Friday, January 31, 2014

Making It Official

1.  On Tuesday afternoon, I made the 45 minute drive, two counties over, to the Orange County Animal Shelter to fill out the paperwork and officially adopt Winnie.  Winnie is home, as I hoped she would be.

This little Chihuahua has already made a huge impact on our household.  She is happy, and scampery, and oh-so loving.  Her ability to adapt and trust seems infinite, as she learns that we are now her family and she takes her place here.  She is learning how to get around in this big old house, and she has no problem hopping onto one of the big dog beds by the radiator in my husband's office to take a nap.  Her favorite place, though, is wherever I happen to be.

2.  Winnie had an appointment with our regular vet on Wednesday, for a check-up and to follow up on the various things that she was being treated for when I got her last week.  Her spay incision looks good and her mouth has healed well from having her teeth pulled three weeks ago.  The infection in her right eye is completely healed since she finished her course of antibiotic drops, though the resulting scarring has compromised her sight in that eye.  Considering how dire her neglected condition appeared to be when she was found in December and taken to the shelter, she is in extremely good health for a gal her age.

My vet knows me very well.  She said that she did a TRIPLE take when she saw our appointment on the schedule ... it said, Chihuahua Hilker.  (Connie has a CHIHAHUA???)  Once she was told that Winnie is a rescue dog, she understood perfectly.  Like I said, she knows me well.

3.  After we finished at the vet's, Winnie and I made a stop at PetsMart to get her a collar and leash.  Winnie was wearing a collar and I was given a leash when I picked her up last week, but I returned them to the Shelter when I was there on Tuesday.  They can save them for another tiny dog in the future ... I wanted Winnie to have her own collar and leash, chosen especially for her.

I was surprised to see that all of the extra-small sized dog collars in PetsMart were either too long (requiring them to be adjusted almost to their smallest point) or too stiff to be comfortable.  So, Winnie and I checked out the cat department of the store.  Discovered that cat collars are also too big for her ... KITTEN collars, however, were a perfect fit ... but the kitten collars don't have a ring on them to attach the leash.  I bought one anyway, to use as a tag collar.

Speaking of cats, this is what my lap looked like last night.  I was watching the hockey game and knitting a sweater for Winnie.

4.  With Winnie's new collar in hand, I have already ordered her ID tag online from Boomerang Tags.  I have used these tags on all of our dogs, and I love them!  They fit flat on the collar, so there's nothing hanging down to get snagged or jingle around. Ruby's 1-inch-size tag is large enough for her name, complete address, and two phone numbers.  Winnie's tag, as you would expect, will be significantly smaller (3/8 inch size) and can only hold four lines of info, 14 characters per line.  The chances of losing her are slim and none, but I fully believe in being safe rather than sorry when it comes to keeping ID on my animals.

A tag like this lasts for the life of your dog and it only costs $9.99.

4.  I went to Richmond yesterday, and one of my stops was at Trader Joe's to stock up on supplies because we are having friends over on Sunday (football related, of course.)  Petco is next door to TJ's ... I went in to see if they carried dog collars that are little enough to use on Winnie.  They had a small selection in the tiny size, and I chose a plain pink nylon collar with a snap buckle ... perfect, or so I thought.  Brought it home, tried it on Winnie for size, and it was too small.  There's a Petco right across the street from my dentist's office (where I will be later today), and I plan to exchange the pink collar for a larger size ... as long as the next size isn't TOO large.

This was the scene to my right ... both of them are sound asleep.

5.  It feels wonderful to say that Winnie is now officially our dog.  I loved her at first sight, as did my husband when he got home from his trip on Saturday.  I still can't believe that I brought her home without telling him first.  Fortunately, he concurred with me that she needed to be part of a family ... and he agrees that her home is here with us.  Ruby accepted her very quickly ... the cats are making progress and I hope that things will work themselves out within another week or so.

