This Part Sucks

Today, we returned our third CCI puppy for Advanced Training. After seventeen months with us, we’ve given her back with the tremendous hope that she eventually graduates and changes someone’s life. We know that what we’re doing is good and worthy and helpful and all that jazz… but right now? It hurts a helluva lot.

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Jambi in her hilariously adorable matriculation cape – see the yellow tassels?

Everywhere we go with our CCI pups, someone we meet says the same thing: “I could never do that because I could never give a dog away.” Everywhere we go, someone asks the same question: “Isn’t it hard to give the dogs back?”

The answer is yes. Yes, it is hard. It’s enormously hard. You grow more than a little attached to a dog that has been a part of your family for almost a year and a half, a puppy you got at 8 weeks old, a pal and sidekick who went absolutely everyplace with you. It isn’t quite the same as when a pet dies, but yes – saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy.

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One last hug before she was on her way…

Today at matriculation/graduation, I noticed that another puppy raiser was wearing a homemade pin/button made out of Scrabble tiles. It read: This Part Sucks. I teared up and laughed at the same time, turning to her with an emphatic, “Damn straight”

So, therefore, we come to the other question that someone asks us everywhere we bring our dogs: “How can you do this?” That answer to that is easy.

We do this because of the little girl today – eight years old, maybe – who received her dog at graduation. When the Lab who would change her life walked across the stage to greet her, the girl’s face lit up brightly enough to be seen in the very back row, and she threw her arms in the air with ecstatic jubilation.

We do this because of the woman today – in her sixties, maybe – who received her dog, the one that will help her now that she’s had a stroke. But before this? The woman raised FIFTEEN puppies for CCI. Now, she has finally received her own assistance dog. Funny, how the world turns, isn’t it?

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Poor, long-suffering Jambi…

We do this because of the man today – in his forties, maybe – who proudly walked across the stage to greet his dog using his cane instead of his wheelchair. His wife said that even though he and his dog had only been together for a few days, already her husband was more confident, more secure, stronger.

We do this because of the parents today who said that their hope – now that their children had assistance dogs – was that people would approach their previously isolated sons and daughters more readily and they could make new friends. We do this because of the dog who will be working in a crisis shelter, providing comfort and much-needed joy to victims of domestic violence.

We do this because we get to have an adorable bundle of puppyness live with us for over a year. We get to snuggle with this bundle, receive kisses from this bundle, and scratch this bundle behind its ridiculously soft ears. We get to bring this bundle with us absolutely everywhere – to restaurants, on airplanes, to movies, to the grocery store, to the girls’ classrooms – and spread the word about what an incredible organization s/he’s training for.

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Chillin’ with her best bud, Langston, and our other dog, Joey, the night before we left.

We do this because we get to bone up on our obedience training skills. With each dog, we learn more about how to be good dog owners and caretakers and – we hope – to become better each time around. We do this because we get to work with all sorts of teachers and dog sitters, and to introduce them to the world of service dog training.

We do this because we want Ella and Annie to grow up learning what it means to be responsible for raising a pet – feeding, walking, training, keeping healthy. They get to experience the unconditional love that only a dog can give. We do this because they get to learn how to give back to others, even when it’s difficult. We do this so that they can understand that the world is bigger than what they see around them and that they are so very fortunate to have the lives that we live. We do this to show them how important it is to help those in need. We do this to show them that this is what life’s really all about.

We do this because it makes us feel incredibly good. No matter how our days have gone, no matter what mistakes we’ve made, no matter what we haven’t yet accomplished, at the end of the day when we’re raising a service dog puppy, we can know that at least we have done something right. Some good has come out of each and every day that our pups are with us, because there is the chance that these little furballs will change someone’s life for the better, forever.

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Proudly wearing their Jambi the Zombie t-shirts immediately before turn-in.

We do this because, when all is said and done, that’s really why we’re on this planet in the first place: to love, to laugh, to learn, to find joy, to spread joy, and to help out whenever we can. Sometimes, doing so is easy. Other times, helping those in need is really, really hard. Giving back a dog that we’ve grown to love is miserable – but that doesn’t make it not worth doing. On the contrary, sometimes, the more difficult something is, the greater the return.

Jambi (which rhymes with zombie; this is important) was an absolute delight to raise. She was playful, gentle, loving, and unusually calm. She had patience beyond her years, a wonderfully sweet disposition, and was unflappable even when faced with the loudest, craziest situations (often involving our own children). She was so overjoyed to see us after we returned from being away – even if only for an hour – that her entire body wriggled with elation; we called her Wiggle Butt. She also earned the nickname of Miss Piggy because she had a habit of snuffling like a pig whenever something interested her. Jambi had the best cold, wet nose of any dog I’ve ever met. I really miss that cold, wet nose tonight.

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My constant companion for seventeen months…

We have no idea how she’ll do in Advanced Training (which is typically six months long); most pups do not make it all the way through to become service dogs because they need to be perfect, and perfection is a difficult standard for any of us to attain (even me). Jambi is pretty damn near perfect, but you just never know. For now, we’ll cross our fingers and hope like crazy – that she isn’t lonely or homesick, that she makes fast friends with her new kennel-mates, that her trainers adore her as much as we do, that we’ll get another puppy to raise soon, that Langston isn’t too depressed over her departure (this is a real fear for us – no, seriously), and that the rest of our hearts heal soon so that we can focus again on why we do this in the first place.

(Hint: it isn’t the abundance of dog fur all over our house.)

Most of all, we’re crossing our fingers and hoping like crazy that she makes it – that she’s just the right material to be a service dog and that she’s able to change someone’s life forever.

Well, someone else’s life, that is. She’s already changed ours.

We love you, Beast! Go on and wiggle your way into someone’s heart – and also learn to turn on lights and pick things up from the ground, too, while you’re at it. You were the very best; thank you so much for being our girl and for teaching us all that you did.
xoxo

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Note: We are always looking for people who would like to become CCI puppy raisers, especially in the Rochester area (we’re the only ones! Come on now!!). I know, I know… you think you can’t do it. You could never give up a dog. I’m here to tell you that, yeah. This part sucks. It really, really sucks. But when you see that graduate cross the stage with the dog that is finally allowing her to feel human, to be confident, to be independent… You know you could give up a dozen more pups to help other people lead happier, more fulfilling lives. This is the good stuff – why we’re here on this planet in the first place – I promise you. Won’t you consider it?

Dog Days

So. For a moment there, we thought we might have killed our black Lab, Langston. This dog loves, loves to run and fetch a ball, but we avoid doing so when the temps get too high because he seems to become overheated really quickly. This morning, I knew the front lawn needed to be mowed and, seeing that it was already warm and humid, wanted to get it done as early as possible. As such, I decided to skip my daily dog walk, but didn’t want Lang to get zero exercise, so I asked Nick if he’d throw the ball for our boy. He agreed.

