Category Archives: Loveland, Colorado

The Dog Days of Summer

Every now and then I wonder what my life would be life would be like if I got married and had a couple of kids. The only thing I know for sure is my television viewing habits would not change too much. If any of my future children want to spend countless hours in front of the television set I’m going to make sure at least two-thirds of their programming options revolve around World War Two documentaries on the History Channel. Since my days of matrimony and reproduction are not in my near future, I have recently experienced the next best thing: Spending a week with two dogs in the house.

I currently live in a house which, on average, contains one dog. This dog, named Henry, belongs to my roommate, named Scott. One of Henry’s most unique physical characteristics is the fact that he has two different colored eyes. Scott, on the other hand, has two eyes that are, for the most part, the same color. Total strangers often times come up and ask about Henry’s eyes. Rarely do they ask about Scott’s eyes.

But enough about my roommate’s chromatically symmetrical eyes– this is a story about the dogs. Henry has long beige hair that is in a constant state of renewal. While I haven’t submitted the following theory to the rigorous process of the scientific method, I strongly suspect that on an average day, Henry’s body sheds more hair than the local Great Clips. When Henry and I are alone in the house he generally sleeps in the basement all day long. Every now and then, just for a change of pace, he walks up the stairs, looks at me blankly, and then proceeds to lay down next to the kitchen table before falling back asleep. His overall interest in Scott and I only peaks when he needs to go out side, be fed, or be taken on a walk. Henry and I get along quite well this way– we don’t expect a whole lot from each other.

This brings me to the second dog– Murphy. Belonging to my girlfriend Kristin, this dog is half Greyhound and half Black Lab. While her shedding habits occur on a much smaller scale than Henry’s, she does have her own list of peculiar habits. Most notably, she is very skittish. It is quite natural for animals to be scared of things like sudden noises, unfamiliar places, and the actor known as “Carrot Top.” Murphy, however, is pretty much scared of everything that isn’t Murphy. For example, I took Murphy out one night and she ran as far away as she could on the leash from the slight rustling noise produced by a series of plastic flags on the “for sale” sign on the house next door. On another outing she was overcome with fear because a tumbleweed was a few feet away from the sidewalk. I suppose I would have had more sympathy for the dog if the shrubbery in question was actually moving in any way.

Another quirk about Murphy is that she doesn’t want to be more than three feet away from Kristin or myself at all times. This makes walking with Kristin and the dog quite a chore. While Kristin generally refrains from spastically running around me in tight circles, the same cannot be said for the dog. Murphy always wants to be at the exact midpoint between Kristin and I while at the same time running around in circles. The interaction between the three of us is analogous to Luke Skywalker’s two-sunned home planet of Tatooine (but on a much smaller scale.) That would, of course, explain why Luke’s mother and stepfather had such difficult time harvesting crops.

Each of these dogs, by themselves, is generally calm and well behaved. So I figured that bringing Murphy over to my place in Loveland while Kristin was out of town for a week wouldn’t drastically alter my lifestyle. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into effect how the two dogs would interact with each other. The most immediate effect I noticed when I brought Murphy home was what I call “The Canine Cold War Mentality.” It usually starts out with both dogs sleeping peacefully on the floor in the main living area. This is known as Defcon 5 (or mauve, if you are using the new Homeland Security color coding system). If the dogs were the United States and the Soviet Union, this situation would be analogous to the first few months after World War Two or the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House. This state of peace and quiet is inevitably shattered by a strange noise outside, one of the dogs sneezing, or the random motion of air molecules in the room.

Once this happens, one of the dogs will look up, causing the other dog to look up. (Defcon 3) Not to be outdone, the first dog stands up. (Defcon 2) This escalation procedure continues until both dogs are frantically running around the house barking at the top of their lungs. (Irreversible Intercontinental Thermonuclear War) After a few minutes
they calm down and eventually go back to sleep. (Analogy breaks down here.) While most people would consider this to be a minor inconvenience, I find it quite difficult to lay down on my couch and concentrate on the afternoon episode of “Trading Spaces” with such a racket going on in the background.

