Letting sleep(y) dogs lie

March 23, 2011 § 7 Comments

My home is incredibly quiet this morning. Except for the snoring of two sleep-deprived canines.

And the source of their sleep deprivation? Me.

You see, I stayed up until 2 a.m. this morning working on the finishing touches of my draft of Chapter Two (draft one, I should clarify). I woke up around 7:30 to Annie’s beckoning (she needed to potty, as puppies do), and sat down to do some quick proofreading (although I am confident I left some errors in the document…it’s fine, though–it’s just a draft), converted in-text citations to footnotes, and wrote a bibliography. And then…around 9:30, I e-mailed the draft off…and this is it in its current statistical form:

36 pages, over 10,000 words. The best part? Those 36 pages are really just the beginning. Those 36 pages are just to prove to my professor that I am going to make the kind of progress one needs to make in order to bang out a dissertation in time to graduate. I still have the depths of my argument to explore, which will probably take at least another 20-30 pages. Chapter Two is destined to be a long one, but why shouldn’t it be? It’s the foundation of my own argument.

Although I would love to say that my day’s plan is to just sit around and sleep, that is not the case. I have a great deal of grading left to do (most of my students’ papers). So, I’m going to work my way through those so that I can have those off my shoulders by tomorrow, return them in class, and then spend my entire weekend relaxing.

In the meantime, I’d like you to enjoy the view I’m enjoying this morning:

The saying may be “let sleeping dogs lie” (in other words “if there’s no problem rearing its head, leave it alone”)…but in my house, today the saying is “let sleepy dogs lie!”

When Nature and grad school collide

March 21, 2011 § 15 Comments

This morning, as I prepared to settle in for another day with Chapter Two, I noticed that the cats were glued to the back door, just staring out the window. As this is not particularly abnormal behavior for them, I ignored it and ate my breakfast. Until ten minutes later, they were still there…and both were looking in the same direction…obviously at something. Peeping through the closed blinds above their heads, I saw what they saw: a rather industrious and clever little male wren who discovered an unused, meant-to-have-been-thrown-away planter on a storage shelving unit. Of course, I grabbed my camera, videotaped the wren (and his mate who joins in at one point), and got to shooting.

This is the trailer for the forthcoming documentary that will detail the lives of the wrens as they build their home, lay their eggs, and raise their little family. (Of course, these are all hopes…I worry that we will frighten them because we will walk past their nest on a pretty regular basis, since that’s the door Annie goes out of to go potty. We might have to rework our habits. And, yes. I’m willing to rework habits for the sake of a little wren family.)


Sometimes life just requires you to high-five a puppy

March 4, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m dangerously close to missing my very first post for the Post a Day Challenge. But I won’t. Because it’s still 10:28 here in my neck of the woods. Boo-yah!

In a very short post, I shall demonstrate to you precisely why sometimes we have to high-five a puppy.

Take Annie, for instance.

Okay, that's just an expression. Please don't literally take Annie.

In only a few short days, Annie has learned how to shake and high five. Why is the latter particularly awesome?

Because sometimes, like after a day of amazing accomplishments…or a day of rest…., you just really have to high-five a puppy. She gets the best look on her face, too–ears go down and back, like she’s really concentrating, she pulls her head back so that she displays her double-chin, and then she just starts going for it. Sometimes, most times really, Annie does the high-five superbly well.

But on particularly wonderful occasions, Annie will give you the double-high five, placing both paws in your hand. I’m working on teaching her the word “dance” when she does this so that she and I can bust a move when I feel like a high-five won’t do.

In the meantime, high-five the nearest puppy to you. It will make your day so much better.

And on that note, I’m leaving this post behind and returning to the couch where I’m going to enjoy my alcohol-induced buzz. ‘Night y’all!

See? I knew I wasn’t crazy: or, why I love my vet

February 19, 2011 § 6 Comments

For the past few days (several?) Annie has been having some accidents in the house. They’re not big puddles. They’re not on anything of particular value to us (although…I’ll come back to this in a moment). They’re these little dribbly trails that indicate where she was walking (apparently in twisty patterns, as though she were lost). And, the most befuddling of all: she still rings her little jingle bell by the door to tell us when she has to go potty. Just sometimes we’ll walk into another room and find a dribbly trail.

Flashback to September.

