Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keep It Simple: Roasted Vegetables

While I enjoy cooking and find it an enjoyable challenge to apply complicated recipes, it is true that simple foods are often the most pleasing in both preparation and eating.
I was invited to a friend’s house for a Christmas day dinner. She had invited a number of other couples and singles and wisely asked everyone to bring a dish. I chose to bring roasted vegetables.

I based the idea on something I got from the “Food in a Flash” radio spot where Mike Colameco explained that while he loved Brussels sprouts, he didn’t care for their generally bitter taste in more traditional recipes. He went on to say that roasting them got rid of the bitterness and this was an easy method to prepare them. I tried this on a small scale and realized that it did indeed work (the sprouts were delicious), that it was an extremely easy way to prepare veggies, and that the method could be scaled up or down as you needed.

So here’s not so much of a recipe as a method for preparing roasted vegetables. The volume of vegetables I list below will feed 8 to 10 people. You’ll need two cookie sheets that fit side by side in your oven. I suggest that you test them for fit before you begin.

Wash and rinse all veggies. Choose large sprouts (the small ones can get mushy). 

Cut off the stems and remove the outer leaves of a 8-10 Brussels sprouts. Cut them in half.

Remove the top and seeds of two red peppers. Thinly slice into long strips.

Peel 8 or 9 garlic cloves, smash (I use the flat side of the knife), and remove the center if green.

Trim then cut two large carrots into square strips. The strips should be around 1/4 inch thick or they won’t cook through.

Cut a large yellow squash into slices that are about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut up a head of broccoli, removing the tough stems. You want to end up with floret chunks about the same size as the sprouts (more for visual symmetry than for any culinary reason).
Trim, peel, then coarsely slice two small red onions. Separate the pieces.

Place half of all the veggie pieces in a plastic bag. Add some coarse salt and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil. Be generous with the olive oil. Securely close then shake and roll the bag around to ensure that all the pieces are well coated. Pour the veggies onto a cookie sheet. Make sure they are evenly spread out and that the sprouts are arranged cut side up.

Repeat with the second half of the veggies, a second bag, more olive oil, and a second cookie sheet.

You can add fresh rosemary to the bags but I prefer to let the flavor (and color and texture) of the vegetables stand on their own.

Depending on how fast you cut up vegetables, the prep can take about 30 to 45 minutes.
Add an additional drizzle of olive oil to the cut face of each sprout. This is necessary if the sprouts are large but can be skipped if they are on the small side.

Move one of your oven shelves on the top rung, put the cookie sheets in side by side, and turn on the broiler. I start out with a low setting for about 10 minutes, then turn it to high for 10 minutes or until I see things starting to smoke a bit, then turn it back to low for another 5-10 minutes. You can give the cookie sheets a bit of a shake but there is no need to turn anything over. Check the veggies often. The sprouts and the broccoli will blacken on the edges which is fine. Poke the carrots with a fork—when they are starting to get done, everything else is already done. Total time should be around 25-30 minutes but this depends on your broiler, of course. You don’t want to overcook or you’ll end up with a soggy mess.

I dumped the veggies into a large Pyrex bowl, covered it with foil, and carried it to my friend’s house. It sat on the counter for well over an hour then was popped into the oven to warm just before serving. The veggies were crisp and flavorful. We gobbled them up along with dressing, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I brought home just enough leftover veggies to have for lunch at work the next day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ignoring Azza (Training Azza 13)

Azza had an interesting learning moment yesterday. I was walking the dogs as usual and while we were nearing the hovel on our return, we encountered a guy that I’ve met at social events a couple of times. He had a question for me about some dishes his sister had insisted that he bring to KSA with him when he moved.

Normally when I’m walking the dogs I don’t let anyone approach me nor do I approach anyone unless the dogs already know them. Azza is far too unpredictable in her response and often displays fear behaviors that understandably get some people a bit worked up, which in turn gets her even more worked up. It’s a vicious cycle that I have found best to avoid altogether.

However, I’ve discovered an interesting thing: when I tell people to ignore Azza completely and to not make eye contact with her or even look in her direction, she doesn’t get nearly as fearful. So I agreed to walk over and take a look at the dishes but I first gave the guy these instructions. 

Fortunately, he’s a smart guy and did exactly as I asked. He and I had a conversation about the dishes (whether they were worth anything, what he should do with them since he didn’t have room to keep them, etc.). The terriers ignored him as he clearly had nothing of interest for them (i.e., no food). Azza slipped behind me when I got close to the guy and hackled up but she didn’t growl or drop to the ground. I ignored her, he ignored her, the terriers ignored everybody, and suddenly I realized that Azza was moving forward towards the guy to sniff him. 

