volunteer at the Humane Society

After several long weeks of waiting, yesterday marked my first shift at the Seattle/King County Humane Society.

We didn’t have pets when I was a kid.  Or rather, we had a dog when I was born, and it quickly grew apparent that it did not appreciate it’s new status as second fiddle to a newborn, and was thus given away.  I always wanted pet, but my severe allergies prevented that from happening, and for that matter solidified my nerd status, along with glasses, braces, a bad perm, and my inherited height.

When I first met Joel, I was thrilled to learn he had a dog.  In fact, some of our first communication centered around Nikki, our 10(?)-year-old Great Pyrenees.  She’s a fierce protector and wildly loveable.  The first time Mom came to visit after Joel and I got engaged, we caught her on the living room floor, spooning with Nikki and saying, “you’re my first grandbaby, aren’t you?” 

While I also love Nikki, I knew she’d always be Joel’s dog, and I wanted a puppy of my own.  I also wanted something that could sit in my lap.  Nikki’s head alone takes up that much space.  Joel and I started debating back and forth.  I wanted a Yorkie; they were too yippie.  I wanted a miniature poodle; they were too girlie.  I wanted a shih tzu; they were too “old lady”.  Dog after dog got vetoed, and Joel’s suggestions never seemed cuddly enough.  He recommended a beagle, but every beagle I’d ever met was huge, and definitely not of the size that you could carry one around in a purse, which was one of my requirements.  (Note: I do NOT want to carry a dog around in my purse.  I am not one of those girls.  I just want to know that it could be done should the need arise.)

Then one day, the perfect solution landed in our laps.   A friend of mine who had left Seattle and moved home to Ohio sent out a mass email advertising her latest litter of Pocket Beagles.  I showed Joel a few pictures, and we were both hooked.  We still had a few months before we moved out of my apartment and into Joel’s house, and I nearly stalked my friend trying to get updates on the puppies.  Bentley finally arrived in June, and since then he’s been at my side – and under my feet, and in my lap, and crawling all over my back.  While there have been a few moments of irritation, and a few threats made to throw him out the window, I have learned that my patience for all the things that come with having a puppy are surprisingly high.  This is probably due in part to the fact that Joel is the one who gets up at 7am and lets both the dogs out, but I find that I tolerate things like dog poop, torn up toilet paper rolls, and random howling quite well, confirming what I always knew, deep down inside.

I am a dog person.

I could easily share here on how Bentley has kept me from falling into depression as I transitioned out of my old job and into this new one, but I think I’ve gone down that road before.  Besides, that’s not the point of this chapter.  The point is to tell you what I contributed yesterday.  I contributed 3 hours of my time to the Humane Society.

I know that doesn’t seem like a contribution to our household, and maybe it’s not.  I’ve decided, though, that if you are a person who is able to, you should be volunteering somewhere.  As an RLC, there were times I could barely find the time to shower, much less give my little bit of free time to someone other than the students I was living with.  In some ways, my entire life was one big volunteer position.  But now, as a “housewife,” I find that I often have more time on my hands than I really know what to do with, and as such I fall into the category of “able”.

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the idea, and I’m not sure what made me pick the Humane Society.  I worked for the Boys and Girls Club in Fayetteville for years before I moved to Seattle, so I considered that route, but something about the Humane Society felt better.  Maybe because it was new, maybe because of my newly-discovered status as “dog person”, maybe because it was right across the street from Joel’s office.  Whatever it was, it fell into place quickly, and ever since working through the necessary classes I’ve found myself waiting eagerly for my first shift.

The Humane Society has several different areas where they use volunteers.  In fact, it seems like all of their departments are fullof volunteers.  Admissions, adoptions, cat kennels, dog kennels, MaxMobile, special events, dog boarding, dog training…I’m not getting all the labels right, but from what I’ve gathered, if they do it, you can help them.  And you don’t have to commit to a weekly shift.  If you’ve got one free weekend a month you could join up with the MaxMobile folks and take adoptable pets to special events around Seattle.  Or if you want to set your own schedule, you can pick up food from the Humane Society and deliver it to homebound adults who, for whatever reason, can’t supply their pet with food.  Or if you have a pet that can handle itself around others (unlike mine), you can take it on hospital visits.  Or if you have old dog collars and cat kennels laying around your house, they could use your donation.  When I worked at the Boys and Girls Club, we always had people volunteering, and we never knew what to do with them.  This group has got it down to a science. 

