October 30, 2011 at 11:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I am typing this post from balmy San Bruno, California, where it is sunny and 70°. Not bad for October 30, eh?

For those of you who don’t know, Blake and I moved to sunny California about ten days ago. In August he interviewed with Google, and in September they made him an offer which he accepted. And then on a chilly Seattle morning of October 19, we drove away to warmer climes. And so here we are! My laptop is right next to the window where I can see the sun and the pool and the palm trees and the flowers. It’s beautiful here.

Where we're staying

The trip was rather long, but it wasn’t too bad. At 15 hours, we thought it would make for two reasonably-comfortable days, but it stretched a little bit longer. We really had to drive (and not fly) because of my houseplants and some leftover champagne from the wedding — neither of which the professional moving company would take. Like our move to Seattle from Texas, we knew we’d be staying in furnished temporary housing for 30 days, so we didn’t need most of our belongings. But once we decided to take the car, stuff kept creeping in that we just couldn’t live without for a month: our big flat panel monitors (two of them), the computer speakers, the gate we use to pen the dogs in places, the crates for the dogs, the little French press I use for coffee, clothes, shoes, more clothes, more shoes, and of course all the fragile or valuable things that we didn’t want the movers to take. It really ended up being quite a lot.

I distinctly remember standing outside our mostly-packed car when we were getting ready to leave Uwajimaya. Blake was upstairs returning the parking passes, and I had volunteered to put the last several items in the car while he was gone. So there I stood, with our car absolutely jammed full of stuff, and looked at the large pile on the ground: our laptop bags, the dogs’ crates, my purse, and three or four twelve-pack boxes of Mountain Dew and club soda. Then I looked at the car and tried to calm the quiet desperation rising in the back of my mind. Where were we going to put all this stuff? It was never going to fit. The movers were already gone and there was nowhere else to put it all.

Eventually I just took it one item at a time, and slowly I encroached on our “living” space in the car. For most of the drive we had about half of the passenger’s legroom occupied, which wasn’t the greatest.

In the end, of course, we got it all in, though we did have to take some of the sodas out of their boxes and jam them in tiny spaces here and there. As a result of the close confines, though, the dogs got an elevated view of the entire drive. We piled items high into the back seat, but it left them a nice little platform behind the driver from which they could look out the windows. They seemed to enjoy it.

But really it was the tightness and the dogs that made the trip a bit less than relaxing. Two people can comfortably drive a Honda full of stuff for eight hours a day and be pretty happy, but once you add the dogs you have to start making a lot of allowances. It would be terrible if they peed in the car — which has never happened but still seems terrible enough to be worth worrying about — so we’d walk them at every stop. And of course at each one there was an infinite number of fascinating things for the dogs to sniff instead of going to the bathroom, so we’d just stand and stand and stand and say “Stop smelling Oregon!” They didn’t listen, and at each stop the length of that day’s trip grew and grew.

For the same reason, we never felt comfortable stopping for a nice relaxing dinner. Knowing the dogs were sitting in the car and possibly chewing or peeing on something, we mostly did fast food. Which was okay — I like fast food. But after two days of that, we were ready to be done.

But there were no problems. They’re good dogs and they didn’t destroy anything or pee on anything or do anything gross.  Nano did bark at drive-thru personnel a couple times (and the full-service gas station guy in Oregon), but other than that it was uneventful.

So stay tuned — there’s more to come! California is interesting and beautiful and there’s lots to talk about.

Old news: our dogs are cute

March 23, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yep, that’s about it. Please enjoy the photos.

As they've gotten older, the dogs have started getting much cozier

Nano enjoys sitting on laps

Somebody put some dog toys on Pico. (Those oven mitts are what we use to play-fight with Pico -- he knows he is allowed to bite the gloves but not our un-gloved hands.)

One night I left this blanket piled in my office chair before bed. By morning, Nano had put it to good use.

That didn't last long

The dogs like it when Blake naps

Nano recovering

December 15, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In her Easter bonnet

In her Easter bonnet

As mentioned previously, we had Nano fixed yesterday. She came home from the vet the sleepiest and saddest dog in three counties, and her unhappiness continued throughout most of yesterday. The saddest and cutest part of it was her little cone and how she was (and still is) totally unable to understand how it works.