This is fabulous because this is the default behavior I’ve been working on when she sees something scary, the “what is it?” command which requires her to give the scary thing a nose touch/sniff to earn a treat. Without missing a beat, I reminded the guy to ignore her and we continued talking about the dishes. Azza gave him a quick sniff then casually returned to my side.

This was quite a breakthrough for her. It’s the second time that she has successfully been around a stranger during our walks and not completely lost her shit, and the first time that she approached a stranger on her own with no negative reaction. It helps that both times I’ve encountered people that followed my instructions to ignore her no matter what she does. Azza certainly isn’t ready for random interactions yet.

You probably have a dog who thinks everyone he sees is his friend. The terriers are generally that way, although living here has dampened their response a lot since so many people we pass on our walks are scared of them and freak out if the terriers drift towards them to see if they can be greeted. Azza is simply a different beast. Her first response to anything new is fear, fear, fear: hackle, growl, and run away if possible and if it’s not, get as scary as possible (for example, her eyes become enormously dilated and she pulls her ears down and out from her head, parallel to the ground like helicopter rotors). This new behavior of cautious approach (on her terms) is a tiny baby step but it represents a huge shift in her emotional state.

Cultural Exceptionalism (Part Two)

Even Fox News can string together something that looks more like a narrative than this, but the Arab News is renowned for such tantalizing yet nonsensical tidbits.

I have no doubt that the quote is correct, however.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rare Moment of Calm

Azza, Mimi, Harry, Tsingy, and HellBeast asleep at the same time. In the same room. Rare indeed. I crawled out from under the blanket on the couch to take this photo.

If The Religious Police Don't Approve, You Didn't Need It Anyway

I want to buy a new iPad. I have a first generation iPad without a camera. While I don't play games on my iPad and thus couldn't care less about the improved display of the newer ones, there were some features such as camera and video that I wanted to have.

I did the research to figure out which one I should buy. Apple isn't making this easy since iPad 2, 3, mini, and 4 are available these days. I knew I wanted both WiFi and 3/4G since the WiFi-only iPads don't have a GPS antenna and that is a function that I particularly value and use a lot. Once I decided on the model, I visited one of the local stores in the Al Rashid mall to price compare and decided that the price difference between buying one in the US and buying one here was negligible, especially when you factor in the instant gratification aspect of picking one up in the mall.

Once the decision was made, I arranged my schedule on Thursday (my weekend) to go get my new iPad and spend the day getting it set up. I was very excited as one usually is when anticipating a fancy new toy to play with.

I walked in the store and asked the guy if they had the model I was looking for. Yes, we have that, he said, but it doesn't come with FaceTime.

For you non-Mac or old-Mac users, FaceTime is a videotelephony app that works sort of like Skype but that makes video calls from one Apple device to another. I have resisted Skype because it ties me to my computer--I'd have to sit in front of my desk in a not-too-comfortable chair. But imagine if I could make those kinds of calls using my iPad. Now that sounds interesting. So FaceTime was another feature I wanted to gain in my new iPad purchase (it isn't available of course in the first generation iPads because they don't have cameras).

No FaceTime, I asked. Well, I can install it myself, can't I? No, he said, FaceTime is blocked in the Middle East. It can't be put or used on iPads purchased in the Middle East.

And I suppose that I have now crossed some sort of threshold for the bizarre after 3 1/2 years living here because I didn't even bat an eyeball. I totally accepted what he said was true. I thanked him very politely for telling me that and I went home.

I've now done a bit of research and found that it is true that iPads and iPhones sold in most Middle Eastern and some African countries do not have FaceTime installed, that it can't in fact be installed at all. There is some vague chatter about ways to force it to install on your device but I won't take that chance. I'll just pick up my new iPad when I'm next in the US.

You might be wondering why FaceTime is considered so horrible that it can't be sold in these parts of the world. In short, mixing of the sexes. The most frightening behavior that mutawahs can imagine is that of young men and women, unrelated to each other, mind you, speaking to each other. And believe me, the world would fucking end in a fireball if they could SEE each other at the same time. (The new age fools who think the Mayans were on to something, and the crass commercialists who want you to think that too while buying their products, have nothing on the Saudi religious police when it comes to apocalyptic scenarios.)

