Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kanab, Utah! The Greatest Earth on Show!

No, I'm not that punny -- Kanab is:

If you ever go to Kanab, stay at Quail Park Lodge. From our frazzled 10 p.m. arrival when we couldn't get the key to open the door (solution: turn it) to the friendly chat in the morning when I retrieved coffee and doughnuts from the office, our stay was great. Big fluffy comforters, super fancy robes, and the ability to have pet sleepovers from Best Friends (if you don't stay in our deluxe-newly-renovated-suite). Loved it. I totally forgot to take a picture, but it was as cute as the website looks.

We slept like logs Thursday night -- hardly surprising -- but managed to get up when the evil alarm went off because PUPPIES WERE WAITING! We had to be at Best Friends at 8:30 a.m. for the video before the tour before the volunteering and there was no way I was going to be late. So I allowed for traffic. In the 7 miles between our motel and the turn-off from route 89. We passed one car. Score one for the small town.

Of course it was a good thing we had time because I could hardly drive for looking at the breathtaking -- and I don't bandy that word around, people -- scenery that we had totally missed during our night time arrival. Judge for yourself:

I KNOW. Flipping MAJESTIC. And I usually only say that about HRH Queen Elizabeth. We were still oohing and aahing three days later as we left that beautiful place. I've been out west before and I've even been camping in Zion National Park (about 40 miles away), but Kanab is just smack in the middle of major rock loveliness. Go ahead, have another:

But we weren't there for scenery, we were there for the animals. And boy, did they deliver. For those of you who are link-phobic and have thus avoided all the chances to go read the Best Friends website instead of my random thoughts, Best Friends Animal Society is a place unlike any other. Twenty-four years ago, some animal-loving friends bought land in Angel Canyon and formed an animal sanctuary from which no animal would ever be turned away. Kindness to animals builds a better world for all of us. Believe it. From their No More Homeless Pets campaign to disaster animal rescue to education and support, they help rescue groups and animals all over the world. Good stuff.

We began with a guided tour of the sanctuary. Large vans with bench seats. Wombat and I grabbed the way, way back, because we were in fact the coolest kids on the bus. The ladies in front of us were from Virginia, of course. We are everywhere. The ride was really bumpy but most excellent for pointing out interesting scenery and the inner workings of the various different animal areas. First animal stop with touching was the home for cats with feline leukemia. The house itself is part cat fantasy land and part tribute to a longtime donor whose husband built the house after his wife died without fulfilling her dream to live near Best Friends and volunteer with the cats every day. The cats were enjoying the sunshine and the love and attention from their personal caregiver. Wombat caught me petting one little sweetie. Don't tell Boom:

We drove past Feathered Friends -- thank goodness, no need to see any birds, thank you very much -- and past the wild turkeys that were mooching scattered feed around the buildings. Then we head to Dogtown Heights and got to see how they manage to keep so many dogs healthy and happy. All the dogs had indoor rooms with beds and blankets and then full outdoor play areas that were almost as big as my backyard. Some dogs had buddies, others were on their own. All of them were eager to see who had pulled up in the van. The dog caregivers were by and large a truly friendly and happy group of people who were quick to share stories about their animals charges. We couldn't wait to get started volunteering!

Back to the front desk for paperwork and name tags and then off to the cafeteria for a splendid $4 vegetarian buffet. Yum. A little windy that first day, but a view to die for:

Full of healthy vegetables, grains, and fruit, Wombat and I headed over to the Clinic for our next volunteer orientation. We watched a short film about dog handling (don't hug the dogs? we'll see about that) and a possible sighting of John Garcia, hottie animal trainer from the National Geographic show Dogtown, and we were sent off with a map to our first destination: The Fairway.

