Thursday, January 31, 2008

All good things come to those who wait

It's even better when you're the one being waited for. For the past nights and most of the past week, I would get an SMS on my mobile from L as I was on the way home, asking if I was close to home because Rupert was sitting, waiting by the door. Some nights, he would be pacing, almost anxiously, at the door.

Each time those SMS on what Roop was doing came, I was usually just about five minutes away. I don't know how Roop does it, must be some internal radar or something. Maybe that's his hidden autistic talent. You know how some autistic people can't function socially but have some talent that they do marvellously well in? That's Roop. The part of his brain about not peeing in the house still has not kicked in fully but the part that tells him Mummy is on her way home is well developed.

All my dogs have always given me an uproarious welcome the minute I step in through the door. That's a really grand feeling. Schwarz the pug would sometimes sit by the door after I've left the house. What I've never had was a dog which somehow knew when I was close to home and sat by the door waiting in anticipation. How does he know?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another mouth to feed

We've seen Mama Cat hanging about the garbage dump the past couple of nights so we've been feeding her.

Yesterday, L, the determinedly non-cat person, put down cat food on the grocery list. So here we are, buying cat food when we don't have cats in house but two dogs. I thought it was hilarious. He just doesn't want me to remind him about it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A new neighbour


It was Rupert's barking that alerted us to the stray cat that hangs around downstairs from time to time. This time, she was climbing laboriously up the tree outside our window with a kitten her mouth. Until then, I didn't even know she had a kitten.

Kitty stayed in the branches of the tree, good as gold, well-hidden by the leaves. L took a picture, but there was only so far the lens could zoom. And I didn't want to go downstairs to take a photo, I didn't want to scare her. Or annoy Mama Cat. The tree was right next to Roop's prefered peeing spot so he had to sacrifice that too.

Later in the evening, another round of barking from Roop brought L to the window. This time, he saw that Kitty had gotten down onto the ground and was hiding in the bushes and there was a group of boys trying to swipe at her with their toys. One of them had a water pistol and was shooting at her. He recognised the boy as part of the bicycle gang that tried to chase Queeni.

Off he went to give them a piece of his mind. The neighbour downstairs, outside whose window all this was happening, also went out and soundly rounded off in Mandarin what L started off in English.

So he thought that they got the message loud and clear. A little while later, they were back. He yelled at them from the window and they answered that it wasn't the kitten this time, it was snails that they were after this time. Like that was any better. L was horrified to see that they were having fun by stamping on snails and crushing their shells.

What's it with little boys and snails and puppy dog tails?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spring is sprung



The tree outside the window is in full bloom. Hope this means that thunderstorm season is over. Queeni hopes so too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thoughtful design

Not surprisingly, one of the two new soft toys had to be sewn up after three days of Rupert's teeth.

Only this time, I didn't have to worry about him swallowing the squeaker -- instead of being stuffed into the toy's body, this one was sewn up within a little cloth bag, like a tea bag, and one end of that was anchored by being sewn into a seam on the toy.

Now that's a well-designed dog toy with the owner's sanity in mind. And that's why I'm paying a bit more for the expensive Japanese toys from now on.

Oh yeah, it was after the toy surgery that I realised I didn't take a photo. There'll be lots of follow-up procedures later on, I'm sure, thanks to Roop.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Witch hunt

So I'm googling for toxic pet toys to find out more and I come across this consumer report which says that a ceramic pet food bowl was analysed and was found to have more than five times the permissible benchmark of lead in the paint on the bottom of the bowl.

And who doesn't have a dog that doesn't lick his dish so clean you don't even have to wash it?

I am going on a witch hunt. Long ago, I threw out the made in China chicken jerky for the dogs. Yesterday, it was the toys. Now, I'm throwing out the utensils -- both dog and human. If dog toys aren't regulated, who's gonna regulate the paint on my pretty chopsticks?

