gratitude52, Week 4: My Dogs

gratitude52, Week 4: My Dogs {the ponytail diaries}

gratitude52 (because “52 Weeks of Gratitude” is too much of a mouthful) is a year-long challenge/series on, obviously, gratitude. Read more about the challenge here and all gratitude52 posts here.

This week’s prompt is “A family member” but because I don’t want to pick just one family member to single out and write about, I’m giving it a little twist.

I’ve been lucky enough to have five dogs now, and every one of them has been wonderful. Let’s start at the beginning.


My parents got Jasper, a Britney Spaniel puppy, about a year before I was born. (They joke that they wanted to “practice” before having a kid. He broke his leg running in the backyard and drank antifreeze in the garage. So…yeah.) (He survived both of those events just fine. Apparently he stayed at the vet’s overnight after the antifreeze thing on a vodka drip. They said he was a loud drunk.) So I basically grew up with that dog. Walking him after the school was my first official “chore.” He was fun, playful, energetic — until he got older, when he started developing arthritis. I learned that dogs don’t live nearly as long as people — and worse, that it’s part of our job as dog owners to decide when the kindest, most loving act is to put them down.

gratitude52: Jasper {the ponytail diaries}

I remember when dad told me that Jasper’s kidneys were failing and soon, he would stop eating on his own. I said, “I wish Jasper could tell me what he wanted.” My dad asked if I could accept the vet telling me what was best. I guess I did. I remember the morning when Dad told us he would be taking Jasper to vet for the last time while we were at school. I took one last picture with him in front of the fireplace and Dad and I took him for one last walk — just halfway up the block and back, because he couldn’t walk much farther.


We got Jake, a Golden Retriever puppy, about a year after putting Jasper down. Jake still holds the title in my family as “World’s Greatest Dog,” and he earned it. By now, I was old enough to take part — a little — in training him and started to learn about disciplining dogs and asserting dominance and their pack mentality. Jake exemplified the Golden Retriever traits — smart, eager to please, loyal, active. He loved going to Tahoe — and we took him there a lot. He’d patrol for squirrels, keep watch from the patio, go on hikes, swim in the creek. At some point my dad, and then I, started taking him on runs. Dad established this four-mile loop with him and they’d run four or five days a week. When I tried to take him, he would not go on any other route. That was his running route and that was it. He obviously loved all of us, and really anyone who’d scratch his ears or give him treats, but he had a special bond with my dad.

It was heartbreaking to watch Jake get older — he got horrible arthritis in his hips, and this dog who used to run four miles and want to go again as soon as we got home started to struggle just to stand up. I remember one time when I was home with my dad — we had just eaten dinner and we probably watching the Giants game. We heard a commotion behind us. Jake had gotten his front legs on the dining table and was going for the last half of the French bread we’d eaten with dinner. Dad and I were so impressed that he, at 12 years old, could still do that, I think we rewarded him with a Beggin’ Strip.

gratitude52: Will & Jake {the ponytail diaries}

Will on the left, Jake on the right


We found Will at an adoption event about a year after getting Jake. He was older — about eight or so — and clearly had a rough past, though we never knew much about it. When we first brought Will home, if you banged a cupboard door shut or even clapped your hands suddenly, he’d run to the corner and shake. Eventually he calmed down and learned to trust us. He and Jake were instant buddies. I think Jake helped keep him young and Will sort of acted as an older mentor — like Shadow to Chance in Homeward Bound, a little.

Will loved car rides and jogging. He used to lay on our beds and snuggle himself into our stuffed animals. He was so chill — we could put sunglasses or hats on him and he’d just sit there like “whatevs, dude.” Once he settled with us, he just seemed happy. That perfectly content, free-from-cares, what-more-could-I-ask-for happiness. He had found a loving family and there was no reason to ever be anything but relaxed and carefree. Except in crowds — he’d get overwhelmed when we’d go to Tahoe with the whole extended family. I used to find him hiding in the bathtub. And my youngest cousins, at the time, didn’t fully understand that some dogs liked some personal space or to be handled gently, so he ran and hid when one would see him and yell “WEEEEEELLLLL!”

gratitude52: Sam & Jake {the ponytail diaries}

Sam on the left, Jake on the right


We used to have baby gates to keep them in the kitchen/den area at night or when we weren’t home. The night that we put Will down, Jake jumped the gate for the first time and made his way to my parents’ room. So just a few months later, we adopted Sam from an Old English Sheepdog rescue group. Oh, Sam. He was a big, klutzy, crazy goofball of a dog. If I’m being honest, he and I probably had the closest bond when I was in high school. The summer I was home from college and only working part-time, when I was usually the last one to get up each morning, he’d come to my bedroom, nudge the door open, and plant himself right next to my bed until I got up. When I took a shower, he’d sit  right outside the bathroom, waiting for me/guarding the door.