Less than a couple of weeks after we brought her home, Annie developed a UTI–the dreaded urinary tract infection. We managed to catch her condition before red blood cells appeared on the scene, thank goodness. We had taken Annie for a routine puppy wellness check, and our vet (who we abso-stinking-lutely adore) asked us how potty training was going.

“Well…” Robert and I said simultaneously.
“We got her this bell to ring by the back door,” I said. “And it only took her five days to learn the bell. So generally we’re doing pretty well. But then….”
“Sometimes we’ll find these accidents in the house when she hasn’t rung the bell,” Robert finished.
Dr. Vet looked contemplative for a moment and asked, “Are they puddles?”
“No…” I said, suddenly feeling like we were uncovering a great Annie-sized mystery. “They’re more like little trails…like dribbles. It really looks to me like she might have started to pee before she realized she should ring the bell.”
Dr. Vet looked at her tech and said, “I think we’ll want to run a urine sample. It could very well be a urinary tract infection. Female puppies in particular are prone to them.”

Several minutes later, the urinalysis came back, white blood cell positive–an indicator for infection. She prescribed us two weeks’ worth of Clavamox, and Annie soon started to feel better and stopped dribbling on the carpet.

Flash forward to today.

This morning, I awoke to find a chewed-up trouser sock (one of Robert’s…sigh…) as well as little dribble trails of pee all around the front of our bedroom by the door. A couple of my sweaters that had been on the floor were in the line of fire as well. I woke Robert up immediately. “We have a problem!” I told him. And we set to work–he got out the Resolve to spray the carpet (we’ve already gone through an entire can in a few days, since this started), and I threw my sweaters into the wash and Robert’s sock into the trash.

After breakfast and another potty break, Robert and I attempted to make sense of what happened. We tossed around the obvious (maybe she’s pushing boundaries, maybe she’s not as potty trained as we had originally thought), but then we started to recall her last UTI. I called Dr. Vet and made an appointment to have her seen immediately. Of course, since she had already emptied her tank in our bedroom and the yard after breakfast, Annie wasn’t forthright with a urine sample at the veterinary office. But Dr. Vet didn’t even need one.

Dr. Vet asked me to explain what had happened (after all, she had just seen us a week ago for her second round of the flu vaccination), so I walked her through what we’ve been experiencing this week. “I don’t know, Dr. Vet. Do you think I’m overreacting? Is she just being defiant?”
Dr. Vet smiled and shook her head. “It doesn’t make sense for her to decide to sometimes ring the bell to go outside and sometimes not. When dogs are trained, they’re trained. She wouldn’t be making active decisions like that.”
“Yeah…it just doesn’t seem like she’s acting out. It’s not like she’s peeing on our bed,” I told her.

As I was talking, Dr. Vet knelt on the floor with Annie and loved on her (Annie so so loves her Dr. Vet love). Annie laid on the floor, showing her pink belly, happily snorting and spinning her little tail. And then Dr. Vet reached out and palpated Annie’s bladder. And Annie sprung up to her feet, pinned her ears back, and leaned against the wall. If she could have tucked her tail down, I’m sure she would have. Dr. Vet attempted once more to palpate her bladder. Annie cried and jerked away from the tech’s hold.

“Yeah,” Dr. Vet said soothingly to Annie. “That doesn’t feel good, does it, sweet thing? I’m sorry to hurt you…but you don’t want me to touch your bladder, huh?” Looking up at me, Dr. Vet smiled and said, “It’s okay she wouldn’t give us a urine sample. That reaction has confirmed it for me. Her bladder is painful, so I’m going to go ahead and prescribe her an antibiotic rather than keep putting her through a painful examination.”

I was so grateful to Dr. Vet for reassuring me that I was not overreacting, that I was not jumping at shadows. I am sorry that my poor little puppy girl isn’t feeling well, but I’m also glad that Dr. Vet has taught Robert and me the early early warning signs of a UTI that can help us get a diagnosis before the infection gets really painful.

So here’s to amazing vets everywhere who help loving pet owners take care of these precious animals. 🙂

How to make me smile…

February 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

Even on the most stressful days or weeks or years, there is still one single, absolutely best way to make me smile:

Showing me these faces!

To me, these are the four sweetest faces on the planet.

