Parenting during coronavirus and school closures- week seven recap- I’m a dog mom too

I write about being a mom to my kids a lot but I am also a dog mom. Today I am going to mix things up and write about dogs, being a dog mom and how dogs have made my life better. Everyone needs a distraction from all of the hard news of what is going on in the world right now and what is better to distract us than dogs? I love dogs. So much so that I just wrote a book called Everything I learned from sales I learned from my dog (Here’s the ebook: https://thesidehustlejourney.com/in7d and stay tuned as I’m turning the ebook into a paperback soon). We always had dogs growing up and I’m grateful to my parents for that as it made my life better. It was important to me to give that same gift to my kids. 

The first dog we had when I was growing up was named Puppy. I was a baby and don’t remember Puppy but I definitely remember our next dog, Missy. Missy was a rescue dog who we think might have been abused by someone in uniform as every time anyone in uniform came to our door, she would freak out. The poor mail carrier was scared to deliver our mail and with seven people in our house, we got a lot of mail.  

After Missy passed away we got Schotzi. Schotzi was my 11th birthday present. I remember going to the store to pick her out (yes, it was probably a puppy mill but don’t ruin one of the best days of my life) and I picked out this adorable schnauzer/who knows what else mix. She was grey and white and so sweet. She had small feet so the pet store person told us that she would be a small dog. We named her Schotzi because my mom said it meant sweetheart in German. And she was a sweetheart…who turned out to be a big dog with small feet. I loved that dog so much.  

Schotzi got me through angst-filled teenage years when I’d sit in my room listening to Tears for Fears cuddling with her crying over who knows what or whom. It’s hard for me to write about the end of her life because that sweet, spoiled house dog had a tragic ending. On the weekend I turned 21, I flew to Vegas with friends to celebrate a few of our birthdays. There was a terrible storm at home in Austin that weekend and somehow Schotzi got out. She must have been confused because of the storm and wandered off and got lost. About two weeks later we got a call from the SPCA that she was found across town hungry, obviously attacked by animals and with mange. She had been living on the streets for those two weeks scared and alone. She was brought home but only lived for a few more days. When we got the call I had just left for a new life adventure in Jackson Hole, Wyoming so I never got to say goodbye to my beloved sweetheart.  

The next 13 years were my years without a dog. Sad, sad years. Actually, they were pretty fun. I was in my 20s and early 30s and I was not in a place in my life to be responsible enough to take care of a dog. A few times I was tempted to adopt one at a dog adoption event and I’m so glad I didn’t. I was young and carefree and would have felt tied down by a dog if I had to leave work or a bar to let the dog out to pee.  The only person my age in Jackson Hole who had a dog was a young lawyer named Paul. HIs dog was named Mars and Mars was amazing. Paul had trained Mars to get him a beer from the fridge. Being a 20 something in a ski town that was pretty much the coolest trick ever. Truth be told, most of us liked Mars better than Paul. Sorry, Paul. 

When I was in my early 30s and met my now wife, Lori, she told me right away how she always wanted a dog but her parents would never get them one. She told stories about her bird, Ed, flying into their pool but was always sad that she never had a dog. When we had been together ~3 years and knew we were serious, we decided to take the plunge and get a dog. We got Noe (like Noe Valley in San Francisco where we met) who was ½ labrador retriever and ½  golden retriever, otherwise known as a golden lab. She was full of spice and sass, we loved her unconditionally and this started my life as a mom- a dog mom that is. 

I look back three kids and another dog later and laugh at how much we spoiled Noe. I remember when we were traveling somewhere and my parents were staying at our place watching Noe, I gave my mom a four-paged typed list of how to take care of her. My mom glanced at and it said, “Thanks” and I guarantee she never once looked at it while we were gone. Her philosophy was to feed the dog and let it out occasionally to pee. I think she did cave to the two daily walks we recommended but certainly not to the other 100 things on my list. Noe was about 50% sugar and 50% sass. Her mother’s name was Sassy so it was completely appropriate. One time our friend, Julie E., was watching her when we were out of town and Noe ate her glasses. We, of course, said we’d replace them and asked her how much they cost. She said with a straight face, “$500”. Holy Guacamole, $500, and she was in graduate school at the time. I didn’t know anyone spent that much on glasses.  It was painful writing that check but we had to as that is the price of dog ownership and we were grateful that Julie stayed with her. 

After we had Noe for about a year, we decided that we were going to take six months off to travel. My sister, Lisa, who was pregnant with her first child and her husband, Jimmy, said they would watch her. We, of course, gave them a long list of her needs, desires etc. and went off traveling the world. I remember being in New Zealand drinking local beer by the water talking about what Noe was up to (remember this is before kids so we had much more time, energy and optimism). Since it was before smart phones, we’d go to an internet cafe every week or two to check email. I remember emailing my sister and asking, “Has Noe gotten into anything?”. Her response was short and sweet.  “Ask not what Noe has gotten into but what she hasn’t”. With that, our bubble burst and we realized that our beloved dog was causing stress to my family as we were traveling around the world. I am forever grateful to my sister and her husband for putting up with our furry baby and the havoc she wreaked on their lives. 

