Meri, Meri, Quite Contrary…Quit tormenting me.

Meri is one of our original terrible two on four feet. I don’t write about her much because I prefer the dogs. Before Meri, I was a cat person, but it is only 90% her fault that I’m not crazy about her.

When the husband I were still newly together a hundred and a half years ago, we adopted a cat, Bosco. He was my baby and spoiled rotten until I became pregnant with the Mayor of Angstville (Oldest Child). Then, Bosco spurned my company and remained annoyed with me for about three and a half years. When Youngest Child showed up, all was forgiven as she was his baby so I wasn’t quite so awful. Those two were thick as thieves until Bosco’s stroke and subsequent passing.

Between the husband’s cat allergies and my grieving heart, I didn’t want another cat, at least for a while. When we went fishing at a trout park that following summer, we came home not with fish but a cat. This is the 10% that isn’t her fault. Meri didn’t choose her timing.

The kids fell in love with the pretty beggar who deigned accept their offerings of cheese and lunchmeat. Despite my objections, she came home with us and now bears the name of the trout park. Meri loved Dad and tolerated the kids. She and I clashed immediately. Meri hated when I was on any form of technology and demonstrated her displeasure by sneaking up and biting the back of my head. It happened more than once, to the delight of the other humans.

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I imagine Meri is contemplating my destruction in this photo.

It’s been a few years now and the hag and I have come to a bit of a truce. I let her out when the boys are free and she gives warning before trying to impersonate a zombie and eating my brain.

I have noticed that Meri’s relationship with the family is quite different from the boys and our previous feline. We all have full conversations with the cat and seldom are they happy. It’s not unusual to hear an argument from the other parts of the house. HOw a six-pound cat gets such volume is impressive. Most of them consist of something like this:

Human: You’ve already been fed twice today. NO. MORE.

Meri: No!

Human: Yes, you have!

Meri: NO, MROW!

Human: Too bad, Hag.

Meri: NO! (then sounds I am pretty sure are profanity)

Human: Do you want to go out? The boys are out back.

Meri: Merow, no, now, yowl

Cat heads out the front door and all is peaceful…until the boys come back in.

Meri is pretty, though, and has the softest fur I have ever petted. I admire her self-confidence. I don’t like her. She’s terrible, but she isn’t going anywhere.

The Great Escape or Why Metal is No Match for My Dogs

I think there is a natural law that says behavior must balance. For every good deed or achievement, there will be destruction or misbehavior. This seems to be true for both teenagers and the terrible canine trio, but I am focusing on the four legs this week.

The Good: Percy did an amazing job in class this week. He took the test he will have to complete to graduate (just to see where he was–no one thought he would actually pass) and it wasn’t too shabby. His off-leash work was good and the wild man was calm and mostly obedient.

Percy did try to take off after a punk poodle who decided to bolt during his own test. This poodle was embracing his new Mohawk and brightly colored additions to his grey head fur. I couldn’t blame Percy. That poodle seemed to know how to have a good time. Normally, this particular poodle has a pretty prance but not this week. This week it was all gallop and attitude.

The Bad: The boys escaped the backyard last week before Dad went to work and when he was the only one home. While rough-housing at the back gate, they bent the latch and went off for an adventure. The boys have put on a few pounds each so combined they are about 300 pounds. I suppose the fence did the best it could.

I am thinking of putting one of these inside the fence instead of outside.

The quiet gave them away. Dad has been a human and dog parent long enough to be suspicious of silence. The two big boys are between name tags at the moment (thanks, Drake the pig shark for chewing them off) so Dad was extra worried. He grabbed a handful of leashes and started for Grandma’s. The in-laws live three houses down and Haas adores Grandma. He will break out of his crate and open a baby gate to get to her when she pops by. Haas knows where Grandma lives and often tries to head that way when he is allowed out of the backyard. Fortunately, they were distracted by the captivating scents of the neighbor’s stuff so they hadn’t made it far. They did come running when called so…yay, training?

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Here’s hoping the padlock, para-cord, and shoelace contain the wild ones.

Now I am off to protect the big boys from Drake. He is a demon tonight. Even Percy is getting tired of his nonsense, which is saying a lot, and I have had to peel Drake off of Haas’s jaw. His toothy smile and wrinkled head would make a terrifying Halloween mask.

May your week be filled with love, laughter, and treats. Be kind to yourself.

Today’s list

This is the time of year that can be a challenge.

First: the weather.  Will it be 80 when I get out of school or do I need a parka? Will my backyard be a lake or… nope, the backyard will be a lake. I like to refer to this time of year as “carpet shampooer season.” It becomes my best friend and the only way to avoid growing a mud monster of my very own.

