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.

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)

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)

Baby Battle (#205)

My parents procreated like rabbits. Then they got divorced and procreated some more. Given that having children is pretty much the worst thing a regular person – not an Exxon Executive or a Donald Trump – can do to the environment, I figured someone in my family owed it to Mother Earth to NOT have children.

There was just one problem. My husband wanted a kid. Continue reading Baby Battle (#205)

Little Latchkey Kids (#200)

You know what’s weird about walking dogs? Everyone talks to you. Not just dog-lovers and dog owners, either. People who shouldn’t even be talking to you suddenly become your best friends.

Wait a minute, thinks some judgy reader. (You know who you are.) What kind of elitist are you, Autumn? Which people shouldn’t be talking to you?

Chill, judgy reader. I’m talking about children. Continue reading Little Latchkey Kids (#200)

Poop & Poison (#197)

You know what’s great about having dogs? Especially big dogs?

I can walk any time without fear. If I’m restless (or pissed at my in-laws) at 10 PM, I grab my dogs’ leashes and away we go. When I’m flanked by 70-90 pounds of dog flesh, people will cross the street to avoid me.

You know what’s not great about having two big dogs when walking 6 miles a day?

Poop. Continue reading Poop & Poison (#197)

The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Being an Amazonian brunette sandwiched between prettier, blonder, more petite sisters sucks. More than one guy ditched me after meeting my sisters.

Take the Boy Next Door. I pined after him for the entirety of seventh grade. He finally asked me to the last dance before school ended. Then Older Sister, who lived with Dad (I lived with our Mom) came for the summer. The Boy Next Door told me we were done, because he was in love with Older Sister. Continue reading The Boyfriend Thieves (#194)

Dirt (#190)

My husband is particular about his dirt.

Andy in the garden. With beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, kale, and chard.

Andy has a strawberry patch, a greenhouse, and several gardens. The dirt has to be just right for each. He tested our vegetable garden’s acidity and found it wanting. Andy added bone meal. Now our tomatoes never rot on the vine. He deemed the soil in our Southern California neighborhood too sandy and started compost piles to reduce our vegetable waste to richer, more microbe-laden dirt.

When he ordered worms (and special dirt for the worms), I protested, saying we already had TWO compost piles. Continue reading Dirt (#190)