Friday, April 25, 2014

Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!

My cell phone is my lifeline during work. Sometimes I wish it weren't. Bad news can reach out just as easily as any other kind.

I know a family. I won't tell you who or how I know them. There'll be no names. It's about the only protection I can offer at this point. There's a Dad and a Mom, never married, not living together. An older brother, upper teens, and a younger half-sister, perhaps 12, live with Mom. We'll call the brother Icky, just because that's how I personally feel about him. We'll call the girl Lulu, absolutely nothing like her real name.

I know one of the adults fairly well, have met the other at least once in some social setting or other. I have met both kids through the years, Lulu more than Icky. That's only part of the reason I tend to favor Lulu more than Icky. Several years ago, Icky was removed from the home and put into some kind of program to help stop him from molesting his sister again. I'm not sure how well it worked. Nobody said. But Icky was returned to the home. Lulu apparently wasn't consulted, and she started to act out when he returned. The family discussed the need for discipline for her. I assumed it was because she didn't feel safe, but nobody asked me. And I didn't have the close kind of relationship where I could butt in and ask either Lulu or either of her parents, not to mention Child Protective Services or whoever they are these days, whether bringing Icky back into the same home was a good idea, particularly for Lulu.

Lulu is just past that awkward stage at the end of childhood when the cuteness of babyhood is past and the self is molding into something still unknown. The features are ready to take on their final forms about the time puberty hits, and the most recent photo I'd seen of Lulu showed her here at this new stage, where the change was so sharp I didn't recognize her. This was definitely a teenager! And now past awkward, becoming quite attractive.

I got the call late this afternoon. Last night Icky had a friend over. I'll call him Nasty. He's 19. The way I heard it, the two played video games until it was so late that Icky fell asleep. Nasty took advantage of the situation to go down the hall and rape Lulu! Nasty is now in jail and Lulu is staying with a grandmother.

I want to ask all the wrong kinds of questions, the ones that start, "Why the HELL did/didn't they..." and have a hundred different endings, the kind of questions that do no good. Not now. I heard the rape kit won't be done until tomorrow. Seems stupid to me. I don't know if anybody thought to provide the morning after pill, or if the family is somehow religious in the way that forbids that, regardless of the possible cost to Lulu. I want to somehow gain the kind of knees that wouldn't hurt me more than Nasty if I went down to that jail and aimed a few swift kicks where they'd do the most good - from my point of view, anyway. I want to take Icky and shake him into telling just how much he and his friend talked about Lulu in the wrong sort of way, targeting her for the attack. I want Nasty to spend time behind bars with the kind of cellmates who believe in doing unto others as they did unto children. It won't help Lulu but it might ease that newly hollow spot that cries out for vengeance.

I want to run over to Lulu and fold her in my arms and offer whatever comfort that's worth, even though I know right now she might not even want to be touched by anybody, much less somebody she knows as little as she does me. I feel so outside, even after having been brought inside. I want to rage and scream and kick and swing out and cry at the helplessness, at not being able to protect this little one, just like my not being able to protect my own little one so many years ago, or at not having anyone to protect me even more years ago. We join a long chain, we women, miles wide and millennia old, and it's all so wrong and feels so immutable. And I just want the impossible.

3862 Miles Later

Well, we're home, and dealing with jet lag and climate shift simultaneously. Three days down, three days there, three days back, and back to "normal". Meaning work. There were high points and one very significant low point, and I'm not referring to trying to find a Subway or Arby's open on Easter Sunday.

Maria, Steve's daughter, came along both to see the house and experience Arizona, and walk dogs at rest stops. She quickly bonded with Ellie, bestowing the nickname "Ewok". It fits, at least from the neck up. That face does have the look of an Ewok.