Yesterday was quite a traumatic evening for her, actually. As soon as I carried her in from the car, Pico was the most interested in her that he’s ever been and he proceeded to life up his little paw and drag it around her face/cone region. She was too sleepy to even stand up without wobbling, so she didn’t have a chance to defend against his paw onslaught. But I shoved him out of the way and tried to calm her down from the drive. Then she slept for a while, and after an hour or so she actually started walking around. Here was where the hilarity started, though, because she just kept bumping her little cone into things! Table legs, couches, the wall, Pico, our legs, everything. And as if that weren’t sad enough, when she hit her obstacle she would usually just conclude “Guess I’m stuck. Oh, well,” and then stand there, unmoving (except a lot of wobbling back and forth) until she got sleepy and sort of collapsed into a sitting position. The best (worst) one was when she walked her face up to the wall so that the cone was nearly flat against it — when she tried to turn left or right, the wall was in the way. So she just stood there with her face at the wall until one of us realized what was going on and rescued her.

On the way home from the vet

On the way home from the vet

The vet also gave us instructions to keep her from running or jumping for 10-14 days, which seems like an impossibly tall order. This morning she was hopping all over the place with her usual exuberance, and by this afternoon she was back to an occasional bark when I come inside and jumping up on my office chair while I’m gone (to pull desk items down on the floor where they can be happily chomped by Pico).

But for the most part she seems to be recovering nicely. I brought out my big poofy down comforter and she spent the day reclining on it in an explosion of cuteness. On the occasions that she follows me into another room, usually Pico makes a grab and then he cozes for a while, but he’s so active all the time that she always gets another chance to reclaim it.

In other news, I’ve sort of belatedly realized that by finding this house we like so much (mentioned in yesterday’s post), I’ve actually been freed from an awful lot of work for a while. I don’t have to go visit houses aggressively or scour for any and all homes if there’s the tiniest chance that they’ll be good. Instead I can get other things done, which is really great. =) Go us! I hope we get this house.


Some udpates

December 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and things have been unsurprisingly busy. I thought I’d write a quick little post to update you on the latest goings-on:

These aren't in the running anymore, but aren't they pretty? We were considering them in September but we ultimately decided against.

We’re house hunting again! Originally we had been planning to wait until after the new year to start looking again in earnest, but about ten days ago our realtor pointed out that we didn’t have to wait quite that long: if we found a house last week we could still ask for a 45-day closing which would put us past the FHA-mandated milestone that Blake work at Amazon for six months. I still feel kind of sad about the last house, and in fact I couldn’t even bring myself to check and see if it’s still available. Whether it is or not is moot, though — our house preferences have changed while we’ve lived down here in the heart of downtown. It’s been such a neat experience, and it’s made us both want to be far closer to the city than we would have been with the house we almost got. So instead of looking at the suburbs, now we’re only considering houses that are actually in the city of Seattle (or very close to its borders).

What’s even more exciting, though, is that just recently we found a house that we both love. It’s a small amount more than we wanted to pay, but we’re in a unique position to wait until the price drops and/or the owner (which is a bank) is more open to price negotiation. (It seems unwise to give more detail on our strategy in such a public place, so I won’t.) We’re still looking at other homes, though, because it’s not exactly prudent to get your heart set on one house  — it makes negotiations a lot harder.  But this house has definitely raised the bar on what we’re willing to drive out and look at. It’ll probably be a while before we make an offer on anything, but I’ll definitely keep you posted when/if we start exchanging signed papers.

Nano cozed in the corner

Nano cozed in the corner

In other news, we’re getting Nano fixed today. Though we had originally been advised that it’s best to wait a year before spaying, our vet gave us a compelling reason to do it ASAP: if girl dogs are prevented from having their first heat, there’s some huge correlation with the prevention of mammary cancer. (Like, a correlation over 50%.) That was enough for me and so Nano’s becoming a little bit less girly. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s much change in her personality afterwards. When she comes home this afternoon she will have a big cone around her head and I’m sure she will look very sad and pathetic. Consequently, I’ll be sure to take loads of pictures and put them on the internet.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video of her playing an excellent round of fetch on the stairs. She’s the best fetcher I’ve ever owned!

