Things I Never Expected to Say

Furparenthood can be challenging.  You work on manners and good behavior.  You reinforce.  You spend a small fortune on treats and toys (which you know will be destroyed in minutes).  You adjust routines and plans and coordinate a fleet of people who can serve as willing back-ups when things get crazy.  You read and you listen and you attend training classes and vet appointments.  You go to play groups.  You make play dates. You think you’re prepared.

And then one evening over a very grown-up dinner of a brie wedge and leftover birthday cake, you hear yourself utter the following words:

“Stop licking your brother’s butt.”

And it’s all over.  In those five little words, you have humbled away years of acquired dignity in rescue-dog companionship.

You’re an educated person.  You like to learn from your mis-steps.  Perhaps you and your spouse can use this as an opportunity to reflect on some of the more outlandish things that have escaped your lips.  And so, we proudly bring you,

Stuff we say to our pups, or where have we gone wrong?

  • Stop humping your sister’s head.
  • Don’t eat his ear.
  • That’s not your food.  I’m not even sure what that is.
  • Thank you for burping in my face.  Twice.
  • The cat is not a chew toy.
  • Why are you green?
  • Stay.  Please, sit still for 15 seconds.
  • Your impression of a Dinosaur screaming is charming. 
  • I cannot feed you faster if you step on my feet.
  • Is that snot on your face, or were you licking your nose?
  • How in the world is that comfortable?

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  • Why does your breath smell like poop?
  • Why do you smell like skunk?
  • Drop it. Dropitdropitdropit.
  • Don’t step on Dad’s squishy bits.
  • Don’t kick Mommy’s boob.
  • Armpits are not gourmet treats.
  • Must you race me up the stairs?
  • Must you race me down the stairs?
  • You’re barking at your own reflection.
  • You wouldn’t like it if I sneezed in your open mouth.
  • May I have some room on the couch, please?

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Have you caught yourself saying anything “strange” to your furbabies?

 

I could eat.

July 2011

On a particularly lazy Sunday, we huddle in the house waiting out a summer storm. James makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich, and he’s been begged into submission and is shuffling around the kitchen making our lunch. Pans clang, burners ignite.  Out comes the bread loaf, cheese slices and butter.  The commotion draws Doodle’s attention, and he becomes the instant helper by standing right behind James while he works.

Helper= trip hazard

MJ snores on the couch, indifferent to the activity in the next room.

mj is not interested.

mj is not interested.

James peels open the Kraft American Cheese Singles slice.  MJ bolts into the kitchen. There’s something about that plastic noise that has her unsettled.

“Hey Miss, what’s up?  We’re making lunch,” James chats.

Zo shifts his settled position into the middle of the kitchen, and MJ begins duckling-stalking behind James as he moves from counter to cook-top.  She steps on/over Doodle.  Ears pert, eyes open, sniffing the air.

Without thinking about it, James takes a small corner of cheese and offers it to Zo.  MJ erupts in her Brontosaurus whine.  How dare she be overlooked and unoffered.  She screams for her fair share.

“Ok, Miss.  Hold on.”  He tears a piece of cheese.  “Sit.”

From the other room, I can hear her butt hit hard on the floor.  She slurps the cheese down.

“Good girl!  Stay.”  James walks a few steps away.  She’s twitchy but working very hard to stay put.  “COME!”

From the couch, I hear the jingles of the furbaby stampede.  “Sit.”  Two dog rumps thwap the ground.

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Ladies and Gentlemen: we have a winner.

This Girl will do anything for Kraft singles.  It’s her Klondike bar; her holy grail.  Within a week, she’s mastering her cues for a tiny nibble of cheese.

We replenish our stock, but this time with the white singles slices (which I prefer).  MJ won’t take them.  She turns her snoot up and sulks away.  Back to the store we go.

Only the yellow slices for this princess.

 

Lessons Learned by New Fur Parents, Part II

 April – May 2011

1.  Adopting a puppy is the perfect excuse to get Lasik eye surgery.  This will really hit home the first time you stumble outside in the middle of the night for a pit-stop (get it?) without glasses and the puppy bolts into the darkness of the yard after a squirrel/bird/shadow/you couldn’t see it anyway. Blind whisper-shouting-hunting in the dark doesn’t get anything but nasty, passive aggressive comments from the Suburban Vampire Neighbors the next day.

