Puppy Love

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Menagerie.”
Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?

As I’ve briefly mentioned in quite a few of my previous posts, I have a Golden Retriever named Daisy.  She’s going to be two on the last day of February.
I bought her in early May of 2013, about a week before my birthday.  Admittedly, I rushed into it a little bit.  When I get an idea into my head, I have a very hard time convincing myself to slow down, wait or not do it.  The fact I have no self-control is also why I’m now having to diet, but that’s been discussed plenty in other posts.
Anyway, my then-best friend decided he wanted a dog.  He isn’t very organised, so I’d often be the one to help him out when he got his latest big idea.  I spent hours looking for options to suit him, and even longer looking through “puppies for sale” ads, my heart melting with every picture that came with them.  Like most of his big ideas, he changed his mind.  As quickly as the idea came, it went.  I should have seen it coming (I guess subconsciously I probably did) but I was annoyed.  All that research for nothing.  I couldn’t get those little furry faces out of my mind.  I’d grown up with dogs, but had moved out of home a year before, and I missed the cuddly company.  I lived in a first-floor apartment, so it wasn’t by choice I didn’t have my own.  It just wasn’t feasible.

The days dragged on and my mind kept going back to those ads I saw.  Finally, I decided I couldn’t ignore them any more.  My lease was coming up and I knew I’d be moving (my housemate had to move out due to changing jobs and I couldn’t afford to live there alone), so I decided if I saw an ad go up, I’d bite the bullet and go for it.  I hadn’t completely made up my mind between a Goldie or a Lab, so I also left that up to fate.

Now that I’d set my mind to getting a puppy, I couldn’t think of anything else.  I was constantly on websites that listed ads, even when I was working.  I was on the shop floor when I stumbled upon an ad that had only gone up a few hours earlier, advertising golden retriever puppies.  This was happening faster than I’d anticipated (it had taken months for mum to find our first dog all those years ago, though looking back, it’s because she’s the opposite of me, and meticulously plans everything) but I also knew that retriever puppies were snapped up extremely quickly.  I called the number on the ad straight away, and was surprised to find out that they were the next suburb over from work.  They were keen to sell the puppies ASAP (I could tell that over the phone) so I agreed to go to the address after work and check out the furbabies.

I told myself that there was no pressure to buy, even if they were keen to sell.  I don’t know why I bothered though.  The second I saw the chubby, fluffy babies, I knew I had to have one.  I specified I wanted a girl (I’d grown up with female dogs so I thought it was safest to stay with what I knew) and they showed me two sisters.  The old man who was there was nice enough, but didn’t seem hugely interested.  I guess his mentality was that if I wasn’t going to buy one, someone else gladly would.  I asked what the differences in personality were between the sisters, and he shrugged and said nothing.  Obviously, I didn’t believe that but maybe he just couldn’t tell them apart.  They looked like the spitting image of each other.  He gave me one to hold while the other toddled around my feet.  The second he put the little girl in my arms, I knew I had to have her.  There was no way I could say goodbye to her.

He wanted me to take her on the spot, but everything had happened so quickly that I told him that wasn’t possible.  I was happy to put a deposit down but I would have to come back on the weekend after I’d bought a bed and collar and lead and food bowl and food for her.  I had none of that.  Once he knew I was serious, he didn’t mind holding onto her for the next five days.  I was grateful for that.  I didn’t know what I’d do if he wasn’t willing to.

The next five days dragged on for so long.  I stocked up on all the dog things I could get my hands on.  I still wasn’t sure of my short-term plan for her.  I lived in an apartment, I worked full time.  Still, I’d make it work.  I had to.  My original temporary plan was to buy a big puppy pen, leave her in it during the day, come home on my lunch break to let her out, put her back in, go back to work for the last few hours, then let her out when I got home.  Not ideal, I knew that even at the time, but I only lived five minutes away from where I worked so as a short-term solution I thought it would work.  I bought the biggest puppy pen I could find so she’d have room to move around in, in preparation for this plan.

