Currently – v.04 {2014}

I’m overdue for a “Currently” update. So here goes!

Loving the new pup in our life. About a week after we said our goodbyes to Sasha, our doggie daycare posted about a pup that they were fostering. She’s a bit on the young side (guessing 8 or 9 months) and did not come house-trained. So far, it has been quite a different experience compared to when we first brought Sasha home. We definitely took for granted the “being house-trained” part. In the first few days, I cleaned up a handful of accidents. We are down to almost none, but I won’t get too excited until we leave her outside of the crate while we’re at work.

The rescue group has our check and is waiting for the “yay” or “nay” before depositing it. We have until Friday, but it is pretty obvious which way we are leaning. We have been calling her “Fresca” for the time being, so there may be more Fresca updates to come.

Loathing the jerks who broke my car window at the beginning of last weekend. After volunteering for four hours, I got back to my car to find the nasty surprise. They had smashed windows of cars all along the block, so it wasn’t targeted. Nothing was taken, thankfully, though I make it a habit not to keep anything in the car.

But to make matters worse, while I was sitting in my car filing a police report on my phone, a guy on a bike rides by. He stops at my car and proceeds to show me something on his phone. Porn. Yay. Great.

Watching my spending. A broken window and a new pup = $$.

Feeling lethargic these days. I bought a Dailey Method deal, so hopefully adding a little exercise will help. I went to my first class over the weekend.

Planning to post more, I promise!

Working on one online class this semester. I haven’t decided if I will try retaking the CPA exam at this point, but I thought I’d knock out some of the education requirements anyway.

Wishing for a whole lot of patience. Fresca has and hasn’t been the easiest to train. She is smart, so sometimes her brains get the best of her, and she’s got a little rambunctious streak.

Looking forward to Labor Day weekend trip to Yosemite with Trail Mavens. I heard about the group from Abby who went on a kayaking/camping trip with the group earlier in the month. I am excited, but also anxious. There’s a long hike on Sunday that my body is dreading just a little bit. I know that I will be sore afterwards. We’ll see how it goes!

What are you currently up to?

Goodbye, Sasha [Repost]

This post was written by Ryan about our dear companion, Sasha.

Not a Dog Person

I can’t remember any point in my life where I felt like a dog person. To be honest, most made me nervous to be around. Dogs were something to be kept in the yard and brought out to play sometimes.

Perhaps it was because I valued my independence and living flexibility that the thought of having a dog never even crossed my mind. The few times the idea was entertained, it was dismissed because I didn’t want to commit to one.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those circumstances began to change when I met my girlfriend, and when we moved into our current house. She started entertaining the idea of getting a dog in her best way: sending me links of dogs for adoption.

At first I passed off the idea as whimsy, but then I figured out that she was serious, but didn’t want to push it too hard – after all, I wasn’t a dog person. Fast-forward several months and now I’ve set up a criteria:

  • Must be able to walk itself
  • Must be intelligent/loyal
  • Not too small

“Senior” Dog

So when she sent me a picture of Sasha for the first time, I could tell from one look that I wanted this dog. She was older – 7 years – but only had one previous owner and her history was well-known already. Let’s see how our criteria looks:

  • Must be able to walk itself Yep
  • Must be intelligent/loyal German Shepherd mix, probably with an Australian Kelpie. Check.
  • Not too small 60 pounds will do

Great, we’ll take her.

Bonus: Being older, she didn’t have as much energy as her younger years and was well-adjusted to life with an owner… so they said.

The Humans Learned

That first month or two really caught us off guard. She. Was. A. Nut. While she behaved herself at home alone, this only came after two walks a day. On top of that, these weren’t simple walks around the block – they had to be places where she could run her heart out.

The separation anxiety was another issue entirely. From the first night she would scratch at the door to get in while we were sleeping. We did what you were “supposed” to and ignored her until she went to sleep. But there was no proper manual for Sasha, because she would just stand up scratching the door for hours until you came out. Talk about a jarring way to wake up!

One of my favorite memories from that time was going out there to sleep near her on the couch. I started having a dream that I was in a place with a lot of gravity. Everything was weighing down on me, and I didn’t know why. Then I woke up to find her sleeping on top of me.

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Eventually we figured things out.

You know those walks at the park? They were boring, apparently. Increasing the walk time and frequency had no effect on her midnight behavior, either. She was lacking mental stimulation.

So we decided to get creative with teaching her new tricks. Lucky for us, she was eager to learn new things and get rewarded for it.

“Earthquake” Go find the nearest cover and wait there (A San Francisco favorite!)

“Obedience”

Sasha became far more obedient over our time with her, but I think she just found ways to satisfy us while still getting her way.

When we first got her, she would not drop her ball for any reason. In fact she’d fight you over it and run away. This made for some challenging times at the dog park when she would chase down someone else’s ball you needed to return. Eventually she started listening with some work from us. We had won.

But then I noticed something else happening. Whenever I’d throw the ball for her at the park, she stopped returning so quickly. For some reason, she always had to pee after retrieving the ball, even though we just walked for half an hour? She would also steer clear of me by a good 30 yards.

