A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Dear New(ish) Neighbor Across the Street,

I planned to come by and say hello.  I intended to introduce myself.  I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, and do all the welcome-y things that good neighbors are supposed to do, just like Mr. Rogers taught me (well, maybe not the singing and the acting out stuff with puppets and toy trolleys and such, but you know what I mean).  Sigh.  But I haven’t.  And now literal months have gone by.  And I feel really bad about it.


I can make all of the excuses.  You moved in during Spring Break.  Spring Break!  During Spring Break this year I was busy in Florida hating the beach in the rain along with too many loud people inside of a too small house.  And then we got right back into school and activities and all of the things, so dropping by to say howdy to you fell to the bottom of my to do list.

Plus, you’re a dude.  And from what I can discern with my mad private investigator skilz, you do not have a wife but you do have a couple of every other weekend teen-aged kids.  What if you just went through an ugly divorce and now you hate all wife-type women?

And you rarely seem to be home.  I saw you walking your tiny dog in the mornings while I was waiting with the boys for the school bus.  But I never see you at other times of the day.  What am I supposed to do?  Sit on my front porch and wait for you to come home from work, and then go knock on your door?  What if you come home from work and immediately have to go to the bathroom?  I would be knocking and you would either have to poopus interruptus, or ignore me (because now I know you are home… I just watched you pull into the garage).  That would be so weird.  And not a little awkward for everybody involved.

I had a plan to bake you some brownies, which is what some very nice new neighbors of ours did when we moved into our house seven years ago.  But every time I bake a batch of brownies, somebody in this house eats at least one out of the tray and wrecks the possibility of gifting the whole batch.  OK, you got me.  I’m the one who eats them, but that’s neither here nor there.  And now I resent you a little bit for making it super convenient for me to eat brownies.

Then, I decided I would buy some Greenies treats or a toy for your dog.  I went to PetSmart down the street and I had a traumatic flashback to the time that I thought it would be a great idea to adopt two puppies at once, but I got so anxious that I had to return them after only 48 hours and my kids still hate me to this day because of it and I feel like a broken human being because I guess I don’t truly like dogs and the whole experience was just horrible.  Well, thanks for bringing that whole nightmare back up.

Maybe I will bring you a housewarming gift instead.  A six pack?  Maybe you don’t drink.  How about something crafty or homemade… soup mix or take out menus from local restaurants?  Something decorative or practical for the house… candles, a photo frame, a house plant?

A front door mat?

A front door mat?

OK, OK.  This is going in a weird direction.  I feel that I have made this way more complicated than it needs to be.  Let’s start over.

Welcome, neighbor.  Better late than never, right?  Here is my family’s contact information.  We’d love to get to know you.  Feel free to stop by anytime.

P.S.  I swear I’m totally normal.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…



Undercover Awesome

So… who had “48 hours or less” in the puppy pool?

Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!

Yesterday at lunchtime, after days of not being able to sleep or eat and after being on the phone for almost an hour with the dogs’ foster mom trying to have her talk me off the ledge, I loaded Maverick and Iceman back into the giant dog crate, along with about $250 worth of awesome puppy gear, and drove them back to the Chattahoochee River Club.  Oh, yes I did.  And I feel like a horrible, horrible human being.

You can not name a dog Goose, because Goose dies in the middle of the movie.  And yes, I realize that Maverick and Iceman were enemies.  But in the end they joined forces to successfully overcome their own flaws and shoot down the MiGs.  Yay, Top Gun!

You can not name a dog Goose, because Goose dies in the middle of the movie. And yes, I realize that Maverick and Iceman were enemies. But in the end they joined forces to successfully overcome their own flaws and shoot down the MiGs. Yay, Top Gun!

I have birthed and am raising five children.  I manage a home and our finances and a complicated schedule and I (occasionally) write this blog.  I keep food in our pantry and clean clothes in our drawers.  I am sometimes overwhelmed with chaos, but generally things run pretty smoothly around here.  Until Sunday when those little poop machines came in and set me spinning.  What is wrong with me?

I came into this situation with such pure and good intentions.  I planned and prepared and did it over a period of more than six weeks.  We came up with fabulous dog names from an iconic 80’s movie.  I took baby steps.  I still knew deep down inside that I am not a dog person by nature, but I truly believed that I could overcome my discomfort and even fear with the power of positive thinking.  Wow, was I wrong about that.  I was a complete wreck for almost three days.  I actually had a physical reaction once the puppies were here.  And to make things worse, I could not get out of my own head either.  It made me feel a little insane in the brain.

