Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Miss Manners

When I was in the 3rd grade my mother enrolled me in White Gloves and Manners class. It was a poor man's cotillion class, held in the dingy gray conference room in the back of our small town department store. Our instructor, Ms. Alice Dozier, always wore a dress circa 1959, had her nails perfectly manicured, pinned her hair in place away from her face, and could present herself in the most graceful of fashion as she demonstrated the proper way to lift your spoon to your mouth as you sipped - not slurped - soup.

There were 15 girls in our class and Ms. Dozier spent one night a week for six weeks teaching us everything a well-mannered young lady should know. From properly addressing elders and introducing yourself/others/guests in a social situation to how you should behave on a date with a young man and what silverware you use and when, Ms. Dozier dazzled her starry-eyed students with the fantasies of what their future social lives would be like when they got older. I'd go home after these classes with dreams of hosting formal dinner parties; setting tables full of china, stemware, and 20 pieces of flatware; thinking about all the letters I would address to important people; and considering if I would dance the waltz at my first social (it turned out to be an awkward slow dance to Careless Whisper by Wham! with a boy much shorter than me - go figure). No matter what reality really was like, Ms. Dozier had a way of making you think you were growing up a Kennedy or at least could become one.

I was thinking about all the table manners I learned while watching the girls monitor our little Memorial Day cookout on Monday. Kevin manned the turkey burgers and dogs on the grill while I set our outdoor table. There was no china involved. Only left over college Corelle-wear, makeshift Martha Stewart dishcloths turned into place mats, and stainless flatware, but it was set correctly. Roxy kept an eye on dad's progress, hoping he would mess up and knock a burger or dog off in her direction. She has no fear of the heat of the grill so we have to watch her like a hawk. I think we could get her to walk over hot coals for a turkey burger. I believe that's what you call food motivated.

Seka, on the other hand, prefers to watch from the sidelines, knowing that such behavior is rewarded in the long run. This time of the year the bees, hornets, wasps, beetles, and any kind of flying bugs like to torture her. They buzz around her ears and dive bomb her bum to bait her into this unfair cat and mouse game. She will chase these stinging, winged creatures around the yard, jumping into the air, snapping her needle nose as fast and violently as possible, only to miss, catch site of her tiny target again and then carry on this tiny lure coursing exercise throughout the backyard . She's only been stung once or twice, but that doesn't seem to stop her.

When we eat outside, I try to bribe both of the girls with rawhide bones (U.S. made only - I'm VERY picky). It keeps them occupied while we eat. Their table manners are pretty good inside, especially Seka who is too proud to beg for scraps, but outside - all bets are off. But my trick didn't work since we had been outside 70% of the day and they had chewed on their special bones until their little mouths were sore. So, Roxy decided the best way to get food from mom and dad was to rest her head on the table, where she couldn't be missed. She obviously did not attend Ms. Dozier's class. Mom was mean and fed her dill pickles to get her to go lay down.

Good Manners

Not-So-Good Manners

In the end, they both got a turkey dog and 1/2 of a bun as their meal and I don't think Seka chewed one bite of it. I think she thought the faster she got rid of her bite, the quicker she could get another.

I reminded Seka of what Ms. Dozier taught me more than 20 years ago, you must take time to enjoy your food - I think she also said you should finish your meal after the man does, leave 1/4 of your meal on your plate and always have an extra pair of short white gloves. Then again, not long after I graduated from White Gloves and Manners Class, I saw Ms. Dozier in the grocery store smoking a cigarette in a burgundy velour jogging suit buying beer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dog Pack

All of our friends have kids. All of them. We've been married for going on 8 years, which is longer than almost all of our friends, and everyone seems to be waiting on us to catch up with them. I hope they aren't holding their breath. When we listen to them talk about how their lives have changed when the baby showed up, one thing rings true for every couple - they can't believe how much stuff they have to pack to leave the house with the kid in tow.

I thought about this kernel of truth as I was packing up our Honda Accord two different times for our very full weekend of greyhound fun. While my babies might not be allowed in most restaurants or a grocery store, they certainly know how to fill up the trunk of a four-door car with supplies for a two-hour gathering.

