My Labor Day Weekend in Pics

This weekend, we met a new friend who just started a kennel for Dogo Argentinos.  (If you don’t know what they are, look it up.  They are gorgeous dogs bred for big-game hunting, such as wild boar hunting, in Argentina.)  He has a little girl puppy that Xanh got to meet, and they were adorable together!  I guarantee the majority of you will have to say “aaaw” at these pictures.

(Side Note: The guy in this picture is our fabulous dog trainer.  If you live in the Birmingham area and want a FANTASTIC trainer, send me a message and I’ll share his info with you.)

We originally planned to go visit my sister and her husband in New Orleans this weekend, but they had to evacuate due to Hurricane Isaac.  We had hoped to at least spend Labor Day at the lake or something, but of course it rained cats and dogs here, too.  So, this morning I convinced my hubby to help me kneed the dough for banh bao, a Vietnamese steamed bun with a meat and egg filling.  It took about 3 hours to make, but they are delicious!

The buns expand a lot in the steamer.  Here is an uncooked bun next to a finished one.

We didn’t know what to do after that since it was raining so hard and most businesses were closed for Labor Day, so we decided to play with Xanh for a while and then take him to a couple of pet stores that were having Labor Day sales.

(He was getting bored staying in all day, too.)

(On the scale.  He weighs 47.1 lbs at 5 months old.)

I’d say Xanh made out pretty well.  2 new toys and a bone when we weren’t even planning to go shopping today.  🙂

Tonight, we’re grilling for dinner and having a friend from college come by.  It should be a nice end to our rainy holiday.

Did it rain where you live this weekend?  How did you celebrate Labor Day?  Leave me a comment!

A Much-Needed Update

Sorry for the big gaps in between my posts lately.  I guess that’s just how it goes in the summer time.  :/  Let me fill you in on this past week–it’s been pretty full!

It all started with the 4th of July.  My sister-in-law, Mary Liu, who lives with us, went down to Gulf Shores for the night, so Choi and I decided to take Xanh swimming for the first time at  Smith Lake.  We discovered a great beach on Smith Lake last summer, and before we left home, I asked Choi if he remembered how to get there.  “Yeah!  Of course I remember.”  Well, he didn’t remember.  We drove a long time before finally coming to a beach (not the one we were looking for, though), and we had to pay $10 to get in to cover the cost of fireworks, even though we didn’t plan to stay that long.  After all that driving, I was just ready to get out of the car, so we paid the fee, parked the car, and walked down to the “beach” (if that’s what they want to call it).  It was the smallest and nastiest beach I’ve ever been to!  There were cigarette butts all over, rocks and glass in the sand, and trash floating in parts of the water.  I was so disappointed!  But, we were there and we had already paid money to be there, so we decided to make the most of it.  We found a place for our things, and Choi blew up our float while I took Xanh to wade in the water (which he has done before and he loves).  We have a large float with a mesh bottom, so I sat in it with Xanh and Choi pulled us out to deeper water so that Xanh wouldn’t get scared.  When I took him out, he was fine until he realized his little legs weren’t touching bottom!  I held him close to me and finally pointed him toward Choi and let go.  He paddled his little arms and legs so hard that water splashed everywhere.  It was so funny!  He was definitely unsure of the whole experience, so he ended up sunbathing in the float most of the day.  Every once in a while we took him out and made him swim back to it for practice, but he’s not very confident in his swimming abilities yet.  🙂  After our swim, we ate lunch on our blankets and then had to pack up to go home, because a storm came in.  So basically, we drove an hour and paid $10 for a one hour experience at a disgustingly filthy beach.  The day did not go as planned, to say the least.

The day ended up being redeemed, though, because a new friend of ours invited us over for a cookout at her house that afternoon.  We met new people, had good food, and watched fireworks.  Oh, and Xanh got to run free with other dogs for the first time since we got him.  She has a large fenced in yard and 2 senior boxers, plus her friends brought their dogs as well.  We loved having all the dogs around!  We never had to yell at Xanh for anything.  Every time he ran wild, or chewed something, or played too rough, one of the boxer ladies would chase after him and bark, and he would immediately stop.  And when he cried at the door because Choi went out to the car without him, the boxer ladies ran to him and licked him all over until he came back inside and played with them.

We got a call from Mary Liu later in the day asking if our little sister, Michelle, and our cousin, Mayci, could come back home with her.  We’re going up to Illinois to visit our families next weekend (which was 2 weeks from the 4th of July), so it all works out, and we agreed to let them come.  Saturday night, we all went to a friend’s house for dinner, and Sunday we hosted a small dinner party.  I am so proud!  I forgot to take pictures, but I made banh bao for the first time ever!  Banh bao is a Vietnamese steamed bun with a meat and egg filling.  I made everything, including the dough, from scratch, and I’m pretty proud of how they turned out!  I’m so mad I forgot to take a picture, though!!  Here are a couple of pictures from the web for those of you who don’t know what banh bao is:

At our little dinner party, we had banh bao, stir-fried shrimp with bok choy and broccoli, grilled ribs, soup with white radish and carrots, and rice.  It was a delicious feast!  I just wish I would have taken pictures.  😦

This week, the girls and I have gone shopping, gone to the river, gone out for ice cream (and Xanh got a free doggy sundae–a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a bone on top), and baked cheesecake brownies.  It’s been a fun week so far.