We’ve had an interesting development with our noisy neighbors saga. Since Thanksgiving the music has been back — sometimes at night, sometimes late, and always loud. Sometimes really loud. Even though we are perfectly within our rights to complain to the management again, I really didn’t want to be that person who’s just complaining all the time, so I waited a couple days. But after a few nights of lying awake to the bass percussion at 3 a.m., I vowed to complain again. And so I did: I marched down to the leasing office and very nicely told them the times and dates that these inconsiderate and rude people had continued to disturb us at unreasonable hours despite the management warning them once already. The nice office manager said she’d speak with them again and off I went.

Pico in coat and booties

During the Thanksgiving snow we had, the tea garden (where we walk the dogs) was covered with ice and snow and salt. Both Pico and Nano would occasionally step on sharp salt and then cry for a minute or so, so we bought them adorably ridiculous booties. (The booties lasted about twenty feet before they came off.) It makes a great photo, though.

Later in the afternoon I had a package, so I stopped by the office to pick it up. And guess what happened? The office manager said that she’d spoken to the offending neighbors but that they were most definitely not playing music — in fact, the resident’s elderly mother was visiting and had made them go to bed at 8 p.m. for the last several days! However, they directed her to their next-door neighbors who, according to them, play loud music all the time. Well, as you may recall, we had quite a bit of difficulty initially determining who was playing the music. (Though we were pretty confident by the time I wrote the last post about it.) The apartment they had reported was one of the ones we initially suspected, so we found the story entirely believable. Once I told the office manager she arranged to speak with the noisy folks and we haven’t had a single problem since. (This was about ten days ago.) On rare occasions I’ve heard it loud during the day, but mostly they’ve been quiet as a mouse down there. And happy as I am to have a nice ending to this story, I do still wish the noisy people had actually seen my note! But alas, it was on the door of someone who was already being quiet. Ah, the injustice of it all.

In other other news, our Christmas plans are very peaceful this year. We considered trying to visit Blake’s family in Houston or Dad and Sylvia in Georgia, but flights to both were inordinately expensive. ($600+ per person!) So we decided instead to just stay here in our tiny apartment and have a cozy first married Christmas here in Seattle. We even have reservations for dinner at the Melting Pot! I’ve also gotten all my Christmas gifts in the mail way early this year, and it’s nice to be ahead of the game.

I think those are all the major updates for now. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens. =)

Moving complete!

October 31, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Space Needle in silhouette at sunset

I'll miss the view of the Space Needle from our old apartment, but the view from the new place isn't too shabby either.

I’m writing this post from our comfy new apartment over Uwajimaya, and it’s pretty delightful. Last week was such a blur, but now it seems things have finally settled down. There was some unexpected drama during the move, though, which I’ll describe in this post. I’m not sure how interesting it’ll be, but I hope it won’t be boring.

Blake and I signed the lease here to move in this past Tuesday, but we didn’t have to be out of the Taylor 28 (the corporate housing) til Thursday. We thought this would give us a nice comfortable amount of time to move out, and so beginning Tuesday we’d take a carload of stuff down to Uwajimaya every so often when we had the time. On Thursday we had planned for me to ferry the many non-heavy objects over during the day while Blake was at work, and then when he was free we’d get the last few heavy things in just a couple of trips before we dropped off our keys for good. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us we were supposed to be out of Taylor by 11 a.m., which I discovered around 10:30 a.m. that same morning! (This was due to a miscommunication with our corporate-housing contact that really wasn’t anyone’s fault.) Anyway, I found out accidentally when I was asking about what time in the evening to drop off the key, and you can imagine how thrilled I was to find that I had 25 minutes to get to Taylor, move everything down to the car, make a few trips between the two apartments, and clean up. To make matters worse, 11 a.m. wasn’t just an arbitrary checkout time — there were cleaning and furniture crews set to arrive at that time to make the apartment ready for the next corporate tenants!

Well, the corporate housing guy from Aboda has been absolutely fantastic through every interaction since we arrived in Seattle, and he didn’t disappoint this time either. He was able to defer the crew til 3, which meant that with a lot of hurrying we just might be able to get out in time. So I spent about 45 minutes packing all our stuff into bags and suitcases and then I drove down to Amazon to pick up Blake from work at his lunch hour. So instead of eating, he spent two hours carrying heavy boxes up and down stairs in the middle of his workday.