At 9 a.m., it was hazily sunny and 77 degrees (“real feel” 82) with 60% humidity — warm, for sure, but not what either of us considered even remotely dangerous in terms of a short ball-throw. Still, they came inside less than five minutes later — which is not atypical, given, you know, that our pup is covered in a thick layer of black fur. Langston, as usual after a fetch session, was panting like a maniac, tongue lolling from his mouth, and he slurped up water like he’d never been hydrated before. All typical. We even joked – “Sorry that run was so short, dude, but we don’t want you to get heatstroke, hahaha.”

We started to go about our business – Nick on an errand, me to the front lawn – when Nick’s voice took on a different pitch as he said, “Uhhh, Em… It looks like Langston’s legs are shaking. I think he’s having trouble standing.” Indeed, he was, so we watched him more closely and saw, without question, that he was in some major distress: completely disoriented, walking into walls, staggering and stumbling, falling down to the ground. He didn’t seem to recognize his name and responded to none of our attempts to calm or communicate with him.

It didn’t take long to put two and two together to realize that, joking aside, Langston suffering from very real heatstroke — or, at the very least, he was so overheated, he couldn’t think (or stand) straight. We knew we had to cool him off, fast, and decided to guide him back outside so we could thoroughly wet him with the hose. The moment we helped him out the door, he began to wander through the lawn, with me running after him – and him becoming both confused and freaked out that a strange person (he really didn’t recognize me) was freakin’ chasing him – while he circled aimlessly (but fast; that boy can move) until I finally caught up with him and took a hold of his collar.

Worst game of tag ever.

At last, I led Lang to our front walk (cooler than the grass), where Nick soaked him with the hose… and then he collapsed in a heap. Still panting, still awake, but having no strength to hold himself up anymore. For the next twenty minutes, we ran the hose in a trickle under him, creating a cool puddle in which he could lounge, and drink, until gradually he seemed to be out of the danger zone: perking up when he heard his name, looking at us with brighter eyes (Hey – when did you guys get here?!), and thumping his tail in the puddle behind him, happily splashing us all.

When he finally reached “fine” — still hot and panting, but otherwise okay — we turned off the hose and brought him back inside; this time, he was able to walk in entirely on his own. After another half hour or so of resting, his breathing slowed to normal, his strength had returned, and he seems to be no worse for wear.

Nick and I, however – and our girls, who watched, terrified, from inside while we helped our boy get back to good – will not forget.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying:
Dog owners: please, please be super careful with your pups out in the heat. This may seem like a no-brainer – it certainly was for us (or so we thought) – but, as we learned, heat can cause trouble faster than you may realize.

It did not appear to be too hot. Langston did not run for any longer than he usually does. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary… and yet, it was too much for our boy.

Will we run him again this summer? Of course. He loves it, and we love watching him love it. But we will be more cautious. With that heavy fur coat, what seems “warm” to us can obviously be “omg sweltering” to dogs, and so even walking him – and our other pups –  around the neighborhood is going to be a careful, slow, water-filled endeavor.

I started to post this on my Facebook page, but decided to put it out here publicly hoping that if even one other person reads it and is a wee bit more careful with their dogs in these sticky, sunny days, it will be worth it. Or, heck, if even one person who has gone through a similar experience reads it and feels less alone, it will be worth it. ‘Cause it can happen to anyone, to any dog. Even ours. Even yours.

Dog Days of Summer, indeed.
Phew.

(Note: We did consider taking Lang to the vet, but knew it was most important to cool him down as quickly as possible, so we didn’t want to load him into a hot car for a 20 minute ride when he was already in obvious distress. As he began to cool down, we researched heatstroke in dogs and noticed that he was no longer exhibiting any of the danger signs, so it then seemed unnecessary to bring him in. We will, of course, keep an eye on him, and if anything changes, you can bet your ass he’ll be off… but for now, all is well.)

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Taken just ten minutes ago, with his happy tail wagging so quickly, it’s a blur beside him.

Puzzles and rabbits and cookies. OH MY.

Yesterday, the girls had a dentist appointment. When they both checked out clean and cavity-free, I (naturally) decided that we should all go to Starbucks to celebrate. Annie chose a vanilla milk and Ella a kiddie Frappuccino, to be consumed immediately, but I told them that they’d have to wait until after dinner to eat their Rice Krispie Treat (Ella) and fancy flower sugar cookie (Annie). Both agreed, spiriting away their treats to enjoy them for dessert.

While they ran amok and did homework, I tidied up around the house, most notably after Langston, who seems to be having problems again. I’m still not sure if he’s angry with us (we were out of town last week, so maybe he’s pissed?) or if he just can’t handle any kind of change (see again: out of town), but he’s been a bit of a pill lately. The Friday before we left for Kiawah, I came home to discover that he’d eaten a mango and an entire cantaloupe off of the counter; I knew, because the pulpy cantaloupe guts were littered all over his dog bed, soaking it so thoroughly with juice and grossness that cleaning it up seemed hopeless. Eventually, I gave up and just tossed the entire bed.

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Yesterday, I’d come home to a pile of puzzle pieces strewn all over the kitchen floor. See, they’d been in a plastic ziploc bag on the counter (they’d come in a box too large to be stored in the living room) – a bag that just might have contained something edible rather than crappy pieces of decorated cardboard. But, one never can tell simply by looking (or sniffing), so a thorough tear-through of the bag is necessary to confirm.
And the winner?

Bag: 0
Puzzle: 0
Langston: 0
Me: 0

WE ALL LOSE HERE.

I hadn’t had an opportunity to clean up the puzzle before taking the girls to the dentist, so I put Lang in the kennel while we were gone. When we returned, I decided to have a go at the picking-up whilst the girls ran amok and did homework (see above), so I sent the dogs outside to roam and not make an even bigger mess. After putting away the last piece (back into another plastic bag that will be stored elsewhere, thank you very much), I had just started to make dinner when I glanced out the windows into the yard and noticed that Langston was… eating?… something.

At the very least, he was chewing on something – a stray sock or a mitten were the most likely contenders – and I knew that I had to get outside quickly to haul him in before he ingested it and it got stuck in his intestines and he needed to be rushed to the vet and to have a million x-rays and then to have emergency surgery and, shit, we have a really busy weekend weekend, we do not have time for nonsense. I’ve learned from past ingestions, however, that if I startle or shame Lang, he will try to hide the evidence by scarfing it down even more quickly. Nope, not consuming a knee sock. *gulp* Empty mouth. Nothing to see here.

So I walked casually out the back door, letting the dogs know I was approaching, and called them to me in a breezy voice that definitely did not betray that I wanted Langston to drop whatever was in his mouth rightthisinstant. Normally, this works well, but this time Lang did not come. Instead, he dropped whatever was in his mouth, looked at it intensely, and then picked it up again. I caught a brief glimpse when it hit the ground and knew that this was no mitten; this was alive. I took long, determined strides toward him, panic creeping into my voice as I told him to DROP IT. LEAVE IT. DROP IT RIGHT NOW YOU JERK.

