Darn that Dream

If you read my earlier post about how #adoptdontshop was ruining my life, then you’ll know I was searching for a dog.

On a Saturday morning I got in the car, entered an address into my GPS, and nervously drove out to meet 10-month old “Perth”. A mutt with a strong case of “Cur”.

Just a few days prior, I got a call from a woman with a southern accent to tell me about Perth.  He was currently down in Georgia with her, ready to be transported to the Pacific Northwest to get adopted. Him and his siblings were unsocialized and underweight, dropped off at a kill shelter before they were saved by her. She wanted me to know every detail she could tell me about him before I met him, good and bad. He was nervous at first, but warmed up quickly. He did not like crates, and shouldn’t be crated if I could help it. He was affectionate once he got to know you, and his leash skills needed work, but were improving.

When I arrived to the home of the rescue volunteer, there were a few other dogs there that had been transported up with him. I knelt down and Perth immediately came up to me, and while it was short, let me pet him. By the time I had taken him out by myself, he was letting me give him more and more attention. He seemed to be a chill dog, which I could appreciate, and I decided to take him home for a “trial-to-adopt” period.

He did not want to go in the car. He didn’t even want to be near the car. He slammed his crooked-tailed behind into the ground with stubborness and strength and refused. The rescue volunteer had to eventually pick up his solid, strong, thrashing body and quickly get him in while I waited in the driver’s seat, slamming the door behind him. This was my first worry. I like exploring with my dogs, I like taking them places and socializing them. How was that going to be if he hated the car?

Then we got home, and he again did not want to come in the front door. He eventually followed me in but was definitely not coming near my boyfriend. He would cower and scurry away anytime Erich put his hand out. This was my second worry. How am I going to have a dog that can’t be social, when one of my favorite things of dog ownership is being social with other dog owners? Or just simply being social myself and having visitors?

I decided after he had been there for a few hours to take him for a walk. I wanted to get a sense of his leash manners, which the rescue in Georgia said he needed work on. He was a little wild on the leash, but I did not imagine the biggest challenge with walking him: he was terrified of cars. As we walked along, he would bolt away from the street as a car passed and try to pull himself out of his collar. If he didn’t do that, he’d stop in his tracks and cower. This was my third worry. How am I going to walk him in my somewhat busy neighborhood if he’s afraid of the cars?!

But he did take to me. He spent most of the weekend cuddling with me on the couch. When I left for work in the morning, my boyfriend texted me to tell me that the dog was howling, crying, yelping, and barking for an hour. My last and biggest worry: he has separation anxiety. When I was in the house, he would follow me to each room. Waking up out of dead sleep just to follow me into the kitchen for a few seconds.

If I had been a first-time dog owner, this would have really overwhelmed me. Knowing what I know, I set out to try to control, improve, or stop the behaviors that worried me.

I immediately took him on a walk the next day. When he saw a car I would make sure he was paying attention to me, and give him a treat. I eventually started throwing them on the sidewalk so that he would continue walking as cars passed by. It took a total of one day for him to get over his fear of cars.

As often as I could, I would pick him up, no matter how much he resisted, and get him the car. I’d go to fun places like drive-through coffee stands, where I know he’d get a treat. We drove to my parents so that he could meet their dog and them. We drove to the dog park. I wanted to show him that being in the car didn’t always have to be traumatic, and in fact, he usually would lead to something fun. By the fifth day, he was willingly jumping into the car by himself.

Seeing his quick progress led me to believe he could be a confident and obedient dog with just a little bit of patience. When our two week trial period was up, we decided to adopt him. His name now, is Dexter (you may or may not get the title reference from his name).

Dexter still has a little anxiety when I leave, but knowing that I consistently come back for him has shown him it’s not that scary, and he has brought down the crying to some whimpering for a few minutes after I leave.

He also still has a hard time trusting people. I regularly take him to public places so that he can see a variety of people and learn that they aren’t all scary. He gets showered with treats, so that he knows being around people is fun, because he gets treats! For those willing to practice patience with him (usually other dog people), he learns that other people will also give him treats if he will trust them — temporarily at least.  It takes him less and less time to warm up to a new person, so I am hoping with continued work on this, it will be like he never was terrified of people.

Dexter, my little Georgia peach, has made a lot of good strides since finding a home with us. As it turns out though, him being “chill” is a defense mechanism. As soon as he got comfortable with us, he’s been absolutely crazy. My boyfriend really appreciates that (not really). Oops!

