Category Archives: Pets

In Panama You Are the Sky

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You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather. ~Pema Chödrön

Hands down, my favorite thing about living in Panama is the weather.  Of course it helps that I love, love, love the heat and totally prefer to sweat than shiver with cold.  For 12 years I lived in San Francisco and, truth be told, I never got used to the chilly dampness there.  I wore jackets year-round — heavy ones, like for skiing — and fell in love with my Bikram yoga studio because the heat greeted me like a bear hug.

If you’ve never visited San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine how chilly it can be considering it’s not only in California but also surrounded by warm areas like Oakland, Marin and the Palo Alto.  Tourists regularly arrive in shorts and leave sporting $10 sweatshirts purchased in a desperate, trembling moment visiting Fisherman’s Wharf.  Walking over the Golden Gate Bridge requires a windbreaker.

Here in Panama, numb fingertips, goosebumps and daily scarf wrapping are no longer part of my experience.  My new challenge is to keep cool which means I wear sundresses and flip-flops most days and keep the sun off my face with a wide-brim hat.  SPF is my new BFF.  I look forward to going to the beach, swimming in my gym’s outdoor pool and enjoying the delicious breeze on nightly walks with my dogs.  While friends complain about shoveling snow from their sidewalks in February, I plan a day trip to the San Blas islands.

Weather in Panama varies by location but basically we have two seasons — the dry season and the rainy season.  The dry season lasts from December through May with temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees; our summer is winter in the United States, Canada and Europe — perfect for snowbirds.  Mountain areas such as Boquete are cooler and windier and the Caribbean side of the country is more humid and rainy than the Pacific.  The driest part of Panama is the Azuero Peninsula, where Mom and I attended the pollera festival, on the south coast.  The hottest part of the country is around David, close to the Costa Rican border.

The rainy season lasts from May to November.  Temperatures are about 10 degrees lower and we get rain most days — but usually just for a bit, like in Hawaii.  At 1:00 pm I might think an evening bike ride will be canceled only to be pleasantly surprised by 6:00 pm that streets are dry and bikeable.  Due to ample rain, vegetation here is lush.  Trees and plants thrive.  Panama never goes on Daily Savings Time as all days are the same length and we never gets hurricanes which is awesome.

Mom loves the blue sky.  Each morning she gazes out her bedroom window and thanks the Universe for another beautiful day.  Sometimes I walk in during her blue sky meditation and she shares her grateful thoughts with me.  When affirming what is good here in Panama, warm weather and blue skies certainly are certainly at the top of my list – and Billy’s, too.  Here he is sunbathing on the terrace.  The heat is on, amigos.  Come join us.

BillySun

Billy’s Big Adventure

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Yesterday I had the best day ever.   When we woke up, Laura told me we were going to have fun and boy did she deliver.

Laura and Grandma get dressed, pack a cooler and grab a few snacks for me.  Then Laura puts on my harness.  Even though this usually means I’ll be out of the house for a long time or get to go on a long walk, I hate wearing this thing.  I resist as much as possible by first rolling over on my back and then pulling my big paws out of the holes, but eventually Laura gets it on me.   Humph.  We close the front door behind us and hear Sammy the Schnauzer whining and then moaning.  Ha!  I’m happy to get away from that guy for a while.  He’s such a bully.  He also doesn’t know how to stay calm in the car, which means he doesn’t get to go as many places as me.  We get on the road and Grandma holds onto me; she tries to keep me out of Laura’s lap as Laura drives.  Little does she know Laura and I have safely driven many miles with me in her lap.  Laura is an excellent driver.

After a while we arrive at our destination — a house in Anton where Grandma’s friends live.  I get out of the car immediately and check out the property.   I’m happy to see lots of trees and to be off of my leash.  I run through the vegetable garden and then towards the high brush in front of the creek.  Laura calls me back, I guess because she thinks I’m going to get lost.  After a bit, we head into the house and I hang out near the table where the others sit to eat.  I’m curious about the food so I pretend to be hungry.  Under the table, Laura slips me a little piece of corn bollo, but I don’t eat it.  I don’t really like most foods, which people think is weird.  But whatever — being discriminating is how I keep my lean physique.

