Do Not Push

So it read on the back of the dump truck in front of me in morning traffic: “Do Not Push.”  After 7 days alone with the kids and the dogs, it came as a divine intervention. 

I’m exhausted, and it ain’t over yet. 

First things first. Dub is fit as a fiddle, far as the vet can tell. He has the resting heart rate of a champion and the dog can catch a frisbee mid-flight with the grace of a gazelle, IF said gazelle could catch a frisbee and as far as I know, gazelles are not nearly that capable or entertaining.  

Dub in his natural state

Our fine vet, Dr. H., thinks the seizure was a fluke; he hasn’t had another. The blood work came back clean. And the vomiting was likely unrelated.  Or as I summarized for DH on the phone the night he called from Pune, “he’s a puker.”  

But I am growing rather attached to the puker.  He takes his cues from his humans, following us everywhere, resting when we rest, running when we run. Bam-Bam is learning this lesson the hard way – he knocked her down during an overzealous game of — and I quote — CHASE! ME! DOGS!  He has a cold black nose and looks so very interested, when he cocks his head just so, in what I have to say.  

He also barks his head off at anything that walks, rolls, or glides past our house, and we live on a very busy corner.  But I’m just moving into day eight of ten home alone, and the dump truck has spoken. I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

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Zone Defense: Days 1 and 2

Yesterday DH left for India for ten days.

An hour before he left, I held Pebbles on my lap while she received four immunizations, two in each thigh.  I will forever hear her screaming “don’t let them do it to me, Mama!”

Six hours before DH left, Dub had his first seizure. He just crouched like the Sphinx, unblinking, drooling, helpless on the office floor.

Twelve hours before DH left, I was on the phone with the on-call pediatrician begging him to call in a prescription for Bam-Bam, who has pink eye. In both eyes.

Twenty-four hours before DH left, I was certain I could handle everything just fine!

Now I’m waiting for the vet to call us back with the results of $300 worth of blood work. (Since the seizure he has played two extended games of fetch and gone for two walks.) I’m administering Bam-Bam the pink-eye medication in four doses daily for five days. Pebbles is proudly explaining to everyone she encounters that her body is now fighting off the diseases the ladies shot “into her bones.”  That is to say, everything seemed to be settling out, until I came home from work this evening and learned that Dub vomited and had diarrhea all over the house.

Under the piano.

Again in the corner.

In the mudroom, dripping down into the air vent.

In the family room.

All over his dog bed.

And our blessed nanny cleaned all of this up, only to vomit HERSELF mid-way through the cleaning job.

I hope the dog doesn’t die. I hope the nanny doesn’t quit. I hear New Delhi is lovely this time of year.

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First Check-This-Blogger Alert: My Puppy, My Self

I just discovered a blogger after my own heart and wanted to share with all 17 of you, my dear readers: My Puppy, My Self.

I somewhat question whether the blog title, “My Puppy, My Self,”  accurately reflects the content, catchy though it is.  The intentional separation of “my” and self” may lead a casual reader to believe that the author sees his puppy as one with his “self.”  But I don’t think this this is the simplistic case at all after reading a few of his articles.  For example, on July 16, 2010, blog author Lee Charles Kelley writes:

One of my main themes here is that, for most species (excluding cetaceans and some primates), animal consciousness should be described economically, through the laws of physics, not through higher-order intellectual thought processes. (This is why I think Freud — whose psychology was based on the conservation of energy — is more relevant to dog training than Pavlov and Skinner.) 

From post titled “Canine Communication, II: “Calming Signals & the Mel Gibson Tapes

It’s good stuff! This is the kind of guy who experences transendence reading books like My Dog Tulip.  Therefore, I respectfully suggest he rethink the blog title. Something more cerebral, perhaps? (If I come up with any brilliant notions, I shall of course suggest them to Mr. Kelley directly.)

