Friday, January 29

Dogs and Cats

Two stories this week, 1 involving a dog and 1 involving a cat, caught my attention. The first is involving a dog rescued from the Baltic Sea after braving a 75-mile journey on an ice floe that started when a chunk of ice broke off from a river and floated out to sea. A Polish research ship soptted him and rescued him. During the rescue he kept falling in the water and going under but they pulled him to safety and he is now doing quite well. Several people tried to claim him but the dog showed no recognition so it looks like he is now a permanat member of the research vessel that saved him. Yay to happy endings:)

And even though I am more of a dog person, I still give credit to cats for their moxie. If you haven't seen this video, here is a cat scaring away a bear and being generally quite the bad ass:

Thursday, January 28

See, I DO take breaks sometimes:)

There is definitely pros and cons for marathon training at different times of the year. Since the LA marathon has changed dates and it is earlier in the year than it has been in the past, the majority of training is done during the winter. Weather wise this is not a problem as it never gets very cold here and I actually prefer to run in the colder weather. However the days are shorter so there is not enough daylight to run outside during the week. At the begining of the training you aren't running more than 5 miles on any particular day which is do-able on a treadmill because it takes less than an hour.

For the past few weeks however we have been running 7 and 8 milers during the week which is driving me insane. The actual mileage is not bad, my body can handle it fine, but mentally I am so incredibly bored that every mile goes by so slowly that an hour and 20 minutes feels like 3 hours. Last weekend we did 17 outside and I was never bored for a second and the almost 3 hours flew by.

I think a lot of it has to do with my ability to zone out and/or daydream outside. Inside at a gym there are so many little distractions that I can't get into that zone. So last night I just couldn't get myself to do the 8 miles on a treadmill. I decided that I just plain didn't want to do it, it wasn't a crucial run and instead I would just enjoy my evening with Mike, make dinner (I made a GREAT apple salad with arugula, goat cheese and a homemade dressing - it was a clean recipe too) and relax. It was quite nice and energizing because today I look forward to the run (another 8 miler). However that is probably because we dicided to run outside on the trail. There should be just enough light in the day to get it done if we start right after work.

I do not like skipping workouts so I did my pushups in order to do something. That is hard by the way but I am sticking with it. As Mike as my witness, I will do 100 push ups!

So that is what is going on with me.

Wednesday, January 27

The real soup nazis, Cambells

Jezebel reminded me of the existence of this commercial that makes me angry everytime I watch it. The very clear premise is that a "light" meal of 310 calories is waaaay too many calories and a meal of 80 calories is much better for you ladies out there who are watching your figures.

In case you are not aware, 310 calories is in no way too many calories and 80 calories for a meal is ridiculously low. That barely qualifies a snack. As a general rule of thumb, most women should consume approximately 1,200 calories a day or 15 soups in this case. So unless you are eating 15 meals a day, this is not a meal and to market and advertise it as such is wrong.

I have tried these soups myself (before these wretched commercials came out)and I think they taste ok. I am not a big soup eater but they are good as a side dish to a meal or as an appetizer. They could use a dash of hot sauce for some flavor but overall not too bad so it isn't the soup itself I have a problem with but the advertising.

The premise of this commercial is just ridiculous, wrong and sends a bad messsage. Not suprisingly it is directed towards women so ladies if you are eating meals that are 310 calories, open your eyes and take off the blindfolds, you pigs are obviously eating too much and need to cut those calories down to anorexic levels.

My disgusting dog

As a parent, I am embarassed to admit this but since we haven't raised Nika since birth, I feel a little less responsibility and therefore less embarassment. Nika is a wonderful dog, she is sweet, funny, well behaved and great on a leash. She has a dark side though. She is a shit eater.

We first discovered this when she was in the house one night after being let outside to pee and her breath reeked of shit. We thought it was probably kitty roca left from the cats who used to hang out in the yard. However as time we by we realized that there can no longer be any kitty roca left in the yard and if she is eating shit it is her own. WHY WOULD SHE DO THAT?? Maybe it is because she is on a diet and doesn't feel like she is getting enough food? I don't really know but we try to keep the shit picked up but the dog shits a lot and now we know why, she just keeps recycling it!