Ellie has decided her role in life is protecting us. She sleeps at the foot of my bed, guarding, and barks at any threat. Of course, what constitutes a threat to her does not necessarily mean one to us. Anybody walking near the car counts, which makes gas fill-ups very LOUD. Somehow she always lets loose about two inches from somebody's ear. When it's really annoying, as if it weren't already, is in the motel at night. Once the TV is off, she can hear everybody passing or walking overhead, cars in the lot, tumbleweeds, you-name-it. Without taking a poll, we are sure it is just as annoying to our fellow travelers as it is to us, all trying to get some sleep in strange beds in rooms with thin walls.

Marie turned out to be our savior. She snores! No, not dainty little buzzes scattered through the night. I mean she rocks the place. It's well known in her family. She freely admits it. I got to experience it first-hand from the next bed. After listening to it for about two hours when I had thought I needed sleep instantly instead, my body and brain finally gave in, accepting it as a white-noise machine, noting it absently when I woke to roll over before popping back to sleep. The important part of this is that Ellie no longer heard our neighbors. No more barking. I did have to keep her on leash with the loop over my arm to keep her from running over to the door, but once she knew her limits, she settled in and we all got some sleep. Our neighbors too, one presumes.

The further south we got, the warmer, a welcome break from the long long winter. We heard about 12-19" snow back home from everybody, but didn't miss it a bit. Nope, not a bit. Halleluia! We were busy adjusting to heat and sun. Maria had brought sunscreen, something I completely spaced. After all, that cold winter had meant I was still mostly in long sleeves and high collars. Now it was T-shirts, and the sun is strong enough that I can burn through the car window. Maria was willing to share her sunscreen. It was some Avon product that goes on blue (!) and gradually fades to clear. Fun, I guess, though the hand stayed blue for a while longer that I appreciated, especially under the nails. I didn't want it on my steering wheel cover. But I applied it, waited for it to fade, decided not to use it again, and promptly forgot about it. For then.

Our first tourism experience for Maria was  driving through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. The logs were OK, but she really loved all the colors in the Painted Desert. Problem was, she had a camera issue, and wound up trying to take pictures with her tablet. You had to point in the general direction of what you were trying to shoot, since there was no way to view through it like a normal camera. Lots of pictures of blue sky were deleted, until she finally gave up. She did get some selfies, where she could see something of what the picture contained, but the touch pad meant a lot of motion between setting up the shot and capturing it. So more deletions. Then ending the frustration in favor of enjoying the scenery.

We had packed extra light, so my camera for the trip was my Blackberry. I deleted a fair number too, but had more success with seeing what I was shooting. The pics are only 5mp, but enough for some memories.

On the way down from Flagstaff we opted for routing through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. If the Painted Desert was impressive, the red rocks were absolutely awesome upon first sight for Marie, particularly in contrast with the very green emerging spring foliage, itself a surprising sight to someone who only envisioned cactus-filled desert for Arizona landscapes and was already green-starved at winter's end. Had nothing else good happened on that trip, those moments would have made it worth the effort.

Steve had developed back problems before we arrived, trying to do too much cleaning all at once and last minute before we came. Thus the house was covered with Fred fur. It is a bit oily, and made it impossible for me to stand up from my recliner in the living room until me feet were properly planted on the third try! Barefoot or rubber-soled in shoes, they kept slipping over the rug.

It also had me imitating cold symptoms the next morning: runny nose, sneezing, dripping, lasting hours after leaving the house to visit my friend Joan's sister Linda's yard while I still could. She had just sold her house to move to Oregon, and as a Master Gardener she had a back yard worthy of a visit for somebody interested in possibilities for desert landscaping. I repeated that I wasn't as contagious as I looked to everyone I met, while taking the tour.

I fell in love with the Palo Blanco in her yard, and plan to put at least one in the Sun City yard. Later. Spring may be the best time for planting, but not when nobody will be there to water it to get it established. As a matter of fact, no plantings will be watered this summer. I want to wean everything away from artificial water sources. What won't survive will by definition have been a bad idea. Our plans for citrus have changed as everybody else has more than they can use and happily give away bagfuls, the remainders of which we brought home in every available nook in the back of the car. And limes apparently grow in Mexico, not here.

