Tag Archives: pets

The Difficult One

He’s the difficult child. The one who makes me look like a bad parent. He doesn’t listen. I have to repeat myself a million times. He doesn’t come when called. He runs out into the street. He doesn’t play well with others. He spits out his medicine. He’s stubborn. When he’s done, he’s done. He digs his heels into the ground and I have to drag him away, tail between my legs, wondering where I’ve gone wrong.

He’s the dog. Until now, I’ve had it pretty good as a parent. My kids threw fits here and there, sure. A couple of bad ones in public. But I never felt like the parent everyone always scrutinized. Now, when I can even get this four-legged kid to go for a walk, pet parents look at me with disapproval when he misbehaves.

“Katy wants to play,” a woman beams as her panting dog bounds toward us.

Great. I’m trying to keep Rowan from barking or growling. “I’m not sure he’s interested,” I say and try to steer my unsure dog off the sidewalk. He doesn’t like big dogs.


And there’s the look. At me. Like my kid just spat in her kid’s face. Let’s be honest. We’re out here to poop and move on, lady. Your giant, fluffy poodle is freaking my tiny terrier out. And me a little too if you want to know the truth.

We’ve had our dog, Rowan, for about ten months. He’s an anxious dog. We don’t know what kind of life he had before he came to live with us. We rescued him from a temporary home of more than 20 dogs. He was a stray before that. To be honest, some days we can maybe see why he became a stray. He’s made progress, slowly. He’s kind of the weird kid. He rolls in dead worms on the sidewalk. He’s the clingy kid who follows his daddy or me around every second. He doesn’t want to play with his kind.

He’s been a challenge. He channels Houdini, escaping his locked metal crate, bending the bars, losing a tooth in the process. He ate some blinds, a scone, lots of tissues, some holes in our bedspreads, probably some Legos, and he used to pant and shake when he knew we were leaving. The vet, a trainer, they both gave advice. Nothing seemed to help except what we felt in our gut. We had to medicate, quit using the crate when we left the house—every experience has been another story to tell.

With the kids, my husband never ran through the house in the middle of the night in his underwear frantic that they had run away in the dark. We never searched the yard in pajamas with flashlights calling their names, wondering where they had gone. (Though the teenage years are yet to come.)

I never consulted “experts” with the kids. I didn’t even read parenting books. But one day I found myself taking Rowan to doggie day care so he could socialize with other dogs. And as I left, I held my breath that I wouldn’t get any phone calls to come back, that he would pass and be allowed to return. He did. We watched him on a webcam as he ran from door to door that day, ignoring the other dogs and lifting his leg freely. Even now, we still see him misbehave on the webcam, doing the exact things he hates for other dogs to do to him.

As many times as we’ve threatened to get rid of him, Rowan has worked his way into our hearts—some more slowly than others. He makes us laugh at his speedy bursts of energy around the room. He makes us realize that we all come with insecurities and quirks and that none of us are perfect. And he’s challenged us to love when it hasn’t been easy.


It’s a good thing he’s cute.



Filed under Family, Uncategorized

Some Big, Tail-Wagging Changes

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that I am a planner to the nth degree. I am not a spontaneous person, but lately I did something a little spontaneous.

We got a dog. And I say a little spontaneous because we’ve been thinking of getting one for a few months. But the spontaneous part comes in because I didn’t do much as far as reading about training or caring for this creature we have just adopted. We have just taken a huge step and I’m in fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode.

As a parent, I’ve never been into parenting books. I’ve never once finished one from beginning to end. And what I’m realizing is that this dog ownership thing is a lot like having a baby or a toddler in the house again. I can’t tell you how many times my husband or I have already said to the dog, “Ugh, just tell me! What do you WANT?”

And that first night home? (And the nights after that?) The dog is already sleeping in our bed. Tsk. Tsk. Everyone knows he’ll never get out of it. Sometimes he cries and whines and paces, and we just want some sleep. He settles down a lot quicker than the kids did though.

The dog we got was a rescue dog. He’s under 2 but no one is certain just how old. He’s housetrained. He’s sweet. He loves to play and cuddle. But this is a new home and it requires some new training. He’s had some accidents. I feel like I’m following a toddler in training pants around again, wielding carpet cleaner and Febreeze. I have to make sure he doesn’t put things in his mouth, even though he looks adorable running around with an oversized stuffed animal that is too nice to be torn apart. And I certainly don’t want to hurt his feelings by being too tough. This guy needs lots of love.

He doesn’t like his crate. He doesn’t want to be alone. I have places to go. It’s brought back lots of separation anxiety flashbacks. Thank goodness he can’t hug my legs and beg and never let go. And now I have three creatures following me around throughout the day, at least once school is out.

I’ve found myself outside at 10 p.m. in my bathrobe, long johns, and big winter coat. And I really don’t care who sees me. I just want him to poop already.

My kids take turns walking him, or running, whichever the dog prefers. And seeing them like that, it makes me smile.

He’s quiet. He’s smart. He listens. And he’s doggone good. In time, we won’t know what we had ever done without him.

Meet Rowan

Meet Rowan


Filed under Family

Lessons From the Fish Tank

For my son’s tenth birthday, we bought him a fish tank for his bedroom. He has only begged for one for years. After having had fish in a fishbowl for four years, my husband wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of cleaning out a larger tank. My son, like any new parent would be, could only see the silver-scaled lining.

