2016 wrap up

My official degree!

The second half of 2016 was a whirlwind. After graduating and leaving Boise, Kevin and I drove across the country (again) to leave Meeko at my sister’s apartment so we could fly out of Boston airport to Iceland and Paris.

Thanks to cheap flights, that monthly discount on Airbnb, and a limited food budget (mostly baguettes), Kevin and I stayed in Paris for a month. This was Kevin’s first international trip, so it felt really special to share something that has been so important with him.

Hanging out in Paris
The chandelier at Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House)

We spent most of our time going to museums and gardens, with bakery stops in between.

I still owe Kevin back for the trip (because you know I didn’t have that kind of money saved up on a graduate student salary!), but between my graduating and him starting his own MFA program this fall, we agreed it was worth the risk while we had the free time.

After Paris we drove back across the country and stopped in Laramie to find a place to live. We snagged a still-being-renovated apartment with a fenced yard which Meeko was very excited about. The apartment is one of four in a renovated, hundred year old house. Two of our windows have breaks in the glass. The bathroom was built on what used to be a deck. But, it is almost twice the size of our Boise apartment… for the same price. While I’d hoped to find a place in a newer building for the sake of cheaper heat, Kevin and I stuck to our budget and signed a 10 month lease. The whole time we were apartment hunting in Laramie, we stayed in another Airbnb in Northern Colorado where our host made us delicious breakfast every morning. Meeko made friends with the black lab, and overcame her fear of the deck.

A familiar sight. This has been the best roadtrip car!

At the end of the summer, we spent a month living in Nampa with his mom while I commuted to Boise to teach two summer camps for a new startup. After that, it was off to Laramie, officially! I put my budget organizing and decorating skills to use and hit up Craigslist, yard sales, and the local oddity/flea market, Bart’s. (If you are ever driving on I-80 and need a place to stop and walk around, go check out Bart’s! You never know what you’re going to find there. Except wagon wheels, there’s always wagon wheels.)

Meeko enjoying the couch.

The best find was a brown couch with an embroidered scene of horses running across the plains. Too perfect.

It took a while to get settled in Laramie, and I am still figuring out the best way to cobble together multiple streams of income while I build up my new business. But, the cost of living is pretty low out here. I don’t go out to do much other than events with the University of Wyoming’s MFA program. A few years ago I might not have liked that, but right now, it is kind of perfect. I spend seven days a week working on projects from home, writing, consulting, building up my websites, and constantly looking to that future I hope to have.

3rd Street in Laramie, on the edge of downtown.

Kevin is loving his program, I’m enjoying how much I can focus on work here, and Meeko is eating all the snow she can. On to 2017!

Eureka, California

A year and a half or so ago, I moved to Boise for graduate school and my best friend Julie moved to Eureka, California. A twelve hour drive apart was the closest we’d lived to each other since back in our high school days when we shared a yellow school bus route and biked to each other’s houses (in between homework, a plate full of extra curriculars, and mowing our parents’ extensive lawns).  This Thanksgiving Break I finally made the drive south to Julie’s and Meeko got to meet her puppy-cousin Remi.

Here are the pictures from our trip!

Ghost Towns part 2

Rocky Bar, Idaho. Home to exactly four people, none of whom came out of their houses to say hello. I’m not actually sure if any of the four residents were around that day. The occupied houses in the town had multiple “no trespassing” and “private property” signs. The town welcome sign warned of old people and guns, sarcastically I hope.

Welcome to Rocky Bar, Idaho
Welcome to Rocky Bar, Idaho

At it’s height, this town had a population of 2,500. At one point, it was considered for the capital city of the Idaho Territory. A fire hit, the gold rush trickled down, and slowly everyone left. It seems that much of the present-day population of small mountain towns like this are part-time residents. People who escape to their cabin in the woods for the summer, or on weekends, and head back down for the rest of the year.

Don't go into the cellar, Meeko! Don't you watch scary movies?
Don’t go into the cellar, Meeko! Don’t you watch scary movies?

There wasn’t much to explore because there wasn’t much left, but the rusting furniture and mysterious saloon/repair shop was enough to get my creepy-town fix for a while. Meeko was especially interesting in all the animal poop on the floor of these homes and the stuffing falling from the attics. I’d read on another ghost town website that old safes were pretty common to find at these towns, but it was rare to find a safe that hasn’t been cracked open already. I found my first out in the middle of nowhere safe, but its lid was cracked completely open, the inside filled with sand.

