Meet Kramer

Forgive me – it has been a whirlwind of a long weekend so this will be brief; more to follow in the coming days!

I spent a long weekend in NJ with my parents so that my mom and I could attend the Fleetwood Mac concert at CitiField. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Simply a phenomenal performance. My second time seeing them and this was even better than the first time.

I left NJ this morning (running on six hours of sleep which is just not enough for me!) to pick up my latest foster, Kramer.
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He is an Amish puppy mill surrender. He came with no records, no name, nothing. So I got to name him (Seinfeld is my absolute favorite shows so Kramer it was).

I will have a lot more in the coming days about this guy. The short story? He is a pug through and through. Snorty, affectionate, energetic and ridiculously sweet.

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A Special Transport

It was quite the weekend. Yesterday (Saturday), I competed in my third CrossFit competition (second individual competition). I’m very self-aware that I’m mediocre at CrossFit but I really like pushing myself. I did about how I expected and while it was physically tough (which is the point!), it was fun to spend the morning sweating and competing.

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What wasn’t fun? The after effects on my hands and muscles. My hands look no better today and there isn’t a single part of my body I can move without pain. But it was worth it.

After the competition, my parents came out to visit for the afternoon/evening. We went wine tasting (the best way to recover, in my opinion) and had a great dinner. While I’ll see them again next weekend (my mom and I are going to a Fleetwood Mac concert!) it was nice to have them out here. I’ve been in the Lancaster area for nine months now and this was only the second time they’ve been out to visit so it was nice to show them around a bit.

This morning, after taking roughly 10 minutes to get out of bed (so painful), I got ready to spring a dog from the Lancaster SPCA. I’ve been volunteering with SNORT for almost four years now but I’ve only done maybe 2-3 transports and I’ve never actually physically removed a dog from a shelter so today was a first.

I was there to spring Lugnut, a 12-year-old male pug who was surrendered by his family. Yes, after they’d had him for 12 years.

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It was both heartwarming and depressing being inside the shelter. So many dogs. So many homes needed for them. So much barking. So much smell. But wonderful volunteers who are doing everything they can to care for the dogs. There were so many pitbulls; one had his/her ears cropped so ridiculously short and I know they are going to be hard to adopt out. A little wire-haired terrier named Annie. Of course I was beyond depressed for each and every one of them. It’s just not the life any dog should have to live.

But anyway, I sprung Lugnut from the shelter and we made our way to meet his foster family. He was shaking like a leaf – absolutely petrified. And I think he was largely deaf so it was hard to calm him down since he couldn’t hear my voice very well. But he had the perfect pug head tilt down pat. We made the relatively uneventful drive where he met his foster family and from what I’ve heard, he’s settling in and meeting the other pugs in his foster home. I’m so happy for that cutie – he deserves to live out his golden years by being loved and spoiled.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In many cases, that’s a good thing. Sometimes it works out well to be semi-oblivious when embarking on something new, unknown, different, etc. If I let the unknown hold me back, I would not be where I am in life right now and while life is up and down, I’m largely in a good spot.

This morning, one of my Facebook memories was of my first foster, Nellie (fka Cindy) from four years ago.

I look back on that experience and realize I had absolutely no freaking clue what I was getting myself into. It’s not a secret that when I started volunteering with SNORT, I had no intentions of fostering. Lucy was still a puppy – probably around seven months old or so. Our apartment had space but it wasn’t huge. My job hours were nuts (and remained nuts for the next four-plus years). ­

I’m not even sure what prompted me to change my mind about fostering. Because Nellie was a puppy mill dog, there were no photos of her (the Amish don’t allow people on their property to take photos of dogs they are surrendering). There was zero information about her besides she was a puppy mill mama who was being given up because she could no longer have litters.

But something in me just had to take her in, so we did. I picked her up sight unseen on a super cold, cloudy, depressing January morning, took one look at her, thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?!” And promptly fell head over heels in love.

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Meeting Nellie for the first time. Love at first sight.

Now with seven fosters under my belt (and hopefully more in the near future), I’ve come to realize there’s a whole list of things I didn’t know I didn’t know before I embarked on this adventure. I was clueless about a lot.

