Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

Excuses, excuses

OK, so I’ve been missing in action since October 24th.  I think I have some  pretty good excuses though.

Excuse # 1. We adopted two new puppies.  Yes, we were suckers and adopted the brother and sister because I didn’t have the heart to leave just one.  I know the other would have been adopted pretty quickly, but their cute little faces and furry bodies threw reason out the window.  Two puppies create a lot of extra work:

– There are the 4 am bathroom visits outside which my wonderful husband has taken over (I figure I’m due after all the middle of the night feedings he couldn’t accommodate because he didn’t have the right stuff).

– It takes me way longer to get dressed for work when there are two puppies licking my freshly showered toes.

– School work is often put to the side for a nice cuddle with a furry monster, a game of tug-o-war, or  watching them wrestle with a giant pillow or there hide & attack games.

– Even though my husband is the one who gets out of bed at 4 am, I still wake up and it takes a while to fall back to sleep. My late night blog writing sessions have been replaced by conking out by 9:30.

Excuse # 2:  I am a Kindergarten teacher and it was late October which means I had the horribly nasty cold I get every year complete with no voice.  Of course my hoarseness made it really fun and easy to explain what a “gravelly voice” meant as I read one of our Core stories, “The Jumping Mouse.”

Excuse # 3: On October 22nd, I learned how to crochet and now I’m hooked (ha ha ha).  A friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and I wanted to learn how to make a hat for her.  So here is what I made for my friend:

And now that I finished the scarf and the hat, I have started a blanket for my nephew-to-be.  I have until January, but I had no idea how long it would take me to finish a blanket so I started early.

Excuse # 4: I am an over-achieving Kindergarten teacher with two active boys of my own who have lots of homework, music lessons, and other after school activities.

Excuse # 5:  I didn’t have anything to say.  Nothing was compelling me to write.

So after three weeks of not having anything to write, I just started to write. And voila (and no I don’t know how to add the accent over the a nor which way it would go)! I wrote something.  Sure it’s one of the silliest posts I ever wrote full of lame excuses. But I wrote something, and that is truly the purpose of my blog – to write.

Happy writing everyone!


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I thought I was a cat person…

I never thought of myself as a dog person.  I always thought I was a cat person. We had a cat for most of my childhood.  Within a month of moving into our new house in the country, my mom found a mouse in the house. After sleeping with a broom by her bed, she decided we needed a cat to catch the mice. Of course when we got Sunday, he wasn’t much bigger than the mouse. Yes, his name was Sunday.  We adopted him on a Sunday. Very original, I know.  Well, I was only 7. Sunday was a nice cat who tolerated being dressed up in doll clothes and pushed around in the doll carriage (sort of).  I wish I had a picture to upload, but they’re all in sticky old albums in my mother’s basement. Sunday died of kitty leukemia when I was in high school.

My mother and sister adopted another cat, Chester, during my freshman year in college.  Since I was only home for summers and moved to Connecticut pretty soon after graduation, Chester never felt like my cat.  He belonged to my mom and my sister.

I happened to marry a dog person and once we moved into a house he kept mentioning how nice it would be to have a dog. We had a big problem though.  I am seriously allergic to dogs. I’m allergic to cats too, but the reaction is not as severe because I grew up with a cat in the house.  Plus, I endured 10 years of allergy shots as a kid and that included one for our feline friend. Cats make my nose a little itchy and I might sneeze a bit more than usual.  Dogs trigger my asthma.  It’s not good.  I get to the point where I cannot breathe and my inhaler does nothing.

We learned that certain breeds produce less dander and therefore do not trigger my asthma – poodles and other dogs with hair not fur. Our neighbors had a shih tzu (a hair dog) named Scooter.  They were going out of town one Christmas and asked if we could dog-sit. We thought this would be a good test for my allergies. Scooter was old and had stinky breath, but he did not trigger my asthma.

The following May we adopted Maddie, the sweetest black and white shih tzu ever. We had Maddie for thirteen years.  Because my husband worked from home when we first got her, Maddie bonded with him.  He was her person. Sure she loved me and eventually the boys when they came along, but she was 100% my husband’s dog. He took it very hard when we lost Maddie last June. He was devastated.

After we lost Maddie, I missed her terribly. I couldn’t believe she was gone. I couldn’t believe how much I missed this little dog who would drive me crazy!  I would have given anything to have her underfoot while I made dinner or on top of me while I was trying to work. All summer I saw other dogs and waves of sadness would overwhelm me. There was a Maddie sized hole in my heart.

