On a much lighter note!

To balance out the heaviness of the previous post, I’d like to draw inspiration from the American media which basically has the following M.O.: “We will hear more about the tragedy that occurred last night shortly. For now, let’s look at this hilarious footage of a squirrel water-skiing!”

Ok, so I don’t have a video of a rodent engaging in death-defying stunts (although I could probably find one on Youtube pretty quickly!), but I do have some cute shots of the dog and cat.

Guinness was not very pleased about being left alone for the week I was in Ottawa. So I bribed him to love me again. I really felt like one of those stereotypical tv fathers from the 1950s who go on long business trips but bring their kids home treats and therefore are heroes. Guinness just loves his new Canadian catnip-infused scratch pad and toys. And by extension, he loves me again.

Riker seemed happy enough at the boarding facility I left him at. The vet techs love him and he was, after all, in the ‘luxury suite’ called the Sun Room. As the lady told me, “he’s pretty hyper so we’ll put him in the biggest room.” Apparently he made friends with a young English Mastiff, but the dog’s owner left before I could set up a puppy play-date. Zut alors!

I don’t know what they were feeding Riker at the kennel, but I swear he’s doubled in size in the past week. He now barely fits on his favourite look-out perch, and it is becoming quite hazardous for me to carry a cup of tea up to my desk!

Rescuing Riker

There is a new addition to our little family, and Guinness is none too pleased. I can’t write a long message because I’m constantly supervising Riker, our new German Shepherd-Lab mix puppy and making sure he gets whisked out the back door every time he wakes up from a nap, eats his food, or has a long drink.

We adopted him in Salt Lake City, Utah a few days ago. We had seen a picture of his sister, Eve, on the Utah Humane Society website but when we arrived at the adoption centre (which is definitely the nicest one I’ve ever been to) two teenagers were just getting permission to take her out of the cage to check her out more. After hanging around for an agonizing 1/2 hour while they took cell phone photos of her and sent them to her parents to secure permission to adopt from the society (they have strict rules), we left our contact info and left, dejected.

The woman suggested we go to the Utah Pet Centre, but gave us really confusing directions. After spending 30 minutes trying to find the place – including stopping at a convenience store where someone else gave us confusing directions – we gave up, and got on the I-80 headed back to Green River.

Within seconds we saw a huge sign for the Centre from the freeway and exited immediately. When we walked through the doors, I literally almost fell down the stairs. Sitting in a crate in the foyer was Eve. Or so I thought. It turned out it was Eve’s brother, Wally, who was almost completely identical to his sister.

Wally – now renamed Riker – is such a good puppy. Although he’s got a bit of a cold right now, he is rapidly becoming house-trained, leash-trained, and crate-trained. Not bad for a 3-month-old who has been given up for adoption, separated from his sister, and carried off to a new home a 2 1/2 hour drive from the shelter in the past week.
The only issue with little Riker is that he won’t be staying little for long! Doug and I had decided we wanted a ‘starter dog’ in the 50-60 lb range. Well, Riker is 22 lbs right now and I have a feeling he could top out at 80-90lbs. To give you an idea of how big his paws are, our next door neighbour spotted him in our yard from her second-floor window and commented on them! You can see them a mile off!

What can you do? There’s no stopping puppy love! We’ll just have to buy a bigger car 🙂

Rapid-fire house hunting

Sunday, September 7th: Initial Optimism

Doug and I arrived in Rock Springs at approximately 2pm on Sunday, September 7th. Since then, we have spent practically every waking moment trying to find ourselves a place to rent. Before we left Ottawa we were in touch with Doug’s “relocation coordinator” who I assume was supposed to do some legwork for us. Instead, we were given the website for the Rock Springs Rocket Miner classifieds and the number of a local property management group. So we didn’t have a whole lot to go on, but we figured we’d be able to find something relatively easily. After all, we’re both pretty experienced student apartment hunters, we’re not that picky, and we’ve got money to spend. This should be pretty easy, right??

So Wrong.

