Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Hazards of Dog Ownership

Well, I just learned one of the hazards associated with having a dog around the house. No, it's not the one you're probably thinking of, either. You know...walking barefoot in the back yard, like you used to do. Something not quite so bad, but bad nonetheless.

As a guy, we're used to eating things off of the floor. You may have heard of the so-called "five-second rule." Any food that drops on the floor is still good if it's not been there longer than five seconds. This rule is modified, of course, depending on the floor upon which the food falls. I mean, you wouldn't have a five-second rule if you dropped a piece of popcorn at the movie theater. That's assuming that you could even get it unglued from the sticky residue of spilled sodas and dissolved ju-ju beads, which, according to the Discovery Channel's "When We Left Earth," was what they used to fix Apollo 13 and get it safely back to earth. Back in high school, my friend Jon F. ate a half eaten ice cream sandwich he found in a trash can at Six Flags. That was a flagrant violation of the rule, with its own consequences (that he discovered about an hour and a half into the three hour ride home).

Anyhow, I was just eating some kettle corn, and dropped a piece on the floor under my desk. Automatically, responding to sheer guy-instinct, I reached down, and popped it back into my mouth. Along with a small handful of Oji's hair. Mmmmm. At least we gave him a bath about a week ago.

I'm still a guy, and will still eat things off of the floor; someday, I'll even teach my child how to do the same. I will, though, be more observant and careful not to eat anything other than what I dropped.

Oji Update

Oji, our new dog, continues to be a wonderful addition to our family. He's just the perfect dog for us.

Over the past two weeks that we've had him, his personality has emerged as a laid back pup, with occasional outbursts of exuberance. We're still not encouraging those, as he's still working through the heartworm treatment. One more dose, and he's all done, though. We'll give him a couple of days afterward before we start getting too active with him, such as running or taking him on long walks. So far, we've been content to let him out in the backyard for short periods, and take him on a quick loop around the block.

When he gets excited, he gets down in the puppy pose, front legs outstretched, and his butt in the air. He's really cute when he gets like that, and if you start grabbing at his feet, he'll try to gently nip at you. We're working on disassociating biting with play, though.

He still sits and lays down on command, and we're working on shaking hands. He sometimes gets it, but most times doesn't. We've also put up some jingle bells by the back door, and are working with him to nudge them when he wants to go out. We think he's getting the hang of that, as he's jingled a few times, apparently on purpose. Maybe, though, he's just training us.

The only "bad' behavior, and I hesitate to call it truly "bad," is that he doesn't really enjoy going in his crate so much. We've been putting him in it while we go to work, and making a point to come home for lunch to let him out for a half hour or so. Well, he knows when it looks like we're getting ready to leave, and doesn't fall for the "Come here, Oji! I have a treat for you!" any more. He'll head for the front door, and when I try to lead him back to the crate, he'll sit, and dig in his heels to resist being moved. He has to be nudged at least a bit to get into the crate, and bribed with a treat or two. Once he's in, he's fine. And of course, he's happy to get out when we come home.

Friday after lunch, we were running a bit late, so we took a chance and left him out. Fearing the worst upon our arrival home, we were pleasantly surprised to find nothing amiss. He was waiting at the front door for us, and was super excited to see us, but there was no damage, poops, chewed shoes, or anything else wrong with the house.

He did get out the front door yesterday as we were checking the mail, and wandered next door for a sniff. He was waiting for me though, as I came up with his leash, and brought him back home.

His daily routine while we are home is to follow us around and just lay at our feet wherever we are. He's just under the desk as I type this now. He still doesn't bark much, though sometimes he does in his dreams. We'll wake up to quiet "Woof! Woof!" and look over to see him kicking and apparently chasing something in his sleep. It's cute. The other day, I did catch him barking at the neighbor dog (an annoying dalmatian) though; and I was so proud the day that he exerted his masculinity by peeing on the fence in the exact spot where the dalmatian was on the other side, and then kicking dirt at him. That's my boy!

Mostly, he sits in front of the window and watches the world go by. He'll whine a little bit when the neighbors' dogs (2 Yorkies, 1 Chihuahuas, a Vizsla, and a Lab) are out, but that's about it. We're looking forward to him being healthy enough to get out and play with them...they're nice dogs (well, the bigger ones anyway).

So, he's settling in, and feeling more and more at home every day. He's just the best dog...affectionate, obedient (mostly), quiet, calm, and absolutely adorable. Who couldn't love this face?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Everywhere Magazine (Updated based on comments)

Paul, one of our good friends directed me to a recently launched new travel magazine. It's called Everywhere, and it relies on content that is submitted to its website from regular folks. Contributions are submitted, voted on in a peer review process, reviewed by the staff, and, if selected, grace the pages of the print magazine. It's a pretty novel idea, frankly.

I signed up and have submitted a few photos. The nice thing is that you retain the rights to your creations, and if they choose something that you post, you get paid for it as well. Sort of like breaking into the big leagues.

Everwhere Magazine

Friday, June 13, 2008

Our Little Bundle of Joy

Well, the day we've been waiting for for many years finally arrived. We bravely entered the world of the dog owner. And not just an iDog like we had in Japan.

Say hello to Oji...