Nano with a tiny bear

Aw, she's cute. I might have turned the bear so it faced the camera and looked a bit more picturesque, though.

As if this wasn’t already unpleasant enough, it was raining pretty solidly. Which I prefer in general, but it was not my favorite thing on this particular occasion as we trooped out to the car and got wetter each time. Eventually we decided to start filling up Blake’s Honda instead of my VW, so we agreed that Blake would start ferrying boxes down to the curb and I’d retrieve his car from the garage and bring it up to the loading zone. When I got down there, though, his car wouldn’t start! It hadn’t been driven since we got to Seattle, and its battery had died. So Blake brought all the boxes back inside, one by one, and we left them by the leasing office while we drove my car around to jump start it. Fortunately there was nobody parked next to him when I got there, so that simplified matters a little bit.

After we got his car started we went back to the loading area, and after about an hour his car was full. So I sent him on his way down to Uwajimaya where he parked in the garage and then went back to work having eaten no lunch at all. Meanwhile, I stayed up at the apartment and continued loading my car as quickly as possible, and after about 90 more minutes I finally finished.

At this point you may be wondering why we had so much stuff that it took us so long to move. It’s a valid question, and there are several answers:

  1. When we came from Austin, there were certain belongings that we just didn’t want to keep in storage for months. Either because they were fragile, valuable, or had extreme sentimental value. So we brought a lot of extra things we didn’t really need for life in Seattle.
  2. When we left Texas, we didn’t have many details about what would be available in the corporate housing, so we brought a lot of things that we ended up not needing.
  3. There were many things we needed that the corporate housing didn’t provide, so even though we already owned them, we couldn’t access our stuff in storage and had to just buy more. Lots of kitchen utensils, some housewares, toiletries, etc.
  4. We don’t own many winter clothes — me especially — so we’ve bought a lot of clothing since we got here.
  5. We acquired a whole kitchen full of food.
  6. Finally, we didn’t really have such a large quantity of stuff — it was more that there wasn’t a very good way to move it all. We thought there was less than there actually was, so instead of boxes we had some Whole Foods bags and suitcases. It took a lot more trips per volume than your typical moving job.
  7. We had to take the stairs because the freight elevator was being used for something else. Since there were two flights of stairs, this really reduced the amount of things we could take per trip.

Pico in a box

All in all, it was a pretty unpleasant afternoon. And once Blake got off work we still had a lot of effort in front of us because both our cars were jammed full of stuff. Blake helped with that, though, by borrowing a few shopping carts from Uwajimaya which we could fill up and then ferry upstairs three at a time. That made things move much faster, and we emptied both cars in about 45 minutes.

The next day I spent the morning and afternoon overseeing the delivery of our stuff from corporate storage into the Public Storage unit we’re renting in Kent. It took a surprisingly long time, but the guys doing it were just excellent and I couldn’t believe how wonderful and helpful they were. Then I drove home around 3:30, and at 5 we met with one of Blake’s coworkers and his wife. They had offered to help if we needed to move any furniture, so we rented a Uhaul and with their help we got our bed, piano, desk, vacuum, and a few other items we didn’t want to re-buy. Later in the evening Blake and I returned the Uhaul truck, and then at long last we got back to our new place — thoroughly drained and sore — and slept the wonderful sleep of the truly exhausted.

But now we’re done! Yay!

We’ve been straightening and unpacking throughout the weekend, and things are starting to get neater in here. I’m planning to do a lot of that while Blake’s at work tomorrow. It’s so wonderful to be settled again, and especially to have so much of our stuff with us. I can’t tell you how delighted I was to go to sleep in my bed Friday night.

So that’s why last week was a blur. But it’s finally over and we’re very glad. Tomorrow I shall post something much less complainy and much more happy.

Death and taxes

October 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A pretty manhole cover

A pretty manhole cover I saw on the way to dinner one night.

Well, things have been pretty busy around here lately — as you may have inferred from my little hiatus from posting. Blake’s mostly been busy with a work project, and I’ve mostly been busy with house related stuff. Uncharacteristically, he worked from home for all of last weekend as well as most of today (Sunday), but not to worry: there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that this is developing into a norm.