Facing a weakness or a flaw in myself is not my strong suit.  I like being good at stuff.  Moreover, I like being awesome at stuff.  But I don’t really want anybody to know because I think that being undercover awesome is way cooler.  Plus, fewer people will ask you to serve on the PTA if they think you suck.  So I point out my flaws every chance I get.  But in my heart, I know I am a good mom and a good person.  If I am truly content and confident, then I do not feel the need to shout my own accolades from the rooftops.

Then I go and do something that is making my kids cry and not speak to me and creating trust issues and possibly damaging them permanently, and I feel so very, very bad.  No more undercover awesome.  Just bad, bad mommy.  And of course I do feel the need to shout this from the rooftops.  I am embarrassed.  I am sorry.  I am flawed.

But I will not beat myself up over this forever.  I made the decision to return the puppies so soon because they will have a much better chance of being adopted permanently when they are young.  They are lab mixes and people love labs.  I also found some comfort in the dogs’ excitement when they were reunited with their litter mates back at the foster mom’s house.  I believe that it is much better for me to make this decision now, rather than to keep them and change my mind a few weeks down the line, or even to keep them forever but be resentful.

By the way, I can not tell you how many people admitted to me over the past two days that they don’t really like their dogs.  I have talked to so many people who said (now you tell me?) that they want to give away their dogs, that their dogs scare them, or that they just wish they didn’t have them anymore.  One friend even called her dog an asshole (mainly because he bit another friend on the butt when they were out walking).  I am sure none of these people would ever intentionally hurt their dogs.  But I definitely found it very interesting to hear about this secret side of the dog coin.

Now, I also know just as many – if not more – people who have dogs and love them like they are their own children.  Others have told me how their dog(s) complete their families.  I just saw last night on Dance Moms that Abby Lee Miller was thinking about having her three-weeks dead dog stuffed so she could keep it with her forever.  That is some serious dog love right there.  I get it, but I just don’t feel it myself.

So I sit here with my broken heart and my broken awesomeness, thinking about everything that has just happened.  I will get over it.  And I believe that the kids will eventually get over it too.  Sheepdog has been wonderfully supportive of me and my craziness.  Everybody will have to heal in their own way.

I did ask the dog foster mom to put my name on the Adoption No-Fly list, just to protect me from myself in a couple of years when I have forgotten this and again decide that I have overcome my fears and think that getting a dog will surely be a good plan.  She was so understanding and (too) kind to me when she told me one last thing before I left the puppies with her yesterday.  She said when she first met me she came home and told her husband that she wished that she had someone like me as her neighbor.  She thought I was strong and confident, but that I seemed fun and funny at the same time.  And then she added that she noticed right then that my family was already complete.  I never really thought about it until she pointed it out to me, but apparently I don’t need dogs to make our family whole.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Suck at Dogs

Sheepdog and I were married a little over a year when I had the brilliant idea to get a puppy.  I never had one growing up, but Sheepdog did.  Plus, I figured that we should test our care taking skills out before I got pregnant with a human.  We scanned the newspaper ads and drove out to a farm in Elmer to meet and pick up our new “baby.”  He was a chocolate lab with beautiful blue eyes.  We named him Max.

Max was trouble right from the start.  I thought he was possessed.  He chewed everything… shoes, furniture, doors, floors.  He dug up plants.  I had no idea what I was doing and I was a horrible dog disciplinarian.  I was at work all day and Sheepdog was in law school, so Max was home alone for long stretches at a time.  He began to hate us for it and he acted out accordingly.  Looking back, I should have done so many things differently.  I was naive and inexperienced and just threw in the towel.  Through Sheepdog’s sister we found a friend in West Virginia who had a 100-acre farm and wanted Max as a hunting dog.  No, really.  He went to go live happily ever after on a real farm.  I struggled desperately with it, but I finally conceded that I was just not a dog person.

Shortly after Max left I got pregnant with Kid A.  Then came Kid B.  And then Kid C.  And a miscarriage.  And Kid D.  Life was messy and chaotic and busy enough without adding a dog to the mix.  None of our houses had pet-friendly yards and I had horribly bad memories of Max still fresh in my mind, so I did not even consider it again until more than a decade later.  But during this time Kid B had become obsessed with dogs.  I mean crazy obsessed.  It was weird.  She would crawl around on all fours and somehow make her hands look like real paws.  She would bark and make other dog noises that were so authentic that I often thought there was an actual dog in our house.  What kind of horribly selfish parent wouldn’t get a live dog for this kid?  Me.  Because I’m just not a dog person.