The same kind of censorship is applied to Amazon Kindle book titles. I surf to the site from a Saudi IP address so Amazon assumes that is my "region." Instead of the million-plus Kindle titles you can see from the US, the censored view from the Middle East only has a few thousand. Fortunately, "region" is a variable that can be reset by the user. I change it to "United States" and voila, I can browse and purchase pretty much whatever I want. I suspect the mutawahs haven't noticed this feature yet or it would have been disabled already.

Pfft, you say, so what, this is hardly a big deal for me, I live in the US where I can read and watch and buy whatever I want. Well, I suggest that you do some research on the "global internet accord" that has been under discussion for some time. Countries like China that need to control the internet to control social unrest and Arabian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia that need to control the internet in order to enforce adherence to religiously defined behaviors want to control ALL of the internet. And that means YOUR internet access and functionality will be affected if they get their way.

Freedom is not free.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Desert Dog and Rain

It rained in our area for almost 8 hours yesterday. This time it was a real rain, not the usual spit of moisture and dust that leaves a film of dried mud on everything. reports 16 mm, consistent with data from local Aramco weather stations.

I have stopped the dogs’ pre-dawn walks again because the feral dog pack has been getting more aggressive and I don’t want to take the risk of being stalked and attacked in the dark. So I try my best to rush home from work, throw on some walking clothes, and take the beasts out for a good long walk while we have a bit of daylight left.

There was no daylight yesterday and in fact it was raining steadily but I decided to walk the dogs anyway. It wasn’t that cold, only about 53 F. Harry and Mimi have experienced much more challenging conditions. But the main reason I decided to walk them was to give Azza her first experience with rain. She’s a year old and while it did rain a tiny bit in February and March of this year, she’s never seen real rain.

Mimi spent the walk hunched over trying to look as miserable as possible while Harry trotted along as if it was just another day.

As an aside, Harry adores his daily walks. I reach for my shoes and the leashes and he starts doing what I call his “walkie dance” in which he shuffles and hops from foot to foot, so excited he can hardly contain himself. He only stops dancing long enough to get close to me so I can snap his collar on.
I quickly discovered a rather interesting design flaw in desert dog Azza: her ears. Those enormous upright ears become rain scoops. You could almost hear the drops plinking into them. She squinted and tilted her head and held first one then the other ear down to sort out these new sensations. (She has extremely fine control over her ears and is able to independently rotate them almost 180 degrees from upright to flattened back against her head.)

Then she discovered the rain itself. She slowly looked up and realized that something was falling from the sky. Naturally she began to leap up into the air again and again trying to catch the rain drops. She was so joyful and excited to learn about this wonderful new thing in her world. She splashed through mud and puddles as if they weren’t there (Harry and Mimi walk around puddles). I let her get just as wet and dirty as she wanted because she’s got an easy-care coat like the terriers.

When we got home, they all got a good rubdown with the towel I had strategically left by the door and after a bit of zoomies around the living room, a roll on the Persian carpet, and some dinner, all settled down for a nap.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Men in Dresses

Thobes are the white dress worn by many Gulf Arabs. Thobes are a costume in the same sense that an actor on the stage wears a costume. The efforts of many people (usually not including the actor or the wearer) are required to construct them and maintain them. In business and social settings, these garments by design and intent create a significant barrier between Saudis and westerners. 

I have worked with Saudis who wore thobes to work every day but at some point and for some reason decided to switch to western clothes. To my eye, the difference was dramatic. Instead of mannequins wearing costumes, they became real people. I had to stop myself on more than on occasion from telling them how nice they looked--worried that they would think that I meant that they didn't look nice before and that I was thus impugning their "traditional" costume (more on this at the end). Pissing off the wrong Saudi can get you fired around here.

Thobes are usually made from a cotton-polyester blend. Linen, silk, and pure cotton all wrinkle during normal wear. But through the magic of blended fibers and lots of starch, Saudi men look like ambulatory, stiff, white, perfectly unwrinkled pipes. The collars can range from a western-style pointed collar to a stand-up “Nehru”-type collar. Thobes are always long sleeved and many have heavy cuffs that require old-fashioned cuff links. The garments are usually pulled over the head and closed at the neck with just a few buttons or snaps although I've seen some with fastenings all the way up. There are a couple of layers under the thobe including pajama-type pants but thankfully I know nothing more than that. Thobes are usually dry cleaned or else housemaids spend hours ironing and starching them.

While thobes are predominantly white, in the cooler months many Saudis switch to dark colored dresses made from heavier fabric resembling that used to make suit jackets.

