Tuesday, October 26, 2010

These Two Faces Might Send Me Off the Deep End

I will have a house update soon. There is one more inspection we will be having Thursday and I want to be sure everything is sorted out before I say more.

In the meantime, let me present you with the faces of evil.

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Sure, they look innocent enough, but they might very well drive me insane in the next month. Now that I *think* we will be moving, the birds are irritating me more than ever. It's like they know they only have about a month left to be catered to 24/7. Monty's face says, "don't even THINK about peeing alone, lady, because I'm going to scream so loudly, your neighbors will be slipping notes under your door before you know it." And so, Monty sits on my shoulder while I pee. There, I admit it.

I've been enjoying a nice period of relative quiet out of Lola that I've come to enjoy. She seems to be past her egg-laying stage for the year which leaves me with a sweet, quiet cockatiel. But for some reason, she has turned into a screaming banshee in the last few days. When Monty screams, he wants to be picked up. When Lola screams, she wants...well, I don't know what she wants. I'm convinced her brain is in backwards or her neurons aren't firing quite right because no matter what I do, I cannot please her. Pet me. Don't pet me. Pick me up. Put me down. Put me to bed. No, now I want to sit on you. It's making me crazy. At least with Monty I can serve as his personal escort around the condo and he will be quiet. Lola may continue screaming no matter what I try.

And then this morning, I almost killed them both!!! Not really, but I was exasperated. I pack up my stuff and Lola knows it's almost time to go into her cage. Lola is not finger-trained, but she has a stick she steps up on. When I get her stick out, she starts her flying around the room business, complete with wails of desperation. That in turns sets Monty off, who cannot fly. So, he falls onto the floor and immediately runs under the coffee table. This starts a really fun game of me laying on the floor, gently coaxing Monty out from under the coffee table. I use my nicest, most patient voice and pat the floor, while mentally, I'm saying to myself, "you'd better get out here, you little shit. I don't have all day." He'll get just close enough for me to reach out my finger for him to step up, but as soon as I do, he scrambles back under the coffee table.

And this goes on. And on. Mrs. Nice Birdie Escort no longer. I get one of Levi's toys to poke him out from under the table. Except he runs the other way and as soon as I get over there, he runs back under. It's beyond infuriating. And do you know what my perfect angel dog is doing? Just laying down, waiting patiently for his Kong, watching me try to get this little shithead bird back into his cage. Said bird even runs right up to perfect angel dog, who does nothing but look at me with angelic eyes. I swear I can hear the cherubs singing when he looks at me.

Finally, Monty decides the game is over. He runs out from under the table and just as I go to pick him up, he squeezes out the tiniest shit ever onto the carpet. Really, Monty? You couldn't wait two more seconds for me to get you to your cage? I swear, he did it just to spite me. Monty goes into his cage, Levi gets his Kong, and my sanity continues to slip away...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy National Pit Bull Awareness Day and Pit Bull Blog Roll Call

Today is the day I honor my dog's breed because it's National Pit Bull Awareness Day. Because of this, I am going to give a shout out to the numerous pit bull-related blogs I subscribe to. I hope you check out some of these blogs, from rescue groups to pit bull owners just like myself. All of these people are doing what they can to improve the reputation of our misunderstood breed and getting their dogs out there in the public to serve as ambassadors. I will also include a few websites and a forum that are invaluable resources for learning about pit bulls, what they are up against, and how to help solve the problem created by irresponsible owners, misguided legislation, and a grossly biased media. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to leave a comment and tell me where you go to read more about pit bulls!

Website Resources

Rescue Group Blogs

Owner Blogs/Foster Dog Blogs/Just For Fun
Pitter Patter (YOU MUST VISIT THIS ONE!!!)

I read other dog-related blogs, but I wanted to focus this post on pit bulls. Please let me know if you have a pit bull-related blog that I left out or if you read one yourself that I'm not aware of. I am going to eventually put a sidebar link to this post on my front page for easy access.