Noe was with us for 14 years. She mellowed over the years and was an amazing dog. We practiced parenting on her so we got some of our parenting neuroses out of the way before we had kids. It was great to practice being responsible for another living thing but also having the ability to leave the dog alone for hours at a time (which FYI is not something you can do with babies or little kids). Noe took a back seat to the kids when they were born but she was still loved and spoiled. She was so gentle to our three kids and let them ride her like a horse or pull her ears (not that we condoned either). She never once was aggressive towards them. At the very end of her life when she was old and in constant pain, Jackson went on a week-long trip with his 6th grade class and Noe, who had been staying on the first floor of our house only for a while, made the long and painful climb up the stairs to his room to see if he was there. She held out until he came home and then we had a vet came to our house and, like her life, she was surrounded by her family and lots of love.  

When Noe was 13, we got a new dog, Oliver. Oliver is a golden retriever and the best Christmas surprise ever for our kids. We picked Oliver up on Christmas Eve 2 years ago and told our kids they had to go with us 2 hours each way to pick up new patio furniture. Of course, they were not pleased that we had to do this odd errand on Christmas Eve. When we arrived at the ranch where Oliver was, our kids were totally confused and it took them a bit to adjust that the patio furniture story was a lie and we really there to pick up our new puppy.  

The confusion turned to bliss as they realized that we were going to take an adorable golden retriever puppy home with us. I feel like this was our pinnacle of Christmas surprises for our kids and I don’t feel like I have to ever try to outdo it. Oliver spiced up our life as any puppy does. Sadly, Noe was too old to appreciate a puppy brother and spent the last year of her life irritated that this bundle of joy just wanted to play with her. Oliver has grown into a good dog (most of the time) and I won’t mention how expensive he was in the beginning when he ate a lot– the babysitter’s shoes, a rug, the lemon tree in the backyard etc. but we love him unconditionally and he loves his humans, the scratches we give him, his many walks and his visits to see his friends at the dog park. He’s a friendly, furry golden retriever with a huge fluffy tail who is always the life of the party at the dog park and we call him our fluffernutter.  

During this time of Shelter in Place, we have all said how happy we are to have Oliver as we have been able to walk him more times than we can count and shower him with attention, scratches and love. And we get just as much love and attention back from him. We are the center of his universe.  He often shows up on the kids school video calls or our work webinars now looking for scratches and he knows that he is loved. I’m grateful for all of the dogs I have had in my life who have made my life better because of their amazing listening skills, snuggles, our long walks and hikes together and unconditional love.  After having two dogs as an adult, I appreciate what is required to be a dog parent and it was good practice for adulting and having kids. Dogs are a lot like kids except dogs are always grateful and don’t talk back. Being a dog mom is one of my joys in life, just ask the friends I have made at the dog park. 

Here what happened in our bubble last week:

  • I’m going to say something brilliant and give 100% credit to my wife; less technology equals more creativity. The girls have started to be more creative because they have been losing technology a lot lately (ahem, fighting). Their favorite game is putting on their bathing suits, going to the back yard, making the other guess what color toy is behind their back and if they guess the wrong color, they dump water on each other’s heads. 
  • Our county extended our shelter in place order until 5/31 so we are inside for a while longer.  
  • When I called my parents to check-in, they told me that my cousin had set up Netflix for them and they were watching The Crown. After ~10 minutes my mom said, “We hate to cut you off but we don’t know how long this show will stay on so we are going to say goodbye and go back to watching another episode of The Crown”. Classic- my parents ditched me to binge-watch Netflix. 
  • Our weather was hot last week and one day I was wearing a green t-shirt. Ellie said, “Mommy, green is not your color”. Ok then. 
  • We found out that one of our favorite restaurants, The Dumpling House, which had fire damage ~2 years ago and hasn’t reopened was going to be at our local farmer’s market. Lori ventured out to get some dumplings. They were so delicious.  
  • We are still taking our sunset walks. Usually, it’s just Lori and myself but Jackson did join us one evening to walk in the farm behind where we live to see a beautiful sunset. 
  • Our internet has been spotty all week and one day was so bad across our town that morning video classes were canceled at the schools. It’s a real challenge when the internet is bad when two parents are trying to work and three kids are trying to be on their school video calls. This cookie may crumble without internet. 
  • Lucy has been watching YouTube to learn card tricks. She constantly asks if she can show us her latest card trick. I’m trying to encourage her learning something new and I’m trying to be zen even when it’s in the middle of my workday and she pops in my office again with, “Can I show you a card trick?”. 
  • We switched up the weekly Zoom call with other parents from Ellie’s school this week and met in a deserted and shady parking lot and put our chairs six feet apart. It was fun to see a few of these new friends in person and talk for an hour. 
  • We took a family walk through the arboretum in our town that is along a creek. We were able to socially distance and enjoy the beautiful outside.  
  • There is a bear roaming around our town this week. The local paper’s headline was awesome; “Bear sheltering in place at West Davis Pond”.

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