Coffee heat rising

State of the Chaos

A little quieter here today… let’s hope it’s not the calm before the next storm. Let’s see how the various crises are doing:

1. In the department of Funny’s Money: I have no idea. I don’t even want to know, it’s such a chaotic disaster. This month I never got an untrammeled moment when I wasn’t too exhausted to sit down and work on the budget, so I’ve just been spending left and right. Financial manager sent over enough to cover the down payment on the pool rehab, which starts Monday. I reset the checking-to-emergency savings automatic transfer to move less than half of what I originally thought I could manage, so that (at least) will leave a little more basic survival money in checking.

2. Hand cancer: still waiting on the biopsy. But I’m calling the doc’s office on Monday to ask if we can accelerate the process. I want this damn thing OFF. Where they shaved off enough to send to the lab, it’s growing back with élan. Whatever it is, it’s very fast-growing and so presumably aggressive. And at times it really hurts. Hurts and itches. Turns out pain and itching are defining characteristics of squamous cell cancer. Why exactly we have to wait for biopsy results until the cows come home to cut the thing out escapes me.

3. Dog decedence*: No credible sign of croaking over yet! Matter of fact, this dog is getting much better. Just now she remembered the chicken jerky treats that reside in a jar on the kitchen counter and decided to do the Dance of the Manipulated Human, thereby eliciting a chew treat for herself and for Ruby. The cough seemed to come back a little: it had subsided to the point where she coughed only when she slurped up a lot of water (which she’s always done…corgis do that). She had stopped coughing when she barks and stopped coughing when I lifted her off the bed. So I cut back the Benadryl from 1/2 tab in the morning and 1/2 tab in the evening to just 1/2 tab at night. A-n-n-d…the cough started to come back. This morning I gave her a dose at doggy breakfast, and lo! No coughing.

*Yes, yes, I did invent that word. Why do you ask? Etym: Late Modern English, from decedent (a deceased person)

4. Car: It seems to have survived its brush with the flatbed trailer with no very serious damage. The gouged tire is still rolling. It hasn’t blown, at least not so far…and yeah, it has been on a freeway or two. I’m trying to stay off the freeways, because I don’t trust the thing. But to get out to the new dermatologist’s office sometime before the end of my life expectancy, I pretty much have to ride the 101 for a number of miles. So far, so good.

5. Cord-cutting Cox escape: Last night La Maya and La Bethulia invited me over for dinner. In the course of conversation, I remarked that I need to get rid of the fake “land line” (Cox’s new version is really VoIP, and not very good VoIP at that), replace my extensions with cheap clamshells and get an iPhone.

“I have two old iPhones that I’m not using!” says La Bethulia. “Want one?”

Do I want one???? Grab!  Well, she quite reasonably wanted to delete all her data on the thing before I trot it over to the Apple store to get it set up. And they’ve forgotten the password for the thing. But it turns out it’s not hard to reboot the thing all by your little self. So…I may try to do that with my son’s help, or just hire an Apple tech to do it. Paying someone a hundred bucks or so would be a lot cheaper than buying a new iPhone! 🙂

6. MacMail fiasco: Still not fixed. Right now the only way I can get to my email is through the Web interface, which is less than ideal. It does allow me to access incoming mail, but all my carefully designed preferences have been screwed up. Not erased — which would have been far preferable — but all jumbled around. So it’s a mess. And I guess I’m going to end up either having to pay Cox for an email account, the bastards, or start using Gmail, which I really really REALLY do not want to do. This, I will figure out later.

7. Other little dramas: Have yet to decide whether I’m going back to choir. The associate director has kindly put me on the women’s chant choir, which I love.  She urged me to come to choir on Sunday despite having turned on my heel and marched back to my car and gone home after last Wednesday evening’s unpleasant exchange at the door (not with her but with a woman who makes no secret of her dislike of me).

I don’t know. I’d pretty well decided to quit — just never go back, that’s how disgusted I am. And besides…

Really, the only thing that keeps me from feeling a great deal more serious about moving out of Crime Central is the choir. I can’t afford any other close-in district — this neighborhood is cheap because Conduit of Blight Blvd, Gangbanger’s Way, the Blightrail, the meth clinic, and the population of bums keep the property values way down. Comparable homes anywhere else are at least a hundred grand higher, and these days more like two hundred grand.