Once we had our school year routine established, I began to feel lonely in the mornings – lonely for a canine companion. I only teach in the afternoon and most mornings I would be home with Maddie. After years of saying, Well, I’m more of a cat person, I had become a dog person.

My husband wasn’t ready for a new dog yet, but I was. I was more than ready. Little by little I began researching breeders online to find a new dog. Unfortunately there weren’t many shih tzu puppies available – that’s the problem with needing a pure bred dog.  You can’t just go down to the pound and adopt someone.

I found a pet store in the area that works directly with breeders. I asked a friend of mine who is a vet if she knew anything about this particular pet store.  She said the puppies she has seen from this pet store have been healthy and she could tell me which stores to avoid. I called the store and found out that they would be getting shih tzu puppies from a breeder that Tuesday.

George and Gracie

Well, apparently the hole that Maddie left in our hearts was so big it took TWO puppies to fill it!

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August Angst

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"

Hello August,

You snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking, August. I was enjoying my summer. You didn’t have to come so early, I haven’t been idle. I’ve read 14 books. I traveled to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. I swam in the Atlantic with my boys and some wave-loving harbor seals. I made a lot of Cool Whip pies. I visited with friends and family. I mourned the loss of my dog. So why do you have to come now?

It seems like just yesterday it was June. I’ve barely finished unpacking. I’m just beginning to settle back into our summer routine at home. And now you’re here. Oh, August please just wait another week?

Now that you’re here the search for school supplies begins – the perfect notebook, the cheapest markers, and jumbo sized book socks (whatever happened to brown paper bags?). New clothes and shoes must be bought and arguments over what’s appropriate for school will be fought. Registering for after school activities becomes overwhelming – how to get one child here and one child there? Oh, and I think I missed the deadline for soccer. It’s not my fault – August you came too soon!

My baby’s going to middle school. Can he really be that old already? I remember when he was starting Kindergarten. How have six years flown by? See, August – I’m not ready for you yet.

My classroom has a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. But unless I master wingardium leviosa my enormous book collection will take some time to reshelve. And the games. And the puzzles. And the flash cards (why do I have so many flash cards?). My desk is a mess. I can’t find my markers, but I have to write my students’ names five billion times in perfect Zaner-Bloser print. On felt, clothespins, sentence strips, name cards, envelopes, folders and these cute little dog bone cut-outs. The empty spaces in my plan book haunt me at night.  All because of you August.

I have five different To Do lists and they all seem to grow exponentially. My anxiety is rising. Insomnia hovers over my bed at night. Books and papers completely cover my coffee table. Please August. Just one more week.

I promise I’ll come quietly after that. I’ll welcome you with a smile on my face, a cheery new classroom and freshly sharpened pencils. Pinky swear!


A Kindergarten teacher who truly loves her job but can’t believe how fast time flies

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An awkward pose

I took this picture of Maddie right before we left for the airport on June 20th. This is the last picture we have of her at home. She’s lying on her special pillow pet. We didn’t buy it for her, but she made it hers. She looks awkward because she didn’t really know where she was. I placed her there for the picture. From here we went to Boston and…

Well, you can read the whole story in my earlier post.

Tomorrow the boys and I fly home. We have had fun this summer despite the sorrow. We’ve visited with friends and lots of family. We’ve gone sailing, swimming, seen movies and been tourists in New York City.

We make this trip every summer and after five weeks away I’m usually anxious to go home. Not this year. I want to go home, I do – sleep in my own bed, take a shower in my own shower and see my husband, who flew home last Tuesday.

But tomorrow we will leave this bittersweet vacation that began with our dog, yet did not end with her. Tomorrow I will walk in the door of our home and Maddie will not be lying on her pillow pet. And I will be as sad as I was on the afternoon of June 21st. The reality of our dogless home will wash over me. And it will suck.

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Not at all like last summer

Sometimes it feels like last summer when we left Maddie with a friend rather than travel for a month with a blind dog.

Sometimes it feels like last summer because Maddie isn’t with us this summer either. Just like last summer we’ve been busy with friends and family. But then I remember it’s not last summer. When I remember it feels as if someone threw a sucker punch at me and I can’t breathe. I see a shih tzu walking in town and I think of her. I see the box of ashes in my closet and I think of her. I receive a note of condolence from the vet and I think of her. And I remember, Maddie isn’t with us anymore.  It’s not last summer.