Welcome to the family, Winnie!  It's only been ten days, and I already can't imagine this place without you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make a Sock Into a Tiny Dog Coat

I figure that there may be other folks who find themselves in same the situation that I faced last week when Winnie came here.  She needed something to wear to keep her warm, the roads were too icy for me to go out to get anything, and it takes time that I didn't have to knit or crochet a coat for her myself.  After thinking on it for a minute, I realized that she is about the same circumference as a sock ... and I certainly should have an orphan sock in the laundry room that could do the trick.

Before I get to the tutorial, here is an observation ... I took this photo of Winnie a few minutes ago, as she was sitting and being completely adorable.

This sweater that she is wearing was given to us by a friend who used to have a tiny poodle.
It's too big for her, but it does the job for now.

Striking resemblance, don't you think.

This is a photo from a post I did in 2010 about catching mice.

Anyway, back to the sweater....

I used to wear these socks a lot.  They were always a bit baggie on me, though they were warm and comfortable inside boots, and good for wearing around the house.  This sock has been in the orphan sock pile for a LONG time ... so I didn't feel too bad about sacrificing it for the benefit of a tiny, cold little dog.

I cut the sock off at the heel, to have as much length as possible to keep Winnie's back warm.  (Discard the foot portion, unless you can think up some other use for it.)

I measured the distance between her front legs and cut two small slits in the sock.

The leg holes needed something to keep them from unraveling ... I decided that crochet may be perfect.  With some cream-colored yarn from my stash and a small crochet hook, I loosely worked one row of single crochet around the slits to form finished arm holes.  (For those of you who don't crochet, overcasting the edge with blanket stitch would work just as well.)

That's all there is to it!  The tail of the sweater raveled a bit, but it wasn't bad enough to worry about.

This boot-sock-turned-dog-sweater served Winnie well for a few days, keeping her warm during our arctic cold spell last week.  Just like these socks did when I wore them, the sweater is all stretched out now and needs to be washed and dried before I can use it on her again.

In a day or two, Winnie will have a new sweater ... I'm knitting one for her.  I looked all over Pinterest for a pattern, and I only found one that was free and was practical for a dog this small.   I'm still having to modify it a bit.  I will show it to you when I'm finished.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Snapshot: Breakfast Time

My routine is exactly the same every morning ... it has to be that way with animals to take care of.  It goes something like this:

Get out of bed right about the time the sky starts to lighten at sunrise.  Right now, this is some time between 6 and 7am. 

Take the dogs outside to do their 'business'.  Push the button on the Keurig on my way out the door, so my coffee will be waiting for me in the cup when I come inside.

Prepare food for the dogs and cats ... dogs first.  During this part of the process, the cats are milling round the kitchen impatiently waiting, because they know that I put their saucers of food down as soon as the dogs get theirs.

The lure of stinky cat food was too much to resist for Dorothy, even with that DOG on the other side of the kitchen.

Winnie has been here for five days, and today was the first morning that the routine was even close to normal.  Until now, Maggie was the only cat who came into the kitchen for her food.  Alice hovered outside the kitchen in the dining room, and Dorothy was nowhere to be found.  This morning, everyone was in their usual places ... though Dorothy did keep a close eye on Winnie while she was eating.

I am really happy with how well Ms. Winnie is fitting in!

Have a great Sunday, Everyone!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chihuahua Update ... and a Name.

After trying names on this little dog for two whole days, I am fairly certain that we have settled on Winnie ... Winnie Pearl.  She just looks like a Winnie and it seems to fit her perfectly.  (Thank you for all of your suggestions of names for her in response to my last post.)

She is getting more comfortable in her new surroundings, and she has started to follow me around for short distances instead of sitting in one spot and looking confused and adorable.  She loves to sit in laps, and she will waddle over and hop right in if I sit on the floor near her.

We were doing this yesterday morning in the dining room, and Dorothy came by.  She walked past us and into the kitchen, checked things out in there for a minute or two, and she walked back out ... keeping an eye on Winnie the whole time.  Dorothy's behavior and acceptance of Winnie will be what finally determines whether we can keep her or not.  As of now, I am very pleased with how well it's going.