Abandoning the choir and the church would open two housing options: Fountain Hills, wayyy on the east side of the Valley, and Sun City, wayyyy on the west side. Both have the advantages of low crime rates and pretty decent nearby shopping. They’re both quiet and peaceful, and there’s no way any politicians and their greed-driven backers are going to build a boondoggle through the middle of either one. Sun City is a ghetto for old folks, which I really do not like. Fountain Hills is one helluva long way from everything but the Mayo Clinic, a distance that I also do not like. I don’t know anyone in Fountain Hills and, because I don’t make friends easily, this would make me feel isolated and unhappy. But Fountain Hills has pretty scenery and it is close to upscale shopping and to my favorite second-hand store, My Sister’s Closet. Sun City has the advantages that it’s very cheap to live there, and that I do know some people there and so would start with a kernel of a social life. Which would be good. I guess. And the writer’s group I favor meets way on the west side, so it would be easy to cultivate more friends there. I guess.

Well, if I’m going to snab that phone, I need to get up and do it now…La Maya’s relatives are about to descend on the house. And so, away!

Another Day Late…

But no dollars short, to tell the truth. Indeed, I’m yet another day late posting the most recent serial installment of the three (!!) magnum opi going up at Plain and Simple Press because more dollars are flying in over the transom.

Not 20 hours after I returned the most recent paper from one of the teams of Chinese scientists, a long, complicated affair and a tour-de-force of English as a Second Language, in came three departments from our client journal, with more to come.

So that put the eefus on any creative scribbling. I’ve read three book reviews and moved them over to my co-editor for formatting. Much, much more to come.

Meanwhile, the corgi continues to cough. Have to drag her across the city to the vet first thing tomorrow morning. Second thing, actually: the appointment isn’t till 9:45, which will just get us out the door at the right time to avoid a) the accursed no-left-turn lanes and b) the worst of the rush-hour homicidal traffic.

I’ve now added almost 15 pounds of soda ash to the pool water. The pH was almost up to the “neutral” level, at which point I should be able to add the algicide that I plan to dump into the drink in gay abandon. The algae has returned, in its own gay abandon, coating the south wall and steps with sheets of green.

By now the water should have cooled down enough to make the pool nearly unswimmable, but that is far from the case. Weather remains not warm here but hot, and the pool is still warm enough to swim in (if you call dragging a hose and sprayer into the drink and power-washing the walls underwater “swimming”…). This will delay the resurfacing venture, probably into October, since we’re already halfway through September already. I’d hoped to dump in the algaecide so it would be sucked into the filter, where the stuff could saturate the innards.

That won’t do much good if we have to wait very long after the event to shut everything down and empty the water, highly laden with organic compounds that promote algae growth. But…it should use only a little more than a third of the bottle of the stuff. So if the delay goes on long enough to allow the little green plants go start growing again, I’ll just dump some more of the stuff in.

Meanwhile: Beyond tired. Going to bed.

Nine is the new midnight…

Lose some pounds, keep some bucks

Cassie the Corgi is getting a bit on the chunky side.Bad. The corgi is built like a dachshund: short legs under a long spine. This mutation puts a lot of stress on the spinal column, making the dog susceptible to back injuries and debilitating arthritis. Apparently overweight is the most common cause of crippling back pain in these dogs, and the most common cause of premature death.

So it’s time to put the pooch on a diet.

I’ve been feeding her about 8 ounces per twice-daily feeding: 2 ounces of starch, 2 ounces of veggies, and 4 ounces of meat with each meal. Pretty clearly that’s too much: she’s gained three pounds since she moved in with me. That’s a lot, when you’re supposed to weigh about 21 to 23 pounds: 13 percent of her desired body weight!

The rule of thumb for feeding DIY doggie cuisine is 2 percent of of the ideal body weight. Assuming Cassie should weigh 23 pounds, that would be 7.46 ounces a day, or 3.68 ounces a meal. That is not much food! In fact, it seemed way too little to sustain such a lively little dog, and so I just started feeding her by guesswork.

Evidently I guessed wrong. I’ve been feeding her 8 ounces per meal.

