Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stuff & Things

hello again, blogosphere! i have missed you so much, though i doubt you have noticed the absence of my whiny voice from the conversations i have here with myself about such riveting topics as my dogs, so different from every other dog.

it's not that i've been avoiding you or even been too busy because, let's face it, i waste A LOT of time, it's just that i've been uninspired and lazy. these have been pervasive emotions throughout my life, as much as i try to fight them, which is admittedly not too much, so i just roll with it and remain content taking that second nap and lazily whiling away the days. that is what summer is all about and i've been enjoying mine immensely this year, spending it in the following non-blogging ways:


FIRE IN THE SKY: my favorite day of the summer is July 4, because this is the day my beloved Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park decides to set itself on fire with a fireworks bonanza extravaganza that makes anyone who experiences it gawk in shock and awe. every year, i've thrown a fireworks-viewing party on my deck, and every year, it's had a great turnout, this past year being no exception. there are plenty of explosions, pretty colors in the sky, flavorful microbrews and good friends that more than make up for the disgusting air quality the next day.


WORLD CUP: speaking of the next day, the Costa Rican soccer team qualified for the quarter-finals on July 5, and the leftover food and brews from the previous day's fete came in very handy, especially when some of the same friends showed up to watch the game with Tico and me. that was a great day for many reasons, despite the fact that Costa Rica didn't progress much farther, but it was still nice to see my own Tico so damn happy. all in all, the games were a great addition to my summer as i made it a point to watch as many as possible. i assure you it had nothing to do with the soccer thighs.


INDY: this guy is the most unbelievably loving, unintentional funny and needlessly nervous dog i've ever known. it's been a hard road with Indy as his separation anxiety has translated into destructive behavior whenever he was left without a human home to reassure him that he is not being abandoned forever. despite our best attempts to dog-proof the house, Tico and i returned home to many messes. then someone recommended the Thundershirt and hot holy hell, that thing actually worked.

the minute we put it on him, he began getting very sleepy and even stayed stationery as we moved around the house, a stark contrast to the shadow he's always been. nowadays, we come home to no (or at least less) destruction and a much calm(er) dog. i can't recommend this thing enough. and no, the manufacturer is not paying me to say this, though i really wish they were because i would totally take the money.


SCHROTH THERAPY: though i may look mighty relaxed lying on a hot pack above (my favorite part of physical therapy), i assure you that the rest of the hour i spend in therapy is grueling. i've been going for several months now as part of the treatment to manage any current and future pain associated with the broken rod in my back. i'll detail it more in a future post, but it's been very very beneficial for me so far, despite also being very very difficult.

to sum it up, i am learning how to dramatically alter my posture by activating underworked muscles in my back while allowing the overworked ones to atrophy. it is a lengthy, oftentimes painful process that involves targeted exercises to support the new posture, exercises that i'm learning so i can practice them at home. to help me stay dedicated, i've set up a gym in my garage (and am actually using it). this is one of those maintenance-for-the-rest-of-my-life things akin to a change in diet, which i'm also striving for so i may lighten the load on my back. so far, it's working, except for the times when it's not, like pizza time.


HOUSEHOLD: Tico officially moved in with me this month, despite unofficially living with me for a year. to commemorate the occasion, we went to work on fixing up the detached garage to make it a usable space as it had long been just a place to store plenty of things i no longer needed. so we got to throwing them out, painting some walls, opening up other walls, building out the gym, adding a desk, bookcase, loungy area, shelves and a workspace for Tico. it now looks welcoming and usable and awesome (photos to come). i am thrilled with the results and feel accomplished like one of those DIY homeowners i sometimes see on reality shows. granted, he did most of the work but whatever. i steadied the ladder despite him telling me i didn't need to. and with the house on its way to becoming even more awesome, i am hoping that the rest of life follows suit. but first, there are more lazy days of summer to while away.


