Yes, I Skyped With My Dog

Spencer has not handled my going back to work very well. Our unicorn of a dog -- so well-behaved, so quiet and unfussy -- morphed into an emotional wreck three weeks ago. No matter the length of the walk, the intensity of the run, or the amount of playtime, he cries, howls, and barks when he's left alone. Sometimes he starts out quiet, but inevitably deteriorates into one sad, crying mess of a dog.

I told the guy at the pet store about my problems. I asked Reddit for help. I called a doggie daycare and spoke to a trainer. I was ready to try anything (except for a bark collar), but everything we tried failed AND Spencer was regressing.  

So last weekend, we tried Skype. We call Spencer from our phone or laptop and he "auto answers." You, too, can spy on your dog by setting Skype up as follows:

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Voila! Spencer on Skype.

"Where are my moms?!" - Spencer

"Where are my moms?!" - Spencer

We're only a few days into using Skype now. It's by no means a cure-all, but man, does takes the edge off our anxiety! We no longer leave the house and wonder if we'll get an angry email from our lawyer friend below. We no longer hope Spencer's not barking. We simply know if he is or isn't by calling him up on with a video call. He can't see us and we tend to leave ourselves on mute, but when he's upset, we try to calm him down with a few words. So far, that's worked amazingly. In combination with our other training and mixing his schedule up with daycare and walks, we hope he'll kick this anxiety for good in the next few weeks.

Am I crazy or am I crazy? 

Don't answer that. We just love the damn dog. 

4 Things I Love About St. Louis

Now that I've trash talked St. Louis' most beloved structure, how about a little love? Here are some quick things before I leave St. Louis... briefly... for a trip to Florida. First off, I love my neighborhood. I may have forgotten that fact this winter, but spring helped me remember. Here's a recent shot of one of my favorite streets.

Central West End homes

Central West End homes

House porn is everywhere. Almost every home is three stories tall and massive. And worse, some of these homes are relatively affordable. Luckily or unluckily, reminders of the sheer expense of maintaining such huge houses are present, too. Contractors are constantly parked out front and, just a few blocks north, many similarly large homes are in obvious disrepair, if not boarded and abandoned.

Urban vs. Suburban

From these photos, you might think I live in suburbia. Sometimes I feel that way. But the fact is, I live smack in the middle of everything I want and need, which leads me to another reason I love St. Louis: proximity.

Here's a handy chart comparing my life in DC to my life here in St. Louis.

Factor in my new commute to work -- only 3 miles in St. Louis compared to 3.5 miles in DC -- and St. Louis emerges the clear winner in terms of proximity. By bike, all the places on the above chart are easy (and safe) to get to if I avoid busy roads. If I walk, not so much. Roads with fast-moving traffic make short distances feel much longer and less pleasant.

More on that later, since I'm talking about things I like, right?

Forest Park

This deserves its own post, really. On nice days, I can easily spend upwards of two hours running and walking Spencer in Forest Park. Here he is relaxing on the Central Field.

Spencer at Forest Park's Central Fields

Spencer at Forest Park's Central Fields

We can be alone, or not. Forest Park is the one place, ironically, that makes me feel like I live in a big city. While it's always easy to find a space for ourselves, it's also commonplace to see dozens of people running, biking, flying kites, or walking their dogs at any time of day.

Forest Park also boasts the "Best City Golf Course in Mid-America."(Almost sounds like it's the only contender in that category, but let's move on). Golf in St. Louis, compared to other cities where I've played, is accessible, affordable, and unpretentious. No surprise then that Alex and I have gotten back into it. In DC, it was difficult to play without access to a car. Even if we borrowed one, courses were prohibitively expensive and often booked up. Here in St. Louis, we can book a same-day tee time for $13. Incredible!

Fido Friendliness

This is mostly an excuse to post my new favorite photo of Spencer.

But really, St. Louis is an incredibly dog-friendly city. I thought dog-friendly workplaces were a myth, but I've been to several offices here where employees bring them in. The majority of apartments and houses allows dogs (DC is a loser in this category).  Most bars with outdoor spaces seem to allow dogs, too -- even at night. As a result of all this fido friendliness, we try to incorporate Spencer into as many events as possible, partly to socialize him (not long ago, he was a sad, sad boy) and partly for our own benefit. Could we leave him at home? Yes. Do we want to? No.