Interestingly, not only was she beginning to look like a tiny barrel with legs sticking out, she also had lost her enthusiasm for the beloved doggy dish. She had to be coaxed to eat. No wonder: the poor little thing must have felt like she had a cannonball in her belly.

Yesterday I cut her ration to 5 ounces. This morning she was dee-lighted to scarf breakfast, and she greeted the day by rocketing around the house like a Roman candle run amok. Clearly she feels better on a lighter diet.

This is going to save some cash: half as much frozen vegetables, rice, and chicken represents a significant savings on dog food. I think I’ll ease her down to 4 ounces per feeding and see how she does.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It occurs to me that what’s sauce for the pooch could be sauce for the human: What if I restricted my feed to 2% of my desired body weight?

That would come to 2.6 pounds of fine cuisine per day.

Seems like a lot. A typical meat portion for me is about 4 ounces. Because there’s nothing to eat on the campus that isn’t junk food, I don’t eat lunch. Somehow I doubt that 2 pieces of bacon, a piece of toast, orange juice, and strawberries in the morning plus 4 ounces of grilled meat and a salad at night come to something over 2 1/2 pounds of food. However, this morning I ate enough oatmeal to create the lead-ball-in-the-belly sensation. And I do eat a fair amount of watermelon and fruit during the day.

The difference is that Cassie eats better than I do. My diet is not a carefully calibrated fusion of mixed vegetables, starch, and meat. I eat whatever comes to hand, which tends to be high on cheese, meat and fish, crackers, and fruits and low on vegetables.

What if I weighed my food and tried to keep the daily volume to 2 percent of the body weight I’d like to have? Or less? What if I made an effort to balance veggies and starches 50-50 with animal proteins? This could be an interesting experiment.

Might save some money at the grocery store, too!

Dog Food: The costs and benefits of making your own

 Cassie, the Little Dog, turns up her dainty nose at Science Diet’s best lamb and rice kibble. Won’t touch packaged doggy treats. Doesn’t think much of ultrapremium canned food, either, though she’ll gag down a few bites. After three days of hunger strike, she’d already lost about two pounds—a lot when you weigh 23 pounds.

At first I thought she was off her feed because of the stress of being dumped in the Humane Society shelter, a place as wild as a nineteenth-century madhouse, then yanked out by a strange woman, fussed over by the woman’s friends and relatives, dragged to two vets, sickened by bordetella, and dosed up with antibiotics and cough medicine. Concerned because she was eating almost nothing, last night I fixed her a dish of the same kind of food I cooked for Anna and Walt during the last year’s Chinese pet food scare: half a piece of steak grilled for my own dinner, a few spoonsful of boiled rice, some spinach, and some peas.

She inhaled the stuff and begged for more.

Makin’ It

Hot dang! Dollars to donuts, this dog has been eating real food. That would explain her perfect coat and teeth in such excellent condition it surprised both vets. It also would explain why she didn’t get the doggywobbles despite the stress and the changing food. When dogs eat real food, their tastes are catholic and versatile, and diversity in their diet does not trigger gastritis and diarrhea. Possibly her humans fed her the BARF diet: raw meat and bones. This is somewhat risky, given that pathogens are pathogens, whether they’re attacking people or dogs, and raw meat is full of pathogens. BARF is probably the most popular of the do-it-yourself dog feeding projects, though, and so chances are good this is what she ate.

A little undergraduate coursework in microbiology has left me unwilling to ingest raw meat or to feed it to a domestic mammal. So my idea of homemade dog food is a combination of meat cooked rare to medium (well-done for poultry or pork), starch, and veggies. If you cook your own meals rather than eating out all the time, it’s no problem to put a little extra on the stove for the dog.

Why Feed Dogs Real Food?

Commercial dog food, whether kibble, semi-moist, or canned, is not food. It’s no more food than is junk food for humans. The fact that you can swallow something doesn’t make it food. For a dog to spend its entire life eating kibble is about like a person starting in on hot dogs and dry packaged cereal in infancy and having nothing else to eat for the rest of his or her life. Think of that.