Each Dogtown Heights area has two octagons of dogs, two caregivers, and about 40-45 dogs. I don't know if they lost a lot of volunteers in the past, but when they send you out dogwalking now, you are pointed to the path for your building. The paths are red sandy and outlined in rocks and meander up and down and around, with a bench in the middle for a water break and a cuddle. We broke the no-hug rule with the first set of dogs. I also discovered that these dogs have not developed Boom's patience with extended picture-taking, so I got a lot of backs of heads. Still cute:

Some of the dogs walked beautifully on their leashes. Others were a little more stubborn. One particular hound dog named Yankee was in a class all by himself. While we were walking the path, a large mule deer buck (is that redundant?) crashed through the brush several yards away. Yankee sat down and howled, clearly heeding his ancestry. He would not move for love, money, or treats. He didn't even drag. So Wombat carried him back to his room. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was a sight: Yankee's sense of outrage and Wombat's determination to get that dog home. Wombat did get a picture of him doing his best sit and howl:

More dogs, more cuddling. It was so relaxing and so wonderful and so clearly, how life was meant to be. I quickly fell in love with Dozer. Rescued from a pitbull breeding operation, Dozer had clearly been abused. Now, he just wants to lie next to you and get all the petting he can. I hope a special somebody takes him home soon:

Wombat was busy falling in love with Ripple, a young chesapeake bay retriever with a dislocated hip. Ripple is getting hydrotherapy and will have surgery on his hip as soon as his muscles have strengthened. He still gets to go on puppy sleepovers, so he's a happy camper:

5 p.m. came way too soon and we were sent away for the evening. We went back to the motel and shook off about a pound of red dust and got back in the car for a quick reconnoiter of Kanab (pop. not very many). We did find the Ideabox, but it was disappointing in person. We know exactly how disappointing as the back sliding door was open, so we got to fully inspect the place. Famished, we made our way to Nedra's Too. I'd read about it on the internet and it did not disappoint.

If you ever happen to eat at Nedra's Too, I can recommend the Navajo Taco (taco filling on Indian fry bread), the quesadilla, and the fried ice cream. All good. Wash it down with a Squatter's Chasing Tail golden ale. All the better to enjoy the 1/2 movie memorabilia 1/2 NASCAR decorations.

After a quick stop for breakfast items at the gas station quick mart, we headed back to the motel and were asleep under our fluffy comforters without much delay. Day 1 was a complete success.

Tell all your single friends, you really should have been there.

XO, JamieSmitten

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tell all your single friends, be thankful for all your blessings -- family, friends, and meatless Turk'y Roast!

XO, JamieSmitten

Monday, November 24, 2008


I am going to finish my vacation posts and transfer the pictures from my camera to show I didn't make any of it up. But not tonight.

Because I am positively tubercular. You do NOT want to know the viscosity of what I just coughed up. I know the viscosity because the violence of the eruption made me miss the kleenex and land the chunk on my shirt.

I googled sanatoriums and was disturbed to find that they have all been closed. You may find me in bed on the front porch tomorrow bundled up to take the fresh air cure.

Tell all your single friends, colds can last six days!

XO, JamieSmitten

He Should Be Shot

Still basking in the glow of the wonderful animals at Best Friends, I stumbled upon a dark reminder of how cruel people can be to animals:

UPDATE - New Report Released On Vick Dogfighting
Posted: Nov 21, 2008
5:23 PM EST

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A just released report from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture details the extent of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick's
involvement in dog fighting. The report says Vick sometimes put a
family pet in a ring with pit bulls just for fun. A confidential informant told
the government it happened at least twice, and that they watched as the pit
bulls "caused major injuries." The report also says Vick denied taking
part in the killing of dogs when he was given a polygraph test by the FBI in
October 2007. When told he'd failed that part of the test, Vick recanted
his story and admitted to helping hang six to eight underperforming
dogs. Vick is due to be released from federal prison next summer. He's been
suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

I saw some of the Vicktory dogs (Best Friends has given 22 of the rescued animals a chance at a happy life) and I cried for all they had been through.

Tell all your single friends, keep that criminal in prison and out of the NFL.

XO, JamieSmitten

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Four Airports in One Day!

I'm back -- no thanks to the airline industry. Read on....

