Monday, May 20, 2013

Karma Strikes Again...

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about our vacation karma, I have included two pictures from our recent overnight trip to celebrate our Anniversary:

"We'll walk in fields of foam..."

Obviously, our plans to bicycle on the beach at sunset took a rain check...

We couldn't help be reminisce about the weather we were experiencing on an Anniversary trip exactly one year earlier:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Right Dog Breed For You!

As mentioned in my previous post, Step #1 of buying a dog is researching the breed that's right for you. If you do your research, you will find many sites that help you find the right dog for your family, and they all loosely mention the same list of considerations. Here are some additional tips that I developed from my personal experience:

1. First, and most importantly, what dog do you want to look like? Everybody knows that- just like married couples- dog owners begin to resemble their dogs. Additionally, in the short time we have had our dog, I have found that people will often refer to you as the animal's mommy or daddy (obviously, these people were educated by preschoolers).

2. Do you have children? If this is true, it is best to analyze their personalities and match them as closely as possible to a dog breed. Then decide what you can handle. Can you handle another Border Collie, who are very intelligent but become destructive when not challenged sufficiently each day? What about a West Highland Terrier, who have little interest in cuddling? If you have kids hanging on you all day long, are you sure you want to add a Whippet to the home who are known to be like Velcro to their owners? You might not be able to pick your children, but you can pick your dog.

3. What size dog do you want? The size of a dog is directly related to the size of their output. How much dog job are you comfortable picking up and bagging when you're out for your walks?

4. Do you have realistic expectations for your dog's role? Dogs are only good nannies in Disney cartoons... dang.

5. Does the dog shed? Or, rather, do you shed? Personally, I decided I can hardly keep up with the amount of hair I alone shed. I didn't need another animal that sheds in our home.

Well, after research ad nauseum (as my hubby coined it) it turns out the answer for us was a miniature schnauzer. Naturally, I matched her coat to my hair color: black with silver. 

So far, she's been great and is a little sweetheart. Except at 4 in the morning when she shrieks like a monkey. But, that's a story for another day.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

I heard this essay read in church some years ago. It is a very touching way to describe a mother's love for each of her children.

I've Always Loved You Best 
by Erma Bombeck

It is normal for children to want assurance that they are loved. Having all the warmth of the Berlin Wall, I have always admired women who can reach out to pat their children and not have them flinch.

Feeling more comfortable on paper, I wrote the following for each of my children.
To the First-born: I’ve always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage, the fulfillment of young love, the promise of our infinity.
You sustained us through the hamburger years. The first apartment furnished in Early Poverty … our first mode of transportation (1955 feet) … the 7-inch television set we paid on for 36 months.
You wore new, had unused grandparents and more clothes than a Barbie doll. You were the “original model” for unsure parents trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb and three-hour naps.
You were the beginning.
To the Middle Child: I’ve always loved you the best because you drew a dumb spot in the family and it made you stronger.
You cried less, had more patience, wore faded, and never in your life did anything “first,” but it only made you more special. You are the one we relaxed with and realized a dog could kiss you and you wouldn’t get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married, and the world wouldn’t come to an end if you went to bed with dirty feet.
You were the continuance.
To the Baby: I’ve always loved you the best because endings generally are sad and you are such a joy. You readily accepted the mild-stained bibs. The lower bunk. The cracked baseball bat. The baby book, barren but for a recipe for graham cracker pie crust that someone jammed between the pages.
You are the one we held onto so tightly. For you see, you are the link with the past that gives a reason for tomorrow. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision, and give us humor that security and maturity can’t give us.
When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your children tower over you, you will still be “the Baby.”
You were the culmination.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How To Buy a Dog in 12 Easy Steps!

This weekend, our family added a puppy to our home! This is a project that I've been working on for quite a while, and finally the stars aligned. Plus, my daughter finished potty training a few weeks ago and I decided that there was no better way to enjoy my new freedom than to teach something new where to go potty.

My family had two dogs in my youth. The first was acquired for free through one of my dad's patients, who's dog had a litter of puppies they wanted to get rid of. Our second dog was the offspring of a friend's dog, which they did pay for. My mom's childhood dog was also a freebie.