Leigh-Leigh and the Woogs--and no, the heating pad is not turned on. 😉

Not dead, just sleeping like it! 😉

The puppy-head herself! Annie-girl at her favorite window.

Look at how big she's grown!

How would you like seeing that sweetness in your library?

(I know, I know–this post is Annie-heavy, but I wanted you guys to see just how beautiful and big she’s gotten! 🙂 She’s now 9 months old as of yesterday [2/16] and weighs about 36 pounds.)

Mama said there’d be days like this

February 5, 2011 § 3 Comments

Today I did not work on my dissertation. On purpose. Today was Saturday. My day off.

I awoke around 9 a.m., my amazing husband graciously giving me not just thirty minutes to sleep in, but actually an entire two hours to sleep in. It was…glorious. He fed the dogs, took them potty, and even went to Chick-Fil-A to pick up breakfast. Whatever I did to deserve that, I hope I can make that happen again! 😉

As our morning wore on, I realized that I was itching to do something. Anything. As long as it was not in my house. This week’s worth of rain not only caused me to develop a little head cold but also effectively grounded my happy ass and kept me inside. The dogs have been rambunctious all week–Annie, the worst. I told Robert that I had to get out of the house and take them somewhere and run their energy down.

To the dog park! As soon as we got out of the car, the dogs were immediately thrilled. Milton was anxious to get off the leash and play, and Annie’s little nose worked overtime. We walked them almost two miles around the park before finally taking them to the dog enclosure to play with the other rambunctious, cabin-fever-suffering town pooches. Annie literally vroomed! around the park several times, chasing dogs of all sizes and being chased. Milton sniffed and politely introduced himself to the other dogs. He ran around a little while, but poor Milt’s hips are painful, so he spent more time just sort of meandering around.

After the dog park, Robert and I went grocery shopping, and then I had dinner with the girls at a local Irish pub. We had such a relaxing, hysterical, supportive time. I love hanging out with these girls. V and I finished our evening hatching a brilliant (not hare-brained, thankyouverymuch) idea. More to come on that later.

This has been the absolute perfect Saturday. This is precisely how I imagined spending my day.

Thank you Robert for letting me sleep in and humoring my whims. Thanks to Milt and Annie for the exercise and laughs. Thanks girls for being such great friends. The perfect day off. 🙂

Do pets replace children in child-free homes?

January 25, 2011 § 11 Comments

Thanks again, Freshly Pressed, for helping me out on another blog post. Man! This thing is like a gold mine! 😉

(Maybe I should reconsider my tendency to poach other people’s ideas….nah.)

Today’s topic comes from a small remark made in the latest post on the featured blog, Snoring Dog Studio. The title: “The No Pets in Bed Study: Letting the Dogs In.” The subject matter: a newly published report that concludes we should not allow any furry critter on our bed because we might get the plague. Ahem. I’ll let Snoring Dog Studio speak for herself and give you the same rundown of the study that I got. As a critical thinker, I found her analysis of the study to be really spot-on–if we are going to run with the plague theory, then we can conclude that it’s because of fleas. But, as Snoring Dog Studio rightly points out, there are fleas living in many other places than on our animals’ backs. In fact, I remember once crossing the backyard to get into my apartment in the dead of summer, and I had no fewer than two fleas clinging to my t-shirt, hitching a ride into the fully air-conditioned sanctuary. I did have Callie at the time, but she is strictly indoors and had never had a flea on her body…until I brought them to her. (Who’s the animal here?) Sure, maybe if we live within close quarters of our animals, then we have an increased chance of encountering fleas, but that doesn’t just mean that we will absolutely get the plague because we’re letting the cat sleep on the bed.

Now, I do generally agree not to allow animals larger than a cat on the bed, simply because 1. cats are extremely difficult to convince not to take advantage of the warm body and covers (they’re sort of haughty that way) and 2. larger animals tend to take up a lot of room and might disrupt the general rest of human sleepers. Do I think that just because this is how I run my house that everyone should run their house this way? No. But if someone with a new labrador puppy asks me what I think, I’ll be happy to tell them the conclusion I’ve come to for my own home. To my knowledge, I have not yet encountered a dog that is more or less dependent or presumptive or badly behaved than another dog simply because of permitted sleeping arrangements. (As long as the dog respects commands from the owner, like “down” or “get off the bed,” then we have no problems. For instance, Annie is allowed on the couch, but Milton is not. Annie is also much smaller than Milton, and she also obeys the “off” command when we require her to get down. Neither dog is allowed on the bed because, as far as I care, it’s a safe haven for the cats to escape nosy canines.)