Friday, June 27, 2014


i feel like i’m finally reaching that age when getting excited about my birthday seems unnecessary. whereas before, i celebrated the big day like a 12-year-old finally turning 13, the transition from 36 to 37 has been just as unremarkable as it sounds. and now at 38, i can only summon the same emotion that has characterized each birthday for me since i hit 35: disbelief. 

in my head, i am still somewhere in my early 30s. and i’d like to remain there instead of facing the reality of eventually turning 40. not that there is anything wrong with 40 and what comes after, but the start of each new decade of life can’t help but carry with it some semblance of urgency that moves us to PANIC and begin taking life seriously. 

i don’t think i’ll be panicking when turning 40, certainly not like i did when i turned 30 and wrote a series of lengthy blog posts highlighting everything i wish i knew in my twenties (a.k.a., my failures at life). with that came goals i hoped to accomplish by the time i turned 40, goals i revisited at 33 and then again at 35 to check my progress (needless to say, i fell short). 

i thought of revisiting those goals again this year and then realized it would only depress me by highlighting my shortcomings, so better to skip it. and maybe that’s the biggest lesson i’ve taken away with each passing year: the key to maintaining happiness is staying delusional. this is not to suggest there is some simmering misery below the surface of my life, just that i don’t need to wreck a good mood in the name of facing a harsh reality. 

harsh realities will always be standing by to face later, and i’ll face them soon enough. they are not that scary anymore, which is perhaps another lesson i’ve taken away from the passing years: face the truth, even when it hurts like hell. because while the truth is often mean-spirited and runs counter to every well-intentioned life plan, it’s all we have, and it will always get us in the end. so better to pony up sooner and get the hurt over with.

i’ve been working at sorting out the truths in my own life for several years now and can say that, without a trace of irony, at 38, i’m happy. and of course now that i’ve confessed this to the unforgiving tubes of the internet, i will be fired from my job, mauled by one of my dogs, dumped by my boyfriend, cursed with facial warts, and overrun by an incurable case of BO. (note: i never said i stopped being neurotic.)

all joking aside, i am happy this year, just as i was last year around my birthday. at that time, i was entering into a relationship with Tico, which, admittedly, has provided me with a steady stream of smiles, punctuating the year with the warm and fuzzy emotions that can only come out of romantic love. though our union is far from perfect, it’s the healthiest relationship i’ve ever been in and i know i need to nurture it every day. this is less a reflection on past partners than it is on me and my previous inability to be in a healthy relationship. only took me 38 years to get here.

but even if i weren’t in a healthy relationship, i’d like to think i’d still manage to be happy, because romantic love is not my life’s ultimate goal – happiness is. i was plenty happy (though a little bored) during my year of celibacy in 2012 when i relied on the love of friends and family to fill me with joy. they also managed to provide me with their own special brand of warm fuzzies, and still do. the dogs do as well (miss you, Pinko).

add to that the stable career, roof over my head, food in the fridge, healthy parents and functional body, and i am one lucky girl. i don’t even need to keep reminding myself of this fact because it stays with me always nowadays, thanks to a lot of LA asshole-type navel-gazing in which i learned to reflect and simplify and basically chill the fuck out already. so i’m (mostly) chill now, knowing that my lofty goals will be accomplished with time and even if some never are, it will be OK.

yesterday’s not-so-big day started with a lavish breakfast prepared by Tico, featuring some of my favorite foods (plantains and avocados). then came a breezy workday when i yelled at the break room TV when the U.S. lost its World Cup match to Germany (those damn nazis!).  

Tico picked me up from work early and whisked me to a two-hour Thai spa treatment, complete with full body massage. then came a romantic dinner by the beach and walk along the pier, where we took dumb selfies and exchanged kisses as he counted down the minutes until midnight, when my cinderella day would end and he could quit playing prince (see, NOT perfect).

and when it did end, my clothes turned into rags and car turned into a pumpkin and i had to panhandle for cab fare to get home. but i kept my happy disposition through all of it, because i’m goddamn happy person nowadays.

what i want most from the coming year is nothing to change, at least not too dramatically. and if it has to change dramatically, i hope it’s only for the better. of course, i realize how original this wish is, but it’s the only one i have, this year and every year, because at 38, loud noises and sudden moves make me wet my pants.

happy birthday to me, and cheers to the best year yet (or some close approximation). 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Sunday morning. 8am
Kyoto, Japan, at 8 a.m. on a sunday 

spoken by my friend Anne, writer of the TunaToast blog, back in February: hey, you want to go to Japan? i have a friend looking for journalists to cover an event there, and its probably something you can do for GEEK.

me: hell, yes, i want to go to Japan! is that a question with more than one answer? what do i need to do to make it happen?

