Friday, June 20, 2014

Erica's #53 - Foster an Animal

I'm an animal lover from waaaaay back.  They have generally always felt the same way about me.  My family has always had pets - hell, even as a toddler, I was putting nightgowns on the family cat (much to the cat's chagrin, but it has to speak to that cat's tolerance love of me that I lived to see another day).  To this day, I still like most animals more than most people.  I can't imagine a life that doesn't include some animal companions.

Baby Louie!
Mel and I attempted to foster a dog before.  Since we were volunteers at the local shelter, we would occasionally get email updates about events that volunteers were needed for, supplies that the shelter needed, or animals who urgently needed fostering.  In February 2011, I got an email about an inordinate number of young puppies who either had or were in danger of catching upper respiratory infections from shelter life, since their little immune systems couldn't fight normal doggy germs yet.  I asked Mel if she'd consider it, and we stopped by the shelter on our way home from something else, just to look.

We had pretty much decided we'd be foster parents - you cannot possibly look at puppies and not want to take one home with you, right?  There were about 7 pups left who needed immediate foster - a group of four pups who were siblings, two pups kenneled together, and one lonely little pup in an upper level cage who was obviously already sick.  And his tag pegged him as a pit bull mix.  All the odds were against him for adoption, and we worried about what happens to pit mixes even after adoption, so this sickly little guy was destined to come home with these two bleeding hearts.  We took him into a private room to fill out the foster paperwork, and he was full of energy, but definitely had a puppy cold.  He climbed up on Mel's lap, and promptly sneezed green puppy snot right on her face.  It was love at first slime...

That little guy slept in my arms on the way to Petco to get him a collar and leash and all the things a puppy needs.  We already had our Puggle, Rudy, so we had most dog things, but this guy needed some meat on his bones, so puppy food it was.  He was so small at about 7 weeks old that he wore an extra-small collar.  Needless to say, that scrawny, sick little mutt is now a healthy 65 pounds of pure muscle we affectionately call "Horse" - formally named Louie.  We failed miserably as fosters!

So...I had to stop volunteering at the shelter after I brought home a cat as well.  I can't see animals suffer and not try to save them.  So I was slightly worried that writing this goal on my list would actually lead to adopting yet another animal.  2 dogs and 4 cats is enough...but then again...

Fast forward to last November.  I am on the board of a great non-profit called Woofs and Books, an animal rescue and literacy organization (we have volunteers who take their dogs to schools to read with kids and act as a furry, non-critical audience), and we had a volunteer who was willing to foster a dog, so we found a good match for him and set him up as a foster parent.  This dog, Pete, was a real sweetheart, and completely adorable, so we figured he would be adopted in a matter of weeks.  For some reason, 5 months later, there was no interest in adopting him!  His foster dad's situation changed, and another dog in the house wasn't getting along with Pete, so we needed to place him in a different situation.

That's where we come in.  Pete had come to our house to play with the boys a couple of times, and they really got along well after the initial domination game (3 male dogs!) played itself out.  Pete is quiet, on the small side, and has impeccable manners.  We knew he'd fit in at our place, so we offered to foster Pete until he could find a home.  He did so well at our house.  We kenneled him during the day just in case they all got too rough together, and he never made a peep about it.  All three dogs had a fantastic time playing together in the yard, and taking walks together.  We fell in love with Pete, and knew we had to find him the best situation possible.

One potential adopter came forward, but her yard wasn't equipped for a young dog with a tendency to escape if given the opportunity.  It was disappointing, since she really liked him, but again, had to do what's best for him.

We had a thought...Mel's mom has talked about wanting a dog for a while, but her dad seemed against the idea.  Hmm...if they met him and he loved them, maybe, just maybe? :)  We took Pete over for a visit by himself to their house, and Pete complete ignored them, wouldn't even take a peace offering in the form of a slice of cheese.  We thought it was a failed experiment.

How handsome is Pete?!?
But we brought him back with our boys, and they made him a completely different dog.  He came out of his shell, warmed up to Mel's parents, and they quickly fell in love with him.  Shortly after that, they started about trying out fostering him for a while, so we dropped him off at their house.  After some initial issues about not wanting to come inside (he's freaked out a little by doors, poor guy), he really was the perfect dog at their place - didn't chew on things, no accidents, doesn't get on the furniture, completely fine sleeping in the living room alone at night. Who wouldn't want to keep a dog that perfect and adorable?!?

They were ready to adopt him!  He really is a perfect dog for them, and this way, he still gets to play with his buddies Rudy and Louie when we go to visit.  They still have a great time together :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Erica's #46 - Go to a Baseball Game

Ahh, baseball - America's pastime.  Indianapolis boasts it's own AAA baseball team - the Indianapolis Indians - and the games are really a blast.  We tend to make it to at least a couple every summer.  Tickets are affordable (even for the "good" seats), and I'm not sure either of us would want to experience a summer without that quintessential American feeling you get when sitting in those stadium seats on a warm evening, sipping a frosty brew, and nibbling on something wholly unhealthy but delicious, all while watching some high-caliber players challenge each other at a sport that some would term America's "national game".

Woofs and Books, the non-profit I'm on the board of, purchased some tickets for volunteers to attend this game - it was "Bark in the Park" day, where you are welcome to bring your favorite furry four-legged pals to the game with you!  We left our boys at home - it was too hot for them to enjoy themselves, and seeing as Rudy has a torn ACL and Louie looked like Frankendog with his stitches in the cut he'd managed to get while horsing around in the backyard, they could use R&R rather than fun with dog pals.  It was great to see all of the pups out with their families enjoying the day though!

