Archive for the ‘Penny and Dodger’ Category

Do you ever feel like you just can’t please anyone, let alone everyone?

When you’re juggling a small family on your own, someone is generally mad at you, which is even better when none of your family members can communicate verbally.  Yes, all three of my children have their own means of getting things across to me; sometimes it’s very clear what want, sometimes it’s a bit of a guessing game.

And sometimes, the way my little darlings choose to communicate with me, is the problem.

Take, for instance, my son’s most favorite means of verbal communication: the scream. Ear piercing, glass shaking, dogs running screaming.

One would assume for such a scream to emerge from my lovely little boy, that something is wrong, very wrong.  One would be wrong.

Typically the scream is reserved horribly frustrating instructions, such as “no more kitty videos” or “stop eating dog food”.  We also get screams for closed doors that can’t be opened, food that doesn’t come fast enough, nap times.  Less frequently, we get the same screams for moments of joy: playing ball with Dodger, getting chased by Mama, finding Mama in the water closet (my personal favorite).

The dogs are not quite as vocal as my son.  That doesn’t mean they don’t bark (boy do they bark!), it just means they don’t bark at me.  No, my dogs choose to communicate with me mostly telepathically, with some facial movements thrown in.

Penny’s second surgery has made my pretty girl even more depressed, especially being penned nearly 100% of the time.  Currently, her favorite means of communication is just staring at me with her big doe eyes and arching her eyebrows up and down.  I ask her if she needs to go potty and her eyebrows go up.  I pat her on the head, scratch her tummy and her eyebrows go up.  I offer her food and her eyebrows go up.  It’s awesome.

Dodger is no better.  Because he’s also dealing with various health issues (an ear infection and allergies) he can’t decide if my approach means affection or medication.  My poor guy spends most of his day with his head half bent towards me, ears almost all the way back, and tail wagging but very close to his body.  He is so confused! I try to communicate to him my love by giving him kisses and ear scratches, but all my efforts are ruined when I administer ear drops and he looks at me as if I have broken his heart.

Oh, I’m a mean, mean mommy.


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Parenthood is a very long lesson in practicing patience, but apparently it’s a lesson for everyone in the house, including the dogs.

From the day Baby C came home, Dodger has lived in a near constant state of duality: intense curiosity spiked with nervousness.

Dodger loves to follow C around the house, watching as the chaos grows around them.  Dodger happily sits beneath C’s high chair waiting for “accidents” over the side of the tray.  He appears to love nothing more than licking every available square inch of C’s baby skin (and, sometimes, clothes, though that’s more for the food than the love).

Yet, under this obvious curiosity and adoration, Dodger has always been nervous around C, especially should that little baby’s attention suddenly become focused on his furry brother.  Dodger has spent the last 13 months scurrying away from pinching, sticky fingers; “dodging” C’s attempts to hug or pet should the affection turn painful.

Penny, despite her every day nervous personality, has been the soul of patience and motherly indulgence since Baby C arrived.  She has let her little brother climb all over her, use her as a step stool, and allowed her tail, paws, ears, lips, and fur to be pulled.  Penny sits patiently as C pulls chew bones from her mouth and then watches as he waves it in front of her.  She patiently, painstakingly attempts to take it back as C shoves it into her nose.

Penny even plays games with C, patiently waiting about 10 months until he was able to join in the fun.  She chases him up and down the hallways, nipping his diaper or socks.  Should C stumble and fall, Penny quickly rounds on him, licking his hands or cheeks until he can get up and resume the game, all amid squeals of delight.

Or at least Penny did all this, until she had her first surgery about a month ago.  Since then she’s been laid up either in pain, or forced isolation (as she is desperate to run and jump with her brothers).  In her absence, Dodger has taken up the patience mantle.

Suddenly, my nervous Nellie is practicing the patience Penny made look easy.  Yes, Dodger’s sloppy kisses are a little more ferocious than Penny’s gentle licks.  Yes, if Dodger tires of C’s pulls and pinches, Dodger quickly resorts to forceful licking to get C away from him.

But none of this wipes out the fact that just a few days ago, I rounded the corner into the kitchen to find my boys sitting on the rug, C lightly biting Dodger’s tail and Dodger just staring up at me with sad, patient eyes.

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There are many differences between my babies, the most obvious being their different species, but no less important is Baby C’s thumbs.  Of all the gifts humanity has bestowed on C, the dogs most envy his moving digits which can lead the way to the dogs’ dearest wish: freedom!

Now C’s ability to grip can be a source of pain for the dogs, often literally.  C alternately tortures them with his kung fu grip on their ears and tails or by chasing them with hard, but brightly colored plastic objects in his hands.