Another issue I’ve discovered with Murphy is how she goes to the bathroom. Like human females at nice restaurants, Murphy cannot go do her business alone. Being a smart dog, she knows where the backyard is. Being a smart person, I usually leave the back door open so both dogs can go outside whenever they feel the need. It seems like a simple enough solution, but whenever Murphy’s bladder fills up, she will run through the house until she finds me. Then she sits down and starts whining frantically until I walk with her outside and watch her pee. Which is exactly what I want to do at two in the morning. At least I’m not asleep yet.

Despite these minor issues, we all got through the week without any major problems. Eventually Henry and Murphy
both realized they were going to be living in the same house together. My threats to send them to Tatooine for the summer must have done the trick.

The New Kid In Town

Now that I’ve lived in Loveland for a month, I feel a much stronger connection with the town. To be honest, when I first moved in, I knew little more than the two main streets in the area. Depending on my starting point, finding my way back home was at times quite a challenge. Thanks to my technique of randomly driving around town for little or no specific reason I have identified many, if not all, of the points of interest Loveland, Colorado has to offer.

One of the first things I did after moving in was to locate the nearest Walmart. Fortunately for me, it was only a few blocks away from the house. I drove over and stocked up on soda and other random items that seem to find their way into my shopping basket whenever I enter the store. Unfortunately for me, I drove to the exact same location a week later only to find it was gone. Well, the building didn’t go anywhere, but the essence of the company was nowhere to be found. After a few minutes of playing Columbo, I discovered a large note on the door, explaining that a new store had opened up on the other side of town.

But this wasn’t just any Walmart—- the new building housed a “Super” Walmart. Which means it is basically a traditional Walmart with a complete grocery store stuck on the side. And it stays open all the time. Given my well-documented erratic sleeping habits, this schedule was quite a welcomed change. To test things out, I drove over at midnight to examine the new structure. It literally has tons of stuff. I can’t say offhand exactly how many tons, but everywhere I looked I just saw more stuff. Having just moved all my stuff from Boulder, I was not really in the mood to acquire more stuff. But I did feel the need to buy something, just to be courteous to the Walmart establishment.

In order to make everyone happy, I bought a ninety-seven cent bottle of hair gel. While I’m still not sure if my hair needs the “ultra hold” or “maximum goo” style, the bottle I purchased does seem to be functioning within the expected parameters. And now I have one more item to add to my “ways to entertain myself at two in the morning” list. (Going to Walmart that is, not contemplating my hair gel needs.)

Now that Scott and I have cleared out all the unwanted vegetation from the yard, I have taken on the responsibility of mowing the lawn. For one thing, I haven’t had a lawn to mow since I was in high school. Secondly, the area covered by the lawn is so small it is not a big deal to fire up the lawn mower once a week. The lawn mower is one that mulches the grass instead of collecting it in a bag. In addition to being environmentally better for the planet, it keeps me in a much better mood since I don’t have to spend time hauling bags of dead grass all over the place.

One of my favorite aspects of living in Colorado are the two seasons. Winter and summer both make their presence felt throughout the year—- but not in any particular order. Sure, in December it is more likely to be winter and in June, odds favor the summer. I was mowing the lawn a few days ago when the sun was shining and all the other meteorological signs pointed to summer. By the time I had finished, the situation had completely reversed and it was quite clear that winter was stopping by for a visit. A few hours later it started snowing. If I had postponed mowing the lawn I might have had to shovel snow off it first. Fortunately, winter didn’t want to stay very long and things were back to summer status the next day.

After holding a brief funeral service to honor the premature demise of the raspberry bushes, Scott and I planted some new seeds in the garden. It turns out that world of genetic engineering hasn’t advanced to the point of being able to produce “seven-layer burrito” seeds. Given that limitation, I went back to the Super Walmart (which hadn’t been moved since my last visit to buy the hair gel) and bought various packages of seeds. According to the instructions, if planted correctly, the seeds will grow into various forms of vegetables. My specialty seems to be more in the area of killing vegetation, so I’m sure an attempt to grow a useful garden will be quite an adventure. (NOTE TO SELF: don’t run over the garden with the lawn mower.) But at least now I know where I can buy gardening equipment in the middle of the night.