Out went the cheery bowl. The colour (paint?) from the placemat faded, leached, I think, long ago and it was thrown out very early on. That's why I don't have faith in the bowl meeting standards. I have no confidence in China-made goods, least of all the cheap ones and this bowl was like 50 cents or $1 -- something ridiculously cheap.

Now the furkids are eating out of Pyrex bowls.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toxic toys


A friend of mine forwarded me an e-newsletter which said that following the recall of made-in-China children's toys with lead content, tests were conducted in the US on pet toys and many were also found to have toxic lead content. The brightly coloured latex toys are the chief culprits.

Well, Rupe has a few of these brightly coloured squeaky bouncy toys. I didn't have their labels any longer so I went to the pet shop to check. All were made in China. My heart sank. He not only loves carrying them and shaking them, he also likes chewing on them.

They have since been removed and I went crazy trying to find him subsitutes -- I couldn't find anything that wasn't made in China! Finally, I settled for a couple of Japanese made soft toys. They at least squeaked but they don't bounce.

When I was at the cashier paying for them, the woman behind me was going to buy exactly the same ball that I threw out. L told her what we did, and explained about the possibly of toxicity in China-made toys. Her eyes widened as she thanked him. Behind her, a couple who were chosing toys must have overheard because he heard them muttering: "This one, cannot. It's made in China." "Alamak, this one too."

Poor Rupert. He doesn't have any more squeaky toys nor bouncy balls now. But I think I was more upset to remove his toys than he was. And I'm cross with myself. If the pet food was tainted and the toys for children were toxic, I should have realised about the possibility of pet toys too.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Locked out


If you like the heat (and the smells, and the bits of dropped ingredients), you should also get out of the kitchen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Not salacious enough to be controversial?

Now that the Bioethics Advisory Committee has called for public feedback on the issue of using human-animal combinations for research, I expected all the Religiously Righteous, fresh from their victory over retaining Section 377a, to launch into another frenzy.

To my surprise, there was hardly a peep. Not much on the online forum at the REACH site, nothing from the Religiously Righteous anyway, and certainly no call to march Joshua-round-Jericho-like around the site of the public forum to be held on Jan 19 like what they did at the civic district when Section 377a was being debated. I googgled a bit and there also wasn't much discussion on blogs or other online forums. What happened to those people who were so easily offended that they wrote to TNP to complain that condom ads on a bus stop near a school are a bad influence? (And I thought using condoms was supposed to be a good safe sex practice.)

I thought human-animal chimeras would be more fodder for controversy in religious and moral terms. That it held more implications and had more chances of spawning Satan's Own than two consenting same-sex adults.

And if you really think about it, biological chimeras are actually among us today. Technically, they include people who have received blood transfusions or organ transplants. But I haven't heard any objections to that on religious grounds.

I guess there's no outcry because there's no sex involved.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Playing soldiers



L found his NS helmet. Don't you feel really safe now that you know the country is being protected by an army of citizen soldiers with Rasta hair?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where's the fire?

L had an eventful day at home with the furkids yesterday when I was at work. He heard sirens and looked downstairs to find one Rhino (it's an open vehicle with a mounted water hose, smaller and more manoeuverable than a fire engine but without the ladders and other equipment), two fire engines and one ambulance pulling up.

The former crime reporter in him leapt to the rule-of-thumb action: one Rhino, watch and see what's going on; anything more than two engines, get out fast.

So he harnessed and leashed the dogs and as a quick afterthought, slipped the tupperware of dog treats in his pocket -- because they could be out of the house for a few hours, if not all night, he reasoned.

His second thought when they were downstairs, watching and waiting: he forgot their water bowls. What if they got thirsty during the wait?

Our passports, bank books, money, and all other important stuff were his third thought.

There's dog parents and their priorities for you.

And nothing happened. All the emergency vehicles drove off. But the firemen came over to pat the dogs first.

