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When they sat on a clean baby blanket, covering the couch, my therapist told me one day I’d be putting out the blanket for them.  When we came home one night to find our babysitters  sitting on their book jackets and tote bags pressed flat, I rolled my eyes, and Mr. Apron confronted the absurdity of it all.  We’d replaced the cushion covers, and no dog had ever sat on that surface.

So knock it off, he told his parents.

Later, we’d return to my father-in-law sitting on a dining room chair pulled a few feet from the television, using the kids’ Fisher Price activity station as a coffee table.  That I could excuse, as we have a tiny TV, he wanted the sound low so as not to wake the babies, and he needed to see the action of The Game.

But the night we came home to find both of my in laws seated in plastic patio chairs in the middle of our living room was the epitome of the lengths to which my in laws have gone to avoid any “contamination” of dog-related materials on their person or their home.

“We have bad backs,” they said. But then followed up with, “We waited until you’d left to take the chairs out of the trunk, because we knew you’d get mad.”

Mad about their “bad backs”?  Hardly.

Mad that they treat our home, our clothing, our very children like infectious waste?  That’s more our speed.

At their home, our coats must be laid across a wrought iron banister, not placed in the coat closet.

After they leave our house, they go home and shower and change.

They refused to let us wash clothing at their house when our laundry room blew a fuse.  Not clothing – cloth diapers.  White pieces of microfiber and PUL that touch our babies’ bottoms.  The dog doesn’t wear diapers. And washing machines are for cleaning things.

I could understand that the vacuum my mother-in-law used to clean out my husband’s first apartment couldn’t be taken back to her home.  We got a free vacuum cleaner out of the deal.  But this?  Ridiculous.  Especially considering that, a few months earlier, my father-in-law had washed a load of our baby laundry in his home for us when our old washer died.  Back before he considered all the contaminants that might have been clinging to my daughter’s dresses and my son’s polo shirts.  Never mind the baby socks!

I had to go to a neighbor’s house and ask to use her machine so my children could have clean diapers for another few days.   Thankfully no one in her house is allergic to dogs, peanuts, or logic.

Now I realize none of it is based in reason, but my in-laws are guided by intense anxiety.  My sister-in-law, a 45-year-old woman with no real severe health issues, lives at home with her parents.  Yes, she has a condo of her own, but a snowstorm 3 years ago plus a mouse problem sent her packing, and she has once again moved into her childhood home.  Where her alleged allergies dictate everything that comes into the home.  While in the beginning of my relationship with my future husband, I took her at her word that she was actually allergic to dogs, I now doubt the intensity as well as the veracity of her allergy.  My own husband had allergy tests recently that revealed that he, too, is allergic to dogs.  And he takes a small pill every morning to combat the fact that he’s allergic to most things that grow outdoors, and we have a dog.

We were dog-free for a number of months, after our previous mutt passed away, and toyed briefly with the idea of staying dog-free. Maybe she’d come in our home.   Maybe she’d interact more with (e.g., hold) our children.  We hosted the kids’ first birthday party in our home (as opposed to a dog-free “neutral zone”) as a way to call her bluff.  And she came.  Then, a few months later, we adopted a basset hound, a “low-shed”, short-hair dog who is an absolute delight, and the perfect hound for our family.

“Why didn’t you get a dog that doesn’t shed this time?” my sister-in-law asked.

“This breed didn’t come in that style,” I answered.

Later, we realized the ego-centrism of her question, and my husband revised our collective response.

“Because it wasn’t for you.”

Between the laundry, the couch cushions, the fact that our kids don’t know her when they look at photographs, as well as her myriad other health “issues”, it’s clear to me that she’s literally chosen her veil of sickness/allergy over her relationship with my children.

Initially, my therapist said that it wasn’t personal, that there was no commentary on my housekeeping skills woven into the fibers of the couch cover.

I’m torn, of course, because it is personal.  It’s a reflection of their disdain for our chosen animal companion, their choice to subscribe to the lifestyle of Extreme Allergic Reaction, and their preference for anxiety over family.  I don’t want to lose our local, free babysitting services, along with the family connections.  I don’t want my children to know the fuming rage I have towards those patio chairs and what they represent.

But I can’t make them feel comfortable in our home, can’t make them understand the lunacy of their proceedings, can’t make them realize it’s all manufactured bullshit.

So we accept their limitations, we accept them into our home, and help them unload their fucking patio chairs.  We roll out the allergy red carpet.  Am I putting a blanket on the couch for them, as my therapist predicted?