I’m reminded of the translation issues over Chekov’s Lady With a Little Dog.  Since the Russian language doesn’t use articles, what meaning are we superimposing by chosing “a little dog” over “the little dog.” And what does it mean if we change it to “The Lady?” 

I digress.

Check it out. “My Puppy, My Self ” contains some good ideas about dogs and people… that is, of you’re into dog psychology, human psychology, and intersections of the two.

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summer hiatus?

You could call it a hiatus. Or you could call it being really fucking busy with two kids and two dogs during the hottest days of Summer 2010.

Sorry readers, for being MIA for a week.  I have a few bits of breaking news.  Or perhaps I should say, as we do in the biz, “lessons learned.” (The “biz” to which I refer is, unfortunately for my spirit and my soul, IT consulting. Information Technology consulting. Makes me want to light my hair on fire, but it does pay the bills.) 

Lesson Learned #1: Do NOT Leave Treats in Pocket of Running Shorts (see Figure 1)

Figure 1. My (former) best running shorts

I walked into my closet and surveyed the clothes in a heap on the floor, pulled on a pair of shorts thinking I would go for a run, and discovered them to be… wet? Odd, right? I mean, the sweat from 2 days ago would have dried by now… so I look down and… am immediately reminded of my grey fleece. Samson (The original Brittany, if you haven’t been following) ate both pockets of my grey fleece when he was about 2 years old, probably going after the cheddar cheese we used to train him. So having the reaction only a dog-lover could understand, I smiled and laughed and had my daughter take this picture. Silly dogs.

Never mind that this set me back at least one week of running — which I have to say, worked out in everyone’s favor. Kids went to the pool after work more frequently, and I wasn’t dragging one of the poor dogs down the Arlington bike path in 90+degree heat. (A week? A whole week? You don’t have any other shorts? Those of you asking these questions must not have children and may God bless you for taking time away from your quiet weeknight to try and understand, but I just don’t have the energy to explain it right now.)

Lesson learned, Sadie and Dub.  Lesson learned. 

I now have my eye on a new pair of lululemons.

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All Joy and No Fun?

I am not crazy.

I read an article in New York Magazine today and it’s in there. Somewhere in the article is what I’ve been trying to explain to people about this decision to get two Brittanys while working, raising two kids, and trying to keep my marriage from going into the great, gray Netherland of ambivalence. 

“It’s so hot,” I said to DH tonight, ripping into a bottle of white wine. “This weather is just… completely unreasonable. It really is, don’t you think? Unreasonable?”

DH nodded.

“I can smell myself,” I muttered. “I’m sick of smelling myself.” I sniffed. I groaned.

“Me too,” he said.

“You’re sick of smelling yourself, or sick of smelling me?”

He nodded again.

And before we could laugh or even make eye contact, Bam Bam and Pebbles started fighting and pushing over whose crown was whose in their new silly band collection.

The New York Magazine article confirms all of this. Parenthood is a grind. We do have moments of mind-blowing joy with the girls and these, to be fair, are not so few and far between. But it’s also hard work of the constant and mind-numbing variety.  In the middle of an important meeting, my shoulders can knot instantly over a maternal brain fart: you still didn’t submit the medical forms for kindergarten registration, or send the evite for Bam-Bam’s pool party!  And any attempts DH and I make to escape from daily life — when we try to fool ourselves into thinking we’re as fun, interesting, or driven as we once were — are folly. The plain truth is, we are on a domestic death march for the next 16 years.

Then there are Sadie and Dub. They inspire within me great joy and comfort that whispers to hell with it … in perfectly reasonable, daily doses.  I mean, I might as well march along (toward death? toward paying college tuition?)  in step with those things that offer random moments of disassociated delight, right? And peace.  Like yesterday evening, when I walked my two lively, panting, grinning dogs through the woods. I’m still filling an obligation to another creature! It’s productive! It’s even exercise! I watched them nose each other, take turns in the lead, reassure our little pack through body language that we were doing the right thing; that is, we were all having fun.