While Winnie and I were sitting on the floor, I took this photo so I could show just how small this dog is ... her paw is the same size as my thumb.

Winnie has learned that her home base is her pink fleece bed, and she hops into it all by herself and settles right in.  She and Ruby spent most of yesterday snoozing on the sofa.

Dorothy would come by occasionally to keep an eye on the situation.  Notice that she looks concerned, but it's no longer a look of panic.  It's a huge step for her.

Last night, as I sat on the sofa, watching 'American Idol' and 'Rehab Addict', things took another step toward returning to normal.  Alice walked into the room, hopped up and settled into her usual spot between my left leg and the arm of the sofa, and went to sleep.  (YAY!!!!)  Then it got even better ... when I got up to go to the basement to switch my load of laundry, Alice stayed where she was.  There they were, two dogs and a very brave cat, all sharing the sofa at the same time.

Winnie is settling in very quickly and finding her place in our daily routine.  I never in a million years thought that I would EVER have a dog like this.  It goes to show that the little voice in my gut knows more than I do.  I was recently asked by a friend if I was going to get another dog, and I told her that I wasn't actively looking for one ... but that I would know when the right time and the right dog came along.  Unless circumstances change pretty drastically, that time is now and Ms. Winnie is in her forever home.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Chihuahua Formerly Known as Olive

Instead of making you wait as I go through the whole story ... I will get straight to the point and tell you that we have a not-quite-four-pound geriatric chihuahua living here as of Tuesday.  Technically, she's a foster.  I'm working under the assumption that it will end up as a more permanent situation, though.

The shelter named her Olive.  She was abandoned during the week of Christmas, and she was taken to the shelter by kind people.  The shelter volunteers saw that there is a whole lot of life left in her tiny, elderly self.  They sent her to the veterinarian, where she was evaluated ... her health is good for a little girl her age.  (she may be as old as 16.)   She had a dental (which required extraction of all but one of her few remaining teeth) and she was spayed and vaccinated and put on antibiotic drops for an eye infection.

I saw her picture on Facebook yesterday morning.  A friend of mine shared her photo ... and there was something about that little face that got to me.  (The dog was being fostered at my friend's vet's office).

photo from Facebook

I kept myself busy with piddly things yesterday, all the while I was trying to keep my mind off of the little chihuahua.  The more I tried not to think about it, the more it ate at me.  At 2:00, I called the vet to ask about 'Olive'.  They told me that she is a spunky, sweet little girl who really needed a warm home and someone to love her.  I told them that I would like to meet her to see if she could be part of our family.

I should mention at this point that it had been snowing since about 11am.  Fortunately, the snow was beginning to let up when I loaded our current dog Ruby into my Jeep and headed out.  The roads were in good condition and our half-hour trip was uneventful.  

I was unprepared for how incredibly tiny this dog is.  Even with no teeth, a monumental overbite, and cataracts, there was something so appealing about her.  The little voice in my gut was deafening, "Take her home with you."

So I did.

Even though this was a spur-of-the-moment decision, we had a few supplies that we could pull together for her.  The pink fleece bed was bought years ago for the cats, and they haven't wanted anything to do with it.  My largest cat carrier is serving as a crate for her.  The ladies at the vet gave me a can of the food that they had been feeding her, and I stopped at the store on the way home to buy some more.

As an example of how tiny she is, that's a placemat that she's standing on while having her breakfast this morning.

As I said in the beginning, she is officially my foster dog.  I had no idea how the cats would react to having this tiny little critter in their house, and their behavior will be what determines if she stays.  I am pleased to say, the cats have reacted pretty much exactly as I thought they would.

Maggie:  I know that 'thing' is over there, but I'm not letting it get in the way of my lap time.

Alice:  What is THAT?  ((hisss))

Dorothy, overreacting as usual:  OMG!!!  This is the worst thing that has EVER happened!

In my short time with this little dog, I can see why the shelter volunteers gave her a chance.  She is adaptable and affectionate and so, so sweet!