The day finally came when I could go and pick her up.  I was so excited.  I bought my friend with me so I had someone to hold her on the car ride home.  When I arrived, the old man greeted me again, letting me inside and leading me to my new furbaby.  He gave me a bag of dog biscuits and a book on puppy rearing.  I handed over almost $1000, then we headed off.  We took her back to my apartment where I’d already covered the floor with blankets in case of accidents.  The puppy toddled around, sniffing.  I wanted to cuddle her and play with her; she wanted to nap.  She’d already had a big adventure, and decided finding a little nook to squeeze into was safest so I wouldn’t be tempted to pick her up again.  Smart dog.

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After I let her rest for awhile, I wanted to show her off.  I took her to my work first.  The car ride must have given her a tummy ache, because the second I bought her into the backroom, she starting making the “I’m gonna be sick” noises, and I got her to the sink just in time.  Poor puppy, it had been a big morning.  Everyone at work fussed her over.  After that, I took her to my parents’ place.  I’d been careful to keep all the pictures off social media as I hadn’t told them yet.  I knew they’d be mad either way, but I thought surprising them might help.

I rocked up on their doorstep, the puppy tucked away safely in my arms.  Mum went to tell me off, but just couldn’t do it.  She was just as enamored with her as I was.  The puppy set off to explore the next new place.  Mum’s dogs didn’t know how to take her.  One of them has always hated dogs so promptly got put outside, while the other watched on from a careful distance.  It had been a long time since she’d been around a puppy, but she’d always been gentle so we knew she’d come around to the visitor.

After the initial shock wore off, mum asked what I planned to do with the puppy while I was still in the apartment.  When I explained my temporarily (less than ideal) solution, she promptly said that wasn’t going to happen, and she’d have to stay here while I was at work.  I was pretty happy with that, even though it was 30 mins away.  At least the puppy would have company all day, and she’d get toilet trained early.  I wasn’t sure how the grumpy dog would like the new housemate, but bad luck to her.

That night, I took her over to my nan’s.  I loved showing her off while she was still little enough to carry.  I knew this phase wouldn’t last long.  The puppy was completely worn out, and promptly fell asleep again.  It was then I managed to get this awesome photo of just how tiny she was.  Her paw was the same size as her stuffed elephants.  Within a couple of months, the same toy was dwarfed by her.

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The first few days were spent going back and forth between my apartment and mum’s place.  The puppy wasn’t eating much, which we were concerned about, but eventually she came around once she began to feel settled at mum’s.  She was so playful, constantly carrying toys around in her mouth (or at least, trying her best to) and she loved treats.

While I worked, mum taught her how to sit (she’d learnt how to by the time she was twelve weeks old!) and was on the way to being toilet trained.  She did have a cheeky habit of peeing on the porch though – to her, outside was outside, and it was hard to fault the logic.

While all this was going on, I was looking for a new place to live.  We finally found a few we liked, and set out to apply for them.  We thought it might be tough to land one with a puppy, but the first one we applied for we got, which was great!  Within a couple of weeks, I’d packed up and moved into the new place, eager to have my puppy with me.

Since then, I haven’t looked back.  While I may have rushed into it, I’m glad I did.  I love the company she offers (especially now I live alone), I love how smart she is, I love that she’s often the reason I get off the couch and exercise.  She rescues me from moths that get into the house and from birds in the backyard (she loves chasing them).  Her favourite place is the local dog park where she gets to meet new friends.  She also loves going back to her first home (my parents’ place).  At some point, I’m going to get her a friend, but not until my house is built.  I’d like to say I won’t rush into the next one, but I can’t make the promise.  At least I’ve thought about it for awhile.  I’m in two minds between getting another retriever, or getting something smaller.  I love Goldies but sometimes it’s tough walking her (she’s really strong and stubborn when she wants to be), but I’m worried if I get something smaller, that Daisy might get carried away playing and hurt her.  Decisions.  I have awhile to think about it, so I have plenty of time to think it through.

