Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

The Day I Ate Dog Food

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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dogfoodWhen I was four years old, my brother Sean and his friend Gusty convinced me to eat dog food.

The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.

Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.

I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.

I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.

I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.

Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.

“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.

I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”

That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.

That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching  me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.

It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew  in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.

I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view  the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.

We named the dog Gusty.

It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.

Living in the Dog House

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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Although I thoroughly enjoy my life and the privileges that come with age, I sometimes miss the optimism of youth.

Like most young people, I had great plans for my future. I was convinced that as soon I was on my own, I was going to do all those things my parents either never allowed or never considered important.

At the top of my list was elevating the status of the household dog to that of a genuine family member.rodney

Growing up, we always had dogs, but they had limited rights and never had full run of the house.

I wanted more for my dogs.

What I never considered was how the needs of human children might fit into the equation, which is why I had a near panic attack a few months before my son Shepherd was born.

A co-worker, who was also pregnant, announced that she and her husband were giving away their Dalmatian before their baby arrived.

“Dogs and babies just don’t mix,” she said.

I went home that night and told my husband that we couldn’t keep our baby.

He didn’t seem too concerned about my proclamation. Instead he just asked why.

“Because apparently dogs and babies don’t mix,” I said. “And I’m not getting rid of Gabby and Gusty.”

“Why don’t we see if there actually a problem before we start worrying about a solution,” he said rationally.

There was no issue.

We brought our son home, the dogs sniffed him and accepted him into the pack.

And more importantly, my son, and later my daughter, accepted and loved Gabby, Gusty and all of our pets since.

But after torn curtains, worn-out carpet and damaged furniture, I’ve come to appreciate why my parents gave their human children more privileges than their canine ones.

I’ve also come to understand that no matter what the circumstances, children will always think they have a better plan than their parents did.

For example, we now have a large German Shepherd named Rodney who is a giant klutz. The other day he was racing around the basement chasing tennis balls and banging into doors, walls and furniture.

My son, who was sitting at his computer, looked up and said, “Can’t you limit where that dog goes? There’s no safe place in this house. When I get a dog, it’s not going to be allowed to go wherever it wants.”

We shall see.

Tickled Pink and Blue

Monday, April 4, 2011
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CORRECTION: Meet our bouncing baby BOY.

Last month, I blogged about our new arrival — a beagle pup to be named Betty.  As you may recall, I went all out for this pup… special food and water bowls, a pretty collar and leash, and a tartan plaid bed with her name prominently monogrammed on the side.

Well, Betty turned out to be…a boy.

A very long story short, we simply came up short.  There were several girls to choose from, but our deposit held a selection spot, not necessarily a particular puppy.  The night before we were scheduled to pick up Betty, we were informed a few pups in the litter developed pneumonia and died, and only three girls survived.  Based on our place on the list, we’d have to take a boy if we still wanted one.

When I told my husband that the pup, which I had branded as Betty the Beagle since Christmas Eve, wasn’t coming to live with us, his eyes lit up like blue C9 bulbs.  “Ha!” he exclaimed. “Outnumbered no more!”

I wasn’t upset, because I had said up front that I didn’t care about gender as long as the pup was healthy.  My reaction was also due to experiencing something like this before.  As Yogi Berra once said, it was déjà vu all over again.

During my second pregnancy, I went through quite a few ultrasounds to make sure everything was progressing normally.  During one of the first scans, the technician turned to us and said, “I know what that is, and that means you’re carrying a little boy.”

Off the table I jumped and down the road I drove… to Lowe’s… for blue paint.  I had it all planned: blue walls, chambray and red linens, and a giant stuffed moose head for the wall above his dark cherry crib.  I had planned a wild animal theme… lions, tigers and bears, oh my… and a pair of denim overalls from Gap.  Twenty-four hours later, I was trying on baby names from my favorite mini-series, The Thorn Birds.

My husband was not impressed with my source of creativity.

“You’re not going to name our son Stuart. He got killed by a wild boar.  And you are not naming him Dane, either, because he drowned in the ocean. And you can forget about the other brother who died when a burning tree fell on him,” Mike spat.

What about Ralph? He was sitting in the rose garden when he slumped over.  Does that make you feel better?

Three appointments later, a different technician scanned again to check the baby’s development.  “How’s he doing?” I asked nervously. “He?” the technician replied. “You mean SHE? She looks good so far.”

But… but… we were told we were having a boy! What happened to that certain something the other technician was so convinced of?  “I have no idea, but this is a little girl for sure.”