I have a confession to make ... my husband did not know anything about this until the deal was done and the dog was settled in.  He is away on business, and the time difference and his schedule of meetings just didn't leave an opportunity for me to call him to ask.  I talked to him last night (dinnertime where he is) and I told him that we are fostering an elderly Chihuahua.  He told me that he can't wait to meet her ... exactly as I thought he would!

She came with the little purple tank top to help keep her warm, but that wasn't going to be adequate against the cold and wind that we are experiencing right now.  This morning, I had a bright idea ... I made her a sweater out of an orphan boot sock.  As you can see, it fits her perfectly!  With her new sweater and her blue blanket, this little sweetheart is staying warm and toasty.

This tiny dog ... this sweet, sweet little girl ... needs to have a name other than 'Olive'.  (friends of ours recently adopted a dog and her name is Olive).  I have been calling her Little Doggie, but that can't go on for much longer.  So far, I've tried Olivia, Daisy, Violet, and others.  These are still in the running, but none of them feel right.  I think I'm looking for a little-old-lady-type name for her.

I am thrilled to share this little Chihuahua-formerly-known-as-Olive with you!  Hopefully, we will soon know if the cats will tolerate her and if she can stay.  Until then, she is warm and safe and loved.

Update, 1/23/14:  I think we have settled on Winnie Pearl as this little girl's name (all of our animals have middle names).  She just seems like a Winnie to me.  The cats are still a bit freaked out, but getting to be less and less freaky as time passes.  I don't want to jinx it by being too confident, but I think that Ms. Winnie is home to stay.

Monday, January 20, 2014

As I Was

When most photos of me are taken, I am usually standing (or sitting) with family/friends/etc., with a cheesy smile on my face, or I'm laughing inappropriately, talking, or blinking.  Some people are naturally photogenic, I haven't found this to be the case with me.  It's not that I don't like having my picture taken ... what am I saying, yes it is.  I guess it's the idea of a staged photo that I object to.  Ones where I (or other people) are naturally DOING something, or are in a situation that tells a story, are much more interesting.

I recently found this photo of me ... it was probably taken in the late 1980s.  The Husband snapped it with my then-state-of-the-art Polaroid camera.  I was finishing the drywall in the basement room that would become his home office.

This photo clearly shows that I make a complete mess of myself when I'm drywalling.  As I work, I scrape my knife on the edge of the tray (that yellow thing in my hand), and then I wipe the knife clean on my pant leg.  If I had turned around, you would see that my left leg was probably fairly clean.  I must have just started the second coat of mud, because I'm working on the vertical seam ... my habit is to do ceiling, inside corners, vertical seams, then the long horizontal seams.  Can't get this much of a story from a posed, 'Say Cheese' type of pic.

The family who bought this house from us in 2000 is still there.  I wonder if this room is still painted green?

(Thanks to Jane at Small But Charming for dreaming up the idea of "As You Were".)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Snapshot: The Artist's Process

While we were at our friends Jim and Dan's house last summer for a big birthday party, one of the activities was a bit of music in their music room.  Jim is a fantastic musician, plays the harp beautifully ... and his friends in the Renaissance music group joined in that afternoon.  At one point, there were six harps, a violin, and a flute, along with beautiful voices.  It reminded me of what we read about families and friends playing music and singing in the evenings before TV took over the scene.

I snapped this photo of Jim while he was playing.  I liked the way the light from the windows created highlights and shadows on his face and his arms, and my position on the other side of the room from him was perfect for a great composition.

I showed it to The Husband, and asked him if he thought it would make a good portrait.  He smiled ... which meant that I had hit on a great idea.

The photo needed a bit of cropping to clean up and focus the composition.  I thought it made best sense as a square.

The Husband took over at this point, fiddling with the light and shadows in Photoshop, and this is what he came up with.

He has been working on the portrait for a couple of months, on evenings, weekends, and during breaks from work, and he finished it yesterday afternoon.  The result is absolutely amazing!

Trust me, the actual painting looks SO much better in person than it does in this awful photo.  It perfectly captures the mood of the moment.