So that’s my plug for the Humane Society.

 Surprisingly, I chose to work in the dog kennels.  Yesterday I helped feed around 75 dogs, changed water, folded towels and blankets, and helped old down a 1-year-old Great Pyrenees while he got a bath.  It was wonderful.  Yesterday alone I learned more about dogs than I have in the last 3 months of dog ownership, and I feel like it’s going to be fodder for many, many entertaining blog posts in the future.

The thing I wanted to write about today, though, has less to do with the pets and more to do with the people.  There are four dog kennel areas at the Humane Society, and only one of them holds dogs that are up for adoption.  The rest of the dogs are under monitoring for behavioral issues, malnutrition, or are in the boarding area and actually belong to someone.   Right now there are several American Eskimo dogs from the Kennewick puppy mill who would break your heart.  Several of them are still visibly distressed, and spend all day hiding under their dog beds.  Three of the kennels have to be covered so the presence of people walking by all day won’t send the dogs over the edge.

The staffers at the Humane Society are wonderful.  They’re friendly, caring, and efficient.  But their jobs are hard.  Imagine working all day with people, children even, that have been abandoned or abused and haven’t eaten and are all kinds of sick and scared.  I know, dogs aren’t people, but if you’re a dog person, or if you’ve ever loved a dog, then this can be incredibly draining.  The atmosphere behind the scenes can be tense.  Not in a negative way; people aren’t back there snapping at each other.  But there is a lot do to, and a lot to keep track of, and at times I imagine a lot of sadness.

The kennel area that holds the dogs that are up for adoption is definitely the quietest, happiest hallway.  I walked through there several times, and each time there were several people peering through the glass doors, hoping to find their new best friend.  I’m not sure I fully noticed the tension in the back of the kennels until I saw the utter joy on the faces of the folks who were about to adopt a dog.  Their expressions reminded me of people standing outside of the newborn nursery at the hospital, except these people get to pick which baby they’re going to take home.  I wanted to sit there and talk to them, find out what they were looking for, talk to them about which pooch they had fallen in love with. 

Who knows how the whole thing will make me feel over time.  Maybe the magic will wear off, and maybe the barking will start to get to me.  For now, though, that adoption hallway is my new happy place.

Bentley to the vet

You were just waiting for another Bentley post, right?

Thursday moment of productivity was another trip to the vet for Little Man.  His souvenir from our summer vacation was a triple bladder infection, so after a month of antibiotics it was time to take him back and make sure that bad boy was (those bad boys were?) gone.  It was also time to talk about taking care of his little beans…that’s what we’ve taken to calling them, anyway.  The procedure should have been done long ago, but due to his infection and his lack of growth in that area it kept getting delayed.  I’ve been traumatized off and on at the idea of taking away this little piece of his manhood.  I mean, metaphorically large, but really, very small.  The other day we were told we needed to stop referring to them as “little beans” because we were going to give him a complex, but really, won’t snapping them off completely do even worse?!  It has to be done, though.  He already tried to make puppies with a small Australian Cattle dog when we were on vacation.  If he’s going to run around spreading his seed, he’s going to need to get a job, and I don’t think he’s ready for that.  He’s too young to be a baby daddy.

Bentley’s trips to the vet are usually somewhat eventful.  For instance, a month ago he ended up going into shock when they did his blood and urine draw.  No big, just four hours at the vet and an IV hookup to revive him.  And it’s a shame, too, because our vet is really very wonderful, very spunky, and takes lots of time to make sure all my questions have been answered and I’m feeling good about whatever procedure is happening that day. 