Saudi thobes are nearly always accompanied by a white or red and white gutra or head scarf and a black iqal, the rope-like device that rests on the wearer’s head (it isn’t a headband and doesn’t hold the gutra in place; it mainly acts as a weight). Saudi men spend an inordinate amount of time fussing around with their gutras, constantly flipping them up and back in various elaborate folds. All of this preening and costume adjusting is strongly reminiscent of 12-year old girls flipping their hair around. (Saudi women also constantly readjust their head scarves so when looking at a group of them you see a sea of flipping motions. It can be quite annoying if you think about it too much.) In a strong wind, men have to hold the two front ends of the gutra down to keep the thing on their heads. The gutras are made from very light cotton sometimes blended with silk. These items are also dry cleaned or require a lot of handwork to maintain. Gutras are thin and serve little practical purpose in protecting the wearer from the sun or dust or wind.

Thobes are constructed in panels with capacious pockets built into the sides (abayas most emphatically do not have pockets; I suspect the sexual innuendo is far too horrific to be contemplated). Thin men have their thobes made with princess seams to emphasize their figure (I am absolutely serious about this). Fat Saudis (plenty of those to go around, Americans have nothing on the Saudis for obesity) have extra material in their thobes so there is no constriction or narrowing to interrupt the straight line of material from shoulder to ground. As an aside, did you know that the waddling ass of a fat man in a dress looks just like the ass of a fat woman in a dress?

Thobes are most often floor length. I always get a laugh watching thobe-clad Saudi men delicately pick up their skirts to cross a wet parking lot or to walk by an area where sprinklers are running. They would of course have to pick up their skirts to climb stairs but no thobe-clad Saudi man would ever do that.

Unlike a woman trying to accessorize a gown, the choice of footwear for Saudi men is simple: leather sandals that resemble gigantic, gold-embossed, fungus-y toenails wrapped around their feet (don’t even get me started on basic foot hygiene; callus smoothing and nail clipping isn’t part of the package) or black or dark brown leather dress shoes and dark dress socks. It looks as ridiculous as it sounds.

Every so often you see a mutawah with a high-water thobe hemmed to around mid-calf (you get a good view of those dress socks). Even the mutawahs who wear western clothes usually wear high-water pants. This is to keep their clothing from becoming dusty or dirty from the ground contaminated by all of us non-believers walking around.

Sadly, you often see very young boys decked out in thobes and gutra and fungus sandals. I say sadly because I don’t view it as an endearing attempt to copy their elders but a display of early indoctrination. 

Even more pathetic are the handful of westerners who attempt to wear thobes. This is usually strongly discouraged by Saudis because we are told that we (westerners) don’t know how to wear thobes and abayas “correctly.” Whatever. They can have the fucking things.

Saudis will quickly inform you that the thobe is a “traditional” garment for Saudi men. Perhaps it is traditional in the sense that in many cultures spanning South Asia, Middle East, and North Africa, men have worn some variant of a robe, skirt, or dress-like garment for centuries. This is of course not what the Saudis mean by "traditional" because they do have a strong cultural exceptionalism. But old Aramco photos do not show the pristine, crisp garments that you see today. Instead, in the photos many Saudi men are wearing dark colored, knee-length tunics, long pants, and sandals, and have cloths tied around their heads in a turban style. Frequently the men also top off their ensemble with western-style suit jackets. In other words, they are wearing clothing suitable for herding goats and camels in a desert climate, which is what the Saudis were doing before the Americans found oil and gas here back then.

(Check back in a couple of days. I have some of these photos but I forgot to bring them home.)

There is nothing traditional about men in a desert-herding culture wearing white dresses and delicate head covers that blow away at the first puff of a shamal. So it is ironic to see poor, rural Saudis who still herd goats and camels for a living today wearing grubby, dusty thobes. But I suppose maintaining the myth of tradition is more important than practical wardrobes.

Friday, December 07, 2012


That's Kinky's new name. It's either Hellbeast or The Little Orange Fucker and the latter takes too long to say.

