Category Archives: pets

Yup, I’m Still Human

I’ve had a hectic year. I spent most of it playing a work-from-home single mom. And then in the fall, I became an unemployed single mom. And now in December, I’ve rejoined the workforce as a full-time working, quasi single mom. (Trust me, I’m counting down the days until my husband’s travel schedule has nothing on it–for now.)

My first week returning to an office job was a little rough. My life as a solo parent/head of household only worked because it was programmed down to the minute. Consequently, an unexpected 15-minute delay was enough to practically derail my whole day. So, working through the kinks of a new schedule is fairly painful.

For example, I’ve never been what I call a morning “miller.” I never got up and milled around, drinking a cup of coffee, reading the paper, or watching the morning news before I got going with my day. I have always been a get-up-and-get-out-the-door kind of person. Not possible anymore.

I have figured out that I need to build in a 15- to 20-minute buffer of sorts if I want to (a) actually have a few minutes to speak with my child before herding him out the door and (b) have enough time to deal with unforeseen time sucks, such as missing keys, uncooperative dog and/or child, and major messes (like the extra grande, extra full coffee mug that tipped over, spilling sticky, flavored coffee all over my counter, my stove, my floor, and me yesterday morning).

And I’ve definitely had a couple of why-am-I-doing-this-again moments. The big one was the same morning as the coffee incident. That morning I also tore the house apart twice looking for my office security key (to no avail), the dog refused to eat or leave the back deck to do his thing, and I dropped the brand new roll of tin foil, which of course completely unraveled across my kitchen floor. (Have you ever tried to put tin foil back on a roll? Yeah, not going to happen.)

With all the mini crises, I barely took a second to look at my child much less smile at him. I nearly cried when stopped at a traffic light, I looked in the rear view mirror and he was totally silent, with this look of what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-my-mom on his cute little face. The killer was the dog had a similar look on his mug and had  laid his head down on the crumb cruncher’s lap, almost in reassurance that my craziness, too, shall pass. I totally felt like the worst mom ever.

But the next day was better, so I was reassured that I would figure out a way to make it all happen because somehow moms always do. And by the end of the week, I felt pretty in control of my new schedule and could let myself feel as excited as I wanted to be about my new job.

By Saturday I felt nearly invincible. I had taken my weekday efficiency measures into the weekend. Baby and I went to the gym; turbo shopped in Target, knocking a ton of stuff off our Christmas to-give lists; dropped the dog off at doggy day care; had brunch with our cousins; went grocery shopping; retrieved dog; and was home a little after 3pm. I was pretty proud of myself.

I let the crumb cruncher loose in the backyard with the dog, thinking how lucky we were to have a fenced in yard, as I put away my groceries. How great was it to have a place for him to play where I could keep an eye on him and yet still take care of everything I needed to take care of? Not to mention that I had just powered my way through a super productive day. It was as if life itself was telling me, “You got this, girl,” when it came to dealing with all the craziness of my life.

Almost.

As I was putting away some dishes, I thought I heard a cry. So, I took a closer look out the patio doors. There was the dog pretty much dragging my child across the yard by his hood. Face down. Funny how life has a way of reminding you just how human you are.

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Filed under daily life, pets, working mom

Diary of a Diaper-Eating Doberman

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know my dog eats a lot, and specifically a lot of things he shouldn’t eat. Twice his strange eating behavior has landed him at the emergency vet and once he even had to have a scope to remove the foreign object from his stomach. So far his menu of banned items includes countless baby socks, two leather-soled baby booties swallowed whole, a seat belt, and most recently a diaper.

I never really worried about him eating diapers before because we have a Diaper Champ, which not only keeps dirty diapers from fouling up baby’s room but also keeps them safe from thieving Dobermans. But every once in awhile, I’d get lazy or forget and just chuck a dirty diaper in a regular trash receptacle. Now my dog will never let me live that mistake down.

I thought he was being good, chewing on the bone that I had just given him. But that was not the case, as I soon found white papery chunks littered around my living room. Upon inspection, I found that the dog had eaten the crotch clean out of what had obviously been a dirty diaper. I just kept imagining super absorbent diaper bits getting bigger and bigger in his digestive tract and knew that couldn’t be good. Fortunately, I was able to get a couple neighbors to take shifts watching the baby while I drove out the emergency vet to get the dog’s stomach pumped. The whole way I was kicking myself for not putting the damn diaper in the Diaper Champ.