Steve and I will spend parts of this summer going through the books Linda offered me on desert plantings, including selection and care, so we can make plans of what to do with the yard. Few if any of what we plant will be in the category labeled "cactus". There are still plenty of plants with thorns to defend themselves without dropping clumps of spines all over to poke into doggy feet or even ours. And eventually water restrictions will become more sensible, meaning stricter, and thirsty plants will become a thing of the past down there. It may take the depletion of the aquifer to accomplish that change, but I personally will welcome the end of our addiction to grassy lawns in the desert.

By my return, Maria had done a great job of cleaning Fred fur out of the house, at least enough that I could return and my symptoms disappeared for the duration. She was still cleaning off the rug in front of my chair when I got home, and it continued to accumulate fur during the visit as Fred continued his spring coat blow-out despite Maria's brushing him regularly. But I could now stand up easily. And the colors began to show, reminding me why I liked it so much.

We spent one morning having breakfast with Joan and Bob, the same friends I'd seen the previous day enjoying the sister's yard. No symptoms at all, proving my allergy vs. cold point. Lovely meal, great conversation, lots of laughter. At one point, Joan told us all to mark our calendars, because something Steve had just said was absolutely right! Of course, none of us, including Steve, can remember now just what it was he said. I suspect it was something political as the context seems to fit the comment.

In the interest of showing Maria more varied views of Arizona, we took her out to Lake Pleasant. There is one nice high overlook on the east side, even though you have to pay to drive in to see it, but $6 was worth the view. It was sunny with a light breeze, and sitting on a picnic table under its roof was very relaxing. That was followed by a drive through the desert, hoping to see the wild burros we'd spied last time. They, however, were unimpressed by our wishes.

The bad news with the house arrived on the last morning. Fortunately, it can wait to be fixed, at least for a while. But it is a symptom of a problem that will require a very expensive fix, hopefully at our planned time rather than as an emergency repair. The knob that pulls out in my shower to switch the water flow from tub to shower just pulled away from the wall in my hand that last morning. There is another shower in the other bathroom. However, the two are back-to-back, and all that plumbing will need replacement soon, requiring also wall replacement on at least one side as there is no other way to access the pipes. As expensive as that will be, I am considering also changing my bathroom's tub to one of those with a side door, high walls, a seat and water jets. The question becomes available cash at the time, vs. repairs postponed until after the sale of the Minnesota house.

 A new issue sprang up during the stay. I developed a rash on both forearms and around my neck. The appearance screamed contact dermatitis. What had I brushed into? Was it while I was back by the ocatillo looking at the neighbor's lemons hanging over our fence? It was the only time I could recall getting up close and personal with plants, but all the contact I could recall was gently disengaging from thorns as they snagged my shirt. It certainly didn't seem to account for what was going on. I left it a mystery until the drive home, when somebody mentioned the blue-to-clear sunscreen: AHAH! Good thing I only used it once. While the rash hasn't disappeared yet, at least the neck is finally tolerant of clothing contact, since it's part of wearing the uniform for work.

For me, one of the best parts of that too brief stay was just sitting out on the patio enjoying the back yard. Gambel quail, doves and rabbits were plentiful, weather topped out in the low 90s, and Fred and Ellie were working out who was literally top dog. (Ellie, until Fred finally objects.) The thought of just sitting there whiling away the day was simply seductive.

The trip home had its amusing moments. After a meal, Steve would announce a nap and close his eyes.  For the next 20 minutes, he would interrupt his own nap every minute or so by making a comment to Maria or me, all unnecessary because they already stated something that we already knew, like telling her she now could tell folks she had seen Oak Creek Canyon. (Yes, Steve, she was there when that happened.) At one point he started asking Maria if she was sleeping, which she had been, in the back seat, until he woke her with the question. It became so regular with him every time he declared a nap that I started laughing with each interruption. I never explained why I was laughing. I'm not sure he actually took a nap of over 2 minutes the whole drive back.

