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.

Percy is no longer the most obnoxious dog in the house.

If Drake was human, he’d be a 3 year old. I am not figuring “dog years.” I am judging this based on behavior. Lately he has been hitting a new high of obnoxiousness. I still love him, but oh, my!

Partially due to training and partially due to just age, my giant pain who is Percy is calming down. Drake, however, is ramping up the terrible. He is currently declaring his annoyance at not being allowed to go outside. It’s noisy in here.

Someone is accessing our backyard so Drake has to spend a whole hour not getting to do what he wants when he wants. It starts with soft, high-pitched whines that morph into a strange howl/bark at the door. This dog is never quiet. When Drake is left alone for a whole ten minutes without attention from man or beast, he climbs up on the couch, flops down with his head on the arm and sighs his distress. Then, he groans a long drawn out moan like someone told the boys cheese was no longer a thing. 

Drake doesn’t even sleep quietly. Unlike Percy, Drake enjoys his naps. Often we hear barks, yips, yelps, and something that rather resembles the eventual draining of a clogged bathtub.

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Life is dark and meaningless when you can’t do what you want.

Then, there’s the slapping. I’ve never had a dog who slapped people and other canines when he was miffed. I’ve experienced that behavior with cats, but not dogs. I can’t even blame the evil Meri for that bad habit because she avoids the boys without fail. Earlier, Drake and I were having a discussion about appropriate behavior. He had his sweet face on and was draped upside down over my lap. (For some reason, he prefers to spend most of his downtime on his back.) I explained that slapping and hitting wasn’t okay and he needed to stop. Haas walked up to investigate and Drake whacked him across the face mid-lecture. Obviously, this dog listens well. When I threatened to ground him, he smacked my arm. Drake is currently in his crate to calm down.

This is a radical change from the independent, nonviolent, slightly stand-offish boy we brought home 10 months ago. I am telling myself he is just now comfortably settling in but I will be glad when this toddler phase passes.

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Drake in nicer days.

 

Why I do the things I do

This week I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to write. It’s not that the boys didn’t do something strange or disgusting. They did. It’s not that we didn’t experience triumphs in training. We did. I didn’t have a plan or start gathering ideas. This is unusual for me. I like writing, sometimes. I love writing, most of the time. This week I was just going to take a pass. Few people would miss my weekly musings.

So, why am I writing so many words just to say “I’m not doing it and you can’t make me”? It’s not like I am getting a grade for this or making any money. I’m not. There is still some meandering before I get to the point. I figure my few-but-tremendously-appreciated readers have three choices. 1. Keep reading to follow the somewhat questionable path of my musings. 2. say “This chick is weirder than eating Reese’s pieces and mozzarella as a snack so I am leaving the table. Call me when you have a cute dog picture” and then bow out. 3. Skip to the last paragraph for the punchline/answer.  Do you, darlin. No judgement here. I love you whatever you choose.

I started writing this blog for a couple of reasons. Both are self-serving. I wanted to write as a way to maintain my mental health. I have to be better at taking care of myself if I want to help others. Writing helps me not overthink everything. The other reason was to minimize how many people had to hear yet another dog story but still get to talk about one of my favorite subjects.

I realized I was overdoing it when someone at school noted: “there’s always a dog story.” My excuse was that Percy was my Genius Hour/Passion Project I complete along with the kids so it was school related. People were getting tired of it. I didn’t want to annoy people or become tiresome, but I still wanted to share my delight in my dogs. Thus, I started this site. People could laugh at my boys, scoff at my frustrations, or just ignore it if they wanted to. It’s fine.

This brings me to tonight. If I didn’t want to write, why is this here? It’s Percy. He’s the reason. Tonight I sat on the couch not wanting to write, not wanting to play with the boys, not wanting to grade or vacuum or do laundry or the other million things on my list. Percy brought me a rope. Hard pass on catch tonight. He gave kisses. No. He knows me better than I do, though.

Big brown eyes keep staring at me and he keeps putting pressure on my legs and shoulders. I didn’t train him to do this and I am sure it is coincidental, but it helps me feel better when I am not quite feeling right. Every few minutes, he makes eye contact with me. It makes me feel loved.

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Just write, Mom. You know you want to.

This is why the boys are worth a muddy house right now and overworked dustpan and vacuum cleaner. They always make me feel loved. For those who can’t have pets for whatever reason, I’m sorry you miss this.