So, with another lesson painfully learned, here’s a little poem in honor of the antidote to diaper-eating Dobermans:

Ode to the Diaper Champ

When I put you on my registry
I wasn’t sure you’d please me
Or if I really needed you
To stash all the baby poo

But wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Baby’s britches are a hot mess
We’ve definitely put you to the test
You’ve kept the room from stinking
Which is why I’m totally thinking

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Bring on the diaper blow out
You make it easy to throw out
A week’s worth of dirty underoos
Without leaving smelly clues

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Not only can I use my own sack
But you keep the dog from a tasty snack
Of diapers, dirty, ripe, and wet
And ending up at the E.R. vet

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

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Filed under babies, babyproofing, diapers, pets

All Boy From Here On Out

This morning I came face to face with the reality that I have a boy not a baby on my hands.

We were on our way out the door. I need to put the stroller in the car, so I set the not-so-wee one down in the driveway while I started folding down the third row of seats in my car. I figured he’d maybe toddle into the garage and annoy the dog for a minutes. I got one seat down, popped the stroller in the back of the car, and turned around to grab the baby to hoist him into his car seat. My dog was standing right next to me, but no baby. A little panic flared up, but I quickly convinced myself that he hadn’t gone far.

Turns out he had wandered over to my mom’s little shade garden. No biggie. And actually he looked kind of cute playing in among all the plants. But as I looked at him, something wasn’t right. His hair was soaking wet. I took two more steps closer to him and realized that it wasn’t just his hair; both his jacket and pants were soaked. My child–yes, the one that just a half hour before had had a bath–had found the sprinkler.

But it wasn’t just that his once-dry clothes were now sopping wet. No, just sticking his hands and face into the sprinkler wasn’t quite enough. A medium sized pool of mud and dirt had collected around the base of the sprinkler and my child was sitting, splashing in it. Of course that looked like loads of fun, so the dog jumped in.

I’m totally running late, so I run over and grab the kid, taking him far, far away from the sprinkler. He was covered in head-to-toe mud, so I started stripping my just-bathed child down in the middle of the driveway. I took off his jacket and threw it on the ground. I started shimmying off his pants when the dog stole the jacket and ran circles around me with it hanging out of his mouth. So now I’m chasing the dog around the driveway and my filthy offspring is toddling around behind me, one thunder thigh still in his pants and the other bare. Somehow he wriggled his one leg free of the pantleg and took off toward the house just as I nab the jacket from the dog. Looking for more fun times, the dog bounded toward him. The kid basically turned right into the dog, losing his balance, and face planting into the cement garage floor.

I collect my bawling child, tie up the dog, and head to the car; I am 20 minutes late at this point. I put my kid in the car seat– soakied onesie, dirt-filled shoes, and all–and realize that with his tumble we’ve now added blood to this mix of dirt and water. His cheek was swollen and crosshatched with scratches. I couldn’t believe he’d already stopped crying.

Needless to say, hot mess pretty much sums the whole ridiculous situation up. The one redeeming part was that I fortunately had a set of dry clothes in a diaper bag stashed in the car, so I was able to change him in the church parking lot. (Classy.) And I was able to clean up the blood and dirt on his face with a baby wipe. But there wasn’t much I could do about the dirt caking his feet. It’s safe to say this little boy is definitely all boy.

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Filed under boys, daily life, moms, pets, photos

Everything I Know About Child Rearing I Learned from My Dog

I have a bad dog. He jumps on the furniture; he clobbers guests when they walk in the door; he barks uncontrollably at random objects like brooms and mops; he pulls on the leash; he howls in his crate every time I leave the house; he steals things from the baby and then eats them; and, if you haven’t guessed, he doesn’t listen all that well, if at all at times.

Student or sage?

Part of it is his age–he’s still a 10-month-old puppy–and part of it is that he’s just a hard-headed Doberman. (Sometimes he’s even a butt head, as one dog expert calls him.) But because he’s still incredibly lovable despite his foibles, I spend the time and the dough nearly every week to work with a trainer–Rachel Jones of K-9 Divine–to help him become a better dog. Better is of course the key word.

