Often, as a mom, I feel like I spend my time tending to the squeakiest wheel. The past couple weeks, that wheel has been our dog, Olive. Olive is a beloved, slightly crazy, very sweet border collie mix that we adopted some six years ago after some family friends found her as a skinny puppy in the Arkansas deer woods. She has always been a little skittish. She’s occasionally gotten out, because she loves to run. But that was usually not a problem so long as we had a nice, securely fenced yard with no weaknesses for her to exploit. She’s shocked us by being the most gentle of our pups with the girls, and though she still hates Tinycat, we had been making some progress in allowing them to both have run of the house together. Continue reading “dog days”
Dog parents, that is.
See, when we got our first dog Bessie, we just went to a shelter one day, found a pretty cute pup who seemed playful and friendly, and took her home. There was some puppy chewing of throw pillows and Playstation controllers, but for the most part, she was a freakishly good dog– well behaved, friendly, easy to get along with. Naturally, we thought this was all our doing. We’d go to other people’s houses and encounter unruly dogs who jumped up or begged for food or used the bathroom in the house, and we’d leave thinking to ourselves, what is wrong with them? They’re clearly doing a terrible job as pet parents! We’d think, if only they were as good as we are, they wouldn’t allow that behavior.
Then we got a second dog.
Olive, it turns out, is a vastly different dog, despite our clearly superior dog parenting abilities. In the years we’ve had her, we’ve been completely unable to teach her not to put her paws on us or attempt to climb in our laps or onto the furniture, both places she isn’t allowed. We have had to come to a very shocking conclusion: it’s not that we’re amazing dog owners, we just had a really amazing first dog.
This is a realization I think more first time parents need to come to. It’s a realization we’ve come to yet again as we parent twins who, at every turn, seem determined to remind us that they are very distinct individuals. It started when Claire began sleeping through the night on her own at about 3 months old. Etta still hasn’t mastered that feat. Baby sleep in particular seems to be an area in which everyone fancies themselves an expert. Particularly if they have one kid, the baby equivalent of a Bessie dog, they’ll happily tell you that all you need to do is exactly what they did, and you too will have a baby who sleeps through the night. I hope their next baby is an Olive, every time. Because even though we use the exact same techniques and parenting styles on both of our girls, one sleeps and one doesn’t. We can’t anymore take credit for Claire’s awesome sleeping abilities than we can the blame for Etta’s lack thereof.
The same thing happened with food. Claire took happily to purees quite easily (around 6 months), while Etta has always refused to let us spoon feed her. Several months later, at 10 months, and Etta has only recently decided that while she still hates purees, she’ll willingly chow down on any food she can hold in her own fist. Truly baby-led Baby Led Weaning. I can’t take credit for how either of my girls eats, really, either– they each just do their thing, and I figure out what that thing is through trial and error.
So, you parents of one baby who think you’ve got the whole sleeping and eating figured out through your superior skills? Your kid is probably a Bessie. The next one just might be an Olive.
Over the holiday weekend, we had some friends over for a cookout. Their nearly three year old was the first fully-mobile (infant visitors don’t really count) child-sized person to visit our house, ever, and the pediatrician husband, ever cautious, made sure our TV, formerly perched precariously right at toddler height, was securely mounted to the wall before our small guest arrived. He was as delightfully behaved as any of our guests, and perhaps the kindest of any guest we’ve ever had when it comes to the treatment of our only children who happen to be two large dogs. He was patient with the fact that they kept trying to lick food off his face. He even threw a ball for them for longer than I ever have. At one point, noticing an unscooped pile of dog poo in the yard, he asked, “Who pooped there?” Because really, it might have been any of us.
And then, as he munched on a cookie for dessert, he asked me “Do you have any toys?” All I found was a stuffed monkey, which he deemed THE TICKLE MONKEY. It was still sitting on an ottoman when he and his parents left, and I let the dogs into the house. They rounded the corner, saw the furry intruder (who usually lives in a closet), and immediately started barking as if the TICKLE MONKEY were trying to kill us all and steal our tasty snacks.
Fast forward to a couple of days later. I agreed to babysit a friend‘s four year old because she was in a pinch (I’m very selective about my babysitting gigs, rather like an exclusive club). She’s often talking about how her son just wears her out with questions, and until today, I really had no idea what she means. It was like a police interrogation. The cutest police interrogation ever. He quizzed me about the names of vehicles from “Cars,” and about the backstories of obscure characters from Scooby Doo episodes I’ve never seen, about who my best friends are, and my thoughts on the motivations of the 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed. One more hour of that and I probably would have broken, just laid down on the floor and told him I’d tell him all my deepest darkest secrets, just to get five minutes without a question.
