In the neighborhood, in the neigh-bor-hood!

March 2017

About a year ago, I started running.  Voluntarily, with nothing chasing me.  I bought good sneakers that fit my orthotics (my knees have history) and a Wind Breaker and a little belt in which to keep my phone for music.  I used the Couch To 5K app to help me get started. If you were around my neighborhood, you’d see me jogging and walking and jogging and walking and huffing and puffing three days a week.  I did it for exercise and to help prepare for a musical I was in last summer.

(To be clear, I tried to take Zozo with me.  He wasn’t having it.  It could be I was too slow or he was too interested in pooping when there were no cans around.  Either way, opportunity lost.)

I hate running.  I struggle with it, but I keep at it.  I like the fresh air.  I like reporting back on homes for sale or new lawn decorations.  But mostly, I like that I get a chance to see neighborhood dogs.

Bradley is a handsome Sheltie who trots his dad along.  When he sees you, no matter how far off, he sits and waits.  His dad waits, too.  You may not pass Bradley without petting him, for he will follow you until you pet him.  Sometimes coming and going, I get some Bradley love.  Bradley’s dad gets a lot of interrupted walks.

Ariel is a German Shepherd with the largest ears I’ve ever seen.  She moved into a house as a puppy, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow into her feet.  Her eyes are amber. When her dad walks her to the local middle school to collect her human siblings, she’s off-leash, focused and disinterested in sharing the sidewalk.  Disciplined. So disciplined.

There’s a dog– sometimes two– that live in a house one street over.  I refer to this dog as Evil Dog.  I think his name is Storm.  I’m not sure.  He’s a fence charger and a jail-breaker.  From out of no where, he’ll come charging the fence, barking at passers-by, not at all phased by the beeping of the electric fence collar his owners have on him for extra restraint.  Maybe I’m being unkind– I suspect he’s lonely, bored, or poorly socialized– but he scares me to death every. damn. run.  (One time he hopped the fence and walked to Home Depot.  He was found in the plumbing section.)

A Burmese Mountain Dog broke away from his tweenage companion and knocked me over, stood on my legs and licked my hair.  The crackle of a changing voice screaming “MOM”, “HELP” and “HE’S JUST A PUPPY” was heartbreaking.  When I realized I wasn’t being mauled to death, we all calmed down and had a giggle.  And then I cried the rest of the way home.  Run cut short.  (They have a fence now.)

The long-haired Chihuahua.  This little thing, wearing a bedazzled orange harness, came running yap-yap-yap out of an open garage and chased me down the street.  When I turned back to him, he put his tush down and hushed.  I walked towards him and he backed up, turned around and started towards home.  I resumed my run and he resumed his.  I picked up my pace and flipped a corner.  I have no idea where he went, but I hope it was home, along the sidewalk.

There’s a beagle who guards a neighbor’s chicken coop and generally hangs out in the middle of the street.  He’s a weirdo.  People just drive around him, or get out of their cars to shoo him home.

There’s an older Korean gentleman who walks his cat.  I want to make friends with him.


Cut a Rug (pardon the gross)

Fall 2010

Zozo loves his new food.  He scarfs it down and burps his approval.  In fact, burping in our faces has become his favorite morning party trick.  To be clear, nothing is less “rise-and shine-y” than a border collie gracing you with warm kibble breath belched up your nose.

He’s making pals with the dogs on the other side of the fence and getting accustomed to the flow of the new neighborhood.  He’s calming down.  We’re relieved.

But pet ownership, like home ownership, means that once one issue is resolved another creeps up.  Or maybe that’s just my luck.


Athena has always been fond of lurking in the basement.  From her perch on the bookshelves, she can scoot upstairs for food, hunt spider crickets as they spring out of thin air, or hop on over for a leisurely visit to her litter box.  Her box is stationed in a guest bathroom.  She knows where to find it.  She’s awesome like that.

Except for some reason, our 7 year old fuzzybutt doesn’t want to use her litter box anymore.  Poops still end up where they should (hooray!).  For everything else, she’s chosen the corner of the basement just outside the litter box bathroom door.  On carpet.  We go through baking soda, vinegar and Anti-Icky Poo to kill the enzymes and the smell, but she gingerly picks a spot beside a recently cleaned area and reclaims her territory.  Medically, there’s nothing wrong with her.  We throw down towels and tin foil, and move her litter box out.  We buy a new litter box.

That seems to do the trick.  For a week, my sniffer’s not picking up ammonia.  I happen to breathe a sigh of relief and mention to James that we might be out of the woods.

Oh, silly woman, have you learned nothing?

I’m taking down some laundry and I step in a puddle.  I’m so grossed out/surprised, I drop the clothes.  Because this girl just can’t win.

Not long after, we happen to be outside playing ball with Zozo when Neighbor leans across the fence to chat. (PS, does anyone else have a neighbor who stops to chat and sucks up 45 minutes of your life?  Vampires.  Suburban Vampires.)  In a moment of weakness, I confess Athena’s urinary misbehavings, and Neighbor scratches his chin, flicks his ciggie, and ruminates that maybe it has something to do with the previous owner’s Saint Bernard who may or may not have passed away in “that very corner you’re describing.”  I can’t even begin to unpack everything in that sentence, but I know what I have to do.

On the way back into the house, I stop in the garage and pick up an industrial trash bag, gloves, a hammer and a utility knife.  I close Athena in the powder room with some catnip and I crate Zozo. I relocate her litter box.  I pull on long sleeves and solid shoes.

And I proceed to tear up the basement carpet.  I start on the marking corner.  Up comes the carpet.  Out goes the carpet padding.  I pry away the carpet tacks and tack boards.  I wipe everything down with vinegar.  All of the evidence of my handiwork (except the big, naked corner that’s now half the length of the basement) is bundled into the bags and hauled out to the curb.

One week later, I wipe down the corner again with a natural enzyme cleaner and we put the litter box back.

And then we wait.

Weeks pass.  Months.  No kitty “accidents”, intentional or otherwise.  Occassionally we’ll catch Athena sniffing around the site, but she hussy-walks over to her box and makes herself comfy there.