His origins are not exactly known, but the theory is that he is some sort of Terrier mix. We saw a picture of a Skye Terrier / Schnauzer mix that he resembles quite a bit, so that's what we're currently assuming for his parentage. He's pretty much all mutt.

We've been big dog fans for years, but until now haven't had the right schedule to have one of our own. So, we mooched off of OPP (Other People's Pets).

When we lived in Virginia, before moving overseas, one of the most enjoyable things to do in our neighborhood was to wander around and pet the neighbors' dogs. We knew more dogs names than those of their owners. There was Sal the Pug, Rhiannon the Fox Terrier, Kira the Basset Hound, Farley the Poodle mix, Lucky the ferocious Beagle / German Shepard mix (no joke...he hated my Army uniform and would try to kill me whenever he saw me in it...he ended up having to be put down because he bit a neighbor child), and our favorite, and God-Dog, Charlie. Charlie belonged to our friends' Colin and Melody, and he was lab/greyhound mix (we think). And just a sweetie until he'd jam his nose in your crotch.

Moving to Japan, we continued to mooch off of other people's dogs, and met John, the Chocolate Lab, who spoke English. Or rather, Engrish...His owner taught him to sit, but in order to get him to do it, you had to say it with a "SH" instead of "SI" since that sound doesn't exist naturally in the Japanese language (just sa, shi, su seh so) That made for some laughs, as what we told him to do had completely different meaning than what he actually did. Fortunately, for everyone involved.

Once we got here to San Antonio, and got settled in, we planned on getting a dog of our own. There are a lot of different shelters and rescue and fostering organizations. We actually had been surfing them online even while still in Japan to get a feel for what would be available. We visited the Humane Society shelter (a great place, by the way), and found a nice dog, but weren't ready to adopt at that time. So we just kept looking and chipping away at getting settled in.

Then, about a month ago, SNIPSA, the Spay, Neuter, Inject, Protect of San Antonio, which rescues dogs slated for euthanasia, had their monthly adoption day at the Starbucks down the street. We went to browse, but as soon as we saw Oji (then known as Noche), we made a beeline straight for him. We got ambushed by another dog first (who got adopted by a nice family), but finally got to meet. For me, it was love at first sight. There's something endearing about a scruffy mutt...probably why so many of them turn into movie-stars (Benji, et al). He was so sweet, and well mannered that we sort of made an impulse decision that this was the dog for us.

He was found by his foster mom (Katie - a SNIPSA volunteer) just running along the side of the road in her neighborhood. She stopped and opened the door, and he just hopped in. After making some inquiries as to his home, and coming up dry, she kept him with the intention of finding a family for him. When we met him, he had only been there for about a week. He was kind of scrawny, but otherwise in pretty good condition. He tested positive for heartworms and still needed to have his nerts removed (they euphemistically call it "altering"), so couldn't come home right away, which actually worked well for us, since we still had two shipments of household goods to arrive. We figured that that would be too disruptive.

So finally, yesterday he came to live with us. We can't believe how lucky we are to have him. He's (so far, and I hope I'm not jinxing anything by posting this) very well behaved. He doesn't bark or bite. He is really sweet and loving, and just likes to hang out wherever we are. He's house trained, and didn't even chase the skunk we saw yesterday. Or eat the cat we saw this morning. He's well-mannered with the other dogs he's met, but really we're just trying to keep him nice and calm while he's finishing the heartworm treatment. He's a great dog. He even knows "sit" and "down" (though his furry paws and hardwood floors usually mean that "sit" ends up as "down" within a few seconds.

Here he is. It's nice to have the pitter-patter of little feet around the house...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tokyo for Less Than New York?

Tim Ferris has two posts on how to travel in Tokyo for reasonable rates. Of all the things we did love about living in Japan, the cost of living was not one of them. We had it pretty easy, since we're DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) and had the benefit of the cost of living allowance (COLA) that we got through the military. Still, everything was more expensive there in Japan.

Gas was upwards of $5 a gallon.
Bottle of beer: $6-8.00 (depending on type)
Rent: 190,00 Yen (anywhere from $1500 - $2000, depending on the yen rate)
Dinner out: Depends on the restaurant, but if we went out or up to Tokyo, we would usually spend upward of $120 for both of us.

Due to the safe nature of Japan, we regularly went out with 30,000 yen in our pockets. In fact, if going to Tokyo, we rarely left with less than that, because it was usually pretty inconvenient to find an ATM. Very few ATMs we found worked with US cards. A tip if you are traveling there, look for a post office, as they usually have a postal savings ATM, which for some reason works.

Take a look at the posts, especially if you are preparing to go for a visit, or if you are already living there (big ups to my peeps there at Zama!). Good stuff...

Hacking Japan

Monday, June 09, 2008

Japanese Tricks for a Better Life

Living overseas usually makes you appreciate all the uniquely American things that you take for granted or miss...usually, for us, that was Taco Cabana. Now that we're back in the US, we miss all the things that made life easy in Japan. Not a day went by when we didn't see something that made us say, "Hmm. Why didn't I think of that?"

While wasting some time surfing around one of my favorite productivity websites,, I found this post, dedicated to some of the time savers and general all-around good ideas that the Japanese have come up with.

Take a look...Also, check out her site, TokyoMango, all about the quirky side of life in Japan. One of the things we truly miss.