Not yet, but I’m this close to putting a “decontamination in progress” sign on the front door and supplying them with hazmat suits as a gesture of my good will and understanding.

Either that, or lighting a bag of dog hair on fire on their front step.

When it comes down to the reality, it’s not just my sister-in-law who’s sick.  They’re all feeding into the illness.  Before I asked my neighbor if I could wash our laundry at her house, my husband approached his other sister, one who lives less than 50 yds away, to see if she could help us out. Mr. Apron made the mistake of explaining why his parents had refused our request.

She, too, refused, siding with my parents-in-law, citing the obvious about her sister, “She’s sick.”

Yes, she is, we agreed, but not in the way you think.

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First, we had mouse-induced PTSD.  Every time we would come home, we scoped out all the traps, cautiously checking, checking, to see if they were empty, if they were full.  At night, the nocturnal rodents would creep seemingly out of the floorboards and mouldings to skitter along the baseboards.  We wanted to catch them, but more than that, we wanted them just to go away.  At least we couldn’t really hear them upstairs as we slept. 

Now, we have Finley-induced PTSD.  For the first 2 nights we left him downstairs, he seemed either relieved not to have to face The Stairs, or else in too much misery to protest.  However, for the past 3 nights (I’m amazed I can still count that high) he’s decided his evening of contentment has finished by 3:30am.  Without fail, he will now commence irregular intervals of yelping, panting, and crying.  If there were some comfort measure we could offer him, like a pillow, a drink, a pee, or a snack, that would calm the crying, I know we would do it.  But it seems to be an extension of the whining he would do a few weeks and months ago, back when he could climb stairs.  We would be up in the office, and he would periodically yelp from downstairs, as if only to say, “You assholes.  I’m lonely.  Not lonely enough to haul my ass up, but pissed off that you left me.”  Because he’s not in our room at night now, he’s lost his sense of time, in that when we were in bed, it was night-time, and when we woke up, it was daytime.  Now, for him, it’s an endless span of time being left alone downstairs.  So he cries. 

Calling on my high-school study of operant conditioning and grad school study of learned behaviors, I struggle with what to do.  If every time he cries, we come running (again, not that we can offer much, even reassurance), he learns that we will reinforce his crying, and he will cry more.  If we ignore it, it should eventually extinguish the behavior, assuming there’s no underlying reason for it. 

Apparently 3 days is not enough time for a 13-year-old dog to learn a new behavior.  It is enough time to feel sleep-deprived, groggy, and hopelessly irritable.  And I’m talking about myself.  It’s enough we’re now lifting him up from the rear and showing endless patience as he feels out each step, each curb, each change in ground surface.  These are the things we do out of love.  They’re complicated by the small blonde dog who gets in Finley’s face when we’re doing a lift-assist, and pisses him off till he growls.  It’s enough we’re shoving up to 9 pills down his throat and shelling out $50 for a bag of “Health Mobility” dog food, but when he coughs up the pills and tries to bite us – yet won’t touch his foul fishy-smelling food – it’s starting to feel like he’s ungrateful or something. 

In spite of all these measures, and one hopeful day when he seemed to have at least his spirit back, Finley is getting worse.  I fear we’re in the home-stretch now.  I wish it didn’t come with sleepless nights. 

His intermittent yelps, barks, and cries make me dread going to sleep, make me toss fitfully as I fight pregnancy-induced restless legs and anxious bladder.  Once he begins crying, I cannot sleep.  I lie awake, flipping positions, listening into the night, waiting for the next call from downstairs, knowing I can’t or won’t do anything about it.  I do not fall asleep again, instead counting the hours till I can get out of bed.  I cover my ears, I pull up the sweltering blankets, I listen in disbelief that the alarm clock has not gone off yet.  Each half-hour is endless.

It’s different with babies, right?  Sleep deprivation comes with a reason, comes with an end, comes with purpose.  Babies sleep in 2-3 hour stretches, and wake to eat or be changed.  If I knew Finley would be content and fall back asleep for a few hours with a simple routine of a snack and a walk, I might do it, even at 3:30am.  But because his yelping seems to come without underlying cause, I can’t cope with it.   Because I have to work all day instead of devoting myself to baby care, I’m not myself.  I don’t have infinite patience.  I yell at him for barking.  I yell at him for his near-obsessive drinking.  I yell at Molly for interfering with my attempts to lift Finley.  I shove her aside as I try to get him out the door.  I speak to him sternly as I shove my fingers down his throat.  I roughly shove the pills back down after he gags them up, lips foamy with rapidly dissolving pain-killers.  In spite of the fact that he’s just a dog, I speak to him in ultimatums:

Finley, if this continues, it’s going to be the end of you.  I know you can’t understand that all we’re doing is to help you.  But if you keep crying at night, and won’t eat your special food, we’re going to have to put you down. 

