How Adopting a Dog Inspired Me

Starsky learning to smile!

Their names are Batman and Starsky, like the cartoon and the TV Show. But I call them Stinky, Scruffy, Stinky-Four-Paws, Paw-some the Hound, Scruffaluffagus, Monsieur Hound, Scruff McGruff, and Chunk. And they answer every time. They are my best friends, the only thing I am loyal to, and the number one topic of conversation in my life. My baby-dogs, my children. I have learned so much from having dogs: growing up we had cats, and I was always a “cat person”, I didn’t understand why everyone enthused about having a dog so much. sure, they’re cute, but they’re basically just cats that can’t look after themselves, right?

Wrong. And I didn’t realize how wrong I was until Batman was placed unexpectedly into my arms. He’s basically never left. Even now, three and a half years later as I write this, he is laying morosely on my feet – he wants to go outside, but he’s mad because I won’t go with him and he won’t leave me. Batman was not, regrettably, a “rescue dog”. My husband and I stumbled across him at one of those pet store events where they have lots of puppies in a big pen. We weren’t even in the pet store for a reason – we were simply trying to walk off a big dinner and ducked into escape the heat. But Batman, literally, jumped into our lives, throwing himself off a high table in the process. It was love at first snuggle, and we left that store a lot poorer and a lot happier.

Over the last three and a half years I’ve started to believe that I really did “Rescue” Batman. All dogs need homes, after all, and my husband and I have been able to give him a fantastic life. As a Dachshund, we have kept him agile and exercised, not exposing him to some of the “cruel kindnesses” many uninformed owners do in error.

However, when the time came to find a second dog, our heart was set on adopting from a shelter. After nearly 18 months of visiting shelters on an almost weekly basis, my husband and I found Starsky. He was immediately the dog we were looking for. Four days later (he had to undergo surgery) we bought him home.

Rescuing an adult dog from an abused home was not without it’s problems. After an hour of having him at the house he managed to jump our back fence even with me standing only a few feet away from him. After a half hour of frantically tearing through the neighborhood yelling “come here, puppy” (he was unnamed at that point), I returned sobbing to the house to find him curled up next to the drivers side of my car. He wanted to go for a ride. In fact, for the first week the only way we could get him to enter the house was to drive him into the adjoined garage in the car and let him walk through the basement. But it’s a journey, and I’ve learned so many great things about our family, and the whole experience has inspired me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Here are some of my top unexpected bonuses from rescuing a dog:

  1. The love… oh, the love! Seems a little expected, but it had to make the list simply because of the amazing ability to love that dogs have. Starsky came from a home where he was clearly kicked and starved, but he came to us wanting to love. My husband and I joke that he doesn’t understand cuddling, and for weeks neither of us could comfortably pick him up despite him only weighing 12 lbs (he is now a healthier 15 lbs). When we would try and cuddle him he would get over-excited, desperately wantingto love, but not really knowing how to reciprocate.He also does this with Batman. Batman is always giving his “little brother” kisses, sniffs, and playful puppy ear tugs. Starsky generally freezes at these signs of affection, but every now and again he will work himself up and charge at Batman, trying to lick him all over. Fortunately, Batman isn’t easily put off, and see’s Starsky’s enthusiasm as endearing rather than frightening! One of the moments that bought actual tears of joy to my eyes was Starsky approached a sleeping Batman and curled up next to him on the couch, resting his chin on Batman’s back.
  2. Waking up is three times as awesome!When I was single waking up really was my least favorite thing to you. You know, all that dressing and combing and lack of conversation. When I got married, it got a bit easier with the husband and his ability to talk back, occasional “you look nice”, and sleepy recollections of his dreams about Transformers (Men!).The first morning we had Batman I woke up to the sound of hound-mewing: little tiny cries of “Mommy, I needs a pee!”, and – I’ll admit it – I rather grumpily picked him up and shuffled outside thinking “at least a cat can toilet itself”. However, potty time kind of became our thing, and pretty quickly my alarm would go off and I would immediately fling back the covers and head to the back door, four chubby puppy paws skidding behind me in anticipation. For the three years he was an “only child”, Batman and I’s morning stayed pretty much the same, we were on the same page.

    With Starsky we faced the challenge of trying to crate one dog while the other slept rather self-satisfied in the bed with us. After four mornings of waking up after 3 hours broken sleep to a basement covered in shredded dog bed I caved in and Scruffy joined the “big bed” gang. Now my morning ritual has been restored, only Batman’s four paws have been enhanced by the choir of Starsky’s paws skipping along side him. Eight paws of excitement!