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The Old Man

They talk about me like I’m deaf. Stare at me like I’m blind. They assume that behind my tall stature and solemn eyes, that I’m tough. How can I tell them I’m just a baby inside? That their words keep my eyes open at night, and their actions make my insides cold?
At my age, everyone assumes I’ve heard it all. Maybe they’re correct in that assumption. Hearing something more than once, however, doesn’t lessen the sting that the echoed words create, nor does it heal the heart it breaks. Doctors have told me I’m what they call ‘depressed’. Back in the day, you were told to have a stiff drink and move on. Now they’re jumping at any chance to medicate me, educe me into some faux-happy stupor. Oh, sometimes I think it’d make for a nice change. Sometimes, late at night as I stare up at my well-studied ceiling, I can’t even fathom my own reasons for denying the drugs. Sitting in the warm spring sunshine, watching my youngest grandchild learning to walk in my favourite little park, however, I realize this is what all the grief and unhappiness has led me to. Rebekah is constantly wishing for me to take the pills. It’s the accepted norm for the world now, a world that has shunned me into it’s darkest corners and rooms they politely call ‘retirement villages’. Those places that cater for our ‘heightened needs’, but in actuality are lonely rooms filled with lonelier souls, forced together by families who now see us as burdens instead of caregivers. Oh, the place has a games room and the nurses are polite and at times even seem to care slightly, but this is always outweighed by the crisp air that follows a death and the cereal that lands in our lap extra-soggy for the ‘retirees’ who refuse – or forget – to put their dentures in of a morning.

Like any place that forces strangers together for extended periods of time, I have a few people I am more fond of than most. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to name them as ‘friends’. I can’t remember the last time I’ve called anyone that. One of the more lively of my acquaintances is a Ms Sally Wheeler. She’s always ready to entertain us with a funny anecdote from her past, or give a hug – surprisingly strong and warm, given her age – to clear our heads from the clouds of doubt. Possibly I would call her a friend did I not think she lied through her teeth on a near-constant basis. In this place, this isn’t unusual, however it’s not usually with consciousness that they are uttered, but rather because of mental illness or lack of memory. Sally, though, suffered none of that, and lied nonetheless. For peace’s sake, I kept my observations to myself. After all, who was Ms Wheeler really harming when most of her audience wouldn’t remember the next day, or the next hour?

Those people who suffer from memory problems, I envy them. It seems strange to others, possibly, but should I suffer like the man simply known as Billy, I’d never have to dwell on my past, on my mistakes or on the words of others. I’d simply live in the moment, completely. Of course Billy never knows what day it is, nor recognizes me or anyone else, and for that he does suffer. Yet, he always seems perpetually happy compared to the few of us completely conscious of where we are and what we’ve done.

It’s funny, I suppose, that Billy doesn’t get hounded by doctors wanting to medicate him. They’ve pretty much written him off as a lost cause, spouting ‘the damage is done’ to his family each time they enquire with the false hope that maybe one day a miracle pill will form and he’ll remember their names once more. I say ‘it’s funny’ because the damage has been done to me too, in the past, and is what almost solely has formed my depression and yet, I never hear the the end of doctors telling me how wonderful their medication is. If they are so willing to help cure a patient who isn’t interested, why can’t they help Billy’s family, who desperately are? The world is cruel like that, I suppose.

*

This is one of my old attempts at writing fiction.  I say ‘attempt’ not because I think I’m no good or I can’t do it…I just never have the patience to follow through to the end.  I’m sure if I could, I’d enjoy writing professionally.  Alas, it remains a hobby instead.  This was written back in 2010, but has always been one of the short stories I’m most proud of.

This was inspired by the prompt ‘Post a previously unreleased chapter from one of your books’, which can be found here

“What was the Last Game You Played?”

The last game I played was my lifelong love, the Sims.  I was introduced to the game when I was about twelve, and I’ve never looked back.  One of my favourite childhood memories was playing the Sims 2 when I first got it.  There were so many amazing new features and adjustments from the original game and my sister and I spent hours exploring it.  There are always families you make that stick with you.  For TS2, it was Hayden and Alyssa and their brood of offspring.  As TS2 didn’t allow for the whole neighbourhood to age up simulatatiously (that was introduced in the Sims 3), I spent many hours playing Hayden’s family, then Alyssa’s.  I started with Hayden’s parents.  I saw them meet, fall in love, marry, get pregnant with him then his siblings.  Then I played Alyssa’s family and oversaw the same progression.  As these were some of my first families that were able to age up (the original Sims didn’t have an ageing feature), I got very attached to the families.  When I finally got Hayden and Alyssa to meet and marry, I was so happy.  It had taken so long to get the two families to become one, so it was really special.  They had kids, and I played through them too.

