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Having a puppy is like having a baby, except when it’s not

standard January 15, 2014 5 responses

It’s been two weeks now. Two weeks since our little fluff-ball took up residence under my desk and in our hearts. It’s everything like we’d assumed and at the same time nothing at all like we’d assumed.

So far I’ve learned that

1) Dogs are nothing like cats
I mean, duh, right? And yet, oh man. Cats are so low maintenance. Clean the kitty litter, dispense the right brand of food (woe is you if you get it wrong!), and be available to offer love when the cat desires it. Other than that cats leave you alone to live your lives as you wish.
Puppies… well they need constant attention, constant love, and constant supervision.

2) Puppies need constant supervision
Yes, that needed to be said twice.
Yesterday I brushed my teeth with my electric toothbrush. It took me maybe 45 seconds, possibly the full 60. In that time the puppy sat behind me and quietly happily shredded an entire roll of toilet paper.

3) This puppy likes to shred
Toilet paper, cardboard, paper, you name it, she’s shredded it. And yes, the remains are still littering the house. I can’t help it. I can’t keep up.

4) Dogs and cats don’t speak the same language
She (the puppy) just wants to play, play, play. She’s ecstatic when she finds the cat. She yips with unbridled delight.
He (the cat) thinks she’s the devil incarnate and every toy she brings to him is vile and repulsive.
We tend to think of us vs them. Humans vs animals. But it’s all different.

I catch the cat watching the dog with guarded interest.

But it inevitably ends like this when the dog sees the cat and comes running over to play.

It’ll happen. They’ll eventually get along. The cat is getting more and more brave, less and less defensive. It might just take longer than anticipated.

5) It’s just like having a baby, except when it isn’t.
There are so many parts of having a puppy that are just like having a baby. They need constant supervision. You have to do everything for them. They pee and poop whenever they want. They cry when you leave them alone.

But you can take a baby everywhere with you, and you most definitely can’t take a puppy everywhere, so grocery shopping has been a tad challenging these last two weeks.

On the plus side, you can’t legally lock a baby in a wire cage and call it a cozy den, so there is that, and she is getting better at enjoying her stay in her crate. Endless supplies of treats, nylabones, and kongs filled with apples and peanut butter help.

6) Having a puppy is very distracting
I sit at my desk and she lies at my feet and I tippy tap away at the computer. Suddenly I look down and she’s not there. That’s my cue to leap out of my chair to go find her.

When I’m lucky she’s just off foraging in the recycling bin to find some more cardboard to shred. When I’m not she’s off baptizing the rug… again.

7) Having a puppy is good exercise
In order to avoid any extraneous rug watering I’ve found that I’m spending a ton of time in the backyard begging the puppy to “go peepee,” or walking around the neighborhood, or hanging out at the park. I’m endlessly grateful that we live in California where the weather is on the warmer side. And I’m quite happy to be exercising a lot more than usual.

8) Puppies are really disruptive
Someone has to get up to let her out in the morning. Someone has to always keep an eye on her. She likes to cart our shoes to the four corners of the house. We can’t leave the house without her for very long. We often show up at places where we think dogs are welcome only to find that they’re not, leaving one of us stranded outside. Cats fit right into your life. Dogs bend your life around them.

9) Puppies are really fun
Despite all the hassles, all the challenges, all the changes, we’ve all got smiles plastered on our faces. She’s a love. She gives kisses. She cuddles. She’s thrilled to see us whenever she sees us, even if we just left the room and came back. She pulls us out of funks, she makes us laugh, and she’s doing wonders for the kids’ moods.

Wouldn’t this face cheer you right up?

Once a cat person always a cat person… or not?

standard December 30, 2013 1 response

I am a cat person. Let it be clear that I have always considered myself to be a cat person. I like how they smell, I like how low maintenance they are, I like evening cuddles on the couch. I especially like how little of me they ask for.

Is that wrong of me to admit?

If it is, oh well.

My cat, Axl, is smart, easy going, and very, very independent. His expectations of me are that I will feed him twice a day, keep his kitty litter relatively clean, open the door or window when he wants to go out, and share my spot on the couch after the kids have gone to bed (preferably without having to compete with the laptop).

That’s pretty much it.

Chill cat.

He doesn’t mind if I leave for the day. He doesn’t mind if I ignore him when I’m on deadline. He’s happy to just be.

So when the kids started lobbying for a dog over a year ago I balked. There are already a lot of people who rely on me for their emotional and physical well-being. I didn’t really need another body to make me feel like I was lacking.

Dogs, in my experience (and I grew up with dogs… so there is some factual basis to this observation) are needy. They want to play, to be entertained, to be walked, to bask in your attention. And they’re great at returning it. But they do need a lot.

And I? Well I was quite tapped out on being needed so I resisted.

And then we dog sat this summer and I… well… I enjoyed being loved so unconditionally. So we dog sat again… and it was, if that’s possible, even better second time around.

Suddenly all that need didn’t feel as oppressive as I thought it would.

There is something to be said for unconditional acceptance. Dogs, they need, but they also don’t criticize. They’re excited about a walk with you whether it’s to the mailbox or a two hour hike around town. They’re happy for any treat you offer, even just a pat on the head. They’re quite happy to sit in a chair while you work, and just as happy when you call it quits and offer to go for a w-a-l-k-i-e-s.