Anne: figured youd be an easy sell. ill send you an email with the info.

emails were sent, possibilities were discussed, two tickets were requested (one for me as the writer, the other for Tico as the photojournalist), the conversation stalled, follow-up emails went unanswered, hopes were dashed and then ultimately forgotten.

then came the reversal about six weeks ago: the request was approved by the organizers of the event, who were flying out a handful of journalists from all over the globe to cover a two-night Japanese pop music event called Japan Night, to be held at Tokyos National Olympic Stadium, which would be torn down and rebuilt soon after to accommodate the 2020 Summer Olympics. as this was a Big Fucking Deal for the country, some international exposure was needed. somehow, Tico and i managed to worm our way through the cracks.

a lion-dog guards a temple in Kyoto

wait, what? Tico and i said to Anne and each other while scratching our heads. were going to Japan? that question mark quickly turned into several exclamation points as reality sunk in, prompting plenty of happy scrambling on our parts to make it happen. then, during the entire last week of May, Japan happened. and it was FUCKING GLORIOUS.

im going to preface this by saying {spoiler alert} this post is one endless brag. and not even a humblebrag, just a straightforward, shameless, taunting, self-congratulatory, hands-in-the-air-suckas brag. but to add some counterbalance, this wasnt entirely an all-expenses paid trip. the organizers of Japan Night covered the flight and five nights at a Tokyo hotel, which was, admittedly, the lions share of the cost. breakfast at the hotel was also included, though i wish it werent because im pretty sure thats where i got a violent case of food poisoning (to be complained about in the next post).

but as far as transportation, other meals, tickets to events and attractions and hotel the first two nights of our trip, it was all out of pocket and all very PRICEY, as Japan is pricier than New York. as this trip came on the heels of a mini remodel project (also to be complained about in a future post), i wasnt expecting this expense and am now patiently awaiting thank-you cards from my various creditors.

alleyway in Kyoto

after a relatively smooth 11-hour flight, Tico and i arrived at the Narita airport on a Saturday afternoon and were surprised to see organizers from the event greet us by yelling GEEK magazine,” which made us feel very official, a stark contrast to how we looked and felt. the organizers kindly helped us board a train to Tokyos city center, where we got lost after getting off the train and enjoyed a quick meal of yakitori (roasted food on skewers) ordered via iPad and based solely on photos that taught me the important lesson that while liver and beef look very much alike in a photo, they do not taste alike at all. then we did something incredibly stupid.

makeupless, humorless and jetlagged in the Shinjuku area hours after arriving in Tokyo.

after dinner, we boarded an overnight bus to Kyoto. while visiting Kyoto was not a dumb move, as we heard only awesome things about it and wanted to see as much of the country as possible, taking an 8-hour bus ride on the heels of an 11-hour flight, with luggage and gear carried on aching tailbones and sore backs, was Darwin Award-level stupidity. when we finally did arrive, at 6am, after another night of struggling to sleep while sitting upright, we begged for an early check-in at the Super Hotel so we could finally shower and lie horizontally for the first time in two days, but were allowed only to store our stuff until check-in at 3pm.

weakly radioactive water quality?

our hotel, like many others in Kyoto, had an onsen, which is a natural hot springs and spa. though we were assured by the hotel manager that this was a poor translation and that nothing in the pools was radioactive or related to the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima (several hundred miles away), we still decided to pass.

then we dumped our stuff and threw water on our faces before proceeding to enjoy (maybe endure is more like it) a day of shrine-hopping in punishing heat and stifling humidity. the shrines were oh-so-spiritual and shit, but after the third one, i was over it. thankfully, we found a farmers market (conveniently held at a temple) to break up the monotony and provide a sample of local flavor. and we sampled the hell out of their samples, while also doing a bit of shopping and downing coffee drinks to stay awake.

we had to wash our hands before approaching the temple.
area to wash hands before approaching the temple.

another temple.

photographing Tico photographing a temple. im original like that.

the people line up to ring the bell to awaken their ancestors.