Anyway, I digress.  The game I played most recently was the Sims 3.  I have the Sims 4 but I just don’t like it.  I don’t like that the neighbourhoods are segmented, that it doesn’t age together, that it’s so complicated to get job promotions and romance happening.  I just feel like it’s a lot of hard work.  I especially don’t like that everything seems to have taken a backwards step – the babies are attached to their crib (the Sims 1 did that!), the neighbourhood doesn’t age together (the Sims 2 was the last to do that), no toddler age – my favourite age group (the Sims 1 was the first and only game prior to skip this).  This is why I’ve stuck with TS3.  It has massive amounts of expansion packs, custom content and is basically the best of all the games combined.

As I’ve played the game for so long, I’m always on the hunt for different ways to play.  The family I’m playing right now is the Johns.  I started with Aubrey, a young adult.  I put her on a vacant lot, used a cheat to completely wipe out her funds, and sent her to go fishing.  The only way she was allowed to earn money was from making it herself – she wasn’t going to get a 9-to-5 job, but she could do things such as fish, paint, write or steal.  For a long time, her day consisted of fishing from mid-afternoon to midnight, then inviting herself over to a random person’s house, then stealing 3 items from their house (as a kleptomaniac, she could steal 3 items every 24 hours, but I can’t control what she steals, only who she steals from and what room it’s taken from).  Slowly but surely she started to build her funds, and her house.  At first she was forced to used her local gym for toilet and shower usage, and she’d nap on one of the couches there.  She’d buy fruit and vegetables from the grocery store and snack on that.  It was great when she was able to afford things such as a bar fridge, toilet and bath.  It was even better when she could afford to build walls so she didn’t have to live under the stars.

Her whole young adult life was focused on building up her money and house.  When she aged up to adulthood, she had a small house with a few rooms, and a little bit of money tucked away.  She was driving a flashy car that she’d managed to steal, so that was nice.  The second part of this family challenge was she was to adopt all her kids, not get pregnant.  I did this as I’m so used to the old meet-marry-reproduce routine that I decided I wasn’t going to do this any more.  I also decided I’d use coin flips to decide the gender and age of the kids she’d adopt, and I’d use babynamegenie.com to randomly pick a name for them, as I liked in TS2 when you’d adopt, they’d come pre-named (something that doesn’t happen in TS3).  To add to the rules and to tie into the first part of the challenge, she had to have enough money to be able to give each adopted child their own bedroom.  She adopted her first – Logan, a toddler-aged boy – a few days after her birthday.  It was a lot of fun, though challenging, as she still had to fish and steal, along with teaching him how to walk, talk and use the potty (oh, that’s another rule too – all adopted kids must be taught the basics!).  She managed it though, even if it meant she was almost always in a constant bad mood and state of exhaustion.  After Logan aged up into childhood and went off to school, Aubrey adopted another boy, this time a baby named Owen.  This was an even bigger challenge as not only did it mean he was really young for longer than Logan was, but he needed care around the clock.  Aubrey began skipping her fishing trips more often, though still kept up stealing which was the higher-income-generator of the two.

After Owen aged up and was taught everything, Aubrey adopted Quincy, another male toddler.  Having two toddlers and a child and very little money was definitely tough, but I tried to get her back into fishing as much as possible.  On top of that, I also had to get her too cook dinners for Logan (she’d been living off quick meals until then but kids get hungry a lot more quickly with those).  The house was filthy with rubbish everywhere but she just didn’t have enough time to clean on top of everything else.

It was great when Owen aged into a child as it took the pressure off Aubrey a little bit.  She taught Quincy everything, and stole some quality stuff so she could afford to upgrade her house a little and build another room.  From there, she adopted her first daughter, a child named Tess.  It was great to finally adopt an older kid, as it’s a lot less work.  It meant that Aubrey could focus on fishing a lot more, and she soon had a lot more money than she’d had for a long time.

