So I’m a mutt…who cares?

Yesterday my mom wanted to take some time for R&R after her gym class. So I spent almost the entire day at the Downtown Dog Lounge with my adopted big sister, Summer, and the other folks who adore me.

“She played in the pen,” they reported when Mom came to pick me up.

“Where does she get the energy?” Mom wondered. I’m not telling.

Then everybody fussed over me on the bus trip home.

“Beautiful dog.”

“So mellow.”

“My dog would never sit like that.”

Of course, my mom has to spoil everything. She likes to tell the world, “Gracie is a rescue mutt. She thinks she’s a princess. Princesses don’t ride on the floor, so she sits on my lap.”

Well, would you want to ride on the floor? Who knows what else has been there? And how would you like being called a mutt?

Actually, my mom Cathy doesn’t mind at all. She hates the idea of classifying people by nationality or ethnic group. “I’m a mutt myself,” she says. “I don’t know anything about my ancestors either.”

My mom is like me in other ways, too.  She resists training and she likes treats. But nobody’s ever, ever complimented her on being well-behaved.

I’m working on it…after my nap.

A wonderful winter day…

Yesterday my mom Cathy decided to seize the day.

“Tomorrow is supposed to be awful,” she said. “There’s a good class at the gym at noon. You, Gracie, need exercise.”

So we trooped out the door, leaving the cats to their own devices and big plates of crunchies. Ophelia complained but Mom ignored her. Thank goodness! Ophelia is taking over our household.

The streets were pretty good. “Dry, packed snow, almost like Alaska,” Mom said. “But Gracie, after this snow goes away, we are scheduling several sessions with a trainer. You are pulling on your leash. And it’s slippery.”

I ignored her. I was eating snow. Delicious.

Mom dropped me off at the Dog Lounge where I had a joyous reunion with Summer. My mom took off for the gym.

She was in a good mood when she picked me up a few hours later. The weather was so pleasant she decided to run a few errands and walk around enjoying the outdoors.

The downtown streets were nice and clear, she said. “But a young guy took my arm when I was crossing the street on Stewart and then on Fifth. I guess I look old. But these days I’m more into practicality than pride.

“So,” she continued proudly, “I let them help me scoot across the street, so I got to the gym in time for my Survivor class, where I proceeded to kick some butt. Everybody else in the class looks at least 20 years younger than I am. And I hold my own.”

Our fitness was tested on the way home. Two buses were too full to take us. We ended up walking…and walking. My mom’s feet got wet in the slush and she worried about frostbite. My paws were getting a little chilly, too.

But we both felt great: all that fresh air and exercise. We were so tired we could barely move. And we both went to bed early, dreaming of blue skies and winter sunlight on a city day.

Lost in Seattle on Metro Bus With Dog

[My mom wrote this post before I took over the blog.]

One recent Sunday I got on the 74 to go from Queen Anne to the U district for a concert. The bus was late – a very rare occurrence here.

Naturally, because we had a long wait, there were lots of characters at the bus stop. Two men with a big, barking dog struck up a conversation. They asked me my name. Surprised, I said, “Cathy.” I forget theirs.

When the bus finally arrived, the driver (a motherly-looking African-American woman) announced, “I need a navigator. This is my first day driving this route. I usually work in Tukwila. I’ve never seen this part of Seattle.”

Since we were in Seattle, and not New York or Philadelphia, everyone smiled, preparing to enjoy the adventure.

“Does anyone know the Fremont Bridge?” The driver began to sound really nervous. One sandy-haired young woman stood next to the driver, softly murmuring directions in a soothing tone.

Then the men from the bus stop where I got on yelled, “Hey, Cathy!” I tried to pretend I didn’t hear. I wanted to explain, “I don’t know them.” But I just said, “What?”

“How do we get the Number 16?”

“I have no idea.”

Another passenger handed them a schedule. They were looking for a dog park near the Woodland Zoo. Me, I just go to Belltown.

Returning home, the driver was a calm, experienced silver-haired man. No adventures. We were at Key Arena right on schedule.

Smart People Ride Seattle Metro Buses

[My mom wrote this before I took over the blog]

Downtown in the ride-free zone, I hop on a bus for the library. The hill from Third to Fourth Avenue is dauntingly steep. If I’m on on the #2 — which stops right there — I’ve learned to get off earlier and walk or grab the first bus heading south on Fifth Avenue.

Today I’m on a bus with one of those mysterious three-digit numbers, which means he’s headed to an outlying area I’ve never heard of.

“Do you stop at Spring or Seneca?” I ask the driver.

“I stop at Spring.” He’s a tall, slim man with glasses, very friendly.

“Well, your sign says express, so I wondered…”

“The word express is a misnomer,” he says. “Downtown everybody’s a local.”

“Misnomer? Did you say misnomer? Are you a moonlighting graduate student?”

He laughs. Earlier he did indeed get a graduate degree in one of the language study areas, but he’s been driving for sixteen years, he tells me. He likes the job. It’s a bad job to hate, he says. You have to like it.