And now for a few pictures! Levi had a playdate last night with Neptune, a dog available for adoption with Stray Rescue of St. Louis. He was found starving with a huge abscess on his neck near East St. Louis. He was an emotional shell. He is being fostered by Andrea and is coming around. He might still pancake when he is scared, but he desperately wants to be loved. Andrea says he is a total dream of a foster. We'll see if he is still up for adoption when we move because I think he has the potential to be bird-friendly or at least bird-friendly with training. But really, I am hoping to be just like A and E from Two Pitties in the City, one of our favorite dog blogs (they have a pit bull and an American bulldog). That's your cue to go see how adorable their dogs Mr. B. and Ms. M. are. Really, I'll wait here for your return.

We met Andrea in Forest Park and walked Levi and Neptune together. We also let them play together in an empty field. Levi was a total nut so you can tell the weather here is finally cool enough for him to have a pulse. Neptune is still gaining weight and his coat will improve now that he is getting good nutrition. This poor boy has been through a lot, but he is a perfect example of the resilient nature of dogs categorized as pit bulls.

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Recognize the collar? It doesn't fit Levi anymore, so I gave it to Andrea.

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Neptune smothered all of us in kisses.

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The demon eyes from the flash sometimes look more normal than when I try to fix them using the Furball Red Eye editor in Picknik.

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Nepune will be losing those balls prior to his adoption in case you are wondering.

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We got Levi moving with a stick and he kindly shared it with Neptune.

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I hope all you pit bull owners out there in the blogosphere are enjoying National Pit Bull Awareness Day. I think our breed has made a lot of strides in the last year, but we have a long way to go. Here's to another year of spreading the word about our fantastic dogs using our blogs as the medium. I enjoy reading each and every one of your blogs even if I am not an active commenter. Please continue to provide me free entertainment:)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

House Hunting Stories I Didn't Tell

You probably don't remember, but there were a few times I alluded to exciting things happening soon in regard to our home search. Back over the summer, we had passed by a house in Shaw that had a sign out front advertising a green historical renovation. While we continued to check new real estate listings (constantly), we contacted the company on the sign to inquire about the house. Basically, this company specialized in historic rehabs in the city and they work closely with St. Louis City government offices to completely remodel homes while taking advantage of significant tax credits. So, they bought this house from the city for $1 and drew up the plans for the remodel. All of this happened prior to the recession and the original plans were to secure financing themselves, rehab the house, and then put it on the market. When the economy fell apart, it became nearly impossible for contractors to get loans and the property just sat.

When we came along, we began to explore the possibility of getting a construction loan to finance the rehab. At the same time, the contractor worked on an itemized list of the cost of everything involved with the project, from tearing down the back wall and replacing it, to the mailbox. Everything you could imagine. We went and saw a house they rehabbed and it was exactly what we wanted. Their work was just gorgeous, retaining the charm and history of old St. Louis city homes while updating them with new amenities. In fact, I want to mention their name because they were so nice to us. The company is Blue Brick and you can see their projects on their website. I was hesitant to talk about this before because the address of the house we were interested in is on their website and I didn't want to advertise the exact location of where we could possibly be living. You can see on their website the condition of the homes when they began. Scary. And the transformations are remarkable. In our house hunting journey, we saw a lot of shoddy rehabs, but I can tell you that Blue Brick's work is top notch.

Anyway, we worked for months trying to figure out how we were going to finance the project. We explored both the construction loan and a 203k loan. The idea of having a house that we basically choose everything for was so enticing. But at the same time, construction would take at least six months and it was taking months to even get the initial steps of financing going. We just kept riding it out while keeping our eyes open for new properties to come on the market. We were initially told that a construction loan would require at least 20-25% down, which is just not possible for us without selling our condo. The contractor did a lot of research on his end to find local banks that understood the local tax credit laws. In the end, we decided to offer on the house we're under contract on because it had everything we wanted. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to move now rather than wait for something that we might not even be able to finance. Plus, the idea of living in the condo with the birds for many more months would require more pharmaceuticals than the law allows:)

I am sorry that we didn't get to work with Blue Brick because the people we met were just nice guys, totally down to earth, and really knew their way around the city laws and tax credit system. We will definitely keep them in mind down the road if we decide to finish the basement in our new house. And please keep them in mind if you have a project that you want professionally finished!