Queeni was not impressed. But Rupert wants to be a firetruck Dalmatian when he grows up.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writing

The last few entries were first written with pencil and paper as I was sitting up in bed, and then uploaded onto the blog the next day, with the typing also serving as an editing process. I started to do this because I was too tired and lazy to fire up the computer after having spent 8 hours working on another computer.

One night, L asked me what I was doing. He shook his head after I explained. Only, me, he said, adding that he couldn't write without a keyboard. Only me apparently also meant using wooden pencils -- the type you have to sharpen -- and fountain pens -- the type you have to fill with ink.

I can't write properly with a ball-point, it feels scratchy and makes my handwriting deteriorate. I like the feel of pencil lead on paper, the glide of ink from a fountain pen onto paper, a sort of "proper writing" feeling. And I enjoy the process of unscrewing a bottle of ink, dismantling the bits of a fountain pen to fill it. And when I sharpen a pencil, the smell of the shavings hint at more to follow, like how when you peel an orange, the whift of zest is a preliminary indication of more intense pleasures to follow. Call it writing foreplay.

Typing on a keyboard is fast and efficient, there's no denying that. But writing on paper means that I have to organise my thoughts before I set them down. There is no quick cut and paste option. And it makes me think twice about spelling and not get lazy with the spellcheck underlining my suspect spellings. And if I make a mistake, I just have to cross things out and rewrite that bit again. Having to put in that little extra bit effort makes writing feel more of a craft.

I've just realised, as I cross out bits here and add bits there, that I've forgotten most of the proofreading symbols I used to know. All that's dead. Like hot metal press. And Latin.

And one day, possibly pencils and fountain pens. God forbid.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back to the grind

I had worked New Year's Eve and New Year's Day but it didn't feel like a hardship since the workflow went smoothly (everyone was eager to get things finished, and go off and party). Then I had two days off on medical, went back to work for a day, followed by a long three-day weekend.

Which meant it wasn't really a full week for me last week. So my work year really started yesterday. And going back to work became a drag. The revelling is all over now. Another full year of work ahead. Groan.

(Normally, I would cheer myself up and say there's always Chinese New Year to look forward to next month. But this year, I'm wondering how to handle that festival, with all its food associations, now with Dad and his feeding tube and all.)

Minutes after I left the house, L called me on my cellphone. Rupert had started to whine as soon as I shut the door and and left -- something he's never done before. He was easily placated by a squeaky toy, L added. But for me, it only made the train ride to work longer and harder as it took me towards the office and away from the furkids.


When I got home, Rupert lay down on my bag which I had left on the floor. Like it'll stop me from going to work tomorrow. If only.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

At home with Rupert

I truly was not making disparaging comments about Rupert's brain, or lack thereof, in the previous post. Here, you judge for yourself.

His big new crate opens at one end, along the breadth. It's like a door in a rat cage, you lift it to slide it open. And then you can wiggle it a bit so that it sticks out at an angle so that it remains wedged open, instead of sliding down shut.

It's always open so Roop can go in for a nap whenever he wants to. The idea is that the crate is his personal space. So anyway, when the crate arrived, there was not a lot of room for it. If we placed it with the door on the right, it would stick right into a candlestand next to it. If we placed it with the door on the left, it would stick in the way of opening the front door wide.

No choice. Better to open the front door carefully than to have the crate door burnt by candles. And once the Christmas tree was taken down, we could rearrange the end tables and candlestand to make room for the crate.

That was done on Sunday. That was when the crate was turned round, with the opening on the right, instead of the left. On Monday morning, Rupert decided to go into his crate for a nap. He went to its right side -- where the door was invitingly open -- paused, and considered. Then he went to its left side -- where the door used to be -- and started banging his head against a side of wire. He had always gone in that side, and by golly, he will go in by that side, even if it means trying to walk through wire.

It took a few tries before a smidgeon of a thought took root -- that maybe, just maybe, he would go in from the right side -- where the door is.

