Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Billy's one-year anniversary: Three things dog ownership has taught me

Karim and Billy 
When I was a kid everything felt like it took forever. Not anymore. Most days, I feel like time flies. This past week Karim and I celebrated our one-year anniversary of adopting Billy. Although it's been a year it doesn't feel like it.

I remember the day we met Billy and he visited for a play date with us. An hour into the visit I knew we were going to keep him. As he made his way through the house sniffing it from corner to corner and wagging his tail, my gut said, "He's the dog for us and we're the owner's for him." Happy to report I was right.

When I come home for work feeling sluggish and tired, he cheers me up. He always greets Karim and I with excitement, high energy and his big brown eyes warm up whatever room he is in. 

This first-year with Billy has been a year of adjustment and learning. He continues to surprise us. Here are three things that I've learned and just wanted to share:

  • You can teach an old dog new tricks - It's not easy, but if your put the time and work in change is possible. Billy is getting ready to finish his second obedience course. Thanks to the classes he's not pulling when we walk him, trying to get every squirrel and rabbit he sees, or randomly jumping on strangers and other dogs he meets. He's not perfect but he's better and even my neighbors have noticed the change.
  • Discrimination by breed is real - When I've walked Billy, people have crossed the street to avoid us. There's a nice elderly lady in my neighborhood that told me my dog scares her because pits are attack dogs. I get it. I've seen the criminal news stories about pits that are mishandled and harm people. My Billy isn't looking to take a chunk of your flesh. Like most dogs, the wants to love and be loved.
  • Billy pausing on his hike in Stafford Springs.
  • Just like people, not all dogs get a long - He loves discovering new things and wants to be friends with everyone he comes into contact with. He's a doggy extrovert. While he may love the world and the people and dogs in it, there are times when he doesn't get the love back in return. We have learned the hard way that you can please and win everyone over. Instead, be respectful. Stay out of the dog's space, and keep it moving (this is one of the main reasons I decided to put him back in training).
Billy has been a real blessing and I can't thank Jamila, my sister-in-law enough for introducing me to Our Companions,  a pet resource organization that provides pet adoption, pet training, education and works to do the right thing for animals.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why I still use a travel agent

How time flies. It was just a few weeks ago that Karim and I were enjoying our travels to Amsterdam and Germany. It was a lovely trip. A much needed vacation or as the Europeans say, "holiday." Our travels blessed me with the opportunity to reconnect with Erica, a friend from high school and attend our friends, Coco and Jens' wedding. The trip is filled with memories I will cherish.

One of the reasons I really enjoyed my latest trip is due to my travel agent. Shout out to Travel by Simon? Yes,they still exist. Your probably saying that's so 1980s. Well, the 80s did have their highlights. It brought us Purple Rain, the royal wedding of Princess Diane and Prince Charles and the fall of the Berlin Wall. While having a travel agent may seem like a throwback to the past, you can't beat the customer service he or she will provide, that is when you have a great one like I do. He was there to help me out before, during, and after I booked the reip.

I recognize that we live in a world where many things are just a click away. Want a pair of shoes, a new dress or toilet paper in bulk, just order it online. Hotel and travel isn't any different. There are discount sites like Travelzoo, Kayak, Priceline, Hotwire,, Cheap Air to name a few. I have used a few of these discount travel sites in the past, but in the last few years I've started going back to using a travel agent because in addition to a good price I want great customer service.
In our talks Simon reminded me that, "Discount travel site competitive prices have changed the business, but where they don't deliver for consumers is on impeccable customer service. Many travelers want that and are willing to pay more for it." He's right. I'm one of those travelers.

What's better then finding a cheap fair and travel deal at an all inclusive resort? For me, it's having a person work with me on my travel arrangements that is willing to go the extra mile to give me the best travel experience possible. In my case, that means helping me rearrange travel plans at the last minute when I realized I screwed up my return date or last minute trying to book a flight back home when I realized I missed my return flight back to the states. 

Every traveler may not be looking for that experience, but for me it's worth the money when I travel.