Sunday, May 31, 2015

Saturdays, Spiders, and Saving Lives

As some of you may know, on most Saturdays Opie and I go to this little bar called George's for lunch and a few adult beverages.

We are very careful, however, to take turns being the designated driver.

This is especially lucky for Opie because when he drives home he is often treated to an incredible vocal performance by yours truly as I belt out classics from the 80s and 90s.

It is interesting to note that there is something horribly wrong with the acoustics in Opie’s car. When I'm in my car alone, I sound amazing.  I hit the high notes every time I and I’m pretty sure I have about an 8 octave range. Then I get in Opie’s car and all of a sudden I sound like a cat who just got his tailcaught in the blinds.  It’s weird.

But I digress…

As I was saying, when Opie drives he gets showered with song. And when I drive, he often gets treated to conversations like the one we had last week.

“Holy crap!” I said, a few seconds after we pulled out of the driveway. “Look at the size of that spider on the back window!  It’s the size of a human head!”

Opie, after a cursory glance mumbled something like “Yeah, it’s big.”

“It’s not just big, it’s enormous! Is it on the inside or outside of the glass?”

Which is when he made one of the classic blunders: he told the truth. “I don’t know,” he said.

“Oh geez!  What if it’s on the inside?”

“It’s not on the inside.”

“You don’t know that, you just said you weren’t sure.”

“I’m sure now.  Besides, it might not even be a spider.  It’s probably just a piece of dirt—“

“Oh, it’s a spider!”  I assured him, taking another long look to make sure.  “I can see its creepy spider legs dancing around in that creepy spider way.  It’s definitely a spider.”

“Would you please be careful and pay attention to the road? There’s a cop right next to us.”

“I’m sure the cop would understand spider-induced car trouble,” I said.  “But if you just watch the spider then I won’t have to.  At least not much.”

“Why does anyone need to watch the spider?”

“Because if it’s inside the car, it could skitter across the ceiling in all its spider sneakiness and jump on one of us. Probably you.  And then it could bite you on the jugular and you’d die before I could do anything to help.”

“That’s insane.”



A few minutes later, I decided this was the perfect time to really put things into focus for him.  “You know, things like this wouldn’t happen if you would just get me a scooter.”

“I will NEVER get you a scooter.”

“Can’t you just see me on a scooter?  I’d scoot over to the store.  I’d scoot to church.  I’d scoot all over town on a scooter.  And, if you were really nice to me, I’d let you ride in the sidecar.”

He ended this discussion with the rather abrupt announcement that if he ever does get me a scooter, I should take that as a sign he doesn’t really care about me all.  Apparently he is under the impression that my life expectancy post-scooter purchase is about a week.

Which is totally unfair.

In any case, when we got to George’s, I jumped out of the car and determined that the spider was, in fact, on the outside of the glass…I couldn’t get a good picture of it, though, because I was pretty sure it was still plotting a way to leap on one of us.

Which may sound a little bit completely insane…but not when you realize that I’m clearly psychic because after a brief bit of Internet research I learned that this is called the “Bold Jumping Spider” (a fact I screamed at Opie triumphantly) and is characterized by its ability to “jump at prey with extraordinary accuracy” and the fact that it “isn’t afraid to eat creatures much larger than itself.”

Basically, my insistence on constant spider surveillance saved Opie’s life.

I could be wrong but I like to think it was just the overwhelming relief from this near-death experience that made him start shouting for a beer the instant we crossed George’s threshold.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I was recently asked to sample and review a product called Puppy-Treads. Which were not, I was surprised to learn, puppy tennis shoes (an idea I could totally get behind) but safety strips designed to keep pets (and people) from slipping on hardwood floors, stairs, and tile.

This seemed oddly appropriate for my household, almost as if the company had heard about the “Sassy Thinks She’s Superdog and Subsequently Has Emergency Knee Surgery” situation.

How sad does this dog look?
I’m not saying that the fact that I had recently pulled up the living room carpeting and polished the wooden tile floor caused Sassy's accident but I’m also not going to say it wasn’t a factor.

I’m also not going to say that Sassy has learned her lesson and now walks carefully and gingerly across the floor.  I’m not going to say that because it would be an enormous lie.

It is especially disturbing to see how she chases Bubba down the carpeted stairs at top speed, leaps from the 2nd or 3rd stair onto the floor, and slides across the room like she’s on ice skates.

It is interesting to note that Opie takes these leaps and slides with equanimity. “The vet said we might eventually have to have surgery on the other knee,” he says. "If it happens, it happens."

I, on the other hand, am not nearly so calm and have even gone so far as to build a barrier at the bottom of the stairs in a futile attempt to curb this behavior.