Once back, I took a few minutes sorting receipts from the trip. Totaling all the gas receipts I figured out the overall mpg. Most of the trip was freeway, though not all, and most freeway speeds were 75 mph, regulated by cruise control. There were of course a few mountains along the way. With all that variability, and this being a fairly new car, I was curious. I know it was doing well, but not sure what that meant, exactly. My last Accent did about 38 mpg in best conditions, including carrying just me, not three people and fully loaded. The new one wound up doing 42.84 mpg!

I like this car!

Friday, April 11, 2014

It's How You Say It

Today the State of Minnesota made a big deal of trying to prevent drivers from texting. It's OK to talk on the phone while driving, but not text. The law lumps it all under distracted driving, so they figured everybody was ignoring the law because they didn't exactly understand what qualified. Or at least that's my operating hypothesis.

The campaign included lots of publicity. I saw/heard coverage on TV and radio. I suspect younger folks are aware of coverage via social media. Cops were out in force issuing tickets as appropriate. And those big lighted freeway signs that inform us of amber alerts, traffic conditions, road closures, etc., were put to use in today's campaign as well.

Just, well, perhaps not quite as I would have chosen to do it.


Well, not exactly. Texting is perfectly legal here. Driving is too, though any given day I can point out many people on the road for whom it should be illegal to be behind the wheel. After all, there are not very  many questions of the written test covering the rules of the road, and you can pass if you only get 70% of the correct. Scary!

What is illegal here is texting while driving. I see it everywhere, people holding their smart phone up on top of the steering wheel with one hand while steering with the other. (I hope.) Used to be they were a little more subtle about it. Or perhaps they just lost that fascination with their pants while they drove by. But hey, that's distracted driving too, whatever they're looking at down there.

Now I'm not on my soapbox about distracted driving here. I admit I'm a distracted driver too. I'm distracted by hunting for the numbers or names on buildings while I'm looking for a place I've never been before. I'm distracted by many of my fellow idiots... er, fellow drivers acting like idiots out on the road. I'm distracted by changes in weather, or seasons, or wildlife along the road even if it's not the type likely to jump out in front of my car to justify the attention I give it. I get distracted by what's on the radio on occasion, or by whatever idea is percolating and building inside my own head. And let's not even begin to discuss the distractions that Dispatch throw at me frequently with every run or comment they send in text form via my Blackberry, stuff that needs to be paid attention to with no regard for whether or not I'm driving at the moment because it might mean a change in direction from where I thought I was going.

No, my soapbox is about those freeway signs and how they chose to word them. While already a bit of a grammar freak, my daughter sensitized me to even more word usage issues. (And yes, I thank her.)

There was a second sign that was all over the place this morning. Again I would have chosen to word it a little differently than they did. I would have phrased it much less ambiguously. For example, "70 people killed each year by distracted drivers." It makes the point, a tragic reminder of why the campaign is important, the consequences of ignoring the law. But the phrasing that was used is just a little more open to interpretation.


What? Each of them?

I'm way behind!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Going Wrong: Why the Load Time... This Time

These runs never make sense or go smoothly. The second I saw it, I tried to refuse it. Somehow dispatch managed to overlook my independent contractor status and left the run on me. Sigh...

They follow a general pattern. There are parts storage caches here and there throughout the metro. When I say parts, I refer to parts for repairing a certain type of machine commonly used in many businesses. It's one of those machines where if I told you which kind of machine, you'd instantly put a company name to it. It's the same as if I mentioned needing to wipe my nose and you thought "Kleenex" because the brand name has become synonymous with the product. The product and company are not going to be the one everybody first thinks of, but I'm still not giving you any more hints. I did sign a confidentiality agreement and you don't get the names of our customers.