at the start of the line was a bell, which folks rang to awaken their ancestors. i thought of ringing it, too, until i realized my ancestors didnt live/die nearby and i probably shouldnbe the kind of tourist who tried to appropriate local culture. then i rubbed my belly and yawned.   

found the farmers/flea market at the temple. score.
outside of each shrine stood a giant torii that signified the area as a place of worship. clearly, this one was also a place of commerce.

the farmers market: HOLY SASHIMI! i had never seen one so vast before. not only did it have the standard food, clothes and jewelry stands, but also antiques, instruments, insects frozen in amber, goldfish for kids, carnival games, kabuki masks, dishes, books and all manner of knickknacks that probably made it more flea than farmers market. Tico bought a robe for 10 bucks and i bought a bunch of native seeds for the garden. bok choy for years!

he didn't have to offer twice.
his dried fruit was delicious. i bought a pound and finished it in an hour.

boiled, beautiful food (Oden)

boiled, beautiful Oden


cashier tallies up my seeds purchase on a wooden abacus. like a boss.

salmon sashimi samples
i considered donning a few disguises so i could come back here all day to try the salmon sashimi samples. 

this is when i start muttering to myself: don't fall on the table.

i should have bought a few of these but felt too lazy to carry them around all day.

Kyoto was one of the only cities not bombed to smithereens in the second world war, so it
s old and intact. its also sizable, with a population of just under 1.5 million and a temple count of about 2,000. most temples are buddhist but some cater to the shinto religion as well. many of them are world cultural heritage sites with the most impeccable gardens youve ever seen. seriously, not a single leaf was out of place. i had major garden envy the whole time and asked Tico to take some cuttings so we could replicate our own zen garden back home. he reminded me there were Japanese gardens in Los Angeles and then suggested i drink more coffee. 

next stop: Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion, a world cultural heritage site.
think i could sell this as a postcard?

the Golden Pavillion, or Kinkaku-ji (the kinky temple, as i like to call it) is plated in gold leaf. its clearly the hotness, meant both literally and figuratively as the heat that day mingled with the huge sunday crowd and worsening sunburn and two-day-old sweat and yuck. i know we should have been marveling at its singular beauty, as its one of the most exquisite structures in the world, but we lasted 10 minutes before ditching it. 


but not before taking the requisite romantical selfie, which is my current facebook profile picture. (awww, arent we the cutest patootest? ok, enough of that.)

pit stop to refuel here before hitting the next temple. food was incredible.

lunchtime here, where we enjoyed grade A+++ quality kobe beef. no patty melts here! (note: clearly, i suspended my pescetarianism in Japan, because the food, oh my god, the food was so amazing. i have since resumed it since returning stateside. thank you for not judging.)

the highlight of the first day for me was visiting the rock garden at Ryoan-ji, another world heritage site. without getting too LA asshole about it, its a zen meditation site where a monk laid a bunch of rocks of various sizes among pebbles after finding enlightenment. people sit and stare at those rocks, presumably for hours, maybe even years, in search of their own enlightenment. we arrived about 20 minutes before they closed so i had to find nirvana (and a toilet) fast.

next up: Ryoan-ji Temple, a zen garden and another world heritage site. i really liked this one.
rock garden at Ryoan-ji Temple, an example of Japanese kare-sansui (dry landscape).

canoodling couple ponders enlightenment.
i think this might be the most japanese picture i took on this trip.

how cute are they?
well, they were super cute.

caught a monk before he got on his scooter.

this monk about to get on his scooter is also super cute.

m sure i might have come to a different conclusion if i had years to stare at it, but after lying alongside the rocks to stretch my back, i ranted to Tico about the white space representing the mundane that we swim in every day and the rocks representing the big events that define our lives, with the biggest one bookended by two smaller rocks (our birth and parents) and other groupings to signify the clusterfucks in life that give us direction. he listened thoughtfully, probably while trying not to yawn, before saying, that was profound, honey. should we go back to the hotel? we can finally check-in and shower.

a smaller scale reproduction.
you see what i see, right? easy as harakiri!

looked like a festival just ended.
en route to the hotel, we got lost among Kyotos cute streets and alleyways. 

street cool, green lantern style

i love this guy!

