Archive for January, 2013

Puppies minus one

Picture by Misserion under a Creative Commons License.

Continuing on the off-topic note that my last post started on: if all goes according to plan, there will be one dog less in the shelter next time I go in. Let’s refer to this dog as Greyface.

Greyface’s impending absence has left me with a serious case of mixed feels.

Greyface is an older dog who is not doing well in the shelter at all. He is too stressed, loses weight to a point where his ribs are showing and has worn through the pads on his paws from nervous pacing and jumping up against the fence. He’s a sorry sight and has spent several months in the shelter already with very few people being interested in meeting him.

I spent some time grooming Greyface last week, finding him quite an enjoyable dog, and asked the shelter staff if there was no option to put him with a foster family because he was so obviously miserable. When the shelter admitted that there was no foster family available, I offered that Beloved and I could take him until he found a new home, or until we moved abroad (in case you wonder – we had discussed possible fostering even before I started volunteering and I did make it clear to the shelter that unless Beloved consented to this particular critter, there would be no deal). Less than ten minutes later the shelter staff agreed that it would be a wonderful idea. We set up an agreement – Beloved should come in first to meet Greyface, to see if they would get along and then we would take him home a few days later, when we were done with our current home improvement project.

Saturday came, I took Beloved to the shelter and one look of Greyface’s slightly cataract-clouded eyes later, Beloved was sold. Greyface was totally welcome and we would work hard to give him a place with well-paced exercise, fun play and plenty of time to sleep and be a senior dog who needs to gain weight. I started making preparations – arranging for transport to take Greyface to my house from the shelter (because we’re car-free and he is a sizable dog who comes with sizable equipment), informing those who’d come to visit with their own dogs that there would be an unknown canine factor involved with their visit, copying Greyface’s schedule of six daily meals into my phone and .. well.. Even Beloved happily announced to some visiting friends that we would be fostering a dog and that they should expect cuddles. We talked about the rules we’d uphold with Greyface, about what walk-schedule to put him on and who would be responsible for what. I lost a fair few hours of sleep to happy daydreams of having fur stuck to the couch, saliva on my jeans and an irrefutable need to go outside four times a day, snow and ice notwithstanding. Beloved joked a litte about how he’d only ever seen people show this much anticipation over the arrival of a new baby. He may have been right.

I went back to the shelter to volunteer again, a few days before Greyface would come home with us. So many people expressed their happiness to see Greyface get a place outside of the shelter. We discussed updating his web-listing with pictures I’d take at home and writing him a new character description based on how he behaved. I offered to take Greyface back to the shelter with me once a week on one of my volunteering days so that the people who like him could see how he was doing. People offered me rides for those weekly trips (because, really, a nervous dog with stomach issues on a commuter train is just not all that great of an idea) and I graciously accepted. Everybody thought it was a great idea.

Less than an hour after I got home that day, I got a call from the shelter staff. Much to everyone’s surprise, someone had come in and expressed an interest in permanently adopting Greyface. I have not heard from the shelter since, and can only assume that the adoption process has been started and that he won’t be there when I next go in. Obviously it is great that such a senior dog can find a permanent home. I think that the people who adopt him will find Greyface to be sweet, obedient and all around awesome. I hope and believe that these people and Greyface will get along and get lots of love and enjoyment out of their newfound companionship. I hope we never see him again, other than in a picture attached to a card or e-mail about how well he’s doing.

So, all that is nice and splendid and I am happy.

But I’m also sad – perhaps ridiculously so, but so be it – that I don’t get to have this dog who I get along with so well to grace our house, if only for a little while. I’m surprised at how over-the-moon excited I was when it appeared that we would get to have a foster dog and I’m even more surprised at how genuinely, handkerchief-wettingly sad I am now that it has become so very unlikely to happen after all.