Last night I let her out to pee before bed and when I called for her to come back she had a big dried turd in her mouth and tried to get inside. Oh hell no! It looked like a turd cigar hanging out of her mouth and kinda wished she was wearing a little fedora to complete the look. I blocked the door and tried to knock it out with my foot but that didnt work and she is about 50% at dropping things when you tell her to drop it. So I just shut the door and waited for her to figure out that she was not coming in with that thing in her mouth. She dropped it and I let her in but for the love, that is so wretchedly disgusting.

This needs to be a part of the intervention for her disoredered eating. Like the biggest part.

Tuesday, January 26

Why Strength Training Continues to Rock...

Another study has recently come out that touting the benefits of strength training, this time in older women.

Older women who did an hour or two of strength training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, scoring higher on tests of the brain processes responsible for planning and executing tasks. The women who did strength training had improved their performance on tests of so-called executive function by 10.9 percent to 12.6 percent, while those assigned to balance and toning exercises experienced a slight deterioration — 0.5 percent. The improvements in the strength training group included an enhanced ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts and focus on subjects without being distracted by competing stimuli.

Here are some more benefits of lifting weights:

1. You Will Be Physically Stronger. (Duh, but strength helps with your daily activities too)
2. You Will Lose Body Fat.
3. You Will Gain Strength Without Bulk.
4. You Decrease Your Risk Of Osteoporosis.
5. You Will Improve Your Athletic Performance.
6. You Will Reduce Your Risk Of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis.
7. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
8. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes.
9. You Will Improve Your Attitude And Fight Depression.
10. You Will Increase Injury Prevention
11. you Will Feel Better and Look Better

And let's just be honest, when I follow a man on a weight machine and have to add weight, it just feels good too:)

Monday, January 25

New Finds

I tried two different food items this weekend that I now absolutely love.

First, Almond Milk. Only 60 calories per serving (which is less calories than soy and non fat milk)and it comes in regular, vanilla and chocolate. Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains no cholesterol or lactose and it contains far less saturated fat than cow's milk. I got the plain kind and I really liked the flavor as well. With all of my stomach problems, it just can't hurt to consume more products that are more easily digestible.

Second, Soba Noodles. I have been wanting to try these for awhile and since I was making peanut stir fry last night , I decided to try those for the base of the meal. You only have to boil them 4-6 minutes so they are quick to prepare and you can eat them cold or hot, like any noodle really.

Soba noodles are made with Buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain that contains no wheat so once again, less digestive issues. Soba noodles, because of their buckwheat content, are a slow-releasing carbohydrate which is great for endurance athletes. I have had soba noodles at restaurants but it was the first time I made them myself.

Once I cooked the noodles I tossed them with a little bit of sesame oil, added the veggies and chicken tossed with a peanut sauce and viola, they were great! Definitely they will become a staple in our house and there are very versatile so there are a lot of options for preparation.

Good food, good health:)

Wait for it....

It is Monday, I could use a little laugh and maybe you can too. Oh and the funny part has nothing to do with the weight lifting...

Friday, January 22

Oh C'mon

I had not one but two buttons on different garmets pop off this week. One was on my favorite high waisted gray pencil skirt that I wear all of the time and the second was a Mossimo (AKA Target) jacket that makes me feel I am wearing a vintage chanel jacket like this:

Of course I wear mine with jeans so I am not nearly as sophisticated, but I like to pretend.

Back to my buttons though. Popping off buttons when you are already bloated from PMS and have been eating chocloate and yogurt covered raisins like they are laced with crack for the past two days does not bode well for your body image. For christ sake I am running 40 miles a week, I should not be feeling this way nor should I be popping off buttons! Alright so I know that these buttons probably did not pop off from gaining weight but from bad sewmanship (is that a word?)but still, hmmph. Hormones are messing with my head. Damn you PMS, damn you!

Thursday, January 21

You would think that the fact that I work with my mom and dad on a daily basis that we would have decent communication. Instead we apparantly have non existent communication.

I come in this morning and my mom calls and tells me that she is going to get an MRI that morning. Ok first of all I knew she was going to be getting one because she has had a diminished sense of smell for awhile and they are trying to figure out why, but she has known for a week that it was happening today and this is the first time it is mentioned to me. As a daughter, I would like to be informed of this kind of thing instead of being told like a co-worker because the only reason she called was to tell me she might be a little late.