There's Roop for you. A dog of Very Little Brain. A lot of heart maybe, affection and devotion clad in fur even, but very little brain.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Rupert and the frog

Rupert had L on the other end of the leash when they encountered a frog on the foot path after a rainy day. Something stirred in the depths of the terrier's murky brain, telling him that this thing was an animal and that some sort of reaction was required. But the brain, its existence already much questioned and hotly debated, stopped short of telling him what to do.

So he looked up at L, who did nothing -- he wanted to see what Roop would do. Which was to stand and stare. And stare.

So there they were, the terrier and the frog, eyeballing each other curiously. Roop held one paw up. It is his one and only trick and he probably reasoned that if offering to shake paw got you somewhere with humans, it may also do something with frogs. Then HRH, unleashed a few yards away, noticed his stance, knew that something was up and saw the frog for herself. The prey instinct that was non-existent in the terrier kicked in in the schnauzer and she came bearing down on the frog and had to be scooped up off the ground.

When it was time to go home, back up the same path, the frog was still there. Again, Roop stood and stared, this time at the back of the frog. If only L had the camera with him, he could have taken a whole series: Terrier and frog (front view); terrier and frog (back view).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Queeni trees a cat

HRH walks off leash most of the time. It is something that we tried at our old flat because her palatial grounds there was a rectangle of grass bordered by footpaths and it was easy to train her not to stray beyond those boundaries.

When we moved to this flat -- chosen mostly because of the expanse of greenery that it looked down to -- the palatial grounds somewhat increased and didn't have easily demarcated borders.

That was when she started testing her off-leash limits. She knew the off-leash route but the stubborn Schnauzer would every now and then try to go off course, playing one sucker parent against the other, depending on who was walking her. "Daddy lets me go there," I could see her thought bubble when she cocked her head at me as I called her back.

Then, last year, when we were in the fright of the mast cell tumour episode, all rules were lifted. We didn't know at first what she would lose with the tumour removal -- a toe, a paw or even a whole leg. She may never run again, so what the hell, we let her run where she pleased.

And when all that was over, and she was finally able to set the bum paw minus one toe on ground and run again, she continued to be given free rein. Because well, she could run.

By now, L never takes her leash along when he walks her. On the other hand, I'm the worrier. I leash her when I go downstairs with her and I unleash her only when I see that there are no children around and when the snappy Japanese Spitz that also walks off leash isn't out at the same time as we are.

All that is a long way to get to the title of this post. The other night, we took the dogs out for their final pee pretty late, at about 1am. Queeni was unleashed and had gone ahead down the stairs -- she never waits for L as he locks the door. And I'm the rear of the entourage with the beta terrier on leash.

By the time we got to the field, we were just in time to see Queeni streak after a cat. The only thing that stopped her was that the cat fled up a tree, with a yowl and a screech. Smart cat. Because if it didn't do that, it would have gone on running to god knows where, with Queeni hot on her heels. That was one close lost-dog call.

Which is yet another long way to say that it's back to the leash for HRH. Or at least until her entourage and security detail ensure that there are no interlopers lurking around the palatial grounds. Then, she gets to go off leash. Sucker Daddy says so. And Worrier Mummy was right.

(Of course I have the last word. This is my blog.)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

His and hers




Ya gots yer bone-bolster, ah gots mine.

They both feel asleep chewing their bones on either side of me. I regularly feel like I've got a set of furry book ends.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Birthday girl


Queeni is seven today. Like the Queen of England, she has two birthdays -- the actual one which nobody knows when it is, and the official one. Because Queeni was adopted, I never knew her actual birthday. She had papers, but C didn't manage to get them from the guy who gave her up. So her birthday became the day I took her home from C's house. Anyway, the day of your homecoming makes a nice birthday.