  3. My husband is kind of a big deal.Some distant relative told me that you never know a man until you have children with him. I always believed that the opposite would probably work better. However, as far as dogs go, that relative was right. The hubs and I entered the venture of parenting together, but the second dog was really my idea – I wanted the sibling experience for Batman, and I thought it would appease my sense of guilt at working long hours.Our first few days with Starsky at home were exhausting, and I felt as though the hubs didn’t really support what it was we were doing. A couple of times I almost willed him to ask me to take the dog back, because I felt certain that’s what he wanted. But he persevered, and by the end of the first week it was a no brainer on whether the situation was improving.

    My beloved has done everything from clean up mid-night vomit, clip gnarly toenails, and clean our solid wood table for urine stains. He also routinely herds Starsky back towards the house when he escapes (that dog should have been called Houdini!).

    Skip forwards to today and Hubs and Starsky are thicker than thieves. Scruff McGruff howls with excitement when the spousal Jetta pulls into the garage, throwing himself with (rather alarming) joy at the door. He sits on the “male side” of the kitchen table, patiently waiting for dinner to finish, while Batman tries to beg, climb, and perform a soliloquy in order the forage food from my plate. Seeing my husband carrying Starsky around – he’s the only person trusted enough to do it, even more than ME – has really taught me a lot about my husbands capacity to love and adapt to situations, but also show me how far he will go to keep me happy. Although, I maintain, things that make me happy make my husband happy too… It’s part of marital law.

  4. Y’all need to get some exercise.I have always been a big fan of exercise, but recently have found myself at a point where I have not been able to work out for an inconvenient health reason. This makes me sad. Batman was always easy to exercise just in the house and the neighborhood, as he would run around the house and gardens until he collapsed. Starsky, however, is more of a natural sloth. He is bigger framed dog that his big brother, with much longer legs, but he will sit or lay down until he is actively engaged in some kind of activity.This need to actually participate in his exercise program, paired with the fact that he needs close supervision owing to an unidentified lameness in his back leg, has called for regular family walks. This makes me happy. Now I have a reason to get out and walk slowly without feeling like an unfit, flacid, almost-thirty something. If people wonder why I’m not running and give them the “look at my tiny, limping dog” look. It works every time.

    These walks have helped all of us – my knees are getting stronger, the husband is getting some fresh air, and we get plenty of time to talk. Batman gets the exciting world of five miles of other dog’s markings, and Starsky’s leg has improved to an almost perceptible shuffle in a few short weeks! Bonus!

  5. Are you mom enough?Yeah, sorry Time Magazine, I borrowed your sensationalist headline. Only I’m not talking about attachment parenting, I’m talking about adoption. This will sound completely gratuitous, but the sense of personal worth you get from adopting an animal – not just a dog – is amazing. Everyone should experience it, even if you just adopt a goldfish. I adopted a goldfish once. His name was gentle and he lived to be four years old by eating other goldfish. He was a bit of a bastard. But my point is, like the woman on the front cover of Time Magazine, you get to carry around a little piece of warmth in your heart knowing that, because of you, this animal is cared for and safe. No. Better. Feeling.One of the most surprising things that has happened to me is the sheer number of folks that come up to me to talk about Starsky and, after learning he was adopted, will thank me or shake my hand for choosing to adopt. People tell me all the time that they don’t have it in them to adopt, but that “would love to”. Do it. It’s a revolution, and we can all be heroes.

So that’s my five most important things I’ve learned and/or experienced through adopting my baby. This is also probably the longest-ass blog post of all time. My macbook is telling me we are over 1800 words, and my watch is telling me we are after 11pm.

So adieu, good world, I am settling into a bed filled with paws, snores, and amore (yeah, that one was pretty bad). If anyone reading this has an adoption story about a pet, not just a dog – I really do love cats too – please feel free to share. Spread the word!

Batman and Starsky being carried around by their Daddy!

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What are you Uncertain About?

Uncertainty: the birthright of my generation. I could probably start a list of the things that I’m uncertain about, and never finish it because I’m forever adding things. I’m generation Y – as in “why does everybody seem so calm, can’t they see the sky is falling?”. We’re neurotic. I blame the fact we we raised watching 90’s TV shows where everything was colorful and everyone got along – I’m currently watching Ally McBeal on Netflix – and then we graduated into this “real world” and, frankly, it terrifies us. We’re delicate and unprepared: I mean, did anyone ever get murdered on friends? Now every time I turn on the TV there’s someone dead in a dumpster and some gravelly voiced woman muttering terrible philosophies on life.

I digress from my point. Another hazard of our generation. Digression, procrastination, and confusion. My actual subject matter today is about children, and whether or not I want children, and all of the complexities that go along with it. As most people have gathered from my blog, my “babies” are my two dogs – I don’t have any of hairless, squawking kind. But I challenge any 27 year old married woman to deny the fact that no matter how resolved you are in every aspect of your life, if you don’t have children there is an unspoken judgement from the rest of the world.