This, of course, prompted him to try to hide the evidence, and he did his damnedest to swallow the creature whole as fast as he could. I reached him just as his snout closed shut, so I had to literally pry it open with my fingers, with the… whatever it was… still resting between his jaws, un-swallowed, as I held his mouth open and shook the thing loose. After a moment or so, out slid a baby bunny, wet and slimy and horribly man doghandled, onto the new spring grass. The poor thing was still breathing slightly, but I knew there was no hope.

Lang had gone effing Watership Down right in the middle of the backyard, the a-hole.

Dumbfounded, I hustled him back inside as he threw furtive glances back toward the mangled bunny. I have to leave? But this was just getting fun! Not trusting him even one little bit with the dinner food on the counters, I made sure to usher him out of the kitchen and to close the gate behind me. After tending to the bunny (RIP, little hare), I made my way back inside to continue the dinner prep when I heard… something… crinkling?… in the living room.

As I swung open the gate and walked up the stairs, there stood Langston – barricaded from the kitchen, but quite happy – crinkling up a pink paper sack as he scarfed down the last remnants of Annie’s prized Starbucks fancy flower sugar cookie, which she had nestled on the living room chair.

Three for three, buddy. Way to go.

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New bed. Feeling shame. At least, he’d better be.

I didn’t touch him (save to guide him right back into the kennel), but I think I blew out my voice yelling at him. Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have a choir concert coming up. Or a speaking engagement. His misbehavior put me in a foul mood for the rest of the night, with even the girls apologizing to me for his indiscretions (I’m sorry that Langston was such a pain, mama! Do you think maybe you could smile a bit?).

Returning to work this week after preparing to be done has been hard for me. I still love the teaching part – I’m thrilled to be with the students for a longer period of time, and while I’m at school, I feel like I can accomplish anything – but I’m finding it more difficult to balance the rest of things when I’m not in school. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s just been hard for me.

And, apparently, for Langston too.

It was hard for Annie for a little while last night as well – after learning that Lang had eaten her special dessert – but it all worked out fine for her in the end. Because we also had brought home a flourless double chocolate chip cookie (for one gluten-free chocoholic mama), and after realizing that I had essentially ruined her dessert by foolishly placing Langston in the living room, I offered her my cookie. She tried to defer (“No, really Mama, it’s yours, you should eat it!”), but I insisted. She said it was delicious.

So, I got to clean up a 100 piece puzzle, bury a broken bunny, tend to a crumby mess in the living room, comfort my heartbroken child, AND THEN I DIDN’T EVEN GET TO EAT MY OWN DESSERT.

THAT’S FOUR FOR FOUR, JACKASS.

Sometime soon, maybe I’ll get some sleep and then maybe this dog nonsense won’t bother me so much. In the meantime, at least the girls have good teeth!

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I’m a good boy! Say I’m a good boy!
Wait, is that food?

 

 

 

Lightweight

I love my job – today, the periods were shortened to thirty minutes each (from the usual forty) because of the talent show, and when I reminded my seventh graders of this, one kiddo burst out, “Why is it that the best classes are shortened??” – and it’s been going really well. The logistics have been tricky, and I’m behind in basically every other area of my life, but it’s all been good and worth it.

With that said… great googly moogly, I am SO FREAKIN’ TIRED. There’s just too much to squeeze into each day, and, in order to actually spend a few moments with my children that don’t include screaming over hair-brushing or standing at the thresholds of their bedrooms and uttering some form of, “How is it possible to create such a huge mess in so little time?”,  I wind up doing the majority of the “extra” stuff after the girls go to bed. Which means that I, myself, routinely don’t manage to turn my own light off until at least 1:30 a.m.

I’m usually a morning person, but when that alarm goes off before 7:00 and it’s my fourth consecutive day getting only five hours of sleep, I’m do not have a wonderful feeling that everything is going my way, let me tell you.

I don’t nap. I don’t know why, but I just don’t. I realize that this is a foreign concept for many people (especially my husband), but, as appealing as the couch seems and as cozily as I nestle my head, napping simply doesn’t happen for me unless I’m coming down with some major illness. Or a man cold. Likewise, sleeping in a car or on a plane are out of reach for me, too, no matter how much green eggs and ham you throw in. And falling asleep while watching TV or reading a book? Fuggedaboudit. I am broken when it comes to sleeping anyplace other than my bed, or any time other than when I climb in for the night.

A few weeks ago, Nick asked if I’d like a glass of wine with dinner. I agreed, and then decided to throw caution to the wind and have a second with dessert. (I know, crazytown – but it was Friday night, so you’ll forgive me for really letting loose.) At bedtime, we decided to split up reading with the girls; Nick went to Ella’s room and I settled next to Annie as she opened up her latest Princess Posey tome. She began to read to me (thank God she now pronounces the heroine’s name correctly; she used to call her “Princess Pussy”), and I think I heard the first few words… but I’m not quite sure, because the next thing I remember, I was wiping drool off Annie’s pillow and trying to making up an excuse about how I’d been listening, I was just doing it with my eyes closed. When she finished the chapter and turned off the light, I kissed her goodnight as always… but then asked if she would mind if I just stayed put for awhile. I mean, I was already cozy and warm, and it’s been such a chilly winter…

I awoke around 9:30 p.m. and peeled myself out from underneath her covers. Instead of migrating to the living room to pull out my laptop, however (with hopes of editing some photos, or maybe laying out yearbook pages, or researching lessons, or writing plans, or answering emails, or any of the other myriad items on my To Do list), for the first time in… well, I honestly can’t remember, so it must have been forever… I trudged up to my own bedroom. Nick was already lounging on the bed – technically on my side – but, being so tired that I quite literally couldn’t keep my eyes open, I merely grunted a greeting his way and crawled into bed on his side, sound asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.

Good grief, two glasses of wine and I had passed out faster than free samples at Sam’s Club!

I awoke with a start – comically, like you see in the movies, practically sitting bolt upright from a dead sleep – when Nick (who had also nodded off) got up to use the bathroom, and it somehow registered inside that, Holy crap, I actually went to bed before midnight... and I accomplished NONE of what I needed to that night. Slightly panicked, I glanced at the clock – 1:30 a.m. (great balls of fire!, I’d been asleep for four hours?!) – as I realized that the dogs had not yet been let out for the night. In fact, if Nick and I both had dozed off (or, in my case, passed out cold), the dogs hadn’t been let out since… oh… 6 p.m. or so, and asking them to “hold it” until 9 a.m. was probably a bad idea.

It was then that it dawned on me that I was… damp...?… absolutely everywhere. Because, in my complete and utter exhaustion, I had gotten into bed wearing all of my clothes — including my thick socks, jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and a sweatshirt — and, after lying beneath the sheet, duvet, and comforter for four hours, I had basically sweated myself into oblivion. I managed to shake myself awake enough to remove my (damp) clothing, clean up a bit, and get into some pajamas, and then went downstairs to let the dogs out to do their business.