I suppose there should be a moral to this story – something about developing more empathy for other humans and the cycle of joy and sadness that comes with a hoped-for expansion of your family, or better understanding the importance of pets for the good of the human soul, or some wise lesson or other that makes my post anything other than a self-centered ramble of a woman who didn’t get what she wanted – but I don’t feel like twisting the story that way. I could write the moral and it would be true, but it wouldn’t feel genuine in this moment.

I’m going to make tea and feel sorry for myself for a little while. Soon enough I’ll be back to cleaning kennels and I’m sure the other pooches will be happy enough with my care that it will make me feel better. And if the unlikely happens and for some reason these people decide not to adopt Greyface after all, then I’ll take him home and give him the best foster home a dog could ever want.

All The Puppies

Shelter Dog by Steven L Johnson, under a Creative Commons License. (not one of our dogs)

A post or two ago, I mentioned that I would start volunteering at the local pet shelter. Today I spent my third half-day there and, well, what can I say… It is fulfilling work. I come home tired and filthy and happy that I’ve made the world a little bit better with the help of  disinfectant, scrubby brushes, bowls of kibble and some well-placed rubs, pats and scratches.

I’ve also learned I like dogs. I used to have reservations about the dogs that I thought I would like. I used to tell myself that I’m not a terrier person, or that many shepherd-type dogs are just not a good match for me. Now that I get to interact with a pretty wide variety of dogs (among which a fair amount of as-of-yet intact males), it turns out I think Jack Russels can be adorable and cuddly, pittbulls can be goofy and silly and shepherds can be insecure and needy. It is an eye opener to see that there are very few dogs that I do not feel affection for and do not, as far as I – a relative stranger in their lives – can, get along with. Just today I had a very stressed, neurotic, older Belgian shepherd crawl under my arm to find some peace. After that, I spent time with an male pitbull (built like a fighter, I think his head is 50% of his total weight and he’s all muscle) who was so happy someone gave him attention that he did the silliest little dance while trying to get as many rubs as he could.

Another lesson is that life as a shelter dog just isn’t fun. Even in our shelter, where they get high quality food, private indoor kennels, shared outdoor kennels (if they like other dogs, otherwise they alternate) and four trips a day to one of several fenced-in fields with play equipment, the dogs are bored and starved for attention. It is lovely to see how a dog perks up when he gets his weekly weighing moment and gets to spend some fifteen minutes in the kitchen with the staff. He gets called and talked to, he gets petted, he gets some treats and some play with a toy. When the next dog needs to be weighed and this one needs to return to his kennel, the ears droop, the tail sags and all the joy seems to evaporate. Back to the incessant barking of his under-stimulated neighbors, back to a concrete box with nothing to do but bark or sleep. It makes me want to cry and I’m not even the one who gets locked away as if I were an inmate who had committed a crime.

Obviously, the staff works hard (with help of interns and volunteers) to give all dogs attention. Quieter hours are often spent with some extra grooming, a walk off the shelter terrain or play time. It’s just not enough for most of them. It becomes a cycle quickly: a dog that is harder to handle stays in the shelter longer where he does not get enough training, enough attention and enough exercise. The dog becomes bored and starts acting out. Barks more, may become possessive of food, starts jumping, displays overly dominant behavior. Then, of course it becomes harder to adopt the dog out.

Anyway. Dogs love humans. They love you, reader. If you have some love to spare, please consider volunteering, fostering or adopting a shelter pooch. I promise it’ll make you filthy, sore and very, very happy.

Southwest US recap

We spent a large part of the tail end of 2012 working towards December first – the day on which we would go on holiday. We had planned and booked the trip before realizing that having a running immigrant visa application might make entry into the US more difficult. We also planned and booked before we decided that I would quit my job on December 31st, 2012.

None of it mattered, in the end. We got the house fixed up and on the market, we managed to send out all Beloved’s grad school applications, work was happy to have me for one single last week between the US trip and Christmas and even the pending visa petition did not get us (well, me) sent back at the US border. Maybe it was the long lead-up during which we spent almost every night and weekend working, planning an arranging for all the Serious Future Things, maybe it was the fact that there were no family obligations, maybe it was the fact that we went to bright and sunny places, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a trip more than this one.

