Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In 2013 I:

  • started off the year at my lowest point. 
  • needed a distraction so I fostered a sick Beagle.
  • nursed and then adopted the Beagle!
  • went to Chicago and saw Pearl Jam at the legendary Wrigley Field show, which didn't let out till 2am after a 3-hour rain delay.
  • was in two fairly major car accidents. 
  • saw Pearl Jam--at Eddie Vedder's feet--in Pittsburgh, the first stop on their tour.
  • followed Pearl Jam to Ontario, Phildalphia, Baltimore, Dallas and Phoenix.
  • held Eddie Vedder's hand when he leaned out into the crowd in Phoenix.
  • saw my beloved uncle for the first time in too many years. 
  • quit my job of more than 10 years.
  • started a new career in the corporate world. 
But most importantly..

  • fell in love with a man who made me immediately realize that I had never truly been loved before. 
  • got to be a part of his life, which includes the sweetest mornings in his arms and the most exciting nights, watching his band on stage.

What a year! But things aren't done changing in my life. 

I'm ready.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Start a New Job Tomorrow

Tomorrow feels like the first day of school. For the first time in over a decade, I am starting a new job.

So long, old life! You were strange and sometimes wonderful.

My head is spinning. I'm curious about every little thing that's going to happen to me tomorrow. And I guess that's the source of my anxiety today…not that I think I can't do this, but rather, right now, I can't even picture my tomorrow.

I've spent much of today just trying to imagine what my new desk will look like, and what we'll talk about at lunch time.

(What will I talk about at lunch time? People seem to think I'm fun, but not everyone gets me at first.  My plan is to just be nice and see what these people are like. They're a creative bunch, so these should be my kind of people, right? … See--I'm not going to get any sleep tonight.)

The last time I started a new job, I still lived with my parents, didn't know how to drive car, and wore long, straight hair down to my butt. (I brushed it to death, every morning.) I was a 22-year-old, and a very young one at that. I didn't know how to sound like an adult on the phone or contribute to a meeting.

But over the next decade, I'd learn how to run meetings, hire good people, and make sure great people could succeed. So this time, with a whole phase of my career under my belt, I'm going in to my new job as someone who's supposed to be an expert.

Sometimes I feel nervous about that. It's a lot of pressure.

Other times, I feel a sense of relief--because I chose this job because it's what I'm good at doing.

I guess there's nothing left to do right now except go to bed and wake up curious but ready.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Sad vs. How I Grocery Shop When I'm Happy. See Also: Leaving on a High Note

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Sad:

(It might go something like this.)

Where do they hide the boxes of bread crumbs? Ugh. I just want to get out of here. People walk too slow. Why are there so many PEOPLE?! And look, every register has a line. Geez. Dummies, everywhere! I don't even want this stupid food! ARGHH!

How I Grocery Shop When I'm Happy:

(This happened today.)

Mmm, look at these beautiful lemons! They smell so good, too! I'm going to buy some. I wonder what recipes have lemons in them. I'm going to start cooking more. That sounds really nice. I want to try one of these over here! Mmmm!

What I mean to say is, when I'm sad, the world seems too irritating to endure. Every exhausting timesuck--lines, traffic, plaque buildup, dirty laundry, soap scum, dust, work, meetings, car repairs, other human beings. It's all such a drain.

But when I'm happy, the world is bright and exciting. There are new things to see, limitless experiences to have, and I actually like other humans. Instead of feeling like, "Why is this happening to me?" I feel like, "I get to do this!"

Right now I'm very happy, because I am in love, and also because I quit my job.

I think I quit it just in time, because I've been burning out for a while. It recently hit me that while 70% of my work is my dream job, I am no longer able to tolerate the remaining 30% and remain a happy person.

I become a dick.

I walk around my workplace hoping that no one will share their ideas with me. I hope that I will be excused from meetings. I hope events will be cancelled. I hole up in my office. I get easily frustrated. I try to go unnoticed. Mostly, I rush around, because I want to finish my work and be done with it, but everyone else gets in my way.

But since I submitted my resignation and two weeks notice, I've been reminded of some of the things that helped me love my job for over a decade. Those "things" are mostly people, which is interesting since I get to work with animals.

Today was one of my final days at my job, and I was stunned by all the kindness I received, and from unexpected sources. I got sweet emails, heartfelt hugs, cards, tokens of friendship and even baked goods.

Before long, I felt like I was walking on air. I was so happy--I could smell the sweetness in every lemon, to go back to my grocery store example.  Suddenly, faced with the realization that I had no reason to ever see these people again, I wanted to hear everything they had to say. I wanted them to tell me their stories. I wanted to remember them. I suddenly felt like I had all the time in the world to sit with the people I've been lucky enough to meet.

It's all so sweet, it makes me wish I hadn't resigned.

But if I hadn't quit, I'd be a different person this week. I'd be rushing around. I'd be impatient. I'd be a bit of a dick.

So I'm going to take all of these happy feelings and leave my job on a high note. I'm so happy that I met so many amazing people, and got to be a part of so many truly cool projects.

And I'm glad I'm leaving before I got too jaded and mean and see it that way.

I'm out! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Well This is New: Blogging from the Bar

My new relationship has come with a fun new life. This really, fantastically, hit me at about 1am this morning, when I was 3 hours from home and dancing till my feet and neck burned as my boyfriend's band played. 

The band closed the set an hour later with a cover of my favorite song in the world. I finally relented and kicked off my high heels while the band--the very band I used to follow to bars all over town--dismantled and packed up. Then Billy, my own personal rock star, carried me to the car. Billy and I spent the night in a hotel that was, under its pleasant surface, shockingly filthy, and I still felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Especially when I pressed my head into his chest and fell asleep ...as other people were starting to wake up.

He has another gig tonight, so I'm writing this blog from my stool at a smokey tavern. Our fun life together has only just started, but I can see now that it comes with something new: being the lonely lady at the bar while my rock star unravels cables and does other sound checky things. He keeps tending to me--trying to bring me more pumpkin ciders or whatever else he can think of--but I still get to learn to make a comfortable space for myself in Girlfriend Land.

Tonight, another girlfriend is supposed to come alone, so I'm excited by the prospect of insta-bonding with a fellow Girlfriend of the Band (GOTB?). Last night I just walked up to the other solo girl in the bar. We had a blast shaking our butts and were Facebook friends by the end of the night. 

So, even though I am blogging alone (one of my other favorite things, actually), in a bar, like a weirdo, I can't believe I get to do this. Because soon, the band will start, and I get to watch my very favorite musician in the world, and I know he'll make eyes with me, and then he'll take me home. 

