A Pet Parent.

The last few weeks, things have fallen beautifully into place for us. It took time (to put it graciously) for us to find a rhythm that worked, but we’re there. Everyone’s on the same page, working toward the same goal – everyday. Mary’s grades are way up, but more importantly, she’s clearly matured academically more than a year. I am so proud of her.

Like, seriously. I don’t even know where to begin describing the extent to which her attitude lately has improved. It’s been killing me that after such a tumultuous beginning, there has been so little time to enjoy writing about her success. I’ll admit, less time in front of the computer (even doing something I really enjoy, like writing) has been kind of nice, though.

So, it figures that as soon as things slow down around here, I’d find a way to ramp them back up.

Meet Benson!

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If you’re a face book friend of mine, you know that I’ve had a pretty vicious case of puppy fever this year. It’s strange for me, too. As a little girl I used to cry myself to sleep over the stone cold, hopeless reality that my parents would never, ever let me get a dog. When finally they cracked, it was a disaster. I loved those dogs. But owning them, for my parents, must have been a nightmare.

Dog one got knocked up by the unruly bay retriever one street away that was always getting loose with her. Together, they made our second outrageously mannered dog. Those three dogs had a bond like I never knew could exist between an animal family, and regularly bolted out the door to meet up for troublesome, off-leash adventures through the neighborhood. I never minded their behavioral problems growing up — but when I became a parent, it was as if I had been exposed to the matrix my mom endured. The idea of putting myself and my beloved little house through the turmoil of puppy training and dog co-habitation was not at all desirable to me.

I like the way Meagan Francis put it in her article on Babble about how kids are easier to raise than dogs. Something about having kids you actually gave birth to (or at least share a species with) pulling on you all day long really drives the romance of caring for another fully-dependent creature out the window.

To liven up the family just enough, that innate animal lover in me settled on a couple of cats who fit our lifestyle well. With a whole slew of kids already, they were enough. They are gorgeous, self-reliant, and just affectionate enough that they’ll agree to cuddle whenever you ask, but could really give a shit less if a week passed before you found the time.

Gradually, we started to sound like grandparents when it came to visiting any one of our constant pet rescuing, shelter volunteering, animal fostering, pitbull activist friends. We’d always say to each other, “Gosh, their dogs sure are beautiful… Yeah, I’m with you though – still glad it’s not US trudging them out to pee first thing every morning, rain or shine.”

Riley, a free beagle my brother was looking to rehome, happened to us on a whim, which is rarely the best way to go about bringing anything important into your life. But he turned out to be one of the coolest things our family ever endured. His time with us was short. But to this day, Matthew and Spencer vow he’s still an important member of this family. When it came to getting a new dog, though, there was no desire. Not even from the kids. We never would have gotten rid of him voluntarily (and genuinely, we were heartbroken that he never came back) — but it was kind of like… George Costanza when Susan died of cheap glue poisoning. No one was rushing back out to replace him.

Eventually, and kind of surprisingly, all of that deteriorated one day. Well, not all at once. But in nice big clumps, all of our trepidation about owning a dog someday down the road fell away. It started to be one of those things we kind of wanted. Something we looked forward to. Until eventually we were talking about it in a really excited way. We looked up breeders and bookmarked the web addresses of reputable shelters. We talked about names. I paid more attention to the relationships between my childless friends and the dogs that they love.

The part of me that has to overanalyze everything can recognize that this probably has to do with Scarlett reaching an age of measurable independence. She is no longer a baby. We’re in no position to have more. And even though I do not (in even the smallest measure) want more kids, that instinct to nurture and raise a fully dependant being is still very much alive. And at this point, constantly nagging. It’s become pretty clear to me since we brought him home that this is less about wanting us to be a “dog family” than I thought it was, and more about me just wanting to extend the reach of my experience as a parent. I like that Matthew will be able to put so much loyalty into a being that depends on him, I like that Spencer will devote Saturdays to taking it out to for activities it’s breed naturally craves, and I like that Scarlett will have a k-9 pal to grow up with. But really, I wanted a dog for myself.

Lucky for me, Benson is happy to sustain me.

Bensonstick

This one is exactly nothing like his more brazen, high-energy predecessor. He is a doll baby; medium energy, bashful and already remarkably obedient. I have never been more in love with an animal.

I’d really love to talk about our adventures so far in training, but someone has to go potty. Hello, pre-blizzard temperatures!

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