What I did not know about being a dog owner

Bella Red Coat

Look at this face!

Have I ever told you about how I adopted our dog?  Well, over the last year-and-a-twirly-whirly-half I became a Girl Scout leader!  Fun right?  Well…. kind of – we’ll talk about that  in another post.  So, there is an event at the beginning of every calendar year called, “Cookie Kick-Off”.  This event is the beginning of cookie selling season for Girl Scouts of America.  The cookie season only lasts a few months, so its a big deal.  In any case, thousands of girl scouts get together in stadium arenas all over the country.  Ours is held at Allstate Arena in IL.  There are concerts, cookie booth competitions, cookie recipe tastings, shopping, games, ice skating and hockey.  It is quite an event.  This past year, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and NW Indiana also conducted an official contest with the Guiness Book of World Records to officially count the most people simultaneously dunking a cookie in milk.  We broke the record!  Huzzah!  In any case, I digress – my point is that there is a lot going on at this event.  Additionally, there are two animal shelters with pop-up adoption sites in the arena.  So, last year, we attended with a small group of daisy scouts (the youngest girl scouts).  When we walked in, my husband knew we were done for.  He knew immediately we were coming home with a dog.  Some kind of a dog.  Admittedly, I had been pining for a dog.  We tried various adoption sites.  Some of which were too expensive.  Some of which seemed as if they would rather keep the dog themselves.  We eventually gave up.   And then this.  These puppies!!  All amongst the girl scouts shouting and reaching and the adults grabbing for adoption forms as if we were in a bidding war for the cutest dog!!  It was fast-paced and intimidating!  By the end of the evening I had applied for 3 dogs.  I was wait-listed for 1, outbid by 1 and turned down for 1 (because we have a cat).  I was defeated.  I headed back to by seat for the Girl Scout hockey game in this giant arena when I got a phone call!  The wait-listed dog was up for adoption!  The first person in line for her adoption was turned down and I was next!  I was so excited!!  Down all the stadium stairs I ran, past all the hot dog vendors and ice cream dot stands.  I saw a little white doggie with a pink nose just terrified of all the noise and commotion.  That was my dog.  I was so overcome I had tears in my eyes.  I completed all the paperwork and put her little coat on her and attached her leash.  I couldn’t stop admiring her sweet white and pink face.  I called my husband on the phone, still in the stands.  He gathered up the other girl scouts and brought the car around.  He looked unsure about the sweet dog.  It was chilly and there were snow flurries hitting our faces as we piled into the SUV with the pup.  As we headed away from the arena, my husband says, “That’s a pitbull you know…”.  I scratched her little pointy ears wondering what kind of a monster crops dog ears and absent-mindedly said, “What?  It is not”.  “It is”, he said, “its a staffordshire terrier – a pitbull”.  The little daisy scouts shrank back in their seats a little bit.  We were all silent.  Could we return her?  Would she eat us?  I had no idea what to do!  I felt like I had gotten wrapped up in some kind of an animal whirlwhind that was now dying down and this was what now sat beside me.

She seemed harmless enough.  At the moment anyway.  We discussed names and came up with “Bella”.  Short for Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter books.  Sweet and scary we thought.  It seemed to fit her.  We made a pit stop at a Petsmart for a crate and dog food and then headed home to drop off the scouts.

For a long time Bella did not make a sound at all.  We weren’t sure she could.  Three months after living with us, we heard her bark for the first time!  A sound!  Oh and it was loud and deep.  A strong bark.  It took probably 6 months for us all to adjust to one another.  We learned that Bella liked other dogs and played well with them – but did occasionally bite softly.  She liked the cats and 1 of the cats decided she was ok if she was not going to be eaten for dinner.  The other cat decided he was too old and set in his ways and no way was he going to be bathed by a dog.  (That’s still true by the way, but they do now lounge together on occasion.)

Bella and George the Cat

Bella and George the Cat

Later in the year, we had a family emergency and without enough time to find a proper dog sitter, we took her with us and drove 16 hours to visit family in the south.  We learned she was a lovely travel companion!  She loves car rides and seeing new sites.  She met her dog “cousins” and discovered her soul-playmate, a little pipsqueek named Cleo.