Second: Parent-teacher conferences. It’s not that I want to avoid parent contact. I get to tell parents how great their kids are. It’s the long days. At the 12 hour mark, I am feeling as if I have been away from home for forty years. I’m too introverted for that. The worst part of those long days is that I miss my trouble-making boys. For some reason, I am not allowed to pack up 250 pounds of dog and bring them to school. I know it isn’t a good idea, anyway. Drake is in a slapping phase. I hope it is a phase, anyway. I’ve never known a dog who got annoyed and hit whoever or whatever he was mad at. I caught him trying to smack Oldest Child the other day just because he didn’t want to go to bed. It’s better than biting, but why are my dogs so weird? Maybe a couple long days will be a good thing.

Third: Campaigning politicians. The television and Spotify ads are bad enough but now they are coming to my door. Normally a giant head that fills the window next to the door is enough to deter even the most persistent politician. The barking helps. Then, if they see all 3 of my boys through the storm door and still want to talk, I am impressed. Today’s visitor was smart. She complimented my boys and even remembered their names. Maybe I’ll remember hers in return.

Now I am off to spend some extra cuddle time with the terrors so I can stockpile the love for the rest of the week.

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This is a rare picture. It features both Dad and all three dogs being calm! I checked to see but it isn’t snowing…

(I will ) Stand My Ground.

It’s been an educational few days. Between Percy’s class Saturday and Professional Development at school (read: teaching the teachers), my brain has had a lot of things to practice and process. It used to bug me when I needed time to think but one of the benefits of not being young is that now I just take the time to let the crud ferment in my brain. It’s too bad I didn’t have that attitude when I was younger. I think it comes down to two things: I don’t care and I am stubborn.

This isn’t nearly as negative as it sounds. I spend all day, every day, with teenagers (those who claim they don’t care what anyone thinks but actually do). I get it. Being a teenager stinks. It stinks like teenage boys’ sweat socks after outside PE in August. If you don’t know what that smells like, its almost as bad as dog, erm, flatulence. So, I’m glad I’m snuggling up to 40. It’s so much easier to learn when I am not just pretending not to care about what other people think and just don’t care.

Even if this is way rambly and gets preachy, I do have a feel-good type point. I couldn’t have trained Percy 10 years ago. I couldn’t have done it 5 years ago because I did care about looking stupid or inept. I would have given up on the first day when Percy pooped in class (mortifying). If that hadn’t done it, maybe I would have given up when we failed the test to get out of level 2 multiple times or when he was “that kid” in class.

A few weeks ago, the trainer was trying not to call out individuals for what they were doing wrong. I was actually bordering on frustrated before I caught why I was feeling that way. I didn’t care if anyone else knew what I was doing wrong. This was a massive growth for me. I just wanted to know how to fix what I needed to fix. I have been tempted to give up, especially when I had to accept that Percy and I wouldn’t graduate from our obedience class. I didn’t quit for two reasons. One is Percy. He deserves my all. The second is that I am just a trifle stubborn (You ok, Husband and Mom? I hope you didn’t choke too much on that statement.) I am okay with us failing but I won’t give up or give in.

I had this realization as we got to do our first off-leash work this week. Up until now, the trainer and I haven’t felt comfortable letting Percy loose with other dogs and people around. I put Percy in a sit and walked maybe 15 or 20 feet away. He stayed! Miracle! When I called him, though, was a tad frightening. Imagine 85 pounds of overly-enthusiastic muscle and teeth charging at you like a freight train. In a perfect world, he would slow down and sit directly in front of me. This isn’t a perfect world. Instead of sitting, my boy decided to launch himself through the air and collide with me at full speed. Fortunately, I am stout so I didn’t end up on my rear and was able to stand my ground. All in all, he didn’t do too badly for his first time off-leash.

Now my obstinance is going to show through with my school kids. My kids are amazing but now it is time to be persistent. They are a delight but there are too many holes in my grade book. If I can stick with Percy, I can stick with my kids. Time to crank the Tom Petty and make “I Won’t Back Down” this year’s theme song. I don’t care if they think I am the crazy teacher who dances in the halls, I am not giving up. Happy Monday!

Who are you?

I ask this question of my students multiple times through the year. We look at influences to our identity from society, childhood and family, gender, religion, political power and many others. We also try to see how our identity changes. How do we see ourselves? How do other people see us?

Since my grading pile is not yet taller than Oldest Child (thank you assignments submitted electronically for enabling my denial). I started wondering how the boys and cat would describe themselves. Hmmm…..

Meri: I am the queen. You only live to serve me. Serve me food, right now.

The dogs are a little different (yes, that is a euphemism for nuttier than a squirrel hideout).

Percy: I am the greatest! I’m also mom’s favorite. I know this because Mom brought me home first and I get to ride in the car and sometimes I get treats but not enough so maybe Mom doesn’t love me best. I should go check. Where’s Mom? Mom! Do you love me, Mom? Look, Mom! Here’s my blanket. You have a rope, Mom? Throw it! Yes! 

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Percy was really hoping Mom would put down the computer and play fetch.