For our own sanity. 

And it kills me, too.

Be careful what associations you build into routines with your pets.  Be sure you’re comfortable doing them for the rest of your pet’s life.

Finley has not always been a good eater.  He was one to let his food languish in the bowl.  Back in 2004-5, when we rented a shitty twin that was overrun with mice, we were a little paranoid (or justified) about leaving food out, and this included pet food.  Our landlord went so far as to blame the infestation on the dog’s food, which was (and always has been) kept in a sealed Rubbermaid tub.  Nevertheless, we were loathe to leave Finley’s food out for such a time as he felt compelled to eat it. 

Growing up, my family’s dogs had always been grazers, eating their fill whenever they chose, and never having weight problems or mouse issues.  But Finley changed everything.  We were told he had some issues surrounding feeding time when he had lived with Mr. Apron’s sister, Bianca, and her other dog, a black lab named Corey.  We weren’t sure if he hoarded her food, or if she kept him from eating.  In our early years of Finley ownership, with his picky eating, we had assumed it was the latter. 

We coaxed, we cajoled, we laid down the law.  We tried picking up the food after a period of time, letting him understand that if he wanted to eat, now was The Time, and if he chose not to, he could wait for the next meal.  It works with children.  Unfortunately I think the issue of hunger operates differently in dogs.  I’ve heard of some who will eat until they burst, not having that sense of fullness humans (are supposed to) have.  So we tried all manner of topping.  After some early attempts at “garnishing” his food with broken dog biscuits, we made a discovery.  Some dog food company made a sort of gravy we would squirt on his food, and that worked well enough.  Through some accident (perhaps Mr. Apron’s father was taking care of Finley one day and got “creative”), we soon found that he loved ketchup and all tomato-based products, so we switched to that.  As we neared the end of a jar of pasta sauce, I’d fill it up with water, creating a vaguely tomato-scented gravy that worked well enough.  We’d slosh it on his food, and he’d immediately start licking it up.  We figured that a kibble or two accidently entered his mouth and reminded him, “Hey.  This is food.  You like it.  Eat it now.”  So he’d clean his bowl.

I’m not sure when the soy milk started, or why we even conceived that a dog would have a palate for it.  But I can’t remember a time now when I was permitted to finish my “sugar mik” at the bottom of my cereal bowl.  I feel like I’ve always poured that little bit on Finley’s food. 

And now, Molly’s.  She has a touch of the sibling rivalry, and whatever he gets (biscuit, ear medicine, tooth brushing, toweling off after a walk), she wants intensely.  So even though they are both now good eaters (it seems she has inspired Finley to eat quickly lest she steal his food), the milk persists.  Finley will now claw at his bowl (or hers; he’s not picky) to ask for his kibble or the milk.  This morning, as I absent-mindedly did a Sudoko puzzle at the kitchen table, I must have lingered too long over my empty cereal bowl.  Next thing I knew, Molly was sitting in the chair beside me, her plaintive eyes meeting mine, and she uttered a delicate whine. 

“Please Mommy, your milky?  Please? I can have it in my bowl?”

And now a ritual that began as a way to cajole our picky eater into consuming his food before the mice did has been passed onto the next generation.  We are cultivating a love of soy milk in our canines.

If they both live to be 20, and people ask us our secret, we won’t be talking about the raw meat we don’t give them, nor the 5-mile daily walks they don’t have.  We’ll just shrug, sheepishly and say, “It must be the soy milk.”

As I was out walking our puppy Molly, a few months ago, a neighbor who was, I’m sure, only trying to be helpful, saw me being dragged down the path, saw my furrowed brow, saw me struggling, and made an unsolicited comment.  She asked if I watched “The Dog Whisperer.” I managed a grimace of acknowledgement and continued our walk-drag.  Perhaps I found this especially unnerving because I had back at the house the business card of a dog trainer I was totally intending to call.  I so was.  I dislike the implication that my dog is so severe she needs the miraculous musings of an Oprah minion.  For the record, I immediately disregard any/all advice given by Oprah’s minions, including Dr. Phil with his condescension and his “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”s, Dr. Oz, with his scrubs and his wine-cork jaw exercises, and Cesar Milan, with his…well, I don’t know.  I’ve never watched him.  We don’t get that channel.  But I do know that I don’t appreciate someone else’s assumption that if I can’t handle my 28lb dog and/or she isn’t obedient enough to walk on a leash, it’s time to bring in Oprah’s minion. 

