It’s a puppy thing

Three years ago this week, my husband and I drove up to the high desert and adopted this adorable creature our daughter named Waffles. At the time, she was going through anxiety and we felt this puppy’s unconditional love and enjoyment would benefit her. Some questioned whether a college student could handle a pup, but we did our best to train him for a few months before she took him to school. We did our research and learned that pugs are the perfect “apartment dogs” because they sleep all day when their owners are gone at work or school. 

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Waffles, our 12-week old pug.

I think we bit off more than we can chew! We thought it would be nice for our daughter to have a companion in the form of an animal. She’s out of state in college and busy with academics plus D1 swimming, and we thought a puppy would bring a lot of joy and fun into her daily life.

She asked permission of her landlord, and even though her lease says “no pets,” he agreed to a small dog. We decided the puppy would be a present for Christmas.

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Waffles turns into a pancake when I try to walk him.

Our daughter wanted a pug and thinks they are so cute. They are. I’ll agree to that. We looked into suitable breeds, and besides the two negatives of snoring and shedding, pugs appear to be an easy going breed requiring very little care.

But the puppy thing. I’m on day five and I think puppy is winning the battle. It’s like having an infant again. I have to watch him constantly. He doesn’t sleep through the night, and when he’s crawling on his belly through the yard, I never know what is going to end up in his mouth. I knew we were in for trouble when we drove Waffles home for an hour and a half drive. He was squirming all the way, nipping and licking my neck and fingers. Finally, as we drove into town he fell asleep. That’s what my son would do in his car seat during long drives.

I’m crate training, potty training and my daily life suddenly got very busy and tiring. Why we think our daughter can handle this is beyond me. Of course, she does have youth on her side. And Waffles is so darn cute!

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Olive the cat is not sure about any of this. What did we do???

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I write about Waffles

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What makes people happier? Dogs or cats?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on eight years. We got her when my son left for college, because he’s allergic to cats. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though she’d do well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. We figured Olive likes her life here and I don’t think she’d do well to move to a new house. So, Olive remains my only pet now. I like it that way.

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 studylinked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs, too, but currently are empty-nesters as far as the pups go. My daughter has Waffles the pug, who I get to babysit occasionally. I raised him from puppyhood for several months until she was able to come home and take him.  It’s kind of what I think grand-parenting will be like. I love having Waffles around and then I miss him when he’s gone. But, I don’t miss the daily responsibility.

Growing up we had big dogs. Golden retrievers, a doberman, German shorthair pointers and a yellow lab. As an adult, my husband and I got Natasha as a gift from good friends. She was a rottie and a housewarming gift for our first home. That was before kids and she did make us happy. She was our baby.

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Natasha and my kids

Next pet was when someone found a kitten in their car engine on their way to work, and I ended up taking the poor sweet kitty home. That was Peabody, our second pet named for the cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle. Next came Sherman, who was a black cat that lived with us from kitten-hood to 17 years old when she wandered out of our yard and got attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Ugh. After we said good-bye to Natasha, we got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert. (I wrote about Angus here.) Angus lived until the ripe old age of 15.

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

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Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

A good dog saves the day!

After spending a little time at our local animal shelter yesterday with a good friend, I was thinking about how good dogs are for our lives. Here’s a good dog story I wrote last year:

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The kids celebrating a birthday with our good dog Natasha.

 

I read a heartwarming story Sunday morning about a missing three-year-old girl who wandered away from home–and yes, it has a happy ending. The location was Australia and when you think of how many missing children stories end badly, this was a relief—thanks to a loyal old blue heeler named Max.

In “Loyal blue heeler stays with three-year-old lost in bush overnight” by Gail Burke and Matt Eaton, they describe how the little girl Aurora wandered away, spent the night in the cold and rain in treacherous terrain, but had Max by her side:

“An old blue heeler named Max remained by the side of a three-year-old girl and led searchers to her after she spent more than 15 hours lost in rugged bushland on Queensland’s Southern Downs overnight.