Which is how I found myself researching dogs. And how we found ourselves bringing this one home yesterday.

This is Dottie. She’s a 20 week old mini Australian Labradoodle. She’s about 10lbs now and should grow to be around 20lbs. She’s hypoallergenic and she doesn’t shed. She loves cuddles. She gives kisses. That’s her new absolute favoritest toy in the WHOLE WORLD. Until she drops it and plays with something else.

The girls are in heaven, the husband is in love, the cat is pouting in a closet, and me? Well… I might be on my way to considering the possibility that I’m not just a cat person any more.

Mama said we’d go for a walk after this post was written. I’m waiting patiently. 

The time the guinea pigs came home

standard October 15, 2012 3 responses

I set their not-so-little cage down on the playroom table, fighting off all my misgivings I had about bringing home the beloved classroom pets. Two little guinea pigs, two fluffy pets that the kids adore. And all I could think of was our sweet, loving cat, our resident ruthless killer.

Oreo and Snickerdoodle

So the girls and I had a serious talk. I got down to their level and we discussed how, even though the cat is sweet and cuddly with us, he kills rodents for fun. They looked at me with utter disbelief in their eyes.

I repeated myself and tried to hammer home how important it was that the door to the playroom remain closed during the guinea pig’s stay in our home.

The kids nodded, distracted by their new friends, and I left the room, crossing my fingers.

Turns out the cat never even noticed they were there and by Sunday afternoon I had thoroughly relaxed my “Oh my GAWD! The playroom door is OPEN!” freak-outs.

Which is why, when M hurried to my side and hissed “We have a problem with one of the guinea pigs!”, my heart skipped a beat.

Because oh, my, how on earth would I ever look the Kindergarten teacher in the eye and tell her one of the pets was dead?

M instantly saw where my mind had lept and was quick to reassure me.

“None of them are dead. It’s just that… well Little L colored one of them green.”

First reaction? Denial. Then Little L started sobbing, having apparently just realized that it was not cool to use the guinea pig as a coloring page. And I heaved myself off my cozy resting place on the couch and went to assess the damage.

I’m sure I could have turned it into an amazing parenting moment if I’d been able to catch my breath, but every time I tried to admonish Little L for what she’d done the giggles would start all over again. In fact, M and I pretty much giggled our way through the evening.

All my wunderkind could manage to explain between gasping sobs was that she’d “just wanted to see what would happen.” As for her choice of color? Well, duh, that’s the marker that was on the floor. Impulse control is apparently very low in this one. But hey, she colors really well within the lines. And who knows, maybe the young Snickerdoodle wanted to be a punk rocker for Halloween…

You’ll be glad to know that baby wipes are very effective for removing crayola markers from guinea pig fur. Snickerdoodle looked like his usual self when he was returned to his cage in the far corner of the Kindergarten classroom where 21 other innocent 5-year-olds wield markers all day. As long as none of them decide to “just see what happens” when they test out their scissors on him, I think he’ll be just fine.

A Disruptive Little Cat

standard October 4, 2010 3 responses

Our cat passed away almost three years ago after M and I made the incredibly painful decision to end his suffering. Ever since that day we’ve resisted the urge to get a new cat.

Well, M resisted the urge and all my pleading. Between the wonder baby who never slept, work, the toddler, more work, and everything else, we didn’t have it in us to take on one more responsibility. Once Little L started sleeping and I took control of my professional life, we got complacent and still didn’t open our hearts and our home to another cat.

It was just easier to not have someone else to care for. We could head to the beach for the weekend on a last minute whim. We could stay out all day without feeling guilty or worrying about a hungry pet. We could go away for two weeks in the winter without worrying about finding a cat sitter.

Then, a month ago, on her birthday, a good friend called me and asked me to take in a cat.

“He’s… just… special. And if you don’t take him he’s going to the pound.”

I didn’t agree right away. I just agreed to come see him. And somehow M didn’t say no either. Which is how we found ourselves sitting on the floor of our friends’ bathroom, with a kitten on our laps. A kitten who never hissed, never acted scared, just acted like he had always known us.

An hour later we were driving home, delirious children and mewing kitten in the back.

He is special. There’s no doubt. Little L manhandles him, loves him, hits him, tries to strangle him, loves on him some more. He never fights back. C plays with him endlessly and he never stops rallying. He plays catch. As in, we throw a ball and he runs to get it, catches it, and brings it back, and does it again and again and again, until we lose the ball. He cuddles, but doesn’t mind sleeping alone. He’s housebroken and not a picky eater. And he’s just a good cat. A sweet, lovely, good cat.

And it’s amazing how disruptive such a sweet little thing can be.

It’s impossible to know if Little L has been coughing on and off since we got him because she keeps getting sick, or if she keeps getting sick because she’s somewhat allergic to the cat. Ditto for me. M is definitely allergic and just stays away from him. But the real disruption has been in the middle of the night. When Little L is sick her sleep patterns revert to her old habits – up every couple hours coughing, needing water, needing a diaper, needing a hug. Whenever she wakes up, he wakes up. And when he wakes up he meows, which wakes up the girls even more.

I haven’t slept well in two weeks and it’s making me crabby. Really crabby. Crabby enough to think that cuteness and sweetness aren’t enough to guarantee you a home in my house.

No matter how cute you are.