when we finally arrived at the hotel, we peeled off our smelly clothing to examine our new sunburns, mystery rashes and travel bruises before respectively enjoying The Shower to End All Showers, taken in a stacked-on-top-of-itself bathroom where you could literally use the toilet, wash your face and soak your feet in the shower stall all at once. after a quick nap, we walked around for an hour near the hotel, devoured perfectly prepared 7/11 food (no slurpies there) and then slept the sleep of 1,000 dead villagers before getting up for another action-packed day.

and waited for something to open.
Karasuma street, a main thoroughfare very close to our hotel. an hour later, it would be packed full of cars and people. 

like a fairy tale.
taken near the Togetsukyo (moon crossing) bridge, on the western outskirts of Kyoto, in the most beautiful place we visited while in Japan: Arashiyama

we enjoyed the 2nd day in Kyoto far more than the first given the night of rest and rainstorm that helped break up the heat. when planning the trip, Tico had really wanted to go to Jigokindani in the Nagano prefecture, where Japans snow monkeys sit in a hot tub, as shown in the opening scene of the film Baraka. but that was too far from Tokyo and several friends urged us toward Kyoto instead, which had a snow monkey park of its own: Iwatayama Monkey Park. on the second day, we made it our first stop. 

this marks our second international trip where we played with monkeys, the first being in Costa Rica last year. taking suggestions for a third. 

feeding time at the Iwatayama Monkey Park, where wild monkeys roam within inches of unruly children who are begging to be mauled.

greedy little bastards.
feed me, seymour!

next to the gift shop was a caged enclosure where you could feed the monkey for about a dollars worth of apples or bananas. the greedy little bastards would sit there pointing at their mouths, chasing off competitors and pawing at your hands, similar to how the howler monkeys behaved in Costa Rica, confirming to me that monkeys are essentially assholes.

baby snow monkey cuteness
but the babies were so cute. i didnt mind feeding them. 

snow monkey grooming, with music by Captain & Tennille.

stop what you're doing 'cus i'm about to ruin the image and the style that you're used to... with this random assortment of buddha statues that we fou

after filling our photo cards with variations of the same monkey shot, we took a fortuitous wrong turn and happened upon a sculpture garden full of hundreds of stone Buddha statues. 

every statue was different and interesting in its own way. we got our photo fill here as well.

then came the most stunning gardens at Tenryu-ji temple, another world heritage site and the last temple we would visit in Kyoto, which we may have missed if we didnt get lost (again) on the way to the bamboo groves. this place was divine, especially during the rainstorm, which forced us to stop and stare at the pretty trees while holding hands and waiting for the rain to let up. our only regret is that we hadnt arrived a month earlier when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. this provides yet another reason to return.

but the garden inside, wow.
koi pond in the garden.

and this place was zen.

meditating men in the temple hall

im not sure why, but at no time during our hundred-temple hop through Kyoto did i consider entering one of the rooms to meditate. clearly, i should have as there is no better backdrop to find serenity, but all the zen was incredibly stimulating and i couldnt imagine quieting my jumpy mind or keeping my darting eyes closed for too long. i wanted to keep drinking in the city so i breezed through all these zen landmarks without so much as an om shanti om.” 

the asian redwoods
then the zen found me.

i had seen so much breathtaking beauty in Kyoto by that point that i was certain my 
awe well was tapped out. so when we turned a corner and walked into the bamboo grove, where stalks of bamboo stood as high as my beloved redwoods, i could muster no more beyond holy fuck. words and photos are poor substitutions for standing there, feeling like an ant, among natural beauty that eclipses anything technology could ever cook up. it was magical.

still blurry but more civil
naturally, we took a (blurry) photo.

it was magical.

i wanted to pitch a tent and stay forever, certain hobbits would appear at night. 


its obscene. put on a burka, Kyoto. quit making the rest of us look bad. 

after the bamboo grove, we had to say our goodbyes to Kyoto, with regrets about missing its fish market and Gion park, where geishas are known to roam. our last journey through town was bittersweet as Arashiyama in particular hypnotized us with its beauty, making us sad to leave. it was also brief as we had to return to the hotel, grab our luggage and haul ass to Kyoto Station, where we would catch the bullet train (Shinkansen) into Tokyo.

ride through Kyoto, with music by The Smiths.