I sent my friend a text that read “I finally know what you mean about the questions.” She replied that she read my text to the women she was in a meeting with, and they all cried with laughter. I imagine this is similar to the reasons people with children laugh at me when I say I usually get 10 hours of sleep per night and require a lot of sleep to function properly.
Because my charge was asleep when I arrived, and he woke up to find me there instead of his mommy, he got the idea that I had spent the night.
“Did you sleep here?”
“No, I slept at my house, and I came here before you woke up and your mommy left for work.”
“Where do you sleep?”
“At my house.”
“Does your dad live there?”
“No, he lives at his house.”
“Is he dead?”
“No, uh, he’s very much alive, and I’m going to go see him tomorrow. I live in my own house with my husband.”
“Do you play there?”
“Um….I guess so?”
Clearly I need more toys and a lot more playing in my life. The pre-school set thinks I’m totally lame. I just hope said toys don’t scare the bejesus out of the dogs.
I think my dogs have become teenagers. Lately, all they want to do is sleep all day and party all night. And it’s driving us crazy.
Our dogs sleep on beds on the floor of our bedroom. When they want to wake us up, which until recently was around 7:00 am, they start prancing around the room and banging on the furniture with their tails. I’m sure there are some who might argue they’re not doing the tail percussion on purpose, but I promise, this is intentional. They stand next to our metal bed frame and wag their tails, producing a surprisingly loud “DING! DING! DING!” Lemme tell ya, that will get you up in a hurry. Lately they’ve been doing this at 2:00 am, demanding to be let out of the bedroom and into the rest of the house, where they engage in such wild behaviors as getting on the furniture (they’re not allowed) and finding things to chew on, like used Kleenex in wastebaskets and the remote for our Xbox and sound system.
I watch enough Dog Whisperer to know that he’d tell me my dogs aren’t getting enough activity during the day, so they’re not tired enough to sleep all night. He’d suggest I strap on giant rollerblades and take them for a run every day. Because he obviously wants to kill me.
My solution is less strenuous. I simply keep the bedroom door closed during the day, so the dogs can’t nap in their beds all day long. Now, they begrudgingly nap on the living room rug, but they don’t sleep as soundly, because every time I leave the room, they have to get up and make sure that I’m not planning on feeding them or something. They also spend more time playing with their toys and each other, and, we’ve found we like the added benefit of having them hanging out in the same room with us, rather than dreaming sweet puppy dreams in their beds. Now they’re waking up at 6:00, instead of 2:00, which is a real improvement. Just call me the Dog Whisperer for lazy people.
I often tell people that I have one perfect dog and one very sweet but very crazy dog.
And then yesterday, I had the following exchange on Twitter:
Still thinking about this exchange as Jon and I went to bed, I said, “My friend says that people project their own personalities and issues on their pets. But we have two very different pets! And he says that one of them is probably me, and one of them is probably you. But which is which?”
Very quickly, Jon replied, “I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m the chilled out, obedient one.”
To which I replied, “Are you saying I’m the cracked out crazy one in constant need of attention and affection and snuggles?”
His silence said all I needed to know.
These two dogs are best friends. For the better part of the last hour, while I sat drinking my coffee and internetting, as golden sunshine filtered through the curtains in our living room, they’ve been wrestling and playing tug-of-war with their rope toy. Jon sat on the couch, having just got in after working a night shift at the hospital, and he said: “I don’t know how anyone could watch these two play and decide to have only one dog.” It’s true. Two dogs are better than one. They entertain each other, they bring out each other’s dog-ness, and they’re almost as fun to watch as TV. Sure, it was a pain in the ass trying to find a rental house that would allow my two large dogs, but I found one, and I wouldn’t trade my two puppers for anything.
There are many benefits to adopting an older dog– by they come your way, they can sleep through the night without crying, they’re potty trained, and they have less of a propensity for chewing on your stuff (though lord knows both of my adopted-as-older-dogs have chewed PLENTY of my stuff). But one major drawback of adopting an older dog is you don’t get to know them as puppies, don’t get to see what they look like when they are small and fuzzy and cuddly wuddly, all chubby bellies and slightly out of control paws.
We adopted our second dog, Olive, what we believe to be a lab/border collie mix, the Christmas before last. She was less than a year old, and had been found in the woods near my parents’ home by a family friend, so starved they initially thought she was dead. I don’t know who left her, or if she ran off, or how she ended up in the woods. I see hints that someone must have been mean to her– the way she is terrified I’m going to hit her with a broom when I sweep the floors, the way she thinks every raised object might be used to strike her, the way she cowers and sometimes pees on herself if I use too forceful of a voice with her. Continue reading “I wish I’d known her then”