He’s crazy, silly, a little clumsy, but a rockstar in his training classes – and he’s all ours!

Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His "grandpa" is proud.
Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His “grandpa” is proud.

Adventures in Costco

I have spent the last three years of my life trying to find a balance between wanting to stay young and free and wanting to do things adults do — like having meals planned out for the week, wanting to own a home and feeling that clock starting to tick. Trust me, it repulses me to know that my brain has begun to acknowledge that there is a clock at all.

Living with my boyfriend has nudged me towards some adult tendencies. I do try to keep a meal plan in line, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t totally enjoy a dinner consisting solely of cheese and wine when my boyfriend is out with a friend. It has also introduced me to the benefits of Costco membership!

Yes, I had been to Costco before, but it had never been a regular stop seeing as I didn’t have a membership until he linked me to his. And, as a single girl, did I really need 50,000 rolls of paper towels or 40 eggs?

I wanted to share a recent Yelp review I wrote about my local Costco. I thought it perfectly described my feelings (and maybe yours!) about the mega store.

source: Huffington Post

Costco. Why must I love AND hate you?

On the weekend, it’s a zoo. The Costco I hate: Hundreds of people swinging around their giant carts with no care or awareness of those around them; Abandoning their carts in the middle of an aisle so that other people with their giant carts can try to maneuver around them; Sample ladies yelling about their product; Insane lines; The parking lot nightmare.

But then there’s the Costco we all love: The one that lets you have an insane amount of cheese for 7 bucks.  Where you can snag a bag of popcorn as big as your head for 3, and procure a huge case of wine for a better price than any other store. I find myself telling myself that I need something just because it’s double the size. Look at this giant jar of pickled asparagus! I NEED IT. Those damn sample ladies always rope me in one way or the other. I can’t pass up that amazing smelling garlic bread! Now I need 50 lbs of that garlic bread, don’t you understand?!

After you’ve walked around, you work up an appetite and need a hot dog or a slice of pizza that’s like 6,523,451 calories but it’s 2 bucks so it’s OK.

Then you have to wait in line behind all the bozos who can’t pick up the tempo or steer their giant carts just so someone can take a look at your receipt and items. Seriously, who is going to jack anything from this place? Where would you even hide it?! No, sir, I didn’t take anything from here! I am just 35 months pregnant.

More attack of the carts in the parking lot. Followed by people with either too little or too much patience making the parking lot a very dangerous situation. I am always terrified I will be t-boned or shanked by someone who has spent a little too much time at Costco and will kill in order to get home as fast as possible.

It’s a time suck, it’s jarring, and it’s wonderful. Costco, you are riveting. 

Do you share the same sentiments about Costco? Or, are they more mellow where you live? 

Let me know.

Fernweh and El Salvador

Sometimes, bad days happen. After bad days happen, fernweh kicks in. I’m known to start browsing travel websites to begin planning my next escape after a rough day.  There is something about the thought of getting away and being somewhere totally different that is calming, and within minutes I’ve forgotten anything bad has happened at all.

I had the type of day at work today that pushed me to plan. Boyfriend and I are planning on going to Europe in April, but we haven’t exactly nailed down exactly where we are going and for how long. Within the matter of a half an hour I had more or less planned a rough itinerary. What is almost as good as traveling is sharing your travel experiences, and I’ll be delighted to share them on the blog when I do.

Thinking about our future trip made me realize I never shared my last big trip to El Salvador.  To be honest, if my sister hadn’t decided to teach there, I might have never gone there. I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about El Salvador, but I’m so glad I did.

El Salvador is small, poor, lacks an advanced infrastructure you’d see in more developed countries, and suffers from a lot of gang violence as a result of a brutal civil war they went through in the 90’s. There are a small number of wealthy, however, and you can find them hiding themselves away behind 10 foot cement walls in San Salvador neighborhoods that include a second layer of cement walling and private security.

But what El Salvador lacks in development, is more than made up for in beauty — both in landscape and in the people.  I had heard before I visited El Salvador that the people were kind. I learned immediately that to simply use the word “kind” is an understatement. Before I even lifted off US Soil, I witnessed the kindness they are known for.

I was in LAX, waiting at my gate, when an older gentlemen started to get a nose bleed. A few women who did not know him, hurried up to grab tissue and towels to bring to him. They motioned to him how to pinch his nose and keep his head up. His nosebleed, unfortunately, was not ceasing. Soon enough, half the people waiting at the terminal were by his side. He had the attention of most of the people around him long before any medics arrived.  Throughout the flight and even in the customs line when we arrived in San Salvador, people were checking up on him.