I did what I always do – open the sliding glass door in our playroom (which is otherwise closed all of the time) to let them romp straight into our backyard – and began to wake up slightly as the chilly night air snuck in. Joey came in almost immediately, as usual, and gobbled his treat as I tucked him into the kennel. Jambi returned shortly thereafter and wandered upstairs, but Langston… Sweet Jesus, y’all, that dog can pee. We are talking, I kid you not, three or four minutes straight and the stream still continues. It’s truly like nothing I’ve ever seen – where does he store all of this liquid? Is he a magician? A sorcerer? – and, quite frankly, sometimes I get bored and check back in with him later.

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Joey was all, Why the hell are you putting my in my kennel in the middle of the day? For a photograph?? Are you nuts? 

As Lang continued to pee… and pee… and pee... I remembered that the dishwasher needed to be run, so I went up to the kitchen and turned it on. While there, I was greeted by the many other things that I’d intended to do that night – tidying up the kitchen, going through the girls’ school folders, making juice for the morning – so I figured, hell, as long as I’m up, I might as well take care of this stuff, too!

Who knew that a four-hour nap can be so energizing?!

After about ten minutes, I heard Langston nosing around in the garage, so I let him in through the kitchen; he and Jambi went back upstairs to the bedroom to wait for me (and their treats). At last, my burst of energy faded, and – feeling satisfied that I’d finally checked off several To Dos – I settled into bed for good around 2:30 a.m. and slept straight through until the girls woke us at 8:30 the following morning.

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They don’t usually share a bed, but they’re cuter that way, no?

TEN, ladies and gentlemen. I got over TEN hours of sleep(!), which is almost double what I normally get, and, good grief, I felt like a new person. There was a spring in my step as I showered and got ready, then made my way downstairs around 9:00 to help the girls with breakfast.

Nick had already beat me down to let the dogs out, however, and was engaged in a lively… discussion… with Ella about some infraction that she, supposedly, had committed.

“Why would you have opened that door? You know you’re not supposed to use that door!”

“I didn’t open it, Daddy!”

“But it’s wide open! It’s freezing down here!”

“I didn’t open it, really. It must have been open when I came downstairs to play.”

“How on earth did it get open? Do you think Joey got out of his kennel and opened it?”

“No, that’s crazy. But I didn’t open it. I promise.”

“Well, if you didn’t open it, why didn’t you at least close it?”

“Because I didn’t know it was open.”

“You didn’t know it was open?? It’s ten degrees outside! This playroom is like ice! How did you think it got so cold down here?”

“I don’t know! I knew it was cold, but it’s always colder in the playroom because it’s near the basement, so I just thought it was regular cold.”

“IT’S TEN DEGREES OUTSIDE!! IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREEZING IN HERE!”

“I just thought it was normal!!”

And that is how I made a horrifying realization: my daughter’s sense of temperature is clearly warped.
And also… in my flurry of “accomplishments” the night before, while waiting for Langston to finish his epic pee, I had inadvertently left the sliding glass door open. All night. When it was ten degrees out.

Whoops.
On the bright side, at least no bugs got in!

I immediately ‘fessed up to my mistake, thereby clearing Ella of any wrongdoing (although, seriously, I don’t know why she didn’t think anything was amiss – it was cold!). I then apologized to Nick, both for leaving the door open (but I did take credit for extracting myself from our nice, warm OMG IT WAS SO WARM AND HOT AND WARM LIKE A DAMN SAUNA AND I NEARLY SWEATED TO DEATH bed in order to let the dogs out, thank you very much) and for drinking enough to knock myself out cold.
That finally got him chuckling.

“Uh, Em. You can’t be serious.”

What do you mean?

“You had two not-at-all-big glasses of wine last night. You drank them an hour apart AND you ate a full dinner and had dessert in between.”

Yes, and…

“And I know you’re the cheapest date in the world, but even you cannot get so drunk on one-and-a-half glasses of wine that you black out at 9 p.m.”

Well, it doesn’t really take a lot to…

“How do you feel this morning?”

What?

“How do you feel right now? Are you hung over?”

WHAT?! No. I’ve been hungover exactly once.* I feel just fine.

* true story. I’m sort of proud and sort of mortified by this at the same time.

“So, yeah. No. You did become even remotely drunk last night. You don’t need to apologize for passing out, are you crazy??”

But then how…?

“I believe it’s called tired. As in, you’ve been staying up SO DAMN LATE recently, your body absolutely couldn’t handle anymore. Sure, the wine may have mellowed things out a bit, but this wasn’t you drinking too much. This was you realizing, somewhere in the back of your mind, that you could let things slide for just one night, and your body finally giving out because you’re exhausted. Actually, I think it was one of the best things that could have happened to you.”

Oh. That might explain why I feel so good this morning after getting so much sleep.

“It might.”

And it might explain why I fell asleep in Annie’s bed. And why I fell asleep on your side of the bed with my clothes on. (GREAT SCOTT, THAT WAS DUMB.) And why I slept for FOREVER.

“Yeah.”

Which would also explain why I forgot to close the sliding glass door, which essentially lets me off the hook entirely…

“Not even remotely.”

Fair enough.

I’d like to say that, since my Friday night snoozefest, I’ve treated myself better and have gotten to sleep at a better hour each night. I’d like to, but that would be lying, so I won’t. I have made it to bed before 1:30 (several times), however, and I have proudly fallen asleep before 9:00 on more than one Friday night since then. DO I KNOW HOW TO HAVE A ROCKIN’ GOOD TIME ON A WEEKEND OR WHAT!

Maybe, someday, I’ll learn how to better balance all of this stuff and I’ll finally figure out how to get more sleep, but until then, at least I’m happy. Happy at my job, happy that the girls are happy, happy that my kids let us sleep in on Saturdays, happy that my husband knows I’m not a lush, happy for wine, and happy that no wild animals snuck into the house and made nests in the heating vents.

Silver lining, people. There’s always a silver lining.

 

Throwback Thursday: Adorable Puppy! YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE.

Exactly one year ago today, we welcomed our newest CCI puppy, Jambi, into our lives.

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FYI – her name rhymes with ZOMBIE, not Bambi. This is important, folks, because rhymes-with-“Bambi” in a western New York accent is not a pretty sound.

It was love at first sight for Ella and Annie.

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Awaiting them when they got home from school…

And Langston, who’d returned to us from Advanced Training only a week earlier? Well, he needed no convincing to allow her into his life (and his bed. *ahem*).

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Everyone always asks us how we do it (once they get over the adorableness and coolness of seeing a real live dog out and about in the library or at Target). How do we love these dogs as though they’re our own, and then give them away? My answer is simple: We are amazing, selfless, and basically role models for everyone around us. Duh.

After I’ve explained that, I go on to tell people that, once we saw what these dogs could do – once we saw how they could help people, how they can change lives, how they can give kids and adults alike hope and courage and freedom that they never dreamed possible – we couldn’t not do it. Does it suck, giving the dogs up after they’ve been part of our family for a year-and-a-half? Yes. It does. It hurts like hell. But that hurt is absolutely nothing compared with the joy that these dogs can potentially bring to others. On one of those scale-thingies (I suck at The Math, so just use your imagination), it’s not even close to being equal.