Not at all completely tacky, is it? I mean nothing says classy like crates in the living room.
In any case, this is where the Puppy-Treads come in.  They're made by the HandiRamp company (who manufacture wheelchair accessible ramps and other safety products) and are specifically designed to give pets traction on slippery surfaces like hardwood or linoleum.  So, when the company offered me a free set and asked me to review them, I jumped at the chance.

I mean, they had to be better than the tacky crate situation, right?

The review process has not been without the typical Kimbo drama, however.

As soon as they arrived, I opened the box and read the instructions.

That was the easy part.

Then I started obsessing about the fact that they were adhesive.  “What if I decide I hate them, pull them up and they leave some disgusting residue?”  I fretted.  “What if I turn our living room into some horrible, doggy-sized sticky trap and I come home one day to find both dogs and the cat all stuck to the floor, writhing in agony?”

Opie calls these kind of ideas overreacting (though rarely out loud) and suggested a test run.

Clearly, I have married a genius.

So I cut off a corner:

Stuck it on the floor:

Waited awhile, then pulled it up, and voila! No sticky residue.

Score one for the Puppy-Treads!

I was ready for the true test.

I peeled a full tread off the paper backing (while Opie took pictures and I yelled things like “Just get my hands!” and “Make sure I don't look enormous in this photo!”).

Then stuck them to the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

At first it was difficult to gauge how well they worked because Bubba was terrified of them.  This is no reflection on the treads themselves; the list of things that Bubba is terrified of includes but is not limited to: the microwave when it beeps, the refrigerator door alarm, Nerf guns, champagne bottles, my father, grates in the street, the hose, the vacuum, the sandwich grill, the sound of anything cooking, the neighbor kids, and balloons.

Bubba is a very skittish dog.

It does mean, however, that when I first put the treads down, Bubba decided they were the scariest things EVER and that they were probably made of acid and that he should fling himself over them at every opportunity instead of taking the chance that they might burn his paws off.

Which meant that Sassy leapt over them too in hysterical imitation.

Definitely NOT the response I was hoping for.

Eventually, though, Bubba deigned to walk on them so Sassy could also walk on them and in no time, both dogs acted like the treads had been there for years. And they definitely do provide some traction. The dogs still leap from the second or third stair like over-sized grasshoppers but they don't slide across the floor, scrabbling wildly with their toenails. 

They would probably work even better if I added a few more treads, extending them farther out into the room and covering more of the floor. But that leads me to my only complaint. The ad says they are lightweight, easy to install and attractive.  I agree with lightweight and easy to install. Attractive, though, is a bit of a stretch. I got the clear ones but they are still pretty visible on the floor—though, to be fair, not nearly as obtrusive as a stack of mis-matched crates.

In any case, I don’t know if I would want them up and down an entire fancy staircase but I’m planning to leave them on the floor in front of the stairs and I'll probably put another one down in front of the doorway to the washroom (where the cat tends to do his own wild leaping) because they do provide extra traction.

And I’ll do anything to avoid 8 more weeks of puppy prison and knee surgery recovery!

Anyway, if you’re reading this and you have similar slippage issues, these could help you out. You can read more about them and see the color and size selections here and can even get 10% off if you use the discount code BLOG2014. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Cat Says It All

In case you're wondering how I feel after driving from Illinois to Oklahoma with a panting dog on my lap, unpacking the car in the rain, staring at the mountain of laundry and other chores that have to be done after a week away, almost ready to drink a glass of wine the size of a human head and only THEN realizing that we left Opie's car at the airport (he flew in for the family visit a few days later).

I think Princeton P. Kitty's face sums it up best:

Who thinks I'm still having the wine and we're going to the airport tomorrow?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hibiscus Rescue

Well, after the unfortunate “NeighborsGet A Monster-Sized Dog” issue, we're biting the bullet and having a new fence installed.

And if you think this process has occurred without drama and brouhaha then you've never read this blog before.

It all started with the hibiscus. This beautiful, big hibiscus that is growing through the old chain link fence and dwarfing the plants around it. It flowers for months and months every summer and is absolutely gorgeous.

And kind of huge.

 “We can't really build around that.” The fence guys said. "And if you leave it there, it could warp the new fence."

“We'll have to rip it out," Opie said.

And I stared at him in abject horror. "We are not MURDERING that hibiscus!"

"I don't think it's really murder when it's a plant," he said.

But I wasn’t about to listen to that kind of nonsense. So I flat out refused to participate in his horrifying bushicide plot and began looking up ways to transplant it to the front yard.

"This is going to be a disaster," Opie predicted.