  • With my tooth abscess medicine in hand and backup medicine in checked suitcase, I proceed to my gate at 5:30 a.m. for my 6:20 flight to IAD. I sailed through security which seemed a good omen given my last experience in June.
  • With coffee, muffin, and exorbitantly expensive water, I settle in at my gate for a blissful 3 minutes before an announcement tells me to get my ass back to the front ticket counter as my plane is missing a piece and won't be leaving Richmond any time soon.
  • A panicked jog back to the front gate, a nervous 15 minute wait in line, and I'm transferred from United to Delta flying via Atlanta to Las Vegas -- and only arriving 1 hour later! What about my bag? "No problem, ma'am. I'll call down to the baggage room and have them move that over to the Delta side."
  • Another wait in line at Delta to get a boarding pass and I'm informed that my bag is not their responsibility, so they won't be able to give me a baggage claim ticket. I am informed that I won't be allowed on the flight if United has not moved my baggage to Delta.
  • Back to United where I am assured that all is well.
  • I proceed to security for second time, discarding coffee, muffin, and water, only to be flagged by the dreaded SSSS on the bottom of my boarding pass. This apparently means special screening is required. I'm taken to the side, frisked, shoes removed and checked for substances, made to show the bottom of my feet, and all of my purse and carry-on contents are examined. Hooray -- I pass!
  • Jogging down to the gate, I am rewarded with "now boarding all zones" and I confidently approach the check in. REJECTED. The thorough frisker neglected to hole punch my boarding pass, so I'm given the stink eye and asked how I "got around security." A call is made to security to send down a female security officer to discuss the matter. Speed was not her mantra as yet another security guard ambled towards my gate. Still unfailingly polite, I am subjected to the same procedure -- frisked, shoes, bottom of feet, all objects examined -- AT THE GATE. Yes, the boarding passengers were avidly observing the process.
  • I finally get a (middle) seat and the chatty cathy young man next to me proceeds to talk the whole way to Atlanta. For the most part he was tolerable, not revealing himself to be a McCain supporter or Hokie until the actual descent. You just never know who they will sit you next to on a plane.
  • I arrive in Atlanta and checking my cellphone (note: WEAR WATCH WHEN TRAVELING), I realize that I have 17 minutes before my next flight leaves. I RUN 20 gates to find the doors closed and other passengers pleading to be let on board. "The tower makes the decision about when we stop boarding." The tower can bite me.
  • Directed back to the Delta service area, I join a long line of missed-flight sad people and wait my turn on the courtesy phone. I explain why I'm not on United. I explain that I didn't miss my flight -- DELTA missed me. I'm told that there are no more direct flights to Las Vegas until 9 p.m. I sputter. But wait! Am I willing to travel to Salt Lake City on my way to Las Vegas to arrive at 2 p.m.? You betcha!
  • As directed, I make my way to my next gate assignment and ask the counter agent to print out my boarding pass. She doesn't do that. She and the courtesy phone woman need to get their stories straight. I head back to the courtesy phone area and pugnaciously walk around the long line and get in the shorter line to speak to an actual person. Save your judge-y looks, fellow passengers, I think, I got screwed harder.
  • After witnessing a 9 minute flirtation between the counter agent and the person ahead of me (he came out from behind his desk to POINT down the hall for her) and then a thorough cleaning of his workspace, I am waved forward and I get my boarding pass.
  • I jog down to the gate in time to hear my song, "Now boarding all zones!" At least I'm on an aisle this time.
  • Good thing I ran -- we sit on the tarmac for nearly an hour.
  • When we finally take off, I order a beer and a $6 movie on the mini-screen in front of me. I repeat this cycle, much to the dismay of the teetotaling old man beside me.
  • Turns out I had the right idea because 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City and just after receiving our small cup of 'almost there' water, we hit the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. We bounced up and down for a good 10 minutes. I could not control my arm which floated up and down violently in the aisle splashing water all over me and the guy across the aisle. Teetotaller is head between his knees praying, people are screaming, and I'm thinking that this was a shitty day to fly.
  • And then, a toddler being desperately clasped by her grandmother in the row ahead bounces up into view and laughs. The best ride she had ever been on, it seemed. So despite the fact that we were soaking wet and passengers were gasping all around us, our row smiled. And then we broke through and the plane leveled off.