Aurora was reported missing about 3:00pm on Friday after she wandered off on her own, but a search of woodlands and hills on the rural property in wet weather on Friday night found no trace of her.

On Saturday morning, more than 100 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, police and members of the public resumed the search and found the girl safe and well with Max the dog at 8:00am.

For his good work in keeping the little girl safe, Max has now been declared an honorary police dog.

Kelly Benston, the partner of Leisa Bennett, who is Aurora’s grandmother, said Ms Bennett and other searchers heard the little girl faintly from the top of a mountain on Saturday morning.

“She found the dog first. Max led her to Aurora,” Mr Benston said.

“Max is 17 years old, deaf and partially blind.”

SES area controller Ian Phipps confirmed a family member spotted Aurora and Max about two kilometres from the house, still on the family property at Cherry Gulley, 30 kilometres south of Warwick.

“The area around the house is quite mountainous and is very inhospitable terrain to go walking in, so she’d travelled quite a distance with her dog that was quite loyal to her,” he said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.16.36 AMI didn’t know what a blue heeler was, so I looked it up and found a description on Dogster.com:

“Blue Heeler History
Mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs, Australian George Elliott developed the Blue Heeler in 1840. Australian cattlemen and ranchers loved the breed’s toughness and work ethic, and the dogs quickly became popular as cattle herders. They are also called Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers and Australian Cattle Dogs.”

I enjoy a good dog story. Dogs are amazing. I told my husband about Max and Aurora and he said, “See I told you we didn’t need to worry about Robert when he was with Natasha!” Natasha was our first dog, a Rottie.

It was May 1996, when our three-year-old son wandered away from home. I had taken “the baby”—which was what I called our four-month-old daughter–with me to help set up a database and create a roster for a charity I was involved with. Of course, one hour turned into several, and when I returned home, well something was wrong. My husband was supposed to be in charge of our son.

First, our garage door was wide open as was the archway gate to our backyard. The kitchen door was open, the French doors to the backyard were open, too.

I had “the baby” in an over-the-shoulder-baby-holder as I walked into the house wondering what was going on. My husband was in his chair, remote control in hand. I asked, “Where’s Robert?” I went from the living room to his bedroom. No Robert. Into the baby’s room, guest room, our bedroom. A sense of panic was rising from deep down in my stomach to my throat. Pretty soon I think I was screaming for him.

I spotted a pile of his clothes by the pool—by the open gate to the pool. With dread, I searched the bottom of the pool with my eyes. With relief, there was nothing but few small wet footprints on the patio next to his clothes.

We ran out into the street yelling and calling for our son. My husband found him across the street and empty lot on Indian Canyon, walking the dog, stark naked.

My husband said at the time, and reminded me today, “You see, he was safe because he had a Rottweiler with him. Nobody was going to touch him.”

“I just sat down for a minute,” is the other thing my husband said. Right. Just long enough for our son to open up doors, gates, get undressed and go for a swim and walk the dog a block away—naked!

At least we had a good ending to another child wandering away from home story–thanks to a good dog.

 

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My kids with Natasha. She was a good dog.

Have your kids ever wandered away? Do you have any good dog stories to share?

 

 

What I’m Dying to Do on My Daughter’s First Day of Work

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My kids four years ago.

She starts work on Monday. This is her first post-college “real job.” I’ve been looking at all the pics on Facebook with the first day of school photos. Something that parents of younger kids do today that we did not for the photo of that momentous day each year—they pose their children with signs. Some are simple cardboard with black sharpie touting “First Day of Kindergarten” and some are elaborate and framed.

I never did that. In fact, I don’t know a single person who did that during our day and age of being parents of young kiddos. We did snap a picture — and back then it wasn’t digital— of our kids glowering at us in their carefully chosen first-day outfits. I guess, looking back, it would be helpful to have the grade and year staring back from the photo, but I can mostly tell which year it was. I’m only off by one or two years.