This morning was fine.  No big drama, no tears, not even a whimper.  Bentley did great, too (rim shot!).  He just had one vaccination, but we also scheduled his de-beaning for next Tuesday.  While I truly do have some mixed feelings about Little Man going under the knife, I’m also kind of looking forward to him being somewhat drowsy for the day on Tuesday.  Even this time, just getting one shot, he was pretty loopy for a good part of the day.  He stumbled around the house like a little drunk sailor for most of the afternoon.

Whenever I take Bentley anywhere, I always have a bag of treats.  There is one kind in particular from Trader Joe’s that smells like gingerbread cookies.  Everytime we open a box we take a big sniff, and Joel and I have both wondered if they taste as good as they smell.

They do not.

I didn’t eat a big piece.  The first bite was really just crumbs.  I broke it off while sitting at a particularly long stoplight.  It was quite good at first, but I realized I’d essentially just inhaled the vapors, so I broke off a bigger piece that actually required chewing.  For about three seconds it tasted as good as it smelled, but then things started to go downhill quickly.  I’m not sure I know what they make those cookies out of, and I don’t plan on looking at the box, but imagine something like a meat and cinnamon cookie.  The two flavors almost cancel each other out to a neutral taste, but the meat wins out and stretches into a nasty aftertaste that lingers too long.

Over dinner that night, I off-handedly mentioned to Joel that I’d eaten one of Bentley’s dog treats.

“What?!” he said, and paused.  “Which one?”

“The gingerbread one.”

Long pause.  “How was it?”

“Not good,” I said.  “Not good.”

small things

Last night as we got into bed and I snuggled up next to Joel, I thought through my day, and realized I did not accomplish one thing that I’d set out to do.

I sighed.  “I didn’t contribute anything today.”

“Sure you did,” he said.  “You called and made an appointment to get an estimate on the fireplace today.”

That’s true.  We have a large, large, fireplace in our living room.  It’s really…unique.  It’s made of large gray stones that one might say look like someone blasted a mountain and left the rocks in a pile in the corner of our house.  Interestingly, a week or so ago a lovely lady named Katherin stopped by and told me that she and her husband had built our house in 1972, and she informed me that the rocks had been collected when they did the blasting for I-90.  Katherin’s husband and his Austrian friend did all the work by hand, and Katherin said she insisted that they not smooth any of the rocks down because she wanted it to maintain it’s natural look.  This created all kinds of nooks and crannies that are great for holding candles and hiding spiders.  Joel is infatuated with this fireplace.  The one time I ventured to mention that we might take it out or replace it, he grew indignant.  It’s a work of art, he claimed, and fine craftsmanship; there is no other fireplace like this in the whole world! 

The fireplace really is lovely, but because it was made by hand it seems to have fallen into some disrepair, and unless we want a waterfall in our living room this winter – which Katherin said was the case the first year they lived in the house – we need to get it fixed.

“You also picked up Papa Murphy’s for us this evening,” Joel reminded me. 

That was also true.  Joel has been working more than normal lately.  This means a month of 65+ hour weeks, as opposed to his normal 50, so I’ve been trying to make sure he has something substantial for dinner each night, and something he enjoys.  Last night that meant the Mediterranean Chicken DeLite pizza from Papa Murphy’s.

“And you changed the sheets on the bed for Bethany,” said Joel.

Yeah, I did that.  I think we’ve had a house guest almost every night this week, which has been great for someone used to spending the last five years sharing a “house” with 435 other people.

“See, you did lots of stuff,” Joel said while rubbing my back.

I supposed he was right.  I forget how the small things add up.  All I could think about was the fact that I still haven’t made cookies for Joel’s coworkers, and I still haven’t finished the laundry, and I really need to clean up Joel’s home office, but I need to buy a metal trashcan first so I can burn all the old bank statements so none of the forest animals that dig through our trash can get our account numbers and buy new home theater equipment for their cave.

So I didn’t do anything big yesterday.  I did all the small things.

curtains

Today I made curtains.

 

 

Okay, I didn’t make curtains, I hemmed them.

And I didn’t do it today.  I did it yesterday, but I was too lazy to write about it.  Bentley and I took an afternoon nap instead.

 

 

Whoops.  Day two: fail, sort of.

Anyway, as part of my new vow to contribute to our household and further my creative writing skills, I hemmed curtains for our bedroom.