Of course, it’s not all sacrifice. Not by a long shot. Aside from having a cuddly, delicious, soft, apple-eating puppy in our lives, we also get to experience what it feels like to help someone else – and, I’m not gonna lie, that feeling is so incredible, it actually makes me feel almost selfish raising these dogs. I get to have a puppy AND feel this stupendous? This can hardly be legal.

When we got our first CCI puppy almost five years ago, my cousin – whose mom, my Aunt Lisa, has raised CCI puppies for years – commented to me that doing so was one of the best gifts we could ever give Ella and Annie, because raising CCI dogs changed her life. (She’s now an Advanced Trainer out in California, so I guess she knows what she’s talking about.) That wasn’t what we set out to do when we started down this path, but if that’s what winds up happening, then go us! Unintentionally instilling values, FTW!

We are currently the only family in Western New York who is raising puppies for CCI, and while that’s a somewhat neat distinction, I’d like to change it. My new goal is to convince at least one other local family to become puppy raisers before we turn Jambi back to CCI in August.

It’s worth it, I promise.

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 Come on… You know you want to…

It’s like living in my very own Stephen King novel

We all knew there would be an adjustment period when I began this long-term subbing job. It’s been forever since I had a regular, weekday position (the girls’ entire memory, in fact), so it was a pretty good bet that there would be some bumps in the road.

If I’m being totally honest, Ella and Annie aren’t too fond of me teaching. It’s not the end of the world, but they liked it better when I didn’t have to rush off each morning before they head to school, when I didn’t have to rush them in order for me to get off to work, and when I could be available to come into their classrooms more often. Still, they seem to appreciate how much this means to me – and, again, it’s not like their lives have been impacted all that much – so, overall, they’ve weathered the change really well. For his part, Nick has fallen into the swing of morning-dog-feeding and kids-off-to-school ushering and Math-Fact-Helper-ing quite nicely; or, at least, if he’s had a complaint, he’s been wise nice enough not to mention it to me.

For my part, I love my job. I mean… LOVE it. I love using my brain in ways that I haven’t for years. I love the material that I’m teaching. I love how supportive and funny and helpful my new colleagues have been. I love how involved and hardworking and genuinely kind my students have been (which, as anyone who’s ever taught middle school knows – or, hell, as anyone who’s ever survived middle school – knows, is not in any way a guarantee). I love watching my students’ faces light up as they successfully navigate a scale on the keyboards, or their fits of giggles as they rehearse a rhythm-versus-beat skit based on Harry Potter puppets, or their surprised appreciation as they hear how Holst’s The Planets actually sounds pretty damn rad. I. Love. It.

Admittedly, I am a little tired. Actually, I’m freakin’ exhausted. I mean, it wasn’t exactly like my life before subbing was un-full, where the time I now spend teaching and planning and grading and staff-meeting was spent getting manicures and sipping Starbucks, you know? No, even then, my schedule was pretty close to maximum capacity, and “squeezing in” twenty-five hours of teaching (and that doesn’t include lesson plans or grading or researching or any of the other gazillions of tasks that teaching requires) has meant that I am up very, very late accomplishing everything. So, yeah, I’m really damn tired.

But I’m really damn happy. And that makes it all so totally worthwhile.

There is, however, one member of our family who has not taken kindly to my new position, and that would be… Langston.

20140304-134037.jpgAre they still “puppy dog eyes” if he’s not technically a puppy anymore?

Yes, the Gooch, our big ol’ baby of a boy who, a year ago, lasted only eleven days at CCI’s Advanced Training before becoming so anxious, he – in the trainers’ words – “snapped,” bit a dog and a trainer (good times!), and was promptly returned to our eagerly waiting arms.

In short, he missed us so much, he couldn’t handle being away. Which might have been a clue that perhaps he wouldn’t appreciate my being gone every single weekday morning (and often well into the afternoon).

At first, we didn’t know what was up; all we knew was that I’d arrive home to discover an enormous mess in our kitchen (where Langston is gated when we’re not around). Chewed-through school papers, food stolen from the counter, cords gnarled to an indistinguishable mess. We tried giving him peanut butter-filled Kongs or additional toys to hold his attention, but each day I would come home and find myself gathering up tiny pieces of shredded something off of the floor. Do you think Annie’s teacher can give us another copy of her spelling list? How many jelly beans were left in that bag? Dude, were you trying to create confetti??

lang oops2This time, he tore through the plastic baggie holding our Box Tops (’cause you never know what tidbit of taco seasoning might have been be left behind) and also devoured an entire box of crayons. AN ENTIRE BOX OF CRAYONS. Let’s just say that, despite the abundance of snow, our backyard is not exclusively white anymore.

We were all, WTF, Langston? Why on earth are you suddenly behaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum?? And then, a few days later, it dawned on us: He was having a tantrum, because he is pissed as hell that I’m gone. He misses me, and instead of explaining this in a reasonable fashion – like, say, with a Hallmark card and putting old photos of us up on his Facebook wall – he decided to destroy the kitchen. How darling.

Although we (finally) understood his frustration (after all, I am pretty rockin’ – who wouldn’t miss me?), it was simply unacceptable for him to be going Mr. Destructo all the time. Short of stripping the kitchen of every single stray item, there was only one choice: to put him in the kennel with Jambi whenever we’re not home.

He was thrilled.

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“Are you sure this is necessary? Maybe if you were home more often, this wouldn’t be a problem, no?”

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I had just settled into the living room couches after the girls had gone to bed, with Langston and Jambi following us and hanging around by the coffee table. Lang approached the spot where I was seated and sidled up ever-so-close, slyly slipping one paw onto the cushions. “What, me? Nope, that’s not my paw. I’m not trying to sneak up next to you… La la la…” I then invited him to join me, assuming that – as usual – he would hop up and seat himself at the foot of the couch while I curled up at the head… but no. He not only cuddled in next to me – he crawled right on top of me, laying his torso entirely across my lap.

Miss me much, Gooch?

Seeing that Lang was getting some good lovin’, Jambi wiggled herself over to us, hoping for some of the same, but – y’all – I could not reach her. Not because my arms aren’t long enough, but because Langston was physically body blocking her so she couldn’t get close to me. Every time she attempted to reposition herself so I could pat her head, Lang shifted himself and shoulder-checked her out of the way.

Despite ourselves, Nick and I couldn’t help but laugh, because his intentions could not have been more clear. “Back up, bitch. She is MINE.” Aw, my number one fan. It’s like living with Kathy Bates.

I have six weeks left to go in this long-term gig. When it’s over, I am definitely going to miss it (although I will certainly appreciate the opportunity to get more than 5.5 hours of sleep a night).

Langston, on the other hand, will not complain.
But you can bet I’ll be keeping extra close track of my painkillers until then.

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Earning her keep

The fourth girl in our house is finally working her way back into our good graces (with the first three being, you know, me. And my daughters. We’re girls). Unfortunately, the apple pooping in the grocery store was only the tip of the crapper iceberg; Jambi* proceeded to pop a squat pretty much every time we ventured forth to Target or Wegmans, or pretty much any time she had to walk for more than five minutes.

