Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Blog By Me :)

I've started a second blog, this one is going to concentrate on something new that I'm doing?

The blog just opened, and you can see all the details at This Is Rob's Century.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neat Separation Anxiety Hack

So the big news is that my dog, Terror, has finally returned home. This requires some explanation. Last year, when the divorce process was started, my ex and I agreed that she should keep Terror. Basically, she was staying in the house and I felt it was better for him to stay there... further he would provide a certain amount of protection since she was now living alone. It broke my heart, but at the time it seemed to be the best choice for him. So, when I went apartment hunting I found an apartment that would allow cats (I got the cats) but not dogs (since I didn't have one). Well, after about a month, the ex called me and said she was moving to Austin, TX and couldn't bring the dog with her. There was a mad scramble and I finally found a family member who would look after him until I could move. I moved in July, but after much discussion, it was decided that Terror should stay put until I got back from my Wales trip. Last weekend was the first chance I had to meet up and get him back.

He's mostly doing great, and is enjoying my more active life style... specifically that we go for a run most mornings, a walk at noon and the dog park in the evening. (Although how long that continues being an everyday thing....) And I'm just thrilled to have him back. What is not going so well is his separation anxiety. He's always had a touch, but the upheaval of the last year has brought it back in spades. Even when I go to get the mail, I can clearly hear him for quite some distance.

I knew this would be a problem, and have actually been using my computer to record him so I can hear how he is doing. The first time I left him, it was almost continuous barking.... its getting better and I think I hit on something that might do the trick.

I checked a number of websites on how to deal with this. Several suggested crating your dog about 30 minutes prior to leaving or hanging outside the house waiting for the barking to start... then throwing pebbles against the window to distract the dog.

So last night I tried it. I took Terror into the bedroom and shut the door and just puttered around the apartment for a few minutes, clearing my throat every time he barked. And he did great, until I left. Then the had him clearly barking once every two or three minutes. Much better, but I'm sure my neighbors would prefer NO barking!

This morning I got a brainstorm. I sat down and recorded about 3 minutes of me working on the computer, occasionally clearing my throat. Then when I left to get the mail today, I put him in the bedroom and then started that "song" on iTunes and cranked the volume. I also started recording, so I could hear the result.

Then I stood outside the door for maybe 30 seconds and every time he started to bark, I tapped the window sharply with my finger. After two or three times, I decided to walk away.

So how did he do with my "Play When Terror Is Alone" song playing and the distraction technique?

When I got back and looked at the recording, there were two faint barks at the beginning and that was IT.

I will update in a week or so to let everyone know how it is going, but the initial reports are very hopeful!

And of course, I couldn't end this without a picture...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Final Thoughts On Trip

So, the trip home was fairly uneventful. I had a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam which consisted of me going to a hotel room, reading for a bit and then going to sleep. I finally got home around 6:00 last night and Carrie and I settled in for a night of TV watching.

The trip itself was the perfect way to end a period in my life where it was changed completely. Losing weight (150 pounds), moving to Pittsburgh, getting divorced and meeting Carrie all in 18 months. While all of the changes were for the good, it was a lot of upheaval and having this trip to look forward too (and then doing it) was a huge help. Additionally, getting to go with my sister Alice made it extra special. Over the last few years we haven't seen each other as often as we'd both like because our holiday schedules never seem to line up.

When we were in Builth Wells, we were talking to a nice older couple who were in town as vendors at an antique fair. Out of the blue, the woman said the trip must be incredibly spiritual... and I was completely taken aback. Only one other time in my life have I had someone say something to me so innocently that was also exactly what I needed to hear right at that moment.

The other time, I was working at a job I was miserable at in downtown Pittsburgh. The stress at the job was giving me acid reflux and insomnia very badly. It was a perfectly miserable time in my life. I was in the elevator coming back from lunch and feeling bad for myself and the doors suddenly opened and there was an woman there who appeared to be in her 90's and very, very frail looking. She looked up at me with cloudy eyes and said "What are YOU doing here?" And then, as if on some kind of cue, the doors closed immediately.

Clearly, she'd mistaken me for someone else... but that innocent mistake really took me for a loop. That day I started looking for another job, and within weeks I'd found one and had moved on to a better, less stressful life.