She then adopted a toddler named Boston.  Thankfully Logan was now a teenager, so he was a great help with the latest addition, and between the two of them, Boston was taught the basics very quickly.  The family was starting to really take shape and get everything together.  The kids were doing well in school, the money was flowing in steadily, everyone was in good moods.

Aubrey didn’t adopt any more kids for awhile, focusing instead on juggling the family she already had, earning extra money, cooking meals to feed all those mouths and keeping the house clean.  It seemed like her life was finally becoming easier and less of a struggle.  The kids all started to age up, they got good grades and had friends in school.

After awhile, Aubrey decided to welcome her final two additions to the family, two children – a girl named Rachelle and a boy named Shaun.  The house was at bursting point, but Aubrey didn’t want it any other way.  She achieved her lifetime wish of “Surrounded by Family” and aged up into an elder.

Currently, all the adoptees are teenagers.  Three of them are dating, all of them are doing well in school and the house (which started from an empty lot) is now 13 rooms big.  As per the challenge, each kid has their own room.  They’ve each got a desk in their room, and a bookshelf.

The family also found and adopted an unicorn named Pepper, who is a fantastic racehorse and super pretty.  It wanders around the neighborhood at will but always comes back to eat and sleep.  It’s a crazy household but it’s been a great challenge and is definitely different to how I usually play!

My favourite moment so far was when one of the boys accidentally set the kitchen on fire.  Fires are always dramatic in this game, and it spreads pretty fast.  All the household runs towards the fire (logic, right?) and stress and scream and basically just get in the way.  Well, Boston got too close and went up in flames.  Luckily, being a child-friendly game, he casually walked out of the flames, got his sister to extinguish him and he was good as new.  It was a stressful moment though as I don’t like any of my simmies to die!  After that happened, the fireman rocked up, and his name was Jeffery Jeffrey.  That’s one of the more amusing names the game has randomly generated!

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Do you play the Sims?  What’s your favourite family?

This prompt, and many more, can be found here

Time to Change – Day Twenty-Nine

Yesterday I had a good surprise come my way.  I told you my luck is changing!  I jumped on the scales, expecting bad news, as I’ve eaten very poorly over the past week while I was trying to re-adjust to working life.  Instead, I’m at my lowest weight yet!  Not by much, granted, and given that my weight fluctuates so much there’s a good chance it won’t stay that low for long, but still…it was a very happy surprise!  I knew I’d been doing a lot more steps during the week, what with catching public transport and working in the city, but I thought I’d counteracted all that by eating fast food for lunch each day.  I guess not!

Apart from that pleasant surprise, yesterday was a pretty good day overall, although it was a little hectic for my liking (given that’s I’m back to the standard two days a week off).  I slept in a little, then got up, went to get my nails done – purple and sparkly this time! – then hit up the grocery store as I wanted to try banana M&Ms and banana Tim Tams (I’m obsessed with banana flavoured anything), and then across the road to get some “get well” balloons for later on.  [Side note for Australians: Banana Tim Tams are amazing, banana M&Ms are okay but not fantastic.]

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Once that was done, I headed to mum’s and then we headed off on an hour drive to visit my grandma in hospital.  As I mentioned here, she was diagnosed with cancer last week.  They operated on her a few days ago, though with her dementia, she often can’t remember it, as I predicted.  She was looking pretty good when we got there, sitting up in a chair by the window, watching a massive tree slowly get cut down at a property across the road from the hospital.  She was as talkative as always, and just as forgetful.  She switched from talking about the operation and going home, to asking when the operation was.  At one point she was so convinced she hadn’t had it yet that my mum had to show her the scar.  This apparently happens quite a lot.  My parents and uncle are talking about putting her in respite care prior to her going home, as they’re worried she’ll get home and forget all about what happened, then lift something heavy or do something she shouldn’t and do damage to her scar.  As my grandpa passed away last year, she lives by herself, and she’s always been very independent (probably where I got it from!) so her staying with one of us is probably not an option as she’d refuse, and one of us staying there isn’t ideal either as she lives an hour and a half away.  Still, I think she’ll be very frustrated in respite care.  Her independence will feel like it’s in jeopardy.  Not much anyone can do though, really…a bit of a blow to her self-esteem is better than a stomach full of popped stitches.  Plus, once she gets out of care, she probably won’t remember too much about it anyway, so I guess that’s a plus.