And on that note, I will leave you with a sneak peek of some of my favorite features from our new house. I am going to take a bunch of my own at the inspection on Friday and will report back with many, many more.

The updated kitchen with a peek into the sunroom/breakfast room in back:

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The sunroom/porch off the master bedroom. There is even a balcony off the porch.

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The mudroom...

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...complete with dog shower. Meant to be, right?

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The most beautiful room in the house, the living or family room. The molding, the coffered ceiling, I swoon.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Official: We Are Under Contract on a HOUSE!

It all happened really fast and I will share more details soon, but Saturday was the day that I was starting to think would never come! We saw a house that just came on the market, we fell in love with it, we offered, and they accepted! We will be moving to one of our ideal neighborhoods, Shaw, in December. Which is really freaking soon! We close the Monday after Thanksgiving. I can't believe we will be celebrating Christmas in our new house. Somebody needs to pinch me because I still can't believe it's really, truly happening. It's been almost two years since we first decided we wanted to move, then we had to put our plans on hold. It's been over a year since we put our condo on the market. It's been almost six months since we actively started looking for a house. Wow, wow, wow.

The house itself is 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and has a relatively large yard for Levi. It's pretty big, actually. The house is on a corner lot, which is nice because you only have a neighbor on one side and the distance between the two houses is pretty large for the city. It was a gut rehab, so all the important things are new-windows, roof, HVAC, etc. The kitchen and bathrooms are totally new too. It truly is our dream house. I'll have pictures soon and more details, but just wanted to tell the world (aka the 10 people who read my blog)!

Here is Levi and I the day after we went under contract. He's giving me a high-five for the 10K run I just completed and because we've been telling him all about his new house and how it's not a matter of if he'll get a buddy, it's how many buddies he's going to have:)

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Wish us luck too because the inspection is Friday and I know a lot of things can go wrong with that. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Treats and Levi

Like most dogs, Levi loves food and treats. He gets his twice daily kibble plus a Kong every morning. Sometimes he just gets little peanut butter in his Kong, but we also sometimes stuff it the night before and freeze it. Normally, we mix some oatmeal with a little peanut butter and pumpkin and then plug one end (we get the double sided Kongs) with carrots. He LOVES his Kong. When I put the birds away in the morning, pack my backpack, and turn on the radio, he gets off the couch because he knows it's time. We stopped crating Levi over the summer and other than getting into the trash a few times and eating Lola's cuttlebone (why?) I left out, he's been an angel. We still have his crate set up and he is such a good boy that he keeps his Kong in his crate while he eats it. In spite of his massive jaws, we find the Kong stand up pretty well to his chewing. We buy two at a time so that we only have to make his Kongs every other night. It works out pretty well.

He gets a generic Greenie every night (have you seen how expensive real Greenies are?) after his nighttime walk. Either he loves the routine of getting the nightly Greenie or he really loves Greenies because he goes bananas for them. We run through all of his tricks and he performs with enthusiasm. Other than that, he gets small training treats or even Cheerios on walks. It's funny because while Levi will perform for a Cheerio, most of the shelter dogs won't even eat them. I guess those shelter dogs are spoiled!

Since we don't have a yard and have carpeting, we can't really give him messy bones to chew on. That's okay though because we buy him deer antlers, which are awesome and he loves them. They last a relatively long time and unlike bones, they don't splinter. I'm not sure if all dogs are capable of this, but Levi leaves sort of a residue when he chews the antler. It's not awful and we put sheets down on his bed and the carpet to catch the drool and any mess. We always supervise him with anything he chews on because of the risk of swallowing pieces.

