When Baby Met Dogs (#261)

We had two three-year-old rescue dogs and two old rescue cats when Baby D was born. Even though the dogs were well-trained (mostly), you never know how your pets are going to react to babies.

Well, in one case we knew. Beowoof (Woofie for short) loved everyone and everything. Especially kids and puppies. The greatest day of Woofie’s life was the day he escaped and went to Science class at the local middle school.  Half the kids were on their desks, shrieking, but, as usual, Woofie was convinced everyone loved him.

Woofie had been waiting for his own boy forever. He was gonna be thrilled…as soon as the kid was big enough to play.

I expected Bat Cat and Commando Cat to be utterly indifferent until Baby D was old enough to terrorize them.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

My biggest worry was Fey. Fey was half-Chinese Shar-pei, half German-Shepherd. She grew up on the streets of South Central Los Angeles, never sure where her next meal would come from. She warned Woofie off her food when she first arrived, though she did learn to share toys and bully sticks. Fey believed her job was to guard her yard from skateboarders, her mortal enemy the street sweeper, and even human would-be burglars. She was very good at her job.

Fey never bit humans, but she held the gas meter man at bay more than once, barking until I arrived and told her it was okay. Occasionally, she’d issue a soft, warning growl when a human she didn’t know tried to pet her. And although she behaved well with the schoolchildren who hung out on our front steps, Fey only adored a handful of humans.

What would Fey do with a baby?

While I languished in the hospital for days after my emergency C-section, Andy snuck home Baby D’s used swaddling blankets to get the dogs used to baby’s smell. Fey got in two sniffs before Woofie seized the blanket and tried to convince Andy to play tug-o-war.

When Baby D came home, both dogs were very interested. For about five seconds. Then Fey returned to guarding her yard while Woofie begged for tummy rubs.

The cats were more curious. As soon as they discovered Baby D was basically a miniature heating pad, they snuggled up next to him and purred.

Until they discovered the heating pad could turn into miniature banshee, screeching in frustration if he didn’t get enough food. They bolted for their actual heating pad.

Woofie was impervious to Baby D the banshee.

Fey was not. The night five-day-old Baby D went ballistic, Fey appeared next the rocker where I tried in vain to calm the crying baby. Frustrated and crying myself, I found Fey at my side, ears flatly submissive, staring at me.

“Go to bed, Fey,” I sniffled. “Go to bed.”

Fey did not go to bed.

She stayed with me for the next hour or two, until we figured out that yes, our newborn really needed three ounces of formula in addition to breastfeeding. Not until Baby D quit crying did Fey go back to bed.

So it went for the next few months. If Baby D howled at night for more than a few minutes, Fey appeared at my elbow, her eyes big and pleading. She never barked or growled. She never lay down, either. She just sat.

“What do you think she’s doing?” I asked Andy. “Is she worried about the baby?”

Andy shook his head. “I dunno. She always sits with you. Even if I take Baby D.”

I thought of Fey’s imploring eyes, and how her tiny ears were always pulled back. “Oh my God. It’s me. It’s always when I’m angry and frustrated. It’s like she’s coming in all submissive, in order to placate me. ‘Don’t kill the baby, Mom! I know he’s not behaving, but I am! Look, look how submissive I am!’”

From then on, every time Fey came and sat next to me with her worried eyes, I told her, “Don’t worry, Fey. I won’t kill the baby.”

Fey’s presence was helpful. She distracted me from seemingly overwhelming emotions. Her submissive pose always reminded me that I was sending out angry vibes that were impacting others.

Baby D couldn’t tell me that.

Luckily, he had a canine big sister looking out for him.

A very tolerant Fey and Baby D a few months later.

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.

Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”

Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.

“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.

Continue reading New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

When I was a little girl, my mother organized caroling and a party on Christmas Eve. We sang our way around the block in Washington D.C. We were met with universal delight. Those were magical times

My Ex-Stepmother carried on the tradition in the suburbs of D.C. and then New England.

Until I dated a guy from rural Tennessee over the holiday season, I never thought some people might find caroling…odd.

Continue reading The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

A Night Schooling #(228)

When my husband and I decided to live near a school, we expected kids and traffic. We definitely got kids and traffic, twice a day for about a half-hour.

We also got a huge, empty field that our big dogs could cavort on at 6 AM on the weekends. The school was almost never locked, and no one else was up at that hour. I brought a chucker. The dogs had a blast chasing the ball, each other, and birds.

But there’s a problem with an unlocked school. Continue reading A Night Schooling #(228)

Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Some people shouldn’t have pets. Take my family. I had anywhere from 3-7 siblings when I was growing up. There’s no way a parent will notice a listless cat needs a vet visit when they don’t even know that child #2 has a chipped ankle because they’re busy bandaging the road rash of child #4, dragged an entire block by the dog they never had the time to train. Eventually, the ill-trained dog will be sent to the local doggie death center. The children will cry. The dog will be replaced by a bunny. Raccoons will eat the rabbit because it was left outside.

Welcome to the circle of life, suburban edition. Continue reading Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Football vs. Furry Friend (#211)

I grew up in Washington, D.C., on football, in a football town. The Vice-Principal of my Junior High was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Every time Dallas played D.C., he’d get on the PA system before the game and taunt the student body, telling us how Dallas would win the next game. We’d respond by singing (yelling), “Fight on, fight on, till you have won/ Sons of Washington” at him in the hallways. Continue reading Football vs. Furry Friend (#211)