* rhymes with Zombie, in case you were curious.

This is not to say that we didn’t try to avoid such incidents; we did, of course. We let her out when we left the house so that she could relieve herself and would walk her religiously – and a bit maniacally – for five to ten minutes around the outside of the building we were about to enter to ensure that she really got things moving and could expel anything that needed to go. And still, despite having peed and pooped and smelled every blade of grass between the car and the store, she would still manage to take a dump inside. It got so that every time I took her out in public, I looked as though I had developed a series of tics because of the constant, rapid-fire head turning in her direction to ensure that she wasn’t about to do her business in front of aisle seven.

Not exactly the start of an illustrious career for a potential service dog.

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Bringing her to the Y seemed pretty safe; very little walking around. In fact, very little standing up at all. Laziness FTW!

At last, we had to concede that she could no longer be free to remain in the backyard and eat the apples as she pleased. Already, we’d been calling her into the house more quickly than before – to catch her before she could consume too much fruit – and I’d been walking and running with her more often, to make up for her being outside less. This apparently wasn’t enough, however, because a) she’s a Lab and Labs are the garbage disposals of the dog world, eating everything they come into contact with, and b) the damn apple tree was REALLY FREAKIN’ PROLIFIC, so even a few minutes outside provided Jambi with a veritable feast.

Action was called for, and since it wasn’t feasible for us to leash her up every time she needed to go outside (that’s what fully fenced-in, awesome yards are for; plus also, see: two kids, two other dogs, general insanity), I decided that the next best course of action was to remove all of the apples from the ground before she could get to them. Easy enough, right? Technically, yes, except have I mentioned that this tree was like a procreating rabbit — its adorable cherubs would spring forth from its loins at a ridiculously alarming rate, completely filling the ground beneath it and providing ample bounty for would-be apple consumers. (To be fair, Nick and I have also used the tree’s apples – which are perfectly edible – for all of our juicing; it will be a damn shame when we actually have to pay for apples at the store.)

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These days, the leaves are in cahoots with the apples, acting as camouflage and making it super difficult for me to spot the forbidden fruits, but perfect sniff-and-seek treats for the hounds.

When I first began picking up, it would take only a few days to fill the entire garbage barrel to the top because the tree was dropping approximately ninety-five apples per day. Even if you like apples, just think about that… NINETY-FIVE APPLES every single day. No wonder Jambi was having trouble not dropping a deuce in Target.

Of course, it wasn’t like I could just pick everything up in the morning and then tell the tree that I’d had enough for the day; no, I had to go outside and fill the barrel every time the dogs were in the yard. A pain in the neck? Yes. But worth it to prevent Jambi from defecating in the dairy section? Heck yes.

At the suggestion of my cousin, who is a trainer with CCI out in California, we haven’t taken Jambi on any longer, indoor outings since her bowel troubles began, but she’s been doing a good job walking home with the girls from school.

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The leggings? Halloween, naturally.

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That Jambi will walk patiently beside a nutball six year-old girl is definitely winning her back points she lost while apple-pooping.

I’ve also slowly begun bringing her out to other indoor locations where we won’t be gone as long – returning books at the library, getting a drink at Starbucks (duh) – and she’s done well on those. She’s a relatively small Lab for ten months old – only fifty-some pounds and much tinier in stature than Langston – so she also continues to go with me to the Y, sitting with her zen expression and not being even the littlest bit rattled by the thumping music and weights dropping to the floor at random moments.

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If I stare cutely enough, will I get one of the treats that’s in your fanny pack? Yeah, I just called it a fanny pack. Own it.

Now that apple season is almost over, I think I’ll be able to start bringing her on slightly longer trips. I’ll still bring the poop bags and paper towel, of course… But my fingers are crossed.

Yep, she’s definitely working her way back into our good graces. When you glance forward after doing a sit-up and see this staring back at you, how could she not?

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A dog poops into a store…

Jambi — our CCI puppy-in-training — is supposed to be going on regular outings with us in order to introduce her to as many people, places, and situations as possible. Because of our recent traveling, she hasn’t been out and about and “working” quite as much as usual, so I decided to rectify that today and bring her with me to the grocery store.

She and Langston had been playing outside for a good twenty minutes prior to our departure; the moment I let them in, I put on Jambi-Zombie’s cape and Gentle Leader and ushered her right into the car. She looks so spiffy when she’s working, does she not?photo-46
Thankfully, she never requests gum or candy at the checkout, unlike certain other beings I know…

Although the grocery store is less than ten minutes from our house, and although she’d just been outside, I decided to allow her the opportunity to do her business anyway, after an unfortunate incident a couple of months ago at Target where we neglected to give her the chance to pee and I wound up stealthily cleaning up urine in aisle 7 while Ella and Annie raced Jambi back outside to empty her bladder. Lesson learned.

I brought her to the little grassy median right outside of the store and told her to “hurry” (CCI code for “do your thang”), but she only gave me a funny little glance (see photo, above). I then walked her around a tiny bit, continuing to tell her to “hurry,” but when she sat right down I got the message: all systems empty. But thanks for the stroll.

We jauntily walked into the breezeway where I grabbed a cart, then proceeded to head to the automatic doors – which, naturally, parted graciously for us – and maybe it was the extreme change in temperature lately, or maybe we just hit the store during temperature regulation time or something, but the moment the doors opened, this big ol’ blast of air (conditioning?) burst toward us. I’ll admit, it was a bit unexpected, but having been to the store approximately 3847 times (in the last year, alone), and at least a half dozen times with the Jam-Beast, I thought nothing of it.

She, on the other hand, was thrown for an enormous loop by the sudden blast of air, and clearly thought that something terrible awaited her by the salad bar just beyond the doors, so while my right arm and the cart continued inside, my left hand and the leash were yanked backward, resulting in a lovely suspension ballet right there in the breezeway. Jambi began to reverse so furiously, paws frantically scraping against the tile floor (which provided her no traction, so the gears just kept on spinning) to get away from the Very Scary Door, that I was forced to leave the cart right where it was (exactly in the very middle of the entrance – or, in other words, pretty much the most inconvenient place imaginable) and back up with her.

Sure, I could have just dragged her along like a spooked horse — claws (which are actually quite short, but which she’d extended as far as humanly [doggily?] possible in order to protest the Very Scary Door) digging into the tile grouting — but, given that she’s supposed to learn to navigate things like this, and also that everyone in the breezeway was now staring me with the Special Dog, I decided to help her work through her fears. It took several treats, trading in my voice for that of some angelic fairy/elf, and a little physical encouragement, but after five minutes, we made it safely inside.

This would also be a good time to mention that, naturally, I was in a hurry. We were out of fruit at home, running precariously low on toilet paper, and I’d neglected to purchase anything for dinner when I’d visited the store a mere three days ago, so this trip was essential, but I had to cram it in between unloading and re-loading the dishwasher, working out, mowing the lawn, editing photos, answering emails, showering, and attending a committee meeting, all before the kids got out of school. According to my calculations, I had exactly one hour for this grocery run – but that shouldn’t have been a problem, because aside from the fruit and Charmin (actually, we buy Wegmans generic, but whatever) and some salmon, my list was quite small, and I assumed the store would be relatively empty on a Friday morning.

