Solving Fear of Thunderstorms in Dogs

Mrs Dog and I were walking this morning at Sunrise, as is our habit.  We had gotten to Wilton Manors City Hall on our way back and I spotted one of the ladies around here that I see from time to time with her two dogs and we stopped and chatted for a while on Wilton Drive under a tree at Hagen Park.

Nice way to start the day.

While our dogs sniffed around and tangled me up, we got onto the subject of her dog’s behavior in storms.  She has an older Golden Retriever who is allergic to the heat which is a difficult thing for a dog living in a luxury apartment in Florida.  The Golden also has a terrible fear of loud noises such as Thunder and Lightning.  The big dog has figured out that the flash of the lightning will be followed by the boom of the thunder very shortly and will hide under furniture.  The other thing that this dog will do is to climb on top of my friend’s chest. 

At two in the morning having a 70 plus pound dog standing on your chest in fear is a rather loud wake up call.

She asked me what I had done. 

Simply put, my own dog is getting older so her hearing is getting worse.  It’s not as much of a problem as it was when I had first gotten my black and white bundle of energy.  However before she lost most of her hearing, I had gotten her abject terror of storms down to a manageable wariness. 

How I did it is that I “Make Storm Time Play Time”.  I don’t remember where I got that idea from, but it works.  My own girl would freak out and display behavior like barking at the sky and running around like mad when the thunder would approach as well as whining and other fear displays.

That had to stop.

Living near parks meant that I would have a ready supply of tennis balls handy.  Knowing a Mc Nab Dog or any other herding dog like Border Collies and German Shepards simply enjoy chasing tennis balls, I started to work.

I had found a CD of sound effects one day and got a repeating track of Thunder and Rain and put it on the stereo at a low volume to simulate a distant storm.  Since my dog is usually within 10 feet of me, she was easy to distract.  

I stood there, on my tile floor and merely bounced the ball.  Catching the ball repeatedly while the simulated storm sounded in the distance, I had her attention. 

Bounce, Boom, Smile, and finally she caught the ball.  We bounced it a number of times and while she’d pay attention to the distant storm on the boom box, she had most of her attention paid to the fuzzy green ball in her mouth.

When she dropped it I picked it up again and bumped the volume up a little and continued the game.

It didn’t happen immediately but over the months of this game, by the time the next real thunderstorm hit, she had began to calm down.

Since Thunderstorms are born here in Florida, we have the six months of the wet season to practice this behavior.  The end result is that in my Mc Nab Dog’s mind, she has made the connection.  Close lightning strikes that would startle me still get my girl to barking but hey, they’re loud!  Over the weekend we had a particularly close storm that showed on the radar as a big red blob parked overhead.   Lightning strikes were within four blocks, 1/2 mile.   Lettie handled it well, she only barked at one strike then grabbed her favorite soft toy and came over to me for attention.   I had the luxury of calming her down while she wanted her back scratched, something that she normally will not allow. 

I can’t figure out why I can only scratch her back when she is fearful, but I can accept that behavior since it is merely odd and not self-destructive. 

When I told my neighbor of this, her blue eyes lit up and said she would try this and was very excited.   I suggested she go back to the volleyball court since there are normally tennis balls that go astray and her Retriever would enjoy the activity.

“Best of luck, I’ll see you later!”

After all, her dog needs the help.  Mine as in this picture above has her toys to pick from when the storms start up.

Wilton Drive Gets New Businesses

One of the most common complaints about Wilton Drive is that there aren’t enough parking spaces.   The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough spaces, there are not enough free spaces or enough spaces at peak hours.

What happened is that businesses which operate outside of “Bar Time” get a free ride with parking.  If you’re on The Drive, you have the entire parking lot at Hagen plus the metered spots on the entirety of Wilton Drive, plus the spaces at the Shoppes and even at Publix if you want to park there.

For the most part, if I remember right, parking is free.  If you are here outside of metered hours, it’s fairly cheap by big city standards.  $.50 an hour vs the $1.25 an hour I had to pay in Downtown Fort Lauderdale at a meter last Thursday.

Parking should not be a problem for a business that services the off peak people – daytime users of Wilton Drive.  Ever.   (to paraphrase Mythbusters)

So what kind of businesses will best be served by opening on Wilton Drive in the short run? 

Three new businesses popped up recently.  Actually one expanded and one is new.  They both are “daytime friendly” businesses.   There is never a problem during a weekday of finding parking on Wilton Drive since every time I walk down the drive on an afternoon – it’s fairly empty.