Recently this behavior has escalated to include an object in each hand, which C clanks together in an adorable and somewhat menacing manner.  He sometimes laughs manically while doing this, which honestly scares the crap out of Dodger. Poor Dodger can be spotted running away from C several times a day as C charges the poor dog with various toys and Dodger scampers out of the way in a panic as if C had a gun or a metal wrench instead of a bumblebee maraca.

Yet, C’s opposable thumbs do have an upside for the dogs.  Penny is fond of the fact that C can hold food in his hands, which she is happy to relieve him of (though she is less pleased that he can take food from their bowls).

Both dogs are intrigued by C’s grip on tennis balls.  His hands are large enough to grip and throw the balls now, though he seems to prefer chasing Dodger with the ball held in one hand while the other hand is held out to fend off unwanted licking.  If he is close enough to one of the dogs, C holds the ball out near dog’s mouth.

Actually, C attempts to force the ball into dog’s mouth, most often Dodger’s mouth.  Poor Dodger isn’t exactly sure how to react.  Every instinct he has is telling him to grab the ball from C and run, but that means putting teeth on bare baby skin, something Dodger does not want to do.  So Dodger turns his head this way and that, trying to find the best position to take the ball from C’s vulnerable little hand, all the while trying to avoid getting a tennis ball in the eye or being punched in the nose by it.  He bites one way, then releases, then bites a different way and releases, maybe tugging the ball a little so it’s not quite surrounded by flesh.  You can see the eagerness in his eyes grow with each attempt.  He is trying so hard not to bite the baby, but he really REALLY WANTS THAT BALL!  Finally, Dodger works the ball out of C’s hand, immediately backing away, tossing his head in triumph.  Mission accomplished!

But the dogs’ favorite trick C performs with his magic thumbs is opening doors.  C, usually running, rushes up to the door and grabs the long silver handle in his hand.  Penny doesn’t move yet, but you can see her eyebrows arch up, ears twitching.  Dodger eagerly rushes up to stand just behind C.  With each of C’s attempts, you can watch the hope rise and fall on his little black furry face.  Finally, C turns the handle enough, the latch pulls back audibly.  Suddenly Penny is shoulder to shoulder with Dodger as they urge C to open the door.  You can almost hear them chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”  and at last the door opens.  And as C pulls the door back, all my babies rush out, the joy palpable in the air they leave behind.

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Because my dog, Penny, is neurotic, as is her mother, recovery looks like it will be a painfully long and stressful process.

Although physically healing well, I’m afraid that the surgery has upset Penny’s delicate mental balance.  She spent most of yesterday struggling to find a comfortable, safe spot to recover in, which apparently does not exist.  Penny furiously debated between spending time with me or hiding from me.

If I took her outside to potty, Penny did her best to run from me on her three good legs and hide in the flower bed, as she did when she was a puppy.  But if I left her alone inside, lying in her comfortable bed, she quickly rose to follow me whenever I left the room.

I spent much of the day running to her, mostly to keep her stationary, as it was obvious how excruciating her pain was every time Penny rose from her bed.

I honestly don’t know what to do to keep her still other than to lay on top of her, which I nearly did.  I actually spent most of the day sitting next to her, applying ice packs and rubbing her back.  That was not always enough to make her feel safe, obviously since at one point Penny got up and ran quickly away on three legs and hid under a bench.  I was tempted to drag her out and tie her to her dog bed, but I didn’t.  I let her lie under the bench, whimpering for seemingly hours, until I could coax her back into her own bed.

I thought this would be a good thing, an end to the crying.  Oh no, it was not.  Penny spent most of the night crying in her bed.  Only stopping when I lay on the floor next to her, slowly stoking her little paw.  I had hoped this would induce her to sleep.  And it did…eventually…somewhere around 4am.

So if someone has a store of tranquilizer darts they would like to share with me, I can assure you I am very discreet.  No one will know where I got them.  And if you happen to have any Valium for me, I’ll take that too.

I promise I’m the soul of discretion.  I swear.  Just hand over the drugs.

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Today’s post is in honor of Penny Lane, my 5 year old boxer-shepherd mix.  Her knee injury and surgery have had  me thinking (and worrying) a lot about my first dog, who in all honesty has been like my first child.  So here’s a nod to how much she has meant to me.

We adopted Penny Lane from a shelter when she was just over a year old.  The alternating abuse and neglect was painfully obvious on her starved body and nervous behavior.  She was so frightened the day we brought her home that she tried to hide from us and sleep behind a bush in the garden.  Granted, it had been an extremely hard day as Penny had been “fixed”, sick, and moved around by strangers.  I couldn’t blame her for wanting to hide, to just be left alone.  I had been there too.

