365 Days of Writing: Day 25 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 3

I’ve written 2 previous posts about our preparation to leave for our holiday in Romania while leaving our dogs behind here and here. Those previous posts dealt with us finding a dog sitter for our furbabies while we’re away.

This post is going to be about us preparing the dogs living area and adjusting their feeding schedule for when we’re away.

You see, whenever we have to leave the dogs behind while we go out for any reason, we keep them in the porch area (it’s quite a large area, is covered and offers protection from the elements). When we’re home of course, they have the run of the house – they even sleep with us at night, in our bedroom.

Now this arrangement has worked for short periods because they are allowed inside the house otherwise. But as the porch had quite a bit of clutter – plant pots, lawn chairs and even an unused bicycle – it’s not a very suitable arrangement for the long term. But we know we have to lock our doors when we leave, so the only thing to do was to de-clutter the porch.

And that’s what we did this afternoon.

We transplanted some of the plants from the plant pots into our garden. We also transferred the baby basil plants to the nursery area and the aloe veras to a bigger, rectangular planters and cleared the remaining debris off the floor. Plus we got rid of the older porch chairs – they were broken and practically falling apart.

And now we have a clutter-free porch! All I need to do is wash the area tomorrow, transfer the dog beds to the porch (they’re presently in our bedroom) and we’ll be all set 🙂

As for the dogs’ feeding, we have been working on getting them used to a once-a-day feeding schedule from their twice-a-day one. We’re also weaning them off their cooked food diet to a full dog kibble diet – just for the period of our absence of course! We’re doing that by slowly feeding them less in the morning and more at night; padding up the cooked food at night with kibble. Gradually, day by day they’re eating less cooked food per day and getting used to eating more at night. So by the time we leave, they’ll only be eating one meal per day at night. By the same process reversed, we’ll get them back to eating twice a day and only cooked food once we’re back. We’re doing it this way so that they have time to get used to a new routine. It’s less of a shock to their system if the routine is in place before we leave. Otherwise, it’s a bit much for them to start getting used to a new routine in our absence.

So far, it seems to be working fine 🙂

365 Days of Writing: Day 23 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 2

So I’d written a post earlier about our first meeting with the dog-sitter for our furbabies while we’re away. Today we met him again, and this time we went through the whole routine of walking and feeding the dogs as a dry run.

I’d say he passed the test with flying colours.

To be perfectly honest, we knew he was the right pick from the time he walked in to our porch – and we weren’t even there!

How? Let me explain.

He’d requested (and we agreed) that we leave the dogs alone and go out on an errand or something, so that he could get in through the gate without our supervision. He wanted to see how they’d react to him without our presence. Now, he’d obviously met the dogs before and spent some time with them, getting to know them and vice versa. But that was under our supervision. This time he wanted to be sure that they’d be ok with him even without us. We agreed with him that it was a practical idea. I mean, what if we went away, leaving the dogs to his care and they went berserk the first time he tried to get in without us?

Not a good scenario.

Anyway, we felt that we could trust him to take care of himself, but we also felt that we needed to keep an eye on the situation so we rigged up a makeshift cctv camera using my SO’s previous mobile phone. There’s an app you can download and that app acts as a camera and you can remotely control it using another mobile phone as long as you download the same app in the phone as well. Pretty cool huh? So we rigged up this makeshift camera to face the porch and left home. Of course we didn’t head too far away – just in case. We just parked at the nearby park and sat idly in the car watching the live feed from my SO’s mobile phone.

First off, it’s good that the dogs acted normally when passers-by and motorcyclists went by. They barked at them to warn them off our property. Next up, the dog-sitter.

What happened next was quite impressive.

We watched him walk slowly to the gate and I think Snowy and Cas recognised him. At least Snowy walked right up to him to sniff his hand, wagging her tail. Cas took awhile longer but was also wagging his tail and eventually sniffed his hand. Sasha on the other hand was quite suspicious of him – she’s suspicious by nature and it takes her awhile to warm up to strangers (although the dog-sitter wasn’t a stranger to them). But she didn’t attack him; she just stayed away.

It took him awhile but he managed to enter our porch. And the next thing we knew, he was seated on the porch chair, petting Snowy and feeding them treats. Success!