First, the Real Estate Office at the corner of NE 6th and Wilton Drive had expanded.   Castelli Real Estate spilled over into the adjacent bay and added desks for quite a few new Realtors.  This says that while the market is misbehaving, there’s a lot of life left in Wilton Manors Real Estate.  In fact the house next to mine was actually in a bidding war and closed around 25% higher than asking price.  This was most likely due to lack of supply more than anything else.  More people moving in means a better environment all around and the particular person who moved in next door is doing a nice job in reversing the decline that that house has seen over the last four years.

Thanks, Jack!

Second, just south of Belle Isle in the new multi-story condo, a new barber shop is set to open.  This will be roughly the fourth on the drive, but more power to you!  The thing is that there are some available spaces on the property and plenty of open parking on the drive.  The location is directly across the street from The Manor so there could easily be a number of folks who will notice it and come back to the Drive to patronize the place.

The more businesses that area open in the early evening and into the night time Bar Hours, the better Wilton Manors will be.  After all, a well lit store with people inside is a draw.  Closed stores, no matter what, mean people will go to their destination and not consider coming back.

The restaurant that opened up within the last month, Rodeo, is a prime example.   The place serves Southwestern cuisine, and was packed when we walked past yesterday at 1PM.  Past the lunch hour on a Sunday and the restaurant was stuffed full of people.  No problem with parking at all, plenty of happy customers and an enticing new addition to the drive.

There is no centralized organization that has control over what businesses come into an address.   For the most part, if you pass Wilton Manors zoning ordinance you can open up any sort of business and hope for the best.  The trick is to look at Wilton Drive for what it is *now* and complement what is there.  You’ll then have a better chance of staying open a year later.

Wilton Manors Electoral Debates

Last night at Wilton Manors’ Hagen Park was the debate of the election season.  I do not know of any more opportunities for people to have heard their future elected officials speak before they get a chance to vote.

Looking around the space, I noticed that this year there were fewer people in attendance than there were in the last election of 2008.   Partly because Barack Obama and the chance to reclaim our nation from the Fascism that was the Bush years energized us with Hope.   Partly because early voting meant many have made their decisions and are sitting this night out.

This was for those of you who haven’t voted yet.   The early voting is at the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 2020 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors.   I believe that it is available for people through the entire county.  The chambers look strange without the rows of chairs waiting for a commission meeting and rows of little blue plastic stalls and they will remain that way until November 3rd.  My suggestion is to go vote and beat the rush.

Last night we were able to hear everyone speak off the cuff.   They were given questions and timed on their responses.   Commissioner Scott Newton and I seem to be cut from the same cloth – we’re both wordy.  It was amusing to hear him get cut off by the person holding the stop watch, Nick Boyko.  There were a couple times where Scott found his muse and really got into the subject and then “TIME!”… I wouldn’t have minded hearing him speak just a little longer on those.

This is what I saw from the front row, it is my opinion and nothing more.  I was not paid for this, although I did have some people who are local readers who are not running for office insist that I write my thoughts down.  I will reiterate, THIS IS OPINION, AND UNPAID.  THIS IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS A POLITICAL ANNOUCNEMENT.

There were two on the panel that were less comfortable than the famed Nixon vs JFK Debates or the “I am not a crook” Speech by Nixon. 

Mayor Gary Resnick looked out of place.   For someone who has had the position for two years, he has been widely seen as a dysfunctional and ineffective mayor.  Admittedly I find his recent actions at the Spirit Vigil reprehensible when he turned the vigil into a political rally.  I am ashamed for his lack of propriety in that situation.  Last night he proved that he was not up to the task.  His nerves were showing strongly as he sat there fidgeting through the two hours of the debate sweating as if it were overheating – it was not, I was freezing , and darting his eyes around as if he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar.   He was as he always was and the City has noticed his antics. Hopefully this will move him onto his next career.   Answers that were given were highly reactive instead of pro-active, indirect and evasive he acted like that smacked dog that flinches when you pet him.

The other person who did not belong up there was Julie Carson.  If Resnick’s electioneering at the Spirit Vigil were reprehensible, Carson’s actions were obscene.  That having been said, she had to do something to tone down her hard edges, she truly looks like someone who is out to get someone.  Of course that is all bravado.  Carson is an empty suit.  She would get started talking and you would quickly realize that she doesn’t know what on earth she is talking about.   This person would be a disaster if she got elected.  The circular logic and incompetent reasoning had me wondering how many gallons of cheap coffee she swilled before getting up on that dais.  There was a rhythm to her speech.  She’d get started to speak and rapidly run out of steam doubling back and second guessing herself.  This is a behavior I witnessed when she was mistakenly on the City Commission before and she would hack into somebody and trail off into complete confusion.  This person has nothing to add to the discussion of City Government and needs to go back to her day job – clearly, Julie Carson is Unsuitable for Public Office.