.... Update!
Billy found a nice girl he knows and brought her to me, and now the band is playing.
Happily signing off and posting this now from the Girl Table. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I Fell So Hard

I met a man named Billy. 

But it felt more like I recognized him. As soon as our mutual friend introduced me to him, I thought, "Finally. There you are."

I watched him play guitar in his band that night. I stared at him for hours, right up until the moments when he looked back at me, and then I got embarrassed and looked away. When we parted ways a few hours later, I was counting on Billy to find me again, and he did. 

Billy and I stayed up late every night that week to talk to each other. After what seemed like forever (probably three days) he finally asked me out. 

So, we went on a first date. I tried not to get too excited about it. I hate first dates. I always pull out the same stories. I always force the same laughs. I almost always get the guy to like me, and then, to my chagrin, I have to let him down gently or else psych myself up for a second date--which is always much worse. I hate the whole awkward routine. 

But then I had my first date with Billy. 

He was waiting for me at the bar, with a water and a straw carefully angled towards my empty seat. I sat down on the bar stool--facing him. Without even meaning to, I stayed that way all night, leaning in to him, eagerly telling him things and taking in every word he had to say. 

Our date was perfect. Billy is gorgeous, but nervous enough to convince me that he doesn't know he is. He's funny, and appreciative, and doesn't bother making idle small talk. We talked for hours, and when I realized that I kept leaning closer and closer into him, I apologized. That's when he put one hand under me and pulled my stool up against his. We were almost intertwined. I felt dizzy. 

Billy took me to my car and kissed me goodbye, and when my knees started to buckle, he caught me. 

His band was playing across the state the next night, but we kept in incessant contact until our second date the following day. We went to dinner, bowling, and finally, because it was very late but neither of us wanted to go home, we went to Sheetz and to Wal-Mart, where we picked out food for Billy's cat and had a pillow fight. 

That second date was an exercise in polite restraint...going through the ritual of getting to know each other despite the fact that both of us knew we were all in. He made me feel exhilarated, adorable and uncharacteristically fearless. All of this means that I finally got to be myself -- my undiluted, starry-eyed self. 

A day or two later, Billy and I walked my dog through Frick Park and sat down at a sidewalk table in Regent Square, where we ordered dinner. At dusk, we started walking home. I held on to my adorable little Beagle with one hand. Billy took my other hand in his and folded me into a long, sweet, mid-summer kiss. For a second, I stepped outside of myself and tried to really see what was happening to me. That girl, on the sidewalk, with the Beagle she always wanted and a man who made her feel so perfectly adored, was me. It seemed like I was watching myself from inside a dream. 

Billy and I have not left each other alone since we met. Since that night, I've discovered that I sleep the soundest when I'm in his arms, and that no one else can entertain me as well as he can. I love watching him interact with other people, and the friendly, gentle consideration he shows them. 

When he talks, and moves, and plays his guitar, I feel like I am drenched with delirious adoration. And when I remember those early dates, I can't believe that -- as excited and hopeful as I was -- I didn't even know him yet. I would come to find that he is even kinder and more loving than I could have possibly imagined.

I can't wait for each new day with you, Billy.

A Suggestion for Trader Joe's, on Behalf of Unmarried Women

Conversation I Had with Two Other Unmarried Women at Work

"Cooking sucks when you live alone."

"Tell me about it! You make a pot of chili and you end up defrosting the leftovers for a month."

"I have to separate my slices of bread because one end of the loaf will get moldy before I eat my way to it."

"And don't even get me started on produce."

"Oh my god! It's a goddamn race to finish the salad-in-a-bag before it turns to slime."

"Right? I've just come to terms with the fact that I have to buy a whole new cream cheese every time I want to eat cream cheese. I know the one in my fridge will be growing green fur by now."

"Trader Joe's should have a single-person aisle with single-serving everything. Tiny mayonnaises and little blocks of cheese."

"It can be called The Forever Alone Aisle."

"And it can be located next to the cat food."


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guy Smiley and Here is Your Life

Recently, I desperately needed to be cheered up.

I called my friend V because he can make me laugh, and so he did, immediately, when he referred to my Beagle as my little "Guy Smiley."

And here is your Here is Your Life host, Guy Smiley!

Instead of rehashing the horrors of my day, which never helps as much as you think it will, V and I launched right into recalling every detail that we could about Guy Smiley, the muppet, and his Sesame Street game show, "This is Your Life."

I remembered that Guy Smiley always got caught inside the stage curtain as he made his way out to the camera, and he would flail around in that distinctly Muppety way until he burst out (An early Kramer?). I also remembered an episode in which a tender-hearted loaf of bread was brought onto the game show (under the guise of being delivered to be made into a club sandwich) so she could be reunited with long-lost friends.

"Loaf of bread, here is your life!!"

I went home and YouTubed it, and realized then that the writers of 1980's Sesame Street were out of their minds.

Such a thought never even occurred to me when I was little.

In that episode, a loaf of bread with long eyelashes arrives on the set of the game show and asks how many slices of herself will be needed.

But Guy Smiley surprises her by, instead, bringing out the baker who baked her. (The studio audience coos when the baker shows a picture of the bread in her formative state, just an "adorable little recipe.")

Guy Smiley then promises to reveal the loaf of bread's best friend, another loaf who once sat on a grocery store shelf beside her. (Loaf of bread winces in anguish when she remembers the day that someone purchased that neighboring loaf and took her away.)

Guy Smiley then produces that long lost loaf... sort of. That loaf of bread has since been turned into two sandwiches and two plates of French toast, which, inexplicably, now have their very own personalities and even speak French!

But the best part might be when Guy Smiley announces that the show will be providing the loaf of bread with...a charm bracelet...so she'll always remember the day!

What? That's nuts!

But I remember watching the loaf of bread's show when I was little, and taking it perfectly seriously. I also remember the episode in which the oak tree is reunited with the cloud who rained on him, and when Guy Smiley visits a museum to surprise a painting of a bowl of fruit, which has eyeballs and is overcome with emotion when the paintbrush who painted him shows up.

I wonder if Sesame Street --and these very shows-- contributed to my steadfast belief that all things have feelings. When I was little, I believed that everything had feelings, and I thought that everything longed to do what it was meant to do. This is how I formed irrational attachments, and wept when my parents traded in our old car (I was sure it was devastated to be sent away), and wanted to rescue every garage-sale stuffed animal. I'd feel sorry for every lost and lonely glove, who surely felt useless and humiliated without its mate. I was convinced my first bicycle felt abandoned when I outgrew it.