2. Helpful hint that the Monks forgot to mention: when you have to wake up the puppy for an outting overnight, it’s time to push the alarm back an hour.  One whole, glorious hour.

3.  Know a good time to get hardwood floors installed?  When you bring home a puppy.  The floors go from looking new to weathered in a week.  PS: If you would like to borrow our dogs for a weekend to break in your new floors, just let me know.  They’re helpers, really.

4.  If the puppy doesn’t like where you’ve positioned her crate along the back of the couch, she’ll move herself.  Or, Fur-shui.IMG_0136

 5.  If the puppy doesn’t want to be in her crate, she will find a way to break out of it, after moving it and her brother’s bed across the room first.  You can also bet that the cat is hiding under the bed or on top of the fridge in response to this jailbreak.

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6.  If it’s raining, you will have to carry the puppy out the door because she does not like getting her feet wet.  Also, do provide an umbrella over her delicate, princess head while she does her business.  If you don’t she’ll fake squat and wait until she’s back indoors and in her crate before relieving herself.  Annoying  Clever. Girl.

7.  This puppy will also get the “good dog discount” at the vet’s office.  Even when she’s a complete basket-case.

8.  Embrace chaos.  It’s sort of fun to live in squalor and mayhem.  Eventually the puppy will get a little more on-program (right?) and the older-brother-who-should-know-better will settle himself down (right?).  And in those moments when you think, “What have I done? I can’t handle this madness,” the little snout wakes up from an epic snuggle-nap on a lazy Sunday and looks at you like this…

"nap nose"

“nap nose”

We’re in so much trouble.

Throwback Thursday: baby MJ

Things are a little hectic this week, but I couldn’t leave you without a helping of PB&Cheese!  Please enjoy this oldie-but-goodie, taken April 13, 2011. 

At the time this picture was taken, MJ had been with us for all of one week.  It feels like she’d doubled in size since she came home.  She’s very much a puppy… but more on that later!

I will sit still for 6 seconds.  After that, I make no promises.

I will sit still for 6 seconds. After that, I make no promises.

Can you handle my truth? by Zozo

April 2011

i didn’t like the little girl the first time i met her. mom and dad had to bring me for a meet-n-sniff at the rescue place.   it smelled weird and there were a lot of barkings and new peoples.  mom and dad usually don’t make me go into those “environments” (their word) because it doesn’t “set me up for success” (Trainer Tim’s words).

i’m sniffing around a big room, and all of a sudden this little puppy runs under my tail and through my legs.  she’s beneath my belly and i can’t see her.  i get nervous and i do something i never do: i growl.  that makes mom and dad unhappy (Uh-Uh!), and the little puppy has an accident.  i tuck my tail and trot away.

dad comes over to see if i’m ok.  “hey doodle, it’s ok.  are you ok, bud? she doesn’t know her manners and we need you to try to be patient with her.”

mom is helping wipe up the accident, and i feel bad that the little girl embarrassed herself.  rookie mistake.

we try again, and this time we have a tiny milkbone treat side-by-side and i let her sniff me while mom has me sit.  dad jogs around the room and we both follow him, but the little dog is slow and her feet don’t move right.  i guess things are ok, because the little girl comes home with us.

they’re calling her mj.  i don’t even know what kind of a name that is.  it’s certainly not as regal as zozo.  she’s fuzzy and pink.

let me make one thing clear: being a big brother is hard work.  the little girl doesn’t know how to play ball or sit.  she tries to chase the cat, which is a big no-no. she doesn’t understand that sitting on the couch is a reward if you’ve been a very good boy or if you’re not feeling well.  she doesn’t even run right because her back legs work faster than her front ones. her brakes don’t work.  she snores louder than dad.  she has a lot to learn.

 oh, and dad and i are officially out-numbered by girls.  gross.

Itchy

January- April 2011

One cat. Two humans.  One dog.  We’re sort of back to where we started, aren’t we?

Athena has gotten over her litter box misfires and is back to judging people from the tops of furniture.  Zozo is completely on-program and in a good routine.  They’re both cool when things get out of hand and we’re late in serving them dinner, or when we drop them at camp for a last-minute weekend getaway, or if we over-sleep on a rare nothing-to-do Saturday.

Things are good.What? Am I drooling?

…But we’ve got this big yard.  And Doodle prefers when there are other pups from which he can take his cues.  We’ve got plenty of love and space on the couch.

