The Dog Mom Chronicles: 1 Month Later

Today is Rocky’s official, 1-month anniversary in our humble home. Prior to meeting Rocky, and being adopted by him, I was not a doggie person. I loved dogs. I was a dog person. I was NOT a doggie person. My husband is a doggie person. He actively encourages doggie kisses and play and roughhousing. 

I preferred cats. Cats are self sufficient. Cats are independent. Cats do not need to be trained, or walked, and cats do not run. Cats do not lick your face. Cats do not slobber all over your already-beleaguered-by-a-garage-door-that-likes-to-jump-out- and-greet-its-fender-when-you-pull-in intrepid Camry’s interior. Cats can be transported nicely in small crates when car rides are necessary.

My idea of the perfect dog was my grandmother’s dog Sandy. Sandy lived with my grandparents in North Tonawanda, NY when I was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 15. Sandy – a feisty black, tan and white terrier of some sort if I recall her correctly – barked up a storm and strained to get off her leash when my folks and I came over for Sunday dinners. My youthful perception of Sandy was that if left to her own devices – specifically, off her leash – my youthful self would have been toast.

Sandy was a fully trained adult dog. Once I figured out – when I was in my early teens – how to make friends with Sandy, we got along. Sandy had her space at my grandmother’s house. I had mine. Sandy didn’t require oodles of affection. She would not jump up and drool on me. Sandy did not slobber. Sandy didn’t run around the house like a crazy person. Sandy didn’t follow me into the bathroom when I had to pee.

I’ll grant you Sandy was also 40 years ago, but I didn’t think I’d really changed much in those 40 years when I set about finding the perfect dog. I wanted an adult, sedate, sleep across the bed and go out for long walks but that was about it type dog. No puppies. Nothing with boundless energy. Nothing with even the potential to chew through my favorite LandsEnd Mary Janes.

I wasn’t adopted by that dog. I was adopted by a drooly, stubborn, extremely playful mush. I realized that as soon as The Dog came home and promptly followed me into the bathroom when I went to pee.

I don’t mind. I knew what I was getting myself into when they showed me to Rocky’s pen at the shelter. I spent an hour with Rocky at the shelter before deciding I was his forever human. I walked around outside the shelter with The Dog and thought about all of the things a spirited boxer could do: destroy my shoes, chew a loveseat, leave trails of drool and leaves on my kitchen floor, and make a mess with his food bowl. I made certain those things were absolutely cool with my inner self before I told my husband we were adopting Rocky that day at the shelter. A dog is not something you can simply return to a shelter if things go badly. A dog is a living creature, who trusts you to take care of them. I made sure Rocky was my forever dog before I adopted him.

…ahem…HE adopted Me.

My humble home now includes several Bullymake Box chew toys, an amazingly still intact crate (Super Rocky can bend crate bars with his teeth, as we learned early on), multiple library books on dog training, and various and sundry of my shoes in places I know I didn’t leave them. There is also a 25 year old loveseat with stuffing sticking out of 1 arm. Finally, there are multiple ads on Facebook and everywhere else on the Internet I look with ads for dogs, dog stuff, dog training, and humane societies and dog rescues asking for donations.

I am only going to clean the dog slobber off my … everywhere – rearview mirror, passenger door window, driver’s side sideview mirror (don’t ask me how that happened) this weekend because I’ll driving out of state, to and from New Jersey, and paranoid for no reason about being pulled over in Connecticut.

Rocky himself is in his usual place for this time of the morning: asleep in his dog bed beside my desk. The Dog looks up when I stop typing, gives me an eyeball, and then tucks down between his paws and snuggles further into the fleece top sheet covering the dog bed. When I leave this room – momentarily – Rocky will follow. During the day, Leading Canine #1 is Velcro Dog. Wherever I go, he goes. That includes jumping into the car this morning as I was loading it up with recycling and rummage sale donations.

I hated to tell him we weren’t going for a car ride for another hour…

 

 

 

The Dog Mom Chronicles – Chapter 1 Meet Rocky

72299665_10220169792857998_3456141581587841024_n (1)Most parents, even those of autistic (and yes, I asked my son if he preferred to be called “autistic” or described as “having autism” and he said “autistic”) children, when said children grow up and leave “the nest,” even if it is for a residential program and legal guardianship, celebrate having an empty home.