These storage caches are, logically, in large storage units. What we are given is the address, the number of the unit, and a number for the specific box we are to pick up. They always give a couple "suggestions" for which shelf we are most likely to find the box on, such as 1D or 6A. The number matches a stack of shelves and the letter matches the shelf in that stack. They may not be on that exact shelf, however, but we are promised it will be near. Most reassuring, that.

What they do not give is the code for the gate into the storage unit. Nor the combination for the padlock securing the door. So we have to call dispatch, and they have to call the customer for the gate code. The padlock code they have, just don't bother to give it to us with the run. Ever.  We have to call. Write them both down. You may need them more than once. Oh, and if it's the dark half of the year, since these always come around suppertime, a strong, reliable flashlight is handy. The storage units are not lit. Headlights don't quite manage the job.

Once you are in the facility, pulled up to the right door, and are entering the code into the lock, there is always the question of which of three positions visible the numbers line up in. Hold out your three middle fingers so they are parallel. Imagine you are writing the numbers on those fingers. Do you use the top finger? Middle? Bottom? That's what these locks look like, with those numbers on the bottom, and locked as they are, they line up at an angle distinctly unfriendly to necks. Just for fun, imagine it's January, you can't move those tiny numbers with gloves on, you can't really see the numbers because there's no light, and you have to hold this danged piece of sub-zero metal while you try to figure it all out.

Well, at least that didn't happen this time. But it has.

Are you starting to get the picture? We're not done yet. Once the lock is removed, you have to figure which piece of what moves where to enable the door to open. The colder the metal is, the less likely it is to cooperate. Even more fun is when somebody's gotten a little too close to the door and has bent it. Yeah, that close. And don't forget, you have to, eventually, put it all back together, no matter how bent, frozen, or whatever it is. In other words, you damned well better remember what goes where and in what order. And don't forget where you put that blasted lock, and hope to hell you haven't relocked it before it goes back on the door, or that you remember what the combination is and where it lines up.

The real fun, and I mean this most sincerely, is locating your box. Remember, it may or may not be where they said it was. You have no idea of size or shape. All you have is a 10-digit number to compare to all the long numbers on each box. And each box is covered with long numbers, in fonts ranging form a 4 to about a 10. Your number could be any one of these. You won't know until you find the one that's an exact match. Perhaps you find one where only the last four digits are wrong, and you think, "Ah-hah! That's the part number, just the wrong number this time. Now I know where on the boxes to look for the numbers!" The next box will cleverly have its numbers in different orders and different locations. And once again, if it's January, there will be less light, colder air while you are forced to search through more boxes on more shelves, smudged ink making some numbers unreadable, and the flashlight is sure to drop at least once as your now frostbittten fingers lose capability for motion. When it dies as a result, you can carry each individual box out in front of your headlights while you check numbers. It you have to resort to that, it can be useful to remember which shelf it came from. Regardless of where your give-a-shit level is by then.

Eventually you locate your box. You double check that they only wanted one of them delivered. That's not necessarily significant, as I found out last year when I was questioned the next day as to why I only brought one. Fortunately, the order was my alibi. They can ask a lot, but they can't force us to be psychic and know what they meant rather than what they typed in the form. It works with my kids just fine, but not so well at work.

The box is placed in the car and the locking back up process begins. That's the plan, anyway. Today it wasn't a dented door, warped cold metal, missing lock and any of the other "usual" issues. The door opened all the way up, and it was a very tall door. Unlike me, being not so much in the tall department. My rotator cuff injuries have healed enough that I can reach reasonably high over my head these days, like for closing the hatch on the car, or getting something on or off the closet shelf if it's not too heavy. But dang! that door was tall. Now, somebody in the past had thought of that, and attached a piece of rope to the door handle now sitting way over my head. Said piece of rope, however, was about 8" long, not quite enough had it been straight, but even more hopeless as it was curled back up to about 4" from the handle it was attached to.