A few months later our second daughter, Maryn, was carried into a bedroom painted a pale, spring green (to be on the safe side).  And, I’m pleased to report that she’s 100% all girl.

BUT, getting back to my story about our beagle blooper:  Since Betty would not be joining us, I had to find a name within 24 hours for our baby boy.  And, if you hadn’t already guessed, I pulled The Thorn Birds novel off the shelf and began flipping through pages.

Paddy? Hal? Luddie? Bob? Jack? Hughie? Rainer?

Mike, proving to be the alpha in the family, took the book and gave it a toss.  “His name is Copper,” he stated.  From The Fox and the Hound?  A Disney movie?

After an hour of debate, I realized that I didn’t have a dog in this fight.  The story of a deep friendship between an unlikely pair (also true of a Roman Catholic priest and his mistress) would serve as the inspiration for our little “surprise”. Copper the Beagle has become man’s best friend.  Sometimes, that’s simply ‘howl’ the ball bounces.

Won’t You Come Home, Beagle Baby?

Monday, February 28, 2011
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It's a girl!

It’s a defining moment in a woman’s life when she’s advised by a doctor to stop having children. The experience is similar to being put out of business; the sign on the door flips from “open” to “closed.”  The soundtrack to a woman’s life changes as well, from the sweet maternal hymn, “Baby Mine” sung by a member of the Disney choir, to the Texan twang of dearly departed Don Meredith.  “Turn out the lights…the party’s over!”

All kidding aside (no pun intended), it’s a sad moment to learn that your last baby is indeed your last. There will never be another first smile, first tooth, first word, or first step.  I remember giving my youngest daughter her last bottle, which resembled feeding a baby goat as she devoured its contents and toddled away.

Now, as our little one turns five, I’m experiencing a different type of closure.  In a few weeks, my husband and I will attend kindergarten roundup and enroll her in school. I won’t have any children at home during the day, and that means I won’t have as much to do.

When I stew in these moods for too long, friends grab my shoulders and shake them without mercy.

“Freedom!” They scream.  ”Now you can do as you please! Take on more clients! Take Zumba!  Take a nap!  Take your pick!”

But, I can’t take it.  I need someone to take care of.  It’s instinctive.

With the shop closed (as my husband reminded me), then I’d simply have to find another way to keep the cradle rocking, and I discovered that a man in Southside, West Virginia could help.

“I’ll have an outstanding litter of beagle pups ready for homes this March,” Bob the Breeder told me. “Are you looking for a boy or a girl?” he asked.

I didn’t care, as long as it was healthy.

“The due date is January 6th,” Bob the Breeder continued. “I’ll send pictures as time goes on, and keep you informed of the mother’s progress.”

That night, I suffered a panic attack like none other.  My eyes flashed open, and fear filled my entire body.

Howling.  Crate training. Veterinary bills. Shots. Chewing and scratching. Accidents. Spaying and neutering. Food.  Heartworm pills.  Dog sitters. Obedience school.

Does it sound familiar?  Crying.  Circumcision. Teething. Vaccinations. Potty training.  Well child checkups. Sick child visits. Bed wetting.  Biting and hitting.  Formula and diapers. Childcare. Preschool.

What was I thinking? What had gotten into me?  I climbed out of bed and staggered to the bathroom for a cup of water.  I stared at my reflection in the mirror and noticed the small scar on my left cheek, a permanent reminder of my clash with a Pekingese.

It occurred to me at that moment that I wasn’t grieving my inability to have a third child. I was grieving for my own children’s babyhood.  I was frightened by how quickly they were growing up, and how I didn’t realize their firsts were lasts.

We greeted 2011 with a telephone call from Bob the Breeder, who informed us that we could have our choice of several female pups.  Thrilled by the idea of naming another little girl, I ditched my tattered baby name book for the urban dictionary found online.  I wanted to name the pup something that defined her true spirit.

Betty:  One that is attractive, stylish and self-confident. A Betty is typically a looker. Do you see that girl over there? She’s a Betty!

With our new arrival in mind, I drove to the farm supply store to shop for baby Betty.  I chose a pink lead and collar, a polka dot dish and bowl set, a pastel blanket, and a few toys.  When I got home, I ordered a tartan plaid pillow with her name monogrammed on the side.

Of course, I realize that many people will accuse me of having lost my mind, but they stand corrected. I’m having a ball. It’s the nature of the beast.