At least I think they do. I have no real frame of reference here. My “nest” has always been relatively empty. I’ve been a non-custodial parent for 14 years, or rather, I was a non-custodial parent for nearly 14 years. These days I am a legal guardian and my son continues to live with his father, Husband #1, aka Leading Man #3, in New Jersey.

Semantics, or, as (my current) Husband #2 likes to call them, some antics. Either way, my son doesn’t live with me, except on summers, school breaks, and the occasional long weekend. Ergo, no frame of reference for what empty nesters do when their kids leave the next.

Oh wait! That doesn’t make sense either. I have always been an empty nester, haven’t I?

Not quite. I’ve mostly spent the last 14 years proving that you can be a helicopter mom from 200 miles away.

Back to the dog.

Recently, I started working from home. When the arrangement became permanent, The Omen and I agreed we could start looking to adopt a dog. We have always wanted a dog. We had agreed to wait to adopt one until at least one of us was home during the day. Neither my husband nor myself saw any reason to adopt a pet, only to leave it alone for 8 to 10 hours a day.

So I was working from home, and my husband and I started carefully weeding through local adoption websites searching for the perfect addition to our humble home. We carefully chose and eliminated specific breeds, sizes, personality traits. We decided how far we were willing to travel, or have an adopted canine travel to us, for adoption. Hubby and I also made sure we had a vet, a trainer, and a dog walker available and aware we were adopting. We notified our homeowner’s insurance provider and asked about breed restrictions.  Finally, we filled out several adoption applications for dogs we were interested in meeting, some of which vaguely reminded me of the 6 or 7 vials of blood I had drawn and tested when I was pregnant with my son.

My husband and I were actively looking for a dog, but we were being fussy. We didn’t just want a dog. We were specifically looking for a dog we knew we could commit to for life, the moment we brought it home. That meant the dog’s personality quirks, ticks, and traits had to match our own.

I often tell my son that he is the product of 2 of the most stubborn forces of nature I have ever met: me and his father, Husband #1.  There’s a line I completely until now misheard and misquoted from Rocks Tonic Juice Magic by Saves the Day that describes us: “You and I are like when thunder and the ocean collide.” Husband #2 and I are best described by the CORRECT line to that same song: “You and I are like when fire and the ocean floor collide.”

The rest of the song doesn’t fit any relationship I’ve ever had. Also, thank you to my baby sister for making my Mary Chapin Carpenter and Moody Blues loving self aware pop punk rock bands even exist.

Anywhoo, I thought it would actually take a whole year to find a dog given how fussy LM#2 and I were being about choosing one online to visit in person. I thought choosing a dog would be, for my husband and I, like choosing our home was: check out over a dozen or so before finally choosing one.

It is only technically accurate to say that We adopted The Dog. We found The Dog. I saw The Dog online, inquired about The Dog to the local humane society where he was residing, and, when his first adoption appointment resulted in The Dog remaining at the shelter, dragged The Omen to the shelter to meet him in person. Even so, based on The Dog’s online description, while I did want to meet him, I did not expect to be adopting The Dog. I primarily dragged my husband to the shelter to speak directly with a shelter worker and learn more about choosing A Dog for adoption.

The Dog had other plans.

In reality, The Dog adopted Us, the moment he jumped up to the top of the bars in his pen at the shelter, we were his. It took us another hour or so at the shelter to acknowledge that and pack him into the car. Fortunately, The Dog was patient with us. The Dog let us walk him around and then patiently waited in his pen while we pored over his paperwork and consulted a dog trainer via phone about our concerns. At least I thought that’s what The Dog was doing. In reality, The Dog was worming his way into my heart like my first actual, “I’m an adult in my own apartment” cat, Mandy, had.

When we put The Dog on his leash, he did exactly what Mandy had done when I opened up the crate on the floor of the home I adopted her in: walked right into – my car this time – and came home.

That’s the story of how I was adopted by a one year old boxer named Rocky.