Then she drops the bombshell that they hired someone to take her place yesterday and she starts next week. I must be a really important member of this team and the family for that matter as I was the last to know and I had no idea they were even considering hiring anyone. I know my mom hates it here and I think it is a good thing for her to leave but I am hurt that they didn't even bother to call me on the phone last night to let me know what was going on when every other employee knew. It makes me feel like a very invaluable member of this team and as a daughter it stings to not be informed of what was going on with my own mother.

Wednesday, January 20

To My Ladies...

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman at the gym that bothered me. I have talked with this person before, she is older and in great shape and seems like a very nice person. She used to be a runner so we have mostly talked a lot about that, but yesterday she made a comment to me about another woman at the gym looking too masculine. The particular woman being talked about has big strong thighs and big strong shoulders and definitely has more muscle than most women and a lot of men. I have always admired her though because it takes hard work and dedication to get into the shape that she is in.

I replied to her criticism by stating she works hard and it shows, but before I even got that sentence all of the way out, she continued by asking Mike that as a man, does he find her too masculine. Well poor Mike is a perpetually nice guy and does not want to put anyone down, plus this is the second time that this woman has critisized another woman to me. I have told Mike about this and that it bothered me the first time, so he doesn't really know what to say. It doesn't matter anyway because he hardly has a chance to stammer out something before she is going on about how her husband doesn't think it is attractive.

Now this is one example of one person and perhaps this woman in particular is just an overly critical person, but I find it incredibly rude and sad to disparage someone behind their back, particularly about their bodies. If you think she is too masculine then that is fine, but you don't need to share your opinion with people you hardly know and try to get them to go along with you in your criticism.

I feel that women especially should not be engaging in this type of behavior. Some women are fat, some women are skinny, some are muscular, some are tall, some are short, some have large breasts, some small, some have big bellies, some have squishy thigs and some have broad shoulders etc. but WHO FUCKING CARES. Let's stop spending so much time body snarking. Instead of using that time to be critical of someone, find something positive to say about them.

Whenever I find myself silently judging someones appearance, which I totally admit happens, I always scold myself for being mean and critical and look for something nice to say (in my mind) about them. The person never knows this is happening but it makes me feel a little better for the initial negative thought and helps me to hopefully get to the point where I automatically see the good in everyone I meet.

C'mon gals, we have enough to worry about, we don't need to be body snarking each other too.

Ain't No Sunshine

An appropriate song for the weather we have been having lately, plus I love this song. Have a pleasant day:)

Tuesday, January 19


Harper Paisley Lucas! I may be biased but isn't she just beautiful?
I am overjoyed to announce that my sister gave birth to my first niece, Miss Harper Paisley Lucas, at 5:30 AM this morning. The 18th was her due date so she was pretty much right on time. Harper came in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches long, a petite little thing just like her mom. Both mom and daughter are doing extremely well and as soon as I get pictures I will post them.

I am so incredibly happy for my sister and her husband. My sister is a born mom and is going to do an extraordinary job. Harper is really quite lucky to have the two of them for parents. I can't wait to meet her (although that won't be for a few months) and see my sister being a mother. It is a happy day at Mark Wilson Construction:)

Monday, January 18

It is a lovely, rainy day and I am stuck in the office. It is absolutely perfect for putting on pj's, snuggling up with a blanket possibly with a significant other, and/or a cute snuggly dog and watching a movie or tv while you nod off every now and then and when you are awake you are munching on popcorn and sipping hot chocolate. Hmmph. Oh well, I know I am not the only one working and at least I have a job.

All you people not working better be enjoying yourselves for me!

Push Up Test

Yesterday I did my push up test and I completed 24 military style push ups without stopping. I would have liked to do 30 but came up short. I had also forgotten how out of breath push ups can make you, phew.

According to the website doing 24 gives me a rank of a 3 out of 7. They don't really define what that means in regard to your fitness level though. You do however need to know what your max is so you know what column to start out at day 1. Since I did more than 20 I get to skip the first two weeks and go straight to Week 3, woo hoo!

So today I will be doing 1 set of 12, 17, 13 and 13 followed by another max. 100 push ups, here I come!

Friday, January 15

Having a fitness goal or multiple fitness goals help to keep you focused and motivated. Right now I am loving running and I will be focused on that aspect of my fitness for the next two more months. Once I run the marathon though I will be able to focus more on strength and increasing muscle mass.