In 2006 we moved on Halloween Day to a bigger house with a great yard.  The kids quickly settled in to their new schools as I unpacked our things.  When the holidays rolled around and I started planning for the big day I got an idea.  What if I surprised the kids with a dog on Christmas Eve?  It would be perfect!  This time I would do it right.  No brand-new puppy, but a dog that was about a year old.  It would definitely be a rescue this time too.  I endlessly researched breeds, talked to dog owners, scanned the internet, and found the perfect dog.  He was a 10-month-old vizsla mix named Chex.  I thought he was perfect.  Sheepdog went to pick him up on Christmas Eve and I kept the kids busy until we could surprise them with the newest member of our family.  It was exactly as I had envisioned it… the kids squealed with delight when we told them that Chex was our dog.

Turns out, our dog was too strong for any of the kids to handle him.  His freakishly powerful tail was inconveniently at face-height for the children so he kept whipping them all in the eyes.  And he was highly excitable and peed on just about everything.  He was on top of the kitchen counter with lightning speed.  Kids C and D quickly became so fearful of him that they locked themselves in their rooms, telling me through closed doors and tears that they were never coming out again.  And it was Christmas Eve.  Things calmed down a little and we read the Christmas Story and put the kids to bed.  I walked Chex and put him in his crate for the night.  He immediately started to howl.  Like a crazed wolf.  On a night with a full moon.  I truly believed with all my heart that Santa would just skip our house that night because Chex would scare him away.  I cried myself to sleep with absolutely no visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Some time in the night I decided that Chex had to go back.  We simply could not keep this dog.  Half of our kids were scared to death of him and, frankly, I was scared of him too.  He was so strong!  It broke my heart, but we called the family who we got him from and humbly asked if we could return him.  Immediately.   Sheepdog loaded him in his truck with his stocking full of new toys and treats and drove off.  On Christmas Day.  So, that was special.  I struggled desperately with it again, but I was reminded that I am just not a dog person.

After the 18-hour dog debacle, I vowed to never again even entertain the idea of getting a pet.  My friends and relatives made me promise that I wouldn’t do that to my family or – just as importantly – another poor dog.  Then I got pregnant with Kid E.  More chaos, more lost sleep, more life.

Fast forward a few years.  Kid B deepened her obsession with animals, especially dogs.  While she outgrew the acting like a dog phase, she began relentlessly asking about us getting a dog just about once every other month.  I told her we’d think about it (lie), but it just wasn’t a good time for us to get a dog (never will be, kid).  When I was reading a book about animals to Kid D’s kindergarten class I asked who had pets.  Everyone in the class except my kid raised their hand.  I felt horrible.  What was wrong with me that I couldn’t just suck it up and get my kids a dog?  They teach responsibility, provide companionship and security, and can reduce stress and anxiety.  I was being selfish and a bad parent for not giving those things to my kids.

So I did it again.  Oh, yes I did.  I researched breeds.  I scanned the pet adoption websites.  I talked to people who had dogs.  I found a beautiful puppy at the Georgia SPCA that I thought would be ideal.  Sheepdog was concerned initially, but he just couldn’t deny the many benefits of dog ownership that I was repeatedly pointing out.  Very reluctantly, he got on board.  We gingerly approached the subject with the kids, making sure that they knew up front that we were just testing the waters.  They were over the moon.

I took Kid A and Kid B with me to the shelter.  Interestingly, the dog room was set up like a maze but I was immediately drawn to the exact spot where they held the puppy I found online.  And not only her, but her litter mates as well.  They all had Girl Scout cookie names… Shortbread, Thin Mint, Samoa, etc.  They were all adorable, but Shortbread and I bonded immediately.  The girls loved her too.  I asked about her adoption.  Shortbread had been recently spayed and her incision had become irritated.  We couldn’t bring her home for at least a week, which was a great thing in my opinion because I still was taking baby steps and I wanted to live with this decision for a little while prior to pulling the trigger.  We put down a pre-adoption deposit and they gave me her paperwork.  I left the shelter feeling really good about dog ownership.  This time I was going to do it!

Until I wasn’t.  By mid-week I had developed a significant twitch in my right eye.  I kept having nightmares about worms.  And vet bills.  By the end of the week I was in a full-blown panic about bringing home this puppy.  Even though I was reminding the kids hourly that we were still just entertaining the idea of getting a dog (they did not know about the deposit), they were devastated when I announced that we were, in fact, not adopting Shortbread.  I was so proud that I put and end to the nonsense prior to actually involving the dog, but I was still the worst mom on the planet.

As protection from myself and any future insanity about dog adoption, Sheepdog swears to never allow me down this road again.  He guarantees to forbid it.  By now I think the kids have forgiven me.  I continue to struggle with it, but I think now I truly understand that I am not a dog person.  More than that, I suck at dogs.

Maybe I’d do better with cats. (I’m totally kidding)

Wish me luck for tomorrow…