While Zus still has a ways to go before becoming a certified canine good citizen, the training totally helps. I really feel like once he’s through his teenage years, rife with rebellion, I’m probably going to have a really well trained dog on my hands.

But we’re not there yet, so there’s still a lot of work to be done. But in pursuing this obedience training, I’ve learned a thing or five about dogs that I think have made me a better parent.

  1. Schedules are a sanity saver. Yes, my dog has a schedule. It’s not as strict as baby’s, but there is a framework in place. Like baby, Zus has a wake-up time, scheduled activities (usually a Kong stuff with treats and peanut butter or a bone), naps/quiet time in his crate, exercise and play periods, and meals. Having a routine solves a bunch of issues, but the biggest one is that it keeps the dog occupied so he’s not doing stupid stuff like eating baby booties out of boredom or anxiety. I totally believe the same is true for children. While I don’t advocate a super strict routine, a stable one really goes far for my wee one. He learns to know what to expect, so there are fewer meltdowns over taking a nap or eating dinner. And when the dog/kid isn’t melting down, the likelihood of mom melting down diminishes rapidly.
  2. Parents have to be on the same page. When training a dog, especially in the early stages, it’s critical that joint owners subscribe to the same training method. For example, it’s not fair to expect a dog to respond correctly to both owners if one says “sit” and the other says “sit down.” The owners need to use exactly the same commands and also adhere to the same rules (is the dog allowed on the couch or not?) to really be able to give your dog a shot at being obedient. Similarly, parents need to figure out what the house rules are and both abide by them if their children are to respect them. It’s not going to work all that well if one parent is a stickler about naps and the other could care less, for example.
  3. Practice makes perfect. My trainer says it takes an average dog about 100 times of responding to a command correctly to truly master it. I don’t know how long it takes for children–sometimes I feel like its fewer than 100 repetitions and sometimes I feel like it’s 10x more–but my theory is that if you want your children to do something without a struggle every time, parents need to keep modeling the appropriate behavior. (I saw this in action on Super Nanny, an ABC reality series where Super Nanny Jo Frost helps desperate parents regain control of their children.) For example, you don’t try to reason with a child about going to bed. You go through the bedtime routine, then it’s lights out, and then if they continue to get out of bed, you take them by the hand and walk them back to their beds. Repeat until they realize that they aren’t going to get to stay up.
  4. Most of the time I’m the problem. There have been points in my dog training career where I’ve gotten frustrated with my dog because he was failing to obey my commands. However, what I learned was that most of the time he wasn’t obeying my commands because I wasn’t articulating them correctly to him. For instance, the dog wouldn’t immediately sit down when I asked him to do so. Turns out, without realizing it, I was telling him to sit down twice without giving him enough time to complete the action after the first time I gave him the command. So, several weeks later, he wouldn’t respond to me until I said the command twice; I had unknowingly created a habit. I imagine that parents can often assume that their kids know what they, as parents, expect from their children. But I would venture a guess that maybe that’s not always the case. So, I think as parents we need to not only be explicit in our direction but also patient in allowing our kids to process it and react before we jump all over them. Otherwise the original message lost because we’re interrupting its transmission.
  5. Don’t get emotional during conflict. Admittedly, this is not one of my strong suits. In periods of high stress, my dog really knows how to push my buttons and I have definitely lost it. But I backed off on yelling at him early after I realized that when I yelled at him he sometimes peed on the floor out of a mixture of excitement and fear. I had enough baby spit up and poopy diapers to clean up that doggy piddle was just too much, so I figured out that if the dog stole something and I wanted it back, the best thing to do was not to yell, chase, or try to tackle the dog to get it back. I simply turned and went into the kitchen, got a treat, and nonchalantly walked over to wherever he was and in a very nice voice asked him to sit down. Inevitably he dropped the stolen object and I gave him a treat. It’s classic positive reinforcement technique, and I believe that it’s pretty effective with people, too. Basically, you ignore the bad behaviors and reward the good behaviors.

This definitely isn’t rocket science, but I totally found it interesting that responsible dog training had so many similarities with good parenting. I am not suggesting that children are like dogs, or should be treated as such, but I do think there are some fundamental communication skills that are applicable across relationships with dogs and humans.