So now I have to leave the open storage unit door, with all those presumably expensive components inside, and head over to the storage company office and ask for help. Lucky somebody was still there, close and in sight of the opening, and actually had a ladder available. It seems this particular problem happens a lot over there. Imagine that!

The drop can be almost as interesting as picking up the package. Today I had a very easy address, though a completely nonsensical name, and the notation "Suite 2". I figured at least that last would help. Once there, I reaffirmed to myself that the nonsensical name was indeed useless. There were several doors to the building, most with tiny unreadable faded-lettering company name signs. Perhaps if I walked up close to each one... Nope. Not gonna happen. How about a number? Nothing, nothing, 107, nothing... Wait, that wasn't going to be of any use. A 2 against 107? What kind of numbering system  is that? I did the only logical thing and picked the door to the business that had at least one person inside, since I'd just watched him walk up the steps and in. Maybe he knew the trick to finding Suite 2. Goodness knows none of the company names listed on the door remotely resembled what I had written down for a destination. He declared that they were indeed Suite 2, not offering to explain what the company name or whatever it was referred to except that it meant them.

There comes a time when you decide to go with the flow. He offered to sign, and I let him. It was time to head home. Somewhere in the world there had to be some sanity, and by then it was much more likely found at home than anywhere else. Especially work.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

That Dreaded, Long-Awaited Letter

I refer, of course, to the one from the IRS.

I just knew it had to be about last year's tax filing, not the least because I haven't even filed for this year yet. I just don't every year, as a matter of principle, until April 15th. I will sit down and figure them early in the year. I need to know what I owe, if anything, so I can budget. But file? Nope. The principle involved? Avoiding an audit. Statistically, random audits happen by selecting a certain number of returns received each filing day, and that number goes sky high as the returned postmarked by midnight April 15th pour in. My odds of being selected for random audit go down.

Then too, I plan to hold on to that $140 still owed as long as possible.

There are other audits as well, like the ones triggered by an unusual return. I had one of those last year. It was a rough year. No, it was great in so many ways, but not financially. I claimed a business loss. Everybody knows the IRS hates those. It's a red flag waving in front of the tax-collecting bulls.

I could do it nearly every year. My legal deductions are more than my income. Two things have changed. The mileage rate has gone way up, and I drive an inexpensive, fuel-efficient car as these things go, and I put a hell of a lot of business miles on it. Plus a few years back the company I contract with had decreased the percentage commission it's willing to pay us, so the income has dropped, even though I have increased my working hours to 12-14 per day. (Good thing I don't drive a big truck, or that would be illegal!)

When I figure my taxes, first I figure out the real numbers. That usually brings my taxable income down to near or below zero. Then I go back and change it, moving miles from "work" to "commute" to bring my paper income back into the plus side of zero. Now, not only do I pay income taxes on it, I also pay FICA. After all, I do plan on retiring just as soon as I can afford to. That means age 70 where I can get maximum payout, still quite modest, or win the lottery, whichever comes first. Yeah, I know: 70.


Frankly, I'm getting tired.

Last year I actually claimed the loss. I paid plenty of taxes anyway, having pulled tens of thousands out of my IRAs to pay for the Arizona house, making them taxable. (Still a good deal on the short-sale house.)  Then pulled more out to pay for a couple major repairs on the house. I couldn't afford to bump up my tax debt. As it was, I figured a refund from my estimated payments of $78 and change.

It never came.

I checked my bank statements on line, waiting for that  unique number to show in the deposits column. Nada. I went on line to the "Where's My Refund?" site. All it said was they were still working on it. I tried to be patient. After all, there was that stupid sequester and even more stupid government shut-down to slow things down. But still, it never came. I quit checking often and started worrying that the delay meant that most dreaded of results: getting called in for an audit. Now, I've got the paper to back up everything, usually in a 4-6" thick folder, with the most pertinent things in labeled envelopes. But still, and audit....