Yesterday one of my fellow gym rates commented that I was getting my running body back, by which she meant my upper body is getting smaller. That is the first place that I loose mass when I increase my cardio. I love having a strong, muscular and defined upper body though so I don't like it when that happens. I really can't do more weight training because there is just not enough time in the day to do my training runs and heavy lifting so when I came upon this challenge I was definitely interested.

100 push ups is a lot, but it is also do-able with due diligence. I have very narrow shoulders and I am convinced that this makes pushups and pull ups more difficult for me - just don't ask me about the science of that claim:) In any case I have to work a lot harder on gaining strength in my upper body than my legs. I however see people doing push ups and pull ups at the gym and I look at them with awe and jealousy. I can do pushups, but probably no more than 30 at a time, if that. I want to bust them out like a bad ass though! And pull ups, ugh, maybe 3 if I am lucky. But one thing at a time, before I tackle the pull ups I am doing the 100 push up challenge!

"Push ups are one of the basic and most common exercises for the human body. Push ups are not only great for your chest, but do a tremendous job of defining your abs, triceps, shoulders and torso." Indeed! It is a 6 week program of 30 minutes a week and at the end you should be able to do 100 push ups at once.

March 1st will be my final test date. If anyone wants to join me in this challenge, go to the link and get your push up on!

Wednesday, January 13


I have had two positive experience with businesses that were new to me this week. When I have those good experiences I feel compelled to write a little blurb about them because a lot of businesses just don't do a good job.

First, I have been on a mission for a while now to find good, not overly expensive, workout clothes. I exercise 6 days a week so I need a lot of clothing so I am not doing laiundry every 2 days. I often go to Target, butI don't find their clothes incredibly comfortable or flattering and Nike and Adiddas are just too expensive to buy a lot of items from. I tried Athleta, a company affiliated with Gap, but when I ordered online I had to return everything because nothing fit me right. Another problem, finding spandex that aren't see through! You bend over at the gym, you don't need to show your crack in the process, people just don't need to see that.

I had been hearing about Lucy Activewear so I browsed their website and since they were having a big sale with free shipping, I decided to order a few items. I was not initially impressed. I ordered a pair of lifting gloves, a pair of spandex yoga pants, a pair of hiking/casual pants a couple of tops. When I checked the status of the order a week later, it still hadn't even shipped and it was supposed to arrive in 7-10 days. I emailed them and asked and they said they were a little behind because of the holidays and they would ship the next day.

Two days later I checked the tracking number they gave me and it still hadn;t shipped. I emailed them again and they immediately got back to me, apologized and told me one of my tops had sold out so they went ahead and shipped what was in stock and asked if I wanted them to see if they could find one at a store they could ship. I said yes and within a few hours they had found one and were shipping it overnight, no charge. Well it was a shaky start but their customer service was excellent so all was forgiven.

I still didn't know about the product though since I had never ordered from them. I got the first package last night and everything fits perfectly, they are well made and nothing is see through. You don't know how hard it is to find well fitting spandex until you have tried and the fact that I found it outline without trying on is a bit of a miracle. So if you are looking for workout gear for the new year, surf on over to their website. Oh and everything is super cute too:)Note though that their regular priced items can run a little pricey so I stuck to the sale items.

Second, Fresh & Easy opened (2) stores in Fresno today. One was in downtown Fresno and the other was on Willow and Shaw. I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of these stores because it was described as a cheaper Whole Foods. I headed over there at lunch to check it out today and it was pretty busy, but the store was nice and the products looked fresh and indeed they were easy to get to.

The store itself is smaller, comparable to the size of a Trader Joe's.
In fact I think the best way to describe it is if Trader Joe's and Save Mart or Vons had a baby, it would be Fresh & Easy. It has the size, lower prices and green atmosphere like Trader Joe's and they also have their own line of products like TJ's. However unlike Trader Joe's they carry national brands like Coke and Quaker Oats, etc. at reduced prices. I love Trader Joe's but I can never find everything I want to do all of my grocery shopping there and Save Mart can be expensive. Mike and I make dinner every night so there are weeks when we go to the grocery store just about every day to pick up this and that for dinners so I am super happy they are also opening one around the corner from my house at West and Shaw in February.
It is a really nice fushion and I will definitely be a regular customer.