Today I had to call the airline and cancel her reservation for the flight back home. At first this action was just something on my  To Do List – call the airline. I was fine. Then I explained why our dog who flew to Boston with us on June 20th would not be going home with us later this month and I lost it. I completely lost it. Maddie isn’t coming home. It’s not at all like last summer.

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Best dog in the world

     was 2.7 pounds when we adopted her
     fit in the palm of my hand when we took her home
     would steal our socks off our feet by tugging at them when she wanted to play
     didn’t really bark
     hated when she had bows on her ears after being groomed
     would shiver when she was cold but refuse to wear her sweater
     would wriggle out of her sweater if we actually got it on her
     loved the boys from the time they were born
     would sit close to whomever was holding the baby – watching over them
     stole Obi’s binky and would walk around with it in her mouth
     jumped into the basket of the stroller so we wouldn’t forget her on the walk
     liked to sit in the carseat when it was on the floor
     jumped into the swing and the high chair at different times
     loved to pose for pictures with the boys
     would kiss the babies
     would eat all the food the boys dropped on the floor
     stole dirty tissues which she would eat (ick)
     tackled bones bigger than she
     loved to make her toys squeak
     hated the water but could swim (we checked)
     loved to run on the beach as far as she could go
     dug under Ron’s chair on the beach to sit in the shade
     walked parallel to us above the waterline as we strolled the beach
     loved the ivy in my mother-in-law’s yard on Nantucket
     wouldn’t eat until everyone was in bed at night
     waited by the door for Charlie to come home
     loved to frolic in the snow
     hated super cold weather
     never bit anyone
     loved to sit on Charlie’s shoulder when he was on the couch – like a parrot
     loved to go on walks
     would run to the door if you jingled her leash
     threw up 3 times on the trip to Martha’s Vineyard when I threw up 5
     was so excited when we got home we’d have to go outside because she’d pee
     HATED baths
     occasionally tried to venture out on her own down the street
     put Levi in his place when we were in New Hampshire
     shared her sun patch with Milo the cat, but at a distance
     loved bacon treats but not the crunchy treats
     ‘s tail would curl up on her back when she was happiest
     asked permission before stealing Lou’s apple
     would eat any food or snacks left in my bag
     attacked Snoopy
     licked the remains of an ice cream tub
     did not like Bonnie at all
     loved Grandmama and Malissa
     brought me a cracker as I recuperated from a night out with Charlie & Alvaro
     took the chocolate chip cookies on the table and buried them outside
     buried her pig’s ears outside
     slowly went blind
     learned to maneuver around the house despite being blind
     whined when she needed to jump off the bed or the couch
     would jump off the bed or couch when you said, “JUMP!”
     would only bark when someone was at the door
     would tilt her head to the side with the cutest look on her face
     had the softest fur
     liked to stick her head out the window when riding in the car
     preferred to sit on Charlie’s lap in the car than on the other seat
     traveled to California, Arizona, Texas, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts
     was a trooper on our hike in Evergreen when we got lost and soaked in the rain
     sailed over night on Lou’s boat and didn’t go to the bathroom for 24 hours
     tolerated Buster when he would visit
     did not understand how to play fetch
     would chase after flies by the living room window, kill them, and eat them
     chomped on popcorn
     wouldn’t leave the kids alone when they were eating popcorn during a movie
     mooched oranges
     loved sunflower seeds
     could eat an entire apple over the course of a few days
     liked to eat carrots and broccoli
     LOVED cheese
     could eat the cheese around her medicine and spit out the pill
     waited in front of the oven when dinner was done
     tried to get the Valentine’s treats and got stuck in the top of a shoe box
     hid in the downstairs bathroom cabinet
     was very funny when I made her mime “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
     hated to go to the groomer
     hated going to the vet
     knew we were at the vet’s or the groomer’s before we’d get out of the car
     was always awesome in her carrier on the plane,
     (except for the one time we flew to Nantucket on a prop plane)
     was terrified of woodpeckers – she’d run to the other end of the house
     would jump all over Charlie licking him if you said, “where’s the daddy?”
     loved to sit in a sun patch on the carpet or the couch
     had her own bed but rarely slept in it
     could be found sleeping in the laundry basket
     buried herself in the depths of our closet upstairs
     burrowed in the mess of the office closet
     would hide somewhere and not come out making us all frantic
     occasionally got stuck under the deck on Nantucket
     played with the big dogs on Nantucket & ran back to us when they got rough
     liked to sleep on top of a pillow on the couch
     would mush up against you when sitting on the couch
     loved Charlie more than anyone else
     learned to lick me only on the tip of my nose or on my hands
     would lick Charlie all over the face
     slept under the covers when it was really cold
     went into the shower with Charlie a few times (even though she hated water)
     always seemed to know when I was talking to Charlie on the phone
     couldn’t be more loving and cuddly
     was the sweetest dog around
     was absolutely adorable
     was the best dog in the world!