"Not for YOU," I assured him. "I'll take care of everything."

Everything except pruning the bush down to 1/3 of its original size (per Internet instructions) and cleaning up the subsequent debris.  He did that…convinced, I suspect, that I wouldn’t completely clean up the hibiscus detritus (even though I love the word detritus) and instead scatter it around the yard in hopes the lawn guy would be able to mulch it with the mower.

After that, though, the bush’s fate was in my hands. And one morning last week, after Opie left for work, I went out to save the poor hibiscus.

“Easy-peasy,” I told the dogs. “Just dig around the bush in a circle, loosen the roots, and bam! Hibiscus saved!”

2 hours later, it was pretty clear the root-loosening wasn’t really working for us.

“Never fear,” I told the dogs.  “We just need to add a little water to the soil, saturate the roots so they slide right out of the ground.”

Which led to 3 more hours of digging in soggy mud.

Though, to be fair, part of that time frame was based on the fact that this ridiculous animal, the Princess Snowflake Sassypants:

Kept scampering through the mud in a very un-Princess like fashion.

Then I got distracted by this caterpillar that had clearly been soaked by my soil water shenanigans and needed to be rescued and then stared at until I was sure it hadn’t been an unintended casualty of Operation Hibiscus Rescue.

(It is interesting to note that I did not feel the same concern for the ENORMOUS centipede that came scurrying out of the hibiscus’ roots when the water first splashed down. Clearly, I have some complicated bug prejudices.)

In any case, I worked on that hibiscus for a shocking amount of time and it showed no signs of loosening by the time I had to get ready for work.

Which is when I came up with my brilliant plan:

Completely flood the roots and hibiscus hole, let it all soak in while I worked my shift online, then come back out and pop it out like a cork from champagne.

And still I think this might have actually worked…except it started to rain.

And when I say “rain” I don’t mean a gentle shower with rainbows peeking through. I mean the kind of torrential downpour that makes you start looking for the proper materials to build an ark.

The hole flooded, the area around the hole flooded, the fence-line flooded…

“This doesn’t look good.” I told the dogs. And they concurred but had no helpful suggestions other than to hint that a few treats and belly-rubs would make everyone feel better.

Seriously, these dogs are very self-involved.

Anyway, I don’t have any pictures of that because I couldn’t take my awesome new camera out in the rain.

I had no trouble taking myself out in the rain, though, because after I finally finished my online shift, I ran out into the storm, and started digging and wading through calf-deep mud, pulling that hibiscus as hard as I could.

To no avail.

It was around this point that I lost whatever tiny grip I had on my sanity and began screaming at the hibiscus in frustration.

"I am the only thing standing between you and CERTAIN DEATH!" I shouted at it. "Don't you understand that? You need to move or DIE."

I'm a little disturbed to report that none of the neighbors came out to investigate the screaming and death threats. Which means they are either completely callous and uncaring OR they have become completely inured to this type of behavior after nearly 4 years of living next to me.

Honestly, I don't know which is worse.

Anyway, there I was in the backyard in a torrential downpour, cursing the hibiscus, threatening the hibiscus, and trying to shake the hibiscus free when Opie got home from work.

"What did you do?" He demanded, looking at the swampland that had once been our backyard.


And he went inside.

Which makes him sound like the biggest jerk in the world until you realize that he was just going in to change out of of his work clothes. He was back in a few minutes, in old clothes and shoes, with a shovel of his own.

And a mere hour and a half later, we got the damn bush out of its earthen prison!

Which left an unfortunate puddle large enough to drown a dog.

“I’ll drag the hibiscus around front,” Opie said.  “And then you can dig a new hole and plant it in the morning.”

“I have to plant it tonight,” I said. “All the guides said you have to get it re-planted as soon as possible or it won’t survive.  And,” I finished before he could even ask “I couldn’t dig the hole before-hand because I didn’t know how big the rootball was going to be and what size hole I would need.”

Opie stared at me for a really long time (especially considering we were standing outside in the rain) then began dragging the bush and muttering under his breath…muttering, I’m pretty sure, sweet nothings about how I am the light of his life.

“Go on inside!” I shouted after him. “I’ll dig the new hole!  I’LL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING!”

But he wasn’t falling for THAT again. He dug the hole, we pushed the hibiscus in, and bam! Hibiscus saved!

These are the new buds popping up.

So, in summary, the bush is planted and showing signs of re-blooming, none of our clothes had to be thrown away but did have to be removed on the porch, it took me three more hours the next day to drain the stupid hole and re-fill it with dirt.

But it was worth it to save Opie from the karmic consequences of hibiscus murder.