Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Change She Is A'Comin'

Big changes are in progress at Circus K9. I've been holding off on this particular post for some weeks now, but it is time to announce my news.

I have accepted a job with Saudi Aramco. In a few short weeks, I'll be moving to Dhahran, Saudia Arabia.

A friend emailed me today and asked me if I felt things were under control now or if everything was still pretty chaotic. The answer is that it's a mixed bag. After looking for work for more than four months, simply having a defined plan for the immediate future is a huge relief. But now the chaos and stress are being driven by different concerns related to uprooting my entire life, my pack, and making a move to a foreign country on the other side of the earth.

The Aramco job offers me three very significant things: it is a huge feather in my career cap, I will be able to participate in extremely challenging and interesting activities that build on all of my professional and technical areas of expertise, and it will ensure financial stability for my future.

Aramco has a reputation for technical excellence--there are very few Aramco expats circulating in the petroleum industry because once most people start working for Aramco, they stay there until they retire. Expat salaries are generous by design, Aramco salaries border on the obscene. My goal is to retire when I am 55 or so, in about 9 or 10 years. And even upon retirement, with the Aramco reputation behind me, I can selectively consult if I so choose.

But it's not only about the money. When I read the job description on the Aramco website back in June, I immediately thought, wow, they created this job just for me. And so it has proved--upon review of my resume the crew in KSA apparently thought the same thing. Interviews followed. Just yesterday I went to Houston for my orientation.

But what does all this mean for Circus K9? Although my tentative departure date is October 28, I have been preparing for this huge transition for many weeks. Everything is starting to compress now, speed up and get a bit more frenzied.

I look at every single object in my house and think, ship? Will I have room for it in my housing on the Dhahran compound? Store? Is it valuable enough that I might want it in 5 or 8 or 10 years? Sell? How much is it worth? How long would it take me to sell it? And finally, if it doesn't fall into any of those categories, do I donate it or throw it away?

It's not just about things either. There have been some really dramatic changes in the pack. Cap went back to his former Border Collie Rescue Foster mom in Austin. Bix flew to Salt Lake City last Friday to live with my friend Gosia (check out her blog with updates on how he's settling in with his harem of 4 female cats and her 3 BCs--hysterical). Gracie is now living with her new mom Connie in San Antonio. I'll post more about Gracie later. My mother has agreed to take my sweetpea Dyna, who should integrate seamlessly into her pack, and Bhumi, who I hope will snuggle up to her 15-year-old cat Freckles and give him some company in his twilight years.

I haven't yet found new homes for Jack and Lola but am working on that with the help of friends.

I plan to take Harry and Mimi to Dhahran with me.

Yes, my heart is breaking. I feel like I am cutting off my limbs with the departure of each one of my wonderful companions. I am running out of limbs, soon to be just a torso flopping on the ground. Can't pack too well if I'm just a torso.

But now that I've broken the news, I am going to be able to post a lot more about the crazy, wild adventure I am starting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not Much of a Post, But the Pics are Nice!

It's been a busy week since I last posted. There are some really big changes happening at Circus K9 and even bigger ones to come, but I am not yet ready to post about them. Be patient, grasshopper. You will learn all soon enough.

For now, I think I'll just share some photos of the dogs and cats.

Here's Dyna ensconced in the middle of her giant bed in the living room.

Yes, sadly, this is a photo of my own bed taken at some ungodly hour of the night when I couldn't sleep. Notice how all four of those dogs sleep with their limbs stretched stiffly out. Bhumi is the only cat that regularly curls up with the dogs.

This is a great show photo of Jack taken back in his conformation days. He was groomed to his very eyeballs but he sure does look lovely, doesn't he?

Bhumi getting his nightly belly rub.

Lola lounging on top of one of the cat castles. I had sprinkled catnip all over one of the lower levels so she is sleeping off a bender in this photo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I know my friends in central Texas won't appreciate this so much, but it has rained 5.25" here in the past 36 hours...and it's still raining steadily.

The weather system causing the rain is pretty large and I noticed that Austin did record an inch of rain on Friday. Boy, they need lots more than that.

I'd be happy to ship some of it south if I could. Even the dogs are making wet, squelching sounds when they walk around the back yard--we've certainly had our share and then some. (Since there's no thunder, I have been able to convince Dyna and Mimi to come out and play in the yard.)

It's crazy to even type this knowing how bad the drought is to the south, but my rain gauge only records up to 5" so I empty it every 12 hours or so.

I took Harry and Jack for a walk this morning. There was light drizzle and I knew we weren't going to be out in it for too long. The most exciting part was the stream crossing. The stream crosses a road in a large dip designed to hold the water flow, which is usually just a trickle. It dries up completely during the summer. The water was just above my ankles, cold, and moving swiftly. Small sand waves had accumulated on the concrete stream bed--the sand provided good footing on top of the algae slime that usually covers the concrete. Since I planned our route so that we crossed near the end of our walk, the boys and I just waded in. Socks and shoes will dry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Case of the Missing Toads

I've got a healthy toad population around the house. I'm not a toad expert but I am a naturalist and I have identified both Texas Toads and Woodhouse Toads.

I welcome this situation because, as I regularly remind the dogs, "toads are our friends." They eat all sorts of annoying insects without making much of a fuss about it. I don't let the dogs mess with any toads they encounter outside.

Bhumi stalking the window--here's the reason!

Other than seeing the occasional toad hunting at night, the most direct evidence of our cohabitation is toad poop. Toad poop is comprised of single turds, cylinders that are 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in length, dark in color. Trust me on this, you do not want to step on fresh toad poop with bare feet--it is slimy and smells awful.

But closer examination of toad poop reveals all sorts of shiny insect carapaces and wings and other bits that vary with the season. Spring, it's crickets. Summer, you'll find june bug and other beetle parts.

Toads live in relatively shallow holes they dig under bushes, fences, rock walls, wherever they can scratch out some loose dirt. They hibernate during the winter, digging deeper holes and covering themselves entirely.

All in all, they are great neighbors to have, and I've always thought that my toad population, comprised of both big and little toads, was a sign that I had a pretty healthy little ecosystem.

But lately, I've noticed a distinct absence of both toad poop and toad sightings. It was the Case of the Missing Toads.

Yesterday, I think I found the solution:

Harry and Dyna cautiously investigate.

Yes, that's a shed snake skin. It was in excellent condition and completely intact. Probably a rat snake, the North Texas equivalent of the generic LBB or "little brown bird" used by bird watchers. Certainly not a rattler. But judging by the size of the shed skin, that snake could have easily laid waste to my happy toad family.

I'm sorry for my toads, but that's the cycle of nature.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Agility Slide Show!

Two great weekends of agility in Fort Worth, two fabulous agility dogs, 237 photos!

Check out the slide show!

99.9% of you will not be able to tell the girls apart but I will mention that Gracie has a large tan spot on the back of her neck and one side of her face is tan, the other white. Mimi's forehead blaze is much wider and nearly all of the lower part of her nose is white.