Dogs are not evolved to eat bizarre chemicals. Dogs have lived with humans and have eaten what humans eat for thousands and thousands of years. Commercial packaged or canned dog food came into being in the early part of the 20th century. DNA testing suggests dogs moved into human camps about 15,000 years ago. But in a scant 60 years, we’ve allowed merchandisers and a compliant veterinary industry to convince us that dogs can’t survive on “people food.” Really: does this make sense? If dogs can’t thrive on real food, how did they manage to survive for the 14,940 years before manufacturers started peddling fake food for dogs?

When I switched Anna and Walter over to real food during the 2007 scare, the improvement in their vigor and health was striking. Both 12 years old at the time, they each were showing signs of age. Before long, their coats looked great, they had more energy, their dog breath disappeared. Their dog mounds became more compact and normal-looking, and instead of having to collect upwards of a dozen giant mounds a day, I found myself picking up only a couple. It was clear as day that both dogs thrived when no kibble crossed their bristly lips.

Feeding two 90-pound dogs, however, meant cranking 28 pounds a week out of my kitchen. It wasn’t hard, but it could be messy, especially if I tried to cook an entire week’s worth in a single day. When, after several months, Walt started to lose weight drastically, I thought he wasn’t getting enough nutrition and switched both animals back to commercial food. This assumption was wrong: he was wasting away with an aggressive cancer, which soon ended his life. By then, though, Anna was obediently eating Trader Joe’s kibble, and so I took the path of least resistance and kept her on it.

To feed real food to this little dog, though, would be pretty easy. According to the instructions on the 13.5-ounce can of premium dog food I brought home, she should have about one can a day-less than a pound. By my own rule of thumb-daily ration = 2% of body weight-she should have about a half-pound of real food each day. That’s a little scanty, though a full pound may be a little much. It’s easy to schlep her to a vet’s office to be weighed, and that’s how you figure out how much to feed: follow the animal’s weight for a while and adjust the ration accordingly. The amount I made Sunday evening, which started with a cup of rice to which, after it was cooked, were added meat and a few vegetables, fed her for three meals.

After her second little feast, Cassie perked up considerably. She’s been tearing down the hall after her toys and boldly exploring the house and yard. The cough has subsided and she evidently feels much better.

So…how much does this cost?

Well, I’ll have to admit that preparing real food for two dogs as big as small horses was not cheap: a dog the size of a German shepherd or a male greyhound requires 14 pounds of food a week, of which five to seven pounds should be high-quality meat. Kibble doped with a small amount of meat or broth (the only way you can get a dog to eat that stuff) costs significantly less.

However, a home-made diet for a small dog like Cassie is cost-effective. In the first place, one will save a lot on vet bills if one is not forcing the animal to eat feed that is suspect at best and toxic at worst. But in the second place, the small amount such a dog eats costs no more than the best quality dog food you can get.

One can of Precise chicken dog food set me back $2.99; it will feed Cassie for just one day. A small bag of Science Diet and a bag of inedible dog treats rang up a $16 bill at PetSmart.

I returned the PetSmart foodoid—one thing you have to give to that outfit is that they will take back opened packages of dry dog food if your dog won’t eat it—collecting my sixteen bucks. Then I headed for Sprouts, where for $7.88 I got a package of hamburger (on sale for $1.99 a pound), a package of chicken, a bag of bulk converted rice, and some veggies.

Okay. That’s half of what I paid for the Science Diet and dog treats, all of which was going from the package to the dog bowl to the garbage. No matter what I put on the kibble, the dog flat wouldn’t eat it, and of course whatever I put on it quickly spoiled in the summer heat. So any money spent on the stuff effectively was tossed into the trash.

The hamburger, rice, and vegetables produced four days’ worth of Cassie food: that’s eight generous servings. For around five or six bucks, since the rice and veggies will go a lot further than that and I still have the chicken to convert into more dog food.

Once she’s over the kennel cough, I can occasionally substitute cottage cheese for meat, which will cut that cost, as will buying cheaper cuts of meat and having them ground or picking up meat at a better price elsewhere (at Safeway hamburger was selling for $1.70 a pound, but I learned of this after I was done driving through 112-degree heat). So, I expect I can feed her for a week for something between eight and ten bucks.