Molly is essentially developmentally delayed.  She had, to our knowledge, no structure, no obedience, and no expectations in her first 8 months of life.  No house-breaking, either, from the look of it.  It’s not just a delayed puppy hood – it’s dealing with the repercussions of an extended period of laissez-faire puppy hood.  She has her issues, but is basically a sweet puppy.  Much as I imagine people get pretty huffy when others judge their parenting skills in public, I was not happy with our neighbor’s assessment.

As I sat at lunch today with my coworkers, the topic turned to corporal punishment of children, or, as the proponents would call it, “spanking”.  Just a little tap.  Just enough to scare him.  And then they used the “I turned out okay” argument and I bristled.  Then they used the “Well, you can’t reason with a small child” argument.  Then they stated the futility of negotiations when a kid is running into traffic.  As one who has learned her basic child discipline beliefs from a Quaker school, I sat there mute, stunned into silence.  I couldn’t even begin to launch into the logical fallacies they were using.  False dichotomy between spanking and treatises, the idea that “fear” of the parents equals respect, the idea that the child even understands what the spank means, the complete absence of logical consequences. 

For my coworker who blessedly does not yet have children, this meant a parallel into doggie discipline.  She described in horror how at the vet she saw a dog owner “spank” his dog.  Okay, I thought, at least she’s properly horrified.  But then she launched into a detailed description of how she disciplines her dog when it barks at other dogs by “tapping” it on the nose.  As for when the dog “defies” her by pooping on the rug “right in front of me,”  she shoves its nose in the shit to “shame” it, and the poor beast responds by running away and avoiding her for the rest of the day.  I wonder why.  Could it be she is not repentant but upset that her human shoved her nose in her own shit, and dogs instinctively shit away from places they sleep?  Or put their noses, for that matter. 

She gave the dog a toy, a dolly to carry around.  When the dog ripped its head off, she said, “no,” and took the doll away.  Unspoken in my mind was, “Well, she’s a 2 year old dog.  What does she have to chew on?  What do you expect her to do with a doll?  Play house?”

I had no polite responses for this woman, who was in the “I was spanked and I turned out okay” camp.  All I could do was talk about my own positive experience with our puppy, who now walks on a leash without yanking my arm out of its socket thanks not to Cesar Milan, but to a real dog trainer, not some Oprah-proclaimed miracle worker.  She didn’t get nose-to-nose with our puppy and figure out her puppyhood trauma.  She spent 2 hours training her with 3 basic commands so Molly will now walk gently (“Gentle”), stop when we ask her to (“Wait”), and turn around (“Come About” – she’s apparently a boat).  Molly usually listens to us, and sometimes even watches to see where we are leading.  Not because we choked her (my coworker also has a choke collar for her ill-fated pooch), yelled at her, spanked her, or tapped her nose, but because we sought real and professional help, and used methods that didn’t give Molly any credit. 

Molly was too stupid to know that pulling on the leash isn’t getting her “there” any faster (wherever “there”) is.  We didn’t waste time trying to teach her that, or expend energy trying to scare her into a fearful compliance.  When she has accidents, we blame ourselves, because we usually have forgotten to take her out in time.  We have to meet her where she is.  She is currently on a 3-hour timer for walks, when we’re home.  We can’t one day expect her to make it 5 hours, without giving her the tools for success, nor can we punish her for having an accident when we failed her.  We especially can’t punish her by rubbing her nose in it or by smacking her on her nose, anymore than we can punish her by taking away her food and water.  My coworker gives her dog too much credit, ascribes too many intentions on the dog’s part, and as a result, she sees her dog as willful, naughty, and disobedient.  In fact, she’s given her nothing to obey.  Here’s a toy, but wait! you can’t chew it.  I’ll punish you for shitting in the hallway, but not go out of my way to help you have success in house-breaking.  And I’m going to send you confusing messages by going against your very instincts (chewing toys, keeping herself away from her poop, defending her people by growling). 

I don’t want to be like my neighbor and make assumptions about how someone else “parents” her dog.  What is clear to me, however, as my coworker describes her own childhood and her dog-rearing ideas, is that her “I turned out okay” assertion was far from a simple truth.

And now, for a break from the usual introspective fare, I present a spontaneous moment of cuteness our puppy Molly presented us with last night.  I was standing in the office, folding a load of laundry that I began the night before.  We usually forget a load in the dryer overnight, then do the 20-minute refresh the next day.  It’s a rare and beautiful thing when an entire load goes from hamper to drawers within one day. 