Rocky Bar, Idaho is a good one-time trip. I wouldn’t say an entire trip would be worth it just to see that town, but it worked into our route from Atlanta, Idaho back to Boise.

Ghost Towns in Idaho Part 1

I’ll be the first to admit I have a problem. I feel a strange connection to ghost towns. Abandoned mines, crumbling cabins, and the wild slowly eating a town back into the forest. I’d been to some other ghost towns, mainly in Nevada (gold rushes and similar phenomena tend to leave a trail of abandoned towns in its wake). It turns out Idaho had its own gold rush, silver rush, and gem rush.

Kevin and I headed three hours North of Boise, Idaho to check out two such towns. One Atlanta, Idaho, once home to 17,000 people as a tent city… now home to about 40 residents.

Forest fires have slowed down tourism to Atlanta, ID forcing a lot of local businesses to close. With projects like The Atlanta School and a hot springs nearby, the residents are hoping to draw more people out along the forest service roads.

But of course, “not too many people.”

I was very intrigued by Atlanta, Idaho. I loved the dirt, washboard roads maintained by the Forest Service. From the burned forests, bright wildflowers grew thick on the ground. The rivers following the roads were clear, cold, and without any trace of trash. Everyone in Atlanta was welcoming, encouraging us to explore the town on foot and leave my little car parked. With no cell phone service or internet, it was a place to truly unplug. I’m sure I will be back soon.

6th Street

My sleep schedule has been completely off lately, so Meeko and I decided to take a walk this afternoon near our apartment. With a few hours until my night class (where my new short story will be workshopped for the last time this semester) we stepped outside. I forgot how bright the sun was.

It seems like Boise never has any clouds. The sky is a blue that Buffalo can’t even imagine. The leaves were vibrant yellows, warm oranges, and copper reds. I threw some in Meeko’s face and she thought that was a great game. The leaves are crisp like biting into an apple. Or so I imagine, because I don’t bite into apples. The skin gets stuck in my permanent retainer and it’s no good.

I set outside with no plan of where we’d go. Only after a few blocks did I realize my feet were leading us straight down 6th street. I had no desire to change directions or keep track of where we were going, so we just kept walking.

Kids walked home from school. A mailman delivered mail to painted boxes on wooden fences. A dad with a pink backpack smiled as he watched his daughter walking one foot in front of the other along a cement curb of someone’s sloped front yard. A middle schooler struggled carrying her cello on her back and her Mom just laughed at her from their fence.

You can’t make this stuff up. I walk through these scenes like, “Really Boise? What is this, I don’t even believe you.” People leave windows down in their unlocked cars. Entire yards of crunchy leaves. Strangers smile at me and wave me across the streets, happy to wait and in no hurry.

At one point a boy, maybe seven years old, walked towards me carrying a rock bigger than his head. His dad looked straight out of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit video, flannel shirt and long hair walking a dog that looked like a wolf. I imagine this dad was they type to say “radical” with no sign of irony.”You okay with that?” The boy struggled with the rock, locking his arms straight to make up for muscles that just haven’t grown yet. “Yeah, I got it!” As they turn the corner to walk perpendicular to me, the boy gives up with a smile and drops the rock into someone’s front yard. The dad just looks at him like “whatever little dude”.

Meeko and I walked until the end of 6th street, returning home with calm energy. I’m sure we’ll both sleep well tonight.

Kill your TV, go for a walk.

Ina Coolbrith Park

Wednesday I woke up feeling like a cold was creeping up on me. With a sore throat, I decided to take it easier with my adventuring since I have a lot of pet sitting jobs over this weekend. After catching up on my errands, I took Meeko and Snickers for a two hour walk. We went to our usual Huntington Park where Meeko met a puppy willing to play chase. Snickers sniffed around and didn’t leave my side.

From there, we walked North on Taylor St. We had to manage some pretty steep hills. On one of them we met an Chinese couple with a really snappy chihuahua. They were laughing at how tough it thought it was. Meeko of course did not take it’s threats seriously and tried to get it to play.

Ina Coolbrith park was on a “100 must do” kind of list I’d found on a hipster website. The gardening was all well kept, and it did have some awesome views of the Bay. The park itself was all along one slope of a hill, with paths and stairs winding down it. This made it a little tougher for Snickers, so I’m not sure we would go back. Maybe the views would have impressed me more if I didn’t live in the neighborhood and walk around a lot.