After a nap and bite to eat I was feeling pretty energized and decided I would start calling the places in the classifieds that looked promising. It quickly became apparent that this is a hot rental market where places are snatched up as soon as they become available. The high numbers of transient workers (like us) and the volatile sales market means everyone is looking to rent. And most of them have housing allowances and good salaries from the mega-companies like Schlumberger, Halliburton, etc.

This means that not only can landlords drive up their prices, but they can dictate terms. Often this means that units are non-smoking because it decreases the landlords’ property insurance premiums. This is a big yay for us since we are rabid non-smokers. The other restriction many landlords have implemented, though, has been a serious hurdle: NO PETS.

After briefly considering releasing Guinness into the wild, Doug and I buckled down and went through the list of 10 or so classified ads that fit our basic needs: three of them had already been snatched up within a day or two; four did not allow pets; and the remaining three, even though they didn’t sound like what we wanted, we immediately made appointments to go see. After spending several hours on the phone (and speaking to a former mayor of Rock Springs who is now an elementary school teacher/landlord), I went to bed on Sunday with a lot less optimism regarding our housing prospects. All avenues had not been exhausted, though!

Monday, September 8th: Off the Grid and Beside a Gun Shop

Monday dawned and after a breakfast planning meeting, we called one of the big local property management companies in the area that handles hundreds of units. Surely they would have something for us? When I spoke to the nice lady on the phone, though, my dreams were crushed: they do not allow pets in any of their units.

Feeling despondent, I nevertheless launched my next offensive. A kindly landlord who felt sorry for me had suggested I contact the Realty offices because landlords often send them listings (Funny that the realtor/landlord I had spoken with the day before had not mentioned this! conflict of interest perhaps?). I called Rock Springs Realty and the lovely receptionist told us to come on down to pick up a copy of a contact list of property managers, housing units, etc.

Glory be! The list was three pages long and covered both Rock Springs and nearby Green River – surely somewhere on this list lay our future home!

Well, upon closer inspection I had to cross out half the places because they had a no pets policy. Then there was the one the former mayor told me to stay away from at all costs: “It’s dubbed the Jerry Springer Motel or Crack Palace,” he warned. Then there were a couple of places with peaceful-sounding names that turned out to be seniors’ residences (apparently enjoying knitting, baking, PBS, and going to bed at 9pm didn’t qualify me. darn!).

Bachelor #1:

This all happened before 10am. At 10, we hopped in the Mini (so much more manoeuvrable than the Uhaul!) and went to see our first place. It was a little tricky to find since the housing development had been built so recently that the streets are not on any maps yet (even the Googlemap satellite image was taken when they just had the dirt roads in). The place was lovely: a brand-new attached home with three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a fenced yard. It was also a little pricey and way more home than we need (after all, Doug will be away on sites or for training a lot of the time). But it was an option!

Bachelor #2:

Our second stop was to drive by a pre-fab home in the older part of town. The home itself was quite nice. It was another brand-new unit the owner had planned on selling, but had decided to rent instead because no one was buying. Again a little too much house and money for us; too much concrete outside; and the neighbours looked a little frightening (a sign that said “drunk driver” was affixed to the neighbour’s fence. Lovely).

Bachelor #3:

Still, that place was much nicer than the third. The landlord had warned me on the phone that she had had to evict the former tenants and that the place was in the midst of a major overhaul. I determined to go in with an open mind, but even I have my limits. First off, it was on Rock Springs’s busiest street and had two tenants above. Secondly, it was right next to a gun shop that had a sign outside screaming “Ammo Sale!” (after we left Doug asked if I’d seen the bullet casings on the sidewalk. OMIGOD!). The inside was a total disaster: the bathroom floor was being ripped out, the walls were stained yellow from nicotine, and the carpets were irreparably stained from owners/pets or both. As one of the workers inside (whom I would have probably labelled one) told us, “Red necks should stay out with the horses!” All this for $1300/mth!

The Grass is Greener?

After these experiences in Rock Springs we decided to focus our efforts on the nearby town of Green River. It doesn’t have the same level of shopping or services but it has walking trails, less industry, and seems to be more Doug and my speed. I found an ad for a townhome, got in touch with the property manager’s agent who was in town from Utah, and we were there within a half hour.