I, on the other hand, have been slogging through a mire of paperwork and red tape and bureaucracy related to getting a home loan. There’s no reason to worry about that, either — it’s just that underwriters demand an inordinate amount of paperwork — W-2s, tax returns, a multitude of information about former employers, residences, bank statements, etc. — and all our paperwork is effectively inaccessible in our file cabinet because it’s being stored, with the rest of our belongings, until we get the house. It doesn’t sound like it would be that difficult to gather all that stuff anew, but we’re fraught with special cases. For example, Blake’s former employer never gave him a W-2 for 2009. And the company (since it was a startup) was run out of some guy’s apartment and we don’t know his address or if he’s still there. And the company is out of business (maybe?) so there are no HR reps to verify Blake’s old salary or to confirm that he worked there or anything. Also, his old laptop with his tax returns had a hard drive crash, so we have no way to get them. You can order a copy from the IRS — for $57 — and in just 60 short days you’ll have your certified copy! (We hope to close by October 27 and the tax return is necessary to start the process of getting a home loan.)

Oh, Seattle, you live up to the stereotype.

Oh, Seattle, you live up to the stereotype. (In case the text isn't large enough, that one in the middle says "Hemp milk.")

But, the underwriters themselves order a copy and then compare your return to that copy (to make sure you’re telling the truth), so us providing a certified copy won’t work. (Since they’d be comparing two duplicate documents.) One might ask oneself why we have to bother providing a copy if they’re going to get the real info from the government anyway. It’s a mystery… But we have to get it. I’ve basically been tracking down these documents for 40 hours this past week, and boy is it a headache. A happy fun headache, because looming in the distance is our beautiful new home, but a headache nonetheless.

Amidst all the phone trees and being on hold and developing an intense hatred of Bank of America, I got some surprising news last week: a guy I knew from NI, Scott Savage, died suddenly in his sleep. He was younger than Blake is, played soccer and tennis regularly, and wasn’t overweight. He was also a really nice guy, and it’s terribly sad. I met him when I did my internship with NI in 2004, and then he went on to work there after he graduated (as I did). He was one of those guys who always had boundless energy and worked hard and always seemed on top of the world. I’ve gotten my news on his death through the grapevine, but so far as I know the cause of death isn’t known. He was on a business trip in Germany, I’m told, and so information hasn’t been as accessible as it would have been if he’d died in the  states. Whatever happened, it’s really tragic.

Shiner Bock in Washington

At a gas station the other day I saw this Shiner Bock truck. At first it seemed normal, until I realized that Shiner, which is a beer made around Austin, is probably pretty uncommon here.

So as I was wading through the amorphous bureaucratic mess last week and feeling frustrated at, well, most of the involved organizations, the news of Scott’s death really helped me to put things in perspective. Everything’s going our way, we’re happy, we’re healthy, and we’re just taking our first steps down the path to the traditional American dream: house, family, dogs, kids, etc. (But there are NO KIDS now or in the next nine months! Don’t infer anything from that American-dream statement, folks!) We’ve really got nothing to complain about.

And while we’re talking about happy things, here’s something else to make you smile: as I’m typing this, Blake’s playing fetch with Nano and Pico. Whenever Nano comes prancing back with the squeaky bone, we always have to pull it out of her mouth quickly so she won’t get the idea that a tug-of-war with us is acceptable. (This is important in case she ever picks up something we don’t want her to — either because it’s ours or because it’s dangerous for her.) Well, Blake just discovered that if you pick Nano up in the air, she drops the bone immediately! It’s pretty cute, and I took a video:

(Her dropping the bone under normal conditions really isn’t a problem. This is just a way cuter solution!)

How to paper train a puppy

August 24, 2010 at 12:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Nano peeking out from under the couch

Like Pico, Nano likes being under low things

Nano’s success rate at using the puppy pad has been steadily increasing, which is fantastic news. As I have occasionally mentioned this to people, several of them have asked, “How do you make a puppy go to the bathroom where you want? I’ve always wondered that.” Well, the answer is not as mysterious as you might think.

