How many pets are too many?

I think I may have a new pet. I really didn’t want another one. Oldest Child has been begging for a rabbit, hamster, lizard, frog, or a turtle. Dad is allergic to the rodents and I am adverse to reptiles/amphibians so Mom says no every time it comes up. The extra pets are so much work! Don’t get me wrong — I love pets and think they are beneficial to our mental and emotional health. There’s nothing like caring for another creature and if it can care for you, even better.  I would be miserable without my boys. Sometimes, though, we have to set limits.

While this new pet could be incredibly beneficial to my physical health, I’m concerned about the drawbacks. First, the smell. We already have to be careful with what the dogs eat because their emissions are dangerous to our environment. Thanks to probiotic foods, that is mostly under control, so do I really want to add something else stinky to my house? Second, what if my children reject it? They aren’t always accepting of new experiences.

Microorganisms are not something I would have thought to cultivate.  You can’t really pet a sourdough starter and if you name it, then your family starts talking about “stress levels” and “cutting back on the caffeine”. However, I have a bit of an attachment to the stuff that is transforming regular old cabbage into sauerkraut on my counter. I have decided that it must be a “he” and I check on him constantly.  I have been careful to burp the jar multiple times a day and attempting to ascertain if it is mature yet. This is my first ever batch and I am like a fussy new mom. Is it okay? Have I done everything that I can? Will I like it? Will this help my gut? What else can I ferment that isn’t alcohol?

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This is my new friend. I am trying not to name him so it is easier to eat.

I may have a pet problem or a new obsession for the next few months.

An awkward conversation

22 July 2019

Dear Haas,

We need to talk. There is this thing called “personal space” that you need to accept. I know this is hard for you because you can’t conceive the idea that someone doesn’t adore you or want you up in their bubble. What you did today just put your behavior over the edge. You absolutely cannot sit on a stranger’s lap when you are out in public. It’s just not done.

I know the gentleman was kind enough not to say anything but, still. That’s not okay. You have gotten too heavy and your hygiene lately has been sub par. No one wants a hairy, stinky giant they don’t know plopping his big bony rear down with no warning. All he wanted to do was wait patiently for the vet with his shih tzu. The next person may be frightened and then won’t want to be your friend.

Look. Dad and I love you. The kids love you. We’ll take your hugs and snuggles, but please stop sitting on strangers’ laps. Also, stay out of the trash. It’s just gross, dude. The groomer isn’t going to keep being so happy to see you.

I know you are a good boy and I love you. I just want you to give people their space and maybe don’t take up so much of a small waiting room. Also, leave the hot spot on your neck alone so I can take a week off from paying the vet. We’ll talk about you removing your sutures on your own another time and why that’s no good.

Love,

Mom

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Mom. You’re blowing this way out of proportion.

Dear Mom,

If he didn’t like it, the man could have scooted over. Also, if you kept treats out on the table so I could have a late night snack, I would stay out of the trash. The next step is to call grandma and grandpa. Now, turn off the light, I’m trying to take a snooze.

Love taking up the whole bed,

Haas.

I need pet insurance

My dog looks high and we have spent entirely too much time at the vet in the last month. We still have two more visits to go this month and it is a good thing I prefer to stay home instead of going to a nice beach and wiggling my toes in warm sand while sipping some umbrella’d drink. I’d have no money to tip the waiter/delivery dude.

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We want something from a food delivery guy. Dad has food. He can deliver it to our faces!

Instead, we fretted over an abscess on Drake’s neck ($), treated it both internally (gross) and with oral medications, before we discovered Haas’s incessant licking near the wound caused a hotspot that needed more medication ($). While the first week was a challenge to get Drake to hake his meds, the second week was much easier due to the prednisone. Within a few days, Drake was out-eating even Percy and didn’t require a cheeseburger to wolf down pills. We did have to stop him from trying to rob Haas.

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Right after having Drake’s abscess drained.
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I know you say I’m all better, Mom, but snuggles will make it extra better!

As Drake recovered, we knew we needed to take Haas in to have his itchy ears checked and treated for infection ($$) Since we had to pay for a doggie exam anway, I thought it would be a good idea to check out a bump that had formed on his back end. His foster mom thought someone had shot him with rock salt so when we first noticed it a while back, we assumed it was something just under his skin. We were not so lucky and found it was a tumor that needed to be surgically removed ($$).