tired but happy (and always consulting a map).

tired but happy--and always consulting a map.

when we learned the bullet train would take under 2 hours to reach Tokyo when the overnight bus from Tokyo took 8, we wondered why we hadn
t used this option on the journey in. oh yeah, because train tickets were 4 times more expensive and we figured wed also use the bus as our hotel that night. but if i had to do it all over again, bullet train both ways, baby.

we sat on that train bewildered that the previous two days had passed so quickly, and worried that the next five would also breeze by us as we trailed behind them trying to squeeze the life out of every second. we had work to do in Tokyo--work we, honestly, didnt want to do. we also had new people to meet, who were sure to burst our happy travel bubble with their foreign energy.

but before i could lament to Tico much more about my latest super depressing first-world problem, i fell asleep on his shoulder, my drool running down his sleeve, while he snored loudly against the window. moments later, we arrived in Planet Tokyo, where my mind would be blown countless times by things i never thought were possible on Planet Earth.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Introducing Indy & Z


the new pack

because i’ve been telling every one of my friends that i wasn’t ready to love a new dog following the death of my beloved Pinko last year, two new dogs arrived on my doorstep. was i ready to love them? it doesn’t matter because they were ready to be loved, and that trumped everything else, including my better judgment. 

one dog i was somewhat expecting, given that Tico had stated his desire to get his own dog and had been visiting shelters throughout Los Angeles in search of a new best friend. but as his visits dragged on for months without a victor, i dismissed his intention as not being very serious and settled into a new routine with Juice as my main bitch. sure, there were a few contenders, but none of them stuck until one of them finally did. when Tico took me to the North Central Animal Shelter to check out a Weimaraner mix he thought “had potential,” i was skeptical. the dog seemed fearful and unfriendly, never coming too far out of his kennel and toward the gate where we were beckoning him. 

i suggested he keep looking, worried that the dog wouldn’t be friendly with us nor other dogs, as i had Juice to consider at home. but Tico remained undeterred, and when the dog finally came up for adoption a week later, a handler took him out of the kennel to meet us. that’s when the magic happened. the dog, now named Indy (in honor of Tico’s childhood obsession with Indiana Jones), was still skittish but also sweet, curious and calm, never once barking or displaying aggression. it was clear he had a few issues that would need to be addressed, but we knew his fear would eventually melt away with a lot of love, patience and guidance. 


first meeting at the shelter. sparks flew.

while filling out the paperwork for Indy  feeling equal parts stunned, excited and petrified  delirium must have taken over because we decided to get a second dog. just like that, as though he were a candy bar added at checkout. we spotted another couple playing with him first and marveled at his cuteness. he was an owner surrender brought in that morning, meaning he was up for adoption immediately, as opposed to strays like Indy that had to first hang out at the shelter for a week. we played with him while waiting for the vet to swing by and discuss Indy’s snip surgery and began to feel the familiar pinch of cupid and his arrow again. evidently, lightning can strike twice in the same place, and sometimes within the same hour. 

he was an impulse buy, snatched up because 1) he was a Boston Terrier and Tico has always been interested in that breed; 2) he was an adorable puppy that would quickly be adopted by virtue of his adorable puppiness and the savviness that propelled him to lick the face of anyone holding him, so we needed to decide fast. after one minute of excited discussion, we agreed to get him, figuring we would be turning our world upside down with one dog anyway, so why not just go big and ruin our lives with two?


how could i resist this face?

Tico decided to name the puppy Zilla, short for Godzilla (another childhood obsession). it seemed fitting, too, as the puppy showed up like a wrecking ball to destroy everything, just like that overgrown lizard did. within a day, Zilla had been shortened to Z, which is how he’s known now. he is the dog at the end of the alphabet.


beginning of boot camp

i can’t deny that the first week was really, really hard — like really, really. everyone was snapping at everyone else, humans and dogs included. Z’s thimble-sized bladder kept him peeing inside the house, while Indy refused to have a bowel movement for three days. Juice seemed edgy about the new additions and even bit Indy’s snout after i took him on a lengthy walk without her. unattended items were chewed and vets were visited after Indy irritated his remaining ball sack following surgery and again when his nose started leaking mucus, indicating a bronchial infection that required antibiotics. 