I’m not sure how we felt about that actually. Relieved, yes. Because he managed to gain their friendship without us there. But also chagrined – it shouldn’t have been that easy for him to gain entrance. I mean, yea… they’d met him before, and not that long ago; they knew we were ok with him because we let him in our house and he played with them and everything. Still.

Ah well, guess ours aren’t really guard dogs unless we’re home. I suppose to them we’re the most valuable property in the house anyway. Hence the barking at everything that moves while we’re home. What are they guarding in our absence? Right? Although to be fair, they did bark at the strangers and motorcyclists that went past our house while we weren’t around. So they’re still doing their job when it comes to strangers, but have no problem letting familiar faces in.

Something to note.

The main takeaway from today’s experiment was that this guy could be trusted with our dogs. So now we feel less anxious about leaving our furbabies behind. We’re going to miss them, that’s for sure. But at least we now know they’ll be in good hands. We know that not just because of how he gained their trust, but also how he handled walking them and feeding them today. Of course for both those activities, we were there supervising him. But he seemed to have things in control and only needed some prompting from us for the feeding.

It’s all good.

But we’re rigging up the camera all through our absence anyway. Just in case.


365 Days of Writing: Day 21 – Reading Americanah and Recognizing My Love and Myself

Have you guys read books by the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? She’s a brilliant writer, able to bring the world of Nigeria and the Nigerian diaspora to life. Plus she’s a feminist writer, and that’s awesome 🙂

I first came to know about her through a meme that was floating around Facebook. I saw the meme and recognised a kindred spirit.

Behold the awesomeness!

How could I not want to know all about this person??

Next thing I knew, I was watching a TEDTalk by her –

And then I was buying as many books as I could find that she’d written. And reading them, of course. (I’m halfway through my collection now)

She has an uncanny way of writing complex, dynamic characters – not necessarily likeable, but not truly unlikeable; neither pure nor fully corrupt; vulnerable and fallible. In other words, her characters are very relatably human. Just like you and me. So their trials and tribulations, their desires and aversions feel like my very own.

I felt that resonance especially with Ifemelu, the protagonist in Americanah. I felt that she was speaking with my voice at times in the narrative and it was quite unnerving to say the least. But there was one particular point in the story, very early on that I felt akin to her. It was when she was describing how she felt around Obinze –

” She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.”

This was revelatory.

I recall the very moment I was reading this – I was lying in bed next to my SO, and this was just a few months into our relationship; I’d just moved in a short while ago. It was at this moment that I realised that this was the relationship I wanted for the rest of my life. Because that’s how I felt about myself while I was with him – like my skin was my right size. He never made me feel like I had to be different, to change myself. I liked myself more when I was with him, and I with him I felt like I was becoming a better version of myself.

And now, more than a year later I still feel the same way; about him, about myself and about us. Being with him makes me feel at peace. It quietens my inner demons and lets my better judgement prevail.

What about you? Have you ever read a quote from a book that was revelatory about your life in that moment?

365 Days of Writing: Day 20 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 1

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my SO and I are preparing to depart for our holiday in Romania soon. I’d also mentioned that we were arranging for a dog-sitter during our period abroad. Now this guy seemed to be taking everything we told him in stride, even going so far as to agreeing to water the plants as well – as an additional service.

There was one thing that we requested for however, that surprised him a little.

We asked him to feed the birds.

Strictly speaking, they aren’t our birds; just the neighbourhood birds (although some of them do roost in the tree just outside our home and a couple others roost under our roof). But we feed them every morning, right after we feed our dogs.

It’s a daily ritual.

In fact, if we’re late in feeding them, they create a ruckus outside our house just to let us know that they’re famished.

What type of birds? Nothing fancy. Just your ordinary pigeons, crows and mynahs. That’s all.

Look at the hungry pigeons! They look like they’ve been starving for 3 weeks 😉

So anyway, we just asked him in passing if he would be ok with feeding them a glass of kibble after feeding the dogs – just a glass on the corner pillar of our perimeter wall. He was a little surprised (and more than a little amused) by the request, but agreed to it. No extra charge.