Today, I know that's absurd, but I still feel sorry when I, say, send one of my purses to the secondhand store. I wonder if it casts a sad glance back at my other purses and thinks, "But what did I do? Wasn't I pretty enough?" And I hope it has a nice life, with someone who likes it and takes it to lots of places.

See what you did to me, Guy Smiley?


In other news, here are my current favorite things:

Taking my dog everywhere. I'm going to be really, really sad when summer is over and I can no longer socialize by making my friends join me at parks, or restaurants, bars and coffee shops with patio seating. Right now, if you want to see me, you also see my Beagle.

I guess most people leave their dogs at home most of the time. My dog knows that unless I'm going to work, the sound of my keys jangling means that we're headed for adventure, and he gamely hops into my car's back seat. He even knows the sound of a Subaru being unlocked vs. the sound of any other kind of car.

He's up for anything, except staying home alone. And he is the most perfect, amiable little sidekick.

Let's go play!
Related: Food Trucks. The biggest summer food trend, especially for people with dogs, is getting delicious food out of the window of a truck! A different truck comes to my neighborhood every Monday and I am especially fond of the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, with its amazing avocado cream, and Oh My Grill, which serves gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and dipping sauces.

I also love the crepe truck:

and I love that Porter can come along when I dine this way.
I would like to invent a salad truck, who would have a dazzling array of toppings on various lettuces. Things like chick peas, hard boiled eggs, avocado, artichokes, cheeses, slivered almonds, and homemade dressings.

Also, still, Pearl Jam, who played two wonderful shows in London, Ontario and Wrigley Field, Chicago, in July. I'll see those guys in Pittsburgh in October for a long-awaited hometown show.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dog-Friendly Dining in Pittsburgh

Dear local dog owners,
Will you help me add to this list?

Dog-friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh-Updated 9.20.15:

City East

Regent Square 
Biddle's Escape - coffee shop - porch - year round
61B - sidewalk ordering and seating - seasonal
D'z Six Packs and Dogs - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Thai Cottage - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Square Cafe - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Map Room - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Park Pizza and Cream - sidewalk ordering and seating - ask for the order window in wintertime
Food trucks visit Animal Nature every Monday and Biddle's Escape every Wednesday, summers only!

Squirrel Hill
61C - coffee shop - patio - year round, though chairs may be stacked in wintertime
Te Cafe - sidewalk tables, but not much room - seasonal
Tutti Fruiti - one sidewalk table - seasonal
Silky's - two sidewalk tables - seasonal
Aladdin's - sidewalk tables - seasonal

East Liberty 
Panera Bread Bakery Square patio - year round
Coffee Tree Roasters Bakery Square - patio - year round
Social Bakery Square - patio
Dinette - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Whole Foods - patio - year round
Verde - side patio
East End Brewing 

Oh Yeah Ice Cream - patio - year round
Cappy's - 5-6 sidewalk tables
China Palace
Girasole - patio
Soba - side patio
Brasserie 33 - sidewalk tables

Coca- sidewalk tables - seasonal
Round Corner Cantina - not back patio, but front tables on Butler Street
New Amsterdam (when they have the garage door up)

Highland Park
Park Brugge
Tazzo D'Oro


Voodoo Brewing 

(Will someone inquire about The Porch and report back?)

City South

South Side 
Double Wide Grill patio
Big Dog Coffee - patio

City North

Atria's, Federal Street (PNC Park) - patio
Bettis Grills - outdoor tables
Redfin Blues - patio

Il Pizzaiaolo - Mt. Lebanon - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Aladdins - sidewalk tables - seasonal
Crazy Mocha - Brentwood
Hartwood Restaraunt - Glenshaw
Grist House - Millvale

Links to other resources (I have not confirmed these places)

BringFido.com - Pittsburgh
CBS Pittsburgh's List of Best Pet-Friendly Restaurants 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Today I Did a Zip Line Course

And it was fun!

Today my girls Krista, Jessica and I did the course at Go Ape in Pittsburgh's North Park.

I don't see myself as overly prissy, because I like snakes and water slides and mosh pits. But I spent my first 30 years as an "indoorsy" type and I didn't realize what I was getting in to when I agreed to do this.

First, I thought there was going to be a lot of soaring around like a bird -- maybe I'd pop my little harness on, a muscular man would give me a gentle push into the sky, and I'd flit through the treetops, Facebooking the whole thing.

Krista clued me in to the fact that the suspended rope course was actually going to be challenging, and that I should maybe plan to wear workout clothes. At that point, I read Go Ape's website and realized it was going to be a treetop obstacle course. But somehow, when I read about the check-in "cabin," I still pictured more of a lodge. With changing rooms and cedar lockers and a place to select a fluffy white towel. I joked about looking for a smoothie bar but really, that would have been nice.

It wasn't like that. Jessica helped me find the place (I'm bad with suburbs; North Park swallows me.) by directing me the the folding table on the side of the road where you sign your life away. They actually, during your 30-minute training (most of which I spent practicing opening and closing carabiners for the first time in my life) remind you that mistakes could result in "fatal accidents." Hello!

But other than some mulch in our hair and a little brush burn on my thighs from a clumsy landing, we badass animal welfare workers did really, really well!

The courses start with a rope ladder up the side of a tree. This was actually the most awkward part for me because I wanted to shimmy up the tree faster than my safety equipment wanted me to. I had to keep yanking the rope and pulley system that I was attached to.

Krista on the damn rope ladder

Then, up in the air, Krista, Jessica and I would gather on the platform and freak out, especially if we had to choose whether to take a "difficult" or "extreme" path to the next tree.

I have never been afraid of heights, because I just can't picture myself falling to death. So, I was surprised when I stepped onto the first treetop platform and felt a wave of vertigo wash over me. The entire tree swayed a little in a woozy way. But then, just like with every other uncomfortable moment in life, you say "Can't deal with that right now" and push through the moment. And so we did.

You do have to keep track of yourself to keep yourself safe. Little signs remind you to always stay attached to something, which meant that you'd detach and attach your harness every time you moved from a ladder to a bridge to a zip line.  At first, I felt like I was going to forget what to attach to or get myself caught up in something. But after a while, we were all monkeying from tree to tree without having to over-think it.

I'm a very impatient person, though, and twice forgot to attach myself to my tree. But then, having survived anyway, I'd just attach to the next thing, like a rope bridge that was suspended across the sky.

Each section ended with a ride down a zip line to the ground. These were fun, especially the last one, which was long enough to allow a couple seconds for looking around and thinking, "I'm flying!!"