Today my biggest boy went in for booty bump removal. This isn’t the first time we have had to take a dog in for tumor removal but it was always something benign. The only thing I was worried about was his no-longer-fluffy butt getting sunburned or how the other dogs in class might giggle and point. However, this time the news was both good and bad. Haas did well in his surgery, didn’t have to be completely put under, and they got all of the tumor. The bad news was the tumor was malignant. There are no medications required but we will have to watch for the inevitable return. We hope that it won’t be any time soon. He is currently wandering the house on unsteady legs and hoping for a treat. I think he’ll be getting a few of those this evening.

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Mom! Let me have some dignity, please.

The positive is Percy is completely fine and eating everything in sight ($$$$$).  We are glad to be back to detailing doggie adventures and hope you are having a fabulous summer. Until next time, I am off to baby my poor pathetic puppies.

Making myself useful

This last week I got to do a few hours of volunteer work transferring a couple of dogs from a kill shelter to a different town’s no-kill shelter. This was organized by a local rescue organization that is woefully understaffed and underfunded but still does an amazing job. It was a wonderful experience and one I plan to repeat.

As the getaway driver, I was quite nervous for our hour drive. Would they cry all the way? Would I fall in love and want to end up with two more? Would they pee in my car? What if their gas was worse than Haas’s?

My heart started to break when I saw these beautiful pitty babies. Normally, I’m not a pit bull fan because I am drawn to scruffier dogs. However, these two, a male and female, melted my heart. I’m a sucker for animals with special needs and it was obvious these two needed some TLC. The female was terrified, appeared to have an abscess on her sad little face, but her buddy was a mess. He seemed to have chunks ripped out of the fur on his back and little nicks in various places. Their toenails were overgrown to the point it looked painful. The animal control officers said they had been covered with ticks and what I thought was some matting, on closer inspection, seemed to be a healing wound. They were in dire need of a bath. These were the worst smelling dogs I have ever encountered.

Their behavior on the trip was impeccable. The little female sat quietly with the saddest look on her face while her friend alternated trying to climb into the back glass and drooling on my console.

When we arrived at their new (temporary) home, their roles switched. The female willingly walked out of the car into the building while the male refused to leave the car or go through any  doors. Their sweetness doubled as we had to wait a bit for their intake papers and kennel to be set up. Meanwhile, a staff member and I fed these pretty pitties treats that they took delicately from our hands and stayed close for snuggles. As they had been dumped, neither dog had a name. The assisting staff member named the male Diesel and I was allowed to name the female Agatha. For some reason, I felt so much better about them after they had names, even if they may not stick.

It was so hard to leave them but it made me grateful for my own boys. I love my rescues, at least one of which was also dumped. I so hope those brindle beauties find a loving home soon. I keep an eye on the new rescue’s website for those sweet babies but I am betting they need some vetting still. They are going to make someone very happy one day and I’m glad to have met them.

Stranger Dogs, Stranger Days

There’s a new routine/obsession for my pack of terribles. It has become all consuming. As soon as the back door is opened, all 3 boys shove past the resident door person, hip checks the adjacent table, and fly down the steps.

This is where paths often diverge and the hunt begins. Percy barks orders (or fear, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) and heads to the south side of the shed. Drake races toward the north and Haas alternates west and east. The hunt for the shed monster begins anew–every couple of hours, loudly, over and over.

Drake’s concentration is fierce and he carefully, yet frantically, digs under the shed. Here, Percy takes command/paces nervously and lets the entire neighborhood in on the play by play. Meanwhile, Haas keeps trying to shove his giant, fuzzy head into a previously dug hole roughly the size of his paw. Granted, the paw is massive, but his head is bigger. The only thing Haas retrieves is another pound of dirt that he magically  transforms into a muddy hipster beard.

When Drake yelps and the hound howls come out, the big boss calls off the hunt. The pack gives Mom sad eyes and all 3 attempt to crowd into her lap. She doesn’t give in and take care of the shed monster for the boys. Mom is wise and knows it is probably a garden snake, a mother bunny just trying to care for her babies, or even a shared canine hallucination (these boys will eat anything, good idea or no, so maybe it’s doggy drugs). It definitely isn’t a scaly beast who will come through the walls and devour us in our sleep, no matter what these boys think.