I still remember that day. M had gone with me as driver. C was already back in Tokyo, so only R was at home. We rang the doorbell. Nothing. No barking, no stirring. M called R on his mobile. He had overslept, and struggled to the door minutes later. There was still silence when he opened the door, you would not have guessed that there was a dog in the house. Two dogs, actually, he was babysitting Daiya the MinPin, who has since returned to Japan with her people. I wonder if Queeni still remembers her playmate.

When we took Queeni home, she was the quietest dog I've ever come across. I even wondered if she could bark. It took her a while to find her voice, and now, she rules the roost. No doorbell, no footstep outside the door goes unchallenged.

Queeni is the first dog that I'm seeing grow from puppyhood into middle age. Schwarz was already a senior when he moved in. Spock did not live beyond four.

One dog year being seven human years, Queeni has in one birthday leapt from my age to L's, now joining him at the late-40s. With middle age, her behaviour has changed. She is grumpier and growls more, even at us when we shift her when she's taking up too much space on our bed, well, what she thinks is her bed. A far cry from that quiet, eager to please little dark puppy (she was more black then than salt-and-pepper). It surfaces only when she is corrected, and then she needs reaffirmation that she is still loved.

Typical royal.

Long live the Queen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

On the 9th day of Christmas


... I finally made cookies.

Note to self: when being smart alecky and switching ingredients (molasses for golden syrup because nobody seems to sell the latter anymore), do not expect cookies to come out the right rolling consistency.

But when adding extra ingredients (cinnamon and nutmeg) to ginger cookies, do expect the kitchen to smell wonderful.

Deciphering politicalspeak

"We can more to make public transport a choice mode of travel... In parallel, we need to update our policies on car ownership and usage... We need to enhance the ERP and extend its coverage so that driving costs significantly more, but we will balance that with lower vehicle ownership taxes."

What's that supposed to mean? Please buy a car but please don't drive it?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Auld lang syne and all that

New Year's Day was a normal work day for me but I was done early and got home way earlier than usual. The TV was rubbish so we put on the DVD that came with the Led Zep CD. So I guess you could say the year started on a somewhat retro note.

It still amazes me that all that music, all that energy was created by just four men on stage. No costumes, no backup singers, dancers, definitely no professional choreographer, and no multimedia streams. Let's see you top that, Madonna.

Maybe that's what's lacking in music today -- the side shows have got in the way of the real stuff. U2 started with just four guys, no frills and solid music. Only now, they seem to have acquired the multimedia backdrop in their concerts.

The Police are even better, L pointed out, they're only three guys . Then tell me why, when it's just three guys and no extra trimmings, a ticket to their concert here in February costs $500?

Those were the days when once a band member died, the band died with him because the band simply wasn't a band any more without him. There is no Led Zeppelin without John Bonham, no Queen without Freddie Mercury.

Now, the search for a replacement becomes a reality TV show. And this is an INXS fan moaning.

Such middle-aged thoughts on New Year's Day.
I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

One year older



Last year, the New Year crept up on us when we were walking the dogs. I remember that we didn't even realise that it was midnight until we heard the countdown cries wafting down from the windows. And now, having reread that post from a year ago, I realise that things haven't changed. Roop is still a poophead, not to be trusted in the house (not for more than a couple of hours anyway) and now, we can't blame it on him being a puppy any longer.

Not that it wasn't nice seeing the New Year in while walking the furkids, but we planned it a little better this year. I worked yesterday on the eve, but it was extra early hours (I won't go into how I managed to get up and be in the office at a time that was 3 hours before my usual wake-up time), then met L for dinner and we were home by early evening. When it turned 11pm, we walked the furkids, then we came back up and turned the TV on to the channel that was screening the countdown. Is it some protocol or something, that the first Singapore Idol and the current one (although they keep dropping the Singapore Idol title for Asian Idol now that he's won it) cannot be on the same stage together?

And at one minute past midnight, it was all over (for me, that is) and I was quite glad to sip the cup of ginger tea that I had steeping since last year (heh) and finally go to bed.

Happy New Year, everyone.