Percy (and Drake and Haas) made me write even if I didn’t want to. I wrote for me. I wrote to show how thankful I am for Percy, Drake and Haas. They let me be part of their pack. I still don’t like the cat. I bet yours is wonderful and I like cats in general. Mine happens to be just terrible. But that’s another post for another day…

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Drake and Haas “sharing” the couch. Haas now knows how Mom feels when he sleeps with her.

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…

More excuses not to be productive this weekend.

Yesterday, I had a 100-pound poor baby. He was vomiting, not eating, and only wanted to snuggle in mom’s lap. It’s hard to explain that mom can’t sit on the couch all day and be a pillow because you ate too much concrete or something else no living being should ingest. Mom doesn’t need the temptation to spend the day doing absolutely nothing.

Instead, the electric pressure cookers worked overtime to make chicken broth, chicken breasts, and plain rice as a tummy soother. I noticed that the more I worried and fretted about Haas, the more I kept calling him by the wrong name.

My last dog, Stump, wasn’t well for the last year of his life. I loved him terribly so I often made his food at home and was more responsible with his medication than I was with my own. I kept trying to call Haas by Stump’s name both in my head and to his head. Haas only outweighs what Stump did by 75 pounds but they are equally fuzzy so I am using that as part of my excuse.

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Haas feeling healthy and happy

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Stump ready to take on the world.

Of course all of my dogs only get sick or infections on Sundays when there is no vet open so I stressed all day. My head knew that he was probably fine because he was still functioning, just in a subdued manner. His breathing was fine, he could move fine, he was really okay, and it was just me being a worrywart. My over-reaction was confirmed when he snarfed his chicken and rice. This boy is never an enthusiastic eater and often only finishes his bowl just to keep it from Percy (which is good for Percy’s waistline). This time, there was not so much as a crumb left in the bowl.  If Dad hadn’t had to clean up the mess from earlier in the day, I would think that boy scammed me.

Today was a new day and Haas is back to his old tricks of breaking out of his crate and hopping around the yard. I don’t have to worry about anything more than slobber marks on my work clothes and I am good with that.

Getting Personal…sort of

Monday’s notebook prompt for my students was “What can you do this week to improve your life?” I think about things like this occasionally. Sometimes I even act upon them. Will the kids? Who knows. I’ve started the week with good intentions but we know how those can turn out.

Honestly, Monday has been a struggle. I don’t know why. There is no reason. My students are great, my coworkers are great, my dogs have gone several days without eating concrete, and I got to have dinner with my grandfather for the first time in forever. Unfortunately for me, the itchy-fights showed up and tried to take over the day.

The itchy-fights isn’t a technical term. It’s just the best way I can describe the onset of anxiety. Sometimes that feeling has a trigger and sometimes they just come on in spite of all of the blessings around me. My skin feels itchy on the inside like it doesn’t fit and is made of cheap sweater and insulation. The fights come when I combat all of the physical stimuli and people. I love my kids and do everything in my power to not let them know I am struggling. They deserve a professional in the classroom. They are also good for keeping me from turning into a crazy dog lady hermit. However, 127 of them each day can make the itchies worse.

I have to fight the urge to run away and hide in my book closet and concentrate on meeting my kids’ needs. There are strategies I use when it gets bad and here is where my terrible trio earn their kibble. I rely on their love to get me through.

My sweet boy has been surprisingly patient through this. He has brought me toys but hasn’t been insistent on playing fetch or catch. In fact, this bull in a china shop has gently hovered at my side. I get little snuggles and he checks in but no headbutts or forcing his 85 pounds into my lap. Percy the Pain is Percy the Precious tonight.

The other boys are behaving nicely. I am thankful for them and fortunately, the itchy-fights are starting to subside enough that I can think again. Writing helps, as well, which is why I have taken a break from the four legs’ weekly misadventures. I hope you’ll indulge my wandering and come back next week for more fun and probably destruction in the future as we play more “What is in your mouth now?!”

Now I can think about what I can do this week to make my life better. I’m going to continue watching The Great British Baking Show and appreciating how nice the people are. I love how they help each other and are so supportive. I am going to take time to watch something positive like this every day this week. I try to help people have a better week every day and this week I am going to include myself.

The boys and I wish you an excellent week and help you do something kind for yourself. If you get your own version of the itchy-fights, remember to do what you need to do to be good to yourself. We believe in you!

(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!