WRONG. The store was teeming with people, each of them inexplicably stopping right in front of whatever item I needed to place in my cart (is everyone in Rochester out of TP and eating salmon tonight??), making it very difficult to weave through the throngs under normal circumstances, but especially difficult with Jambi. She stayed right by my side, however, obeying my commands, and so we pressed on, weighing bananas and thumping melons, smiling politely at the other shoppers who passed us with an, “Oh, isn’t she beautiful!” or a, “Look, that doggy’s working!

All seemed quite well, until Jambi began panting. At first, I assumed that she was still nervous after her run-in with the Very Scary Door, so I just ignored her. As the panting became more labored, I gave some consideration to the idea that maybe she needed to poop (because this whole panting thing is what she’d done before dropping a deuce right outside of the security line at the airport; lesson learned), but dismissed that idea because a) she’d just freakin’ had the chance to relieve herself only a few minutes before, b) taking her outside would require going back through the Very Scary Door not once but twice, and c) even if she did have to do something, we truly were only going to be in the store for another ten minutes or so, and surely she could hold it.

I can probably just stop this story now because you know where this is going.

I was debating the merits of Gala versus Macintosh apples when I felt the tug on the leash… turned around… and caught Jambi mid-squat, with pieces of poo falling from her butt. (Coincidentally, the poop was full of apple chunks, because she’d recently eaten a few that had fallen from the trees in our backyard; how very discerning of her.) I hissed at her – “Jambi, don’t!” – which shocked her, causing a few more apple-poop bits to plop onto the floor.

In an attempt to hide the evidence, I threw myself onto the ground, dropping my purse as close to the poo as possible (guess I should probably wash that now), while maniacally – but calmly, so as not to draw attention to the incident (’cause there is nothing more awesomely embarrassing than a Special Dog taking a dump in the produce aisle) – rummaging through my CCI fanny pack for a plastic bag and some paper towels. So that she couldn’t do more damage, I attempted to get her to put her butt down on the floor by whisper-screaming, “Jambi, sit!” “Jambi, sit!” “Jambi, sit!” over and over (a training no-no, I understand, but there was apple poop at my feet, people), but she just gave me the same funny little glance as before (again, see above), so I gave up and just finished cleaning the mess.

Once the floor was good, I speed-walked her outside — and, naturally, she had absolutely no problem with the door either time we went through it. Yet again, when she reached the grassy knoll and was told to “hurry,” she sat right down and gave me that funny little glance (see above).

Not so funny anymore, Beast.

The rest of our shopping excursion went off without a hitch (save for me practically slipping a disc in my neck from craning it in her direction every 6 seconds to make sure she wasn’t dropping apple poop anywhere else), and we then found ourselves in the shortest – but, of course, the slowest – checkout lane. Jambi’s demeanor is typically fantastic when we’re out and about (crapping aside); she’s extremely laid-back and easy-going, and so – especially given the wait time – I wasn’t surprised that she curled up at my feet and dozed right off.

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She was also probably exhausted from pushing apple poop out of her butt.

As I finished loading the last of our items onto the conveyor belt, a lady approached me from behind, asking about what program we were a part of. I told her about CCI and our involvement with them and, as is often the case, the woman told me what a “great thing” we were doing. (I’m not sure the produce employees agree, but whatever…)

She then leaned toward Jambi and said, “Oh, look at her. She’s so sweet! I bet she’s just an absolute dream everywhere you take her.”

I smiled very sweetly back and said the only thing I could think of: “Aw, you have no idea.”

Throwback Thursday: A Dog and her Girls

I had a dream about Madison the other night. It seemed so real that when I awoke, I momentarily forgot that it’s been nearly two months since she left us.

Perhaps that dream occurred because I’d been looking through old files on my computer and came across these, from the spring of 2008 when Ella was three, Annie was one, and Maddy was a spry young seven.

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Sand burial.

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Sharing secrets.

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Sunlit cuddles are always awesome.

I hadn’t seen those photos in years – maybe since they were taken – but they made me remember, despite how the girls often ignored her, and how she resented them usurping her position on the priority list, that they really were buddies, once upon a time.

I hope Maddy’s basking in the sun, wherever she is, feeling warm not only from the rays, but also with the knowledge that, truly, she was loved.

And I hope someone’s petting the heck out of her, our attention seeker who could never get enough. ‘Cause otherwise, eternity’s an awfully long time for her to hold a grudge.

One more for the road

Nick and I moved to Denver in 1997, just after graduating from college. Colorado is a great place, and we eagerly participated in all of the standard Coloradan practices: hiking fourteeners, following the Broncos’ every move (including whatever John Elway’s son was up to in Pop Warner football), consuming burritos with copious amounts of green chili, enduring – even celebrating – the uniquely Denver-ian weather (one April day, we took in a Rockies game where it first snowed and then became so hot, we had to change into shorts), scoffing at the Trust Fund hippies in Boulder who wore dreadlocks and Abercrombie backpacks, sagely warning visitors against the very real effects of altitude sickness (while being proudly cocky that we’d become so acclimated to Denver life, we no longer became ill when we’d return from an out-of-state visit), consuming too many three-shot margaritas at Rio Grande, taking off into the mountains to ski or camp in the Rocky Mountain National Forest, chortling at the (then-relatively-new) Denver International Airport with its odd, white, nipple-peaked design, eschewing a map so long as you could see the mountains (WEST, people!), and finally — after 3.5 years — adopting a dog.

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Very spiffy in her new bandana.

She was a not-quite-one-year-old Beagle/Lab mix and – knowing we were going to move back east that spring, but wanting to take a bit of Denver with us — we named her Madison, after Madison Street (on which we lived). She had been mistreated prior to our adopting her (the vet said that she was so dehydrated, it was only due to sheer will power that she was still standing), but she had the sweetest demeanor imaginable. We instantly fell in love.

Maddy became our constant companion, accompanying us to pet-friendly restaurants, friends’ parties (where she’d join the pack of dogs already there), and on road trips. Because we didn’t know when we’d next be back in Colorado, we decided to tour the area before leaving, from Breckenridge to Mesa Verde to Wyoming and back.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

Maddy-bug was an excellent traveler – quiet and patient, but eager to explore. Despite her smallish build, she was tireless going up and down Colorado’s many peaks.

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Earning her ‘Mountain Girl’ nickname.

When it was time to drive back to New York, we meticulously researched dog-friendly hotels (which, in pre-Google 2001, was a form of internationally recognized torture: you actually had to call places and ask. The horror). And so, armed with our handy dandy AAA Trip Tiks (holla!), we began the trek across the country, with Madison taking her place in the footwell on the passenger side (the rest of the car was entirely full of our stuff — all of our most important belongings, especially the box with the wedding paraphernalia for our upcoming nuptials, the ones we didn’t want to send in the U-Haul because we wanted to keep them safe with us).