The Four Year seat is currently up for grabs.  There are two positions and three people that are running for the office.  In contrast to the incompetence of Gary Resnick and the completely unsuitable Julie Carson, I found the three running for the Four Year Seat to be a pleasant discussion among people who were content to be with each other and hash out problems in a co-operative manner.   It came out that the newest to the bunch, Steve Zollo was actually coached to run for the office by current office holder Ted Galatis (no website).  It is hard to argue when your competition thinks that you belong in the post.  Steve and Ted both are joined by Scott Newton, an affable business person who is always entertaining while he explains away some arcane piece of public policy in a way that is engaging and will be easy to understand by someone who is not as involved as I or some of the other volunteer corps are.   Ted Galatis brings to the discussion the precision of his Lawyer’s background and rounds out the triplet.

The other person running for the Two Year seat is Celeste EllichCeleste is a warm and caring individual who I have had the privilege to know for the last four years.  She has run before and tells people in her own “home spun” style that she has some problems with public speaking.  I’m going to ask Celeste to stop saying that because after watching Celeste in action, I aspire to be as good a public speaker as she was.   Celeste was the equal to the best up there and brings to the table a depth of knowledge that only someone who has more than 2 Decades of Public Service in a volunteer capacity could.   Celeste’s knowledge of the Real Estate market will be a strongly needed asset to the City Commission especially in view of the G Resort controversy and the future zoning changes that will be needed in moving the City forward as a Jewel in South Florida instead of our lurching forward under the current administration like a ship without a rudder.   Celeste will bring stability and deep consideration of issues with her.   I highly recommend anyone to get to know this person, I am truly happy I do.

I have saved the best for last.  Joe Angelo.  Joe was easily the strongest speaker last night.   Listening to Mr Angelo was like listening to a concert violin virtuoso playing a Stradivarius.  Well thought out, and often humorous anecdotes would pepper a discussion that illustrates a deep understanding of current, past and future challenges to the City.  I found it particularly instructive to watch the others on the panel when Joe spoke.  I noticed them listening intently at what Joe had to say for something that they missed, and I caught each one at one time or another nodding in agreement.   Joe has an openness that is quite refreshing and a willingness to listen to people.  While he may not agree with what you are saying, he certainly will give you the opportunity to state your case and when you are through you will understand exactly why he feels the way he did and the thoughts that were necessary to come to his conclusions.  Like his election ribbons say “Go Joe!”.  Joe Angelo will be a wonderful and energetic Mayor, and that is exactly what we will need to clean up the mess of his predecessor. 

Watering the Park – Picture

The other day, signs appeared at M.E. De Palma Park in Wilton Manors.   It’s a little nature preserve and I’ve written about it.  As a park, it requires care.  We thought we’d go by and Lettie is getting ready to add her own Special Care to the spot.

This is a Nature Preserve, and here in Florida that means that we’re trying hard to keep native species there.   Some are showy, most of the ones down here due to their being adapted to the poor soil (think Beach Sand) are small.  Labeling the local plants helps, since most folks are from other places, it is nice to be told that this particular plant is from your own area.   Reminds me of the “Brown Fish” controversy at the Camden Aquarium in New Jersey.   Apparently the native fish of the Delaware river between NJ and PA tend to be dark and not showy – and people expected tropical fish… Head down to the nearest pet store and …

This would be why my neighborhood can have flocks of Monarch butterflies and I need to check my Honeybell Orange tree for Swallowtail Caterpillars daily.  The little plants surrounding the sign are Mexican Milkweed.  I have a stand in my yard, and I’m quite close to this sign as I write this.  The Butterflies fly back and forth between my own back yard and this park, leaving Eggs that become Caterpillars, then Chrysalis and more Butterflies that float on the breezes.  

In fact one just floated by my front window gliding toward the park.

Brown Fish and Native Species have a place.  They may not be showy and that is most likely WHY they need help.  “Charismatic Megafauna” have champions.   People fly to Yellowstone so they can see Bear and Cougar but certainly don’t want them in their yards.   They’re quite hard to keep in a city so we have big parks “out there” to help them along.   In the case of the butterflies and the geckos that live with them, its merely a choice of picking native species to give wildlife a little toe hold in your own back yard.

But don’t get me started on Iguanas!

Challenges for the New Administration in November

I should have said as seen by and my readers this week.

The reality is that of the top five topics here, a blog that is billed as an open letter to my sister, three of them were strictly about Wilton Manors.

