Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nope, no drama here

Yesterday, I was having a great time alternately tossing Peanut and Loaf onto the couch. One would stand, I'd pick her up and toss her (gently) back onto the couch, causing fits of giggles. Then the other would stand up and I'd do the same.

This went on for a few minutes until I accidently scraped the side of Peanut's thigh with my fingernail upon the toss.

She landed, and instead of giggling, rubbed her leg.

"Ow, you scraped me," she said.

"Oh my gosh, honey, I am so sorry," I said, stooping to examine the injury. There was nothing - not even the faintest red mark. "I think it looks fine, honey, really. There's not even a mark. But I am really sorry."

Still rubbing her leg Peanut said, "It's OK, Mommy. I can still walk on it."

Well, thank goodness for that.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No good choices

For years, prior to buying our house, Mark and I coveted a dog. Because we both like bigger breeds, our living situations (apartments or urban settings with no yard) had prohibited it. We’d sit around talking about the possible breeds (Rottweiler? Great Dane? Golden? Greyhound?) envisioning games of fetch and long walks in the park. In time, we agreed on a Rhodesian Ridgeback and as soon as we settled into our home, we began our search in earnest.

In June 2001, we met George through the Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Organization’s New York contact. He was 5 and, we were told, “not good” with other dogs, but otherwise “a big mush.”

He came to our house for an afternoon and we fell in love. At 120 pounds, he was big for the breed, and somewhat aloof (classic Ridgeback), but after sniffing us both he came over and gave us a lean, which is his way of saying, “I think you’re cool, now pet me.”

A week later, Mark picked him up and he moved in permanently.

But the relationship wasn’t as blissful as we imagined. He was not just “not good” with other dogs. In reality, he turned vicious—lunging and snarling—at the mere sight of them. He didn’t listen and rarely came when called. He couldn’t walk on a leash and he stole food off counters or tables. He was skittish and nervous and panted anxiously whenever we took him anywhere new.

We blamed his previous owners for failing him by not socializing or training him properly. More so, he seemed afraid a lot of the time. He’d cower if we raised our voice. We wondered if he’d been abused in his previous home and decided minimally he’d been neglected.

A month after he came to us, he growled and snapped at me when I tried to pry an emery board he was chewing out of his mouth. Startled, I contacted the Rescue Organization’s contact who told me George was just trying to find his place in his new “pack.” She e-mailed me some exercises to do with him, such as feeding him by hand and making him wait for food, along with the name of some local trainers.

I worked diligently with him on the exercises, and things got better, but for one reason or another, we never contacted the trainer. And this is where we began to fail him.

George’s behavior was unsteady. The vast majority of the time he was good-natured and mellow, choosing to lay around the house and looking up at us with his big, sweet, chocolate brown eyes when walked into the room and thumping his tail on his bed. Mark and I called him our third couch because he was just a big, lazy, tranquil guy who laid around dreaming most of the day.

We had a lot of fun too. Before we had kids, Mark and I took him to the beach one warm December day and the three of us ran up and over huge mountains of sand. The memory of that day lingers as one of the happiest of my adult life.

Our cat, Oscar, would sit on George's bed - smack in the middle - forcing George to curl up far to one side with his butt hanging off.

And there was no where - absolutely no where - he'd rather be than laying with his massive head in Mark's lap while he slipped into a deep, happy sleep.

But other times, his Alpha nature shone through. He’d literally push us out of the way trying to get in the door first. He’d snatch food right out of your hand if he had the chance and every now and then there would be a growling incident because one of us was trying to make him do something he didn’t want to do.

I gradually came to mistrust him and when Peanut was born I told Mark flat out that if he ever bit her, I’d have him out of the house before the sun went down.

When the girls were babies, I watched them like hawks around George. I feared one of them would crawl over and try to pull up on him, or fall on his bed and he’d bite them. In my active imagination it was always a terrible bite to the face with blood and stitches and permanent scars. Fear kept me motivated and they were never left alone in the room with him.

But as time went on and they got more in control of their movements, I relaxed. It became a non-issue because in all honesty, neither Peanut nor Loaf paid any attention to George. His reputation as a big couch held firm. He bored them and they ignored him for the most part, which was fine with me.

Two weeks ago yesterday, I was working at home and had to participate in a conference call with a client. Mark wasn’t home, so I put in a video. With the kids entranced on the couch, I retreated to the dining room to take my call. I could see them, but I was also furiously taking notes.

The call went long and apparently Loaf got bored and decided to get off the couch. I don’t know what happened exactly, but suddenly I heard a fierce bark/growl followed by horrible, panicked loud crying.

“I have to go,” I said calmly to my client. “I think my dog just bit my child.” As I clicked the off button on the phone I could barely hear my client saying, “GO! GO!”

I ran into the next room, heart in my throat, remembering all of my visions about shredded cheeks and stitches and blood.

Scooping her up, I carefully examined her face. Red and stained with tears, but otherwise fine, I squeezed her tightly to my chest and brought her into the kitchen so I could sit her on the counter and look her over more thoroughly.