Our house in North Bend is, quite literally, surrounded by trees.  There are a few patches here and there that have been cleared for things like our driveway and our front door, but the vast majority of our windows look out at forest.  It’s really lovely, and because the view is so nice Joel has insisted that we not ruin it with something so silly as blinds or shades.  I have tried to argue that at night we can’t really see the view, and in fact all the bears and coyotes and serial killers can see right into our brightly lit living room, but so far our living room windows remain naked.

The bedroom, though, is another matter.  The window above our bed is probably my favorite in the house.  It’s just as wide as our king bed, creating an ever changing headboard.  The only thing you can see out the window is trees.  There was one night that I laid on my back and watched a rare Pacific Northwest lightning storm light up the woods for a good hour, each strike illuminating the trees for a split second before fading back to black.  On sunny mornings the light from the sunrise comes into our room softly, broken up by the evergreens that stand guard in the backyard.  And when it snows, the green peaks through the wall of white and reminds me of Christmas all winter long.

All of these tress are part of the King County watershed, and while all we can see from our window is foliage, in reality there is a fairly well-traveled trail that runs between our property and the tree line.  It’s wide enough for a vehicle, and is infrequently used by county officials who are checking out watershed-y things.  On Sunday mornings, we frequently see an older couple riding horses up the trail.  Mostly, though, neighbors use the trail to get to Rattlesnake Lake.

Because of where the house is built on the property, the trail is probably only 30 feet from our window.  This means that those horses on Sunday morning are disconcertingly close to our bed, and that families on their way to enjoy a nice afternoon picnic could almost certainly catch the faint sound of our toilet flushing from the master bathroom if they listened closely enough.  Normally, all of this is fine.  There aren’t really that many people who use the trail, and all we have to do is pay attention before we start changing clothes so as not provide a free show to any passersby. 

This has started to prove somewhat more challenging in recent weeks.  One particular encounter led to the now in place curtains.  I usually work out in the afternoon…and that’s to say that I usually work out, but when I do work out, it’s certainly not in the morning.  After these occasional stints in the gym, I come home and shower and maybe even make myself pretty if I’m feeling especially frisky.  On the afternoon in question I stepped out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, to be greeted by a dad and his two young boys walking their dog through, essentially, our backyard.  I quickly ducked out of their eyeline.  The kids were darned cute, but of course walking at a snail’s pace as they examined whatever bugs and leaves and droppings they came across.  They finally passed, and I started to get dressed, but something must have caught their attention back where they had come from and they strolled by headed the other direction.  Again, I waited them out, eyeballing the path to my underwear drawer, trying to figure out what path if any would get me there without compromising my modesty.  After a minute they were gone, so I darted to my dresser and grabbed what I needed, keeping a sharp eye on the trail.  Moments later, for the third time, the family came traipsing through.  This time the dog gave me warning first, so I ran to our bathroom to watch from behind the door.  The dad came next, and stopped for several minutes with his back to our window, calling the tow-headed boys to hurry up.  I’m sure he had no idea the panic he was putting me through as I darted back and forth in my towel, sizing up the window measurements in my head and matching up curtain colors with our bedspread. 

I told Joel what happened when he got home, and he agreed it was probably time to shut our bedroom off to prying eyes.   I’m sure whatever neighbors sit outside our room and watch us sleep at night will be disappointed, but they can still spy on us while we watch TV in the living room at night.

new goal

The other day Joel and I were chatting, as we are prone to do in our marital relationship, and somehow we got on the topic of my employment status.  I said something about liking my new “job” as housewife, and maybe something about doing this indefinitely, and Joel said, “Yeah, let’s keep talking about it.”

In our Wetzel lingo, this means let’s revisit it in the future, because things might change.  My brain latched onto that “things might change” part, and I said, “Wait, why would we need to revisit this?”

“Well, I mean, let’s just keep talking about it.”

“Why would we need to keep talking about it?!”  Now I was getting a little panicked.  I was finally, finally getting used to this new, slow-paced, low-stress life that had been thrown at me, and suddenly he wanted to talk about it?  I mean, not suddenly, but at some point, he wanted to talk about it?!