I Didn’t Know:
1. I had such high levels of empathy and patience.
Patience has never been my strong suit. It’s why I’ve remained up in the air about wanting to have kids. But my level of empathy and patience has been practically unlimited with each foster. I don’t even have that much patience with Lucy. But with the fosters? Sure, I got upset when they crapped on the carpet or flipped the heck out during thunderstorms and kept me up for hours. But the amount of poop I cleaned up or the time I spent in the bathroom with a certain foster (Isaac!) during thunderstorms rarely fazed me. I’m not saying I’ve become Mother Teresa, but I’ve learned I have a higher capacity for patience and empathy than I previously thought.

 

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This handsome boy was petrified of thunderstorms.

2. There was so much medical lingo to learn
Entropian. Cherry eye (which I actually learned about with Lucy). Interdigital cyst. Pyometra. Thyroid levels. Seasonal alopecia. Unexplained alopecia. Spina bifida. There isn’t a single foster I’ve had that hasn’t underdone surgery or had a major medical issue. Nellie – heartworm, lyme. Violet (fka Snowy) – spay, entropian, dry eye, bladder cancer scare. Buddy – neuter, dental. Isaac – puppy Prozac, alopecia. Novalee – spina bifida. Blossom – spay, dental (I think). Lady – spay, dental.

I don’t know everything, but I’ve sure learned a lot.

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Novalee had spina bifida but you never would have known it.

3. I’d have to learn to not be squeamish
No sooner had I laid eyes on Nellie than I realized she was leaking…down there. And not pee. It was a…thick goo. Leftover from an infection or a recent litter, probably. But that poor girl just left a trail of gunk everywhere she went for a few days/weeks.

Many fosters have not been housetrained so there’s been countless pee puddles and piles of poo to clean up. So much laundry. Wiping of all bodily areas. I’ve seen tons of incisions, ears filled with wax and countless eye boogers. And let’s not talk about post-surgery poo…

Novalee once ate an entire bag of raw almonds. Let’s just say it became quickly apparent she hadn’t chewed said almonds when she spent three days walking around inside our apartment like a giant pez dispenser of almonds.

I’ve developed a stronger stomach over the past few years.

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Buddy the Pug may have peed on me (and Lucy) a time or two. #maledogproblems

4. That I would handle adoptions better than I expected
Don’t get me wrong, I was a disaster when Nellie was adopted. And tears have been shed every single time a foster has been adopted. I miss them all. But I absolutely love the experience of fostering. It gives me a sense of purpose, something to keep me busy and selfishly, it feels so good be a part of saving a dog. If I had an unlimited budget and a bigger home, at least a few of these fosters would have probably wound up as “foster failures.” But I know going into each foster that I really can’t have two dogs – not enough money, not enough space – and that reality helps when it comes time to find a forever home for each foster. Now, there hasn’t been a foster in which I haven’t uttered the words, “I think I’ll keep him/her,” but deep down I’m fully aware it’s not the ideal option for either party involved.

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Lady, my first foster all on my own.

5. It’s a total team effort
Six of my seven fosters came when I was living with Marty. While the interest in fostering was 100% me, actually fostering was a different matter. When more than one person is impacted by taking on a foster, it becomes a team effort. Maybe not with the equal distribution of work and time, but each person in the home has some added responsibility and stress.

It also takes help from my employers – days I may need to leave early for a vet appointment or even take an entire day off to shuttle a dog to a vet appointment or surgery.

And travel impacts everyone – most holidays I’ve had a foster so that impacts every family we visit over the holidays. Each foster is different and because each was not my own nor raised as my own, their quirks don’t necessarily make them ideal houseguests. So it does indeed take a village.

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Backseat roadtrip buddies.

6. It’s stressful
I believe I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it is stressful to bring a foster home. The days leading up bringing home a foster are anxiety-ridden. What will he/she be like? Will they like Lucy? Will Lucy like them (probably not). Are they housetrained (probably not)? Will they eat (probably not)? Where will they sleep? Are they super sick? And then once I get them home? What does that bark mean? Are they scared? Why don’t they lie down and sleep? Is that cough normal?

I’m an anxious person by nature so the early days surrounding a foster are really stressful for me. Everyone’s different but stress is one of the overriding emotions for me when I’m fostering.

I’ll never forget one of the biggest sources of anxiety with Nellie – she refused to eat. I tried everything. Dry food. Wet food. Chicken and rice. Wet and dry food mixed. Straight bouillon. Nothing worked. Until it was suggested from a fellow foster mom that she probably had no clue what a bowl was or how to eat out of it. So, I scooped some food into a super shallow frisbee and voila! She was eating like a champ. But I was just so stressed out during those first few days when I could not get her to eat.