Mom isn’t scared of the shed monster; but even still, she’s not checking out the situation. She’ll just snuggle big, brave, muddy puppies and keep watching Netflix.

Love or whatever

Previously I have written about trying to learn how to show love as freely as my dogs do. This was central to my classroom strategy this year. Since the school year is officially over, now I get to reflect on how well it worked. There was definitely a change.

When I had my very first classroom 18 years ago, I accidentally slammed my door on the first day and scared the freshmen. When you combine that with my natural RBF (resting um…butthead…face), 30 kids were terrified. They soon realized was all bluff and gruff. However, my kids thought it was hilarious to tell incoming students how scary I was. For the first 14 years of teaching, I just went with the unfounded fear turned to continuing upper class prank. It worked well with my inclination to avoid sappiness.

Then it became time for me to go home and change some things in my life.

I had a new opportunity to start the year with love rather than fear. It was tougher than I expected. Before, I had very few discipline issues because by the time kids were no longer afraid, our procedures were established and I could form relationships. I also needed to break my ingrained habits.

I didn’t want to be the scary teacher. Instead of kids laughing at their long running joke (excepting those who thought I was legitimately terrifying and never moved past it), I wanted to be the kid of teacher my kids loved and remembered fondly.

The first two years in my current district, I just tried to be the kind of teacher, and person, I wanted to be. I made some improvements but they weren’t enough and I didn’t feel successful in any way. Then came Percy who would never have been a dog I picked out for myself.

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This was Percy’s first visit with us. At the time, he seemed so big but now I realize how little he actually was.

Percy is the most loving dog I have ever met. I started using him as my model for some of my behavior. I try to show my kids every day how much I love them so the students don’t have to guess or hope their teacher cares. Obviously, I don’t show my affection in the same way Percy does. I have no desire to slobber on anyone or follow them around every moment of the day. I still need my space and quiet time.

I just started telling the students how I felt. I worried that teenagers would think it weird or that they were too old for getting read to and fed snacks. I gave it a go. Then I told them again.

I reminded my kids that I would love them no matter what their standardized test scores were. And in their very last class, I reminded each section that I loved them dearly and I would miss them.

The best part of actually verbalizing how I felt felt instead of just hoping they knew was their response. One group even responded immediately with a “love you” as they left. While I searched for the tissue box that seems to roam the classroom, I thought about how happy I was this year. I had no behavioral discipline referrals. I signed more yearbooks than all other years combined and I have a great start for my new memories book.

I know it isn’t just saying “I love you” aloud to my kids. I actually worked to improve our classroom environment and atmosphere in other ways, as well. Those three words were the scariest part and I will keep working to make my classroom not just a room of learning but also of love.

I don’t regret taking the risk of stating my feelings just like I don’t regret getting a giant, slobbering, blanket-carrying, bottomless pit of a dog who thinks he must be in constant physical contact. Percy and I encourage you to show the love yourself this week. We need more love in the world.

Happy days are here again

The terrors have 2 reasons to celebrate this week. First, it is the last week of school so there is a whole lot of snuggling and playing catch and tug in the boys’ future. The second, more immediately exciting reason to celebrate is that Haas is passed into level 3 of his training class.

We had no plans to try to test out of level 2 and hadn’t even attempted some of the requirements but my Haas was a big enough bum to pass! This was the hardest level for Percy because there was always so much interesting stuff going on and he wasn’t physically capable of leaving my side for 2 seconds. Haas, on the other hand, just wanted to lie down and didn’t care if I walked around him or did cartwheels across the floor. I’ll take it, though.

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Haas on his way to get his celebratory cheeseburger for passing his test. His head hits the roof of the car. 

Haas is difficult to work with/train because he isn’t food driven. At home, I can get him to work with a little peanut butter or some commercial treats but not outside the house. We’ve tried all the dog treats, bacon, beef jerky, popcorn, string cheese, and hot dogs. They last about two bites. The only thing that works in the actual training class is Chex Mix. This works for me for a few reasons. One is that I would much rather smell Chex Mix breath in the car instead of dog breath. Another is that I can steal the rye chips. Of course, when I come across them, the other handlers probably think I am eating dog treats instead of my dog eating human treats. Oh, well. They already think I’m nuts for having a horse sized dog.