I think it’s safe to say that at this stage in the obedience cycle, I’m pretty sure Zus has taught me at least as much, if not more, than I’ve taught him.

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Filed under newbie parents, parenting, pets

A Lesson in Babyproofing

Yes, I am alive, although you probably couldn’t tell from my lack of posts. I’ve just been insanely busy with a big annual project for work. It’s one of the projects that you feel like you’ve accomplished something after all is said and done but the getting there isn’t pretty. So, at any rate, whatever time I’ve had over the past two weeks has been spent on that rather than writing, cleaning my house, walking my dog, or paying my bills. But I’m getting caught up.

Of course to this stress, overload, and near chaos, you’ve got to add drama. You know, the kind of thing you never see coming, but once it hits it totally derails you, because Lord knows you’re just hanging on by a thread as it is. My black swan left me sitting at the emergency vet at midnight on a Friday night with an estimated bill for $7,000.

The day started spiraling out of control around 5pm. My dad and his friend had stopped into town on their way back from Florida, so we thought it would be fun to drive out to Annapolis for soft shell crab. I decided we should throw the dog in the truck with us since the alternative was leaving him in his crate, where he would no doubt howl for much of the day, pissed that we left him alone. But because it had rained for most of the afternoon, he wasn’t able to get out of the car for a nice stroll around town.

Needless to say, when we got back home, he was a crazy dog. Between little exercise and new people in the house, he was almost literally climbing the walls. So, I went into turbo treat mode, doing some training exercises with him to keep him occupied.

After about 30 minutes of him doing a great job lying down and staying while I fed the baby, I released him with my usual, “OK!” Once off command, he just lost it, doing laps around the house and jumping on my house guess. But I figured he’d chill after a few minutes. So, I went to the fridge, took out some snacks, put them on the counter, and looked over to see the dog standing under the baby chair. Curious to know what the baby dropped that he was now scarfing down, I walked over and grabbed his nose, opening his mouth. I looked inside to find nada. Weird, I though, I could have sworn he looked like he was eating something.

And then I saw them. My kid’s feet. No shoes.

Are you kidding me? was my first thought. There’s no way the dog could have in all of 30 seconds gotten both moccasins off and eaten them. Or could there? A quick scan around the room showed no evidence of any shredded baby bootie.

Nowali no more!

So, what to do. I was pretty confident the dog had swallowed the darn things whole. I mean, he had eaten baby socks before. And fortunately they had passed, as I found them in the backyard during a morning poop patrol. But these were more like shoes than socks; they had a soft leather sole, for god’s sake. I had my doubts about whether that could get squeezed out the other end in one piece.

And given my drama with my lovely Joey, who went to doggy heaven after failing to recover from surgery–he had an intestinal blockage after ingesting stuffing from a toy–I was so not ready to go through that with Zus. I was not going to wait it out to see if he could pass two booties because I had serious doubts if it was doggily possible. So, I called the vet and explained to the front desk attendant what had happened. She told me to bring Zus in and they would induce vomiting; usually if it has been less than 4 hours since the object was ingested, the vomiting gets it out.

Four hours? He ate the booties 45 minutes ago, so we’re golden, I thought. So, Zus and I arrive at the vet and they take him to the back to give him morphine to induce vomiting. From my private waiting room, I can hear him vomit and all the vet techs cheer. The vet on duty comes in to tell me that the crisis was averted; he vomited up the bootie.

But what about the other one, I asked.

Uh oh. Four more vomit inductions later and no second bootie. The vet came back in and told me we had two options:

  1. We could send a scope down his esophagus with a claw thing on the end to try and retrieve the bootie carnival game style, or
  2. We could do surgery to remove the object

The scope sounded good to me right up until the vet said that sometimes the scope is unsuccessful, so the dog ends up needing surgery anyway–and oh by the way, the estimate for that option was $7,000. If knowing that my dog was sick wasn’t enough to make me cry, hearing that was.

Choices, choices. Do the less invasive procedure that may not work and end up basically sinking a good chunk of the money we had saved for a basement renovation into the dog or do the surgery and take the lumps to the bank account earlier and get over with. (I had asked about the likelihood of him passing it or vomiting it up on his own later. Needless to say I felt like a total jerk for asking that after she responded, “It’s not likely. We’ve got a dog dying in the back right now from that now.”)