So I’m standing there, folding laundry, while Mr. Apron tap-tap-taps away at the computer, spewing words of wisdom into his blog.  Molly, the smaller, younger, blonder dog, usually prefers to sit in one of the 2 chairs in the office, nestled snugly between our back and the chair back.  With her long torso, she is a very effective bolster/kidney warmer.  Because I was standing up, my back/kidneys were unavailable, and she didn’t want to sit in my chair by herself.  She spied the open Ikea bag of clean (and somewhat warm) laundry, stepped in tentatively, and proceeded to turn a few times to flatten the proverbial prairie grass, before curling up into the her sleeping puppy pose. 

I thought only cats could be this cute.

I just came home from the park where I almost lost both our dogs.  Because I am an idiot, I let them off their leashes.  The older dog is emotionally needy, and has never strayed farther than we can see him.  The younger dog I just let off her leash for the first time yesterday, after experiencing a surge of guilt that we never let her expend all her energy.  She is a beautiful thing to behold at full-speech; that is, when she’s running towards you.  Grace, elegance, speed: like a fox.  When she’s running away, darting across creeks ion pursuit of squirrels at full tilt, she’s terrifying.  I’d been working yesterday on reinforcing her returns to me with abundant training treats.  I thought she had it.  She came back to me 6 or 7 times yesterday to copious verbal praise and edible treats.  Today—she didn’t come back at all.  When realized this might go to the edge of the woods, and the end of daylight, I ran back to the other dog, who was nowhere to be seen, but who, faithfully, came running at the mention of his name.  I love that dog more.  She, however, was hot on the trail of some phantom squirrel, and it was only when she tumbled down the steep incline she’d mounted in pursuit of him that I body slammed her into the hill.  I dragged her back to her leash, having learned my lesson.  I just tried to do right by her, by letting her off-leash.  We are hoping that when we can walk her nicely on the leash (another issue) we’ll be able to tolerate taking her on longer walks.  Until then, she’s an energy demon at home, and we have to keep her crated when we’re not home lest she destroy the house. 

Friday, we took the pups to the tennis courts, a nice, enclosed perimeter.  Unfortunately, this weekend was Asian Tennis Court Monopolizing Open.  I hope that dog trainer calls me back soon, before I really lose it.

My in-laws (FIL, SIL, and MIL) came over to see our new kitchen flooring, which is pretty much done.  All the important parts are in place, and it just needs some vinyl trim and sill plates to be 100% finished.  They wanted to see the gorgeous cork flooring we’d bragged about.  I tried to occupy the dogs by feeding them peanut butter Kongs before the arrival of the in-laws.   I put Blondie in her crate.  As for Old Man, he loves my in-laws, as my FIL often walks them while we are away.  He would much rather play with them than lick peanut butter out of a rubber cone, so he went in pursuit.  SIL is allergic to dogs; this I do not doubt.  She has come in our house before, to see some other home improvement, and left after feeling allergic, ~7 minutes or so.  This time, as Old Man traipsed into the kitchen, 2 ft ahead of me, she shrieked, “Get him off me!”  My FIL wrangled the arthritic 12-year-old mutt to the floor (“Wash your hands, Daddy.”).  I am not saying she is faking.  I just think the entire family’s reaction to her + dogs is a little out of proportion.  Since allergies can be genetic, let’s also look at the fact that her brother, my husband’s most recent allergy test came back as highly allergic to dogs.  She acts as if one flake of dander or one stray hair will send her into an anaphylactic coma.  Never underestimate fear or hypochondria, my friends. 

On the way home from the park, with two slightly tired dogs, and one beaten-beyond-belief human behind them, we crossed paths with the most anti-social dogs in our neighborhood.  One is a smallish cairn terrier, and one is what looks to be wire-haired fox terrier.  They are both endlessly nasty, as is the old man who walks them.  They do not live on our street, and yet the man insists on regularly walking them down our street, which only incites our usually peaceful friendly dogs to bark their heads off, pull on their leashes, and angle for a fight.  Mr. Apron regularly plays a passive game of chicken, trying avoid walking anywhere near them.  Of course, this is harder when they insist on walking right by our house as Mr. Apron is about to exit the front door.  Then he makes it worse by yelling “shut up” at the dogs and yanking on their leashes. 

At least I called a dog trainer. 