While we were at Jim and Dan's last weekend, The Husband took Dan aside and showed him a photo of the portrait (Dan is also a very talented artist).  Dan's reaction was instantly favorable, as was Jim's when he saw it.  They offered to buy it right then, and have continued to be quite insistent about it during the time since, but I have had to disappoint them.  This portrait is mine.  I loved it from its inception as a dark photo, and I love it more now.  I plan to add it to my collection that we display in our dining room, and it will forever be a memento of a valued friendship.

(If you are interested in seeing more of my dear husband's paintings, click HERE to visit the gallery on his web site.)  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas Has Left the Building

The last bit of Christmas cheer to be packed up and put away was our Christmas tree.  We no longer feel the need to disassemble it and stow it in its box.  It's much easier to carefully lay it onto an old flannel sheet and wrap it up tight.

Doesn't it look like a giant corndog?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Progress on the Shack, and How to Make a Track Light Pendant.

When we last left the story of the renovation of our outbuilding that we call The Shack, it was October and we had finished insulating the floor and reinstalling the plywood, and we removed the unnecessary framing to create a vaulted ceiling.  Next item on the list was to install track lighting along the length of the ceiling at the ridge.  

Part of this process involved converting three vintage light fixtures into pendants that would clip onto the lighting track.  This turned out to be an incredibly simple process, and the results are so unique.

As a bit of review, the outbuilding in question is this one ... 17' x 24', and I have it ear-marked to use as a studio or a shop or maybe a guest house.  (Click HERE if you want a reminder of everything that we have done to The Shack so far.)

Though there is an electric meter on the front of the building, and two outlets inside, there were no lights.  After a bit of thought, I decided that the vaulted ceiling is perfect for a simple installation of track lighting. 

The Husband is my electrical guy, and he got up onto the scary ladder to screw the track along the length of the ridge, wire it to a switch, and install the spotlights ... as I directed things from below.

Now for the lesson in how to convert a regular light fixture into one that will work with track lighting.  I have three glass pendant lights that I bought at Goodwill a while ago.  (There are only two of them in the photos, because I thought about writing this tutorial after I had already finished and hung the first one.)

The label inside the shade of each pendant says Vianne, made in France.  A quick Google search showed that the Vianne factory made high-quality glass, and it is no longer in business.  Shades this size are fairly expensive in the second-hand market.

These three lights were a very lucky find, at the astounding price of only $6.99 each ... and they are in perfect condition.  I bought them because I loved them, even though I didn't know what I was going to do with them at the time.

While planning the lighting for The Shack, I saw the lights on the shelf in the garage and I had an idea ... and I found the part to do the job while I was at Lowes.

The first thing I did was cut the wiring on my lights, and I unscrewed and removed all the electrical parts.  

To prepare the Pendant Fitter, unscrew and remove the silver nut on the white receptacle.

The wishbone looking tool comes with the kit and is used to tighten the nut when reassembling the fixture.

To enlarge the hole in the brass top of my lights, I used the fitter's nut as a pattern.  Center the nut over the existing hole, and trace inside the nut with a pencil or a fine-point Sharpie.

I used tin snips and I cut slices in the brass cap, just past the line I had drawn ... then I used pliers to bend the cut sections up and out of the way.  There was no need to try to cut a nice circle, because none of this shows how when I'm finished.

That's Dorothy's tail.

Insert the Pendant Fitter into the hole.  I needed to snip some more and rebend the pieces to make the hole a little bigger, because the fitter didn't go in on the first try.

The kit comes with two washers, a narrow one and a wide one.  Slip the appropriate washer over the fitter (I used the narrow one), and screw on the nut. 

I put the cap back onto the glass shade with the set screws, and my new track pendant was ready to use!

When The Husband snapped the first pendant into place on the track, I clapped my hands and squealed with excitement!!

Now that all three pendant lights are in place in The Shack, I have an effect that WAY exceeds my initial investment of $21 for the three lights, and another $19.97 per light for the pendant kit. 

The best part about this project is that I can now go out to The Shack and turn on lights ... the fact that they are lovely lights is icing on the cake!!

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