Sunday, February 2, 2020

Puppies Are Like That

Puppies like to chew on things like bones, rubber balls, or even sticks. This puppy is chewing on somebody’s sneaker. He will have to be scolded. Puppies are like that.  

–from Puppies Are Like That by Jan Phloog

Having a puppy is not like flying on an airplane. Before takeoff, airline attendants always take time to explain the emergency procedures. “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”  In other words, take care of yourself first. Then help others.
Puppies aren’t like that. When they wake up at 5:00 am, you can’t have a rational conversation with them. You can’t say, “It’s too early—go back to bed.” They don’t understand, “Give me 5 minutes to brew a pot of coffee and then I’ll play with you.”  Puppies come first.  Because if you ignore them, they will pee on the kitchen floor and chew on the chair leg. Puppies are like that.

When our kids were little, we read them a board book called Puppies Are Like That.  Over the last three weeks, Paul and I found ourselves echoing that refrain as we fostered a sweet six-week-old puppy named Claudette Colbert.
It’s been a year since we lost Tatum and, with the kids at college, sometimes the house feels a little empty.  Was it time to add a new furry companion to the family? We decided (OK, really “I decided,” but Paul is the best husband ever) to volunteer three weeks in January and reacquaint ourselves to the joy and commitment of having a pet.

Here’s what I knew about fostering before:

  • All the puppies are cute
  • Wolf Trap Animal Rescue provides all the supplies you need
  • If you fall in love, you have priority to adopt the puppy (this is known as “foster failing.”

What more did I need to know? Sign me up!
Here’s what I learned about fostering after agreeing to care for a puppy:

  • Puppies may have heartworm, fleas, parvovirus or even mange 
  • The change in diet may mean nausea and diarrhea 
  • The puppy will need to be spayed or neutered
  • The puppy should not be left alone for more than 4-5 hours at a time

I don’t tell you this to scare you, but to remind you of the reality that there’s a lot more to puppies than cuteness.  Because pictures of puppies on Instagram tug at our emotional heartstrings. And you cannot raise a puppy on emotional “Awwws” alone. It takes blood, sweat, and tears. Literally. Furthermore, this is an important time in the life of the puppy. The socialization period occurs in puppies at approximately 3-12 weeks. In The Art of Raising A Puppy, the New Skete Monks explain, “By socialization we mean two things: first, the positive adjustment a puppy makes to the many aspects of her life, whether this includes other dogs, people, places, or objects; second, what we do to foster this.” We are caring for this puppy at the time when she is most impressionable. It’s a huge responsibility and one we are taking seriously.  And by the way…She is the cutest. Puppy. Ever. 

Here’s a summary of our lives over the last three weeks: 
  • Arrange our schedules to tag team puppy time in 4-hour increments
  • Talk about poop a lot. “Did she poop?” “What time did she last poop?” 
  • Hire a dog sitter to come over on occasions when we were gone longer
  • Bundle up in the cold darkness for early morning/late night potty breaks
  • Clean up accidents in the house
  • Purchase extra toys to play with the puppy
  • Make sure the puppy is getting plenty of exercise
  • Work on training the puppy
  • Arrange for “meet and greets” so potential adopters can meet the puppy
  • Read a book on how to raise a puppy
  • Distract the puppy from chewing

And oh, the puppy chewing.  That’s where the blood, sweat, and tears came in. Those puppy teeth are razor sharp! I remembered very quickly to put the electric cords up and keep my shoes in the closet. Anything on or near the floor was fair game. Including the carpet in my living room. Oops. Puppies are like that. 

Puppy snuggles made up for all the hard work. Even in the short time we had her, we got to see Claudette’s sweet personality emerging. She’s a smart puppy who is already crate trained and sleeping through the night.  She knows “come” and “go potty” and loves to chew sticks and chase balls. She loves to be scratched behind her ears and to snuggle up next to you when she is tired. When you say her name, she gives you a little head tilt as if to respond, “Yes? I’m listening?”
Everyone thought we would “foster fail.” We didn’t. Finding the perfect family for Claudette’s forever home made it easier to decide. I realize that, as much as we love this puppy, it is not the season in our lives when we want to commit to a new family member. We are enjoying the flexibility and freedom of our first year as empty nesters. We are getting reacquainted with each other and even being a bit spontaneous. We’re making plans to travel and reading more books. 

Yet, as I packed up her belongings and prepared to say goodbye, I felt my throat catch and the tears well up. The house feels quiet again. Empty. We may foster again and someday, perhaps, we will get another dog. But for right now I’m excited to have a conversation with Paul that doesn’t revolve around poop.

P.S. If you are seriously considering fostering or adopting, I highly recommend Wolf Trap Animal Rescue.  Wolf Trap Animal Rescue is a not-for-profit organization whose primary mission is to “support a life-saving foster, transport, and adoption program which was developed in order to rescue young animals in danger of being euthanized in Mississippi from overpopulation.” They have successfully rescued over 5,000 animals in the past 5 years.   

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Every Book Begins with the First Word

I’ve decided to write a book. This might be a crazy idea for a few reasons:
  • I don’t know how to write a book.  Most of my knowledge about writing a book is based on a fictional character in the telenovela Jane the Virgin.  
  • My spelling isn’t the greatest. I once came in third place in a spelling bee, but there were only three contestants. Sometimes I’m not smarter than a 5th grader.  
  • I don’t know all the grammar rules. If you line up 100 people based on their grammar knowledge, I’d like to think I’d be in the top half, but that might be the Dunning-Kruger effect at play. I usually go by intuition, and I can’t always explain why I think a comma goes there. I’m not sure what a dangling participle is but I keep meaning to look it up. 
  • I’m not sure who will read my book besides my mom. 
Still, it’s good to have goals. I won’t be deterred. I’m a teacher—I’m used to being creative and resourceful. I’m also a whiz with the binding machine in the teacher workroom so publishing will be a piece of cake.

While I haven’t figured out the content of the book yet, I've already created a list of people who could write the back-cover blurbs.  Here’s what I imagine they might say:
  • Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)—Hers was first blog I ever read about a metal chicken named BeyoncĂ©.  After I stopped laughing, I drove straight to Home Goods determined to find a bit of whimsy. I came back with a sturdy wrought iron fruit basket. Not what I had in mind, but it's extremely practical and I still have it. 
Allison is a whiz with the binding machine and we have the same birthday so she’s alright with me. This book is a bit of whimsy you’ll definitely want to pick up when you visit my Nowhere Bookshop. 
  • Gina Rodriguez (Jane Villanueva)—Fictional characters probably don't write dust jacket blurbs and I get that. But Jane the Virgin would probably tell me,
If you ever think you are not cut out to be a writer, that is just your doubts and fears talking. You have to keep writing. You are a writer. 
  • Oprah—If we are going to dream big on this dust jacket, why not?
What I know for sure…you should read this book! You get a copy and you get a copy!
  • Scott Avett—An extremely talented musician and definitely my favorite banjo player. Maybe he'll love my book so much that I'll score backstage passes the next time I see The Avett Brothers in concert.
Allison’s writing is much better than her banjo playing.
  • My Mom—She reads my blog and already comments on my writing so she'll be a natural.
Allison is so insightful and clever. She is the best daughter and her writing is wonderful.
OK, off to become a published author of my first book. If you want to preorder a copy, let me know!