Tuesday, January 12

Since I first started really running, which was when I was about 21, I have always run alone. I never had friends that were into it so it was an activity I always did by myself. This was never problematic though, I liked the time to myself to just space out or day dream and listen to music. Besides it always seemed like it would be a hassle to have a running partner(s) because you would have to coordinate schedules and you would also have find partner(s) who ran about the same pace so you. I however would feel a little twinge of jealousy when I ran by two girls or a gaggle of girlfriends or god forbid the cheeky running couple. They certainly looked like they were having fun but I just assumed these were people more social or less motivated people than myself. They needed the distraction of conversation in order to run, right?

I can't speak for anyone else's experience or motives for running with others, but for the past few months I have done nothing but run with Mike and it hasn't been anything like I expected. I was definitely a little nervous before we first started running together. Would he want to talk the entire time? Would I have to come up topics of conversation? Would I *gasp* not be able to wear my ipod?? Every time I saw people running together, they never seemed to be listening to music so would I have to give that up so as not to be rude? Would he run so slow that I would be tempted to ditch him? Or worse yet, would he run faster than me and leave me in the dust?

Thankfully, none of my fears came to fruition. Turns out running with Mike is not that much different than running alone except I have someone to crack jokes to, purge my thoughts to when an important one comes up and occasional say "did you see that???" to. On Sunday we were about half way done with our 15 miler and out of no where a man who was probably around 65 years old who had a very unusual stiff armed gait zoomed past us. Mike shot me a "are you fucking kidding me" look (he was struggling a little at that point)and I laughed. I have been passed by old people during races before and it stings. You just don't know what it is to have your ego deflated until you are at around mile 22, suffering, and a little old lady runs past you, breezily. It sucks but it happens to most runners, especially new ones. I told him that there was no way he was running 15 miles, he was probably going 2 so his legs are fresher. Who knows if that is true or not but it made him and me feel a little better!

For the most part when we run together we both have our ipods on and run near each other, but not side by side. I am still able to zone out, listen to music and essentially be alone with my thoughts if that is what I chose. I now have the option of sharing those thoughts if I chose to do that too. There is also a sense of camaraderie. We are in this together, we will suffer together and we will get through it together. It is reassuring.

He also probably thinks I encourage him more than he does me, but he helps me out more than he thinks he does. Being around him reminds me to celebrate my victories and appreciate that I can run. There are a lot of mental hurdles you have to get through when you train for a long distance race. You have to first believe that it is physically possible for you to actually run that distance. Most people don't even consider it in the realm of possibility to run 26.2 miles and see people who do as freaks of nature. To get your head around the fact that yes, you can run that distance, can be difficult. There is always a nagging thought of failure that follows you around but you have to ignore that voice in order to keep going. It is amazing how quickly we dismiss what is in the realm of our possibility before we even try. Sometimes the mental struggle can be worse than the physical one.

I have never really celebrated my training runs because frankly no one ever really got it nor did I feel like anyone really wanted to hear it. Oh you ran 15 miles, who cares? Stop bragging. No one certainly wants to hear the details if they aren't into running, and understandably so! But because of this in the past I would run 15 miles, smile smugly, then go home and get on with my day. Sometimes I would blog about it, but I could sense the eye rolling when the word "running" came up;) Seeing Mike every week running the longest distance of his life though is inspiring and it helps me to celebrate these victories too. Even better, I have someone to share my reward meals with! It is just a whole lot more fun going to Dai Bai Dang and ordering 3 dishes with someone else than alone:)

I really enjoy having a running partner, more so than I ever thought I would. Perhaps this is mostly due to the fact that our personalities are so compatible that it makes it easy, but in any case I have had a more enjoyable training experience with Mike than I ever did alone. There is something to be said about going at it alone, but it doesn't make going at it with someone (no pun intended)any less of an accomplishment. I am now a part of the annoying cheeky running couple, oui!

Good Morning!

Seeing as everyday for the past two weeks has been foggy and I have almost forgotten what the sun looks like, imagine my glee when driving to work this morning the sun started peeking out between the mountain range and the clouds, creating a beautiful red and orange sky. When I got to work I rushed to get a picture but was reminded my camera is a piece of crap because this was all I got:
How disappointing, you can't even see the mountain range.

At least I was able to see it in person though. I am starting to get the winter blues from not seeing the sun for so long because an hour in the afternoon just doesn't cut it. I am ready for spring, *sigh*.