Then it clicked for me: She knew if she came close, I’d tell her to drop it and she had to obey. She also knew that I stopped calling her if she was going to the bathroom. She didn’t have to go to the bathroom, she was avoiding giving the ball up!

Gentle Monster

She was always an affectionate dog to people in her pack. She would love to put her head under your hand and fling it up so you would pet her. She did it so often it even got annoying at times. So I started hiding my hand. Her response? Put her paw on you and drag your hand over to pet her.

Even though she wasn’t good with cats at first, once she learned she even got affectionate with him. She would lick his head, and he would like it and rub himself all over her.

Sergio is another amazing animal story for another day, but let’s say he came a long way with Sasha, the dog he was initially convinced wanted to eat him.

She also reacted well to other dogs. Sure, she got grumpy if they wanted to play physically, but she never once retaliated or showed any aggression towards a dog. Not even the little Chihuahua who charged her and attacked one random morning. She just ran away even though she probably could have made quick work of it.

Squirrel!

I had finally found her favorite park – McLaren Park. It’s seriously a great place with various areas, hiking trails, lakes and most importantly – squirrels. At first she would rambunctiously chase them on sight, and they’d have no problem getting away up a tree. So I decided to teach her to be stealthy. In no time she learned to approach quietly, from cover, and don’t start sprinting until you’re close enough to have a chance.

Only problem is, while I didn’t think she had the prey drive, you would never really know until she had a shot. She was put to the test one day when two fighting squirrels fell 30 feet from a tree. I remember thinking it was amazing they were still fighting after such a long fall, but before I could even complete the thought, Sasha was already running down the field for them! I thought, “OK, that’s it. I’ll find squirrel recipes.”

When she got there, she stopped – the squirrels hadn’t noticed. She stood over them a second, staring, trying to figure out why they weren’t running away. They figured it out when she let out a loud bark, which sent both of them back up the tree again, together, to quarrel another day.

Our Final Days

Sasha always behaved a certain way when she was afraid of something, and it usually meant crawling under my desk to shelter herself. So one day, and the beginning of July, she crawled under my desk, feeling sick. Having seen two dead, non-roadkill skunks in McLaren park that week, we first suspected poisinous meatballs that some idiot had been leaving around the city.

A trip to the pet hospital didn’t find any such evidence, and over the weekend we eventually found out it was far worse – she had Lymphoma, and that couldn’t be fixed. We did what was reasonable and put her on medication to slow down the cancer so she could feel better temporarily.

We spent our last month with her cherishing every moment, and trying to only worry when we had to. Despite our best efforts to stay cheery, handling the gravity of what was about to happen was difficult and grew harder as our last days closed in.

One random Thursday evening, I decided to take her back to her favorite park one last time (we hadn’t gone in a couple of weeks). I had forgotten her collar, but it didn’t matter anymore. Despite her degraded condition she had a blast, running around like it was her last time. Unfortunately, she may have known it was.

The next morning she went under my desk one last time, not eating anything she had ravenously consumed the day before. It was time, and we had Dr. Van Horn scheduled to come out later that day.

Looking back, no matter how tired or interested she was in something else, she never voluntarily left our sight. Not even when I was doing something mundane like taking out the garbage, doing laundry, or even going to the bathroom. So the least we could do was be there in her sight until she departed. I think she appreciated it because her final moments were peaceful as she lay on the couch, without a single protest or sign of discomfort.

When it was over I carried her lifeless body out of our house as gently as I could, cherishing her physical self last time, and said goodbye with a kiss she couldn’t feel anymore. It was the only dignity I could show an animal who had given me joy every day I was with her, made me miss her when we were away, and ultimately made me a dog person.

Rest in Peace, Sasha. We’ll always miss you.

July 2014 in Pictures : Month of Sasha

At the beginning of July, we found out that Sasha had lymphoma. Without chemotherapy, she would have about 4 to 6 weeks left. I dedicated most of July’s #365infocus photo project to documenting our lives with Sasha one final time.

July 2014 in Pictures

When Sasha arrived at our home, she was seven years young. Her family of seven years had abandoned her for reasons that we didn’t dig into. She was now a part of our family, and we hoped to enjoy many years with our new friend.

It wasn’t smooth sailing with Sasha in the first six months when we were still learning to incorporate her into our lives, but slowly and surely, it happened. Even Sergio grew to love her.

July 2014 in Pictures

With steroids and a bunch of supplements keeping her going in the following weeks, it was pretty obvious where this was all headed. Some days were better than others, and it gave us a false sense of hope, even when we knew what was inevitable.

July 2014 in Pictures

We will never forget her energy and smile, her nuttiness, and her love for her pack.

July 2014 in Pictures

The evening before her last day was a Thursday night. Ryan decided on a whim to take her out to romp around at her favorite neighborhood park. He had prepared an extra special meal for her that evening as well because she was acting a little pickier than normal. We didn’t know at the time that those would be her last walk and last meal.

July 2014 in Pictures

We knew she was close, but not this close. We had called the in-home vet during the day to make an appointment for Monday with a back-up appointment for Saturday.