While this is high compared to dry dog food-which, bear in mind, isn’t food-it’s cheap compared to three dollars a can! One can whose ingredients resemble what I would cook lasts the dog for one day: that would be $21 a week, plus 8.3% tax. In Arizona, I pay no sales tax on human food.

From an early FaM post on making your own dog food:

How do you make dog food?

It’s pretty easy. Remember, over the past 15,000 years, dogs have evolved to eat what people eat. Like their wild ancestors, they’re nonobligate carnivores: this means they’re primarily meat-eaters but also can and do eat a fair amount of vegetable matter. Wolves have been observed scarfing berries and fruit, and you no doubt have watched your own dog munch things like cauliflower and popcorn.

The trick is to feed real food. By that I mean things that would be real food for humans, too: not junk food.

Real meat.

Real vegetables.

Unadulterated sources of starch.

Not junk food. Not hot dogs or leftover Big Macs or ice cream or pizza or peanut butter or any thing that comes in a can or a plastic microwavable package or as a mix to which you just add water. That leaves the entire world of real food:

Meat. Fresh or frozen veggies. Brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, yams, even real potatoes. Cottage cheese, yoghurt, and eggs are OK, too.

What’s not OK to feed dogs, in addition to junk food, are the following items:

  • 1. Onions (toxic; onion causes a life-threatening form of anemia in dogs)
  • 2. Garlic (ditto, no matter what people say about adding it for flavoring)
  • 3. Chocolate (poisonous to dogs)
  • 4. Corn (one of the most common allergens in dogs)
  • 5. Avocado
  • 6. Raw egg white (cooked is OK)
  • 7. Raw salmon (cooked is OK)
  • 8. Grapes
  • 9. Added sugar
  • 10. Added salt

About 30% to 40% of each portion should consist of high-quality protein: meat, eggs, or cheese. The rest of the ingredients should be divided about fifty-fifty between a source of starch (such as rice, oatmeal, potato, or sweet potato) and a wide variety of vegetables. Each serving should ideally contain both a green and a yellow or orange vegetable. Dogs can eat almost any vegetable except plants in the onion family (onions, leeks, chives, shallots, garlic), corn, and avocado.

Cook but do not overcook the meat; only chicken and pork should be well-done all the way through. Cook the starch; if the veggies are frozen, add them to the hot freshly cooked starch item to defrost them and cool the grain or potato. Mix in the meat. If the meat is a solid piece baked or grilled (as opposed to ground meat), cut it into small pieces before adding it to the rest of the food. Add a little olive oil or lard for coat quality and calories. Toss in a doggy vitamin-available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s—and you have dog food that more than exceeds ideal.

Take it easy with fish. Like corn, fish is a common dog allergen. And take note that this diet is for dogs only, not for cats, which are obligatory carnivores.

If you cook like that for your dog, the pooch likely will be eating better than you do.

Veterinary bills will drop to almost nil. Ear infections—often a manifestation of food allergies—will subside or disappear. Backyard cleanup will be hugely easier. Your dog’s coat and teeth will be healthier. And the dog will love you.

Ultimately, this is highly cost-effective. If your dog is healthier, any extra amount you spend on purchasing real food is recouped many times over in savings on the most costly item of pet ownership: veterinary bills. And if your dog lives longer, obviously you will spend less on pets, because over the long term you will have to buy fewer of them.

2 Comments left on iWeb site


Do you really need to take her to a vet to weigh her?You could put her in a box and weigh her on a human scale.

I wonder why people who had evidently been taking such good care of her left her.

Wednesday, June 18, 200803:55 PM


One of my eccentricities is that I don’t own a scale. Throughout my life, my weight has been very stable, never varying more than a pound or two from a set point, and so a scale is redundant and something else for me to find a place for.

Also it’s easier to get a dog on a scale with a large platform, such as veterinarians have. Vets generally allow you to walk in and weigh your dog for free.

The whole issue of why Cassie’s humans dumped her at a shelter gets curiouser and curiouser. It’s now developing that she DOESN’T bark much. She may yap for couple of minutes after I leave, but she quickly settles down. No matter when I come back—whether it’s just five or ten minutes later or several hours later—she’s quiet.