Saturday night was the annual Southeastern Greyhound Club take your hound to the meeting - meeting (better known as the annual cookout). Held at Summerwind Farm in Newnan, GA, it's a two hour drive for us, but well worth it for the friends, food, and greyhound fun. Here's our packing list for this trip:
  1. Ex-pen: to keep the girls contained while mom and dad eat
  2. Outdoor rug: so the beds don't get all gross
  3. Beds: bony butts cannot lay on hard ground
  4. Folding Chairs (2): mom and dad need somewhere to sit
  5. Tarps & Clamps: gotta have some way to keep the GBD out of the afternoon sun
  6. Water Bucket: I brought the small 1 qt bucket for this short party
  7. Treats: you can't leave home without them
  8. Muzzles: another must have at any greyt gathering, even if you don't wear them
This year, the theme was a Hawaiian Luau, and many hounds and their owners came dressed in grass skirts and leis. I made a trip to the thrift store that morning and found a great Hawaiian shirt for Kev and a skort for myself that made great costumes for the evening. My mom made the girls new Hawaiian print scarves especially for the event, bringing our collection to about 10 different designs of matching scarves for the girls to sport about in.

The highlight of the night was greyhound limbo. Going into the game, Roxy looked to be one of the early favorites. But, she got a little performance shy, buckled under the pressure of the very low pole in the semi-final round and came in third. Venus (sporting her flowered tank top below) wowed everyone with her impressive "get low" skills, while Remi (shown in action below) came in second. Roxy charmed everyone with her winning smile though.

I was very excited to finally meet Denise, Limo and Less in person. And of course, Less did his fabulous tongue trick for me. What a handsome and lucky boy! It's not easy to find another greyhound/horse person without kids that is close to you in age, so we had a great time.

Sunday morning we got up and repacked the car for our annual trip to the Atlanta Braves' Bark in the Park event. For $23 you can bring yourself and your dog to a Braves Game at Turner Field and the proceeds from the event go to the Atlanta Humane Society. The first year we went they held the event at the end of July. Talk about the dog-days of summer - it must have be 99. They quickly changed the time of year the event was held and they now have two days - mid-May and early September. The weather on Sunday was as close to perfect as you get in Georgia - 75 and breezy - and we absolutely enjoyed ourselves. Our packing list for the day included:
  1. Full-sized comforter & 2 Red Sox Throws: skinny butts had to lay down on something besides concrete
  2. Water Bowl: obvious
  3. Water: Turner Field is the only major league stadium where you can actually bring your own food and drinks into the stadium!
  4. Kongs (2): Frozen with peanut butter, marshmallows and kibble
  5. Snacks for mom & dad: ballpark food isn't always great on the hips
All of that, except the comforter, plus my M.I.L.K. (Money, I.D., Lipstick, Keys) fit into my backpack. We successfully climbed to the top of Turner Field so the girls could enjoy their own VIP luxury box and we could enjoy the shade and breeze (it helps with mom and dad are baseball nerds and know that stadium like the back of their hand). Being able to spread out was key to keeping Seka comfortable. Roxy couldn't take everything in fast enough. She was smiling at everyone she saw - neighboring dogs, little kids, the beer man. Word got around with the Bark in the Park volunteers who make the long trip up the stairs to refill the water bowls that there was a smiling greyhound in section 418, so we got quite a few visitors as the game went on.

Of course you can't go to the game without having some junk food, even if you bring your own 100-calorie packs with you. So, the girls shared my cotton candy, which they were confused by as the blue sugar melted away on their tongues. The peanuts, however; sent them into overdrive. After sharing just a couple, they decided to gang up on mom and take them from me, unshelled! Seka even helped herself to the picnic the neighbors were having to the right of us which included Krystal hamburgers. They were nice enough to share one with her. Pig.

We weren't the only greyhounds in attendance like we were the very first year they held Bark in the Park. There were several SEGC members enjoying the game as well, like our friend Lucy. In fact, Venus (the reining limbo champion from the night before) got a cameo on the jumbo-tron all decked out in her Braves hat.