Mr. Apron is working tonight, swing shift, from 3 until 11.  Then he’ll wake up and work at 7am again.  And he worked last night.  It’s awesome for me, too.  On Friday night, I became very melancholy at the prospect of his working weekend, which happens every other weekend.  I’m not so good at being alone, and when I almost lose my canine companions, that makes it worse.  I want him to go this Halloween thing with me and my friend tonight.  I want to curl up on the couch under a blanket with him tonight and watch last week’s Project Runway that we missed because we were out doing awesome things for our (belated) anniversary.  I want to make dinner with him, answer the door with him, and switch to the red corduroy couch covers with him. 

My MIL told him to tell me not to answer the door (to Trick or Treaters) since I’ll be alone tonight.  I said to him, “And I’m going to pretend you didn’t tell me that.”

I guess when you live in abject fear of dogs and Trick or Treaters in a safe suburban neighborhood, you’re never alone.  You’re always accompanied by Fear. 

Maybe I’d rather be alone.  While my in-laws turn off all the lights and huddle in the basement together, afraid of all the cheerleaders, Ironmen, Disney Princesses, and 3-foot-tall skeletons, at least I can hand out the candy I bought expressly for that purpose.

Happy Halloween.

Wednesday afternoons are usually my napping time.  Mr. Apron works late, so I usually come home, let the great grey beast out, and crash on the couch for 45 min to an hour.  Wednesday is also my nap day, because Tuesday night is our TV night.  Rather, we watch “SouthLAnd” on Tuesday nights from 10-11pm, so I’m always tired on Wednesdays.  I think a 10pm show is pushing it for a non-coffee-drinking human who works 8am-4pm, but we watch not only “SouthLAnd” at that timeslot, but also “Project Runway” on Thursday nights.  So my Wednesday and Friday morning kiddos must think the bags under my eyes are just part of the scenery. 

You know that series of Johnson & Johnson commercials where their heart-warming tagline is “having a baby changes everything”?  Well, having an unhouse-broken puppy might, too. 

Today’s affairs consisted of fighting through traffic precipitated by gorgeous weather, which seems to let the whacko drivers out of bumper car driving school early.  I was greeted by a very excited puppy who left marks of “excitement” on my arm with her tiny stabbing claws.  Did I mention she’s learning to sit and not jump?  I outed them both; they both made.  I fed them both; they both ate.  Then I settled down for a nap with the snuggly girl.  Ordinarily she is bar-none as a napping companion.  She usually flips onto her back, wedged into some crevice in the couch, and instantly becomes comatose.  So long as you don’t utter her name (“Molly” means instant and extremely positive verbal praise.  Her reaction: “You love me?  You love me!  I’m a good dog!  You said my name!”), she’ll stay there, warming, snoozing, breathing softly.

Today she might have been a little wound up from being in her crate for 4 hours.  She would have none of the submissive napping posture.  Instead, she wanted nothing more than to lick my face.  My nose, my eyes, my ear.  She nuzzled and licked till I was falling off the couch from trying to escape her tongue’s firing range.  Finally I gave up on the snuggling, and kicked her off.  As I prepared to put myself to sleep sans dog, I noticed a too-familiar wet oval on one of our only good rugs.  This meant, of course, I had to abort the napping plan altogether, spray the spot, leash her up and take her out, and then, failing any poop/pee in the appropriate locations, toss her back in her crate, whee, of course she would cry and whine in misery.

On our dog-training log, I wrote: “Sometime before 6pm — peed on the rug.”  She’s a sneaky little bitch.  I bet she was all kissy because she was trying to distract me long enough so she could get away with peeing on the rug. 

Of course, now she and Finley are passed out on the floor, keeping me company while I keep vigil for any squatting.  Such perfect angels when they sleep.  Just like me.  All I wanted was my nap.  Sigh.  Having a puppy changes naptime.

Well, folks, we’ve done it.  We’ve upended whatever calm was left in our lives (after a week where the car wouldn’t start, the computer came underattack by the new “Virus Protector” virus, and Corey Haim is dead) by adopting a new dog.  She’s an 8 month old cockapoo-lab mix and her name is Molly and she’s gone and stolen our hearts.  She already knows her name (which has been swiftly changed from Miley.  Rawlf.) and comes running whenever we coo at her.  All words aimed at her are perceived as praise, and she loves nothing more than a snuggle session on the couch as she lumps from lap to lap, licking necks and hands, and covering us with blond fur. 