  • Clearly my luck had changed, right?
  • Wrong.
  • We land at 2:35 MST, the exact time my connecting flight to Las Vegas is due to leave. Ever the optimist, I sprint down the aisle and run 6 gates down to find....nobody. Plane gone. As I sadly trudge back to my original gate, the Delta employee directs me to the courtesy phone. Like I didn't see that coming.
  • I call, I'm booked on the 7:45 flight and standby for the 3:15. Smarter, I insist that the counter agent print me out a boarding pass before I leave the courtesy area. Then I sprint down to the gate for 3:15. Yep, it was on another concourse.
  • The 3:15 flight is overbooked and volunteers are getting $200 vouchers and a meal ticket to take the later (my!) flight. I get nothing and try not to be resentful. I fail. I approach the counter agent and offer my mastercard begging for a seat in first class, a seat next to the pilot, anything. Nada.
  • The 3:15 flight leaves without me and I overhear another woman say, "well, at least we have a seat on the 5:30." What?!?!??! Screwed over by courtesy phone agent again!
  • On the plus side, my vacation buddy who has been waiting patiently in the Las Vegas airport since 9 a.m. has located my baggage, although the mean baggage agent won't give it to her. I guess there WAS time to make the Atlanta flight to Las Vegas.
  • I get standby on the 5:30 and head to the bathroom for a breakdown. A short cry later (Yes. Sue me. I was supposed to be in Las Vegas six hours ago.), I go to the bar, order a beer, and call my mother. While bemoaning my fate, Wombat calls and screams, "YOU HAVE TO GET TO CONCOURSE E!" Slightly befuddled and definitely deflated, I inform her that I AM at concourse E. Where I will probably die. Alone. Never having seen the dogs at Best Friends. "GET TO GATE 84! GO! GO! GO!"
  • I go. Wombat can be pretty convincing. "Give her your ticket and ID." Miraculously and without any kind of explanation, I'm handed a new ticket and informed that we will start boarding in 15 minutes. I look up -- I'm going to St. George! [Note: The St. George (Utah) airport is closer to Best Friends than Las Vegas, but flights in are much more expensive. Unless, of course, you fly from Richmond to Atlanta to Salt Lake City and give up on Las Vegas.] Wombat has managed this feat in addition to getting my luggage and she is now off to pick up our rental car to come fetch me in St. George.
  • As we walk out onto the tarmac to board the 24(?) seat plane, I'm filled with a sense of calm. I'm on my way. I climb the stairs, beaming at the attendant, and proceed directly to seat 2A. Except, there IS no seat 2A. Oh my freaking word, I'm going to miss another flight. Turns out the seating chart was wrong and I am allowed to sit in 2C. My heartbeat returns to normal.
  • And we are off! I am treated to a fabulous panorama view of the Great Salt Lake -- truly immense -- and an orange-fire-red sunset. I chat up my seat mate who turns out to be an assistant DA for Salt Lake City. He doesn't even get mad at me when I insist he look at the view at the same time the stewardess is handing me my drink and it spills in his hair. He is that nice. He promises that I may call him should I ever be arrested in SLC. Not that I'm planning to go back.
  • I land in St. George and am greeted by a room with a car rental counter. I care not. I'm 2 hours from the puppies and I'll walk if I have to. Fortunately, Wombat pulls up an hour later and we officially begin our vacation.

Tell all your single friends, vacations are not for sissies.

XO, JamieSmitten

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Virginia has just officially supported a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964.

I am beyond ecstatic. Maybe I won't have to move to the West Coast after all.

This is the start of some goodness, people. You only have to believe. And if a pessimist realist like JamieSmitten believes, you should too.

In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'll get laid during the new administration. You only have to believe, people. [Note that I'm feeling this optimistic whilst sitting alone with my dog drinking beer with a heating pad stuck down the back of my pants to relieve the results of a particularly effective boot camp workout yesterday. SEE? I'm positively GIDDY!]

Tell all your single friends, (trademarked, overexposed t-shirt logo) LIFE IS GOOD.

XO, JamieSmitten

p.s. An EXCEPTIONALLY fine photo celebrating this historic win will be posted here shortly -- right, DFF??

p.p.s. John McCain's concession speech was far more charming than he has been throughout the campaign. Until he thanked Sarah Palin. Then it was just plain silly.

p.p.p.s. Boot camp is going to suck tomorrow, but I just have to stay up to hear President Elect Obama speak!!