So I have to drop the mutts off at the kennel today, and I’m filled with all kinds of anxiety. This used to involve a relatively painless 45-minute commute into the country to an adorable little family owned boarding facility called Bed and Biscuits. Seriously — if you live anywhere near the vicinity of Fort Bragg in North Carolina, look no further if you need to board your dog. My mutts were happy there, and therefore I was happy there — the drop-off quick and painless with the knowledge that on the designated day, I’d be picking up a couple of socialized, healthy, spoiled pups. Read the rest of this gem…
But then I also had to say goodbye to my other childhood dog, Lexie. (I lost the first just last year, remember?)
Affectionately known as Lexie-Bear and Booger-Butt, she would nibble my hair by way of greeting.
She was the first of the litter to run to me, all fuzzy fur and fluffiness and everything wonderful about a puppy. And, as she grew, she made it impossible to argue that dogs don’t have personality.
Sometimes I think she thought she was a cat.
But she was a dog. One of the best dogs. And I will miss her dearly.
So. After spending the evening sitting in a puddle of my own snot and tears, I had a moment. A moment when I realized, Hey. Of the three of us, meaning Lexie, Justin and Myself, two of us are in the least desirable situations.
And I’m not one of them.
Which means, my friends, that I had an epiphany. I could wallow and bemoan my current lonely lot in life, or I could peel my Domestiphobic self off of my unswept laminate floors and make the most of this situation. Use the alone time to evaluate myself, progress my career, and catch up on missed episodes of The Bachelorette.
I know from experience that the next several months will be full of ups and downs — moments of clarity and moments of wallows. But if I can remember that this time is also a gift, maybe I’ll learn not to waste it.
Today IS another day.
I have lots to share with you, so stay tuned. Just have to get my photos together.
Yesterday afternoon, a veterinarian laughed at me.
Apparently I’m that crazy dog mother who, even though I never dress my dogs in sweaters (or any kind of clothing save the occasional reflective vest on nighttime walks), appears utterly ridiculous to non-dog owners.
And all of the assistants in the veterinarian’s office.
But for some inexplicable reason, I feel inclined to tell you — no, I need everyone to know — that I’m really not that kind of dog mom — the kind who takes her dogs to the vet for every little ailment.
If I were, we’d have been there 547 times in the last 5 years for various catastrophes, but we weren’t. I handled them at home. Like the time they ate a bunch of toothpicks so I fed them cotton balls dipped in coffee creamer to ease the passage. And the time they ate a bag full of chicken wing bones so I fed them cotton balls dipped in coffee creamer to ease the passage. And the time Capone ate one of those bathroom poufs and slowly expelled netting from his derriere for days.
That time, I didn’t feed him cotton balls.
But then, a few nights ago, Mara started acting strange. She tucked her tail between her legs, got all shivery and panty, and hid in our bathroom for several hours.
I did things. Things that would make Caesar Milan roll over in his grave if he were, you know, not actually alive.
I pet. I coddled. I lay with her on the cold bathroom floor.
I knew she was hurting, but she couldn’t tell me what was wrong. It was the most frustrating feeling in the world.
Then, miraculously and right before bed, she was fine again.
Until the next night.
Same thing, same time.
For three nights in a row.
So you see, I had to take her to the vet.
What if she had diabetes? Or Cushing’s? Or cancer?!
The internet is a very scary place when it comes to self — or pet — diagnosis.
So I booked an appointment and took her in.
Where they laughed.
They laughed and told me she was perfectly healthy and definitely does not have diabetes and sure they could charge me for all kinds of blood work and X-rays and the like if I wanted to screen for cancer, but she showed no obvious signs of the disease which, if she had it, would not be particular about the time of day it displayed its symptoms, and maybe I have a ghost in my house.
But, more likely, she felt sick that first night, got treated with all kinds of love and attention, and decided to do it again.
Or she’s picking up on the strain of Justin’s imminent deployment.
Either way, she’s fine, and they decided to not charge me for the visit since the intense humiliation overbearing dog mothers are forced to feel upon examination is payment — and entertainment — enough.
And the bitch of it is, I feel like if I were a *cough*real*cough* mother and not just a dog mother, I’d just be all, “What’s wrong with you? Your tummy hurts? Just pop a Pepto, dust it off, and go back to bed. Mama just opened a bottle of wine.”
But there’s something about these faces…
(or is it these faces?)
…that makes me do crazy, crazy things.
And that, I think, is probably what it feels like to be a mother.