It’s clear she was a child’s pet. At the moment, my neighbor’s nieces and nephews are playing in the pool next door. When Cassie went outside, she heard their voices and SO wanted to get over there and play with them. In their paperwork, the previous owners said they had a seven-year-old daughter. So that means they got rid of their little girl’s little dog. It almost sounds abusive, doesn’t it?

The only thing I can figure is maybe they lost their home and were too embarrassed to discuss that with strangers, so they made up an excuse instead of admitting to a catastrophic financial crisis. There’s apparently more to the story than “dog barks.”

Wednesday, June 18, 200804:40 PM

R.I.P. Anna H. Banana

This morning I finally had to give up the fight and take Anna on her final chariot ride to the vet. She was in so much pain, it just wasn’t right to continue trying to keep her going.

Even when I’d made up my mind and SDXB helped me get her there, I still wasn’t sure…maybe if the pressure sores were what hurt so much, maybe there was something else to try. The vet, Dr. Brooke Hoppe, examined the sore spots carefully. When she manipulated them, the dog evinced no discomfort at all—didn’t blink an eye.

Dr. Hoppe said the large sore on her right hip was not a pressure sore and that there really was no sign of infection in it. She concluded that it was a patch of somewhat inflamed skin, and that handling it did not cause any pain. That was why Anna could lay on the hard floor on top of it—because that was not what hurt. Ditto the elbow pain: her elbow patches were just the usual calluses. One had been a bit abraded, but it was not a pressure sore.

The pain was not on the skin: it was bone-deep. Her spine was effectively calcified into an inflexible rod, and her hips were becoming deformed from the arthritis and probably, too, late-stage dysplasia. She could no longer sit at all, and to lay down she had to cantilever herself halfway there and then slide to the floor with a thud. The hair on her hocks was dirty and worn where she’d had to slide to a down position. Dr. Hoppe said there were a couple of other painkillers we could try, since the Tramadol was doing little or nothing for her. But it was unlikely they would help much, and if they did, the effort would be strictly palliative: there was nothing we could do for the condition of her bones.

So, it was time.

It’s going to be pretty lonely around this place. While I was vacuuming out the double-sided dog door preparatory to sealing it into its burglar-proof mode, I looked up and expected to see Anna standing in the door to the room, where she would be watching me whenever I indulged any such behavior. And throwing away poor old worn-out Toy was pretty hard.

But on the other hand… Now I can go out of town for a weekend. I haven’t even made a day trip in longer than I can remember, or visited my friends on the far west side, because I’ve had to be back here by six o’clock to feed and medicate the dog. I have exactly no one who can be imposed upon to come over here and feed the dog twice a day and medicate her upwards of six times a day. By the time the end finally dragged around, I was giving her 16 pills a day, smearing two different ointments on her twice a day, and administering four eyedrops every day. No one is gunna do that so I can take off for Flagstaff or Santa Fe. Now I don’t have to scour dog poop out of the porous CoolDecking around the pool-almost every day!-and now I can take down the jury-rigged fence that kept her from falling in the drink. Now I can trade in the gas-guzzling Dog Chariot for a more fuel-efficient car. Now when I clean the house, it will stay clean for a few days. And now that I don’t need a big fenced yard, I can sell my house and move someplace smaller and easier to care for.

It’s amazing to think that dog has been with me through several major phases of my life. When I brought her home as a puppy, I was solidly middle-aged. Now I’m old. That was part of the dilemma about putting her to sleep. Hey! My bones ache, too—my back aches when I get up, and my shoulders hurt and my neck hurts, but I’m not ready to shuffle off this mortal coil because of it. Why should anyone think she would be? But I have to allow, I can get up, which she could barely manage.

Now what? On the one hand, I think no more dogs!!!!! On the other, it’s hard to imagine being without a doggy companion. I’ve had dogs—big ones, shepherds and retrievers and a dobe and a greyhound—all my adult life. If I get another dog, it can’t be another 85-pounder. It will have to be small enough that I can pick it up to get it into the car if it’s sick or hurt, small enough that I can pick it up to take it out of harm’s way (oh! the aggressive off-the-leash curs Anna and I engaged!). Since I don’t much care for little yappers, I can’t imagine what kind of dog that would be.

So for the nonce I’m done imagining.

I probably won’t post tomorrow. The rest of this weekend will be spent in a cleaning frenzy.