The landings were awkward. The most graceful way to land is into a running stop, which I think I did three times. The other time, I went face first and stopped when my thighs dragged across the mulch landing strip. Ouch!

But the best part was the part that some other guests tried to psych us out about. One girl told us, "My friend said she'd never do the Tarzan jump again, and she is a real hardass."

I thought, "Oh no, a hardass?" I like getting massages and pedicures and petting kittens! Am I tough enough for this?

But Krista bravely led the way to the Tarzan jump -- a free-fall off a platform, into a rope wall that you then climb back up into the trees. The first step into nothing was definitely scary (especially if, like me, you doubted your own ability to attach yourself to things). But after you man up and leap into the air, it isn't scary at all!

And there's something fantastic about getting sweaty outside, locating your own center of gravity and learning to trust your muscles.

On the way home, I thought about how gym class used to be the worst part of my school year. I would fake cramps, "forget" my gym clothes or beg my journalism teacher to write me a pass to get out of it. Sunday nights would turn gloomy as I remembered that the horrors of gym class awaited. It was sheer torture, because I believed I was too unathletic to keep up with the kids in my class. I didn't understand the rules of baseball, hated competition, couldn't connect my bat to a goddamn thing and I always seemed to smack the volley ball wildly, or a second too late.

I wish someone would have seen that I was a wiry, tireless girl and suggested a sport that I might actually have fun with. I wish they would have let me play on a rope course, learn hula hoop tricks, try archery, take a hike or just run around. There are plenty of ways that grownups exercise that I might have liked. Instead I'd cower in fear in the deep, deep outfield...waiting for the sweet relief of English class, where I would be on top of my game again.

Anyway, now I'm happy at home with my Beagle, enjoying the iPhone videos Jessica made of our day. You can hear the ridiculous sound of me laughing, helplessly, in every one! Whoopsie!

I'd also like to say that the smell of sunscreen gives me an instant mood boost. I put it on and my brain shakes off its cobwebs and thinks, "Beach." I don't think I've ever worn sunscreen on a day that I had to do something that was a drag.

If you want to try going Ape, click over here, and then tell me about it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When Banjos are the Sound of Silence

Last night, I took my dad to see Steve Martin and his bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers.

We had lots of fun.

I think my sense of what's funny was born from my early exposure to Pee Wee Herman and Steve Martin. My parents used to play Steve Martin's stand-up comedy on their record player, and I remember laughing at my mom quoting it long before I understood what was so funny (or so brilliantly unfunny) about the jokes themselves.

A request like "Please pass the pepper" could result, at our dinner table, in a giggled "Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you! Like this:

But while I grew up appreciating goofy humor, I didn't appreciate bluegrass music. There was simply too much of it around.

My dad played bluegrass music, loud, all the time. He played it on CD's, DVD's, tapes in the car, and he'd claw hammer it out on his own banjos right in our living room--always oblivious to whatever was going on around him.

I remember sitting in the back seat of the family car, eager to get in on my parents' conversation in the front, but not making anything out over my dad's tape recording of Flatt and Scruggs' My Long Journey Home, blaring out of the car speakers. 

My dad even went through a phase in which he believed that playing music at your musical instruments could condition their wood, or something like that, so he he would line up his instruments in an attentive row and play bluegrass at them when he wasn't even home.

There was no escape. In my house, bluegrass was the sound of silence.

Meanwhile, I craved electric guitars. I hated bluegrass. My mom said she did too, but joked that she wouldn't be a "bluegrass widow" and actually followed my dad to concerts.

I didn't start to soften on bluegrass until I was 24, and briefly moved from one dinky apartment into the one located above my dad's music shop. By then, my dad was successfully running his guitar, banjo, and mandolin store, and I rented a place just up the stairs over his storefront.

On quiet afternoons and evenings, the sounds of finger-plunking and jam sessions would filter up through my floors. Suddenly, I'd feel almost as safe and soothed as I did decades ago, when my mom had a pot on the stove and my dad played Earl Scruggs for the instruments in our empty basement.

And now, I have Steve Martin -- and my dad, also named Steve -- to thank for a fun night last night, one in which I tapped my toes and chair-danced and enjoyed the bluegrass tunes every bit as much as Steve Martin's goofy jokes in between.

Best of all was spending time with my dad, who almost never allows himself any fun outside of his music store. When I asked him, as we waited for the curtain to go up, what his favorite concert of all time was, he said he didn't know. I rattled off lists of my own -- best set list, best performance, most fun at a show.

Then, this morning, I received an email from my dad.

"The show was funny, and the music was very good. But most of all, being with you was special. You asked me which was my favorite concert? Last night was."

My dad.

And, it turns out bluegrass tunes can play the songs in my heart, too.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How 53 Chickens Made Me Feel Better

I love you, Chicken. 

I didn't feel ready for the world on Tuesday morning.

The cat and I uncurled at the sound of the alarm, but the space beyond my bed seemed too harsh, too unsympathetic -- a grinding sameness that I had not signed on for. There was nothing I could do but resort to autopilot and plod into my morning routine.

When I got to work, I approached the door gingerly, hoping to ease myself into another long day. But almost immediately, a surprise sound echoed through the building -- a piercing, perfect, cock-a-doodle-doo.

I burst out laughing.

This week, the organization that I work for was called to assist in the rescue of 61 birds. This is how I came to meet 53 chickens for the very first time.

That Tuesday morning, those of us who "had some spare time" were invited to help with the mass cleaning of chicken cages. I wanted to laugh at that suggestion. We're not an organization that allows spare time, and the weight of relentless deadlines was part of what had made the day feel so daunting when I woke up. Still, chicken-cage-cleaning sounded like an adventure I couldn't pass up.

The chickens had arrived in poor health, and you could see lice crawling all over their faces and feathers. The chickens smelled terrible -- a sweet, sweaty, garbage scent.

I followed instructions to put on scrubs and to wear a new pair of rubber gloves between each chicken. Then, I got to either wipe out soiled cages or take on the fantastic job of holding chickens.

Holding chickens -- in some cases, impressive, imposing-looking roosters -- is much easier than picking one up. I have yet to successfully do that. Their wings can break if you struggle with them, so, terrified that I'd break a chicken, I'd panic and back off as soon as they started to squirm.

One time, I came close to pulling a rooster out of the top of a two-story pen. But, he spun wildly and struggled against my face. I quickly placed him back down -- but after that, I smelled like chicken for the rest of the day. An oily, smelly sheen was  smeared across my cheek and clothes.