P.S. You should probably check out this post of yore for some exceptionally hilarious faces.
She was a gift to my brother right before I was born, undoubtedly intended to lessen the blow of the impending realization that there’s going to be a baby in the house. And a baby might mean people sometimes forget about my brother, the non-baby, but that’s okay because they gave him a puppy.
Muffin looooved Joel.
But she loved me, too.
Thirteen years later, Muffin died in my arms.
Soon after came Lexie and Beemer, named after 2 cars my parents wanted but would likely never own.
Mom, Beemer & Lexie
If you ask me, the dogs were better than the cars.
I missed them when I moved away from home, but they always remembered me when I came back. No matter how long it had been.
Over time, the homes changed. The people in them changed. But the dogs were always there. Beemer, with his incessant need to Fetch! and Lexie, nibbling my hair by way of greeting.
Earlier this week, Beemer got sick. Ed and my mom took him to the vet, but they didn’t take him home. They had to do what people sometimes need to do when they own a dog. When they love a dog.
They had to say goodbye.
I said goodbye too, on the phone, trying desperately to keep my voice from catching on the lump that had lodged itself deep inside my throat. They said his eyes lit up. He heard me. He knew me. And when I hung up, I lost it but good. Big, ugly sobs producing big, ugly tears. That horrifically hideous cry that comes when you don’t care what it’s doing to your body, because all that matters right in that moment is the need of your soul.
And that need is release. To grieve. In waves with each new realization:
I’ll never throw him a frisbee again.
I’ll never again bury my face in his fur.
More ugly sobs.
I’ll never get to see his entire butt wiggle with excitement when I give him a treat.
There isn’t enough tissue in the world, sometimes.
My dogs came to comfort me that night, nuzzling into my sides and laying their heads in my lap. And the grief crested again, when I realized this probably wouldn’t be the last time I’d have to feel this way.
I’m not sure it’s wise to admit how much that furball affected me. And I’m sorry if I’ve made you sad this morning or if I’m only confirming the fact that I’m crazy.
If you’ve never known the undying adoration of a dog, I wouldn’t expect you to understand.
They just get in.
And when they do, they don’t ever really leave.
I’m gonna miss you, Beemer-butt. You always made me happy.
And I hope that wherever you are, the peanut butter is plentiful and the frisbees never stop flying.
While my sister was here for an impromptu visit last week, we quite frequently took our 4 — count ’em, four — combined mutts down to the lake near our house for some much-needed energy expenditure. On their part, not ours. Kelly and I were too busy downing Cazadores tequila and Squirts to expend any energy on much else.
(Oh, and I didn’t take any pictures while my sister was here because I’m a bad blogger. Bad.)
Now, my dogs love the water. They jump right in, splash around, dunk their heads beneath the surface to cool off, lap some up, etc. But Kelly’s dogs? Kelly’s dogs loooove the water. The chocolate lab swims around in circles while the little dopey (but I still love him) rescue mutt swims along the shoreline like a damn little beaver, and I’m pretty sure he’s taunting my dogs about the fact that they don’t go past the spot where they can reach the lake bottom.
Finally, I’d decided I’d witnessed enough mediocrity from my children dogs. I waded in to just below the hemline of my shorts (didn’t want any of that pesky capillary action to take hold if the bottom of my shorts got wet), and used my sweetest, most enticing voice to call Capone, who looked more intrigued than Mara about the idea of possibly leaving the safety of the shoreline.
This is Capone.
He came as far as his legs would reach the bottom and let out a small whimper. So I extended my arms, smiled in encouragement, and said, “Swim, buddy! You can do it! Come to mama!”
And then he jumped.
Not a slight push off of the drop-off edge so he could paddle his way to me, but a flat-out LEAP from the water and straight into my waiting embrace. The problem is that my embrace wasn’t expecting to have over 50 pounds of muscular, soaking wet canine come barreling into it, and I was knocked flat backwards into the water as said canine continued to panic and use my body as a gripping post to claw his way to the surface.
I only bled a little.
Kelly laughed a lot.
After that I decided that maybe it wasn’t worth it to try to teach Capone to swim. Clearly, he wasn’t grasping the concept. What I didn’t realize is that Capone isn’t a take-this-in-baby-steps type of dog. If he’s going to do something, then he’s damn-well going to do it.
Fast-forward to yesterday’s walk. I try to take each dog on a 2-mile loop every morning. I don’t dare try to walk them both at once, and I let each of them off the leash for a bit at the lake so they can cool down. When I let Capone off his leash yesterday, he chased a couple of ducks into the water. Of course, he only pursued them as far as his legs would reach. They taunted him just a few feet beyond the drop-off, quack-laughing and probably saying, “Whew! Good thing that dog can’t swim!”
