Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vacation Part 1

I'm not sure exactly what we were thinking, packing up the dog and the cat and driving across the country, but we've somehow made it to Phoenix. (It's been pretty busy, so my apologies for the shoddy writing below.) We're heading off to L.A. tomorrow, and between this trip and the last, Dempsey will have seen the U.S. of A. from California to New York, and from Minnesota to Texas. We showed Dempsey a map, and he has marked in yellow all the states he has visited.

Our first stop was Wichita, Kansas, mainly because we had free lodging at a friend's house. We went exploring a bit with Dempsey, and here's what we found.

Old Town
Doreen and I used to live in Alexandria, Virginia, where the Old Town is old, at least by American standards -- there are places with signs that say "George Washington slept here." Old Town Wichita is not quite as old. Most of the buildings are from the turn of the century, though the sign would indicate it's not even that old:

World's first Pizza Hut
The world's first Pizza Hut is now on the campus of Wichita State University. Alas, it is not in operation; I would've liked to have seen the inside, and how the operations differ from a modern Pizza Hut. The interesting thing I noticed is that there aren't that many Pizza Huts in Wichita, or even White Castle, which was also founded in Wichita. The most popular local chain seems to be a place called Spangles. I would say more, but it already looks like I'm way too interested in fast food, and I can see your eyes glazing over. Suffice it to say that Dempsey was not interested in the Pizza Hut, especially after I told him there were no pizzas inside.

Keeper of the Plains
Probably the coolest thing Dempsey saw in Wichita is the "Keeper of the Plains" memorial, which is surrounded by big flaming boulders that the groundskeeper lights every night at 7pm. We thought it would be a good socialization experience for Dempsey, I guess because we expect he'll be seeing a lot of flaming boulders in his work? Anyway, he did great, as usual, not afraid a bit.

From Wichita, we drove straight to Phoenix. This will take you about 18 hours, if you need to make frequent stops for the dog and the cat. Dempsey has had a blast, with lots of new and exciting experiences. Everything is so much more fun when you look at things through a puppy's eyes. Here are some of Dempsey's firsts:

  • His first cactus, which gave him a needle in the nose. He tried pawing it off, which just broke the needle in two: half on his nose, half on his paw. When I tried removing the needle, Dempsey squirmed so much he got them both on me. Luckily, he learned quickly to leave the cacti alone.
  • His first coyote. Scary! We didn't see the coyotes, but we heard them howling outside the house. Dempsey was so worried, we cancelled his walk and went back inside. I wanted to try exposing Dempsey to coyotes again, but alas the wily beasts did not return.
  • His first tumbleweed. At home, Dempsey has (thankfully) learned to ignore blowing leaves. Here in Phoenix, there aren't a lot of blowing leaves, but we did see some tumbleweeds when we went on a short hike. Suffice it to say, Dempsey does not generalize well from leaves to tumbleweeds -- he tried chasing them all over again.
  • His first echo. Very cute! He wasn't afraid, but he was very curious on our hike.
  • His first petroglyph. On our hike to Telegraph Pass at South Mountain, Dempsey found his very own petroglyph! Pics below.
  • His first eucalyptus tree. Apparently, these smell as good to dogs as they to people. I thought Dempsey was about to do an imitation of a koala, so intent was he on trying to eat the leaves.
  • His first pop-up sprinkler. When he was looking for a place to potty, Dempsey found his first pop-up sprinkler. He was very curious when it popped up, and as he approached to investigate, it started sprinkling water, getting Dempsey all wet. Dempsey jumped back about 6 feet and did a startled "shimmy." He went back to the sprinkler pretty quickly and started snapping at the water, trying to catch it. Very cute!
  • His first Spanish fountain. Dempsey saw his first Spanish fountain just after seeing his first pop-up sprinkler. With the spraying water fresh in his memory, he was a little hesitant about approaching the fountain. I really had to lower the criteria for the retrieves, clicking and treating for just touching the keys, instead of for picking them up and giving them to me. Alas, I clicked too soon on one occassion, when Dempsey nudged the keys into the water. When we tried it again, Dempsey enthusiastically pushed the keys back into the water. It took a few more reps before we got it right.

Dempsey loves staying at his grandparents' house. Even though he hasn't seen them since July, he still remembers them! He also got to meet loyal blog follower Cindy. (Dempsey says: "HI! HI! HI!") Dempsey loves that the house is not puppy-proofed; he's very curious, spending most of his free time wandering around and sniffing things. He's been very good about not chewing things, and except for some socks, he hasn't stolen anything, either.