I opted for the scope and hoped for the best, although I definitely let out a few whimpers on my drive home. I couldn’t believe I was back at the emergency vet with my puppy–again. I was pissed at myself for letting my kid have shoes on. I mean, I don’t let him wear socks because the dog steals them, but I’ve never had a problem with the shoes before; they stay on very well–or at least they had. And I was scared that I was going to lose another great dog.

Fortunately the gods were smiling on me because the scope proved successful and the bootie was fished out of the dog’s stomach sans problème. But the whole experience taught me something about babyproofing–sometimes you need to babyproof the baby. So, babies go barefoot or they don’t go at all in this house. Good thing summer’s just around the corner.

Doggone Dog!

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Filed under babies, baby shoes, babyproofing, infants, pets

Where Sleeping Dogs Lie

As a mommy, you learn to pick your battles. However, for me, between the baby and the puppy, I’m pretty sure I’m losing every one that I can even muster up the energy to try and fight.

Case in point was my trip this morning to the doggy dentist. Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a knack for picking animals that end up needing expensive, specialist care. My six-month-old puppy now has something close to veneers on four of his front teeth.

Incidentally, I was informed this morning by a colleague that February was Pet Dental Month. Whoops, I guess I missed that and any possible discount that doggy dentists in my area might be offering.

At any rate, the appointment was for 8:30am–prime rush hour for D.C. And I was totally late getting out the door.

I attribute my inability to get anywhere on time these days to events similar to the ones I found myself dealing with this morning. First, baby woke up later than usual. And for some reason, I always feel I can’t leave the house without baby getting something in his belly, which always takes longer than I think it’s going to take. Then the cleaning lady, who I adore, showed up and wanted to dote on baby for a few minutes. (I may or may not have ripped him out of her arms as I ran out the door.) When I get baby and dog out to the car, I realize that my wonderful hubby never secured the dog barrier or the spare tire floating around in the back of the truck, so I had to try and work minute magic on some ratchet straps to fit the dog in. (And I’m not so good with the ratchet straps, I have to admit.) Then there was the pit stop at the other car to grab the umbrella stroller that I conveniently forgot to bring into the house the night before. Did I mention the construction happening on and all around my street?

At any rate, I’m on the road (finally) and just as I start to think, “Gee, I might make the appointment,” traffic comes to a screeching halt. Literally. The dog pretty much goes flying into the dog barrier thing that’s supposed to sequester him in the back of the truck so he doesn’t clobber the baby; it collapses down on him. As I look in the rear view mirror, all I see is a giant nose and two giant paws hanging over the backseat.

Crap.

Next thing I hear is baby making some mildly irritated noises. I crane my neck around to find this:

big dog + small baby = hysterical mommy

The 50+ lb dog is literally curled up on top of the baby in his car seat. I start yelling for him to get off and trying to wildly reach around to grab him by his collar and yank him off the baby. My monkey arms prove to be too short. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the dog slinking down further into the baby seat, further out of my frantic reach.

Now, I’m in bumper to bumper traffic, there’s no good place to pull off, and I’m nearly losing it on the dog when I get a small moment of clarity: The baby’s not crying and the dog isn’t moving. In fact, when I swivel my head around again, I see baby taking his fingers and poking the dog in the nose and giggling to himself. I’m the one who’s flipping out for apparently no reason.

So, I say screw it (or something like it) and keep on trucking. I guess that’s how we roll these days.

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Filed under babies, baby travel, daily life, family, infants, moms, parenting, pets, travel

Two Windows into One World

Sometimes I wonder how my life would appear if it was played out on a big screen. I think tonight’s scene would’ve been best captured with a split screen.

First, the good stuff happening upstairs…

Baby was getting very close to figuring out that whole crawling thing. Guess mom needs to get going on baby proofing.

Meanwhile, the not-so-good stuff happening downstairs…

Sadly, that was after we’d been to the dog park. I guess he was excited to watch the Westminster Dog Show.

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Filed under babies, child development, crawling, daily life, family, infants, pets, Uncategorized