So, my daughter’s first day of work is coming up. I’m on my way to spend a few days with her in her new home. I’m planning on helping her build a few pieces of furniture from Ikea, unpack boxes and organize so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning in clutter and chaos. On her first day of work, I’d love to go with her. I’d like to pretend that it’s back in the old days when I could walk into her classroom with her and see where her desk was. Where her cubby was for her lunchbox. But, of course, I won’t do that.

But, what are the odds that she’ll pose for me holding a sign? Slim to none? Well, I think it would be cute. Fun. And of course, I’m kidding about going to work with her. And taking the picture. Sort of. But if I can’t get her to take the “First Day of Work” pic, I can always try one with Waffles. “First Day Home Alone.” Or, “First Day in Doggie Daycare!” He’s a known poser for sure.

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Waffles Utah Grad Pic, Class of 2018.

What’s your opinion of the first day of school pictures? Do you have a family tradition that you follow?

Our first day of summer vacation made me want to stay home

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The beach in Summerland near Santa Barbara.

The day we were leaving to visit our dear friends in Carpinteria, I got a text from one of them: “I am going in for emergency surgery to have a stent put in. Sorry to ruin the weekend.”

I’m like, “WHAT?” We were packing the car ready to embark on a week’s vacation with family and friends in the Santa Barbara area. I called my girlfriend immediately after I tried to make sense of her text. She answered in a weak, raspy voice and explained that in the morning she had been at the gym (she’s a health nut, works out all the time, rides her bike 60 miles and only eats healthy) and she passed out. They called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. She was headed into surgery when I called her on her cell. It turned out that she had a stroke and a blood clot landed in her carotid artery.

Talk about a jolt! I was terrified for her. How can one lead such a healthy life—and then something like that happens to you? The good news is she’s been released from ICU and the hospital altogether. A week later you’d never know that she underwent such a harrowing ordeal. She’s so fortunate she wasn’t on a bike ride when it happened, or working in her house alone. The stroke happened when she was surrounded by people and she got treatment immediately.

Later the same day, we got another phone call about a family member’s major car accident. After, that another health scare about another family member. Then to top it off, my cat got sick and she had to go to the vet. What else could wrong on the day you’re leaving on vacation?

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Father and daughter on a beach walk.

I turned to my husband and asked if we could postpone our vacation. I had no desire to leave the safety of my home. What’s the point of vacation anyway if all you’re doing is worrying about your loved ones?

We stayed home that night and I calmed down. I reflected on how fragile life is and how you never know what’s in store for you. I’m so thankful everyone survived that awful day and that they are all safe and sound. Then when we finally went on vacation, I treasured every moment I shared with my friends and family.

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Waffles at the beach

What are some of the most unplanned and crazy moments of your vacations?

Today Really Stinks!

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Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing we’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside and we tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

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Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

When the scaredy cat has had it

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Olive the cat.

Things have changed on the homefront. Olive cat has decided she’s had it. She’s no longer putting up with being locked in the guest room or our master bedroom. She’s not going to cower and run with fear when the Waffles the pug comes near her.

In fact, she’s no longer slinking under furniture hiding from Waffles. Instead, she’s walking by, tail high swishing back and forth. It’s like she’s trolling him.

There have been a few chases but they don’t end up well for Waff. He makes his move, she runs, stops, turns around and holds her ground hissing and spitting.

Yesterday, I was sitting down with the kitty Olive rubbing my legs, asking for a scratch around the ears when Waffles appeared. Waffles stopped short of us and stood staring about five feet away. Olive stared back for several moments. Then, out of the blue, she charged full speed, spitting and hissing ripping at his face with her claws.

Someone has changed from the scaredy cat to the alpha boss. Waffles is like “Whoa!” in his best Owen Wilson impression.

It will be interesting to see if these two can become friends before Waffles’ extended visit is over.

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Waffles the pug.

How have you introduced a new animal into your family?