Sure, people like my pictures, and they hit my posting about the Mexican Petunias, but that was not the majority by a long shot.

I am a Project Manager and Web Developer as well as a lot of other things, so my posting on how to stop Hotmail from annoying you by using the delete key to delete emails was even more popular.  I guess I still can write technical documents – That’s going to be brought up in my next interview, and I am ACTIVELY looking for work.

60 Percent of you came here for information on what is going on here in Wilton Manors.  I find that to be the norm but a bit of an obvious prediction. 

I am active in the volunteer effort here.  I have met some very interesting people, some are quite capable.  Others like one particular person that I have the misfortune to run into, is dismally incompetent in what she does.   Luckily she is a volunteer and she’s getting paid exactly what she is worth.  That is an almost direct quote from a Commissioner here…

We have a lot of people adding their opinions to the discussion, and while some are right and some are wrong, it is always a judgment call as to which one to follow.  We cast our votes around the modern oracle of Delphi, and the best critical path to proceed is chosen.

The problem is that while the critical path has been chosen, the results do not show that the plan has been followed. 

We say we want to do something about the problems at hand, but there hasn’t been a lot of vision on how to proceed to get results from the Administration here in Wilton Manors. 

I hear a lot of very good plans from the Volunteer space.   Within the various groups that I have been involved in, I have been a part of fixing one of the problems with those who are on Wilton Manors Main Street and we have presented the plan to the City Commission.  The plan itself is self funding however there has to be seed money.  That is what the whole Tiger II grant discussion is about.  Main Street has taken that original discussion that we brainstormed and with some amazing help from volunteers, the plan has gotten to the point where it can solve the parking problem in Wilton Manors.

The question is why hasn’t it been done before?   Things seem to work, after all so why change it? 

That description is incorrect, it doesn’t work well.  Parking in Wilton Manors is dysfunctional.  People flow into town to use the bars, they park all over the few spots that are available, and then spill out into every available nook and cranny and use that melted butter to winkle themselves into places where cars should not be.  People’s front yards, vacant home’s driveways, blocking driveways, and double parking happened – all last Thursday Night and this is the Off Season.  When the Snowbirds arrive, it gets worse.

We all agree Parking in Wilton Manors must be fixed.  The question is when will it happen?

I have only seen three possible reasons for Parking to be fixed in town.

1) The Elephant in the Room is Gay vs Straight.  The Old Guard here wants it to be the way it used to be .. back in 1955.  Sorry, there’s no place in the South Florida Sprawl that even remotely looks the way it did in 1955 and it isn’t happening.  Mom can’t afford to stay home and bake cookies in that perfect Pleasantville way of life.  There is much more equality these days, and we have a horrendous amount of work to do.   This is not a Gay City, and it is not a Straight City.  It is OUR city, we ALL live here and if you are of the mind set that you want them out, let me suggest that I-95 runs just west of town.  Get on it and keep driving until you find a nice backwards place to live – whether you’re straight or gay.   Leave it for the vast majority who wants to live here and work together for our best common good.

2) Inaction.  That will have to end in November.  The prior administration has been hand wringing on a number of issues, parking is one of them.  I moved here 4 years ago and I keep hearing about Parking Parking Parking.  There have been a number of steps taken recently, all of which are bandages to keep things from getting markedly worse, but all are temporary.  Meters are to pay for the lots that will have to go in places they aren’t while people decide what to do.   You have a plan, you know what to do, budget for it and move forward.

3) Finances.  The market has crashed.  The bubble has burst.  We are in the Great Republican Induced Recession.  Fortunately those who visit here are still coming.  If something hasn’t been done substantial to fix Parking Parking Parking, they won’t come back.   The temporary lot at Hagen Park is a start.  Striping the Drive for Phase I of the Wilton Manors Main Street should be Priority Number One for who ever gets in to the Commission in November.  We are under what the economists call The Economic Order Quantity for parking revenues.  We don’t take in enough to make a large enough surplus or profit to make the business worth going into.  This is called by either too few hours or not enough spaces.  In Wilton Manors, the solution is to add spaces and hours, Both.

The time to act is now.  There are other organic economic problems with the way that Wilton Manors Business functions, but this has gone long, so I’ll save that for another day…

Parking hours discussed at the Commission Meeting

Last night, I was at the Commission Meeting.  I had missed a couple of them in a row and was there specifically because I was asked to be there by two of the up and coming candidates, Joe Angelo For Mayor and Celeste Ellich for City Commissioner.

I also was there because as a member of Wilton Manors Main Street I felt it was important to be there to show my support.   We had presented a Business of the Quarter award to the owners of the Alibi last night, Jackson Padgett and Mark Negrete.  Great bar!  It has the best burger in Broward County, a wonderful restaurant with those rolly picnic tables outside under the awning, and some of the friendliest staff around.   A place where everyone is welcome. 

