vet.

“It is probably a reaction to the Ramidyn. Some studies are now showing that some breeds, particularly Labradors, are more susceptible to Ramidyn. We’ll need to test his kidneys and liver function . . .”

I stared at the veterinarian in shock. Alex could not have kidney failure. I couldn’t even get my head around that. Worried, we left Alex with the vet and headed home. I toyed with the idea of going to work, but decided to take the day off. I knew I would not be able to concentrate on developing science test questions. Because I work an 80 % schedule, I have one day off per week, normally Friday, so it is just a matter of switching days. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be ecstatic with my decision.

We opened the door of the house to the pungent odor of dog shit, vomit, and chemicals–the worst of it wafting down from upstairs. There was no way Harry could work in his office–he works from home as a marketing writer. I couldn’t even draw a breath up there. Harry called a professional carpet cleaner who said he could be here within the hour, and he was.

I considered going to work to avoid the smell, but I knew I’d be useless there. I gave Harry my office for the day and brought my laptop down to the bedroom. I often write there, so it was no inconvenience. I got as far as opening the document containing my novel in progress. My head immediately started pounding. I suddenly felt too tired even to sit up in bed. But I didn’t want to waste my day off, so I compromised with myself. Instead of turning the TV on and vegging out, which is what I wanted to do, and what I did later in the evening, I did something writing related that didn’t take much concentration. I uploaded the prologue and chapter one of my novel in progress onto my Website. I’ve been wanting to upload and excerpt for weeks, just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Alex is better this morning, although he still does not want to eat, which is very unusual for him. He usually wolfs his food at record speed. He spent the entire day at the vet’s yesterday. He got a shot to stop the vomiting, medication to stop diarrhea and an injection of pain medication. His kidney and liver function are good–we got the results of that test this morning. Long term, Alex will probably not be able to take anti-inflammatory medication. We’ll have to cross that bridge another day, if and when Alex develops arthritis.

The carpet in Harry’s office is now clean and fresh. I cannot believe the carpet cleaner got all of the smell out, but I am pleasantly surprised. A happy ending all around.

Broken Tail

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , , , on March 14, 2010 by Trina

I’m back after a year of learning how to balance writing while working a high-energy day job –sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. When I am most proud of my work, when I feel the writing is sharp, the characters interesting and the plot flowing, something is always sacrificed: working out, time with my husband, chores around the house–who needs clean clothes anyway, or energy for the day job. After trying various schedules and even abstinence from writing for awhile, I decided to start up this blog again with a different focus: how to juggle it all. But most importantly, how to be happy with the consequences. Can I live with an extra pound or two if I give up my work out to finish a challenging chapter? I have learned to say yes, but not every day. I will admit that I’ve given up too many workouts recently, so I’ll be posting about my weight loss challenge.

I hope that what I have learned about finding balance in the writing life will help other writers. This blog should also help to keep me honest. I have learned that I need the structure and goals that blogging gives me. I think I was most productive as a fiction writer when I knew I would have to be accountable to myself and my readers by writing about my progress on a regular basis.

broken tail

A broken tail-only a Labrador can do it well!

It was a timely weekend to begin this blog because yesterday afternoon Alex (our black lab) broke his tail, poor guy. Harry and I spent the afternoon at the emergency vet in Raleigh. The vet had to give him a shot of pain killer just to be able to examine him. It must be very painful. We learned that there is no treatment for a broken tail. The vet can’t splint it because dogs wag their tails so much. So Alex is taking pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. He’s pretty listless.

BTW, the emergency vet is on Vick St. in Raleigh. That address seemed like bad karma.

Because we lost the afternoon, Harry and I both decided to take some time yesterday evening to write–instead of watching TV. I managed to get 900 words of a new story written and 3 submissions out. I was happy with my progress. That’s where the balance– which is really a euphemism for sacrifice– comes in. I had planned to take a long walk with Alex, but the walk didn’t happen. The writing did. And so it goes.

Working at home

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2008 by Trina
Alex with Squeaky

Alex with Squeaky

Four years ago Harry and I got married on Smathers Beach in Key West. Harry and I are going to dinner tonight, but neither of us is much in the mood to celebrate after the crazy day we had yesterday.

I had decided to work at home because in addition to doubling the dosage of my blood pressure medicine, my doctor had prescribed a diuretic. I didn’t want to drive until I found out how I reacted to the new medication. The prescription bottle said it may cause dizziness and to be careful driving or operating machinery, so I didn’t want to chance the 20 mile commute to Durham. Turns out, it doesn’t make me dizzy, just sleepy. I feel like I’m walking in a fog, must be what it feels like to have normal blood pressure.

It should have been a relaxing day working at home. Since Harry works at home, I was looking forward to spending the day with him. Except that we had scheduled John, from Triangle Handyman, whom I highly recommend, to come and replace our hot water heater. It took all day to change out, which meant the water and furnace where shut off. So, here I was at home, first day on a diuretic, and I couldn’t flush the toilet. At least it was warm outside so the lack of heat wasn’t an issue.