However, none of this is meant to be read as a complaint. Once one of my co-workers would hand me a chicken, I'd hold him and feel mesmerized. Each time, the chickens would struggle and fuss and then, properly pinned against my chest and supported underneath, they'd surrender. From there, I could feel the warmth of their bodies in my arms. I could feel their hearts beating against mine.

I learned how to soothe a flustered chicken by gently stroking  its head or chin. Sometimes, my co-workers and I would find ourselves unconsciously swaying as we held our chickens, as though we were rocking babies. My friend Christy held a chicken that nestled into her bosom. He lay his head across Christy's chest and slowly closed his eyes.

After a while, Christy and I walked her sleepy chicken and my restless chicken over to a window.  Both chickens craned their necks in focused curiosity, eager to see what was going on outside. Christy and I looked at each other in shared delight. She said, "They're looking out the window." The chickens were scared, confused, and not feeling well. It meant something to us that we were giving them a small but meaningful moment.

The chickens are all headed to local farm sanctuaries, where they'll spend their lives clucking and crowing and eating and digging in hay.

I'm really glad I got to meet them. I'd love to work with chickens again. Now that I've mastered chicken-holding, I'd like to practice chicken-picking-up.

Once again, I find that the best way to recover from sadness is to help someone who's worse off than yourself.

See what it looked (and sounded) like to clean the chicken cages:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The 4 Ingredients That Will Always Make Me Fall in Love with a Piece of Music

All of my favorite music has at least one of these four ingredients.

1. Lyrics that tell a story.
I think the best songs have some point to them besides being catchy. Don't give me a cheesy love song (or if you're going to, at least make me laugh). Sing me a story with characters, plots, and messages.

I look for lyrics that illuminate my own feelings. I'll award bonus points to songs that rally me, inspire me, pull me up, dust me off or convince me that I'm going to be okay.

When my (lousy) boyfriend of 11 years moved out, I felt confused and conflicted, but I played the subtly happy song "Tears Dry on Their Own" and wrote a music video in my head, starring me twirling around in my newly empty, sun-kissed apartment, finally unburdened with all the cobwebs of our misspent decade.  I appreciated how Amy Winehouse gave a name to the feeling of "inevitable withdrawal." I didn't love my ex anymore, but I still had to bear the withdrawal of our breakup as I learned how to be alone for the first time as an adult.

When Amy sings, "He walks away; the sun goes down," I don't picture darkness but rather the glorious glow of a blazing sunset.

Another example: One of the greatest stories I know is about a human being who is Given to Fly.  Here's what Eddie Vedder says about that beautiful song:

"[I imagined the song as] a 20-page cardboard children's book with a line on each page and a picture to go with it. It's a fable, that's all. The music almost gives you this feeling of flight, and I really love singing the part at the end, which is all about rising above anybody's comments about what you do and still giving your love away. You know? Not becoming bitter and reclusive, not condemning the whole world because of the actions of a few."

2. Grungy guitars that rock out.
I can't resist them. I feel them in my belly. They make me want to burst into a run. They make me want to shrug off my last board meeting and my last deadline and joyfully headbang like the mammal I am.  I can appreciate the perfectly-executed licks of a classical guitar song, but I'm not sure how long I could sit and watch someone coax them out. I want to watch a person grab their guitar and shred it like they're purging the demons within.

I know it's been overplayed, but to this day, I can't fathom how someone can hear the opening chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and not emphatically agree that the song is a cosmic gift from the universe. It's just perfect. Whether they were ready for it or not, something otherworldly just clicked the day Nirvana came up with that one.

Same thing, right here:

3. Beautiful vocals.
This one seems too easy but, oh well. I'll bliss out to Rob Zombie for Reason #2 but give me Eddie Vedder's soaring, honeyed baritone to soothe my troubled heart. It hits me like a Klonopin right in my soul.

4. Music that has heart.
I need to feel like music is sincere, like it was born because the artist had to write it whether anyone would like it or not. I like music that is confessed. I like songs that purge anguish as a means to finding light.

I think that's why I like Jill Sobule so much. I go see her every time she comes to town, and Jill has a way of making the entire room fall in love with her. She's cute and funny, yes, but also, Jill's heart is present in every one of her songs.

I always felt like Kurt Cobain's lyrics, as flippant and bitter as they seemed on the surface, were painfully self-aware and of brimming with heart.


A piece of music doesn't have to have all of these ingredients, but if I love it, chances are it will have at least one.

Pearl Jam corners the market with all four, which is why seeing them live takes me to staggering heights of sheer bliss.

I'm going to close with a song that has Ingredients #1, #3 and #4. This is a song that put four whole years into perspective for me, and makes me cry every single time.

And Then My Dog Showed Up

(I wrote this one for Animal Friends.)

I adopted a dog this year.

It’s not a big deal, I know. Especially because I work at Animal Friends. You’d think I’d be tempted to adopt dogs every day.

But I wasn’t tempted, because I know that our dogs go into wonderful homes. And because I live with a cat, and we have a cute, quiet routine. For the past 14 years, my cat has been my sweet sidekick. That seemed like enough.

But then Animal Friends’ Humane Officers rescued Porter, a sad, sick little Beagle. I met him, and it hit me—I could feel it with my whole heart.

Porter was my dog.

I wasn’t expecting a dog to show up in my life, and I didn’t even think my urban apartment was ready for a Beagle. I’ve worked at Animal Friends for a decade now, and watched thousands of adorable dogs go home. I'd had plenty of favorites among them. But one thing was certain: if I let Porter leave with someone else, I’d be making a huge mistake. I would lose my dog forever.

So I adopted Porter, and now our lives will never be the same. I get to take care of him every day, and I hope I get to watch my little guy grow old and gray. 

But the best part is watching him become who he is. Porter spent his first four years in an abusive home. When I met him, he was shy, tentative and wouldn’t look me in the eye. Over time, he has learned to trust me and has gained more confidence. Now he has a personality, goofy habits, and even (I think) a sense of humor.

And when I look at the photos I took of him when we first met, he looks like a different dog to me. Because he wasn’t Porter yet. He was just a neglected, insecure little soul—an empty vessel, of sorts. 

But every day, he settles into his routine and his innocent, sincere personality. He discovers things that he likes and he develops preferences. He’s learning how to behave, and why. He’s learning what it’s like to be loved. And he loves me back...that I can tell.

He’s Porter now.

Lucky, lucky me!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What Weekends are For

All week, every week, I notice my pet-hair covered floors and think, "I will run the vacuum this weekend." Or I decide, "I will definitely scrub the bottom of my bath tub this weekend." It always seems like "Sunday will be a great day to clear through all those papers that have been piling up!"

But weekends are a terrible time for all of those things.