I also have to give you a quick update on Xanh.  We hired an amazing private trainer who started with us last Sunday afternoon.  He specializes in large, powerful breeds, such as pitbull terriers, and usually works with behavioral problems.  He was so excited that we wanted him to work with our puppy!  He’s become very popular for transforming aggressive dogs, but he loves working with puppies to prevent those issues from ever occurring.  He’s certified in lots of different things and even helps with K-9 dog training in our area.  He came to our home Sunday afternoon for a 3 hour evaluation.  He gave Xanh a test that breeders often use to determine the personality and temperament of a particular puppy.  He will use the results of that test to design a training program specifically for Xanh.  This evaluation also helped him (and us) to see Xanh’s potential.  He evaluated Xanh while we filled out paperwork that basically explained Xanh’s issues and our goals with his training, as well as gave him an idea of Xanh’s usual schedule and eating habits.  This training is going to cost us a lot of money, but fortunately, we learned most of it is tax deductible!  Who knew?

One thing this evaluation session taught us is that Xanh tricked us big time!  When we went out to the breeder’s, we were looking for a middle of the road, mellow puppy.  We didn’t want the most dominant one, but we also didn’t want a shy or timid one.  One puppy caught our attention, because he ran over to us right away, but he didn’t get in the fights to jump up on us or be the first to check us out, and he stayed by our feet and followed us everywhere we went.  I picked him up and he was so sweet and cuddly, so I looked at Choi and said, “This one!  I want him, and I want his name to be Xanh.”  Well, in the last couple of weeks, that sweet, mellow puppy has turned wild!  He has started pushing the limits with us, trying to see how much he can get away with.  Even though we let him get away with nothing, he has also become very stubborn, and he tries to show his dominance to us every day!  He’s still cuddly and sweet, and he still knows we walk through doorways first, and we lead when we go for walks, but he refuses to listen to us when we tell him to stop chewing or to get down, etc.  This was the perfect time to start with a new trainer!  And his evaluation shocked us!  He scored extremely high on dominance, and he scored a zero on bite inhibition, meaning he has no play bite–he goes all out every time.  He made the trainer bleed during their play session!  He scored very well on sociability, because he runs right up to strangers and will follow them if asked, even if his name isn’t used.  However, when the trainer walked toward him, unlike most puppies who take a step back, he puffed out his chest and walked forward to show that he wasn’t afraid.  We are definitely going to have our hands full over the next few months.  :/

Based on this evaluation, the trainer said Xanh is PERFECT for Schutzhund, which is a competitive obedience and protection training/sport.  It’s pretty cool.  Dogs who do Schutzhund are highly intelligent and must master the ability to track (meaning they use their noses to follow a trail and find whatever it is you’ve asked them to find), to obey 100% of the time (and I’m not just talking basic commands–they don’t just learn to sit, they must also scoot closer and closer to you when asked, and if you’re walking, you can say stay and continue walking another mile if you want, and that dog won’t budge an inch), and to guard and bite on command as well as release on command.  Many dogs who go through Schutzhund later become K-9 dogs.  We’re going to strongly consider it.  It’s a great way to channel dominant energy into something constructive, and to challenge your dog’s mind.  I would love to have that kind of strong bond with my dog that Schutzhund dog owners have as well as complete control over him so that I never have to worry about him becoming violent or mean.

Finally, on a much different note, Choi and I are feeling really optimistic about conceiving a child on our own (with fertility meds, of course).  Last week, I found myself in a conversation about infertility with a complete stranger who gave me the name and number of a fertility specialist he and his wife used years ago to conceive their 2 youngest children.  It ended up being a doctor at the ART program my OB-GYN is referring me to!  2 days later, a client of Choi’s brought him a baby blanket she had made herself and told him it was for good luck.

The Sunday after these 2 possible signs, our priest spoke about faith and shared a story I’m sure many of you have heard before.  A priest was encouraging his congregation to pray for rain, because they were in a drought.  He told them to ask God that it would rain by the next Sunday.  When the next Sunday came, it hadn’t rained all week, yet only one church member came to mass with an umbrella.  He told his people, “Where is your faith?  You’re praying for rain yet you don’t bring an umbrella with you?”  That really convicted me, because I have a terrible habit of saying negative things, like, “IF we ever have kids.”  Where is my faith?  I’m praying that God will bless us with children, yet I’m talking and acting like He never will.  I’m feeling sad all the time because I feel like we’ll never have children, but if I truly believe God answers prayer and wants to give good gifts to His children, why I am acting and thinking so negatively?  So now we’re feeling really good about having our own child, even if that means we have to use our savings to pay for the next fertility treatment.  After church Sunday, Choi said we should buy a crib to show God we’re putting our faith in Him.  🙂

I apologize for such a long post.  Thanks to those of you who made it this far!  I’ve had so much to say this week, but no time for blogging.  I promise next week will be better!