Thus the conversations begin.  A joke at first, the musings become more serious:

Where would we put the crate?

Are we ready to introduce chaos into what’s now an easy pattern?

But then we’ll have more furbabies than humans.  Won’t we be outnumbered?

Answers slowly followed:

Probably beside the other one.  But maybe we don’t need two?

A little chaos never hurt anyone.

Yes.  Yes, we will always be outnumbered.

We started casually visiting rescue websites.  Maybe a Frenchie?  What about a lab?  Should we find an entirely white dog to be Ivory to Zo’s ebony?  Let’s get a Shetland Pony.  Pigs are pretty popular right now.

Maybe we weren’t ready.  Maybe we shouldn’t ruin our “good thing.”

Turns out, a little ruin was exactly what we needed.

Why can’t we save them all?

May through June 2008

We’re going to get a dog.  We start telling people, “We’re getting a dog.”  Not really designer people, and since I’m a sucker for a good bleeding-heart story, we know we’ll rescue.  But from where?  With so many resources out there, and a significant lull at work, the emails flew:  links to websites and rescue societies, craigslist ads for people “looking for a new home for their pet they love so much but can’t have anymore because [insert reason here],” news stories about dogs from puppy mills and hoarders in need of a forever home (we could save one or four, right?).  We exchange more emails during the months of our dog hunt than we have during our entire courtship.

And then we find him.  I stumble across a link for a Chow/Lab mix who had been so mistreated by his previous owners that he’s gone blind.  The photos online show a dog with a perpetual smile, eyelids sewn shut, purple-tongue extended and ears open to face the world.  His profile boasts of a big, slobbery, happy boy with zero aggression-tendencies seeking a calm, forever home.  We must save him.  I send his foster-mom an application email, and the waiting begins.

 To keep busy during the waiting, I know I should do something totally unrelated to the pup.  Knit, read, take a language class, maybe clean the apartment.

 Instead, I lose my mind. 

I contact several veterinarians and scour the internet for information on how to train blind dogs. I reach out to consultants in our area specializing in “nesting” for special-needs pets.  I engage James in extensive dinner-time discussions about what scents we’d make each room in the apartment so the pup would know where he’d wandered to.  Would James feel incomplete having a dog he can’t play catch with or have as a running companion?  My amazon.com wishlist fills up with toys specifically designed to engage dogs with sensory impairment.  I become the Wikipedia of blind-dog knowledge.  The Monks of New Skete are my homeboys.

But the unthinkable happens.  The foster-mom abruptly ends our correspondence and disapproves our application.  We’re perfect.  We’re gainfully employed and around.  We’re prepared to take care of whatever medical needs the pup has.  Our references are impeccable.

The response?  The apartment’s Property Managers have changed their breed policies.  No dogs with any Chow genes are welcome.  For the record, none of the following breeds are welcome: Staffordshire Terriers, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, Akitas or Dobermans.  (We’ll get back to this later.)

 And I am heart-broken.  No one would love that fur-boy like we could.  I take the news like a 14 year old girl’s big break-up from the love of her life.  I cry.  I shred pictures.  I’m angry and I decide we should move—apparently, that’s irrational of me, and so James and I fight.  We will never find another dog. (We= me making declarations.)

 James, meanwhile, is clandestinely continuing the search. Smart man.  After a week, he gently sends me the PetFinder link to a Border collie/Something mix. 

Me: Ok, he’s kind of adorable… Is that a star on his chest?

James: This fuzzy boy is living in West Virginia but can be driven to NoVa for the right family. 

Me: I don’t know, James.  Maybe we’re not the right family.

James, ignoring the previous comment/trap: Great with other dogs and cat-tested.

Me: Whatever, Athena will hate him no matter what.

James: He shows some signs of anxiety around people, men in particular.

Me: Well boys are kind of dumb, so he’s a smart dog.

James: He’ll need love and patience.

Me, perking up: I have those things.

James: Socialization exercise with humans. 

Me: We have friends!

James: The rest of his litter has already been adopted.

Me: OMG HE’S ALL ALONE! WE HAVE TO GO GET HIM.  WHERE ARE YOUR KEYS?!

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is handling the adoption applications.  We send in a form, and within 24 hours we’re contacted for references and to schedule a home visit.  If all goes well and we’re approved, the pup will be on the next transport.  Fingers crossed.