We prepared by booking a flight to Las Vegas, and two nights in a hotel on the strip. For the second half of the trip we booked two nights at the Grand Canyon and then we arranged a hotel for the night before we flew out. We bought a road map rented a car and… most importantly.. brought some things to listen to. In our collection we had Civil Disobedience, by Thoreau, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin, a dozen episodes of This American Life,  an anthology of stories by Heinlein, some episodes of The Wrath of the Khans in Dan Carlin’s series of Hardcore History.

In the end we drove out of Las Vegas, through Arizona, into New Mexico. We hop-skipped through parts of the Navaho Nation, hit up Four Corners (so technically we were in Utah and Colorado as well, but it doesn’t really count) and then back into Arizona for the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, Flagstaff and its observatory and its Holiday Parade, the Grand Canyon and some tiny cowboy towns. We had some days to spare and set course for Needles and the region around Death Valley. Then, we sprinted back to Vegas and came home.

What we’ve learned:

– If you are ever in Barstow in California.. Go to Lola’s Kitchen. It’s a teensy little place with no vegetarian food, but they served a chicken burrito that almost made Beloved cry because it was so good.

– Whatever you do, don’t try to eat Thai food in Flagstaff. Find the diner in downtown and eat nowhere else while you’re there.

– We’re not Vegas people. It’s opulent and decadent and it has a wow-factor intended to dazzle. Other people love it. It was good to come and see it for myself. We will not go there again.

– Drive your car up a dark, deserted mountain road at night when temperatures drop to minus 15 (in Celsius) and go stargazing. Don’t forget to breathe.

Here, have some pictures and think about silence and solitude.

Driving Southeast from Las Vegas

The road to Jerome, AZ

Sunset from Sedona, AZ.

A tree we met while hiking.

View from a hiking trail.

The Painted Desert.

A desert vista.

A view of the Grand Canyon


For once, the pictures are mine. Feel free to use them, but please drop me a line about it and credit them to The Smitten Immigrant.

The holidays are officially over

and life seems to have gone back to break-neck speed. The pictures of our holiday are sorted and organized, we went to the zoo and I even sorted the pictures from that (a selection of those soon to come) and last night the realtor came to discuss the lack of interest in our house. I plan on fixing it up some more and then take new pictures and have an Open House Day in early spring in the hopes of getting some people in. Tomorrow I start volunteering at the local pet shelter. Today I have the official goodbye-party from my job. Life is brimmingly full with all matters of work and opportunity

Then, last night, close to midnight I received an e-mail from USCIS. It was our e-mail version of NOA2, the notice that means that our petition has been approved and we’re allowed to start on the second part of the visa process. Woahoooooooooooo!!!

I’m restraining myself from typing in all caps, okay.. I’m kind of excited, right now. Couldn’t really sleep, last night.

That’s way faster than we could ever expect. Our petition was handled by the National Benefits Center, an office very newly appointed to help out with all the petitions. For those who care about such things: the average wait time between NOA1 (acceptance of petition) and NOA2 (appoval of petition) is easily three months. For some service centers (places where they  handle petitions), the wait can be up to five months. And that’s only if you managed to file this massive pile of papers absolutely flawlessly. If you made a mistake, you can receive an RFE (Request for Evidence) and need to resend papers, or even send in more proof of the ‘bona fides’ of your love for your partner. If you get an RFE, add another 4 to 6 weeks to your processing time.

Our dates? We received NOA1 on November 8, 2012. And NOA2 on January 2, 2013. It’s insane. We’re so, so lucky!

The next weeks will now be filled with a considerable amount of scrounging for paperwork. But, maybe, if we play it right, we could be all done in April, or so. That would give us five months before having to be in the US. Oh, the places we’ll go!

Excuse my while I do a silly dance.

With thanks to