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Posing by one of the most awesome mistakes ever. 

We first drove through Kansas, where we narrowly avoided being hit by a tornado (no joke). In Missouri, while Maddy lounged in our hotels, Nick and I ate amazing Kansas City barbecue and saw Mark McGuire hit a home run in Busch Stadium in St. Louis. We then moseyed into Tennessee, planning to stop first in Memphis and then make our way over to Nashville.

The two days we spent in Memphis were fantastic. We reveled at the bizarrely American experience of somberly visiting the National Civil Rights Museum (and feeling awe, sadness, and gratitude as we stood in the hotel room where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated) one day and then frolicking on over to Graceland and taking in the shag carpeting and Elvis’s many sequined jumpsuits. We ate more delicious barbecue and took in some excellent street music before collapsing in our hotel that final night, ready to head over to Nashville in the morning.

And that’s when we got the call.

When the hotel phone rings at 6:00 a.m. and you didn’t schedule a wake-up call, you can pretty much assume they’re not calling to offer free breakfast in bed. The desk clerk informed us that there had been several auto break-ins the night before, and that our car had been one of the unlucky ones. The good news was, although the other cars had had their windows smashed and had been obviously ransacked, our car was intact and it looked as though all was okay — but perhaps we should come take a look, anyway.

We roused ourselves as best we could and, knowing that Madison hadn’t done her business that morning, took her with us as we headed down to the parking lot. At first, all seemed well; the car looked unharmed. The moment we opened the doors, however, we realized that the thieves had not skipped our car – they’d simply been able to get in without breaking any windows by playing with the code on the keypad and unlocking the doors.

Since we were only staying for two nights in the hotel, we’d taken the bare minimum with us; everything else was still in the car. Clothing was everywhere – they’d gone through our suitcases and discarded whatever they didn’t want, casting things off and scattering them around like drunken sorority sisters – making it seem as though very little was missing.
Um. Not so.

By now, it was closer to 7:00, and the sun was already high in the early summer sky. Several police officers were on the scene to document the damage and were asking us questions to determine just what was missing. The cop who was assigned to us was probably a very nice guy… except that I don’t really know, because we could hardly understand him. Not only did he have a very thick Southern accent, he also had a bit of a speech impediment, thereby making it even more difficult to understand what he was saying. (Not that we were contributing much ourselves — being roused at 6 a.m. in a strange city, being on the road for a week already, and, you know, having all of our stuff stolen, we weren’t really at our best.) Communication was… difficult.

We began trying to rattle off the stolen items, but it was a bit like Who’s On First because everything had to be repeated, except without the cute Twitter #hashtags.

#Canyoutellmeexactlywhat’smissinghere,ma’am?
Pardon me?
What. Is. Missing?
Well, they took our CDs.
#Theytookyourseeds?
No. Our SEE-DEEs.
#HowmanyCDsdidyouhave?
I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
I said, How. Many. CDs. Did. You. Have.
I don’t know.
Third base!

Still, we pressed on, listing item after item… clothing, CDs (our entire collection – nearly 2,000 discs), original documents (birth certificates, social security cards), Nick’s early adoption photos, our wedding rings, the entire wedding box filled with every contract or magazine clipping I’d put together so far, my wallet, Nick’s travel guitar… All of the MOST IMPORTANT ITEMS that we “couldn’t risk” leaving in the U-Haul. 

We’d rattle off yet another missing item, the cop would try to confirm what we’d just told him, we’d ask him to repeat himself because we didn’t understand what he’d just said, he’d repeat himself more slowly, we’d repeat ourselves, and then finally he’d write it down. Listing each stolen item, I became more and more distraught — stealing our clearly amazing wardrobe I could kind of understand, but why on earth would anyone want the handwritten “We’ll Miss You” notes my students had given me, or the freakin’ Graceland souvenirs that could be purchased just down the block?? And then we discovered the missing item that put me over the edge: the bag of bags.

Knowing we’d have to pick up after Madison on our journey, we’d arduously collected plastic bags for months, stuffing dozens of them into another grocery bag so we could keep them all together. And they’d taken them. They’d taken the bag of bags. Now, not only were our wedding rings and my driver’s license in someone else’s possession, we couldn’t even pick up Madison’s poop because some hoodlum jerks had stolen THE BAG OF BAGS.

It was the discovery of the missing bags that prompted us to remember that Madison was there. Up until now, through our wailing and teeth-gnashing and Who’s on First wrangling, she’d been completely silent, so we kind of forgot about her. By the time we snapped out of our fog of disbelief, the Memphis sun had been blazing down — on a bare hotel parking lot — for a good hour, making the pavement feel like lava. Or, at least, I imagine that it felt like lava, because of how poor Madison was behaving.

She had clearly figured out that the white parking line was cooler than the blistering pavement, and had carefully positioned her paws one in front of the other — all four in a row — so that they were on that white line. But the heat must still have been getting to her, because she was lifting up one paw at a time (which was the most she could do; two would cause her to topple over) to give herself some relief. Another time, this might have been adorable — aww, look, it’s like some kind of puppy ballet! — but when we realized that we were effectively burning her feet off, we quickly took her back indoors. Thank God she didn’t have to poop, because, you know… NO BAGS.

(You’ll notice the lack of photographic evidence of our cross-country excursion; naturally, our camera was stolen too, and cell-phone cameras were, like, not invented yet.)

Eventually, we settled things with the cop, reorganized what was left of our belongings, and took off east again, very grateful that the car itself hadn’t been harmed, but grumpily flipping through radio stations because all of our music was gone. A week later (after stops in Atlanta and Charleston), we reached our final destination in New York. And Madison was still at our side, feet soothed, additional plastic bags procured.

And so it has been for the past 12 years — off on adventures, our Buggo at our side. We’ve taken her with us to 25 states, acquired two other pet dogs, two daughters, have raised three service dogs, and have lived in three homes since then, but the adventure has continued. Until today.

Today, we said goodbye to our Madison. To our constant companion, our long-ago Therapy Dog. To our Golden Girl, who endured the Memphis heat, puppies nipping at her ears to get her to play, children climbing on her, and countless other indignities — all patiently (albeit sometimes grudgingly – that dog forgot nothing and let you know it) and without complaint (well, except when we brought the kids home from the hospital; Maddy never forgave us for that). There was something about her incredible personality that made everyone who encountered her feel better, loved, calmer. She never tired of being petted or cuddled, but somehow you were the one who benefited from it; friend after friend visited us and would invite Madison to sleep with them. More than one guest threatened to pack her in their suitcase and spirit her away with them.
She was, very simply, the best.

Thanks for twelve-plus amazing years, darling Mads. You are the very sweetest, most endearing dog imaginable, and you’ll always be our first baby. May your days from here on out be filled with mountain smells, delicious treats, ducks to chase, and endless windows to look out of and watch the world go by. We adore you, and will, forever.

madosh
Godspeed on your new adventures, Maddy. xoxo