I can hear people laughing – mainly men – stop it! My husband thinks I’m crazy. That’s because when people meet him for the first time the most in depth their conversation gets is “so what car do you drive”, or on very rare and intimate moments “seen any bands lately”. When I meet someone for the first time I am immediately “scanned”. I have developed this term to define the process in which a woman views another woman. Imagine the full body scanner that caused so much panic earlier this year (FYI – been through it and it’s not a big deal, I expected them to shower me off with radioactive waste or something), only this body scanner is done with one long gaze. These women scan you for wedding rings (check), baby weight (I could be confusing in that area) and diaper bags. My small leather clutch is a ten foot billboard declaring my lack of offspring. And then come the questions, normally posed in the following way: “how long have you been married?” “Oh really, and you don’t have children yet?” (I can feel the smugness radiating from their Sherlock Holmes like deduction of my attire). And then they wait for my response.

I used to shy away from answering these questions, or at least squirm uncomfortably in my shoes. Now I say “Well, we have two dogs that are our babies, I don’t know if we’ll have children”. And I promise that the unanimous response to this question is: “well, if you have dogs then you’ll have children eventually”. Like it’s a fact. Even when I wail that I’ll probably be a terrible mother (I have actually dropped a baby in my life), my friends console me with “no you won’t, look at how much you love your dogs”.

Yes, I love my dogs. I really love my dogs. I love my dogs almost too much – last night I actually slept without my required three pillows because Batman had nested on top of them and I didn’t want to wake him. But that doesn’t mean I’m mother material. I have run out in front of traffic for my dogs, I have extracted things from their bottoms, I have cleaned up literally gallons of hound-emissions. My dogs ate my favorite pair of shoes, and when I replaced them they ate the replacements, and I wasn’t even that angry. Yes, I dress them up in sweaters when it’s cold, and there may be special halloween outfits in our closet; and, yes, I let them sleep in the bed with me; and, yes, I carry them around in my arms and tell them I love them ALL of the time. This makes a crazy dog person, it’s doesn’t mean I am practicing at parenthood.

I love my dogs because they are dogs. They aren’t going to grow up and call me names and say they wished they’d never been born, or get some pregnant by some guy with a lip ring and a fake phone number. They’re definitely not going to run up a credit card bill, or get arrested trying to buy alcohol underage. I’m not going to have to endure seeing them start their own lives without me. I admire anyone that has the courage to bring another life into this world, and is strong enough to go through the rollercoaster of crazy that having children brings into your life. I especially admire people that are so certain of their decision at such a young age – but that’s not me.

The “children” debate is one that has been on the table for a long time, and I’m still not sure of the answer to it. Truthfully, I wish I had more clarity on the situation, so that I least I could start working towards that end goal, but I don’t. Some of my friends have advised me to force the issue and make a decision and try and “grow into it”, but I think it should be an organic thing.

So, other than questioning my hair color, my favorite food, the maximum justifiable amount to spend on shoes, and whether or not to paint my dining room, I would say this is the biggest uncertainty in my life at the moment. But one thing I’m certain of is this: getting asked if you’re “next” when someone get’s pregnant is actually kind of creepy – stop it, people, I’m more than a uterus. I also have really good hair.

Do you celebrate the things you do have?

Today I would like to make a list of the things I am grateful for:

1) The fact that, by some strange mercy, it was 64 degrees in Kansas City today. And sunny.

2) My husband, who is one of the kindest and funniest people that I know. Watching him chase my puppy around the house is a highlight of my life.

3) My puppy, Batman, who has taught me that I am a “Dog person”. No matter how bad my day, how sick I feel, or how loud I yell; he always follows me around with a happy face and a wagging tail. His love is unconditional.

4) My job. In this economy it is rare to have a job, let alone a job I enjoy as much as the one I have. I take an immense amount of pride in my work, and am thankful that I am in a career I want to be in.

5) My house. I’m fortunate to be able to afford a home, and all the luxuries that I really need or want. It’s easy to always want more in a country that puts so much emphasis on commodities; however, today I am thankful for what I already have.

6) My family. Even though I am so far away from them, I contact my family every day. I wish that I could be with them, but we are lucky to live in such a technological world where it is possible to be in constant contact with the people I love. I have always been close to them, and they are my constant companions on everything that I do.

7) My friends. I love my friends, both on this side of the world and the other. Today I was able to talk to my oldest friend; Donna and I have been friends since we were three, and I was blessed enough to be maid of honour at her wedding. This afternoon we skyped for the first time, I was able to show her my house, my dog, my new haircut. It didn’t feel as though we were 3000 miles and 6 hours apart. I am thankful for her.