Monday, January 11


If you are afraid of making an arse of yourself at the gym, just know that nothing you can do can ever be as embrassing as this and chances are it will never be video taped for the world to see.

I am not sure what hurts more, his head or his pride. Probably pride. Emotional pain always lasts longer:)

Thank you Fail Bog!

Nika may need an intervention

Do not be fooled, this is not the face of an innocent dog.

Last night Mike and I went out to dinner to reward ourselves for doing a 15 mile training run, the longest run to date. When we got home, Mike got Nika her dinner and let her in. Instead of knocking him down to get to the food as usual, she walked over to it, sniffed it, ate two bites and walked away. Red flag! She then started wandering around the house, moaning and whimpering. She had never done anything like that so we were both immediately concerned.

She continued this odd behavior and when I got down to her level to see if I could find anything wrong, I immediately noticed her belly was very large and distended. She has lost weight since we took her to the vet and was looking really good and between the time we left and came back, it had gone back to its large size again. Now I was really concerned because bloat is a condition that large breed dogs can get where the stomach is distended from swallowed air and the stomach may or may not be twisted, obstructing veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. If you watched "Marley and Me" this is what Marley got and it is very serious and life threatening.

We called the emergency vet and they said to wait a little and if it continues to be a problem, take her in but she may have just eaten something that she shouldn't have. We couldn't think of anything she could have gotten into because we close the door to the garage so she is in the backyard when she is alone.

She then started heaving and threw up a little food, but continued to moan and groan. I was growing more concerned by the moment. She walked over to a pile of clothes that were on the floor because I was sorting my laundry and started digging, which was weird, so we watched her with confusion until she wretched on my clothes. Well at least she threw up on the dirty clothes! She threw up again and I went to inspect what she was throwing up and it was just dry dog food but she hadn't eaten since 7 that morning so I was confused. Then a light bulb went on for Mike and he told me that he let her out this afternoon while I was in the shower and she was out there for about half an hour and the door to the garage was open. This is significant because her dog food is kept on the ground in the garage very easy for her to get to.

We suspect that she got into it and binged till her little heart was content. After throwing up she stopped her whining and moaning, calmed down, she seemed to be feeling a little better. She also drank a lot of water though (which is typical of her) and if she had a large amount of dry food and then drank water, that food would have swelled up in her belly. She certainly didn't want to move much though and layed down to stretched her big belly:

This morning I gave her a little bit of food and she seemed eager to eat it as usual and when I let her outside, she immediately crouched down to poop, although I didn't actually see if she was successful so I will have to check later. If she isn't pooping then there is definitely a problem.

I think she dodged a bullet this time though, but we are definitely going to keep an eye on her to make sure she isn't continuing to have any symptoms. It scared the shit out of me though. Although we haven't had her for long she is my baby and I would be devestated if anything happened to her. I would like to think that she learned her lesson but I think if given the opportunity again, she would do the same thing. We are definitely going to be getting a container to out her food in so it doesn't happen again because much like a heroin adict, she cannot be trusted!

Tuesday, January 5

Calm and Assertive

Recently I have started working with Nika on some dog training. Generally, she is a very well behaved dog. She is crate trained and house broken, she doesn't bark, chew things up or do anything destructive. However she pulls incessantly on the leash when we take her for walks, she gets overly excited when we come home and jumps a little and she gets in your space when you don't want her to. And for some reason whenever Mike and I hug or kiss, she runs over and jumps up so she can be a part of it or break it up, I am not sure which. She is either very sweet or a cock blocker.

I really wanted to work with her on the leash pulling though because she pulls so hard and sniffs everything and when she finds something she likes, there is no pulling her away unless you give the chain a big jerk. The walking just feels like a struggle and I get frustrated. This weekend we took her to Oakhurst for a hike and on the trail we passed a woman with a Border Collie that was not on a leash and the woman had that dog trained so well that he stopped, sat down and looked up at her while we passed. Nika pulled us along the entire time. Frankly it was humbling, why can't our dog do that??

I decided that Nika could be like that, she just needed some work and I needed to educate myself on how to do so I dug up a book by Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer. I remember seeing him on Oprah or something awhile back, but his show is on National Geographic and I don't get that station so I looked the show up on Hulu and began my education.

I quickly discovered we were doing everything wrong. Millan's premise is that dogs are pack animals and you need to be the pack leader and if your dog doesn't know you are the pack leader, they will think they are. So when she barrels in the door first and knocks you over when you open the door to go out, you are not so much being a pack leader? The first thing I wanted to do though was take her for a walk without her pulling so I focused on that.