Because with 30-60 minutes of free time a day, my brain can’t even begin to focus on an intellectual activity. I have no chance of being interesting. Am I gonna knit?  Read 12 pages of a worthy novel or take half a yoga class?

Fuck it. I just want to have fun during the precious moments that belong solely to me.

Read it: All Joy and No Fun.  You’re welcome to come play with the dogs anytime.

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Special Treat

someecards.com - Sorry I used my calmly assertive Dog Whisperer voice in bed

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Selecting a Proper Leash for Your Dog: Or How to Avoid Clotheslining Bikers, Spare Rabbits’ Lives, and Avoid the Wrath of Mothers with Small Children

 

First Rule of Using a Retractable Leash: Don't

Retractable leashes. WTF? These things should be outlawed, or at the very least, sold under federal restriction only to owners of dogs that can be tucked into a Versace clutch. 

Retractable leashes are the way our brilliant, ever problem-solving species gets around leash laws. Fido pulls on his leash and it’s a pain in the ass! It ruins our walks and our rotator cuffs!  So we give him… more leash?? In most cases, certainly in any populous area, retractable leashes are a menace to society. We all know how they work; momentum equals mass times velocity.  Fido roams quasi-freely, while dragging his hopeless human along behind. Presumably the human can stop the line from extending by pushing the button, but if you have a real dog, a dog who likes to sniff and run and jump and kill small land mammals, by the time you hit that button (which doesn’t always work that well) the dog has so much momentum going that the whole kit and caboodle becomes an oncoming runaway train. 

Do you realize that bikers can’t even see that fishing-line thin cord as they come zooming down a path? I think it’s fair to say that any biker who nearly gets killed because (s)he gets tripped up in your stupid retractable leash has a right to go ape-shit, whenever and wherever it happens. And that goes double for mothers of children under the age of 4 who feel their offspring have in any way been wronged by your (no doubt harmless and loveable, but still) dog.

So dog-owning readers, repeat after me:

I will use nothing longer than a 6 foot, old-fashioned leash. I will take my dog to safe areas where he can run off-leash. And from this day further, I will not try to fool myself or my dog, into feeling he’s “off-leash” when “on-leash” because everyone gets confused, it simply doesn’t work, and I look like a moron.

What to do? PAY ATTENTION TO AND ENJOY THE WALK WITH YOUR DOG.

I’m only 5’3” and usually holding a kid with one hand, so I prefer a 4 foot leash. I also use a martingale collar, which allows me to correct Sadie and Dub for pulling (like a traditional choke collar) without hurting them. See more about the martingale here:

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Dogs and Family, Home Alone

Life’s timing isn’t always convenient for those who like to keep it neat and tidy. I personally don’t care so much about neat and tidy, but am indulging in this self-conscious preamble because I know some people would consider my activities of the last week to be poorly planned at best, irresponsible at worst. (Ok, fine; some people is pretty much just my mom.)

To the point, the point, the point. Right. The point is that we decided to get the dogs last weekend lest risk them going to another family. Within 48 hours, I was on a business trip, leaving DH, Pebbles and Bam-Bam to fend for themselves with our new jumping, licking, wagging, barking, 100-pound-combined-weight bundle of joy.

DH knew what to do. He got one of these:

Handy Dandy Leash Coupler

And these:

Four-Foot Leash (more on this topic later)

 

And lots of these:

Nothing says "I love dogs" more than a pocket full of liver snacks

All while I was here, working very hard:

Crate Lake, The Maroon Bells, Colorado

He kept them all alive! I enjoyed three, count ‘em, nights of gloriously uninterrupted sleep, and got some work done. And, um, hiked to Crater Lake.

Seriously, though. Three cheers for DH.  His survival is an accomplishment worth noting. Please do so now, in honor of mostly-modern, contributing husbands and fathers everywhere.