“Joel, that stresses me out a little,” by which I mean a lot, I thought.

Hmm, that means she’s stressed out a lot, time to talk her down, “I just mean, you know, I don’t want to be the one working all the time and making money so you can just sit on the couch and watch TV,” he said.  “As long as we’re both contributing something, I feel good about you staying at home.”

At this point I felt fairly confident that my frequent references to Regis and Kelly  and The View in daily conversation had not tipped Joel off to the fact that I usually spend a solid 3 hours on the couch each morning, so I decided not to push the topic.

“Ok, sure, I understand that.  That makes sense.  We should both contribute.”

Now, if you’ve met me, you know that I actually have some trouble sitting still.  This new morning routine has taken some getting used to.  And once Ellenis over and Bentley is done with his nap time, I change out of my pajamas and do lots of things that keep our house running.  I do the laundry, cook dinners, kill spiders in the kitchen, and buy fireplace accessories, among many other things.  But really, our conversation got me thinking, there are days when I probably do little to nothing of substance.  It’s easy for me to get distracted by facebook or whatever is on our DVR, and by the time Joel get’s home I’ve just barely changed out of my sweats and into jeans and a t-shirt, hoping to at least give the appearance of a productive citizen.

I’ve been thinking about something else lately, too.  I’ve been trying to figure out what’s next.  I mean, yes, I like staying at home with the dogs, and I like being a housewife, but I’ve always hoped that I’d manage to find some career that would allow me to set my own hours and be my own boss and maybe make some money, too.  What I really need is for some natural talent to make itself known, preferably with a concrete product as the outcome, one that I could sell on the internet.

My sister Jen, for instance, is an artist.  She’s also a PE teacher at a low-income, high-minority elementary school, which I’m immensely proud of, but she’s always had a knack for drawing and painting.  She’s created doodles so elaborate that they’ve ended up framed and displayed in her apartment.  Recently one of the teachers at her school happened to observe this talent, and asked if Jen could paint a name sign for the door of her classroom.  Jen did it for $15, making maybe five bucks off the deal, and now at least four other teachers have requested and received the same personalized signs (although girl was smart and kicked the price up to $25).  I just scrolled through etsy.com, and nothing on their compares to what Jen can do.

I have nothing like that.  Recently, I’ve considered several small businesses, none of which I have experience in, but all of which I could see making money at some point in the probably distant future, most after an initial substantial investment.  These ideas include but are not limited to coffee shop owner, candle maker, dog trainer, poker player, personal organizer, personal assistant, wedding assistant, wedding coordinator, event planner, photographer, chef, and life coach.  I like to dream about all of these, and throw ideas off of Joel, who listens and encourages like a champ, but I think both of us know it’s not going to happen.  Don’t get me wrong; I think if I really wanted to, I could take on any of these careers and make a killing.  Or at least, make a nice little business out of it.

But here’s the thing: I don’t really want to.  I don’t really want to do any of those things.  What I really want to do…well, don’t tell anyone, because I don’t like to talk about it, but really, I’d like to be a writer. 

Who am I kidding?  I’d LOVE to be a writer.  It’s like talking to everyone in the world at once without being interrupted, and with the convenience of a backspace button.  In other words, it’s my version of heaven. 

So I have been wracking my brain to figure out what I could write about.  I don’t really think I’m creative enough to do fiction; I don’t read fiction, anyway, with the exception of Harry Potter.  Bentley is easy money; he’s adorable, very Marley and Me, but that’s too easy.  Plus, he might be a little too well-behaved (see “dog trainer” under “potential careers”), and I’m not sure he’d give me enough material to work with.  He chewed this, he ate that, blah blah blah.  One would think I could write about college students, but everytime I consider that option I get overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of topics I could speak to.  Ironically, I think that’s my problem when trying to move out of residence life and into any other area of university administration.  I’ve got a little bit of experience with everything, but am an expert at nothing.  It’s a shame, too, because if there’s anything I would love more than writing, it would be public speaking, and I think if I could figure out what part of college life to be an expert on, I’d have a ready university audience.