I put a backpack on her to get her used to it for when we go hiking but also because it makes her feel like she is working and serving a purpose. Your dog shouldn't be your pack leader but should feel like a valuable member of the team. She was fine with the backpack, but getting it on was another story. That dog does not want to stay standing when you are down at her level, she just flops right over and thinks you want to give her a belly rub. Mike wasn't there so I didn't have his help and I struggled for awhile, the whole time attempting to stay calm and assertive (the other premise of Millan's). I finally got it on and out the door we headed to get her leash on. I now make her sit and stay until I tell her she can come to enter and exit the house. This is a work in progress, she trembles with excitement so I have to everything very slowly to not rile her up. For the most part though, she listens.

I put the leash on and we started down the road and immediately, she is pulling me as hard as ever. What I learned from reading and watching Millan's show was that during a walk you should use a short leash and your dogs attention should be on you and not on any other noises or smells. If you have lost your dogs attention, you need to touch her or make a noise to get her attention back. So I held her leash short and as soon as she pulled, I used my foot and gently tapped her side where the bag was. This freaked her out a little but she looked at me right away and she was snapped out of that spell she was under. This happened several times in the first five minutes but eventually she figured out that I was leading the walk and not her so she stopped pulling. Anytime I would make a "chhh" noise, she would look back up at me. When I slowed down or stopped, so would she and she would look at me waiting for me to guide her. We even walked by 3 houses that each have these obnoxious barking dogs, one of which was a German Sheppard that was throwing his body weight against the fence, very aggressively. She started to charge a bit and pull but I calmly pulled her back and got her attention back and she was fine, I was so proud of her!

I definitely have a lot of work to do still but this morning she was just as good on her walk, woo hoo! She really is a great dog but I want to enjoy our walks and when people come over I want everyone to love her just as much, even if they aren't dog people, which means she needs to listen.

With that in mind, these are Nika's New Year Resolutions (in Nika's voice):
-learn how to walk on a leash without pulling mom or dad (picked that up in 5 minutes!)
-stop jumping on people when I get excited to see them
-wait to be invited in because I am a lady and not a bulldozer
-learn to let go of the tennis ball that I like to play with so mom and dad can throw it to me again and I can keep playing
-learn how to not attack my food like I haven't eaten in a week, but approach it calmly because it isn't going anywhere and also so I can taste my food.

I wasn't going to make any New Years Resolutions but thanks to Nika I now have one. Learn to have more patience and stay calm and assertive. Now I know that in certain situations I have a short fuse and can escalate things. This is not my intention but my emotions get the best of me. This is a weakness of mine that I have known about for quite sometime but I haven't really done much about it except to say, I need to work on that!

Nika can frustrate the hell out of me when she doesn't listen, especially when she is all hyper and excited about walks and I bend over to put her leash on, and she bonks me with her head in the mouth or noise. That really makes me mad because it hurts! My reaction is to yell, "NIKA, NO!!". All that reaction does is get her more out of control because she can feel my stress and anger and feeds off of it. She knows I am not calm and in control so she isn't either.

Even though I told myself to be calm and assertive when I got home yesterday at one point she started pushing her way into the house before I told her she could and I yelled "Nika, No!". It had been 5 freakin minutes and I already effed it up and did exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do. So I regained my composure and the rest of the time, calmly reacted anytime she did anything. It definitely helped Nika from getting as crazy as she can get sometimes but beyond that, it kept me from creeping into a bad mood. It wasn't a big deal and I didn't let the emotion of anger or frustration overcome me. Could this help me in other areas of my life, absolutely.

People and dogs aren't all that different when it comes to feeding off each others energy. If I am in a disagreement with someone at work or in my personal life and I don't react in a calm and assertive manner but make snarky remarks or just sound angry and/or bitter, that escalates things. If I remain calm though, chances are so will they and things will be discusses rationally. I know I have a tendency towards escalation with certain people and situations and I know it isn't helpful yet I still do it when my anger gets the best of me. Working with this with Nika, hopefully I will finally be able to put that weakness to bed.

Nika brings a lot of happiness into my life and now she is even helping me be a better person. Dogs rule. Cats just teach you to be selfish and lazy;)