On our way back home, we made another stop at Huntington park to make sure Meeko was truly exhausted. She chased some more puppies and begged for treats from strangers. After Snickers snapped at another dog, I decided we’d better call it a day.

$420 later…

Last night around 8pm, Meeko and Snickers were sleeping on the couch, waiting to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with me. Snickers saw a dog commercial and started barking at the TV. Meeko was still laying down, but looked like she was trying to get up. Watching her carefully, I realized something was wrong. Her head was jerking upwards every few seconds, and she didn’t seem to be doing it on purpose.

After standing her up on the floor, I realized Meeko was having muscle spasms all over. Her head was twitching, her front legs were stiff and also twitching, and her back legs seemed stuck in a slightly bent position. Snickers sniffed her and put her ears back, even she knew something was wrong. I waited, hoping Meeko would suddenly get better. Maybe her legs fell asleep from sleeping weird? After 1 minute of watching her, she wasn’t any better. Her eyes were darting back and forth and she couldn’t focus on me. Could she be having a seizure?

My heart started to pound as fear kicked in. I’d never seen a dog seizure before, but Meeko was clearly not in control of her own body. I didn’t have an emergency vet set up in San Francisco yet, so I called our regular vet, Blue Cross Animal hospital, hoping for an automated message with a “if this is an emergency, please call…”

Instead, a sleepy sounding voice answered. I think it may have been one of the doctors. I explained my situation, and thankfully he gave me the name and number of an emergency animal hospital. It was a twenty minute drive. Under normal circumstances, I would have researched the hospital and weighed my options with other places. But, fearing Meeko might have permanent damage from whatever was going on, I got her leash on and ran out the door. Snickers actually tried to come with us and became very agitated when I forced her to come back inside.

Around 8:30 we arrived at All Animals Emergency Hospital. Meeko was still spasming and acting strange. She insisted on sitting in my lap the whole drive (usually she is happy to look out the window from the passenger’s seat). As soon as we arrived, Meeko was taken to the back. This immediately heightened my fear because there were other people in the waiting room. Was Meeko’s condition more serious than I thought? Half an hour later, I had no news from and Doctors, only the receptionist telling me “the doctor will see you soon”. At this point, I was just trying not to cry. My new theory was maybe Meeko had some kind of seizure disorder that was surfacing now that she was older.

I finally got into one of the rooms and the Doctor came to talk to me. Still no sign of Meeko. He started asking me some questions, but all I wanted to know was if Meeko had gotten any worse. “Um, is she still alive?” I asked. “Oh yes, she’s doing about the same”

His best guess was Meeko at something toxic, like chocolate, nuts or pot. I informed him that she had not eaten any of those things, or anything else weird today. The doctor asked if we’d gone to a dog park, “Sometimes when dogs are at the park they run off and end up eating a homeless person’s marijuana” Well we weren’t at any dog parks that day, or the day before. Also, is this really that common of an occurrence  After some more questions and somewhat vague answers from the doctor, I realized that Meeko hadn’t been tested for anything yet. After he left, the receptionist came in with an estimate of $1200 to keep Meeko at the hospital overnight, give her an IV and do bloodwork. Toward the end of our conversation, Meeko was finally brought into the room, already having that vet/kennel smell. She was still twitching and was very lethargic in my lap. I cried, not knowing what was wrong with her and not hearing any answers from the vet was really upsetting me.

Now I am not an expert dog owner, but even through my fear and worrying I could see something was not right. How could they know that Meeko needed to stay at a hospital all night if they did not know what was wrong with her and had not done any testing yet? I posed this question, though more tactfully, and the receptionist left to see what the doctor thought about Meeko not staying overnight. I informed her I was happy to wait with Meeko a few hours rather than pay for them to hold her.

Another 20-30 minutes later a vet tech came to take Meeko back. They had decided they could do her blood testing right now. My sense of “something’s not right” was now validated– maybe they just wanted to keep her overnight so they could do her testing later when they weren’t as busy. (Though I don’t think 4-6 families is very busy over the span of 3 hours)

With testing scheduled to take another “twenty minutes” I called Ashwin and gave him the update. Being the awesome boyfriend that he is, he jumped on his computer and tried to research what else might be going on with Meeko. He even paid to chat with a vet online as a way of a second opinion. (This vet asked some very good questions, and in hindsight, I would definitely recommend this option to anyone who can’t take their dog in to an emergency clinic. This vet’s theories were Meeko licking flea oil off of Snickers, other toxins, or a seizure condition.)