Weekends are when I take longer dog walks, invite my friends over for sleepovers, steep coffee in the French press, pull my mosaic table onto the balcony and sit at it while I write.

Weekends are a great time to look at flowers, paint your toenails and eat pancakes in the middle of the day with your best friend.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Here's Where I've Been!

I'm - just temporarily- neglecting this blog to write this one:

One Girl and One Beagle's Scheibler Treasure Hunt

My objective is to walk my Beagle to every building by architect Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr. in Pittsburgh, photograph it, and blog it here.

You can read it here:


Friday, March 29, 2013

Daily Dog Walks and Being a Tourist in the East End

Porter, high above Frick Park

My daily dog walks have rekindled my love affair with my neighborhood.

I have a fierce love for Pittsburgh's East End, especially Regent Square, Park Place and Point Breeze. These  city neighborhoods are densely packed with old residential streets that you might not notice when you come and go by car. But if you start walking from Braddock Avenue, you'll find a thick maze of meandering streets that rarely conform to a boring grid. City blocks trail off into dead ends. A street will abruptly give way to a community of townhouses clustered around a sculpture garden. Roads widen, narrow and form triangles for no discernible reason. Some streets even lead to entrances to the sprawling and gloriously green Frick Park.

Best of all, every street is a surprise. One block will hold boarded-up or even burned-out houses. The next block will hold pristine Victorian homes with wrap-around porches and stained glass windows. There are dilapidated decks and overgrown gardens and then there are elegant turrets. There are stately mansions--some finely preserved, and some divvied into apartments. I count the mailboxes and wonder how they fit so many units inside.

A surprise turret in Point Breeze.

This house seems pleasant and plain from the front, but from the back, seems to slip down the cliff and into the jagged tangles of Frick Park. Best of all, there is a footpath that connects to Frick Park walking trails right behind it!

The front. (Move, car!)

View of the back. The house is perched over Frick Park.

Magical trail!!

If you lived here, you could bask in city life AND have this as your back yard. Heaven!

Porter still can't walk very far, so before heading home tonight, we took a quick romp through Frick Park...

Never look back!

My favorite building is the Old Heidelberg, a historic landmark in Park Place. I remember riding past it in my mom's car when I was little, and I imagined that very lucky, very interesting people must live inside--like playwrights and poets and professors.

What are you doing on Braddock Avenue?

The Old Heidelberg is 105 years old, whimsically bedecked in mushrooms and mosaics, and is delightfully symmetrical and random at the same time. While the building is balanced with an equal number of balconies, doors, and windows, every one is slightly different. Its architect, Frederick Scheibler, became my favorite architect.

So when I started reading this book about him, I learned that his work is all over my neighborhood. In fact, some of my favorite houses are actually, unbeknowst to me, his work! Making this discovery was like the distinct thrill of realizing that my secret crush had class in the room next to mine. Or something. So tonight after work, the Beagle and I set out on a treasure hunt for Scheibler buildings.

I made a beeline for Scheibler's Whitehall Apartments, which look to me like an Old Heidelberg Lite. 

I would like to see your insides.

Even though they're several blocks outside of my normal daily dog walk, the Parkstone Dwellings are a pretty fantastic piece of Scheibler's work. I once begged for and scored a tour when I went to an estate sale in the Dwellings' front yard. The inside is just something out of a dream...turrets, a wall of mosiac featuring a dinosaur (!!), little toadstool statues and ornate windows and trim. 

Recently, I've been lamenting the loss of my childhood imagination. But on these walks, my imagination swells back to life, just in a different way. I imagine what it must be like to live inside these pretty homes. Or, what the last century held inside them. Could Scheibler have pictured his buildings standing 100 years later, filled with new daily dramas and woes? Who was born and died inside them? At what point in history did the aristocrats start to move out, and the college students start to move in, turning the servants' quarters into mud rooms and storage? And, most of all, when am I going to strike in rich and buy my very own Scheibler house?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Beagle's Favorite Things

  • Walks, of course.
  • Other dogs. Even if they're on the opposite side of the street, he'll pounce and skip along like they're playing together. 
  • People. He is baffled every time we pass someone and they don't want to say hi and pet him.
  • Tennis balls. He has even mastered playing solo, and will toss and roll the ball himself and then bound after it. 
  • Ice cubes. I just gave him one in the kitchen and he happily ran into the living room, head and ice cube held high, to roll around with it.
  • Me! I feel so happy when I take him to my parents' house and he loves everyone there, but likes to keep me in his line of sight. 
  • Going for rides in the car. He's a good little commuter. He immediately settles and watches the world go by.
  • When I wipe his muddy legs and paws with a warm towel. He won't step out of the foyer until I wipe his muddy feet.
  • Garbage. He gets so excited when he spots garbage. He has tried to wrap his whole mouth around garbage bags.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Half of me is ocean, half of me is sky

I'm pretty sure that my iPod has the uncanny ability to choose which song I need to hear. Not necessarily what I think I want to hear. It will always shuffle to a song with a lesson or lyric that I need to apply to my day. My iPod will choose the right--yet seemingly random--song to cheer me up, console me, or rally me. It will dust off songs I don't even remember downloading. It will tuck my hair behind my ear and say, "Sssh, it's alright. You're okay. Let me put it this way...." 

Sometimes you're happy
Sometimes you cry
Half of me is ocean
Half of me is sky

But you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And i can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

Here's to all the souls with the crushingly big hearts. :)


My big dumb heart is feeling pretty happy today, though. As we all know, I had my heart broken in December--yes, blah, blah, blah.

I fell apart--not so much over the guy, who wasn't that attractive, fun or even nice--but more over the sudden realization that I didn't get the life I wanted.  And I thought I deserved it. I'm nice, dammit. I work, so hard, for a non-profit. I'm a good daughter and a good friend. Bitchier and dumber and boring-er girls than me are married and have cute babies, so how much longer am I supposed to wait? And most of all, why?! What did I do wrong?

But today, as I walked my impossibly cute dog down my beautiful city street, I got to thinking of all the things that I do have. I love my parents, who are both still alive and love me back. I love my friends, and my gorgeous apartment (which is freshly scrubbed and sparkling so that my dog walker will be tricked into thinking I'm a good housekeeper). I love my cat and dog, my clothes, especially my new purple Kate Spade jeans, and the fact that I can buy myself Kate Spade jeans when not too long ago, I had to suffer till payday just to replace a dingy sponge.

And every bad or beautiful moment in life is just a snapshot in time. Anything could change in a moment. So I'm not going to lament this lovely little slice of my life. This is a good life. It's not exactly the one I pictured, but it's really not bad.