That would have been bad enough, but about 9:00 AM, as I was reviewing a batch of science test questions from a writer, my cell phone rang. I was upstairs in my office; my cell was in my purse downstairs. I decided to let it ring. Then the landline rang. Seeing a 607 area code and thinking my daughter must be in trouble, I answered. The call was from Binghamton, New York, but was not Lynn, instead her landlord. He started the conversation with, “We’ve got a problem here.”

I felt my blood pressure rise, new meds withstanding–I had cosigned Lynn’s lease. It turned out to be a misunderstanding. I called Lynn, she called the landlord, and now everything’s hunky dunky, except the rise in my blood pressure.

When the handyman left to go to lunch I let our black lab Alex out. By the time I noticed the open gate, Alex was to hell and gone. I called him, but the blockhead had other ideas, like frolicking in the mud. Harry walked trying to find him and John drove his truck (thanks John) and I drove my car, calling him. I found Alex in his favorite escape route–the yards of an adjacent street where he’s been known to get mucho affection from our neighbors. What fun for him.

The excitable boy put muddy paw prints over most of the exterior of the driver’s side of my “new” car–it’s about six months old–before I could get the door unlocked. Alex then got mud all over the back seat before I got him home. Meanwhile our water is still shut off. I can’t make a soap water to clean my car, so I used Windex and paper towels. I was outgunned by Carolina mud and soon gave up. It is now no secret to anyone who sees my car that I have a dog. I love the blockhead anyway.

Alex was restricted to the house while John was working on the heater outside. Otherwise Alex would have supervised and generally gotten in the way. But he wasn’t happy inside while John was outside. Alex paced, barked and made it clear he wasn’t going to tolerate John out in his yard without him. His continual barking kept me awake–I was tired all afternoon from the medication–but made it almost impossible to work.

Then, when John turned the water back on, water started leaking from the hot water faucet in our kitchen sink. The handle was stripped. It had been loose for a while and Harry and I had procrastinated fixing it, maybe just a coincidence that it chose yesterday for its final gasp. So, I turned off the hot water to the kitchen sink and John gave Harry instructions in how to install a new faucet. We’ll see how that goes Saturday. Meanwhile we have no hot water in the kitchen and won’t be able to run the dishwasher unless we run it on cold.

When John was ready to leave, he realized he had left his tape measure in the shed, so he went outside to get it. When he tried to come back into the house, Alex wouldn’t let him onto the back deck, let alone the back door. We certainly don’t have to worry about anyone breaking into our house.

This morning I took my blood pressure and amazingly it’s normal.

Happy anniversary Harry. If we survived yesterday, we can survive anything!

To puzzle or not to puzzle

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2008 by Trina

Harry and I came back Monday from a four-day weekend in Topsail Island. We took our black lab Alex and frolicked in the waves with him. It was an awesome break that we both needed. And watching our dog have so much fun swimming and chasing his ball over and through waves was worth the extra expense to bring him. Like the commercial, priceless. Aside from Harry dunking in the surf unexpectedly and losing his favorite pair of glasses, the trip was fantastic.

We didn’t take any pictures on the beach because neither of us ever remember to take them, but here is Alex on the back deck with his favorite squeak toy.
Alex with Squeaky

Alex carried Squeaky around everywhere at Topsail Island, just like he does at home. It is so comical to see a 90 pound labrador with a squeak toy. At one point Squeaky fell of the second floor deck and we had to restrain Alex from jumping over the railing to get him.

And that finally brings me to the topic of this post. When Harry and I have downtime on vacation or even relaxing at home on a Saturday afternoon, Harry likes to work crossword puzzles and I like to read novels. At Topsail, I finished David Baldacci’s latest THE WHOLE TRUTH, which was very powerful, and started one of the PREY series by John Sandford. But I digress, I love to read. If I was to sit and work a crossword, I’d be frustrated and bored and probably end up burning the paper and breaking up my pencil into pieces. Harry says working crosswords keeps his mind sharp and makes him a better writer. I have to agree with him. Harry has the most extensive vocabulary of anyone I’ve ever known. I have yet to find a word that he doesn’t know. So am I missing out by not forcing myself to work crossword puzzles? I find reading novels in the genre I’m writing makes me a better writer. I’d much rather read a book.

Is it better to puzzle or to read? What do other writers do in your downtime and what do you do to sharpen your writing skills?

This question won’t be much of an issue for me for awhile. I simply don’t have a lot of downtime. It has been a busy time for me developing questions for state tests. By the time I sit at the computer for ten hours or so editing test questions, I just don’t feel like writing anything, not even this blog. But that’s what they pay me the “big” bucks for, and I like developing tests–it just means I won’t be posting as frequently for awhile.