Getting Dumped

After moving all my belongings to Loveland, I started the whole process of getting settled into my new surroundings. It was at this point in time I really became jealous of Scott’s dog. When Henry moves somewhere his entire settling process consists of figuring out where to go to relieve himself, sniffing everything in the area two or three times, and then falling asleep in the middle of the floor for the rest of the day. Henry doesn’t worry about hooking up stereo speakers or rifling through boxes trying to find a clean pair of underwear.

Over the years Scott has put a fair amount of effort into landscaping around the house. While it is not quite ready to be featured in “Better Homes and Gardens,” the yard is completely free of unmarked sinkholes and nonfunctioning automobiles. The one area I thought needed the most work was the garden on the side of the house. The area has been overtaken by trash, weeds, and, on occasion, a small band of street hardened juvenile delinquents. One night I told Scott I was going to attack the garden and clean it up a bit.

Before I go any further here, I have to ask the rhetorical question “How was I supposed to know the difference between weeds and a series of dormant but healthy raspberry bushes?” Needless to say, Scott overestimated my abilities to identify “good” versus “bad” plant life and we are not going to have any fresh raspberry pie in August. But on a positive note, the efforts produced a large pile of dead plants that had to be thrown away and we now had a good reason to go visit the city dump. We attached the wooden side rails on Scott’s pickup truck and started piling trash in the bed.

The next piece of vegetation that got loaded into the truck was a sickly looking tree that was living in the back yard. I’m not really sure what Scott did to it, because the tree looked quite healthy and vibrant propped up in the living room when I stopped by for his Christmas party. I honestly suspect Scott didn’t talk to the tree enough. In an attempt to revive the tree, I dug a small hole in the back yard and stood the tree up. My theory was the tree stump would sense the connection with Mother Earth and grow a complete new set of roots in a few days. Everything was going fine until these small gusts of wind kept tipping the tree over. Of course by then the self esteem of the tree was too depleted and we were forced to give up and throw it in the back of the truck.

The next item on the list was an old beat up desk that Scott’s previous roommate conveniently left in the room that was going to become my office. At first glance it appeared to be a simple wooden desk that could be easily carried down the stairs and given to Goodwill. Upon closer inspection, however, the desk was a monster. The entire structure was built from solid inch thick particle board and held together with generous quantities of screws, wood glue, and some sort of futuristic “Star Trek” force field. After a solid hour of attacking the beast, we carried its dismembered corpse outside and prepared it for final burial.

Once all the trash was loaded up, we tied a tarp over everything as best we could and headed out to the dump. While everything seemed to be securely tied down before we left, I suspect the air flow dynamics of traveling fifty miles an hour altered the stress forces in the back of the truck. About half way through our journey, the wooden side railings decided to spontaneously shatter into several pieces. The down side to this event was that half the junk we were hauling flew out on the road. The up side was… well, I don’t think there really was one.

The really funny thing (and by “funny” I really mean “pain in the ass”) was that with the side rails broken there was no way we could fit everything back into the truck. After some deliberation, we left some of the junk on the side of the road and took what we could to the dump. Once the first trip was completed, we went back and got the rest of the stuff off the side of the road. It really helped prolong the “going to the dump” experience into an entire afternoon ordeal.

Despite the setback, our goal was eventually achieved. We made it home in one piece and without any of the garbage we left with. Just to make us feel a little bit better about the whole situation, we checked the mail when we got back and found a coupon that would have saved us the twenty dollar fee at the dump.

And, of course, the dog was still sleeping on the floor when we got home.