Before I tell you how, let me tell you where I got my information. Before I got Pico I read a lot of dog training books and finally settled on a method that seems well-reasoned, nice, and effective. I attribute most of Pico’s training to these books, and in the areas where he is weak I can usually see where it was my failing. For example, Pico gets pretty irritated and snappy if he’s eating or chewing on some food and then I come and take it away for some reason. This could have been avoided if, as a puppy, I often took away his food and petted him while he was eating and sometimes put more food in his bowl. I simply forgot about this rule when he was little — there’s a lot to remember! — and that is clearly something for which I am responsible, not stubbornness or possessiveness on his part.

So because Pico is pretty well trained, I feel confident recommending these books. There are two:

The first one is my favorite. It’s a very practical and quick and efficient read — he gives you the info, it’s interesting, and then he moves on to another interesting topic. The second one is good too, but the authors are a bit more wordy and it takes much longer for them to get points across. However, they are both truly excellent books and I would recommend them to anybody.

So! Back to the subject at hand: how to paper train a puppy.

Nano sleeping against Blake's shoes

Nano loves curling up against Blake's shoes

Step 1. You must get your puppy from someplace where you can vouch for the cleanliness of the puppy’s surroundings. Ideally this is some breeder’s facility that you’ve actually visually verified yourself. Puppies naturally don’t want to be around poop and pee, but if they are kept in an unclean area, that natural inclination just poofs out of existence. It’s important that it be maintained to make paper training easier, though it’s still possible to train without that guarantee.

Step 2. If you do get your dog from a breeder, make sure the breeder has worked with the puppy on paper training. Most breeders won’t give you a puppy til at least 8-10 weeks, and paper training efforts need to begin much earlier than that.

Step 3. When you first get your puppy, it won’t know where to go. If it starts to pee somewhere besides the paper, don’t freak out and yell at it. Just make a noise — tap a pen on the side of a table or clap your hands — which’ll usually make her stop. Then scoop her up and set her on the pad. Whether she continues peeing or not, it’s generally good to praise her then. If she continues peeing on the pad, give her the most excited praise you can and follow it with a treat.

Step 4. Every time you see her go on the pad, be excited and pet her and give her a treat.

Step 5. Puppies won’t pee where they hang out. If your puppy likes to relax on the puppy pad, don’t let her! Make her move (nicely). If you have hard floors and she prefers the softness of the pad, buy her an $8 dog bed. But if she thinks of the pad as a comfy place to sit and play with toys or whatever, she won’t want to pee there. As a corollary to this, if there’s a place in your house where she particularly likes to go, spend some time hanging out there yourself. Read a book, play with her, etc. (Don’t put her dog bed there, though, until she’s used to it — or else she might think the dog bed is for peeing in.)

Nano curled up against Blake's flip flops

Also Blake's flip flops

Also, puppies can’t hold it for very long. So if they have a large area to romp around in — like, say, your whole house — there will almost always be some area where nobody hangs out that your puppy might think makes a great toilet. And it’ll often be closer to her then her pad, so she’ll consider it fair game for peeing. To combat this, increase the puppy’s living area gradually. When you first get the puppy, find out how much space she’s used to. Then increase it gradually over time using an exercise pen or a baby gate. (This one is cheap and has worked well for us.) Only increase the size when she’s doing well on paper training in her current area. You can also put multiple pads down around the house, but it might take her a while to get used to all of them. Increasing her area gradually has worked very well for us.

Step 6. This is an important one. Puppies learn where to go by looking (smelling) for the scent of urine. If your puppy has an accident somewhere, it is of vital importance to clean it up super extra thoroughly. Even more important, however, is to use the right cleaner. People often think that any disinfecting cleaner will do, but the opposite is actually true: ammonia-based cleaners will entice puppies to pee there exactly the same way urine will! It’s absolutely vital to use an odor-neutralizing pet-specific cleaner. Most suitable cleaners will say “odor neutralizing” somewhere on the bottle, but it’s good to check for ammonia in the ingredients anyway. The odor neutralizing ones “break down” the pet enzymes or something. I’m not a chemist and can’t vouch for the science behind that, but I’ve read it enough places and have seen it work so much that I’m inclined to believe it.