The only way coffee should be had in the morning.
The only way coffee should be had in the morning.

When I first arrived, my sister and I immediately drove out to a private home in Barra de Santiago. It’s an oceanside town, but much smaller than some of the other oceanside towns in El Salvador. It was quiet, peaceful, and more relaxing than I could have ever imagined. Coconuts littered the property, and every morning the groundskeepers would cut a fresh coconut open for us so that we could feast on fresh coconut and coconut juice all day.  Every morning when they would bring coconuts to us, there was always humor to be found when my dad would try to communicate with the groundskeeper who knew no English, while dad knew no Spanish. My sister and I spent at least an hour a day  translating back and forth between the two when my dad wanted to know what every single plant and flower was called.

I was waking up at 6am (4am Seattle time!) and actually enjoying it. Drinking smooth coffee and munching on fried plantains while watching the waves crash in every morning, while simple, was a highlight of my time in Barra de Santiago.  I felt like I had found my own personal piece of paradise for a few days.

The Beautiful Jardin de Celeste. Also the scene of my poor mother's accident.
The Beautiful Jardin de Celeste. Also the scene of my poor mother’s accident.

On our way out of Barra de Santiago, we spent one day in Ataco, a beautiful little town chock-full of my favorite thing: COFFEE! We toured a plantation, tried espresso in several adorable shops, and did some shopping for original trinkets to take home. At the end of the day, we stopped at this beautiful garden restaurant at a resort on the ruta de las flores: jardin de celeste. After we finished one of the best meals we had during the whole trip, we all split off to admire the gardens.  Ruta de las flores gets it’s name from, you guessed it, the abundance of flowers. Unfortunately, we arrived right after their budding period had ended, but nevertheless it was still beautiful and green. After I had spent some time taking in this quaint place, I found my sister who had alerted me that our mom had fallen and hurt her ankle.

We walked to the front of the restaurant where my mom was standing outside our car, full of tears.  A taxi driver who was waiting for a group to come out passed by her on the way into the restaurant. When he returned, he came bearing tissues and a bottle of water for her.  In the United States, and especially in Seattle, hordes of people could have passed her and not thought twice. But small gestures like this seem to be plenty normal for El Salvadoreans, and it made a big impact on us. As for my mom, she ended up with a tear in her foot that needed to be treated with physical therapy for weeks after our return. She maintains that her injury had no effect on her truly enjoying the trip! vacation.

I also encountered my own misfortune when I contracted an extreme case of travelers sickness on our last afternoon. It was bad enough that the doctors who tended to me thought I could miss my flight the next morning. But, the two shots to the bum, antibiotics, and long list of medications seemed to do the trick enough to get me home. Like my mother, our great experiences with the people and the beauty of everything else far overshadowed our miniature emergencies.

Once in a while, I’ll miss El Salvador and want to return. Someday, I will. But for now there are too many other parts of the world to explore.

A cabana restaurant in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. On the other side of the
On the other side of the “barra”, opposite the ocean, was a large estuary. This little seafood spot was planted far away from most of the homes on the bar, at the very tip where the estuary and ocean met. There were supposedly alligators in these waters!
The tour guide at the El Carmen Estate coffee plantation, pouring a cup of their most popular bean at the end of the tour.
The tour guide at the El Carmen Estate coffee plantation, pouring a cup of their most popular bean at the end of the tour.
on the street in El Tunco, a popular destination for surfers all around the world. Very colorful and diverse, but very touristy!
On the street in El Tunco, a popular destination for surfers all around the world. Very colorful and diverse, but touristy and relatively expensive!
Inside Iglesia el Rosario. If you've spent time in Latin America, you will find that most churches and cathedrals are designed similarly. This was very controversial because the designer went against traditional cathedral style and created a church out of cement and glass. From the outside, it looks nothing like a legitimate place of worship. A heap of gray concrete. But on the inside you see it's much more beautiful than that.
Inside Iglesia el Rosario in downtown San Salvador. If you’ve spent time in Latin America, you will find that most churches and cathedrals are designed similarly. This iglesia was very controversial because the designer went against traditional cathedral style and created a church out of cement and glass. From the outside, it looks nothing like a legitimate place of worship. It just looks like a forgotten heap of concrete. Once inside, you’ll see it’s much more beautiful than that.

Have you been anywhere recently? Are you planning or dreaming your next trip? Where is it?

Let me know.