How do you spend the majority of your free time?

Right now, at this very second in time, I am at the bottom of a dog pile. Batman, my four-year old dachshund and constant companion, is in his spot of choice, which is nestled in the nook of my knee. Starsky, our rescued baby, who has not been with us a full year yet, is on my feet. We are on the couch in our basement. This couch was one of the few pieces of furniture that I picked out myself – everything else my husband purchased prior to our wedding. In fact, we have another sofa that he chose in the same room – a sixties-style orange affair with low, square arms – that was our only sofa for two years. Then our basement flooded, we got an insurance pay-out, and Momma went shopping for something comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself to have good taste, but I also like something comfortable and easy to live in. This is why I like jeggings, messenger-bags, and those hair tie things that can pass as jewelry if you squint a bit. So when I went shopping, comfort was my primary objectives, after all – I told myself – we spend a lot of time on the sofa.

This is an unfortunate fact of my life: the long evenings on the sofa. And not in some newly-wedded “sofa time” kind of way. I’m a two-blanket, yoga-pants, cup of tea kind of sofa girl. I find the sofa is a place where I can really relax. Partly because of the reassuring coolness of our basement, partly because it’s close to a lot of my reminders of home (artwork, books, the leather club chair my mum bought me), and partly because I feel tucked away here.

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Starksy and I chillaxing on the couch

For the last few years I have spent a lot of time having to work in the evenings, being enslaved to a job that kept expecting more and more hours. I broke that routine (see pretty much all of my blog posts from july to November of last year) finally, but not before I sustained a massive knee injury running a half-marathon and spent the majority of my summer having to elevate one of my legs. If that wasn’t reason enough to claim the sofa as my primary residence, I also have several minor but chronic pain syndromes, and find an unordinary amount of comfort in a hot water bottle on whichever bit of me is in pain.

Yes, I know I sound lazy, but the honest truth is that I’m actually not. Naturally, I’m an active person, but I have found I am the type of person that attracts injury and illness. Therefore, right now, in my late twenties, I find myself steadily working towards the sofa each day. Of course, there are days when I don’t have any sofa time at all – days when my knees or back and stomach doesn’t hurt and I can walk the dogs, or days when I don’t find myself reaching for the work laptop (a habit that is no longer necessary, but still hard to break), and those days are good too. But I would say that, at least for the last few years, the sofa has been my sanctuary from stress, from homesickness, and from injury. And because I spend most of my time stressed, homesick, or injured, it’s become a “go-to” place for me.

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Getting loves from my Batman!!

And don’t think I spend all my time watching TV (although I am partial to Netflix): I read books, work on my novels, skype with my family, and read world news from my spot stretched our on the chaise. I know that one day, maybe soon, I am going to have to overcome some of the things that send me sofa-wards, and I’ll tackle those when I need to, but right now I am glad to have my (very large and very green) chenille sectional from Macys, my Wal-Mart heated blanket, and two very snuggly puppies.

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The husband joins in for sofa-fun!!

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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!

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?