Here’s our pretty girl:

Finley is less than thrilled.  We did bring him down to the shelter on Saturday for the requisite playdate, and they tolerated each other just fine, which was as good as we knew it was going to be with Finley, the dog who doesn’t care a lick about other dogs.  Ever.  Molly was slow to warm up, having been surrendered only on Friday, but she rebonded with us last night as we drove home from the shelter, her seal-shaped head poking out from between the seats as she begged for a ride in the front. 

Once at home, she became almost robotic.  Didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t chew, didn’t pee (indoors or out), didn’t poop (ditto), didn’t bark or whine or howl.  Almost like a Zhu-zhu pet, I remarked.  Then, as we were brushing our teeth, she decided the hallway would be a good bathroom.  As I have been trained to do, I stomped my foot to disrupt her stream, threw a towel over it, and ushered her outdoors, where she spastically sniffed and pounced and prowled around.  And decidedly did not squat. 

And then, a half-hour later, as we sat unwinding with a little Law & Order, she had a repeat performance.  Luckily Mr. Apron saw her intentions before our rug did, and he, too, pushed her outdoors, where she played in the pachysandra. 

She did leave us a pungent present at midnight, which I tried to ignore, but finally succeeded in asking Mr. Apron to clean up, and we managed to spend a few anxious hours asleep, fearing the ginormous puddles that would await us in the morning. 

It only took three trips outdoors this morning for Molly to finally pee on the driveway, outdoors.  And after a carefully choreographed feeding session at 7:45am, she was all set to poop at 8:00am, which she did.  Outdoors.  And there was much rejoicing. 

As I write, Mr. Apron is off to Petco to buy a crate.  I was really hoping to avoid the annoyance and eyesore of crate-training, but I’d also like to be able to sleep at night.  I think 12:45am was my watershed moment.  When something messes with my sleep, I reach my breaking point. 

But instead of turning her in, as her former owners did last week, we’re taking positive steps.  We’re picking up where they left off, and giving her a happy Forever Home with two people who are madly in love with her, and an older dog who really couldn’t care less.  And that’s just the way we planned it.

The other night I had a dream that my parents had a baby.  Knowing full well that this is currently biologically impossible for them, I relaxed, but realized that this was probably my biological clock alerting me to my duty as Only Married Child, and Eldest Child, to produce the first grandchild. 

My mother will be over the moon when we have a baby.  I just know it.  She’s been ready to be a grandmother since my youngest sibling was out of diapers.  Not that she’s ever pressured me (save for a passive aggressive note in our House Warming card) to make her some grandbabies, but I know it’s her calling in life.  She wants to spoil them, to coo over them, to dress them and bake for them, and play with them and feel the warmth that a houseful of sarcastic twenty-something children (home for the holidays and whatnot) seems to have left behind with the My Little Ponies and Pound Puppies. 

I told her about my dream, and she completely missed or ignored the flashing neon sign of its meaning.  She went for the “truthiness” instead, telling me that, biologically, she could very well still serve as a vessel (or whatever euphemism she used), blah, blah, blah.  And really?  So not the point. 

So ready is she that she has acquired yet another dog, which my siblings and I know are surrogate children/grandbabies.  Never mind that she invites chaos into the house, and seems to be satisfied only when impossible situations anre brewing with regularity, she just wants to save the world’s strays.  I guess I’m relieved on 2 accounts: 1) that the city where they live only allows 3 dogs per household without kennel license; and 2) that’s she’s chosen dogs, not foster children.  I don’t know of any such limits on foster children.  Soon after my sister removed her dog from the family home and took it with her to college (thus liberating the poor thing from its oppressively smothering dog sibling, and giving it a new leash on life, pun intended), my mother realized she could not live with only one dog, and had not had only one dog since 1986.  Literally.  When we took in a stray border collie who was the best dog in the world.  Literally.  Well, the newest stray border collie (see: oppressively smothering dog sibling) turned out to be insane, and when the opportunity presented itself two weeks later, Mom adopted a dog she heard about through a co-worker — an abandoned 90 lb chocolate lab.  Mom was thrilled when the lab exuded quiet and adorable dominance, which seemed to put the border collie in her place, or at least cow her suffiiciently that humans can now hug in her presence without getting humped.  What to do, though, about the chaos level?  It was too low.  So, with a week to go before a 1200 mile weekend roadtrip to see my sister’s play, and with a sprained ankle for the regular dogsitter, Mom brought home Jellybean, a fox terrier who ought to spice things up sufficiently. 

Maybe she’ll stop with the surrogate insanity once we produce an heir, but at least the city won’t let her get any new canines until one of the current ones goes to Doggie Heaven, and the eldest is only 7 years old, so it’ll be a while. 