Speaking of good things, these are a few of my favorite things today:

Holy crap, kneesocks. This morning I was feeling pretty good, and then I put this outfit together and suddenly I felt great. I wanted to go feel great everywhere, with other people.

Also, I'm always too hot, so kneesocks have a perfect cool-air zone right across the knees. 

My new Beagle, and there are two things I want to say about that. One is that he discovered a tennis ball for the first time tonight, and he even figured out how to play with it by himself! He'd toss the ball with his mouth, merrily chase after it, pounce on it, and repeat.

Also, I love taking my dog for walks in the morning. I didn't realize how refreshing it would be to plunge from my cozy bed into the crisp morning and explore my town with him. I love looking at the houses, giving my brain some oxygen, watching the season change and seeing his regal Beagle butt wiggle down the street. All these cliche things I've been saying all these years as a PR person for pet adoption are true. Those little creatures will get you out of bed and you will like it. 

Also... trying to get Pearl Jam's attention via Instagram. A super-fun thing about social media is being just a couple shout-outs away from your idols. I keep tagging Pearl Jam under the hopeful delusion that they'll be so taken with my photography, they'll ask me to come on stage and photograph their show in Chicago this summer.

I wish I was being sarcastic. The thing about being a big-hearted girl is that we are rarely sarcastic. We say what we mean. In other words, I'm really waiting for this to happen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's a boy! (I adopted my Beagle!)

My heart was wrapped in clover

At last, I adopted the Beagle I always wanted.

It's a trade-off. Things I'm giving up:

  • a cleaner house
  • a car interior that's not covered with muddy pawprints
  • a good bit of money (spent so far on fancy dog food and treats, his bed, toys, collars and harnesses, baths, and soon, vet care and a mid-day dog walker)  
  • the ability to hop from work to happy hour
  • being able to not stand in the rain or snow first thing in the morning, begging my little creature to poop already
But it was pretty clear to me that all of those things equalled so much less than what he gives me. 

Porter makes my life feel wonderfully full. He makes me laugh, constantly, and that's no small thing. It's incredible, really, to wake up and just start cracking up at the wiggly little lovebug who can't wait to shower me with affection. It's amazing to watch him take on the world, making sincere but nonsensical decisions to bring me a leaf or take a nap while doing a headstand on my couch. 

He is my goofy, gangly, sweet little guy. Even though it took four years to find each other, he always was mine. And if I'm lucky, I will get to watch him pad through our life together until he grows old and gray. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Apparently, I'm a lot to take. (Alternative title: I will be your light.)

Here, play this song while you read this entry. (Is that blog torture? Bad blog etiquette? Or is it a neat idea? You don't have to play the song, but today was the first sweet, sunny, chirpy-bird day since winter hit and I had so much fun playing this tune in my car with the windows down. Is it universally agreed upon that that is the best way to listen to music? I can't be the only person who thinks so. Playing loud music in my car with the windows open washes me in a euphoria that I feel all the way to my belly. Euphoria, incidentally, is one of the topics that we're going to be talking about today. Anyway, here's the song.)

Hi there!

Yesterday, and my friend and I took my new Beagle to our favorite coffee place--the 61C Cafe. My friend is good at lots of things, but picture-taking, not so much.


Beagle picture Take 2.
Then, I went to my best friend Madge's house in Mt. Oliver. I didn't take any actual photographs there, but I sealed one into my mind at the most perfect moment: when I was laying on her couch and she was playing with my hair, and if I opened my eyes, I could see, upside down, where her peachy-colored wall met the ceiling, her chandelier that looks like it's made out of Jolly Rancher candies, and her sweet face as she earnestly told me things. I felt so happy and so lucky, I almost couldn't speak.

Today I'd like to talk about being happy. When I revived this blog this winter, I thought I was going to write a lot about depression and recovery. But much to my relief, it turns out that I'm a very buoyant person. My recovery period was mercifully short.

Nonetheless, I was sick with depression this winter. I call the illness "depression" because I couldn't stop sobbing, and the crying and hopelessness interfered with my ability to work at my desk, go to meetings, eat, sleep, get out of bed, socialize and have any quality of life. I turned my illness into my project, though, and got myself everything from therapy to a chiropractor to a dog.

The scene at my house, right this very moment.
Now I'm me again. And being me has always included bouts of random, delicious, dance-inducing euphoria.

My mom and some of my closer friends have compared me to Grover Monster, because it manifests as something like this:

I get very, very happy when I go on vacation, or see a band, or get to taste something new and amazing. Or at random times, like when the world reveals just how beautiful and exhilarating it can be. Like when the winter gives way to spring and the daylight has a golden glow and the flower buds start to push out of the mud and the air feels electric on my skin. I feel the whole burst of renewal swell up around me---the birds feel it and tweet their little lungs out, the dirt starts to smell like baby plants and every breath makes me want to grin or break into a run. I feel it in my very core.

I remember when I went to Cedar Point for my 32nd birthday. Every time I got off a roller coaster, I felt  so happy and refreshed that I felt like could run a lap around the park. It was like my brain had hit a "reset button," finally relieving me of all the burdens I had been carrying around: work deadlines, board meetings, office politics, headaches, my uptight and over-critical boyfriend, etc. I actually had to reign myself in, because 32-year-olds don't run around for no reason. Stifling my complete joy was exhausting.

For me and my (then) boyfriend.

And that's the recurring theme of my life right now. My family and friends seem to appreciate my Grover-esque ecstasy. They seem to because they want to be around me, and they want to make me happy. But not everyone can deal.

In December, a man broke up with me (VIA EMAIL. TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS) when, to my blindsided bewilderment, he could no longer "keep up the pace" of being in love with me.

Recently, another man walked out of my life, although this time, I had something to do with it. He described my personality as "happy, bubbly" and "a lot to take."


The first experience devastated me, and the second just pissed me off for a couple days. What is with these guys?

It took me a long time to learn to get to here. I wasn't ready to forge bravely into 2013 when it rolled in. I worked at healing and finding the light at the end of my depression. But even more so than that -- I wasn't always like this. In my teens and twenties, I was much more anxious. I was timid and self-concious and thought life's small worries were much bigger than they actually were.

Over time, I learned a couple things. I learned that everything and everyone is temporary, so we need to relish every good moment before it's gone. I learned that I am, in the best possible way, invisible -- no one is watching me being a goofball because everyone is the star of their own life. They're too worried about themselves to worry about me, so I can scream my lungs out on a roller coaster and dance in the grocery store if I want to. And I learned that there are a hundred ways to die. Letting this world pass you by without loving it, loving others, and finding joy, is waiting to die.