He did his research, knew what fish were compatible, knew just how he wanted his tank to look. He spent as much time preparing for his fish as I did for his impending arrival. Unlike us, he had a choice in what he could bring home, and we made many visits to the pet store before he did. Reminiscent of candy store jars, fish of every rainbow color darted in every direction, making it nearly impossible to choose the perfect ones. It required patience, persistent timekeeping, and gentle persuasion on our part to get him moving in the direction of anyone with a net.

In his room, he stood in front of their new home with dreamy eyes and oohed and aahed over them, watching and laughing like any new parent would. Everything they did was just wonderful. He was relieved when his three-year-old mosquitofish was accepted into his tetras’ school. “Look, he made a friend.” I know just how my son feels.

“Mom, come see where my catfish is hiding! Oh, you missed it. He was in the pirate ship, actually in it!” Oh, that silly catfish.

As it was time to expand the family, my husband happily took my son to the pet store. They came home with brilliant orange platyfish. The guppies bullied one of them. My son hovered. He worried. He felt helpless. “Hey, leave him alone!”

Every day after school, my son has checked on his fish, fed them, watched them. One day I had to tell him a platy died. “I knew something was going to happen to him today,” my son said. Quiet. Tears. It was his fault. He knew it was. He had dropped the bag in the car.

Another trip to the pet store, another platy.

“Mom, one of my fish has spots on it.”

Ick. Yes, ich. A fish disease. Another trip to the pet store. Some blue medicine for everyone. “Hey, don’t touch that guy! He’s the sick one.” Son, now you feel my pain.

It all goes with the territory of being a parent. I think he’s starting to get it. I think now he’s schooled.

Aquarium Inhabitants 05

(Photo credit: Capt Kodak)


Filed under Boy Stories

A Boy and a Camera

One thing my family can agree on is animals. Watching them, learning about them, it’s something we all get in on. But my son can read a book about animals, absorb it, and relay the facts to you repeatedly. Often more times than you want to hear them. He constantly begs us for sometimes bizarre pets: a huge saltwater aquarium for his room, lizards of all sorts, alpacas, sheep, horses.

When he learns about an animal, his first question is always, “Can you have it as a pet?” My frequent response is, “If you live on a farm.” When he grows up, he plans to live on a farm and have all of these animals, but he’ll need my help of course. Well, he is welcome to do that but I’m no farmhand.

In your face. Taken by my son, 8.

This weekend we went to a nearby science center. My kids love to visit the animals and have been bringing the camera on recent visits. Soon I fear we will have more pictures of these animals than we do of the kids.

The kids fought over the camera, each having to get a shot of each animal. I’ve been through this more than once now. But I see something there, a talent that my son doesn’t yet feel. He is actually pretty good at this photography thing. I try to give him a few pointers without interfering too much, you know, that nagging thing moms do. Animals are like kids and you have to be patient, I told him several months ago. Wait for the shot. Zoom in. Hold still.

And this weekend he did. I think he’s a natural.

So many times, for other things, I have to constantly remind him. But not about this. He takes the camera, seeks out a subject, frames it, shoots. Unfortunately, past subjects have included my rear end in a pool with plans of making a poster-size print for his wall. And other than that one, some of his pictures are pretty darn good.

My daughter’s unsteady hand captures shaky, fuzzy images. She’s only six. It’s hard to push the button, hold the camera, and get the shot before the animal darts away in a playful frenzy. Maybe she’ll get there too.

These guys are huge and my son loves them. We say hello to them at every visit.

Even sometimes now I don’t get close enough to my subject. My images sit too far off and framed by too much space.

But my son seems to know how to do it with not a lot of guidance. It’s neat to see something develop in your kids right before your eyes. To me, his pictures are worth more than words.

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Filed under Everyday Life

RIP Little Fish

How could one become so attached to an animal the size of a small paper clip? Ask a kid. A kid who will tell you he just had the worst day ever.

We had just returned from a weekend trip, and my son found his fish at the bottom of the bowl. This is the third fish we’ve lost, but he was just as sad as if it were the first. He recently lost a pet hermit crab, Hermie, that we used to let race across our playroom floor. No tears. After a quick backyard funeral, my son wanted to know when he could get another one.

But these fish that he could never hold had a special place in his heart, a certain distinction: that of first pet. At the end of kindergarten, his teacher gave him two fish that had been used for science lessons in his classroom. Mosquitofish. Nothing fancy, and teeny-tiny. They were babies when we got them. Our family has enjoyed watching them chase each other and seeing their family grow. My son taught us everything he learned at school about them.

Fernick and Sammy, that’s what he named them. Turns out they would be parents the first year we had them, and we had to keep a watchful eye. No eggs, live birth, and these fish eat their very young. Our son told us the mommy fish often die after giving birth. He knew signs to look for when she was about to have the babies. Finally, one day I saw a tail hanging out of her. We scooped her into a waiting bowl of water and watched as she gave birth to three pinhead-size fish that looked like specks of dirt falling to the bottom of the bowl. A wiggle and shake and they took off swimming, all eyes.

Soon, just like our son had said, Fernick was dying. And it wasn’t quick. He took it hard.

Months later, a pregnant fish died before giving birth. He didn’t say much about it. I thought maybe we had that initial pet dying thing over with. But when he saw this time that it was Sammy, the dad, at the bottom of the bowl, his heart broke again. I tried to tell him it was one of the other fish. It had lived two years. That’s amazing for bait. But he loved them. He raised them into adults and saw them have babies. He’d had them nearly the entire span of his school career, an eternity to an eight-year-old. Why tears over two of the fish and not even Hermie? It made sense to his heart.

I guess your first pet is special no matter what it is. And size just doesn’t matter.

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Filed under Everyday Life