In the past week, he has racked up these accomplishments:
  • Knocked my keys and glasses off the table twice, then played with the keys and knocked/pushed them under a bag on the floor so that I couldn't find them in the morning when I was trying to get to work.
  • Chewed up two of my morning supplements that I left on the counter when I took the dogs out for a pee (he left one of them on the carpet in an explosion of white powder; I never did find the gel capsule the powder was in).
  • Consumed a rather large holiday dog treat brought all the way from the UK by my friend PM; I had left it on the counter in a bag while taking the dogs out for a quick pee.
  • Knocked Tsingy's bottle of Metacam on the floor, along with the syringe applicator, from the kitchen counter while I was taking the dogs out for a pee; I later found half the syringe in Azza's mouth, the plunger shoved nearly a foot under the carpet (I stepped on it, ow!), and the bottle of pain medicine in the closet where I keep the dog and cat food.
  • Licked up about 1/4 cup of steaming dog meatloaf pulled right out of the oven when I left the pans on the stove top to cool; I hope he burned his mouth, the little orange fucker.
  • Bit Upul on the leg when he dared to give Tsingy a treat first.
  • Repeatedly bullied Tsingy by chasing her every time she left her room to get a drink or tried to be sociable.
  • And finally, consumed a goodly part of my new flip flops, the THIRD pair that he has eaten (the first two were so badly eaten that I had to toss them).

I swear to dog, I will never get another orange cat again. The hellbeast has soured me on them forever.

I totally know what you are thinking: never leave anything out in the kitchen. I now have a printed message in an emphatic font pasted to my door reminding me of this every time I leave.

In case you were wondering, he sleeps next to me every night, often curled up under the covers with just his head poking out. Unless he's otherwise occupied eating flip flops. Little orange fucker.

Agility in KSA

The latest season of agility in KSA is winding down. We'll be taking a break from about Christmas to the beginning of February.

We added some new handlers for this set of classes and I'm very proud of the progress that everyone has made in the past 10 weeks.

With intermediate-level handlers to serve as models, I felt that I could push the new ones quite a bit and the intermediate handlers even harder. Most of them are doing respectable to impeccable front crosses and RFPs, can sort of read course maps, can handle serpentines and threadles, and can direct their dogs to the backside of jumps. Their start-line stays aren't quite where I'd like them to be but that is because none of them are practicing this at home despite my weekly exhortations/pleading/nagging (my actual tone doesn't seem to make any difference). Most of the handlers are doing two sets of somewhat closed 2x2 weaves. PM and her yellow lab Nellie are doing six poles (three sets of 2x2x) with nearly closed poles. I have been enforcing handler positions and dog entries and we've been using targets for most of the dogs for the weave exercises. If we can keep at it, I may have 3 of the dogs doing inline weaves by the end of the next session (February-March 2013).

We've done skills challenges, CleanRun Backyard Dogs courses, and courses of my own design. Sometimes they work flowing sequences of 7 to 10 obstacles and sometimes they work skills on 3 or 4 obstacles. I try to mix it up as much as I can with our tiny equipment set.

It's really interesting to me to figure out what each dog and handler pair needs in the way of coaching and guidance. Some of my readers who do agility would probably find that maddening. I find new insights into how people and dogs learn and how they "see" agility obstacles. Sometimes getting a handler to do her front cross in the right place at the right time is a huge success. Sometimes getting a dog over a jump with joy and intent is the success. Every action is measured anew for each team.

For both the basic obedience and the agility classes, I decided to increase the level of my communication with them outside of class. A couple of days after every class, I send an email to everyone recapping what we did in class, explaining things in detail as needed, and tell them what we will be working on for the upcoming class, and reminding them of the skills they should be practicing as homework. The emails are a lot of work as each one may take me 30-45 minutes to write and edit. It's a one-sided communication as I rarely get replies but I have had several handlers tell me that they appreciate the emails.

I haven't posted many photos because the larger class size doesn't give me that luxury. But I'll leave you with this:

Seven jumps, two tunnels, one chute, five pairs of tunnel bags, three sets of 2x2 bases, all the required poles, two gear bags (one with water, numbered cones, shade, and clips, and the other with treats, toys, clickers, targets, course maps, wallet, phone, and all of that kind of personal gear), six weave poles (hinged on a steel base and not actually in this load), a crate dolly, assorted bungees, Mimi's soft crate, and Mimi (in the front passenger seat) in one Honda CRV. Whew!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Training Azza 12

I’ve commented before on what I believe is a fundamental
miswiring in the brains of feral or “desert” dogs such as Azza. They engage in
behaviors that are unusual in most domesticated dogs. They are overly sensitive to environmental triggers that many domesticated dogs would ignore. It isn’t simply a case of socialization or training. I’ve had Azza since she was about 7 weeks old and she’s as well socialized and trained as any dog I’ve had. While necessary, socialization and training are not even close to being sufficient to make these dogs '"normal.” As is the case with any wild animal, we are at best only taming them. I’ve begun to view working with Azza as a project to provide her with tools to cope with the world. Training isn't going to make her "normal" but it will help her to be less stressed and fearful. She is now a year old and while she can be incredibly frustrating to manage at times, I have to admit that she and I have come a long way together.

