Casey in Bloomfield
Thursday, May 11 2023
I got out of work early so that Gretchen and I (with our dogs, Ramona and Neville) could drive down to Bloomfield, New Jersey to see if our dogs would get along with a possible new resident of our home, that 46 pound one-year old pit mix named Casey rescued from a shelter in Tennessee. It was a bad time to be on the Route 17 and the Garden State Parkway due to near-end-of-a-Thursday-workday congestion, so it took us a half hour longer than the 1.5 hour expected drive time. No matter where we go in New Jersey, there's something kind of off about the whole state at every layer of detail. On a typical street, the houses are an unappealing mix of random styles, often set uncomfortably on oddly-shaped lots. And the houses themselves often feature mish-mashes of styles, with porches too narrow to comfortably sit on and windows for the sort of people who view them only as forms of emergency egress. The woman foster Casey the dog was named Erin, and her house was at the top of a narrow, extremely steeply-sloped yard featured an uncomfortable-to-climb set of concrete steps. Ernin let us in and there was Casey, a warm rubbery bundle of young doggy energy. She was very sweet, and after an enthusiastic greeting (including a little getting up on her hind paws) she flopped down beside me, ready to snuggle. The room around us was strewn with bones and half-destroyed toys, suggesting Erin has committed herself seriously to dog fostering. In addition to Casey, she has her own dog, a hound named Buster, and two cats, one of which was a beautiful grey who strolled around, oblivious to Casey's puppy antics.
We decided to have Erin walk Casey along the street while we walked our dogs back and forth on the other side of the street. Our dogs were initially obsessed with the diversity of fragrances left by dozens of other dogs in this densely-populated neighborhood of houses and small yards. As for Casey, she immediately started barking at our dogs from across the street and straining at her leash. This was apparently how she greets other dogs, though it's not the sort of behavior that makes strange dogs want to approach her. In any case, she was far enough away and the smells they were experiencing were so compelling that Ramona and Neville completely ignored her. So then we tried walking the dogs on the same side of the street, eventually settling on a pattern where Ramona was far in front, Casey was behind her, and Neville straggled far back. Somewhere in there, Neville and Casey got close enough to meet each other, but Casey's idea for how to do that was to snarl and lunge. Neville didn't react in any way to this other than to lose any interest he had in actually meeting her.
We walked the dogs to Erin's yard, which was divided into to parts by a fence with a gate that dogs could meet each other through (yet another feature that suggested Erin is heavily into dog fostering). After trying to get the dogs to interact through the fence (and burning through lots of "high-value" — non-vegan — treats for the many occasions when they weren't displaying aggression), we decided to bring Neville in to Casey's part of the yard and have him and Casey walk around and perhaps slowly get acquainted. But Neville didn't seem to want to get anywhere near Casey, and every time he did, she lunged at him with bared teeth and an unpleasant barking. Gretchen was shooting me looks to say, "this isn't working." And we hadn't even tried to introduce Casey to Ramona yet.
But then I decided to take a more active role. So I sat on the ground with Casey on one side and Neville on the other, and I gradually let Casey sniff Neville's asshole. Once she'd done that, she stopped all her aggressive behavior and seemed to accept Neville as a friend, though one requiring bit more exploration. She kept sniffing his undercarriage and his penis and then clambering over him trying to figure out how to get him to play. Neville was completely indulgent for all of this, though there was nothing that was going to make him play. So, yay, we finally had a good introduction.
As for Ramona, she seemed unusually tolerant of Casey for the most part. But then she'd do something like start barking at a dog she could hear in another yard, and that would trigger Ramona, and she'd start to snarl. And then sometimes Casey would lunge at Ramona through the fence, like she'd done with Neville. But unlike Neville, Ramona took this as a threat that needed to be countered in kind. So they came close to launching into battle several times despite the fence between them. It's possible that a long, gradual introduction would've made Ramona accept Casey and would've calmed Casey down enough to behave reasonably around Ramona. But we all agreed that Casey just isn't the right dog for our home. What we need to do is spend time training Ramona to be more accepting of new dogs, find a new dog with a less aggressive introductory energy, and that dog should probably live close to us in the Hudson Valley so we can visit him or her repeatedly to introduce him or her to our family. Still, this visit wasn't a complete waste of time: Erin learned some more things about Casey and how best to introduce her to other dogs. And we learned how Ramona and Neville might react to new potential adoptees.