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Making a mess; we soon progressed to a frisbee. Baby steps.

7. I would have a hard time saying “no”
I’m kind of a selfish person. Hence the reason I’m not sure I want kids. I like setting my own schedule (when work allows), taking naps on the weekends and essentially doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Fostering puts a crimp in that. Having a foster is double the work, often triple the work. After Nellie was adopted, we were going to take a break and reassess whether we wanted to foster again and how quickly. We’d had Nellie for about six months, I think, which is a pretty substantial amount of time. But roughly six weeks after her adoption, I got a phone call about Violet, saying she needed a new foster home and wondering if I was interested. “Yes” may have slipped out before I could give serious thought to it. Oops.

So despite being a self-proclaimed “selfish” person, I’ve found myself saying “yes” a lot more when it comes to fosters.

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I’m not quite sure how you say “no” to that face.

All of this is to say that fostering is a big (and important) commitment. But there isn’t a single foster experience I regret. Each dog has meant so much to me and I can’t emphasize how much the benefits outweigh the stressors.

Adventures with Lucy

Now that the weather is warmer, I’m trying to get out more to explore my “new” city. I moved here in the middle of November and so until now, the weather hasn’t really been conducive to outdoor activities. But, last weekend was absolutely perfect so Lucy and I explored a new dog park.

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The pitfall of having no snout? Inability to pick up a frisbee.

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I know, she’s beautiful.

The dog park is ridiculously nice. It is turf (a bonus after all the rain we’ve had) and has a big dog section and a small dog section. There are beautiful Adirondack chairs for the humans and a water feature that turns on in warmer weather – can’t wait to bring Lucy back in the summer to see her reaction to that!

As usual, she wasn’t so into playing with other dogs but made several trips up and down the park, basking in the human attention and pets. She was super content to roam and watch the other dogs.

On Wednesday, we had a post-op follow-up scheduled at the vet. Everything has healed great – now the question is what to do about her tooth around which the tumor grew? The tumor she had removed will almost certainly come back because it grew around that tooth and its ligaments ( didn’t know teeth had ligaments?); as long as that tooth and its ligaments are still there, the tumor will almost certainly re-grow.

Our vet sent her biopsy and x-rays to a specialist to determine if we remove the tooth and its ligaments now or wait for the tumor to re-grow. Either way it looks like we’re facing surgery relatively soon or down the road.

Fortunately, she adores the vet and while I absolutely do not want to put her under for surgery again, she handles surgery, anesthesia and recovery really well and is super happy to be at the vet.

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Ridiculously happy to be at the vet.

Because our appointment was late in the evening, I took her to work with me this afternoon so we could go right to the vet after work. She had a blast.

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Taking it all in at work.

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Pretty nice setup under my desk. 

Next weekend we go to New Jersey for a brief weekend visit with my parents so the adventures continue!

Happy Holidays

It’s 2017, so the holidays are officially over. I’ve said this many times before, but I absolutely love Christmas and this was a really good holiday.

Now that I’m no longer working in college athletics, I don’t get the full week off between Christmas and New Year’s so Marty and I crammed visits with both families over the course of just four days. It was busy but so, so good to see everyone.

Time for a picture overload:

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As usual, Marty and I spent New Year’s Eve doing nothing which is MORE than fine with me. I’ve never been a big New Year’s Eve person and I can’t even stay awake until 10 p.m., let alone midnight. We had a good weekend, though, with a brewery tour/tasting, some shopping and just much-needed time relaxing at my apartment.

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No New Year’s resolutions for me this year but I did see this insightful list of questions to ask yourself about LAST year. Looking at the past year can shape how you approach the new year, whether you set resolutions or not.