I immediately found the ring of teeth marks on the outside of her elbow. Seeing the raised, purple, angry-looking marks, I began to sob right along with her. The guilt, the horror, the panic of the whole thing came flooding in, along with enormous relief. The skin isn’t even broken. It could have been worse. So much worse. We were lucky.

Since then, George has been sequestered dawn until dusk. The last two weeks have been a series of agonizing discussions and deliberations in my house. What to do? What to do?

My own words echoed in my head: If he ever bites her, I’ll have him out of the house before the sun goes down.

In reality, it wasn’t so easy.

We debated all our options. I called five different rescue organizations (no one called me back). I sent e-mails to every dog lover I know. We debated whether George, already neurotic from being abandoned by one family, could survive being given up again. We thought long and hard about possible ways to keep him sequestered every day, all day in our home.

But in the end the same questions kept haunting us: What if? What if he jumps the gate that we’d been using to keep him in the bedroom? What if we forget to put him away one time? What if one of the kids climbs the gate to get to him? What if he bites again? What if next time we aren’t as lucky? How would we ever live with ourselves?

In the end, we decided to take his life peacefully, on our terms. It was not easy, opting to euthanize a healthy dog, even an 11-year-old dog with a belligerent streak.

There is guilt.

A lot of it.

And tears.


I have euthanized many animals in my life, all of them very sick and/or very old. This feels different. It’s not as black and white as it should be. I mean, George bit my child – the child who above all I am committed to protecting. This should have been clear-cut.

But it wasn’t. Because I keep coming back to how every master, us included, have failed George in some way. By not being hard enough, firm enough and at times loving enough. By not training him and guiding him. By not teaching him. By being too tough sometimes and not tough enough others. George never really got a fair shake in life.

Don’t get me wrong. I think he had a happy life here. I know he felt deep affection - and he gave it back to us. He had love and food, water and shelter, play time and lots of walks. But without the training and guidance to learn his place, the rest proved to be pretty inconsequential.

I hope wherever George is now that he’s happy and safe. I hope there are no thunderstorms or leashes, but rather lots of sunny spots to lay in and a bowl always full of fresh meat. Above all, I hope he finally gets a home where he is given the guidance he needs to show his caregivers what a wonderful, amazing, loving, special dog he is and can be. Always.





Monday, July 23, 2007

Mommy, why don't we have a hot tub?*




*Actual question posed to me by Peanut during a party at a friend's house, where there happened to be a very nice hot tub.

Actual answer provided: Go ask your father.


No spoilers!

So I’m reading the new Harry Potter book. Unlike the legions of fans who picked up their book in the wee hours of Saturday morning and finished it by the time they poured their morning coffee, I have only reached page 158.

I am desperately DESPERATELY trying to avoid spoilers so that I can discover the story on my own, but that is proving to be quite a challenge.

Yesterday at a family gathering, my brother-in-law, upon learning I’d started the book on the car ride to the party (don’t worry, I was in the passenger seat), became desperate to tell me the last three words of the book.

I know how it ends! I know! Want to know what the last three words are? Want to? I can tell you how it ends.

I literally threatened to kick him in the balls if he spilled and I was only partly joking. Even with his manhood threatened by my platform espadrilles, he still pushed the issue until I walked out of the room with my fingers jammed several inches into my ears.

Then, while listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, they chime in with a segment that starts giving away key plot points. On NPR! What the fuck?

The story started innocently enough with a recap of the reporter’s two-and-a-half hour wait behind 1,400 other people to buy the book Saturday morning. Then he reads the opening paragraph followed by, “On page 72, (insert plot point here)”, at which point I smacked the “off” button my radio whilst uttering several choice swear words.

I know the release of the book is a huge media event and I know I’m a slacker compared to the thousands of people who already finished the book. In all likelihood, I won’t finish until later this week given everything on my plate for the next few days.

But why do people feel the need to spoil it for those of us who didn’t have the whole weekend to lounge around reading? Do they just like to look like know-it-alls? Is there some type of superiority thing about bursting someone else’s bubble? Were they not held or cuddled enough as children? Or maybe they're just plain mean?

I don’t know the answers, but I’m starting to think I have to go into a total media blackout until I finish it: no newspapers, no TV, no Web. So if anything really big happens like a government coup or an earthquake that lops off Cape Cod or something, can someone please call me? I probably won’t be answering the phone either, but I’ll try to check my messages in between chapters.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Because that's the way it is (and other answers to life's great mysteries)

I like to think of myself as a patient person. OK, maybe not always. I have been known to get a little testy when the idiot in front of me on the Parkway inadvertently goes through the Easy Pass lane even though he/she clearly knows he/she does NOT have Easy Pass, and then instead of just continuing on when the sign says “Call Easy Pass” he/she just sits there looking around like a big dope and probably trying to decide whether the sign means call Easy Pass RIGHT NOW or later. (FYI, stupid, they mean later).

But really, otherwise, I’m pretty patient.

That patience however, is being severely tested. You see, Peanut has entered the part of pre-school development known as the curiosity phase, or as I like to call it, follow up ever single statement anyone makes with, “Why?”

Why are we going to the gym?
Why do I have to put my shoes on?
Why is the sun shining?
Why is it not raining today?
Why do I have buttons on my shirt?
Why are we out of milk?