Here is Levi demonstrating his love of antlers.

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Sometimes we get him a bully stick, which is pretty much the grossest thing in the world (dried bull penis), but he loves them. I'm not sure how long bully sticks last for dogs with non-pit bull-like jaws, but Levi can devour a single one in about 10 or 15 minutes. And it's nasty. I have proof, because there is nothing more you want to see than my frothing-at-the-mouth dog with his dried bull penis.

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I know those are gross, but I find them hilarious.

To cleanse your palate, I will now show you a few of him with his birthday cookie we got him for his Gotcha Day back in June. I made him wait to eat it so I could snap a few pictures.

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What does your dog go crazy for? Anyone else have experience with antlers?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Triathlon Results

I'm so. far. behind. Not having a computer is not at all conducive to blogging or catching up on other blogs. We were in Washington, DC for my 10-year college reunion this past weekend (hopefully a post to come on that) and last week was a whirlwind of getting everything ready, getting the animals ready to go to two separate homes, getting paperwork together for refinancing the condo, etc. I have so much work to do for my research assistantship, aka paying job, at school on top of my own research, which is, once again, giving me tons of trouble. Ugh. So, no October things to do this month. Sorry. A lot of the good stuff already happened this past weekend anyway.

So, the triathlon went really great! We placed 6th again out of 33 teams. But the exciting thing is that less than a minute separated 4th and 6th, so I am very proud of us. The top three were light years ahead. I mean, the winning team had a runner who averaged a 5:37 pace. Wow. But, considering we were a co-ed team and we were mixed in with everyone else, I'm pretty satisfied.

The swim was about the same as last time except there was a girl in front of me I could not quite pass. I was on her heels the entire time, hoping she would let me go at the end of a lane, but no such luck. I finished a few seconds faster than last time, in 9:42 for 500m (12th overall). The last time I swam laps was at the race in June, so I can't complain.

With our crazy schedules lately, Jason just hasn't had a chance to ride his bike as much as he would like. Well, not much at all, really. Poor Jason. His time was not as fast as last time, but he still finished in 6th place for all the bike team times, at 1:01:00 for 20 miles. He also did not have the fancy race wheels this time around, so I told him that's why he was slower;)

I was really nervous to start the run. The night before the race, we went to the shelter and walked dogs for about two and a half hours. What else are we going to do on a Saturday night before a race, right? I wore my new SI belt to see how comfortable it was and if it rubbed my skin anywhere. After all that walking, my lower back felt great! No pain at all! Truly remarkable. I spent quite a bit of time adjusting it prior to the run on Sunday. Let me tell you, this belt might be functional, but it is not flattering. I wear it over my undies and under my clothes. Basically, it squeezes all your fat above the belt, creating a muffin top of massive proportions. And I could feel my muffin top jiggling while I ran. No one ever said running was glamorous, so I just have to suck it up and deal if people are mesmerized by my fat rolls.

I am happy to report that the muffin top-maker did its job and I had a nearly pain-free run. No lower back pain and just a little pain in my butt. That combined with the very cool weather helped me run much faster than I have been lately. I finished 4.4 miles in 37:25 (9th place overall), which is an 8.5 minute mile. Not my fastest run ever, but I was excited to feel good again.

I get to stop physical therapy soon (hopefully after my next appointment), granted I keep wearing the belt, work on strengthening my abs (ha), and continue my endless parade of exercises. I am excited that my runs are getting better during my favorite running time of the year. Maybe they will actually be enjoyable.

This is one boring post, but I wanted to document it for myself, in the spirit of blogging as journal-writing. Oh, and I am writing on my new Lenovo, so life is good again. Here is a picture of the Grim Reaper holding one of the more interesting signs at that rally that was at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. All that blabbing and I still have no clue what they were talking about. But that's the DC experience for you.

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