I watched him.
He watched the ducks.
Then he did something strange. He looked at me and let out a frustrated whine. And I’m not sure now, but I think I might’ve said something like, “Yeah… too bad you’re too much of a pussy to go after ’em.”
And that’s when he jumped. Except this time, there was no one there to catch him. Instinct immediately kicked in, and he paddled his little heart out after those ducks. He wanted those ducks. Surprised, the ducks kept swimming and flitting just feet outside his reach. Further and further from the shore.
My pride was quickly replaced by panic as I realized my dog, who’d never swum before, was now about 50 yards off the shoreline. I kicked off my shoes and socks and frantically waved and yelled from the water’s edge, yet I still didn’t go in after him. Finally — finally — the ducks flew off, and suddenly Capone realized he was in the middle of the lake. So he turned around and swam back.
I guess my point in telling you all this is to explain why I’d be an entirely inadequate mother. Aside from the reasons I wrote about here. I love my dogs. And you can bet I would’ve gone in after Capone if I’d sensed he was in trouble. But 50 yards is kind of a long way. Not to mention calling him a pussy. What kind of caretaker does that?
I’m also not very good at other mom stuff — especially the gross stuff. Especially the gross stuff that involves bugs.
Like today, Mara had a tick.
This is Mara.
The tick was on her ear. Now. I don’t know anyone who particularly likes ticks, but they rank pretty high on my list of the most repulsive things I’ve ever seen in this world. And I’ve seen quite a few things.
Unfortunately, I knew this probably couldn’t wait until Justin gets home from work. So I gathered the necessary supplies and called my sweet, trusting pup over to me, tweezers in hand.
I’m pretty sure I heard it let out a faint bug scream as its body burst between my tweezers when I yanked it from my poor mutt’s ear and dropped it into a vat — okay it was a cup — of frigid vodka I’d poured from the bottle in the freezer. (Okay, I poured it from one of 3 bottles in the freezer, but that’s not the point.) The point is, I’m not 100% positive I got the entire head out, but I’m willing to let closer inspection wait until Justin gets home because right now I’m still trying to shake the feeling that I have ticks crawling up and down my back and maybe I should check in the mirror one more time and I’m not sure if I can ever drink out of that cup again and why the hell do they have to look like such scary little aliens???
Also, I’m not sure I should waste any more money on flea and tick medication, because if I still have to go through trauma like this, what is the point?
So. Considering the fact that I’m lucky my dogs are even still alive at this point, I think actual motherhood might be out of the question. Unless they start making kennels I can just put my baby in when I leave the house…
I don’t know what’s going on with the Universe right now, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the tides and the moon and waxing and waning and the frogs in the pond in front of my house because I have been attacked by not one, but two dogs in the past 5 days.
And the humiliating thing is that they’re not even dog dogs. Each was a little rat-yapper, adorable and cuddly on the outside, and vicious, maniacal, bad-ass dog wannabes on the… well… outside.
In order for you to understand my seemingly irrational fear of these 4-pound monsters with sharp, sharp teeth, I need to take you back to the summer of 2004, when Justin and I lived in our first horrible apartment together in Valdosta, Georgia. It was the kind of place where we could hear our neighbors screaming at each other in thick, southern accents through uninsulated walls, and where large, burley men named “Chops” drank beers from coolers in the back of their pickup trucks in the parking lot.
It’s important for you to know that I am not even exaggerating a little.
And Chops was actually a really nice guy. He almost always offered me a beer.
One particularly beautiful day, I decided to take a walk through the ‘hood. (In retrospect, this was not my most brilliant idea, considering we lived on the edge of exactly that — a ‘hood.) I passed a home with two adorable black and brown daschunds (those ridiculous but oh-so-cute little wiener dogs) playing in the front yard. I noticed that one was tied up and the other was not, and it occurred to me that the untied dog was probably a stray.
Now. I’m the type of person who, if I encounter a stray dog that I don’t deem dangerous, will try to “save” it and find its proper owners. So I crouched down on the sidewalk, a good 20 feet away from the stray, and extended my hand, palm-up, as an offering of peace and friendship — the human equivalent of an offered butt to sniff.
Come here, little fella. Let me see if you have a collar.
The dog’s response?