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After we got back from the hospital, I headed straight home to go to a house warming.  I’d gotten ready, jumped in the car and gotten all of about two streets away when I get a text from one of my friends I was meeting there saying she’d been held up and would be about an hour late.  As the other friends I knew were going to be as late as that too, I turned around, headed home and killed time.  That’s one of the pitfalls of being shy and introverted…you absolutely cannot be the awkward person at the party who doesn’t know anyone.  It’s way too stressful.  I got a message about half an hour later asking if I could pick my friend up at the station on the way.  Another introvert secret – we love having an excuse to turn up to a party with someone else!  I said yes and headed out.  Even with navigation, I still always manage to get lost.  Sometimes it’s my fault for diverting from the map, and sometimes it’s the nav’s fault for being vague or misleading.  Last night, it was the nav’s fault for being vague.  I missed the turn off and wound up getting stuck for 15 minutes on one of my least favourite stretches of road ever.  Worse than that, because I didn’t know exactly where the station was, I also drove right past it, and where I was isn’t very forgiving when that happens, especially on a busy Saturday night.  There weren’t any parks, I couldn’t find side street to turn down and the roads were narrow and packed which added to my stress levels.  Worse, when I finally found side streets to turn down (kilometres away from the station), they were all one-way.  Seriously?!  My friend called me and asked where I was, and I could only give her vague answers because I legitimately didn’t know.  I wound up driving around some more, and between me basically doing a circle of the block and her notching up her step count, we finally managed to meet up, a good half an hour later.

By the time we arrived at the house warming we were an hour later than we initially planned, but our other friends had only just turned up so it was all good in the end.  It was fantastic to see them all again as it had felt like forever, and we chatted away like no time had passed at all.  Before we knew it, it was time to head off.  I had to drop my friend to her partner’s place right in the heart of the CBD (did I mention how much I hate the city?!), which was fine up until she jumped out of the car.  Then I was alone with my nav again…and my nav hates the city just as much as me.  It basically managed to get me on one side of the bridge, do a massive U-turn through the city, then get back on the other side.  I’m still not sure how it managed that.  I missed one turn but as far as I’m aware, it wasn’t one that led straight to the bridge, so it shouldn’t have caused major issues like that.  Then again, I’m the most directionally-challenged person ever, so maybe it was a bigger deal than I thought?

Anyway, what should have taken me about 40 minutes took me over an hour, but I finally got home.  It was the latest I’d been out in a very long time, but I’d had a great time and I’m so happy I finally got to see those guys again.  They make me so happy.

This morning I slept in a little again, got up, tried to catch up on some of my TV shows that had piled up during my busy week, planning after a few episodes to get some housework done.  Instead, I had a long soak in the tub, then got out, put on another episode and promptly fell asleep.  I woke up 3 hours later feeling refreshed but guilty – I hadn’t exercised, done housework, put a dent in my TV shows or even eaten properly.  I didn’t dwell on it though.  My slept debt had been pretty huge after this week, so it wasn’t massively surprising I’d fallen asleep.  I got up, put some washing on, made a very late lunch and re-watched the TV show I’d fallen asleep through.  Now I’m sitting in the sun, blogging, glad it’s not too hot.  I might go for a walk later, although my foot is still giving me issues.  I’ll see how I feel.  I’d really only be going for the dog’s sake, as if it were up to me, I’d be resting my foot in preparation for tomorrow and the rest of the week.  I just feel bad because now I’m working full time again, the dog is being left alone a lot, which makes me want to take her for her beloved walks.  Decisions.

Like I mentioned, I’m back at work tomorrow, my first full week of being at my new job out of training.  I’m really looking forward to it.  The team is awesome and I feel like within a couple of days I should be right to do a lot of things without help.  I can’t wait for that.  I feel like such a bother having to tag along with other people.  I know it’s inevitable and part of a new-job experience, but it still sucks.  I guess it’s just my fierce independence showing through again.  I hate relying on other people for things!  Hopefully it’ll go well 🙂

-JD