Moving Excitement

Goodbye Boulder, hello Loveland. Well, that sums up what I have been up to over the past week or so. For various reasons, I decided to move out of my apartment in Boulder and into a house in Loveland. The most important reason revolves around a drunken late night conversation with Miss Cleo where she said, and I quote, “You have drawn the happy squirrel card. You need to make some big changes in your life, my friend.” The part about change really convinced me to move out of town. That, and I have completely exhausted my supply of wildly inappropriate JonBenet Ramsey jokes.

The first step in the moving process is to decide where to move. I have known my friend Scott since I was three and I have even gone so far as to travel to Germany with him to visit his parents. Scott lives in Loveland and he mentioned how he needed a new roommate. I thought about it for a few days, and eventually I called Scott back and asked if there was any way I could move in with his parents in Germany. Don’t get me wrong– I think Scott is a great guy, but his mom is a way better cook and most experts agree that Germany has a much better ultra-high speed train network than, say, Loveland, Colorado.

One of the keys to a successful move is to be disciplined and organized. Unfortunately for me, both of these attributes were permanently damaged in a prepubescent winter sledding accident. Despite this handicap, I tried my best to prioritize my belongings to make packing as efficient as possible. Here is a list of actual items I found during the inventory process:

One half eaten box of Total cereal with an expiration date of May 1997.
One empty bottle of shampoo with instructions in some foreign language.
A set of used check carbons from SIX addresses ago.
A zip-lock bag full of obsolete Dutch coins with an estimated value of seven dollars (minus the cost of transporting them back to Holland)

These items were carefully packed first using liberal quantities of crumpled up newspaper and bubble wrap. Once that was complete and double checked, I addressed the rest of my stuff.

One of the problems with packing is that I started with the things I cared about the most. All my clothes and electronic equipment were carefully packed and labeled in boxes to make sure nothing was thrown away or misplaced. On moving day all of this was ready to go. First we picked up the couch and placed it in the truck. The next two trips took care of my bedroom furniture. After twenty minutes all of my furniture, clothes, and electronic equipment was loaded up and ready to go. The problem, of course, was the rest of the crap that had accumulated in my apartment over the past three years– stuff that I didn’t want to throw away, but I didn’t care enough to actually pack. The good intentions I had at the beginning of the process gave way to me running around my apartment haphazardly throwing random objects into garbage bags so I could deal with it all later. The last bag I packed contained– and I am being totally honest here– a Harley Davidson calendar, a handful of razor blades, and my Fred and Barney Fruity Pebbles cardboard cutout.

Most fine wines improve with age. The same is not true for U-Haul trucks. I’m guessing the monster I rented reached its peak somewhere around 1977 based on the painting on the side of the truck of an old fashioned American flag and the phrase “U-Haul: Helping American celebrate her bicentennial.” Now I see why it was the only truck in Boulder available to rent. Everything squeaked and rattled in exactly the way I thought it shouldn’t. On the way to Loveland I looked on the dash and noticed the vehicle had been driven 116,000 miles. Of course there were only six digits on the odometer. I strongly suspect it had been flipped three, if not four, times. And by “it” I mean the entire truck.

Despite the truck’s best efforts to spontaneously disassemble into its 40,000 original parts in the middle of Highway 287, we made it to Loveland without any problems. I even got the hang of the odd standard transmission which had reverse where first gear should be, overdrive where reverse usually is, and third gear crammed into the glove compartment with a hastily written note saying, “Don’t use this until we get it back into the transmission box. Have a nice day.”

Unpacking everything in Loveland went pretty smoothly. The biggest problem was by the time we unpacked all the crap I didn’t really care about, we were all pretty much exhausted. No matter how much I think about it, I couldn’t find a way to unload the front and bottom most section of the truck first. Having survived the move, I would recommend the following simple two step process to anyone else who plans on changing their residency in the near future. 1. Spend half an hour moving the most important things into the moving truck. 2. Unfortunately, the state of Colorado still considers things like “lighting your apartment on fire” and “insurance fraud” to be “illegal”, but I’m sure you can connect the dots.