8) My lucky number is 8. I am thankful for knowing my own mind, and for being strong enough to live the life I want to lead. At the end of all things, the most important thing I have is my own mind and my own personality.

What gets you excited about life?

Today’s question is about excitement…I would usually spend a good hour or so banging on about how much I hope I have for the world (this is actually a true fact, I have enormous faith in the human race). But, unfortunately, I have been battling a migraine since new year’s eve (hence the increasingly loopy posts), and the only thing that excites me right now is my heat pack, nyquil, and my new pottery barn duvet cover.

Hubs clearly does not understand “migraine rules”, and is watching a video on You Tube that sounds like Godzilla fighting predator, eating him, and then gargling him, which being narrated by a man that sounds like he’s swallowing nails. The most entertaining thing about watching my husband watch videos on his macbook is his constant narration; not happy to accept my feeble attempts for mercy (“I really don’t want to see that movie”), I get his internal monologue dictated: “Huh!” “That’s Badass” “Babe… Babe… look! Godzilla is driving a corvette” “I really want a corvette” “Batman could take on Godzilla, couldn’t you bud?” “We really should go see this movie”. Now, any married woman still in posession of her sanity and intellectual compass will likely identify with my response:

IAMTRYINGTOSLEEPWHYAREYOUPLAYINGTHATSTUPIDVIDEO?

Although I don’t say that (except last night, but you can blame the meds, or lack of). I normally pat his hand and say “I think that’s a good movie to see with your dad, don’t you?”. He knows he’s never going to see that movie; it’s ok, though, because he does the same thing when I show him things on Pinterest that I’m never going to make. Similar deal. His response “Great idea, why don’t we go to Hobby Lobby and look for fabric” essentially means “Perfect, we can pick it up at the same time as our pet unicorn and bugatti veyron”. Marriage is a game of poker, when everyone knows that everyone is bluffing, but pretending you have an awesome hand is just so much fun.

In terms of getting me excited about life? I feel the question is mis-phrased, it should be “what keeps you excited about life?”. I’m an eternal optimist, and I’m lucky to have an amazing family, friends (even if they are on the other side of the world), husband, and puppy. Nothing keeps the faith in the human race as seeing grown men run over to my fifteen pound dachshund and say “ohmygodhe’ssocute”. This happens daily. Mainly because Batman happens to be the happiest, most adorably dog ever….

See?

How could I possibly not be excited about life when that little face follows me everywhere I go?

Now, where’s my menthol?

When was the last time you tried something new?

What a fitting question for the start of a new year, and the start of this blog. The obvious answer would be that by answering these questions I am trying something new; however, that wouldn’t be entirely true. I had attempted to start many different blogs over the past four years, none of which I have been able to keep updated with much regularity. I am a self confessed creature of habit, and am reluctant to make any changes to my life. I was also fortunate to have a pretty adventurous upbringing, trying lots of different foods, hobbies, and destinations.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t the most diverse upbringing, but I accomplished a lot before I was twenty one. I’ve been to the worlds greatest music festival (Glastonbury 2003), dived, para-glided, travelled to Africa, learned a foreign language, played a competitive sport, and read (almost) every book on the BBC recommended book list.

But as I hover close to twenty seven, I’ve found the last four years have become routine. Everything I “cook” comes out of the freezer, my work colleagues can predict my lunch order, and I haven’t updated my Ipod since 2008. This is a true fact. Even my midwestern husband accuses me of being boring. Trying new things isn’t really “my thing”.

However, there are small glimmers of hope in the general magnolia of my life.

Photography is one of those clichéd hobbies for “Creative” people to take up in their twenties. I understand this, and I’m reconciled with it. I have many friends who are excellent photographers, and I’ve always envied them. I was also raised in an area of natural beauty, and, now I no longer live there, wish that I had more lasting photographs to keep with me. So this summer I decided to buy a DSLR camera (Nikon D500) and try to teach myself photography. I also thought it might be a good way to meet people in Kansas City, but I’ve yet to find a class that fits in with my schedule.

So far the whole thing terrifies me. Owing to my high self esteem issues, I had very high expectations of my natural ability. I was disappointed. My husband, who secretly thinks the whole thing is a waste of time, I think is waiting for me to “give up” and admit defeat, but I’m persevering. Ok, truthfully, I’m not outside every weekend finding interesting trees to take pictures of, but I did manage to take an awesome photo of my dog, Batman, in mid jump. I tried to upload it to this blog twice, but for some reason it’s not allowing me to edit the post, or showing any of the changes I have made.

Hopefully I can upload other photos into this blog later!