I like this guy. And I highly recommend him.

I hope he survives dealing with our dogs by himself.

But most of all, I hope our dogs stay alive and well in our absence.

365 Days of Writing: Day 18 – Dogs Are Children and they Love Snacks

This is Sasha.

My baby!

Sasha has several quirks. She also happens to be very smart and behaves like a hyperactive 4 year old.

Tonight was no exception.

Being a hyperactive, smart dog, she tends to find ways to entertain herself. Sometimes that involves parking herself at the front gate and barking at anything that moves (whether imaginary or real). When that happens, either one of us – usually my SO – tells her to stop. And she does, well… most of the time anyway.

Tonight she didn’t.

My SO was hard at work so he found her barking very disruptive; more so than usual. So he used his “strict voice” to get her to calm down.

She didn’t listen.

So, he went outside to confront her. And using his strictest voice commanded her to come back into the house and then placed her under house arrest – he made her stay in the study with him. So she couldn’t even see outdoors.

Now, I did say she behaved like a 4 year old, didn’t I? What do 4 year olds do when they’re told to stop whatever they’re doing and punished? They sulk.

And that’s exactly what she did!

The entire time she was in the room, she refused to look at my SO or me. And she had the sulkiest face I’ve ever seen on a dog. She kept it up even later when he allowed her to leave the study – she went to her corner next to the sliding door and just lay there, refusing to look at either of us. I tried to coax her out of her sulk, but to no avail. Her head suddenly became very heavy when I tried to lift it up to kiss her.

My SO chuckled and said he had a sure-fire way to get her out of her sulk – treats!

But these weren’t any ordinary dog treats. These were milk biscuits (these ones )and our dogs go berserk for them. Really. All he has to do is say “Who wants some biscuits?” and there’ll be a mad scramble to reach him.

And that’s exactly what happened tonight as well. All the dogs ran to him, including her sulkiness – she just couldn’t resist those biscuits.

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Look at how well-behaved they are; giving their paws just so they can get those biscuits.

All the dogs get to have the biscuits as long as they sit and hand him their paws. And you know what? You’d never see a more well-behaved dog anywhere else. The only drawback to these biscuits is the amount of drool they leave on the floor, while waiting to be handed the much coveted snacks.

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Here’s another time they were waiting for those delicious biscuits. See that long tongue Sasha has sticking out? 

My SO uses the biscuits to train them to do stuff. That’s how he got them to give him their paws, lie down and behave. It’s a great way for us to bond with them, and for them to bond with one another – this way they don’t fight over the food.

Tonight, by the time he was done feeding them those treats, Sasha was his girl again 🙂

So, what methods do you use to train your dogs?

365 Days of Writing: Day 17 – Relationship Milestones – Shopping Together

I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE shopping with my SO. I absolutely love it! It doesn’t matter what we’re shopping for – groceries, clothing, stuff for our dogs, gardening tools – you name it, we love doing it together. Somehow, we manage to make a routine activity fun when we’re together. We realised our “shopping compatibility” early on in our relationship – the first time we went grocery shopping actually.

This has not escaped the notice of those close to us. His sister was very amused when she stayed over with us last year. She followed us to Tesco for some grocery shopping and witnessed first-hand our special form of teasing. She was also quite impressed at our ability to discuss the merits of purchasing a sack of rice – he wanted to get it because it was on sale; I didn’t want to because we already had an unopened bag of rice at home. We eventually decided to pass on the rice since it didn’t really make sense to buy it – things are always on sale in Tesco anyway, and it just wasn’t necessary to buy the rice at that point. So, anyway,we stood there discussing it for close to 15 minutes while she was waiting for us to make a decision. And she realised that it was quite a routine thing for us because we proceeded to do just that for several other items. In the end, it took us about one-and-a-half hours to finish the shopping, precisely because of that.

Apparently, that’s not normal behaviour.

My mum said so when she was subject to the same treatment when she stayed over with us. She was also quite amused at us.

It however is absolutely normal behaviour for us! That’s how we shop. All. The.Time.