This winter I checked the "Where's My Refund?" site again, but it wouldn't allow me to ask about 2012. Everything was set up for 2013. I debated asking if I could credit that $78 against the $140 I still owe this year, but decided that by now, drawing attention to the previous year couldn't be a good thing. Anyway, it had been set up for direct deposit, and changing that seemed just another way to draw their attention and raise questions.

Yesterday the letter arrived. You know that "oh-oh, now I'm in trouble!" feeling in the gut? I sat there and stared at the envelope for a full couple minutes, then decided I had to know what the news was anyway. It didn't make sense to me at first, so I read it again, and re-read parts a third time. I had made a mistake on my 2012 return. No audit, just a math error. OK, I can deal. It isn't the first time. In about four weeks, they would be sending me over $1,100!

OK, breathe again!

Hey, wait a minute: after all this time, are you going to pay me any interest on that?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Pet-Free to Pet-Full

The house was just too quiet. Too empty.

I started by hitting the local Humane Society shelter. Lots of cats (tell Paul they have a sale until the end of the month) and large dogs, several too-small dogs, not much in-between. And just as I was heading in their driveway they switched the sign from open to closed. They talked to me, but that's all.

I hit the Ramsey County shelter as well. I've gotten wonderful pets from them over the years. Nothing appealed.

Finally I hit the internet, hunting for shih tzus and blends. The shih tzu rescue organization made it sound like there was more red tape than a baby adoption. There was one puppy seller way out in Eden Valley which had some, including shih poos and other interestingly named combinations, but the prices were high and the drive would be 2 1/2 hours each way. Plus... a puppy? A whole lot of work I wasn't particularly looking forward to, not to mention having time for.

Still, they had one that caught my eye as a possible. I filed it away in my mind, and talked to Paul about taking a trip Saturday, starting at the local shelter again, where he should at least be able to get a cat to suit, and I'd see what was new in dogs. Then we'd head out to Eden Valley if there was nothing local.

When I said "small dog", they showed me two chihuahuas and a yorkie. I declined, figuring if the chain link fence lets rabbits in, any dog that small would just as easily get out.  The main dog room had the usual amount of labs and huge unidentifiable mixes, though its population was reduced by two great danes who were being walked out by their new owners as we drove up. But a papillon looked possible, though I know nothing about their temperament. Before I reached the end of the row, however, my attention was caught by a shis tzu mix! Exactly what I was looking for!

She's mostly honey colored, with dark brown near and on her tail. A very short trim right now reveals a couple odd grey spots on each flank. A bit of darker fur on her face gives it more expression, along with the slightly longer fur on her perky/floppy ears .

But would she be THE dog? Her name is Ellie, 8 years old, surrendered by folks who stated her living conditions were an outside crate and while "whole", they also claimed she'd also never had puppies.They had resorted to using a no-bark collar on her. I put that all together in my mind and translated it to "breeders" and "liars". I added "cruel" as well. But she was the only dog who didn't bark at me while I walked down the rows, and I decided she needed a chance at a better home. They were her 3rd set of owners. Stability would count. And on the form where it asked if she had any nicknames, they stated "none that we can print here."

It was time to get acquainted.

The two rooms set aside for that purpose were busy. Paul was in one getting acquainted with a white cat which had caught his eye, Yuki. She'd been previously adopted and returned to the shelter due to her inability to get along with other cats. She was also supposed to not be a lap cat. She was 8 and fairly mellow, though hating to be picked up. She stayed in the corner of the room while Paul got acquainted with her. He informed me later that she purred a lot and rubbed against his legs while he was alone with her.

I was in the hallway with Ellie, who was much more interested in everybody passing by and all the activity in the cat room than she was with whoever was on the other end of her leash, i.e., me. I petted her whenever she came within reach, and eventually she closed in on me while still maintaining her complete distraction by all the activity. I was glad to see that, as I had wondered if we might not bond.