Pico on the couch

Pico on the couch

I’m a big fan of Nature’s Miracle. The name makes it sound like some froo-froo feel-good organic stuff made from sunshine and rainbows instead of evil chemicals, but despite that fact it’s actually been pretty effective for us. We’re using the hard floor version since we’ve got laminate here, but the regular one is good too.

Step 7. The fact that puppies smell around for where to pee can also help! Once your puppy has used a puppy pad, instead of throwing it away, put a clean pad on top of it and leave the dirty one there. This makes a HUGE difference and is really what bumped Nano from 50% success up to around 98%. All her messes now are because she went near the edge of a pad and some of it leaked out.

Step 8. Clean up all pee that occurs — no matter what. Not the type of cleaning job that you did when you were thirteen and spilled lemonade on the floor and your mom made you clean it and you just got it wet and said you were done. It’s got to be good. I know I already mentioned this in step 6, but it bears repeating. Here’s a common problem: if you get lower-quality puppy pads, sometimes they won’t absorb the pee quickly enough, and when she hops away after a nice pee, sometimes she’ll step in it and then deposit little pee prints all over. If she’s on carpet, the prints are often invisible and only last for a few feet. If she’s on a hard floor, sometimes the prints go seemingly forEVER. Three times in the last week I’ve had to spray fifteen little sprays of cleaner on fifteen little wet paw prints that go all around the kitchen and then mop them all up. It’s only a small amount on each paw print, but you have to get it. She’ll smell it and then she’ll pee there.

Kidney bean dog

Kidney bean dog

We use these pads and they work pretty well. Sometimes we still get some prints when Pico produces quite a bit more volume than the average puppy, but for the most part they work well.

Step 9. If the pad is more than 25% used, throw it away and get a new one. Even though puppies smell for pee before going, they also won’t go on something that’s too dirty or wet or strong-smelling. This can encourage her to go in a new place (IE, your carpet). And once a place has been established as a pee spot, it’s harder to make the puppy stop using that spot. So it’s much better to use an extra pad here and there than to think, “I bet one more pee will fit…” and then have to discourage carpet use.

Step 10. Puppies can’t make after-the-fact correlational connections. (Most adult dogs can’t either.) By this I mean that you can’t praise or discourage your dog for any bathroom behavior unless it just happened or, preferably, is actually happening right at that moment. If you come in from the other room and see a wet spot on the floor, clean it up and forget about it and don’t scold the puppy. It’s just a missed opportunity,  and scolding her will only confuse her. Fortunately, puppies go to the bathroom a lot (a LOT), so you’ll have another chance before too long. Crate training can help with this — it teaches dogs to learn to hold in their pee, and so often you can predict that they’ll go to the bathroom immediately upon exiting the crate. This is extra good, because then you can set them on the pad and be ready and waiting with praise. Crate training is a separate subject that is worth looking into, but this article is pretty long so I won’t go into it here.


Convoluted paws

Convoluted paws

So that’s about it! They may seem like a lot of things to remember, but if you understand the rationale behind those rules — why they work — it’s actually pretty simple. The first time you try these out with a puppy it may seem futile — but then she’ll start using the pad almost like magic. (Except it’s science, not magic.) This post got a good bit longer than I intended, but hopefully I was able to shed some light on a subject that often seems hidden in the shadows. Also, I hope you enjoyed all my great puppy (mostly) photos. :D

[Video] Pico and Nano playfighting on the couch

August 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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They’ve been doing this on and off for a few days now. It’s adorable! Once you get to 1:30, not much happens. (Soon I will learn how to cut videos, but I haven’t bothered finding software for it yet. Then my videos will be all good stuff and nothing boring!)

Under the nanoscope

August 14, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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After Nano's first bath

After Nano's first bath

So as everybody knows, yesterday we brought Nano home from the breeder. The first 24 hours with a new puppy are always adorable and exhausting, and I thought some of my readers might like to hear about it in more detail. (I’m looking at you, mothers.) We’ve also amassed quite a collection of adorable videos for such a short time, so I’ll post the links here. They vary in quality, so I’ve given them a star rating so you can choose which one(s) to watch. =)

Although she tenses up every time she is carried through a doorway — elevator door, bedroom door, car door, any door — she otherwise seems to have a general positive outlook on the world and isn’t too afraid of things. On the hour-long drive home (Blake drove), she alternated between sleeping in my lap, trying to lick my face, and craning her head around to look out at the cars if I was holding her up against my chest. The breeder said she’d been fed an hour ago, so there was the looming outside chance that she could expel some substance from somewhere — carsickness being the most likely. But I took pains to hold her up to see outside if the road got unusually bumpy or swervy, and she had no problems at all.