Bella and Cleo

Bella and Cleo

I wasn’t sure how “attached” I was, even 6 months after we adopted Bella.  We traveled with her, bought her cute canine clothes and took her to the “fancy vet” because she has a lingering medical condition due to the way she was treated prior to the animal rescue.  One morning last fall, I was in such a hurry getting my children to school.  I am always in a hurry it seems, but I was definitely having one of those days.  I forgot to put Bella in her crate before I took the children to school.  When I came home, I saw her empty crate and realized my mistake – but I couldn’t find her.  I looked everywhere.  The yard, the garage, the basement, the kids’ rooms…. and then I went in my bedroom to flop down on the bed in dismay and there was a fair sized lump under our white comforter.  There was a little pink and brown nose that peeked out as I came further into the room.  There she was!  I was so relieved!  I didn’t realize how attached I had become!  I was in near hysterics because I thought we had lost our “scary breed” hockey-rescue-dog with a medical condition.  From that moment on, for me at least, she was *my* dog.  She was *our* family dog.  There is not even one thing you can tell me about “pitbulls” or more correctly, staffordshire terriers now that would make me afraid of my own dog.  Bella now earns her keep so-to-speak.  She comes to sit on my feet if I’m working in the kitchen, she barks if someone is standing on our porch – and thank goodness too because I don’t hear well.  I appreciate the extra home protection because my husband often travels.  She is gentle with my children and does not chase the cats.  She has settled into her life with us – Halloween costumes and all, and we have settled into our life with her.  What I did not know is that “Rescue” is my favorite breed.  #Rescues #StaffordshireTerriers #Pitbulls

Bella is a Cup o' Joe

Bella is a Cup o’ Joe

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So, I’m talking to my cat…

 

cat-s-face-1553769

I worry.

A lot.  I worry about everything.  My kids.  My family.  The new condo building going up down the street from the elementary school.  Politics.  Whether or not my children actually remember their manners when they are away from me.  (!!!)  Bless their hearts we try hard.  And sometimes I worry about myself.

I asked my cat to brush his teeth the other morning and I swear, I thought that was the end.  I was sure my mind was going.  You see, I am always trying new organizational techniques to try to find something that will help us get out the door, teach good habits and keep the children up with their chores, activities and homework.  Plus – we have 1 ASD child and one 5-year-old, just to mix it up good.  We’ve tried charts with stars, time outs (Who does this work for??  My children think its fun!), checklists and good ol’fashioned hollering.  I think I have found something that seems to work for me though (for now)…. I made the children little schedule sheets for morning, afternoon and bedtime.  They are all different according to responsibilities and age.  They change every week, so that the chores change and on days where the children have activities after school the times are more like “guidelines”.

Example:  

A’s Afternoon Schedule

4:00 PM Snack, Homework, Put away laundry,
Shower

6:00 PM Dinner

6:30 PM chore: Take Recycling Out

7:00 PM Freetime

They have to follow each sheet before any free time of any kind and I only give 1 reminder with a 10-minute time allowance to fix their chore, homework, etc.  If the timer goes off, they then choose one of two possible consequences for their infraction.  Now that I’m writing it out it sounds a  little complicated, but really its very simple and it has cut down on my shouting at the children to do every little thing.  The timer does most of the work.  It either goes off and the work is done.  Or it goes off and the child chooses their consequence.  (I don’t give a consequence if they’re working on it when the timer goes off.)  Anyway.  It was day 2 of our new chore/work system and was going pretty well and I was giving Mr. M a first reminder about brushing his teeth and I just couldn’t find him.  The children run all over the house in the morning like little chickens and I dunno, I looked and the first face that I saw at about the height where Mr. M would be was George, our cat, so I said, “Go brush your teeth!”.  George glared at me in disgust and curled up again on his chair in the kitchen.

sleeping-cat-1401266

G was there!  It was odd.  He said, “I don’t think that’s something cats do honey”.  I thought well, that was it.  It was a nice run, but the marbles are ready to roll.  I’m a few colors short of a crayon box.  Since then, I’ve made up with George and we’ve discussed how I shouldn’t expect him to brush his teeth and he wanted to know if he could have more canned food.  I said no.  (Ok, maybe he didn’t say that – but he was thinking it.  I could tell.)  I’ve chalked my missing marbles up to a lack of coffee and not getting out of bed earlier.  A constant problem for me.  Oy vey.  I’ve even had my doctor tell me that my “disorganized brain” is due to being with several young children all day, every day and that over time, as they get older, my brain processes should return (hopefully) to normal.  There is actually a medical term for it, I can’t remember it at the moment.  (Ha!)  There really is though.  Its an inability to go completely from one thought to the next because of constant  and repetitive interruption.  I have actually gotten better, but obviously, re: my conversations with George the cat, not back to normal.  In the meantime, it helps to have an understanding pet.

Be Fierce.  Organize those children!  Holler at the babies less!  Talk to your pets!

#IamAFierceMom

Kelly