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Flip flops and Mary Janes

I learned to tie my shoes when  I was about five years old.  We lived in an apartment in the Bronx and my mother had spent all morning trying to get me to tie my shoes.  I couldn’t do it.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t tie my shoes!  The way I remember it, I gave up and in a fit of frustration my mother stormed out of the apartment.  I was terrified.  Where did she go?  When would she come back?

So this is what really happened – my mother left me to my temper tantrum, went next door to ask our neighbors something, and came back within five minutes.  As my mother told her version of the story, I asked her why it was so important for me to learn how to tie my shoes.  Her response, “They wouldn’t let you go to Kindergarten at St. Mary’s if you couldn’t tie your shoes!”

Determining whether or not a child is ready for Kindergarten based on their shoe-tying ability is not really fair in 2011.  Most parents, myself included, purchase shoes for our children without laces.  My classroom is filled with flip flops, Crocs, Cars shaped Crocs, sandals, sneakers, boots, and my favorite – the Mary Janes with velcro.  Not only do our children not have to learn how to tie shoes, they don’t even have to learn how to use a buckle!  By St. Mary’s criteria, only one or two of my students would be considered ready to enter Kindergarten each year.


Besides determining whether or not my future students are ready for Kindergarten (and subsequently first grade), I think about being ready all the time.  Perhaps it’s a function of my OCD tendencies – I obsess over minute details ensuring that I am prepared for  all possibilities.  Perhaps I was a boy scout in a former life.  Whatever the reason, it seems that most of my life is spent getting ready for something.  Getting ready to go.   Getting ready for bed.  Getting ready for school.  Getting ready for college.  Getting ready for the exam.  Getting ready for the performance.  Getting ready for a trip.  Getting ready for the holidays.  Getting ready for work.  Getting ready for the wedding.  Getting ready for the baby.  Getting the kids ready.

But no matter how much time and effort I put in to getting ready, life is more like a game of Hide & Seek – ready or not here I come!

We weren’t ready to lose our dog this week.  It was supposed to be just a routine dental procedure.  Maddie woke up from the procedure and was never the same again.  Her physical life with us ended on Tuesday, but her mental life ended last Thursday when she never fully recovered from the anesthesia.  I am truly grateful that we had that time with her.  In a way we were getting ready to let her go completely.  We could snuggle with her, pet her, kiss her, and just be with her.  Yes, it was painful to hear her whimper and cry during those sleepless nights, but it would have been so much harder if she never woke up from the anesthesia.  We wouldn’t have been able to say good-bye.

I took care of all the details.  I signed the paperwork.  I paid the doctor’s bills.  I arranged for the ashes to be delivered to us.  I called our vet at home to tell her the sad news.  I baked the clay paw print the vet made in her office.  I put away her collar, her leash, and all her medications so we’re not surprised by them.  I did this all for my husband, because he could not.  We all loved Maddie, but she was truly his dog – like Snoopy and Charlie Brown.  As sad as I am, I know he is even more so.  I think a part of my sadness is for him.  I never truly felt those words, “I am sorry for your loss,” as much as I do right now.  I am always sorry when someone loses a family member or a friend.  But the sadness I feel for my husband right now overshadows the loss I feel for Maddie.

There is a piece missing from our family right now, but I won’t be getting ready to fill that missing piece.  Time will eventually make the missing piece feel a little smaller and we will get another dog.  The new puppy won’t fill in Maddie’s piece, but carve a new one into our family circle.

Despite my OCD tendencies, life is going to happen whether I am ready or not.  I can’t avoid any parts the way I avoided shoes with laces for my boys.   Perhaps I need a little retail therapy today – a pair of pink, sparkly Mary Janes with velcro straps seem to be calling me (just don’t tell Sister S. from St. Mary’s).

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