So what does any of this have to do with children and whatnot? I’m getting to it. Snoring Dog Studio points out a fairly horrifying claim made by one of the researchers of this study, which states: “In many countries, pets have become substitutes for childbearing and child care, sometimes leading to excessive pet care.”


This is not the first time I’ve encountered this outlandish claim. I have heard from people who have chosen to live child-free lives (not childless. Child-free…one is a choice, the other is a circumstance), that one of the common accusations they’ll hear (to my shock and horror) is that they must be projecting their maternal or paternal instincts onto the animals that live in their homes.

You know what strikes me as funny?

The people who call their pets “furry children” or refer to themselves as “cat mommies” or “dog dads” are, at least in my completely unscientific observations, the ones who actually want children. My child-free friends refer to their pets as pets. “This is my cat.” “That’s my dog.” In fact, I’ve even heard a child-free friend specifically say that she is not a mommy to her cat but that she is more like a really cool roommate who does all the cooking and cleaning, and occasionally gives cuddles (when the mood strikes the feline, of course). And, in fact, I think all cat owners should just stop kidding themselves right now if they think they’re in the authoritative/dominant position to their feline friend. Cats rule us, plain and simple. They’ve got us perfectly trained with masterful subtlety; we actually believe that we are acting on our own volition when we do things like pet them or feed them. But pay attention next time you do something for your cat that she cannot do for herself–she’s got you wrapped around her little claw.

Those of my friends who either are parents or who are actively attempting to become parents or who state that they will one day be parents–those are the ones who refer to themselves as the mommies or daddies of animals. Hell, take a good long look at the menu bar at the top of my blog. There’s an option to read up on “The Furry Children.” I’m sure most readers would understand that to mean “my pets,” but I’m purposefully calling them my “children.” I often wonder what will happen when I have children. Will my pets remain “furry children” or will they become “pets”? I’m fairly confident that they will remain “furry children,” especially if I look back on the way that my mom and dad have always referred to their pets, even after having us kids.

I’m not interested in making judgment calls on the people who do or do not refer to their animals as children. Rather, I’d like to call attention to the possibility that the people who are actively pursuing their maternal or paternal feelings are the people who are more likely to sort of always already call themselves parents than those who don’t see themselves as parents. And I think it is probably the assumption of the hegemonic bunch of breeders who believe that everyone feels the way they do and thinks the way they do and therefore must also have the same quirks as they have.

Worse, still, than equating one life choice to another life choice, Dr. Bruno Chomel, one of the researchers in the study and the perpetrator of the above quote, makes this stunning logical leap: because people are trying to fill a child-sized void by allowing their pets to sleep in bed with them, they are also likely to participate in excessive pet care. Well, friends, I understand “excessive pet care” to mean “hoarding.” I’ll play devil’s advocate here and concede that maybe Chomel wasn’t referring to the kinds of excessive pet care that would constitute hoarding, fine. But what does drive me up the wall about this conclusion is the suggestion that because these people do not have children, then they must have a mental illness that would lead them to replace people with animals and to replace them excessively.

Let me offer this: from what I recall in my algebra classes and chemistry classes, when you balance equations then the values on either side of the equal sign must be the same.

Okay, so the claim is that in the minds of child-free people: pets = children.

Can we then conclude that in the minds of parents: children = pets?

Something seems wrong. Like…mental-illness-y wrong.

Saying that children are a replacement for a void left in a pet-free home would probably border on the socially criminal. Who would have the gall to suggest that a person with more than one child must be having those children (and possibly excessively) because they are seeking to replace pet care with child care? That makes absolutely no sense.

I conclude that just as replacing pets with children is logically jarring, so is the claim that people replace children with pets.

Humans ≠ Animals
Children ≠ Pets
Parents ≠ Hoarders of children
Child-free Human Adults ≠ Hoarders of pets

Might there be a case made against generally referring to oneself as a pet parent? Absolutely. But it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone has, does not have, chooses to have, or chooses not to have children. Period.

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