The place looks great and we were immediately taken with it. There will be ongoing construction around the units, but it’s right across the street from a park and rec centre, and backs onto a really cool-looking set of hills that I would love to climb. Best of all, we don’t have to permanently put Guinness in a kennel!

We emailed the application in yesterday and hopefully things work out. I figure we have a pretty good chance: there are already two people in Rock Springs who have told me they will pray we find a place. How sweet is that?

How could anyone say no to this adorable kitty?

26 hours of driving done and 4 to go!

After two semi-grueling days of driving from Lapeer, Michigan through several heartland states, we have arrived in the Cowboy/Equality State (apparently it is known by both these monikers).

We are currently in Cheyenne, staying at a hotel surrounded by highways and train tracks. We actually had to run across both an on and off ramp to get to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It was totally worth it just for the local beers: Fat Tire and Easy Street, both brewed in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado.

Now we are poised to descend on Rock Springs after a four-hour hop tomorrow. It’s a little nerve-wracking not knowing what we’ll find there (house-wise, etc), but we are trying to be optimistic. We’d better find something with a guest room, though. I’ve already gotten an email from a friend in Europe who has booked her flight and is eager to meet a nice cowboy. Another friend is planning on renting a car and driving down here from Edmonton (where, of course, Doug and I will be moving in approximately 19 months). Who knew Wyoming would turn out to be such a draw??! 🙂

So far the bit of eastern Wyoming we’ve seen has been pretty flat, devoid of trees, and the sky really does go on forever. We’ve seen lots of cows and horses, a couple of signs of industry, and we’re now in the state capitol which has about 60,000 people. We’ve chatted with two and they seemed pretty friendly.

Guinness-the-cat isn’t too traumatized and is actually turning into quite the road kitty. We are very happy he still likes us and are pretty sure he’s not plotting to shred all our stuff the second our backs are turned. Although, if he did, I don’t think I could really blame him!

Going to the dogs

Last week I was staying at my parents’ place and, as usual, I scanned their overflowing bookshelves for something to read. A bright yellow hardcover caught my eye and I soon found myself immersed in a marvelous book: How Dogs Think by Stanley Coren (www.stanleycoren.com).

Dr. Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia is, according to the book jacket, “a recognized expert on dog-human interaction.” What impressed me most about this book was Coren’s ability to boil down dog physiology and psychology in a way that I not only understood, but that often made me laugh out loud!

I have always loved dogs (in fact, maybe I subconsciously married a guy named Doug because of it!). We always had dogs in the house growing up: first there were Mickey and Mindy, who looked like shaggy Benjis; then Nika, an Akita/shepherd cross; Peggy, a Basset Hound/Black Lab cross; Dayna, a German Shepherd/Great Dane cross we had to put down last summer – I’m still not over it; and now my parents have a beautiful Canadian Inuit dog named Mikka who is most comfortable when it’s 25 below zero Celsius outside.

You can’t tell me there isn’t some resemblance between my husband and my parents’ dog!

These dogs were my friends, my protectors, and often my living dolls. Poor, patient Mindy often endured my clipping bows to her fur and putting bracelets around her ankles. I definitely felt a connection to these wonderful companions and often preferred them to human company – after all, they didn’t care if your hair was washed, you flunked an exam, or said anything interesting!

Now that Doug and I are planning the move to Wyoming we’ve started talking about getting a dog. It will have to be what we’ve come to call a ‘starter dog’ (i.e. not more than 60 lbs and can fit in the back of the Mini Cooper). It will definitely be a pound puppy and we’re hoping to find something black, or at least dark-haired so that we can coordinate its shedding with Guinness-the-cat (who I’m sure will absolutely LOVE having a puppy around).

In the event that it’s not feasible to get a dog in Wyoming, I fully intend to march over to one of the local shelters and offer my services as a volunteer, dog walker, etc. I figure, not only is it a great way to meet people, and get some exercise, but I now have a whole bunch of Dr. Coren’s ideas to try and help socialize the next generations of pups!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.