Still pretty wet

Still pretty wet

When we brought her in we wanted her to try to use the puppy pad immediately, but we were afraid that Pico would freak her out if he paced around her pen with frenetic enthusiasm. So I loitered in the hallway with Nano in my arms and Blake went in, leashed up Pico, and took him out for a nice walk in the Walgreen’s parking lot. Although I made some efforts to keep Nano way up high and facing the wall (instead of Pico), it sounds like he wasn’t fooled: he immediately knew something was up and he pulled back towards the apartment on the whole little walk (which is pretty uncharacteristic of him).

Once he came back, he behaved very unexpectedly. We thought he’d be super-duper extra excited as he often is when dogs come to our house for some reason. He hasn’t been around puppies much, though, and I think that’s why this was different: he went into “I am your social superior and am kind of aloof” mode. He puffed himself up a bit and mostly tried to stay out of her adorably unpredictable way. He’s clearly interested in everything she does, but it seems like he doesn’t know what to do about it. On occasion he’ll be sitting somewhere contentedly and she’ll timidly walk up from several feet away, get super super close to his face, and sniff his nose. Hilariously, when this happens he always acts like it’s the last thing he ever expected her to do: he jerks his head back like he’s surprised, his eyes get huge, and he looks around or looks at me. Usually his jerky movement scares her into backing up a couple feet, but if not he watches her for a few moments and then decides to go sit somewhere else.  I’m sure he has his reasons, but come on, Pico: you guys are dogs. Sniffing noses is what you do!

Dry and cozy

Dry and cozy

In many ways she seems almost miraculously pre-trained, although I know she wasn’t. In 24 hours she’s gone from never having seen a crate to being absolutely comfortable hanging out in one with the door closed. (For those of you who think crate training sounds mean, here is a link for you.) Also, she doesn’t seem to care about chewing! When Pico was a puppy he chewed on everything with an edge. EVERYTHING. And since it turns out most items have an edge in one way or another, that was a trying time for me in his little puppy life. I was constantly running over to him and removing a DVD or remote control or paperback from his little jaws and replacing it with a chew toy. But Nano, in contrast, just walks across the room, picks up her Gumabone, then carries it back to her bed for a good chew-a-thon.

Her paper-training success rate is right around 50%. She often tries to start on the pad, but sometimes she wanders off (or just starts in the middle of the floor somewhere else). She’s still pretty little, though, so I’m not really worried or anything.

The only thing so far about which I have a few concerns is the amount of noise she makes. As many of you know, Pico is a pretty quiet little guy. Aside from the occasional “awroo!” when somebody knocks on the door, his barking is extremely rare. (Quietness is a common trait for Japanese Chins.) Nano, however, seems to associate barking with play. Whenever we start to bounce around and she gets excited, she gives the tiniest little woofs and ruffs that are terribly terribly cute but will be terribly terribly annoying when she’s an adult. (You can see them here.)

Burrito dog

Burrito dog

Until she feels more comfortable around here with us, we’re not disciplining her too strongly, so for now about the worst “punishment” she gets is that we drop a few coins near here (so they clatter on the ground) or the car keys or an empty soda 12-pack box. She also whines a bit when she’s alone in her pen, as puppies will do, but I expect that to subside. She does also bark when she wants some attention, but I hope we’re able to curb that with coins. Conveniently, we have a little basket of spare change on our dresser, and so it was very convenient to start chucking them in her direction when she woke up this morning at 7:30 and wanted us to begin entertaining her. (Fear not, I was careful not to throw the coins somewhere that they could hit her.)

So that’s about it. The vet gave her a clean bill of health today, so we’re definitely keeping her. =)

Welcome home, new puppy! (lots and lots of puppy photos)

August 13, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Her name is Nano.

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