In the past two years, I’ve worked with about 10 different
desert dogs in private training settings and I’ve seen a good cross section of the behaviors that they can exhibit. Most of them prefer to flee than fight but they will offer subtle yet clear signals when they are thinking about attack. When they are pushed to the point of attack, it is amazingly quick, nearly silent, and often extremely violent (that is, their intent is to kill or disable). No half measures with these dogs.

The feral dogs are incredibly lithe, lean, and strong. There is a lot of power packed into those skinny bodies. Handling them is not for the faint of heart or will. You have to be willing to stand your ground and you have to be extremely consistent. For example, Azza is trained to sit at doorways. I taught her this mainly to prevent her from bumping Harry in a clusterfuck rush in and out. She will not go in the house until I give a verbal release and a hand signal. And the hand signal must come from my right hand, the hand closest to her. If I gesture with my left hand or give a verbal only or fail to give a verbal at all, she won't move. In other words, she is beautifully trainable but remarkably inflexible in applying that training. Everything has to be done exactly the same way every time or she gets worried, stressed, anxious, and then begins to act out.

Pfft, you say, that's hardly an example of problematic behavior. But it is a good example of her inability to function in unfamiliar situations, even though the only "unfamiliar" aspect of that is the use of my left hand instead of my right. If something as trivial and simple as that makes her worry, imagine her reaction when confronted with much more chaotic situations. When one of these tornadoes wrapped in dog skin acts out, there can be problems. But they are problems that can be managed if you are willing to put in the training time.

I started working earlier this year with a couple who had adopted a desert dog puppy they found wandering the streets. I did a series of private lessons with them during the summer and they signed up for my basic obedience class. As of Thursday, they had successfully completed 5 weeks of it. The dog was quite typical for a desert feral but had a set of fear issues that I thought was far smaller and less problematic than Azza's. I thought all was well with them until I got a call from the woman on Friday asking me about a problem they were having when they were walking the dog.

Upul and I have been working through the exact same problem with Azza all summer long. You'd be walking along thinking all was well when she'd suddenly flip out and start to leap and lunge and nip and bite at you. The behavior was random and I could never identify a trigger. After watching her carefully, I decided that she was wasn't acting out from fear. But beyond that I still don't know why she behaved this way. Rather than anthropomorphize, I could only observe her actions and devise a plan to deal with them. In the end, the best way to handle these fits was to grab her collar and wait them out. She nipped Upul for quite a bit longer than she did me because he wasn't willing (at first) to be firm enough with her. It took nearly all of my strength to hold on to her some days. She acted like she was possessed by an evil spirit or perhaps having some sort of fantastic stroke. It was incredibly frustrating because it was random.

After suffering through a couple of months of this, I realized that I needed to change my approach. I upped the rate of rewards she got during walks to a treat delivered every few feet (we are going through kibble at a prodigious rate) and that has made a huge difference. Azza would much rather have a bunch of treats than be collared until she calms down. She gets a treat for not eating stuff off the ground. She gets a treat for calmly looking at a scary abaya wafting by or a terrifying kid on a skateboard shooting past then looking back at me. She gets a treat for walking in heel position on a loose lead. She now ever so gently bumps my hand with her nose if she thinks she's being good and hasn't had a reward in the past 30 seconds! In short, I began a training and reward frenzy and over a period of a couple of months reshaped her behavior so that there simply isn't room for her fits.

I spoke to the woman on the phone about ways to deal with their dog's fits, relating some of the problems I had with Azza and some of the things that worked for us, and I emailed them first thing Saturday morning with more detailed advice. Given their success to date, I had every expectation that they would work through this with their dog.

So you can imagine my horror when I got an email this morning from the man telling me that they decided to put the dog to sleep.

PM, MW, and I joined forces tonight and let our pack of five dogs run wild in an empty backyard. While watching Nellie pound Azza into the dirt while Mimi looked for an opportunity to sneak in a bite and Boodle danced around the edge of the melee barking ever so threateningly and Harry nosed around in the grass around our feet for something to nibble on, we drank a toast to poor Roxie.

I'm mad, I'm sad, I'm disappointed. I know that this didn't have to happen. But now it's done and I must find a way to learn something from it. If nothing else, it convinces me to redouble my efforts with Azza. I won't throw her away just because she's difficult.