She never made it that far. On Friday morning, things seemed normal. She even walked to the top of the stairs to send me off to work. Friday noon, Ryan sent me a text. I tried to bargain.


Fortunately, my selfish request was not answered. Her body was no longer her own, and to drag her through another minute would have been torture.

And just like that, about four weeks from our initial vet visit and three years from when we first met her, we said goodbye to our dear companion Sasha.

Relive the Batkid Moment

Living in San Francisco, cool, fun and random things seem to happen in this city all the time. Excluding some good years in sports, few bring together an entire city.

November 15th of last year was one such day – the day that 5-year-old boy named Miles Scott became Batkid. Through Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, Miles who had spent most of his life battling leukemia (and beating it!) was able to see his wish of becoming Batkid come true. Well, not just see since he was literally running around the city fighting off bad guys and saving damsels in distress!

Batkid

While I was unable to participate in Batkid since my work takes me about 25 minutes outside of the city, my social media outlets were flooded by chatter about Batkid and what was taking place. The #SFBatKid and #BatKid hashtags reached more than 1.84 billion people on Twitter and Instagram. I know a lot of my friends working in the city who took a break from their offices to cheer on Batkid.

BatkidAs it turned out, instead of a few hundred people that Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area had hoped for, 25,000 people lined the streets to cheer Miles on as he saved San Francisco aka “Gotham City.” The superhero spirit blew up across the Internet as news of Batkid’s heroics reached over a billion people, including President Obama and the International Space Station!

Talk about a case of FOMO! All I could do was sit on my computer and live vicariously through friends across all social circles who were piping in on the day.

As the title of this post indicates, we can now relive that Batkid moment. Here’s how:

1) At Comic-Con in San Diego right now? On July 27 at 10:30am, there will be a Batkid panel! Dana Nachman (documentary filmmaker, KTF Films) unveils her latest project Batkid: The Film, which chronicles the making of the overnight international phenomenon that is Batkid. The panel features Patricia Wilson (CEO of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area and mastermind behind Batkid), Eric Johnston (Batkid’s adult Batman sidekick and inventor), Mike Jutan (Batkid’s nemesis, The Penguin, and Lucasfilm engineer), and Sue Graham Johnston (The Damsel in Distress and VP of operations, Oracle). The panel will be moderated by Chris Taylor (deputy editor, Mashable).

Batkid

2) Lend your support and learn more about the exciting new Batkid Begins documentary. Supporters of the Indiegogo campaign will get some sweet Batkid-themed swag! Batkid Begins is a sponsored project of Moving Train, Inc., a non-profit organization that funds documentary films, so contributions must be made payable to Moving Train, Inc. and are then tax-deductible (to the extent permitted by law). The IndieGogo campaign will end on August 19, 2014.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. Images courtesy of Clever Girls Collective.

Worse than Poisonous Meatballs

SashaJust before the Fourth of July weekend, Sasha suddenly wasn’t acting like her normal self. She was glum in demeanor and even refused one of her favorite treats. Hello, you’re saying no to bison strips? What’s wrong with you?! Thinking perhaps that she might have been the latest victim of poisonous meatballs, we took her to the vet immediately.

We explained how we had seen dead skunks in a local park in places where you wouldn’t expect to see a dead skunk (ie. on the road). Maybe we had turned away for just a second and she’d gotten a lick of a poisonous meatball? As it turned out, poisonous meatballs would be the least of our worries. In fact, all the tests done that day came back fine.

There was really only one other possibility, and the vet took the samples she needed for this other test. We wouldn’t hear back until the following week since it was a long holiday weekend. So what’s a worried pet parent to do? Look up all the symptoms online.

Sasha Sasha

Based on symptoms and observations, we suspected that it was canine lymphoma, a malignant cancer that involves the lymphoid system. It was the longest long weekend – her condition worsened, so we made another trip to the vet. It got better, but then something else seemed to bother her, so we went to the vet again. Thank goodness for Nor Cal Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Monday rolled around, and I kept an eye on the phone all day long. No word. Then Tuesday came, and at the end of the day, we got the call confirming our suspicions.

She’s now on medication. For the most part, her spirits seem back to normal. She has less energy overall, but she’s hungrier and smilier than ever. We are working on keeping her as healthy (minus chemo) for as long as we can, even if it’s for a short period of time.

We’ve changed many of our plans in July and August due to the circumstances. Our goal is to make her as comfortable and pampered as possible and to take her to all of her favorite places while she can enjoy them. That rule about no sitting on the couch? She now has her blanket on the couch in case she wants to go up there. This past weekend instead of going up to Portland for WDS, we spent a day in wine country and the rest of the weekend in other familiar places. We are sad, but we are doing what we can.

Sasha Sasha

Robyn Arouty recently documented Duke’s last day. He had been with the Roberts family for about three years when they had to make the difficult decision of letting him go.

Ryan and I adopted Sasha about three years ago, and in a short not-yet-determined amount of time, we will have to make the same decision to let her go.

Sasha Sasha

For now, she gets all-she-can-eat treats and as much couch time as she wants.