Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend Assignment #246: Surprise!

It's been a mindboggling year in many ways, and not all of it has been good news. Let's focus on the personal and the positive, shall we?

Weekend Assignment #246: A strange and sometimes difficult year is drawing to a close. Tell us about something that happened this year that was a pleasant surprise for you personally.

Extra Credit: Are you looking forward to the new year?

Let's go ahead and combine my answer to this question with Steven's Feline and Furball Friday, because I'm going to talk about my dogs for a bit.

My faithful companions.

As you probably know, it's been a difficult year for me, what with my being laid off, a longish stretch of unemployment, the death of my dog Tuffy from cancer and a cancer scare of my own. All these stresses and losses have been partially offset, however, by the two dogs who came into our lives this year: Cayenne and Pepper. I could have foreseen that if Tuffy didn't make it through the year, we would have a new dog by now. But I didn't anticipate two dogs, or what a big part of my life they would become.

They're with me night and day, these dogs, either in the room with me or hanging out on the couch in the den while I type in my office a few feet away. I'm a little embarrassed sometimes that they don't spend more time with John, but I gave each of them a lot of attention early on while John was at work, and now they're used to having me around. They're in for a bit of a shock when I get a job!

Pepper, in relaxation mode.

Pepper arrived first, and required more effort to tame her. She was my birthday present back in March, a rescue dog selected off a web site, who had been on death row at the pound along with her puppies. She was far from thrilled to meet us or Tuffy when we first met her at a PetSmart on the southwest side of town, but we took her home anyway. She was stubborn and willful, not so much ignorant about human commands as she is indifferent to them. Like Tuffy, she wasn't the most affectionate dog in the world, but nevertheless wanted to keep tabs on our whereabouts.

But that was a while ago, and Pepper's come a long way since then. She's still not big on licking and other major signs of affection, but now she joins me in the front seat of the car and smiles at me as we head to the dog park. She obeys me about 65% of the time, up from about 10%. And she seems to actively enjoy being scratched and petted by us now, whereas early on she'd be more likely to walk away. Yes, she's turned into a good dog!

Cayenne, resting up before her next burst of activity.

Cayenne has a similar history to Pepper's, but a very different temperament. Fostered out to a Humane Society volunteer until her puppies were weaned, she was specifically recommended to us when we stopped by their facility on August 2nd, the day after Tuffy was euthanized. The red dog with the bandanna seemed to get along fine with us and with Pepper, so we took her home. She's not the least bit standoffish; in fact she's a little too dependent on me. She's reasonably obedient, moderately affectionate, a showoff and a clown. And I love her to bits!

Cayenne, Pepper and a doggie acquaintance
From the Picasa album Trouble Dogs

Without a job to go to, my day is structured by the late afternoon visits to the dog park. It's not just the dogs who benefit from socialization there; I do too. I'm on speaking terms with a few people there now, and that helps a lot when my only other in-person contacts are with John and with Safeway employees when I shop. This too is a pleasant surprise. Who could have guessed that a dog park (which Tuffy didn't like at all) would be an enjoyable part of my daily routine?

Your turn! Tell us about some pleasant surprise in your life this year, big or small. Write about this in your blog along with a link back here, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with a roundup of your responses. Here are the ones from last week:

For Weekend Assignment #245: Holiday Traditions I asked about changes in holiday traditions. Four of you answered:

Julie said...

I used to make cookies every Christmas, and perhaps that's something I'll do again this year. I have a Pfefferneuse recipe from my grandma on my dad's side. I never could get it right until she showed me how to make it. She came from the old school of cooking. "Add the ingredients until the dough feels like this." Once she taught me how the dough was supposed to feel, I was able to make the cookies.

Martha said in comments...

I sure hope I have time to play along on this week's assignment - I have lots of good stuff to share!

I can't believe you have the aluminum tree with the light color changing thingie! My Grandmother had that same set up, I thought it was the best thing ever when I was a kid - you brought back some very fond memories for me.

I love your stocking tradition! I think I'll add that to our family traditions this year! :-)

Florinda said...

Maintaining holiday traditions with these blended and reconfigured families and their negotiated schedules can get complicated - we need to be flexible. There's not a specific day when we always put up the tree, because we want to do that with my stepkids and it depends on which weekends we have them with us - and since The Boy's birthday is in mid-December, we try not to mix it up with Christmas stuff. We usher in our holiday season with a family viewing of A Christmas Story, but whether that happens after Thanksgiving dinner (if we spend Turkey Day with the kids) or on the weekend when we put up the tree (if we don't) changes from one year to the next.

Mike said...

The first one I came up with is the, "Crap, we need to get a tree" tradition. No, we don't have one yet. I work a lot of weekends, so it makes it difficult to plan a day when we can all go. We get a real tree, but we don't go and chop our own down or anything. Usually we go to Home Depot, or a church that is close to where I work.

That's it for now! Busy as I'm sure you are, I hope you'll take the time to participate this week. Write about up the assignment in your blog or journal, and include a link back here. Then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. Please don't forget your links! I'll be back in a week to highlight the results.

A reminder: I'm still running low on ideas here, so I still need your input. What would you like to see as a Weekend Assignment topic? Email me your suggestions (mavarin at If I use your topic you'll get full credit and my undying thanks.



barrettmanor said...

Ah. The server is finally back up. Here ya go:

Suzanne R said...

Your doggies are precious. It's amazing what love can do. This is for Feline and Furball Friday. My link is:

Florinda said...

I really enjoyed reading Pepper and Cayenne's stories again, and I always like seeing their pictures!

Thanks for a great topic this week - my post is up.

Mike said...

You've done a fine job getting Cayenne, and especially Pepper, settled into your home. It takes a lot of patience.

Anyway here are my pleasant surprises that I could think of.