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four girls and two boys

Pebbles made an observation about three minutes after we closed the minivan doors and headed for home with two strange dogs, crated behind her seat. “Our family has four girls and two boys.” 

Everyone, meet Sadie (female, 2.5 yrs) and Dub (male, 4.5 years)! 

Introducing Sadie (left) and Dub

The hand off was smooth, if perhaps a little nerve-wracking.  We met the current owners, W&K, at a public park in Roanoke (which was lovely, by the way) and everyone was a little tense.  The dogs were hot and wild with all the attention.  Current owners were experiencing a mix of stress, sadness, and relief to meet us. (They didn’t want to give their gorgeous dogs away, but made the decision to do so because of a pending move to a condo in Boston.) DH and I were bickering, the way we do when we get stressed. Pebbles and Bam-Bam watched with wide eyes from a distance, inside the shade of the van. 

I think my email to W&K the next morning sums it up: 

We made it! Sadie and Dub were excellent travelers and, surprisingly, so were our children!  

We’ve been home for a few hours now, and have taken the dogs for a good walk and played in the yard. We’ll crate them for a few nights until they are more at ease.  They have been very sweet. And Dub is such a good boy!! We worked with him solo and were impressed. Sadie is a doll. And she was pretty good on leash; we even let our 5 year old walk her for about two blocks! Somewhat comical, but it worked out. 

Do feel free to contact us anytime, and I’m sure we’ll be in touch with questions. It was great to meet you and your family. Thank you again for driving halfway and, of course, for trusting us with the dogs. We promise to take great care of them. 

Day 1: So far, so good!

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Roanoke or Bust

On Saturday morning DH and I packed the kids into the minivan, loaded it with snacks and DVDs and cameras and coffee, and headed south.

Not far now...

 Our prospective dogs’ current owners agreed to meet us halfway between Northern Virginia and Knoxville, their current home. Consider four hours of this from the back of the car: 

(In the car, they speak as one. Frankly, it doesn’t matter which one): Mama. Mama. Mamamamamamama? Mommy? I need a snack.

DH: Give your mother a minute. She’s…doing something on her computer.  Hey, do you have wireless on that?

Me: Yes. (I turn on the radio.)

Back: I wanna watch a show. Can we have a show? Dora? No, Diego. Can we have Dora?

Me: (typing) May we have Dora.  Please.  And yes you may, in a minute.

DH: Can you google where we are? I want to see what exit is next.”

Me: (still typing) We stay on 81 for like 300 miles. We don’t have to get off anytime soon. Who needs a snack?

Back: ME! Me! Meeeeeee!

DH: I like to know where we are, though. (turns off the radio)

Me: Hey, I was listening to that!

DH: I thought you were getting them a snack.

Back: Snacky! Snacky snacky snacky snack! Can we have chips? Can we have a show now?

DH: May we. Please. (To me:) What are you doing?

Me: Working on my blog.

DH: Can you please get them a snack?

Me:  I said I would. (I close the laptop and pull out some raisins and cashews.)

Back: But I wanted goldfish! I no yike cashews!

DH: What are we doing?

Me: (sigh) Injecting two strange dogs into the equation so that this moment, by comparison in retrospect, makes us nostalgic for simpler, saner times when we were really “in control?”

DH: Yup.

We know this feeling.  Or, at least, in keeping with the spirit of blogging truthiness, I certainly recognized it. Same feeling I had we got engaged (following the yin/yang vice soul-mate relationship model); when we bought puppy Samson and brought him to our DC condo without so much preparation as a pre-purchasing a leash; when we moved to NYC; when we moved back; when we drove home from the hospital with the screaming, colicky Pebbles; when we bought a broken down farmhouse in a historic district to renovate.

And I knew, with these dogs, what we could be getting into.

And DH did too, in this nauseating little life moment. I could see his satisfied, mid-west-modest grin out of the corner of my eye.

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