After eating, we all get into another car and drive to a farm.  This is where the real fun begins.  I get out of the car, sniff around some and then dart towards these little birds.  I crawl through a hole in their cage and scare the heck out of them.  A bunch of them tweet and run in every direction.  I’m totally excited but Laura gets upset.  Next thing I know she’s running towards me yelling, “No, Billy, no!”  I finally calm down, let her pick me up and put me on the leash.

Then we take a tour of the farm.  We see another dog but I don’t approach him since I hear someone say he’s not friendly.  This is the first big yellow dog I’ve met that’s not friendly.  Probably because he’s chained up.  We keep walking and eventually I see a horse.  I’ve seen these huge monsters before; last time I kind of went a little crazy barking at one.  This one is pretty chill, and since I’m off the leash again and he’s the one behind a fence, I keep my cool and don’t bark at him.

We keep walking and eventually we reach a river with a nice sandy beach.  I love sand so I’m pretty happy about this.  We walk across the beach and then hike over big rocks, which Laura’s friend tells her came from a volcano.  Laura picks me up and passes me to her friend since she can’t hold me and her dress while she crosses through the cold water.  We reach the other side and keep hiking.  Eventually we reach a one waterfall and then another.  This is most excellent.  I’ve never seen a waterfall before and right here there are 2 of them!  Laura takes a few pictures with me.

All in all, a most excellent day.  By the end, I’m pooped and crash in Laura’s bed with my harness on.  I can’t wait for more adventures.

My Admirer Has a Gun

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Each night I walk the dogs, I pass by our neighbor’s huge, beautiful home and dedicated security guard.  Rumour has it that they’re owners of the Burger King franchise in Panama and they have their own guard because their home was once robbed for payroll.  The guard stands in front of their house between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am each night.  For months, I’ve walked past and never spoken to him.  I understand that he’s providing a service to my neighbors and keeping them safe but I’m not really looking to chat with anyone with a gun.  I find his huge weapon off-putting — probably as it’s intended to be…

One Friday night he initiated conversation with me at first asking standard questions about Sammy and Billy — like their gender and age — and then more personal questions about myself.  “Your mother is a doctor, right?”  Yes.  “And you’re an attorney?”  Yes.  I mean, I was.  I think it’s strange that he knows anything about me since we’ve never spoken.  Then he proceeds to tell me what he thinks of me —  that I’m a serious person, that he thinks I’m pretty, that he respects my friendly yet distanced manner, and has since the first time he saw me, because men in Panama sometimes try to get away with too much by women, blah, blah, blah.  When he finally stops chatting I thank him and ask him his name.  “Jose,” he says and outstretches his hand.  I shake it but he does that uncomfortable thing where he holds onto me for way too long.  Blech.  A couple of nights later, he pulls the same handshake stunt so I decide to hold off on longer walks at night and stay towards the other end of the street.

After a few days, when I finally decide I’m done hiding, I walk past Jose.  Instead of just saying hello as I’d prefer, he comments that he hasn’t seen me for a few days and that he’s been wondering if he said something to offend me and whether he should apologize.  Obviously, my attempt to avoid an awkward situation has failed.  Again, I smile and pretend, say that everything is fine, and continue walking my dogs.

As I’m heading back to my building, across the street runs the ugliest animal I have ever seen.  This is no exaggeration. If you’ve ever seen a raccoon or a fox scurry past you, seeing this thing meander nearby by is, like, 10 times worse.  I’m kind of freaked out by this mysterious creature with a snout-type face and long pointy tail but try to stay calm as I pass by hoping Sammy does not notice it and that the creature does not notice Billy and consider him a tasty little snack.  By the time I reach home, I have goosebumps.  I try to explain to Ali and Mom what I saw hoping they’ll identify the type of animal.  Ali is so creeped out by my initial description that she doesn’t want to hear any more details.  “Did you tell Jose?” he asks.  No, I did not.  I’d spent so much time trying to keep a comfortable distance from him that it didn’t even occur to me to ask for help.  Suddenly it dawns on me: maybe it’s a good thing to have an admirer with a gun.