Unless, of course, she figures out how to get a kennel license.

As you may have guessed during this past blog-free week, I was on vacation with Mr. Apron.  Either that, or you thought my vegetarian blog was so hot, I had to let it cool off.  In any case, I did not advertise our trip to Maine in advance, for fear you might break into my uninhabited home and steal my bassoon, or my sewing machine, or my cheese slicer, three things of great value to me.  Even if I had told you I was going to be away, and given you the exact dates, you wouldn’t have found the house empty, because the painters were here again!

Mr. Apron or I had this great idea to have them come while we were on vacation!  We’d be like a real Main Line couple and have “work done” without the inconvenience that usually accompanies having workmen in the house.  Especially because our bedroom (including closet) was painted, we had to purge the closet of all our precious clothing, and heap it all on the bed, it would have been very inconvenient indeed.  So my in-laws (THANK YOU!) let the painters in each morning, collected our mail, played with the lights, and held down the fort while we cavorted up in Maine.  (Vacation highlights and photos coming soon…)  We sunned, we hiked, we biked, we sailed, we shopped, we dropped, we bowled, we ate, and ate, and ate.  And all the while, our house was transforming.

The wallpaper is gone, folks.  All the old-lady wallpaper (except in the downstairs powder room, where it’s almost inoffensive, and would be more trouble than it’s worth to redo in a room that small) is gone.  Our room is a lovely earthy mossy green.  Our office is a slate blue.  It feels so good to be home.  I don’t just mean having space to ourselves again, and not learning about the financial woes of our neighbors at the B&B due to their loud cell phone conversations.  I don’t just mean being able to unpack, do laundry, and cook.  I mean the whole thing.  I mean being back in a place where we’re truly at home, in our own skin, surrounded by our stuff, our decor, the clothing and furniture that’s meaningful to us, or at least familiar.  Even in our nasty 1980s kitchen with its poop-brown cabinetry, and vomit-colored cobble-stone sheet linoleum flooring, and decaying drop ceiling, as I heated up two masala veggie burgers (Trader Joe’s = awesomeness.  Tasted like samosas on a bun.) in a little stir-fry pan, I moved around the kitchen pulling out utensils, finding plates, and serving up a very simple late dinner, and it all felt familiar.  This doesn’t mean I’m not going to cry tears of joy as we rip the flooring up and tear the “ceiling” down, ‘cuz you better believe I will.  It just feels good right now, after having been away since last Friday evening, almost 10 days.  We haven’t been away this long since our honeymoon! 

We stopped at my parents’ house in RI to pick up the dog, watch old home movies (slipsofthetongue’s 4th birthday on Betamax — much worthy future post), and spend quality time with my parents, (baking scones, being dragged by dogs, and walking around the neighborhood).  They suffer from an unfortunate lack of space compounded by having had to move to a smaller house due to real estate prices on the east coast versus our previous home in the midwest, where the cost of living is quite low.  And they have stuff.  Stuff from 30 years of marriage, 27 years of having had children, and lifetimes of other stuff (dolls, harps, dress shirts, shoes, neckties).  It feels a bit cramped, and you have to relearn where to find things everytime you go back. 

“Well, the keys are now in the closet where the fridge used to be.  The fridge is near the backdoor now, so of course we’ve moved the trashcan over to the butler pantry.  We keep the extra folding chair by the door to the dining room otherwise the dogs go in and get stuck and have “accidents”.  Also, if you want Diet Coke, it’s in the basement fridge, so while you’re going down there, stop by the sewing room (which is now in the basement) and see if you like any of the shoes I’ve laid out that your uncle just sent me.  Careful opening the fridge because the light is out, but you can use the one above the table saw.  Also, the watermelon might fall out, so hang onto it as you open the door to grab cokes and clementines for your drive.  Also, take a package of masala burgers (ah, you see where our dinner came from?) from the freezer.  Don’t use the shower in the hall bath because we have a leak, so you can shower in our room, the third floor, or on the first floor.  The dogs need to be fed, but Holly only eats this $60/bag dog food, so make sure Annabella doesn’t get into it.  Their bowls are up on the counter in the butler pantry so Annabella (the chocolate lab) doesn’t think they’re a chew toy.  Feed Holly (paranoid border collie) in the corner so she doesn’t think the other dogs  want her food, and watch Annabella so she doesn’t help herself to Finley’s food once she’s done.  ”

It is nice to be home.  Aside from the heap of clothing on our bed, and the fact that the painters decided I should put my sewing machine near the window, things are pretty much how we left them.  And that feels pretty damn good.