I don’t think Percy would be able to focus long enough to examine his own identity since he doesn’t even stop to end his sentences. Haas might be able to, though.

Haas: I’m Dad’s favorite and he left me in charge…at least when Mom says I can be in charge. Mom is stricter than Dad. It’s my job to make sure that the cat stays on her side of the house. I also protect the peoples. The only outside peoples allowed in the house are my favorite Mima (Dad’s Mom–he has one, too) and someone Mom calls Papaw (her grandpa whom she thinks is extra special). She doesn’t let me play with Papaw, so I bark a little from my crate so he knows I am keeping things safe. Mima and I walk, sometimes. We let Mom come along and hold the leash so I am legal. I wonder if Mima is here. I’ll go check. You stay right there.

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Haas was pretty sure he heard something in the front yard. That’s a scrap of Percy’s blanket and not a tongue defect.

Drake is the hardest but I think I have him.

Drake: This question is stupid. Whatever. I bet that mama’s boy, Percy, said he was Mom’s favorite. Let him think that. For now. I make sure the other two don’t get above themselves. The moment they do, I go for the back legs and take them down. If they are on the floor, Mom’s lap is empty and she’s all mine. I know what’s up.

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Drake doin his thing

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Today I started my first full week back with kids and the neediness (oh the neediness!) is going to drive me bonkers. The students are great. I have a wonderful group of students this year. I even get Oldest Child in class. It’s the boys who are worse than static cling in January.

Since I am not at their bark and call all day, I can’t seem to leave the dogs’ sight when I am home. If it isn’t Percy gnawing on a blanket while staring mournfully at me, it’s Haas hugs and snuggles on the couch. Drake tries for cuddle time with Mom but Haas just sits on Drake who then must vacate if he wants to breathe.

Mom says she has to work so I can eat but I’m not stupid. Food comes in boxes right to our door. She’s just mean.

As soon as I walk in the door, it sounds like a bison stampede. They are so wound up, I fear for my furniture. Even with repeated “No!”s and “Off!”s at full teacher volume, there’s still a better than average chance to see a dog soar through the air after launching himself from the back of the sofa.

If it isn’t furniture, then it’s a broken record of “Don’t chew on your brother!” Percy is actually the good boy lately with Drake taking over as King of Obnoxiousness. Haas currently has Drake pinned with Drake’s head firmly between Haas’s jaws. I guess he is tired of Drake’s crazy like the rest of us. It took both Percy and Haas working together to get that monster subdued. On the bright side, I am proud of them working together.

It’s all about optimism, today. My students are going to continue being wonderful, the boys are going to calm down within the next six months, and Percy will finally test into his next training level. While we are at it, Drake will keep making sure Haas gets his exercise and Haas will stop breaking into the kitchen to scare the cat. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. If I repeat it enough, it’ll be true, right? Even if it doesn’t, I have an amazing team of co-workers who will keep me sane when either kids or canines go crazy. Let’s get this year started!

There are upsides to crazy canines. Give me a minute and I’ll come up with something…

My dogs and cat are terrible. They drive me bonkers and eat more than any five teenage boys. I am seriously considering leaving out snacks and a cold drink for the FedEx person since Chewy shipments happen frequently and are roughly the weight of an adolescent elephant.

But…I sure do love these dogs. Yes, it is annoying when they get possessive and all want to sit on me at once to get pets. I’m a good sized person but I am no match for 225 pounds of canine. At the same time, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my boys love me.

As a major introvert, quiet time after a long day of meetings or students is cherished more than chocolate. My boys don’t let me take it to extremes. It doesn’t even bother me anymore that I know I will have to pry at least three items out of dog mouths. So far today, we have confiscated a rock, a shred of blanket and an ink pen I haven’t seen in two years. Where do they find these things? It’s like a lazy way to have a treasure hunt! These giant goofballs expect a certain amount of attention and they are big enough to demand it.

The truth is, I need that affection, too. They make me laugh and gross me out constantly. It’s wonderful to scratch behind dog ears and feel the weight of a dog leaning against your hip. It is a little less great when you absent-mindedly reach over to pet Drake and his head is soaked in Haas slobber.  I believe I have mentioned that Drake’s head fits in Haas’s mouth. It spends an excessive amount of time there.

When Percy’s classes end, I will miss him sticking his head under my arm for our lengthy drive each week. He absolutely loves his car drives and, weirdly enough, his training collars. I know they probably just signal that it is one-on-one time for him so having someone always happy to spend time with me is awesome.

These boys are sweethearts and I am blessed to have them. The cat, though. Oh, the cat. She is another story. Currently, I am convinced Meri is plotting my demise. I used to be a cat person. Other cats are great, but Meri hates technology users. Since I use mine more than is healthy for work and hobbies, that means she bites my head. She also hates the dogs so there is safety when the boys want a snuggle. It works for me.

I hope your pets are as terrible and wonderful, just like mine.