My internet images searches lead me to believe I saw an aardvark or an anteater, which are the same thing, I think.  Since they’re native to Africa, that’s probably not what I saw.  Fingers crossed I never see it again.

“If You Want Comfort Get a Dog”

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My teachers the Engelharts like to say, “If you want comfort get a dog.”  By this they suggest that human relationships are sticky and can be hard to manage, to negotiate.  Unlike humans, dogs are easy to handle and provide a source of comfort.  As a dog owner who’s done a lot of interpersonal work on herself, I totally understand this sentiment.

I adopted Billy about a year and a half ago while working at Google.  I will always be grateful for their dog-friendly culture which provided me the benefit of being able to bring him work.  Without it, I never could have justified owning a dog in San Francisco given my long commute, full-time schedule and small condo which would leave little time and space to adequately take care of a pet.

Of course, within a few months of adopting my adorable Terrier/Chihuahua mix, I turned into a self-professed crazy dog lady.  Here are some examples of what happened:

  • I took Billy everywhere — work, Healdsburg wine-tasting events, movies, dinner parties, you name it. If Billy was not welcome, chances are I wouldn’t go.  Billy was not allowed in my friend’s condo when she invited me to brunch since she was concerned about her pricey, new hardwood floors.  Understandable but I never went to her home again.
  • I thought often and deeply about things like matching his collar to his new dog tag.  Red and purple did not sufficiently match.
  • I would — and still do — swear he talks to me.  And I love it when he sings — especially in the mornings when I rub his tummy and he coos and moans in accompaniment to “You Are My Sunshine.”
  • I figured out how to attach a pet carrier to my Italian road bike even though it wasn’t designed to fit. Other physical activities, like roller skating and skate boarding, became more appealing since I could do them with Billy.
  • I started to judge new people I met based on how they greeted Billy. If they complimented Billy, I immediately thought they were a good person.
  • A new pastime is reading blogs about people who travel the world with their pets.
  • I plan to celebrate his next birthday rather than my own. Hats and streamers will be provided.  Cake will be served.

Get the picture?  Well, as important as Billy was to me in SF, he is even more important to me now that I live in Panama.  In and of itself, moving to a new country is a big undertaking.  Add to that a change of living situation — from living on my own to living with my parents — plus a change of career, different language, and new climate and things get hairy very quickly.  To be sure, a lot of things are different, which is good, but I have to admit, transitioning to a new culture and lifestyle is a challenge.

What has not changed throughout this entire period, however, is where Billy sleeps.  Just like in San Francisco, he burrows nightly under the my covers to reach the foot of my bed.  Often I forget he’s there and inadvertently whack him with a leg in a toss or a turn.   Likewise, The Maven doesn’t always know he’s contently snuggled under the sheets and walks slowly over him; Billy immediately responds with a serious — but cute — groan.  You think we’d get used to Billy always being there since he always has been.

Without a doubt, Billy is my comfort.  My experience instantly improves when I squeeze his chicken breast sized torso.  My mood lightens when I kiss his liver-colored nose.  I smile watching him skip down the street.  In a strong, tropical breeze, he is  my trusty 8-pound anchor.  As my guardian in being and furry little muse of unconditional love, Billy is the best.

Eek, a Mouse!

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I kept wondering why Maven, my awesome Domestic Short Hair cat, kept knocking the same item off my day desk after day, night after night, even though there are lots of other things on my desk to play with. And then I realized the item is a (wireless) mouse. She’s basically genetically predisposed to this behavior — turning her interest to a mouse and then giving it a good whack. Since I can’t fight genetics, I now make it a habit of hiding it on the keyboard shelf.