meanwhile, Tico was trying to Cesar Milan his way through the days between bouts of frustration, while i kept questioning his tactics, having learned a few of my own from raising puppies. the house was a wreck with a strong smell of vinegar (used to mask the trail of dog piss), the dogs’ energies were near explosive most of the time, but especially at mealtimes, and tempers flared as voices rose, with most of the shouting directed at the puppy, who was the epicenter of drama with his inexhaustible supply of energy and mischief. but mostly, we were all exhausted and needed naps. 

buyer’s remorse? hell yes.


spawn of satan in cute packaging

a month later, the days are still very hard, with probably more bad-to-neutral ones than good ones, as the tally of items destroyed by Indy and peed on by Z grow daily. that’s not to suggest Tico and i don’t love these two idiots — we do more so each day, as evidenced by the fact that we haven’t taken them back to the pound — but we still want to murder them sometimes. case in point: that time one of them (likely Z) got into a bag of baby powder left in the back of the closet and proceeded to dust the entire house with it. our mistake for thinking the puppy had been behaving more, so let’s trust him outside his crate for one hour while we go to Home Depot.


first thought upon seeing this: im going to get back in the car and drive away. 


my second thought: i should probably go in and kill the puppy first.


Zs nicknames: crackhead, crazy, the little shit, rata, poop machine, sparky, zeetchka

you’d never guess by looking at that sweet face, but this one is the shit starter. granted, he’s just a puppy, now five months old, so part of his job is to misbehave. i can’t say it’s not endearing sometimes, as his antics can be ridiculously cute, clumsy and innocent. and he does have moments of acting like the Best Puppy on the Planet when he gets kissy-faced and cuddly. so yes, i’m a sucker for that face and think i’m really onto something with my business idea of opening a store to provide puppy therapy to sad stiffs who need a mood-lifter. just a dollar a minute to sit inside a pen with puppies. i think it will make me rich.


i think hes a Boston Terrier-Chihuahua mix; Tico thinks Boston and Border Collie (because he hates Chihuahuas). hes roughly 10 pounds now.

Z is exceptionally smart, maybe as smart as Juice, which would be impressive. he learned how to shake, stay and sit after only a few minutes of instruction and is savvy about reading people and other dogs, easily identifying the suckers at the dog park who will feed him treats and the weakest dogs to dominate. he’s tough, fearless, quick, independent and could probably enter any one of your houses and forget that Tico and i ever existed within a matter of hours. he is interested in everyone and everything. 


Indys nicknames: snake eyes, Indosha, pendejo, chewy, hungry hippo, floppy

Tico picked about 30 ticks off of Indy on his first day home, an exercise that must have cemented a special bond in Indy’s heart because he is now lost whenever Tico steps out of the room. unlike Z, Indy has been hard to train and sort of dopey, with a cartoon face and big head that manage to hit each wall he walks by. he can also be defiant, what i call his "teenager energy," born of frustration when he doesn’t get his way. then, he throws an epic tantrum full of wails that sound like Chewbacca.


i think hes a Weimaraner and pit mix; Tico thinks Weimie-Lab. vet said he is probably 1.5 to 2 years old and shouldnt get much bigger. hes 70 pounds of muscle now.

when at home and relaxed, Indy is a big sugar who wants to cuddle and sleep on top of us to make sure we don’t leave. when we’re up and moving around, however, he becomes a shadow that gets underfoot and seeks out negative attention. once a passive super-champ at the dog park, Indy became rattled after a mastiff bit his head and now becomes aggressive with dogs that try to dominate him. he’s unsure of strangers, men especially, and takes his time warming up to new people. he will not want to enter your house or let you pet him until you offer him several treats and/or Tico or i embrace you to show him you’re not a threat. but once you’re in, he’ll want to sit on your lap. 


after some initial sibling rivalry, these two are approaching a happier place and have begun to cuddle more. im hoping they join forces and begin to regard Z as their kid, but so far Juice has had to school both the boys.