In fact, I had been there all too often.  As many of you know, I was diagnosed with Depression as a teenager and spent many years battling the mental illness as I struggled under its oppressive weight.  I fought to find out who I was as someone with a mental illness, as someone who depended on medication to maintain a steady emotional state, and what that all meant for my identity as a young woman.

I rebelled against my illness (and my medication) all too often in my early 20s, not wanting to be defined by a disease or dependent on medication to be “normal”.  I indulged in alcohol and an often reckless lifestyle to self-medicate or just to feel ok for a few hours.  Nothing worked like my medication, but still I refused to take it regularly, causing me to plummet into the dark reaches of depression.

The fall after we adopted Penny I decided that I didn’t need to take my medication, yet again, as I was living with my fiance, in my own home, with a steady job.  Why did it need to take a pill when everything was fine and stable?  I abandoned the medication and therapy regimen, cocky in my happiness and current mental health.

What I failed to take into consideration was that though my work was steady, it was by no means making me happy.  In truth, I hated it.  I hated teaching my sophomore and senior English classes, despite my love of all things literature.  I hated looking into the vacuous eyes of the seniors who had checked out before the year had even begun; or into the cocky, bratty faces of my sophomores who were oh-so confident of their knowledge and place in the world.  I hated practically begging them to do their work, to pay attention.  I had been teaching for three years at this point and I had known by the end of my student teaching that I didn’t want to teach, and yet, I did.

The stress of working at an all-consuming job, like teaching, and dreading every single day is hard enough for those without mental illnesses.  For those struggling to maintain an emotional balance, the effect is devastating.  And in the end, it devastated me, sending me into a complete breakdown, forcing me to leave my position at the semester.  It was an awful, heart-wrenching decision but ultimately it was taken out of my hands when I couldn’t face another day without breaking into tears.

As I recovered from my breakdown, which was a long and arduous process which included returning to therapy and my drug regimen, I looked for things to normalize me.  I found Penny.

On the darkest days of my depression, Penny would lay beside me in bed, nuzzling me, licking my tear-stained face.  When I was so hurting that I could barely step outside, Penny was happy just to lay on the warm grass in the backyard as I sat, numb, staring  into the blue sky.

Yet, I knew it wasn’t fair to keep her locked up with me as I struggled to return to a normal existence.  I need that I had to take care of my Penny as she had taken care of me.  So that thought drove me into the sunshine or the rain, forcing me out of the house to walk Penny everyday.  And just that one effort, that one single act, pushed me to other acts of re-emerging.  We went to the store or to the park.

And when I say “we” I literally mean “we”.  In those early days when I was as tender as a sunburn, I took Penny with me everywhere, whether by foot or by car. She functioned as a kind of security blanket.  And yet, I knew that Penny’s own scarred existence depending on my love and company just as much, healing her as she healed me.  Often for that reason alone, that Penny needed me as much as I needed her, I kept moving forward, moving towards healing.

Miraculously, my recovery was just a few months, whereas in the past, severe depression had languished within me for six months, even up to a year.  I know with all my heart and all my soul that my recovery is due to Penny.  And I know, quite literally, she saved my life from being something far worse than it was.  Penny Lane gave me love and with that, she gave me peace of mind.

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The title is borrowed from The Amazing Mumford seen here:

The Amazing MumfordThe Amazing Mumford using magic to demonstrate the wonders of addition and subtraction.  The magic of math is truly astounding (I wish I’d paid closer attention as a child and maybe I would struggle with math so much)!

So why am I bringing this up, other than my apparent obsession with all things Sesame Street?  Well, Baby C has taken to carrying things around with him as he walks; typically long stick like objects: foam baseball bats, tv remotes, wrapping paper cylinders, drum sticks.

The last, in particular, is somewhat worrisome as the drum sticks are pretty dangerous.  C’s toy drumsticks are hard colored plastic styled to look like caterpillars:

Drumstick or weapon? You decide.

While they are cute, clever toys, these drumsticks also scare the crap out of the dogs as C wildly waves it around as he walks by them.  And given C’s propensity to “hug” the dogs several times a day (which is actually him just running into them with his arms out), these drumsticks often function as weapons more often than they are actually hit on a drum.

I’m sure C doesn’t mean to cause harm, but when the dogs flee from him as he waves his drumstick in the air, C thinks it’s a game and squeals in delight, chasing after them, swinging his toy with even greater ferocity.  I usually intercede before drumstick meets fur, but I can’t help laughing as all my “children” engage in a game of chase.