His hairs immediately stood in a straight line down his back — a line I call the line of meanness when it comes to angry dogs — a line that says, you probably shouldn’t f*ck with me right now because I have a line of meanness running straight down my back that displays my unmistakable ferocity to would-be predators.
Then he bared his teeth. A mouth full of sharp little angry alligator teeth that — I’m not going to lie — would most definitely hurt if they were to chomp down on… say may ankle, since that’s about as high as he could reach.
And then? Then he barked. Well. It wasn’t so much a bark as a yap that just wouldn’t stop, and it struck me as ridiculously hilarious that this little turd of a dog responded to my mild approach in full-on attack mode.
It was like this, except meaner. Much, much meaner.
But here’s where it gets embarrassing. The second the chuckle escaped my lips, the dog took off, headed straight for my face. Apparently, he did not find it amusing.
So, I reacted with my gut, and I ran. I ran back the direction I’d come, and that little effer chased me down the street. Once he felt I was a suitable distance away from the house, his line of meanness flattened out and he returned to his docile playmate, still tied up in the yard.
What. The. Hell.
That did not just happen. I turned around, determined to pull up my big girl panties and pass the house unscathed, but the second he sensed my approach, up went the hairs and out came the teeth, like I’d angered the Hulk or something in wiener dog form, and you know what I did?
I went down another block to pass the house.
It was an emotionally traumatic experience.
So, fast forward seven years to my latest encounter this past weekend with the yappy little mutt of my neighbor’s who, while he appears ferocious and hyper as little dogs go, is usually very licky and wiggly when you actually head over to play.
But not this time.
This time, for some inexplicable reason, he found it pertinent to latch himself to my arm using only his teeth, and let me tell you — it hurt like a sonofabitch.
I impulsively dislodged the dangling black critter’s teeth from my flesh and continued next door to complete the task I’d set out to start, which was letting my other neighbors’ dogs outside while the owners were out-of-town — much nicer and gentler dogs in the form of a German Shepherd and Chow-mix. Then I headed home to Justin’s graduation party and dulled the pain with Cabernet and Southern Comfort, though not at the same time.
The bite left a small wound and a bruise that has since turned a lovely shade of yellow and will probably leave a scar as a helpful reminder that tiny, vicious dogs are not to be trusted.
And just in case I didn’t get the message, I was walking Mara across a dam in our neighborhood yesterday, when from out of nowhere this little yapper was suddenly about 10 feet behind us and closing in quick, the line of meanness prominently standing on its deceivingly adorable and fuzzy little back.
Startled, we turned to face it head-on.
Luckily this time, I was prepared. I was prepared with a beast who had 50 pounds on this thing easy, and all Mara had to do was take one aggressive step in its direction in my defense, and it immediately pulled a 180 and ran off from whence it came.
Now I’m pretty sure I can never leave home without her.
*Disclaimer: I do NOT think all small dogs are mean. I have met plenty of friendly daschunds and other yappers who haven’t attacked me. It just so happens to be that those are the only kinds of dogs who have attacked me, hence the generalization.
Remember how I told you that everything is their favorite thing?
Well, to the list that includes tangling themselves up in blankets to the point where they can’t move, charming the pants off of guests by flicking snake-like tongues into their faces, and continuously escaping from the back yard with Houdini-esque flair, you may now add the consumption of creamer-infused cotton balls.
It’s actually a trick I learned when they were puppies – back when I discovered they would eat anything. See, Justin and I left a few toothpicks on a plate in the living room one day after devouring some meatballs for dinner (did that sound dirty?), left the room for a bit, and when we came back, the toothpicks were gone. Gone. And in their place sat two slightly uncomfortable looking puppies.
Like any good dog mother would do, I frantically Googled what one should do when one’s pets swallow toothpicks, and much to my relief, this was not the first time in the history of horrible pet owners that this had happened.
What I discovered is that I needed to follow the somewhat “woody” appetizer with something softer and more palatable to ease toothpick passage through the digestive system – cotton balls, of course! It turns out that cotton balls, when dipped in a bowl of coffee creamer to make them easier to swallow, are more beg-worthy than Beggin’ Strips when it comes to the discerning tastes of my brilliant dogs.
Now, I am not a veterinarian and therefore not qualified to dish out home remedies when it comes to your pets – I can only tell you that thanks to cream-laden cotton balls, we experienced no ill side effects to the toothpick swallowing incident.
Or the remote control swallowing incident.
Or the chicken bone swallowing incident.
Or the other remote control swallowing incident.
And people wonder why I’d be hesitant to ever become a “real” mom.