Juice will turn 13 next month. her nicknames: jooca, joocasheena, big mama J, pretty girl, jooks, the OG.

i assure you that Juice has not been forgotten in this new world order. in fact, she is more critical than ever, helping play trainer and referee with the brothers. her relaxed energy calms all of us down, providing a welcome reminder of how training, dedication and time can transform a dog from beast to best friend. i well remember how, in her first year of life, she climbed onto my parents’ dinner table when no one was looking and ate the roast chicken clean. so when Z has peed yet again 10 minutes after being let outside and Indy has chewed up another item, i’ll calmly whisper to myself, “Juice and the chicken, Juice and the chicken.” 


the puppy adores her and often uses her body as his launching pad, pillow and tabletop. she allows it (most of the time).

the brothers have rocked Juice’s world as much as they’ve rocked ours and i’ve find myself asking her daily whether i ruined her life, especially when the house reaches chaotic levels because the puppies won’t CHILL THE FUCK OUT ALREADY. in reply, she’ll lick her chops and look at the cupboard with the dog treats. i always abide, sneaking her plenty when they aren’t looking, and lavishing her with affection and apologies whenever i can. she is a rockstar and a rock. 


the boys are ridiculously good-looking. of course, im totally objective.

these two know they are the new kids on the block and have bonded in a way that none of us were prepared for. they love and trust each other more than the rest of us outsiders with our dumb rules that limit their collective wrestling, barking, overeating, chewing, jumping, howling, begging, scratching and psychotic episodes that find them slamming into shins and knocking over items as they sprint through the house. they also gang up on dogs at the dog park, with Indy making a mighty display of himself whenever another dog dares to step up to his kid brother.  


a well-worn position


tug of war with Ticos sock.

we’ve had to separate them more to keep the peace and our sanity intact. and when we have, they act like miraculously well-behaved angels. this is troubling because we need to function calmly as a pack, so the focus is now on showing the puppies how to co-exist without needing to chew each other’s faces off. it’s been difficult as their inclination, Z’s especially, is to roughhouse until they rile each other up to satanic levels of barking and body slams, but they will learn, goddamnit, or we will die trying to teach them.


triple the dog hair and dog shit, yay! 


does this puppy make my butt look big?

one of the other issues with the brothers becoming so close is that Juice is left out of their clubhouse. i had hoped a new friend would keep her company and stop the uncontrollable shaking she exhibited every time i said goodbye to her before leaving for work in the morning. and the boys have done that, but at 13, she’s not up for puppy playfulness, so she’s left on the sidelines as the buzz-killing matriarch that snaps at them until they stop wrestling and then demonstrates how to share toys. they both respect her, maybe more than they do us, but they rarely engage her in play. i’m hoping this will change as they mature. 


but sometimes, all three of them can get in on a good tug-of-war, which warms the cockles of my heart.


other times, the puppy will sleep on my lap while my man sleeps alongside me, and ill think, “this is a good time for a selfie.”


bipeds not allowed on couch.

Tico and i have been working well as a team through this despite the usual bickering that characterizes our couplehood. both of us have raised dogs before so we have established parenting styles to borrow from. thankfully, they are more alike than dissimilar and include a lot of Dog Whisperer tricks (Cesar Milan once worked with Juice before he became a megastar). in general, we believe in consistency, consistency, consistency. training during the first few months is intense. this means rewards for good behavior and, yes, punishment for bad behavior (solitary confinement in the crate or on the deck). i’m sure the pups regard us as humorless stiffs, but once we get through the boot camp of learning house rules, we’ve assured them that a better time lies ahead.  


if Z could surgically join himself to Indy, i think he would be happy. Indy’s choice would be to surgically join himself to Tico. Juice just wants all the dog treats in the world. Tico wants a motorcycle and i would like a spa day. 


somewhere off the 5 freeway, taken on our first road trip together.

Tico is very much the disciplinary dad, while i am the more lenient mom. together, we make the ultimate cliche of gender-based parenting. like all new parents, we have moments when we lose our cool and wonder why we wrecked our formerly breezy life with one old dog. but then we’ll remember that life before the two dummies was not nearly as interesting, challenging or joyful. that’s when we’ll share a smile as the boys wrestle (semi-calmly) at our feet while Juice snores gently nearby. we may even give each other a high-five, proud of how far the new pack has already come, and confident that we can go the remaining distance.

it’s a warm, empowering feeling, usually interrupted by the puppy shitting in the living room.