  1. What was the single best thing that happened to you this year? My new job. It’s not the most glamorous event but when all is said and done, it’s the best thing that happened.
  2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? Changing jobs and moving.
  3. Pick three words to describe this past year. Challenging, exciting, stressful
  4. Who were your most valuable relationships with? Parents, as always. Marty. Marty and I have to really work at our relationship now since we no longer live and work together. It’s changed our relationship dynamic, that’s for sure.
  5. In what ways did you grow emotionally? I found myself living alone for the first time in five years and it was one of the parts of taking the new job that worried me most. But I’ve learned over the past six or seven weeks that I can be happy on my own.
  6. In what ways did you grow physically? Stronger and healthier. Fatter, too, if I have to be honest. But five pounds more than my “ideal” weight is still better than 30 pounds underweight (which is where I was really not all that long ago) so I’m working on accepting where I am right now.
  7. What was the most enjoyable part of your work? I changed jobs because I no longer liked my previous career; it was draining – physically and emotionally. Mostly emotionally. So the best part about my new job is that it’s all new. I’m learning every day and I like that aspect.
  8. What was the best way you used your time this past year? I disconnected more after work. Before I’d check my work email from the minute I left work until bedtime; this past year I tried (and was largely successful) to stop that habit. If an emergency came up, people knew how to reach me. It allowed me to actually relax when I was home. I read more than I have in  years, I took more walks and generally just enjoyed my down time more than previous years.
  9. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year? Change still isn’t easy for me but inevitably it’s good for me. I’d been stuck for six years (and was going through the motions in just about every part of my life) and even though I was unhappy, change scared the crap out of me. Taking this job was a leap for me but I knew in my gut it was the right leap to take.

Summer So Far

It has been a wonderfully unremarkable summer. We do not currently have a foster, Lucy is active and healthy and up until this past week and a half, we spent the majority of our weekends at home relaxing.

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Ok, a CrossFit competition isn’t relaxing but it was fun!

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One of the summer’s highlights? Visiting this handsome devil and his dad!

Yesterday, we got back from an 11-day, 1550-mile roadtrip/vacation. We started out by dropping Lucy off at my parents’, driving to Lake Placid for Marty’s Ironman race, then down to Western Maryland for Marty’s family vacation, then back to NJ to pick up Lucy and then back home to Pennsylvania. Phew.

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Ironman Finisher

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Lake Placid

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Deep Creek Lake, Md.

It was an exhausting 11 days, not helped by the fact that I got food poisoning midway during our Maryland vacation. Still feeling some mild effects from that, to be honest, but I’m mostly back to normal. And it was worth it – everyone had a wonderful vacation.

It’s unfortunate that tomorrow is Aug. 1 – it means almost back to reality for me at work. The summer months are largely 9-5 with free weekends and it’s so easy to fall into that relaxed routine. Sadly 10 months out of the year are the polar opposite of that so I thoroughly enjoy relaxing summers like we’ve had so far. It’s nice to not be on the go and not being required to be anywhere for the most part. I got to see friends and family but still had lots of time to read, relax and – most importantly – nap on the weekends.

While late August marks the real start of the fall athletic season, it’s always this time of year that I start to really want to foster. That sounds like a backwards way to think but I know it’s because fostering gives me a distraction from work with which I am less than satisfied. I honestly do not know if Lucy is ready for another foster but if I think what appears to be a good fit comes along, we will foster again and sooner rather than later.

I’m sure we’ll have a few more highlights as the summer winds down and hopefully I’ll be checking back in soon with a new foster!

Two Days I’d Rather Not Relive

Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows this has been a hell of a few days over here. For those who aren’t aware, hang on…

I have to rewind to maybe a month ago. One morning Lucy got sick – vomited and may have had some other intestinal distress, I can’t remember. It really wasn’t a big deal – we fed her a bland diet for a day and just a few hours after getting sick she was already back to normal.

Maybe a week or 10 days later, the same exact thing happened except this time she puked up some random round object. I looked at it for a while and really had no idea what it was. Still don’t have a clue. But I figured that may have been in her stomach the first time she got sick but now it was out of her system and I thought that was the end of it.

Then on Thursday morning – her fourth birthday! – she got sick yet again. I was planning to call the vet that day anyway to set up her yearly physical and when I mentioned she had gotten sick three times in 3-4 weeks, they suggested bringing her in that morning. Twenty minutes later we were waiting in the vet’s office.

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Among other tests, they took some x-rays and found something somewhat concerning on two of the four images – a round object in her intestine. Because the round object disappeared on two of the four images, the vet wanted to send it off to an expert x-ray reader (didn’t know such a job existed…) for a second opinion. They sent me home with some probiotics and instructions to wait to hear back about the x-ray.

Well, five minutes after we got home, Lucy puked up the half a cup of bouillon she had drank that morning all over my couch. I called the vet and barely got the words out “Lucy puked” before they said to just bring her in and they would keep her until they figured out what was going on.