It's work. For me, it's work because I didn't get everything I want. I wanted to be married by now. I really thought I would be. I wanted to have a baby. I want to be able to take my family to my parents' house on holidays instead of showing up, every time, by myself. I wish my job situation was different. These things can be soul-crushingly disappointing if I let them be.

Or I can realize that I live in a beautiful, exciting city with a whole cast of clever and sparkling characters who will gladly go on adventures with me. I can teach my dog a new trick, or get dressed up and taste champagne with my friend Line, or I can stay home writing all day. I can pick Madge's brain over brunch, or I can go see Soundgarden, or I can pick through treasures at a flea market with James, or I can brainstorm new projects with Jessica. I can make out with a handsome man or I can stay home and watch Netflix with my cat or I can eat a delicious meal that my mom made. Such wonderful things!

I didn't get everything I want, but I don't have to wait to die.

So, fuck you if you think I'm "a lot to take."

I'm going to work on being like her. This lady can barely walk, but the broad can dance. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Introduce Your New Dog to Your Cranky Cat

(I wrote this article for Animal Friends' blog, but I'll put it here, too!)


How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Cranky Cat

By Me. 

I never thought my cat would let me have a dog.

My cat, Firefly, is 14 years old, suffers from irritable bowel, and hates everyone
but me.

Firefly: trying to flip you the bird.

And I love that cat so flippin’ much. She showed up as a stray kitten when I was in college. Firefly stayed by my side (or in my lap) in my first threadbare apartment, through some major life traumas, and she outlasted (shut up) several boyfriends. And in a way, the fact that she hates everyone but me makes our bond all the more sweet. She is my ever-loyal, doting little darling.

Firefly: "Let's get this over with."

Even though I dreamed of bringing home a dog, I never wanted to upset Firefly’s delicate routine. Some of my friends at Animal Friends assured me that Firefly would “get over it” if I adopted a dog, but I adored my cat too much to subject her to the bother.

Then I met Porter.

That was Porter the day I discovered him in his kennel. He had lived with another dog who, a week earlier, was senselessly beaten to death with a metal rod. You can see how frightened and sick Porter was when this picture was taken, but you can't see that his tail, which he was sitting on, was attempting a forlorn wag.

It turns out that Porter tested positive for heartworm, a serious and potentially fatal disease. He had several weeks of intense treatment ahead of him and he needed a safe place to recover.

My heart broke for him. I offered to foster Porter in my home.

Initially, I agreed to take in Porter for one month. I did not expect Firefly to adjust well to having a dog. In fact, I thought she might present a dealbreaker, and I'd have to sheepishly end my foster period at the adamant behest of my cat.

But to my surprise, having a foster dog made my feisty cat friendlier! In fact, after one month with a foster Beagle, Firefly became more confident and is friendlier with strangers. Now, I’m basking in the joys of having a multi-species household. I couldn’t be happier. And Porter is now a “foster failure”—a permanent member of our little family.

Here are some of the steps that can help a cranky cat adapt to a new dog.

Pick the Right Dog
Not every dog will be able to safely live with cats. So, go to a shelter like Animal Friends that will cat-test a dog before you take him home. They might even be able to introduce you to a dog who has experience living with cats!

Choose a dog who’s calm, doesn’t have a strong reaction to cats, and who responds well to correction.

When I met Porter, I introduced him to both a shelter cat and a rabbit while he was securely leashed and under my control. Both times, he acknowledged them, backed off slightly, and calmly resumed minding his own business. What a good boy! While that didn’t mean I should let him loose in my house, I felt comfortable that I could introduce him to Firefly without putting her in danger.

Always introduce a dog and cat slowly, while your dog is firmly under your control, and where your cat has access to an escape route if needed. 

Establish Separate Spaces
Your cat is going to feel very vulnerable at first, so make sure she has a dog-free zone. Firefly spends most of her time in my bedroom, so from Day 1, I taught Porter that my bedroom is off-limits to him. Firefly can always go there to get away from him.

Have a dedicated place to put your dog. Porter has his very own bedroom in my house. If you don’t have an extra room, consider crate training. Porter gets shut in his room with something to keep him occupied (a Kong or compressed rawhide) when Firefly eats or wants to cuddle with me.

See: Adorable, comfortable Beagle and compressed rawhide

Always crate or confine your dog when you’re not home, so the dog and cat are never together unsupervised. This way, they can’t get into any scuffles.

Establish a Pecking Order That Favors the Weaker Pet
Lots of pet owners report that their cat is the boss of their dog. This is okay, because a pushy dog could seriously hurt a cat.

Firefly established herself as the queen of the household, and I reinforced that hierarchy. I never scolded her for hissing at the dog. Instead, I taught Porter to leave Firefly alone when she hissed at him. It’s okay for your dog to be intimated by your cat; otherwise he could accidentally hurt her. 

Share Your Affection
Spread the love! When Porter moved in, I was tempted to dote on him endlessly. I wanted to spend all my time adoring him. I mean, look how irresistible he is!

But Firefly definitely appreciates it when I carve out alone time for us girls. As I type this, Porter is freshly fed and walked and sleeping happily in his bedroom. Firefly is curled up in my lap, purring. For a Pet Person like me, this is Heaven.

Be Cautious, but Project Calm Confidence
Dogs and cats respond to our signals. So, even though I was constantly policing their behavior, my household mantra was “You’re okay.”

Don’t act like you need to rescue your cat from your dog, or she’ll perceive that she’s in danger. In fact, don’t act like anything out of the ordinary is going on. Tell the dog and cat “You’re okay!” and let them see that they’re overreacting for nothing.

Celebrate Small Successes
Don’t expect your dog and cat to become best friends—and don’t push it! They may start to cuddle and play together, or they may remain stoic roommates for life. This is fine.

Call it a success when your cat greets you and your dog at the door, instead of bolting at the sight of your dog. Celebrate the day that your cat climbs onto the couch with you while your dog naps at your feet.

Firefly: "Tell me I'm still your favorite. Say it!!"

Your cranky cat may even do what mine did. Firefly surprised the heck out of me when she started coming out and greeting guests in my home! She used to cower and hide when my friends came over, but now, it seems like Firefly will actually compete with Porter for attention. For the first time in all her 14 years, she’s joining parties and mingling! I’m so happy for her.

As millions of pet owners know, a multi-species household can bring so much love and laughter into your life. And just imagine how many animals could be spared senseless euthanasia if more families would just adopt another pet.

It may take time, but AnimalFriends can help you add another animal to your home. Just go slowly, and good luck!