My parents were also in town, so we drug them out in the heat for some baseball-watching fun.  We indulged in a small share of mostly healthy foods from the ballpark, soaked up the sun (until we were melting and moved into the shade!), and had a great time with them!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mel's #40 and Erica's #7 - Tour the White House

Closer than most people get to The White House!
It's now been a month since we set foot in THE White House - its been tough to put into words what it's actually like being in this place that most people only glance at behind an iron fence from beyond The President's Park (did you even know the grounds of The White House are called "The President's Park"?  Or that The President's Park is a National Park?), or, even more likely, only read about in books or see in the background of a few nightly news broadcasts.  We've tried before to coordinate a White House tour through our Senator (did you know you can request a tour through your Senator - and that it's free?!?), but didn't have any luck.  When we added this goal to our list, we knew we'd have to expand our availability, and plan a trip to D.C. around a White House tour, and just cross our fingers and hope we'd be granted one.

So I exchanged emails with a staffer of Senator Joe Donnelly, and had her submit our availability as the entire months of April and May.  I did this way back in January, giving them plenty of time to run the background checks on us (yes, they do this!), and see if we could fit in to the tour schedule.  We were prepared to keep doing this every couple of months until it worked out.  We waited...and waited.  And waited some more.  One day in late April, I emailed the staffer again inquiring about the status of our request, and she hadn't yet heard back.  Lo and behold, the very next day I got an email from her saying our tour had been approved - we were going to The White House!  (Cue important-sounding Presidential music...)

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
We found out about the date of our tour only 2 weeks prior to the scheduled date.  Not much time to plan, but that's just how we roll.  We'd been prepared to plan a quick trip to our Nation's Capitol, so it didn't fluster us much (other than the fact that we'd already scheduled a quick trip to Minneapolis the weekend prior, but we've also had PLENTY of experience where things just work out so that we're traveling several weekends in a row).  We flew in to D.C. on Friday, May 2nd, took a bus from Dulles to the Rosslyn Metro, then the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery, where we proceeded to walk a couple of miles out to the LBJ Memorial Grove on the Potomac.  It was a nice walk, if long, and we followed it up with an equally long walk nearly all the way around the Pentagon to visit the 9/11 memorial there.  The memorial is sobering, and very well planned out.

View from the Blue Room
We spent Saturday morning visiting a couple more national parks (The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, and the African American Civil War Memorial), then headed to The White House to make our tour time.  National Parks Rangers escorted us to the Secret Service stations on the grounds of The White House, where they checked our tickets and ID's (not once, but twice), we went through a security checkpoint, then were left to wander on our self-guided tour of the East Wing (or Residence) of The White House.  It was a little strange that there was just one Secret Service guy around in each room, and that everyone was just left to wander and spend as much time there as they liked - we expected a much more regimented schedule and secure, guided tour, but it was nice to be able to take your time and ask any questions of the Secret Service that popped into your head.  They are experts on each and every item in the rooms we got to tour - their expansive White House knowledge was impressive.  They know dates that objects were acquired, where they were made and by whom, which President received or purchased them, and any other color commentary regarding the items.

Our tour included a walk down the Colonnade, which looks out onto The Kennedy Garden, and we got to peek into The China Room, The Library, The Vermeil Room, and The Map Room from the downstairs hallway, then we ascended a flight of marble stairs to the second floor (or ground floor, depending on which direction you are viewing The White House from), and walked through The East Room, The Green Room, The Blue Room, The Red Room, The State Dining Room, The Cross Hall, and, finally, The Entrance Hall.  Pictures weren't allowed (ahem, but see the view from the Blue Room photo?  Stealthy!), but the view across the back lawn of The White House, past the fountain, and onto the Washington Monument and Jefferson Monument were absolutely stunning.  We stopped a couple of times just to soak in the fact that we were really seeing and experiencing these things in person!

Frederick Douglass' study
Being surrounded by all that history was also pretty damn impressive.  I honestly figured we'd see a couple of rooms that are really not in use any longer, but the Secret Service agents assured us that the rooms we walked through are utilized at least a few days a week for various Presidential business, they just roll the barriers out of the way at the end of the day when the visitors are gone, and visitors wouldn't know that just hours before, dozens of random people were milling about in those rooms.  It made total sense when we walked through the rooms of the East Wing, and you can see exactly the spots you've seen on the news where some press conferences are held in The East Room or Cross Hall.  And the State Dining Room - it's hard to even wrap your mind around how many influential people have dined there over the years!

We left there happy campers.  Getting to see something you hold in very high regard up close and personal is an experience that's hard to match.  It made us wonder if the people who go to work there every day ever lose that reverence for the building and the history it's been witness to throughout the decades - I'm not sure that sense of awe would ever leave us if we were going to work there every day.  It was slightly disconcerting to see the volume of pre-teens or teenagers that looked thoroughly bored with the experience just tromp through the rooms so they could get out of there before a teacher noticed that they weren't looking at a single thing, but I guess that's the nature of youth!  One child, a roughly 13-year-old boy (who may have been 19, as anyone under 25 has started to look like a baby to me), did pause to ask a secret service agent, while the light from the windows reflecting off the green silk wall coverings of the room we were all standing in cast a faintly Granny Smith apple-colored tint on his friends' faces (aptly named The Green Room because EVERYTHING IN IT IS GREEN), "Why do they call this the Green Room?"  Umm...
Post-delicious margaritas and dinner with Ruthi and Tracey!

To top off our White House visit day, we slogged through a not-so-nice part of town to tour the Frederick Douglass Home National Historic Site, then had a great dinner with friends from the D.C. area.  Hopefully we'll be back to visit the White House sometime - it was a great experience!