That afternoon the vet called back and said the x-ray expert recommended surgery – he felt strongly that something was blocking her intestine and making her sick.

At 5 p.m. Thursday evening, she went back for surgery and the vet found two objects. The first was something completely lodged in her intestine – as in, they could not get it to move at all. So it took a bit more cutting than they had anticipated to get it out. What was it? Still no freaking clue. They said it was a big hairball but I was able to look at it – and it doesn’t look like hair, exactly. It looks like a solid dust ball or something. I don’t know. We’ll never know.

And the second object? Even more random. There was a piece of something dangling into her stomach. They showed me that object, too. It’s not a foreign object – it looks like a small clot or tumor of some sort that was hanging on by…body tissue, maybe? Anyway, it was hanging off her stomach wall and into her stomach. Probably not making her sick but the vet recommended getting it biopsied. Crossing my fingers the biopsy shows nothing concerning.

Thursday night I was able to sneak into the vet to see her before they shipped her to the overnight ER clinic. So pathetic.

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She arrived back at my vet Friday morning but they wanted to keep her for the majority of the day for observation. Because she has stitches not only on her tummy but also literally holding her intestines together, they needed to be sure that small amounts of food wouldn’t rupture the stitches before they felt comfortable sending her home with me.

I picked her up a little after 4:30 today and I could not have been happier.

Oh, and while all this was going on Novalee was adopted.

Yup, Miss Nova found herself a forever home.

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Her adoption was finalized earlier this week and her new mom is from Central NJ. I had planned to drive home to my parents’ house in NJ on Friday to do the exchange; our university is on spring break and I thought taking Friday off for a road trip with Lucy and Nova to get Nova to her new mom while also visiting my family would be ideal.

And then Lucy decided she needed surgery the day before our planned roadtrip. Novalee’s new mom was kind enough to meet me about an hour from here and she was so happy to meet her new addition. Nova was just happy to get back in a car and sleep.

I actually held it together when they drove off. Nova is such a people dog and I know she’ll absolutely love any home she’s in. And she won’t have to share attention with another dog. Her new mom is very bulldog experienced and could not wait to bring Nova home. She even bought her a new martini glass collar – my kind of woman 🙂

But wait, there’s more. Marty has been gone since Wednesday morning and isn’t home until midnight on Sunday (Monday morning, technically) so I’ve been handling all this on my own. I’m stressed and tired but I managed everything just fine. Logistically things were a little tricky but all of us got through it. I know I’m capable of doing anything that needs to be done on my own but when you’re used to having someone else in the equation it’s easy to get used to relying on the other person for support of all kinds. I’m proud that I handled everything on my own without asking for or needing outside help (asking for help is not a strong suit of mine).

So, Nova (whose new name will be Holly) is settling into her new home, Lucy is snoring away next to me on the couch and I’m drinking a massive glass of wine.

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I have to keep a close eye on Lucy for a few days to make sure her food seems to be moving through her without issues and we go back in 10 days to get her stitches out. Hopefully the biopsy is completely normal and we don’t have any lingering issues from that.

Right now I’m still in a fog; it’s been a really, really weird and stressful two days. In some ways it works out well that Nova was adopted today. Sure, it made for a long and emotional day but Lucy’s issues prevented me – and are still preventing me – from dwelling too much on the departure of Nova.

I hope the next time I blog it’s about something completely trivial.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Not much at all to report. This should be renamed the Blog About Nothing (a Seinfeld reference, one of my favorite shows). Work is insane, Lucy’s still fat and Isaac’s still with us.

At this point I’ve assumed Isaac will be with us for the foreseeable future. There’s no reason to believe he’ll be adopted any time soon so for now he’s ours 🙂 And because he’s ours, I get to dress him up in reindeer costumes (disclaimer: it was for SNORT’s facebook site for Halloween).
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Because there’s nothing else to write about, I thought I’d write about 10 things people may or may not know about our dogs.

  1. Lucy is NOT the puppy I thought we’d bring home. I had my eye on another female (I had the pick of the four females in the litter). But when she attacked my sparkly ring, I knew she was mine.

    Lucy in the middle; the one I thought we'd bring home is on the right.

    Lucy in the middle; the one I thought we’d bring home is on the right.