And on and on and on.

I thought that we’d skipped over this phase. My niece went through it when she was two and in the limited hours I spent with her during this phase, she drove me completely insane. I remember sitting at her house one day, exhausted of hearing her wee little voice ask “why” every .9 seconds, wondering how my sister-in-law got through the day without walking out the door, getting in her car and simply driving off whilst leaving my sweet little niece standing at the door asking, “Mommy, why are you leaving? Why? WHY?”

I was also quite smug.

My kid never did that, I thought gleefully. It must be that she’s so brilliant she doesn't need to ask about this stuff.

Well, I’m not so smug now.

I really don’t mind legit scientific questions that stem from curiosity like, why do bees like flowers, or, why is moon bigger some nights than others? I enjoy answering those questions and when I don’t know the answer, it’s fun to take her over to the computer and Google the answer together.

It’s the inane, I-already-know the-answer-but-I’m-going-to-ask-the-question-anyway questions that make me looney.

Like this recent exchange upon turning down a road:

Peanut: Why are we going this way?
Me: Because the other way takes us farther away from home and this way takes us closer.
Peanut: Why?
Me: Because our house is in this direction. This is the way our house is.
Peanut: Why?
Me: Because that’s just where it was built.
Peanut: Why?

::insert sound of me smacking head against steering wheel::

It also drives me crazy when “why” comes right after something I’ve already explained like:

Me: It’s raining today, so you have to wear your raincoat.
Peanut: Why?
Me: Why do you think?
Peanut: Because it’s raining.


I know I should probably have more patience for this, but I just don’t. I start out each day enthusiastically, but by 11 a.m. the constant onslaught of whys have worn me down. I find myself providing answers like, “Because that’s just the way it is,” or, “Because that’s what I said earlier.” UGH. Bad Mommy.

After a couple of days in a row, I start actually looking forward to going to work where, despite the mix of personalities and issues I encounter there I can at least be assured no one is going to ask me (for the third time) why I’m adding milk to my cereal or why I turned my computer on.

And the good news is? I get to go through it all over again with Loaf someday.


Just because. That's why.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

How to make a mess with an Aquadoodle

Anyone who has kids is undoubtedly familiar with the Aquadoodle:


But just in case you don't own this much-loved toy, it consists of a big white canvasy floor mat and a bunch of felt pens that you fill with water. When you write on the mat with the pens, they make nice blue marks. Within a few minutes, the drawings dry and fade away. It truly is the world's easiest, most convenient and utterly mess-free art toy.

Unless it's in Loaf's room.

Because Loaf? Is not happy until she has found a way to make a mess with everything. Today, while playing in her room, she took off her diaper. She then proceeded to sit her naked butt in the center of the Aquadoodle. When I checked her a few minutes later, she was sitting in the middle of a gigantic, huge, blue spot.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened here. Ugh.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Turn up the volume

Sometimes in life you run into things that are so pure, so heartbreakingly beautiful, that the world around you seems to stop and you are powerless to do anything but sit, watch and listen in a state of total childlike wonder.

Behold Connie:


Monday, July 09, 2007

Blogging slacker, life attacker

I know, I know.

I’ve been a huge blogging slacker lately. But that’s only because life has been crazy. I’m in the middle of a huge project at work that started gearing up the last week of June. Then, we went to Massachusetts and had a really fun family picnic the last weekend in June. Last week, was just a zoo with lots of work deadlines, personal obligations and a planned trip to the Bronx Zoo (and let’s not forget July 4th crammed right in the middle).

The zoo last Friday was really great (though I frantically checked e-mail on my PDA every 45 minutes). Fun? Not. Fortunately, I have a great group of coworkers who handled things so I could have a relatively work-free day with my family.

I do have more to write about, but it has to wait. For now, here are a few pictures from the zoo. And if you live anywhere near the Bronx, you should go. It’s well worth the trip.

The first thing we saw was a family of ordinary ducks. The kids loved them. All day, whether we were looking at giraffes or gorillas or a big, hungry tiger, all they wanted to know was, “can we go feed the ducks again?”

Feeding ducks at the Bronx zoo

They both really liked comparing the size of their hand to that of a western lowland gorilla.

Peanut's hand compared to that of a western lowland gorilla

Loaf comparing her hand to a gorilla's

Gorilla. This photo is not as dramatic as it looks. She’s just yawning. ☺

Western lowland gorillas at the Bronx Zoo

In the Butterfly Garden. They both loved this.
Peanut at the Butterfly Garden in the Bronx Zoo

Loaf in the Butterfly Garden

Butterflies feeding on fruit. Why do I envision Peanut running around our yard from now on with a dish of watermelon?

Butterflies feeding on fruit at the Bronx Zoo's Butterfly Garden

This peacock was very curious and tame and came right up to the fence. Looking for food no doubt, but the girls loved it.

One peacock peeking

Three critters communing

A very hungry tiger waiting for his 3:30 feeding. He was pacing inches from the glass and then finally sat down to wait a few feet away. Truly awesome.

Tiger waiting to be fed at the Bronx Zoo

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