Our dog acquisition story was completely different, as we did not know one person with puppies to dispense to friends. I found that seeking out your own dog is much more complicated than getting a freebie puppy. Maybe I made it more complicated than it needed to be, as I was determined to be educated and responsible about the whole thing. I learned a lot, so I thought I'd pass on my experience in 12 easy steps to prepare/help another novice for the process.:
Step 1. If you want to buy a dog responsibly, you will first research what breed best fits your lifestyle (For example: exercise needs, shedding, and size of dog). Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this step alone!

Step 2. Become familiar with your state lemon laws on buying a dog... like if the seller is legally required to provide you with a state health certificate. Other good protections are a contract allowing you a few days to have the animal checked by your own vet and a health guarantee (1 year, 5 year, etc.) on the animal.
Step 3. If you want to buy a dog responsibly, there are two paths of purchasing a dog. 
  1. A responsible breeder who adheres strictly to the AKC breed standards, tests their animals' health rigorously, and ideally shows their dogs creating "champion" lines... which seems kind of obsolete since it will be a family pet and you'll be neutering it but, hey, you want a healthy dog
  2. The animal shelter. 
There is no responsible middle ground. Of course, if a pet store puppy winds up in the pound then you have the green light! 

Step 4. You will soon discover that breeders who adhere strictly to the AKC breed standards, rigorously test the health of their animals, and show their dogs creating "champion" lines, have waiting lists months out for expected litters and charge more than a mortgage payment for their puppies. Budget and common sense will prevent you from forking out the money. Instead, you will obsessively contact every breeder of your Step #1 breed you can find within a 6 hour radius, in hopes of finding a puppy that comes close to your budget. You will not. You will wonder who all the people are that are paying for dogs at these prices. Don't they know our economy is in the tank?

Step 5. You will then move your search to the local dog shelter. There you will discover that the majority of the dogs available are: Pitbulls, Rottweilers, Pitbull/Rotweiler mixes, Bulldogs, or Bulldog/Pitbull mixes. None of the dogs here are on your Step #1 list.

Step 6. One day, in a moment of weakness, you will visit the website of a local pet store. And then again... and then again.... Soon you will become comfortable with the idea of irresponsibly buying a dog from the pet store. Upon inquiry, you will learn that they also charge the equivalent of a mortgage payment for their dogs. Their dogs are supposed to be inferior. Apparently, they don't know that. That's okay, because puppy mill horror stories have been haunting your conscience anyway.

Step 7. One day, in a moment of desperation, you will search for puppies on a local ad website. You will find that the majority of dogs available are: Yorkies, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and Pitbulls. None of these dogs fit the list you created in Step #1.

Step 8. Your local news channel will play a segment on people who are burned after buying dogs from ad website sellers. This will scare you back to responsible puppy research.  

Step 9. The process of finding an affordable Step #1 dog from a responsible breeder has become like an addiction for you. It is the ultimate puzzle to be solved. Your husband will become overwhelmed by the blackhole you have fallen into and declare he is willing to share a home with any breed of dog, in hopes that this will facilitate a decision and he will soon have his wife back.

Step 10. Your parents will not understand the trouble you are having (see second introductory paragraph), and wonder why friends with puppies aren't knocking down your door to get rid of them. You will curse Bob Barker and the spay/neuter campaign, resent that your friends aren't overburdened with puppies, and wish that your streets were filled with stray dogs to take in. You recognize the irony of being so selective about buying a dog, when you wouldn't care what breed a stray dog is... But you can't help yourself. 

Step 11. After weeks of research with nothing to show for it, you will decide that maybe you have been too close-minded in your breed criteria and consider new breeds. Repeat steps 1-10. This will always lead you back to your original list. 

Step 12. Finally, when you can't take it anymore and you think you're brain will literally fry, through divine intervention you will find your puppy (responsibly or irresponsibly- it's your choice)! You welcome your sanity back, your husband will welcome his wife back, and your children will be elated with their new furry friend.

Now, you just hope your puppy will live up to all your expectations after spending the best years of your life on researching and hunting for the "perfect" dog.
So far, she is.