Also, I’m looking forward to a trip to central New York to visit my daughter and grandson. I’m leaving on Wednesday and I can’t wait.

Congratulations Winner!

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2008 by Trina

The title of this post is the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday. I thought it was a spammer offering me money if I’d only provide my banking information, so I almost deleted it. I am happy that I didn’t. My speculative fiction story “To Live Again“,won $100 and first place in Write Around the Block’s January short story contest. I have never won a contest in my life. I am thrilled.

To Live Again“, holds a special place in my heart. It is the first story that I wrote back in 2002–a dog story with a twist. Second, as I previously posted, it was the first of my stories to appear in a print publication, so it became one of my milestones. I think that seeing that story on the printed page will always be my greatest thrill.

Those of you who know me will realize that “To Live Again” is loosely based on my life. The woman in the story who learns to take charge of her life through her dog is me. I drew on my own experience in an abusive marriage to create Allison’s character, who is too frightened to get out of bed and turn on a light at night. And during the day, she is too scared to leave her house. Then she adopts Vanquisher, a scrappy pit bull terrier mix facing euthanasia.

And so the story was born. I modeled Vanquisher after my dog Buddy, who I am sad to say, most likely came to the same fate as Vanquisher did in the story. Heavy sigh–if he hadn’t, there would be no story.

When I learned that Write Around the Block accepts previously published stories, I revised the story–the first version rambled a bit and had some other issues–and submitted it to the contest. I am thrilled that it won.

I will never consider “”To Live Again”” to be my best story, but writing it helped me learn the art of writing fiction. It will probably always be my favorite, especially because Harry and I recently adopted a black lab. Alex is sweet and mischievous and as beautiful as Buddy was ugly–like Sam in the story. He is intelligent and makes us laugh every day, especially when he squeaks his little plastic bone and does tricks for food. I love him, but he can’t completely fill the void in my heart left by Buddy.

Here’s to strays, shelter dogs and rescued dogs who continue to rescue their saviors.

When does gender matter?

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2008 by Trina

As part of my New Year’s resolutions to finish every story that I start, I’ve just finished Good Game, a story about a man visited by his dead father, although I think the dog steals the show—see below. For you chess players, the story is centered in the world of chess, hence the title. For anyone who doesn’t play chess, you won’t hear players wish each other “Good luck.” That would be considered bad chess etiquette. Since chess is a game of skill, most players would be offended if you wished them luck. The term used before a game and also coinciding with the handshake at the end is “Good game.”

Finally, I’m getting to the point of this blog: when does gender matter? I play chess, but I am unusual in that–I am a woman. Very few women play chess. In fact, when I taught chess both as an elective chess class and an after school chess club for middle school students, almost all of my students were boys. I had one girl only one semester in the chess elective class. I had a couple of other girls start the class and then drop it after a few days. Chess is simply a boy’s sport. Therefore, the audience for Good Game will likely be men.

Here was my dilemma. The main character in the story was a woman who plays chess. I wondered, would men read 2,900 words about a woman? Could they relate to her? And would women want to read a story about a chess player? I wanted to keep her, but I rewrote the story from a male point of view. Did I cave or was I being smart? The male perspective changed the story completely. Men react and show emotion differently than women. A man won’t cry so easily, for example. Since the story is written in first person, it is now a different story than the first draft. But, like my dog trainer says about our dog, “He is what he is.”

servicedog.jpg

As a side note about dogs, in researching the role of the dog in Good Game I ran across the Carolina Canines Web site. Service dogs trained through Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. are able to perform the following tasks for their partners:

• Retrieving dropped/distant objects
• Pulling wheelchairs and loading wheelchairs into vehicles
• Opening doors
• Carrying items/packages
• Rising to high counters
• Physical support for mobility and transfers to/from wheelchairs
• Physical assistance to recover from a fall
• Dressing or undressing
• Assisting with household tasks such as bed making and laundry

Now, we’ve got to quit working with Alex on his aggression issues–as a result of his history before being rescued–and start training him to do household chores. I’ll let you know when he starts making the bed and doing laundry.

I was not surprised to learn that the extensive training required for each service dog takes 18-24 months in basic training and 6-12 months in advanced training. These dogs are provided free of charge from Carolina Canines to people with disabilities including: cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury and seizure disorders. This is a savings of $2,000 – $12,000 for the disabled. What a worthy endeavor. Some people do have a two to three year wait for a service dog, though.

As far as my progress on my young adult NIP, I have reached a standstill. I’m still trying to decide whether to include Pocahontas and, as a result, have lost momentum. I’ll get back to it, though. I always do. Meanwhile, I’m trying to set realistic goals and then focus on one goal at a time. My goal for today is to revise Remission, a story I wrote earlier this year, and submit it to the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. Deadline is February 1. Wish me luck.