It was a role reversal for Jake — Sam was a couple years younger than him, so where Jake used to bug Will with his youthful energy, Sam now hounded Jake. Their relationship was more like brothers — they mostly got along, but they also kinda bickered a lot. We tried to get Sam to run with Jake on those four-mile loops, and Sam would go, because he didn’t want to be left out, but OES are really not made for distance running. I’d go with them and have Jake’s leash in one hand as he pulled ahead, and Sam’s in the other as he lagged behind. Sam’s favorite part was when we turned the last corner home — it was downhill, and I’d drop Jake’s leash (he would pick it up in his mouth and trot straight to the front door) and Sam would muster up his last bits of energy, knowing that treats were coming soon. Nothing, absolutely nothing, made him happier than mealtime. Sam, at his lightest, weighed around 105 pounds, but when he realized he was about to get dinner, he got all four feet several inches off the ground in his excitement. He literally experienced Christmas morning every single day, and still is an inspiration to me to get that excited whenever I have the chance.


And now Husband and I have Onyx, and she’s 100% one of the best things in my life. She’s my running partner, my hiking buddy, my shotgun navigator, my fierce protector. I’ve never referred to dogs as “furbabies” and I don’t call myself Onyx’s “mom.” I’ve recently thought about that, and decided it’s because even though she’s “dependent” on me and my husband, it’s not a straight caregiver-dependent relationship. In many ways, she’s more companion than child.

gratitude52: Onyx {the ponytail diaries}

When we first adopted her, I wasn’t totally sure it would work out. She was so shy, so reticent, so damaged by whatever asshole had her first — but it took just a couple weeks for her to start to break out of her shell (with me, at least). And I saw this playful side to her that had probably never been shown before (at first, we’d give her toys and she’d have no idea what to do with them), this intelligence, this amazing capacity to love if someone would just do the same for her.

I’m grateful that Will taught me how amazing and wonderful rescue dogs are if you can be a little patient. I’m grateful for Jake showing me that dogs are the best running and hiking partners. I’m grateful that Jasper first taught me the awesome, amazing responsibility of owning a dog. I’m grateful that Sam showed me what pure joy looks like. I’m grateful that Onyx just makes me smile every single day. And for all of them, for so much more.

I’m grateful that they taught me — are still teaching me — how incredible unconditional love and loyalty feel. How amazing it is to have someone so excited for you to come home or say the word “walk” there’s nothing to do but run around in circles for two minutes.

If you have the love of a dog, you’re doing something right.





gratitude52, Week 3: Family

gratitude52, week 3: Family {the ponytail diaries}

gratitude52 (because “52 Weeks of Gratitude” is too much of a mouthful) is a year-long challenge/series on, obviously, gratitude. Read more about the challenge here and all gratitude52 posts here.

I could literally write an epic about how awesome my family is.

My parents are flying down this weekend to watch me run the marathon. Let’s just talk about that for a second. I already wrote about how awesome they were when I was running cross country and track meets in high school — and they’re still doing it. They’re going to give up their weekend, fly down from the Bay Area, get up at the ass-crack of dawn, and stand around for 4+ hours to see me for, like, 20 seconds or so. And then watch me eat all the things afterward.

My brothers and I are each two years apart — I’m the oldest, Brother #1 (hereafter known as Med School) is two years younger, and Brother #2 (Rocket Scientist) is two years younger than Med School.

Growing up, we didn’t always get along. Sometimes we did, and we didn’t have a lot of full-on, knock-down fights — but for most of our childhood, we were either bickering or ignoring each other. (Or getting dragged to each other’s various sporting events, often against our will.)

I can’t put into words how grateful I am that, somehow, after I left for college, my brothers and I became friends. We have one dynamic altogether, I have one dynamic with Med School, one with Rocket Scientist, and they have their own.

Med School and I can talk about anything — there was a brief time in college when I got used to late-night calls from him when he needed to either vent about his (now ex) girlfriend or talk through how he didn’t want to pursue film production, but wanted to be a doctor or firefighter instead. And now he’s gonna give me free medical advice for the rest of my life.

Rocket Scientist has this wonderful, dry, subtle sense of humor that cracks me up. He was the most introverted and quiet of the three of us, so I think none of us — my parents included — realized how crazy smart he really is. I mean, he’s got a Masters of Science in what most people agree is the toughest engineering discipline (aeronautical).

I’m already seeing us grow up and grow apart into our separate lives, which makes me even more grateful that we’ve developed this bond — that we’re not just brothers and sister, we’re honest-to-God friends. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for those two.