When not chasing the dogs or hitting the walls with his drumstick, C waves it around as he walks, looking like a miniature wizard more than anything.  I, for one, have been trying to get him to say “A La Peanut Butter Sandwiches” when he does this (an unreasonable request, but it would be funny none the less). However, certain members of my family have different ideas as to what the little wizard should say.

Apparently my sister’s boyfriend, AVP, would like Baby C to be an evil wizard.  The first “spell” AVP tried to get C to say was “Avada Kedavra”, which (if you know your Harry Potter) is the killing curse.  What made this even funnier is the evil, husky voice AVP adopted when saying “Avada Kedavra” to C.

My sister was mortified!

You’re teaching him the killing curse??!?!? Why don’t you teach him something different? EG said, outraged.

Ok. C say “Crucio”. –AVP

That’s not better! You’re teaching him to torture someone.  How about something nice, like “Lumos”? –EG

I only remember the bad ones.  C say “Septum Spectra”. –AVP

NO! What is wrong with you?!?!?  He doesn’t need to know the bad spells.  Stop teaching him those. –EG

Snicker, snicker. –AVP

I was likewise outraged that AVP would think to teach my son the evil, torturous, murderous curses before teaching him the nice ones.  My initial reaction was one of shock!  I’m serious! I was shocked when AVP said “Avada Kedavra” to C!  That’s the killing curse!  He shouldn’t know that!

Once the initial shock wore off I began to realize we were all having a conversation about fictional spells and curses as if they were real!  Why should I be shocked if C knows the make-believe words used in an alternate reality to kill someone?  I don’t know why, but I was.  I understand rationally that there is no such person as Harry Potter, Hogwarts does not exist, and magic, if real, is utterly lost to most of humanity.  Still, that I (and my sister) would react so violently to those two words really says something about us and our imaginations (or maybe our tenuous grip on reality).

I’m still going to try to teach C to say “A La Peanut Butter Sandwiches” because it’s a heck of a lot nicer, even if magic doesn’t exist.  Call me crazy, but I don’t want to hear those evil curses come out of my son’s mouth.  It’s just not right.

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Because drinking water regularly is a necessity for healthy pets, our house has two water bowls: one upstairs in the master bath on the floor and one downstairs in the kitchen on a stand.  Baby C believes both of these have been strategically placed for his personal amusement.

C has never been shy around water, languishing in the bath long after the water has lost its warmth.  In fact, early on he started showing interest in all types of water, whether it was to be found in my water bottle (which he likes to carry around with him) or running from the faucet (which he likes to run his fingers under).  Anywhere water is to be found, you can probably find C nearby.

Thus the problem of the water bowl.  I don’t mind him carrying my water bottle around like his own personal canteen, but I definitely have a problem with C using the dogs’ water bowls as his own personal wading pool.  Or should I say, splash pool?

C not only enjoys placing his little hands in the water, pushing around the bottom of the bowl, he recently discovered the joys of splashing.  He slaps a chubby palm on to the top of the water and receives a satisfying “SPLAT” and a squirt of water in return.  It’s the perfect entertainment….for him….The dogs are less than thrilled with the situation.

The main problem, aside from the fact that C is putting his dirty hands into the dogs’ clean drinking water (or should I be worried that the dogs’ bowl is dirtying his hands?  I’m not sure which is worse, so I’m upset at both options), is that C is particularly drawn to the bowls when the dogs happen to be drinking out of them.

Poor Penny and Dodger will be bending over to take a peaceful drink of cool clean water, unsuspecting of any small boys lurking behind them, when WHAM! C slams a hand into the water and the dog gets a face full.  The pitifully wet dog starts backward, shocked at this event (despite the fact it’s a regular occurence).  C happily plops down next to the bowl, splishing and splashing.

If the affronted dog dares to come back for a drink after C has commandeered the bowl, C has no problem physically pushing their face away from the water’s surface.  The dogs then look at me in what I interpret to be disbelief, as if to say “Mooooom! He won’t let us drink out of OUR bowl.  What are you going to do about it?” (imagine that in the whiny voice of a put-upon older sibling).

So why don’t I stop C from doing this?  Surely it’s not hygienic?!?

It probably isn’t and I do try to stop him.  C has learned I mean no when I tell him not to play with Daddy’s electronics or not to eat dirt, but for whatever reason, no matter how many times I say “No. No, C. No!  Stop!! C!!! NO!!!!” it makes no difference.  And as he’s too young for time-outs and I’m not going to spank, I’m at a loss as to what to do.  Generally each episode ends with me physically lifting him away from the dog bowl, shaking his wet arms like the dog he longs to be.  I think patience is my only recourse.  Now if only I could teach the dogs patience, or maybe how to splash C back!

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