Sitting in a pub in Builth, I had a similar feeling. It really hadn't occurred to me that this was a spiritual thing but in reality it was. Seeing the mountains that seemed so permanent, and going through towns that had been settled since the 1200's or earlier. (One town on that day had evidence of being settled since Neolithic times.) Even the path we were following the Las Lon Cymru is mentioned as far back as written history. That night I dreamed of the mountains from their perspective... sitting there for millions of years, and then in a few seconds (from their perspective of time) these strange little two legged creatures moved in, built homes, hunted the forests, turned to agriculture, shaved the tops of the peaks for pasture land and built castles using the skeletons of the mountains themselves. Right up to the present day...

It really put things in perspective for me. We don't have long here and we should enjoy the time we have with each other as best we can, but we should also remember the effects of our stay can last and last.

Just a last note. If you've been following this, its pretty clear that I had a great time. The company I worked with to organize all of this is Drover Holidays, and they did a just fabulous job of organizing everything, booking us into some just fabulous B&B's and getting our luggage from place to place and perhaps most importantly giving us easy to follow directions and maps for each day. The do both walking and cycling holidays, and I just can't recommend them enough. So if your interested in seeing Wales up close, these are the people I would recommend.

Day 8 -- Brecon to Cardiff

The last day was both the easiest and the hardest. We started by climbing the Brecon Beacons and heading into the Valleys, the most populous region of Wales. By this point, the 1200 foot ascent seemed like nothing until the last 100 or so feet where we had to dodge some construction equipment.

After the peak there was some good trail riding, and all seemed happy. Suddenly, there was pavement under our wheels and we were both disappointed that it looked like the trail was going to end. We where wrong, shortly after the pavement started, we were going down what seemed like a 45 degree hill. It was so steep, it really felt like we would flip over our handle bars at any moment. It was gorgeous though, with a waterfall to the right, and old trees all around. Then we looked down and realized that the path took a sudden left hand turn. So slamming on the brakes, we took the 90 degree left hand turn, followed by an immediate 120 degree right hand turn, over a bridge and then up an equally steep hill. It appears that the pavement was there as a safety precaution.. if it had been a normal trail, we would have either been thrown from our bikes or fallen into the river (about a 10-20 foot drop). We named this the Bridge of Death.

After the trail riding, we were assured that it was "all down hill from here" both by the card, and by several people we talked to. Of course "all down hill" just means 'no more mountains' because we still hit plenty of decent hills from the top of the Beacons all the way into Cardiff.

Once we were in Cardiff, there was some getting lost and what was supposed to be a 54 mile ride turned into a 60. We finally dragged ourselves to the bed and breafast, showered and headed out to find Roald Dahl Plas, also known to Torchwood fans as "The Hub."

What appeared to be a short walk on the map ended up being about 5 miles, but we not only got our picture at the end of route 8 (the trail we'd followed from Holyhead), but we also got some pics from the Plas and some good thai food while we were at it.

Then we had to get back to the B&B, walked about half way and gave up and got a taxi.

Day 8 Pics

Sunday, September 6, 2009


D'oh, I forgot to link to the pics!

Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Day 7 -- Builth Wells to Brecon

Today was fairly uneventful... we didn't get lost, no massive winds and finally a rain free day! The ride was gorgeous as always, with just one steep climb in a town called Llanifo. (Rough translation, the parish of St Bilo...)

We arrived in Brecon around 2, and the B&B we were booked at said it was closed on Sunday! After an inital bit of panic we figured out that the cafe attached to the B&B was closed and were able to get all sorted out.

I'm pretty tired now, having now blogged the last three days... and having cycled roughly 210 miles since Monday. So, even though its only around 9 here, I'm off to bed!

Day 6 -- Llandiloes to Builth Wells

The terrain today was much gentler, just one or two big hills. There was one point that we were on single track, on very muddy ground which was a little errr, intense. But over all the calmest day so far.

At one point, there were 4 sheep in the road that refused to let us pass them, for roughly 3 miles. Eventually they did find a hole in the hedge, and we were able to pass. At the next town, we stopped and asked what we should do, which the people there thought was quite funny... sheep are stupid animals, they said, just keep going and they will find their way back.

In the evening we met another couple, whose names I'm sad to report I'd forgotten, but they were antique vendors at a local antique show. The husband had originally trained in France as a chef, and taking up antiquing after retiring.

One thing that we've noticed is that alot of the stuff that is seen as a new trend in the US, such as alternate energy, eating organic, locally grown vegtables is just assumed here which is really cool.