Among other business, the City Manager Joe Gallegos was picked up for another two year term. The law firm that the city works with was renewed for another two year term so we’ll get to work with Kerry Ezrol as City Attorney.  I have had discussions and worked with both on the various boards that I am a part of and have nothing but good things to say from my experiences.   Good luck to both of you.

The discussion later in the evening turned to the ongoing saga of parking in the City of Wilton Manors.  The hours of enforcement will be cut back to 6PM to 2AM, 7 days a week.  The meters will still be there, but enforcement will be limited. I am not against this idea, after all, the business district is very lightly used during the day time, and this does cover the sweet spot.   The problem is that the original agreement assumed that we were going to have enforcement 24 hours a day.  In an economic downturn, and in a small business business district like ours, this is not a reasonable assumption.  This thought was realized by the Commission and hours were excluded. 

Unfortunately there’s a problem there.  The problem is that the contract with Lanier Parking Systems states that they will get the first $350,000 of parking revenue as a management fee.  Yes, I’m simplifying that but basically the idea is that if the parking in the City does not bring in the needed $350,000, then the City Government will be stuck for the difference.  Add to that the costs of installing and maintaining all that equipment and you see the problem.  I don’t disagree with cutting back the hours to the evening, but I don’t have a good answer for the alternative. 

There is a situation that has come to my attention and that is that of fees.  I have been told, and I have not confirmed, that the fees for the tennis courts are lower than nearby cities.   Fort Lauderdale has tennis courts and does not charge for parking to use them, however their fees are higher.  The answer there is to forget about this particular fatted calf and raise the fees for the Tennis Courts equal to that of neighboring Fort Lauderdale or higher.  After all, the courts at Wilton Manors are meant to be a Premium surface, and therefore more desirable to be played on. 

I personally don’t see why we are subsidizing tennis in the city of Wilton Manors.  It is only one sport among many, and while we do not have room to have facilities for every sport here, it is one that is practiced by a minority, and a well heeled one at that.  It is a rather expensive perk for those who have extra money to burn to have them here and pay less than other places.   If you doubt that, drive by the adjacent parking area and look at the luxury cars parked there.   These few parking spaces are stacked with Mercedes, BMW and Lexus cars every day.  They can afford to pay for parking. 

Unfortunately, the Beach Volleyball which is an open court, is right next to it and that is a much less intense use of the space requiring much less maintenance.  To the best of my knowledge, the Beach Volleyball court is free for all, and not charged by the city so charging for parking may be a good way to reclaim some of the expenses of maintaining that lot, minimal though they are.  The place still has to be raked smooth at the end of the night.

Rainbow’s End is Wilton Towers – Picture

This morning, after all the rain of last night, I realized that I really should bring my good camera every time I leave the house.

You can find beauty everywhere, and a cell phone camera does not always do it justice.  For a blog posting, I’d say this is fine, after all, it is shrunk down to the size of a “standard def” TV screen.  The fog that is in the picture is probably due to the junk that the lens gets on it from riding around in my left pocket.

But enough of that waffling about right?  Spilt milk and all that…

There was a lot of rain last night.  My pool is filled somewhat, my yard watered although the sprinklers kicked in which means the orchids got their water.  The streets were cleared of the dust that collects and everything had jewels that sparkled in the early morning light. 

At the midpoint of this morning’s walk, Lettie stopped to sniff yet-another-interesting-smell and I looked up.  There was a full rainbow.  The end of the rainbow happened to be at the middle of the roof of the Wilton Towers, and the other side was towards the Wilton Drive.  Some might say that it is redundant, rainbows over Wilton Manors.  Others say it is a good omen, after all it was centered over new City Hall and the lot that used to be old City Hall.  At 7AM sunrise, it was a nice moment.

Nobody is up at that time of day but the dog walkers and people on bikes going through town.  It is quiet.  All the partiers are back at their hotels or passed out somewhere under cover.  There weren’t any people banging around trying to get somewhere before traffic, and the Beach Volleyball Court here more resembled a sandbox devoid of attention.  One of the routines of owning a dog is that you must for their sake walk them three times a day.  If your dog acts up, walk them.  Mine gets three miles a day, never a problem which is saying something for a Border Collie.  One of the benefits of going through that slog every day is that you get to see your own city at an intimate level that you flat out don’t from inside a car.  After all that is why urban police departments still perform patrols on foot. 

I’ll remember to bring the camera more often.  The “real” camera just takes better pictures.