As I was unpacking the car when we arrived home from Atlanta I was thinking back to all the dog/people watching I did while at the baseball game - I really didn't watch very much of the game at all. It was just too much fun to look at all the people and their dogs together. The one thing I did notice was that no one - well hardly anyone - had a kid with them. You either brought your dog or your kid to the game. I guess they didn't have enough arms to carry all the stuff you need to bring both.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Whip It Good

One of the first lessons in marketing is understanding the four Ps - Product, Price, Place and Promotion. According to one of my favorite marketing professors, the grocery store is the best place in the world to study successes and failures in marketing. I think we spent an entire semester discussing grocery store layouts, heights of shelves, width of aisles, colors of boxes, shapes of packaging, promotional end caps, and even grocery store music selection to pace your shopping experience! The psychology of grocery shopping is really fascinating. While you think you're just going to buy peanut butter, "big brother" has other plans for your shopping experience no matter how hard you fight it.

One of the most difficult things to locate in any grocery store are the marshmallows. I know this because they are a staple in my house. Marshmallows are the cue for the girls to go night-night. They are reward for those times when mom is on a conference call and they have been very patient. Marshmallows are sometimes, but not often, used as bribes when trimming toenails or taking pills. We love marshmallows, and mom even sneaks a bite or two of one every now and then - especially the strawberry ones.

But how each grocery store defines where the marshmallows should be located is a mystery to me. I personally believe that they should be with the baking goods. The marshmallow creme is there. Why not the real thing? Both our local Publix and Kroger do not agree. Maybe it should be stored with the hot chocolate since it complements it so well. Nope. Not there either at WalMart, Publix and Kroger. Ok, so maybe it's a sweetener. It's sweet, right? That was a stretch, but that's where WalMart hides them. I tell you all this because after an hour and a half shopping trip at Publix, I couldn't find marshmallows - even with help. I found marshmallow creme. But no marshmallows.

So the girls got the next best thing to hold them over - Reddi Whip (fat-free of course). I think Roxy was fed it at the track because she knows how to suck it right out of the can. Either that or she did whipits with the "bad crowd" at the kennel before she came here.

Seka on the other hand, prefers to lick it off of my finger. She thinks it is way more lady like. It's a lot of fun to feed it to them even if it is messy. So, while we have no marshmallows, we have sticky faces and happy tummies. But mom misses the strawberry marshmallows.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Any time my sister and I were whining or complaining about something, my father's comeback was, "You're old enough to where your wants won't hurt you." I'm not really sure what age he was referring to. Yesterday, I realized I haven't hit that age yet.

I couldn't have been more excited about our coursing weekend. I wanted to see Seka chase the plastic bunnies. I wanted to have her certified this weekend. I wanted to have Kevin see her run in person. I wanted to hang out with my new coursing friends. I wanted to learn more about my new obsession. I had the car all loaded. I had a new tackle box full of coursing gear, special K9 Gatorade, a new mat for the ex-pen, tarps and clips for the tent - you name it, we were ready.

Before loading the girls in the car for our two hour trip north to the coursing site, we decided to let Seka and Roxy run in the backyard for a few minutes to get the last minute wiggles out. And that's when our weekend of fun and chasing the plastic bunnies went to the wayside. While chasing her ball less than 50 feet from me, Seka dislocated her back outside toe on her good foot.

Now, many a greyhound has dislocated a toe. It's not usually an earth shattering injury. In fact, Seka did this a few days ago while playing in the backyard. I went over when it happened the first time, thinking she had a sticker in her foot, and simply popped it back into place just like you would pop one of your fingers. She went back to running without a whimper. This time, after I put it back in place, she was in pain and the joint started swelling immediately. So, off to the vet we went for an hour wait, an awesome pain shot (for Seka, unfortunately, not me - see photo), an x-ray, and the best diagnosis we could hope for - it was back in place, no tare, not broken, just really strained. We went home with some pain meds (again, for her - not me) and the instructions of no running for two weeks and staying off of it as much as possible for the next few days.

So our evening involved helping weeble wobble Seka get around the house, canceling hotel reservations, canceling dinner plans with coursing friends and being all-around bummed at the whole darn situation. The good news is, she'll have plenty of time to heal since the coursing season doesn't really pick up until the fall. There won't be a chance for her to run until September. So, we'll take this slowly since now the possibility of that toe popping out is greater than it was before. I guess I should be grateful that this happened here and not on the coursing field so she could be made comfortable quickly and it wasn't a bad injury.

Author Jim Fiebig once said, “Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” This kinda feels like my double-decker scoop of chocolate chocolate chip with jimmies on top just hit the ground and they just ran out of that flavor when I went back to get more.