As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed a conduit labled "solar PV," so I asked Erin of she had solar panels. She said that she did, and that they came with the house. They don't belong to her, she said; she has to pay $50/month for them, and they supposedly make her electricity cheaper. But, she said, she hasn't noticed that her electricity isn't cheaper. She wondered if perhaps they weren't even hooked up. My experience with off-grid solar suggests to me that only in cases where the solar panels must work is it ever really clear to a typical low-information homeowner whether or not the solar panels they have on their roof are actually doing anything, and this likely opens up a huge opportunity for scam solar installations for on-grid buildings. Erin's solar panels are Tesla-branded, which makes me feel even more skeptical of whether or not they do anything at all.
An Electrify America charging station was only a mile away at a strip mall anchored by a SuperFresh supermarket, so we drove over there and got our car charging next to a Lucid (a high-end electric-only brand manufactured in California). To spend the time while the car charged, we did a little shopping for food in the SuperFresh that wouldn't need refrigeration. It was a weird store, stocking enough fresh plantains to fill a kiddie pool. Additionally, there were numerous brands of dried plantain chips stocked in random places in most of the aisles. The store also featured a great diversity of ethnic foods for unusual ethnicities like Ecuadorans and Filipinos. They had a huge diversity of Asian noodles in stock, and I've never seen so many different kinds of honey for sale. Given the ethnic nature of its customer base, it came as no surprise to see that they stocked as much vegan milk (which they called "lactose-free") as they did the kind for a cow. This part of New Jersey is about the most diverse of any place in America, so grocery stores have to carry an enormous variety of stuff. Interestingly, though, their bread selection was dismal and I even had trouble finding an interesting brand of corn chip.
Gretchen's research had turned up an Ethiopian restaurant in nearby MontClair. So we drove over there and then spent ten or fifteen minutes driving increasingly far from the restaurant looking for a place to park. Every parking space we saw had a car in it, and there were other cars looking for spaces to. We checked every level of a parking garage, and every space in it was taken. Ultimately, though, on Claremont Avenue (1550 feet from the Ethiopian restaurant) a pair of cars just happened to be leaving as we rolled up, and we finally had a place to leave our car, which our dogs would hopefully guard.
It was a beautiful summery evening, though the restaurant (Mesob) was a little cold inside. Gretchen ordered a vegan variety plate for herself, and I got the mushroom "tibs" which came with two wats on the side. I told the waiter to make the tibs very spicy, and he warned me that the mushrooms would absorb the heat. I said no problem. The resulting tibs were so hot that I couldn't really eat more than a little bit of them before my whole face became uncomfortable. This might've been the hottest food I've ever tried to eat in my life. For relief, I was eating some of Gretchen's stuff, especially a kind of chickpea cracker soaked in a curry that Gretchen found too hot to eat but that was a relief in comparison to my tibs. There was a flavor in the tibs that I didn't really like, and Gretchen had a similar complaint about some of her food. Overall, she didn't like the food and would never be coming back, though it's fair to mention that she grew up near Washington, DC and has had a lot of exposure to very good Ethiopian food, and so has become extremely picky. Nevertheless, I took our leftovers to go. I don't know how I'll be able to eat those tibs but perhaps they will mellow.
I did most of the driving on the way home. [REDACTED]
Casey the Dog, a photo on the website advertising her as being up for adoption.
The many plantains in the Bloomfield SuperFresh supermarket.
As many options for honey as for peanut butter at the Bloomfield SuperFresh. Click to enlarge.
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