It was time to limit her distractions, as well as seeing if the cat and dog would get along. Keeping tight hold on her leash, we allowed the two to "meet", which actually meant only getting close but not touching. The cat didn't seem too alarmed, and the dog was tail-wagging rather than trying to pounce or growl. At any rate, the shelter helper said these were good signs, and these two animals were cleared to go home together.

Paul stopped at WalMart and picked up a few things for Yuki, including a whole new cat box. Since she didn't get along with other cats, removing that much of Midnight's smell seemed a good idea. This time the box was one designed for clumping litter, with a grid insert and two trays. I had always wondered how they worked. The cleanlitter falls through the holes, waste gets dumped out, and the now empty grid goes in the bottom of the clean tray with the remaining clean litter plus whatever more is needed poured in. Once he was done with her set-up, she was left in the basement to get comfortable with her hew home and locations of her stuff. He visited her a few times, and the next morning the door was left open. We have a tie on it that fastens to the handrail and doorknob, just wide enough for a cat but not a dog. It keeps the basement a cat sanctuary.

I spent the weekend getting bonded to Ellie. She is a cuddler, but has definite quirks. I have to remember to take her - not send her - outside, as she shown no obvious signs of needing to go. There have been accidents. Due to her history, she has strong abandonment issues. I have to go out with her or she won't leave the top step. I think she needs to know I haven't abandoned her.

Once comfortable, she starts exploring the yard. That's a bit of a challenge for an 18-lb. dog. Saturday there was still over a foot of snow covering everything. While starting to melt away, it just made footing trickier. Each foot would sink a couple inches, sometimes breading through the snow completely, leaving her on her belly struggling to climb out. She hasn't wandered far. Yesterday morning the 8" of remaining snow after the big weekend melt had refrozen, giving her the first firm footing she's had in the yard. Once she trusted her footing, she went dashing around.

With her issues, we don't trust leaving her alone in the house for a workday. Monday I tried her in her portable kennel in the back seat. That was a disaster. She hates the confinement. Barking was constant except for a few too-short naps and letting her out on leash for exercise and potty/food/water stops when I had a few minutes. I could bribe her to return to the kennel by showing her a MilkBone and tossing it in, but she instantly wanted out again. Eventually she tried digging her way out to the point where I saw a spot of blood on one toe. As soon as the work part of the day was over, I gave her free run of the back of the car. She was content with that, though tried a couple times to join me up front.

We were both happy to be home.

Yesterday I tried leaving her home and having a friend let her out in the middle of the day. There were no accidents, but she has become so bonded to me that Jessica was afraid at first Ellie was going to bite her. Luckily Jessica has two dogs at home so she both smells like them and knows how to handle them. Still, not the ideal situation.

Did I mention bonded? If I sit, Ellie is on my lap. Makes using the laptop interesting. At night she's down on the corner of my bed. And now that Yuki is wandering the house freely, she joins Ellie both on my lap and on the bed. She's the heavier one. She loves to snuggle close, so I can tell which critter is her even if I can't hear her little jingle bell. Once the night owls have come back to the house, i.e., Rich and Steve, I will be more free to shut my door and sleep critter-free. Meanwhile the allergies are not bugging me, fingers crossed.

But with them still gone, the workday still needs a solution. Yesterday I hit the local pet supply chain and picked up a harness and new leash for Ellie. The leash will function as her seat belt - I have a plan how to fix it up - allowing and restricting her access to the front passenger seat. She can stand, look out the window, get petted by me, and snooze on a blanket. No kennel to dig out of, no wires to cut her toes. She'll still bark when I leave the car, but tough. Freight will stay in the back, out of her reach. MilkBones will be secured in the glove box. This car has a nice deep one with plenty of room.

Friday Paul takes both pets to the vet for their post-adoption checkups. I'll get Ellie chipped and her rabies shop updated. The shelter has no one who can do that, though they do have someone for neutering and taking care of other issues. but my vet gets to do the rabies shot. I'm not sure about the logic of that, but....

At any rate, we are pet-full again. For the moment, just a bit over-full. We'll all adapt and things will settle down.