I get that it could make others roll their eyes at us though. All that discussing and analysing over a sack of rice or fruits. We don’t do that for every item. I mean, I even make a list before we go shopping. All the stuff on the list doesn’t need any discussion; we’d already have discussed it before heading to the store. So we just buy them. Simple. It’s the stuff that’s not on the list that gets debated upon.

And that is fun.

For us.

That’s because we both have an analysis fetish. We love to analyse things to death. We try to curb that instinct in us at times, but at other times we tend to unleash this instinct. It’s sort of like foreplay for us. Mentally. But I can see why it doesn’t work for everyone.

We discovered this compatibility existed right from the beginning –  on our first date, in fact. It was yet another thing that we had in common. So everything from shopping to movies to books and even our relationship itself gets analysed from time to time. And I can’t even begin to tell you how great it is for me to finally meet someone who loves to debate, to discuss, to exchange opinions about things as much as I do!

It makes me feel that I’m finally not alone. Not anymore.

“We’re all a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone
whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall
into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”
― Robert Fulghum



365 Days of Writing: Day 16 – Going on a Holiday and Leaving the Dogs Alone; Dealing with Anxiety

My SO and I are flying off to Romania soon. It’s my first visit there and my first time meeting the parents. I’m excited about Romania (because it’s a brand new place to explore and because I can’t wait to meet his parents). But I’m nervous about leaving our furbabies behind – both of us are. It’s also the first time that he would be leaving the dogs behind without getting someone to stay in the house to look after them.

We’re both anxious because it is quite a lengthy period we’ll be leaving them for – almost 3 weeks! And because we don’t have any friends or family who can look after them for this period. Since we live in JB and most of our friends and all my family lives in Singapore, it’s hard to ask them for this favour.

So we decided to bite the bullet and call on the services of a dog sitter – just to feed the babies and walk them once a day. At the very least they’ll be fed and have their daily exercise. We were quite adamant that the dogs remain in our house while we’re away as we didn’t want them to think we had abandoned them. They’re all rescue dogs so we didn’t want them to have issues when we returned home. So no boarding for them. Period.

Now, we researched dog sitters online and found a few promising ones. But the one we liked best was this guy who had started the pet sitting business several months ago (I know it’s a short while ago). There were others more experienced, but we liked his responsiveness and his reasonable rates. We asked to meet up with him and he obliged by turning up punctually at our gate. My SO stayed indoors to observe how he reacted to our dogs – they’d started going berserk, barking at him like mad because of his close proximity to our house. But he was calm and collected, coolly extending a closed fist through the gate so that they could sniff him. It was only then that my SO walked out to greet him.

As far as first impressions went, that was a good one. We were off to a good start.

We conducted the interview while sitting on the porch, informing him about our dogs’ various quirks and their feeding/walking schedule. In turn we asked him about his business, his motivation to run his own business and his reasons for choosing pet sitting. We liked his answers, and more importantly, we liked his demeanor with our dogs – he never flinched when they came to sniff at him, and he petted them when they were more settled. He also asked us the right questions about the care for our dogs and requested us to do a walk-through with him for our usual walking route. We were also gratified when he himself suggested that he come once more just before we left, so as to practise the routine with our dogs.  We were going to request for that session anyway, but we were glad that he suggested it unprompted. So it’s safe to say that we felt better about leaving our dogs in his care by the end of the interview.

This week, when my SO contacted him to fix the date for his next visit, he firmly requested that we let him come in while we weren’t home – so as to stimulate the actual process. He proposed that we “disappear” just before he arrives so that he can gauge our dogs’ response to him without our presence. We just needed to be a few minutes away so that once he got in safely, he could inform us and we’d join him at home. My SO of course joked that if he didn’t contact us within a few minutes we’d just have to assume that he’d been fatally attacked. I asked if there was anyone, a close relative that we should inform in the event of his demise. He laughed at that.

I’d like to think the guy appreciated our gallows humour. 🙂

Anyway, now we have a dog-sitter, therefore we should have our minds at rest. Right?

Not really.

The anxiety remains. It’s just not that strong a presence now. More like an annoying buzz that we’re trying not to pay attention to.

But trying isn’t really succeeding. So we’ll be feeling the anxiety throughout the trip. We know that. We’re resigned to that.

What else can one do?