And as we grow up, I’m also grateful that we have a wonderful example and tradition of family staying close. We’ve been getting together with my mom’s family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) and going to Lake Tahoe twice a year since I was about four or five. When I was in junior high-ish, my parents bought a cabin up there. Then they bought land and my dad designed a custom family vacation home. And we still get together for those two weeks every year — in addition to Thanksgiving and Easter and other random occasions (graduations, First Communions, whatever). We’re lucky that everyone’s in California (and Reno) — and even though not everyone can come to every get-together, I know without a doubt I’ll see every single relative (plus some second cousins and cousins once removed) at some point every year. And I know that all those get-togethers will be fun and drama-free. My dad’s family is a little more spread out and we don’t see those aunts/uncles/cousins as often — but I still love them all and I think it makes me even more grateful to have my mom’s side.

So I’m grateful to my parents for instilling a “family first” mindset (also, Husband says that’s part of what made him want to marry me). And I’m grateful that I genuinely like every single one of those crazy nuts. We’re far from perfect, but I really can’t relate to those articles that crop up around the holidays about “how to deal with stressful family dinners,” or people who complain about “having” to go visit family.

I know I’m so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing group of supportive, accepting, loving, helpful, unselfish people around me (remember how a bunch of them rearranged plans to come help me find Onyx over Thanksgiving?). And most of all, I’m grateful that I recognize how amazing that is, because I won’t ever take it for granted.




Gratitude Challenge, Week 2: My Partner in Crime

52 Weeks of Gratitude: My Partner in Crime {the ponytail diaries}

Before I got married, I would go to friends’ weddings and during the reception, someone would inevitable ask one of them, “So, do you feel any different?”

And most of the time, because most of my friends moved in together well before getting married, they’d shrug and say, “Not really.”

I always thought that was a little disappointing. Like, you’re *married.* It should feel more significant, shouldn’t it? Your wedding day should feel like a turning point, a…portal from complete independence to having a partner for life.

And then I got married — over a year after my husband moved in with me, and we combined bank accounts, and started listing the other as our emergency contact — and after the wedding was over, I was like, “Okay, back to normal. No more wedding planning YAY!”

The wedding wasn’t a single, major turning point.

But I’ve learned, over the past year and four months, that it’s a subtle process of learning how to lean on each other. How to support each other and let yourself be supported. And, without getting too sappy, it’s been a weird, confusing, hilarious, wonderful journey — and we’re just a little over a year in.

I pride myself on being fiercely independent, but I don’t think I would have left my job last year without my husband cheering for me and insisting I could do it.

We wouldn’t have gotten Onyx if he hadn’t convinced me we could handle it.

I wouldn’t be in San Diego if he hadn’t decided to move here first.

There are literally thousands of times I wouldn’t have laughed if he hadn’t been there talking in weird voices or telling me about ice cream bread or imitating Sheldon Cooper.

I wouldn’t be dipping my toes into homebrewing or rock climbing or camping.

I sure as hell wouldn’t have become a country music fan.

My cooking skills would probably still be limited to boiling pasta and tossing it in sauce from a jar.

I wouldn’t have acquired any taste whatsoever for black coffee (still not my favorite drink, but I like trying freshly brewed coffee from decent quality beans).

It’s unlikely I ever would have watched any Batman movies.

From the mundane to the really freaking huge stuff, I can’t imagine a better partner, best friend, confidant, or cheerleader to face it with.

Love you, babe (even though he won’t read this).

wedding photos by the super-awesome Jaime of Aptera Studios



Gratitude Challenge, Week 1: Why?

52 Weeks of Gratitude {the ponytail diaries}

I mentioned some time ago that, in 2015, I’d be taking on this Gratitude Challenge that I found on Well, it’s the first Saturday in 2015, so here we go.

Why Start This Challenge?

It should be obvious, right? Gratitude may be one of the only things in existence that people don’t argue about its value.

(the clunkiness of that sentence is driving me crazy. sorry.)

Why now? Because it’s another new year and why not?

Really, the question for me is, why this specific challenge?

I am such a junkie for journals and diaries and notebooks and prompts to fill those. Seriously, if I compiled all the creative writing and journaling prompts I’ve collected over the years and put it into a single Word doc, I have no doubt it would be several thousand pages long and take up a terabyte or so. And you can’t get away from gratitude prompts and gratitude journals when you’re into that. So, of course, I’ve tried gratitude journaling here and there over the years (once or twice, I think, even for school assignments) and it’s never really stuck. You know — “write down 1-5 things you’re grateful for every night.” “Spend all of November writing about what you’re thankful for.” For some reason I’m terrible about doing that kind of thing every damn day. Yet I know that reflecting on gratitude is such a positive exercise and I’ve wished I could cultivate more of it.

So the format of this challenge — once a week, with a specific prompt — appeals to me. I’m envisioning this:

I’ll set aside a little time each weekend to reflect on the upcoming week’s prompt. Then, hopefully, that subtly influences my thoughts throughout the week (I might try making the prompt my phone background, or writing it on an index card that I pin above my desk, or something so it’s easily seen/remembered). And by Friday, I’ll have a bunch of thoughts to share.

Repeat for 52 weeks.

Anyone want to join in?