Dempsey was a very good boy on his first Christmas. With the help of his Christmas present (some yummy peanut butter treats) and lots of practice on the previous days, Dempsey helped pick up wrapping paper. He even had a chance to hand out one gift, the only stocking stuffer that was waterproof and not breakable, edible, or fragile.

That's all folks! More later, after I get some sleep.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Snowbird Dempsey

It is now the tenth day of Christmas, and miracle of miracles, the Christmas tree is still standing. Doreen added ribbon last week, and we've even added a couple of (fake) wrapped presents under the tree. Dempsey has been such a good boy, not touching any of it.

Last Saturday, we took him to the pet store to meet Santa Claus. Dempsey was very suspicious at first, refusing to go near Santa. A few well-timed treats bribed him to get closer, but he was still leery. I think Dempsey knew this wasn't the real Santa, because underneath the beard and hat, it was a woman. He is such a smart little boy! At one point, Dempsey reached up to tug off Santa's beard, exposing "Santa" as the fraudulent look-alike she was, but luckily a well-timed "sit" prevented him for ruining it for all the other little dogs. In the end, Dempsey and "Santa" became friends, with Dempsey doing a nice "rest your head" on Santa's lap.

Last week's blizzard wasn't nearly as bad as we'd feared it would be. Dempsey loves the snow, and he always volunteers to help with the shovelling, though his "help" consists mostly of knocking down the piles of snow I had worked so hard to shovel. This is cute for about the first 20 times, after which he gets to rest in the kennel while I shovel the snow all over again.

This morning, however, was a little too cold even for Dempsey. With the temperature at about two below, we played Frisbee fetch a couple of times in the snow after his potty break. Dempsey was still wagging his tail and having fun, but I noticed there were two little drool icicles forming by his mouth. Yikes! We went inside and played hide and seek instead.

Luckily for Dempsey, he gets to be a snowbird this year. Doreen, Dempsey, Bailey, and I will all be piling into the Jeep for a trip to Phoenix and L.A. to visit Dempsey's puppy grandparents. Dempsey will miss the snow, but I think he'll enjoy going on long walks again. It's only December, but Dempsey is already a little stir crazy.

Stay tuned for vacation pics!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The third day of Christmas

It's now the third day of Christmas, and we've finally put all the ornaments up on the tree. This isn't a great picture, but I have to say that the dollar store ornaments don't look half bad. Tomorrow we'll add the pièce de résistance: a golden ribbon around the tree. A golden theme for a golden boy!

Dempsey has been very good so far with the ornaments, knock on wood. I think he's happy that his kennel is right between the fireplace and the Christmas tree: no chance of missing Santa!

What's been harder for him are the decorations outside. He had no problem at all with the ghosts and witches for Halloween, but he is very curious about Christmas decorations. In particular, he's fascinated by what I would describe as a giant inflatable snow globe that has two motorized penguins ice skating around the North pole. It says "Merry Christmas." I think Dempsey, like his father, is trying to figure out why penguins are at the North pole, and what exactly they have to do with Christmas.

Dempsey doesn't have much time to figure it out. The weather outside is frightful: two inches of snow tonight, followed by "blizzard-like" conditions on Wednesday, and then a high of 5 below (20 below with wind chill) on Thursday. We won't be going on any walks, needless to say. Dempsey is still so energetic, I hope the tree is still standing on Friday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas is coming!

Dempsey's first Christmas is coming soon! We've told him how Santa Claus brings presents to good little boys, and Dempsey is very excited. Evidently, he thinks he's been a good little boy, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

We asked him what he's going to ask Santa for, and, perhaps not surprisingly, he said he only wants one thing: a puppy. A puppy! As Doreen and I have learned this year, it's a big responsibility and a lot of work to have a puppy. We tried explaining this to Dempsey, but he said he's 10 in dog years, and that he thinks he's old enough to take care of a puppy. Hmm. We've suggested that Dempsey ask Santa for something that would fit in one of his stockings.

In the meantime, we've started putting up a Christmas tree. We say "started," because we're doing this in stages. Yesterday we went to the dollar store to buy some cheap plastic ornaments, which we'll use this year instead of the nice glass ones. Today, we put up the tree. In a couple of days, we'll start decorating the tree, top to bottom, over a few days. Hopefully, by doing this gradually, we'll help Dempsey stay on Santa's "good" list.

As we've said, it's a lot of work having a puppy.