I’d love to think of something I could do that would make for interesting literature.  I’m currently reading a book called The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs.  He decided to read all the way through the Encyclopaedia Britannica and write about it.  It’s a wonderful book, and a brilliant idea…and I wish I’d thought of it first.  I wish I’d thought of a lot of ideas first.  Cooking blog?  Julie and Julia comes out, stealing my thunder and making me look like a trend-stealer.  Book about Bentley, and my adventures spending all day with two dogs?  See aforementioned Marley and Me.  Try as I might, I can’t seem to come up with anything new.

So I decided to quit trying.  Not quit writing, but quit trying to come up with something original to write about.  My life, as it stands right now, is staying at home, trying to contribute to our household, and at the same time keeping up with Notre Dame football via Regis Philbin. 

Thus, here is my new goal.  Each day, I vow to make at least one substantial contribution to the Wetzel household of North Bend, and then let all of you know how it goes.  Not only will this keep me accountable in terms of my productivity, but it should also stretch me as a writer, because if I can make a day’s worth of laundry sound exciting, then I can probably write about anything.

I know what you’re asking: what did I do today?  Well…nothing.  I mean, Bentley and I went to the dog park for a few hours (no other dogs showed), and I did go to Fred Meyer and pick up a Rubbermaid container for our BBQ tools and some DVD-Rs so we can upgrade my laptop to Windows 7.  And I did make a nice little Halloween care package for Joel, who has been averaging a 65-hour work week for almost a month now, but I didn’t do any of the things I’d planned to do today.  It’s a shame, too, because I started writing out the blog post last night.  Mentally, I was very clever in how I described my daily chores, and the mishaps that I was sure would ensue. 

Day 1 of new goal: fail.

 

 

Oh, sigh.

 

 

On a cute and somewhat unrelated note, look at what Bentley did to my coaster today:

bentley coaster

I really need to learn, silence from puppy usually equals destruction…

goings on

So it looks like I haven’t posted in awhile.  Here are the updates.

  • Things at work have gotten to where Joel has managed to average 60 hours a week for several weeks.  Bummer.  He made a vow that Sunday and Monday would be work free, so on Sunday afternoon we spontaneously decided to drive out to Cabela’s in Lacey, WA.  For those of you not from this area, Cabela’s is a lot like Bass Pro Shop, right down to the mounted and taxidermied animals.  Which reminds me, sea lions are HUGE.  Anyway, while we were there we picked up some various cooking and grilling essentials, including hushpuppy mix, and that night we feasted like kings.  Joel has been lusting after hushpuppies since we met, and I have often suspected that the reason he married me was because he assumed as a Southerner that I would have the innate ability to make hushpuppies at a moment’s notice.  While this is probably true, it had not yet been tested, until Sunday night.  Behold, Southern friend goodness:

joel hushpuppy

hushpuppy

  • I’ve been reading more lately, and I just wrapped up two books by David Koenig on the seedy underbelly of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  That’s right – SEEDY UNDERBELLY.  For instance, did you know that Walt Disney World is actually it’s own city with it’s own governing unit?  Or something very close to that?  It’s called the Reedy Creek Improvement Disctrict, and it was established so Disney World could get around building codes.  Of course, they wanted to get around building codes because they had a better, safer way to do things, but even so…SEEDY.  The books were really fascinating, and I want to read his other two, but I should probably give myself a break or I’m going to sprout mouse ears.  Also, the chapters on all the deaths and injuries start to get a little depressing.
  • Joel and I just discovered the show “Hoaders” on A&E.  Our collective response appears to be “WHAT?!”  This show is crazy.  If you haven’t seen it, the show chronicles what happens to people with the disorder known as pathological hoarding, which means they are completely incapable of throwing anything away.  It’s disturbing, to say the least.  The most upsetting: the woman who hoarded cats.  They found about 100 in the house…only 37 were alive.  WHAT?!
  • I’m speaking at PA retreat tomorrow night, and I’m pretty excited, maybe mostly because I don’t have to spend the night at Warm Beach.  No offense to anyone affiliated or infatuated with Warm Beach.  I just prefer sleeping in my own bed.