“I’d be a truck driver myself,” I say, “if I were a better driver. But I don’t like driving in the rain, or on bridges or tunnels.”

“Truck driving? Too much time away from home,” he says, and we wave good-by as I get off, right in front of the Fifth Avenue entrance to the library.

Why We Ride Seattle Metro

[My mom Cathy wrote this entry before I took over the blog.]

When I tell people I don’t drive, they first assume I can’t afford a car.

Actually, up to August 2005, I had a wonderful Toyota Corolla. I sold it four days after moving here, through Craigslist.

Why? I really don’t like to drive through rain, traffic, bridges and tunnels. I’m a cowardly driver: in traffic, everyone else gets to go ahead of me. I brake a lot on bridges and tunnels.

Once I was braver. I learned to drive in San Francisco and drove a VW there for years. When I moved back, years later, to attend grad school at UC Berkeley, I had a little 5-speed Nissan Sentra – a 1985 box. I drove across the Bay Bridge almost every day and later drove back and forth to Chico, California, where I taught for three semesters while finishing my PhD.

I kept it for 11 years and sold it in Canada. The locks broke and I was moving to Philadelphia, a bad place for an unlocked car. The Nissan’s new owner, a woman pilot who lived in the bush, she had no need for locks (and she could repair the car herself). For all I know, the car still runs around the Canadian wilderness.

When I moved to Florida in 1998 I bought a Toyota Corolla with air conditioning, automatic transmission and 4 doors. It seemed so luxurious! Four doors seemed excessive till I got Keesha, my very first dog. Forty-five pounds with extra fur on top.

I drove all up and down I-95 which was terrifying. Lots of tailgating drivers who made interesting gestures when I pointed to the rearview mirror.

I drove to New Mexico, where I lived for four years. Almost every month I went to Tucson, Arizona, which is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire country and maybe the world. Southwest drivers are kind. They signal for lane changes. They rarely tailgate. They pull over during thunderstorms, which is good, because the roads flood easily and even SUV’s can hydroplane.

I drove to Santa Fe where my car was rear-ended by a driver who admitted she wasn’t paying attention. Amazingly, the insurance paid everything and her company paid my deductible.

But I couldn’t wait to stop driving. Hence my move to Seattle. Driving four days in a car packed with 2 cats and a 40-pound dog convinced me: I don’t want to do this anymore.

And I haven’t.

Gracie: From Dog Rescue to Urban Princess

Gracie: One year anniversary of dog adoption
Guest post by my mom, Cathy Goodwin

Just one year ago January 2, 2006, the foster mom delivered Gracie from nearby Bellingham, WA, to my home in Seattle. I don’t have a car so they drove her down. I made an extra donation to cover the cost. I chose her from a photo on the Internet, mainly because she was the right size and she got along with cats.

Christopher Aust (a dog trainer you can visit on the Internet) gave me a long list of questions to ask the foster mom and LOTS of advice, like, “Don’t get a dog like the one who just crossed the bridge!”

He was right. Gracie is totally different from Keesha, my first dog. She’s s short-haired and very athletic. I wish I could say it was love at first sight but actually she drove me nuts. I thought I’d have to send her back! She was just 3 years and 3 months and she had the energy of a puppy. She wandered around the apartment looking lost. She ran and ran around the dog park and never got tired. She pulled on her leash. She chewed everything in sight; she even pulled a book off a shelf and chewed it up. One day she chewed her leather leash into tiny squares and ate most of them.

Fast forward a year. The vet says Gracie doesn’t look like the same dog. She had her first professional grooming, ever, and now she looks forward to baths and nail trims. She adores the dog lounge and they adore her: the receptionists often keep her up front during doggie day care because “she’s so cute and so much fun to hang out with. In fact, she has a fan club all over Seattle.

I vowed she’d never be allowed on the furniture. Well, we made a deal. She doesn’t chew if she gets to sit on the couch or the bed. She has her own cushion on each place. At night (or when I go out) I tuck her into her crate. At night she gets a peanut butter kong and she starts licking her lips as we return from the last walk of the evening. Oh yes, she’s very good on walks now, rarely tugging.

I must say I am astounded at how a dog’s personality can change in a year. We have a coffee shop that allows dogs. At first she would nervously stand and try to walk around. Now she knows the drill: she sits quietly while I drink coffee and half-heartedly looks for crumbs on the floor. On buses she sits in my lap, looking adorable and passengers always come over to pat her. One woman insisted on keeping Gracie on *her* lap. (Yes, in Seattle dogs ride buses. They ride free if they fit on your lap.) We love Seattle Metro.

And while I’m working, I’m training her to sit on a cushion in my home office and watch me adoringly. We’re making good progress! Usually after a couple of treats and worshipful looks, she’s sound asleep.

She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with me as we visited friends. She was the star of the holiday. She didn’t care for the fireworks at the Space Needle or the cannon at the Seafair Parade.

I changed her name to Gracie after I adopted her, after the book Amazing Gracie by Dan Dye. Now we are calling her Princess Gracie.