  2. Isaac was actually in another foster home for two weeks before we got him. After two weeks, the family realized he was not going to work with their pug (or pugs – I can’t remember) and I was contacted to see if we’d take him. I now know why the pug family couldn’t continue to foster Isaac…
  3. Lucy HATES when we carry things. Anything. Boxes. Bags. Suitcases. She is petrified and runs away. Which is fun when I leave Petsmart with both her and bags full of stuff because she refuses to walk with me even though I’m carrying her treats. I have no idea why. It honestly makes us look like we abuse her or something. It’s horribly embarrassing.
  4. Isaac likes his jerseys but doesn’t like his sweater. And he doesn’t like his sweater because I once got his dew claw stuck in it while trying to put it on and he’s never forgotten.
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  5. Lucy hates costumes. I can’t put her in anything. Not the reindeer costume. Not a tutu. The only thing I can put her in is the Susquehanna singlet which makes me sad because I want to dress her up.

    Lucy as a seventh-month old Susquehanna "runner."

    Lucy as a seventh-month old Susquehanna “runner.”

  6. I don’t actually know what Isaac’s life was like before we got him. I was told he was with a male owner in Boston for all eight years of his life but I don’t know if he was an only dog (he must have been, if I had to guess), if he was in a house, an apartment, lived with more than one person, was socialized with other dogs or people, etc. I just don’t know.
  7. Both dogs love cat poop. I just don’t get it and it makes me want to vomit.
  8. Both dogs love butt scratches. I think this is pretty common, especially for bulldogs, but scratch their butts and they’re in heaven.
  9. Lucy never has and probably never will “do” steps. There’s no reason – she’s perfectly healthy. She’ll only go up staircases that are like six steps high – max – and only those that are wide. It severely limits where we can live, to be honest. Second-floor apartments are legitimate no-go. She absolutely won’t go up stairs and I’m not carrying all 48 (fat) pounds of her up stairs.
  10. Isaac’s nubbin wags; Lucy’s nubbin does not. When Isaac’s happy, his nubbin shakes like you wouldn’t believe. When Lucy’s happy, her entire rear end shakes like you wouldn’t believe.

Hopefully I have something more interesting to report soon; it is almost holiday travel time, which is always an adventure. And not necessarily in a good way.

One Day, Two Celebrations

Today is a momentous day in our household. I had no idea at the time, but when I picked up Isaac exactly one year ago today, it was also his birthday. I didn’t know until I went through his paperwork the next day that Isaac had literally just celebrated his birthday the day I brought him home. Which means that today Isaac turns nine and that we also celebrate (I guess it’s worth celebrating?) one year of fostering Isaac.

I felt so badly that he spent his last year’s birthday being transported to his second foster home after having just left what had been his home for eight years. I think he had a better birthday this year.
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Isaac has been with us twice as long as any other foster and for the most part, this past year with him has flown by. Gosh, I adore him. So much.

Isaac's birthday pup cup.

Isaac’s birthday pup cup.

Handsome boy.

Handsome boy.

The day I brought him home.

The day I brought him home.

Yesterday Isaac spent the day with his favorite dogsitters while Lucy, Marty and I went to a BBQ.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed herself at the BBQ.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed herself at the BBQ.

Originally we were supposed to leave Isaac in Selinsgrove while we traveled to NJ for a long weekend. Our plans changed, though, and I’m glad we got to spend Isaac’s birthday with him.
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The Best Week Ever

Just a few hours ago, Marty and I returned from what I deem the best week ever. My parents take semi-frequent vacations to various U.S. Virgin Islands and on their most recent booking to St. Croix, they offered to let myself and Marty come with them. They were renting a two bedroom house and they obviously only needed one of those bedrooms so when they posed the question of whether we were interested in occupying the other bedroom, the answer was a very emphatic YES!
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For the past 9-10 days, I have been completely disconnected. I did not bring my laptop, only sporadically turned my phone on and pretty much avoided any talk of work 99% of the time.

Because it was such a perfect week, I wanted to document it so that I could remember it for a very, very long time:

We flew out of Newark early Saturday morning and had a brief layover in Puerto Rico before flying into St. Croix late Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night after we got settled in, we went to a local brewpub for dinner. I just had wine so I can’t speak to the beer, but the food was shockingly good. And the view (we were right on the boardwalk) was spectacular.