Close to 11pm I was back in one of the rooms waiting for the blood test results. They were all normal. The Doctor explained that this ruled out certain toxins (like gum- her blood sugar would have dropped). After these results, he felt very strongly that Meeko had eaten some pot on the street. I explained Meeko’s tendency to eat things as we walk and how this has made me (usually) hyper alert to her eating/chewing anything. I hadn’t noticed her eating anything on our very short walk that day, but with a pot dealer on our street every evening, it was a possibility Meeko had found something to eat. I wondered if this was a common problem given San Francisco’s relationship with drugs and a love of doggies.

Reunited with Meeko, I realized most of her spasms were gone. When I put her on the floor of the little room, she began looking for treats. Someone was feeling better! This improvement in behavior supported Meeko eating something toxic. After two more revised estimates (the second one still had Meeko staying overnight for $800) I settled with paying $420 for an office visit, blood work, and sub fluids. These fluids got injected into Meeko’s neck right under the skin, making her look like a camel. Her body slowly absorbed the liquid, which was supposed to help rehydrate her and make her pee out any remaining toxins.

By 11:00pm we left the vet’s office. Meeko was exhausted but seemingly better. I am accepting the diagnosis that she somehow ate some pot and will be extremely careful with future walks and park trips. Obviously I am glad this wasn’t some kind of neurological disease, and a part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have taken her to an emergency place at all. But, I had no idea all her symptoms could be attributed to toxins (now I, and you, know what it looks like!) Essentially, the only cure was for Meeko to ‘pee it out,’ which she finally did after we spend 30 minutes looking for a parking spot.

Lessons to take from this: Always ask questions about your vet bill! And of course, don’t let your dog eat pot.

Meeko plans to sleep and recover for the rest of the day. She says, “wake me up when we know who the President is.”


Happy Birthday Meeko!

This past weekend Meeko turned 1 year old!

Looking back at the time when I first brought her home, I was anxiously awaiting the rest of my grad school decisions, knowing that I would be moving homes that summer either way. I asked Meeko if she would be my “grad school puppy” envisioning her terrorizing the halls of some university, probably shredding someone’s paper.

After a rough Spring of not getting into any school, hiding two dogs from our landlord, and living with a new roommate after Ashwin moved, Meeko joined me on the adventure of a lifetime! I’ve actually just finished writing a short story loosely based on my cross country road trip. I’m sure that whole experience will inspire many more stories for me in the future.

While all the traveling and moving apartments interrupted Meeko’s training, leaving her ‘behind’ Snickers in terms of how many tricks she knows, we certainly made up for it in socialization! At 1 year old, Meeko has met more people, babies, and dogs than Snickers has in her first 10 years. The result is an outgoing Sheltie who shines at the dog park, befriending humans and dogs of all shapes and sizes. The only thing Meeko has shown fear of is Ashwin playing guitar. “You can’t stare at her when you’re soloing! You’re scaring her!” But with lots of treats and reassurance, Meeko is improving.

As I use up the last of the puppy food, I wonder what lies ahead for Meeko’s second year. Maybe I should hope for a less hectic year for her, but if I get into a graduate program, we’ll be moving and adapting to a new city(town? village?) and a new climate all over again. Whatever the case, I’m sure Meeko will be up for another adventure!

She is full grown at 16″ tall and weighing about 17 pounds. Her full adult coat will come in throughout her second year.

Happy Birthday crazy dog!

Cat nap

We’ve had a busy past two weeks as I’ve been trying to focus on my applications for graduate school. I received some much needed critiques on the stories I’m thinking about submitting, but some days it’s hard to stay positive about this whole application process. But as Ashwin keeps reminding me, this year will be my year! I have to believe that I will end up at a program next Fall, and that somehow, this will be the perfect program for me!

In the meantime, the dogs and I have figured out a schedule that provides optimal sleepy puppies so I can work. Every other day, Meeko and I go to our neighborhood park to throw the tennis ball, clicker training, and of course play chase with the other dogs. Meeko has officially learned how to “shake” but since Ashwin is a lefty, I’m going to teach her to shake with her “other paw” next! It’s hard to believe she’s 10 months old already!

On the odd days, Snickers accompanies us on a more relaxed walk up and down some of the flatter streets in Nob Hill. Some hills are just too steep for her and I have to carry her up. She tries though!

And now, here are some pictures of Meeko and Snickers taking naps in the California sunshine.