Beginning Sunday morning, Marty and I began each day around 6 a.m. For the first few days I was awake at 5 or 5:30 a.m. but there’s something about laying in bed with a fabulous view, strong breeze and warm air that makes it impossible to actually get out of bed at that time. Eventually Marty would brew coffee and we’d have a cup on our own personal deck prior to getting our day started.
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Most mornings we picked a place to run; I say most mornings because before leaving on vacation, I tweaked my back during deadlifts and gave myself permission to take days off to make sure my back didn’t bother me too much. And with nothing but hills and mountains around, my back wasn’t exactly keen on running each morning.

After our (or just Marty’s run), everyone would spend the rest of the morning having breakfast, drinking coffee, reading books and floating in the pool.
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Lunch was around noon and usually eaten at home; cold cut sandwiches just taste better on vacation. 🙂

After lunch we’d decide how to spend our afternoons.

On Sunday, we went to Point Udall for some photos and then spent two or so hours at a beach (Shoy Beach) which was my one and only requirement for the trip – multiple trips to a beach. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve been that relaxed. The water was calm, warm and clear. I could have spent all day in the water – it was perfection. I haven’t been truly happy in years but I was pretty darn close on Sunday. My dad cooked some delicious chicken thighs that night and we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Point Udall

Point Udall

Shoy Beach.

Shoy Beach.

Monday afternoon was spent walking around Chistiansted, the “biggest” city/town on the island. We stopped in tons of little shops, picked up some trinkets and I found the perfect ring – a gift from some of the early birthday money Marty’s family was kind enough to give me before leaving.

Fort Christiansted

Fort Christiansted

Christiansted

Christiansted

That night I treated my parents (and Marty) to dinner out along the coastline at eat @ cane bay. I normally stick to wine but my mom and I both decided to order one (ok, two) “Sex in the Champagne Room” – vanilla run, cranberry juice, maybe pineapple juice and champagne. Beyond good.

Tuesday we started the day with another run and then spent the afternoon playing tourist. We had lunch in Frederiksted and then toured the Cruzan Rum Factory and the St. Croix Botanical Garden. Both were worth the visit but the rum factory was the definite highlight.

RUM

RUM

Botanical gardens

Botanical gardens

Wednesday we went to Chanay Bay for another beach day; this time we broke out the snorkels and it was awesome. Starfish, fish, sea urchins. Wednesday night dinner was at Off the Wall – casual dining with the sand literally between our toes.

My more than generous parents.

My more than generous parents.

Thursday we visited Cane Bay – my least favorite of the three beaches we visited. The water was rougher and the water not deep enough for my liking. We also got sandblasted and I think I stepped on a sea urchin. But any beach in St. Croix is still fabulous.

Our final full day was Friday. We went back to Christiansted that morning to pick up some final gifts and mementos and then headed back to Shoy Beach for the afternoon. I spent a ton of time snorkeling and relaxing in the water, soaking it all up. It was definitely my favorite of the three beaches and the weather, while hot, was gorgeous. We capped off the night at Cheeseburgers in American Paradise – another perfect atmosphere with great food (and company!).
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Again, I could not have asked for a better week. I was beyond relaxed and exploring an entirely new place was utterly fascinating. From driving on the “wrong” side of the road to asking if we wanted rum in our morning smoothies from the local coffee place, it was more than I could have hoped for. I know this isn’t a trip we’ll be repeating for a very long time so I more than soaked up everything we experienced the past week.

Odds and Ends from the Week:

The poverty on the island is depressing. Nothing I didn’t expect but still sad.

In relation to the above point, the number of homeless/stray dogs and their conditions hit home the most. We saw one dog outside one of the grocery stores we visited with a severe limp and a massive tumor growing near her front right armpit. She was just sitting outside the grocery store watching people come in and out. My heart just about broke. And she was just one of the many strays we saw.

The wild life here is different. Very different. Horses that don’t appear to actually belong to anyone. Goats, chickens, roosters and baby chicks everywhere. Teeny, tiny lizards. Big iguanas. Crabs. Birds unlike those in the States.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Island time is real. We went to a parking lot that was supposed to open at 8:30 a.m. It definitely opened no earlier than 8:35.

The prices. Oh. My. God. $7 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? $6.99 for a regular-sized box of cereal? I genuinely have no idea how people afford to eat on this island and we weren’t exactly suffering from the impoverished conditions in which many of the locals live.

Obviously a big “thank you” to our dogsitters. Without them there’s obviously no way we make this trip.

And an even bigger thank you to my parents for taking us along. Seriously more than we deserved and I appreciate it.