Missing our Doggie

We had a dog named Cooper, alternatively known as Cooper-doo, Doodles, Doopy, etc.  She was a sweet dog and now she’s gone.

Cooper was about 8 when she came to us.  Her previous owner had an underwater mortgage and abandoned the house – and left the dog behind when she did so. She was rescued, dubbed “Cookie” and given foster shelter by a lovely older woman who wasn’t much on walking dogs but really efficient at feeding them. Cookie, having spent some time abandoned and hungry, made the most of each and every meal. Needless to say, much kibble and not much exercise soon had her ballooning.  The rescue organization tried several times to adopt her out and she was brought back each time.  Too hard to care for; fearful of large vet bills; dog can’t even get into the car unassisted – they all had their reasons.  Enter the Andersons.

One day at work, I noticed a poster in some of the common areas, spreading the news a “border collie cross” was looking for a home. There was a photo of a lovely black and white face, heavily photoshopped (as we later discovered) to look like a bright, alert and svelte canine. We had a border collie already who was bored and needed a companion and wow, wasn’t this a stroke of luck? I work in advertising. I should know better.  But I grabbed the poster and called Mike.

IMG_2532A few days later, we arranged to meet up with the rescue folks at a local pet supply place where they were holding an adoption fair.  We identified ourselves to the manager, who told us to sit tight while they went to fetch “Cookie”.  Imagine our surprise when this enormous, ottomon-with-ears came lumbering out! She was enormous – 93 pounds, as we’d later discover – and could barely stand unassisted.  The rescue lady told us her story and was forthcoming about the previous families who’d either refused her or brought her back after a few days.  We talked it over and decided we’d give her a go – not without some misgivings, believe me.  It was a measure of the rescue org’s desperation, I suppose, that they waived the usual adoption fee. They just wanted her to have a good home. We hoisted her up into the SUV and set off.

By the time we hit our driveway, 15 minutes later, we’d renamed her Cooper and began what would be her new life with us.  Many things were apparent quite early on. Cooper didn’t know how to play – either with us or with another dog.  She’d stare in wonder at thrown tennis balls, mystified as to what we could possibly want her to do about these spheres we were tossing. She rebuffed Sadie’s every effort to engage her in play, snapping and growling whenever Sadie got near.  What she did understand was eating – and it was quickly apparent that we had a challenge on our hands.

Cooper had apparently lived on a diet of cheese and gravy or something of that nature. We put her on a sensible diet of weightloss kibble and she was not impressed. She’d chow it down in moments and then look around, wondering where the bottomless bowl of crunchies she was used to seemed to be gone. We added in a couple of walks a day, upping the distance every week or so.  She seemed to enjoy the walks but came home winded and tired, ready for a nap. We still had to help her in and out of the car and up and down the steps in the house.

our two border collie mixes Sadie and Cooper.

Our dogs, Sadie and Cooper. That’s Coop on the right.

She was, however, a master in the art of food theft, as we’d soon discover. I fed her one evening and left the kitchen, only to walk back in a few moments later and spy Cooper, the dog who couldn’t get into the car unassisted, balanced on her hind legs, front paws on the countertop, scarfing down a plate of sausage left over from dinner. While we soon learned to leave nothing within reach, Cooper had all sorts of tricks to get what she wanted – or thought she did.  She’d go after anything that even resembled or smelled like food. Over the course of a few weeks, she ate lemon-scented wipes, a box of Aveeno oatmeal bath powder, and a small bottle of neats foot oil. This along with a full pan of lasagne, an entire chocolate cake and the contents of the trashcan – several times.  Sadie, who’d never considered behavior of this sort, soon learned how many wonders a kitchen trashcan could contain. 3 “dog-proof” cans later, we finally broke that habit.  Luckily, Cooper also had the constitution of a battleship because nothing she ate gave her a moment’s pause.

Cooper didn’t know how to be a dog and certainly didn’t know how to be a dog on a diet. This made for an unhappy canine.  What she did have, from the moment she walked into the house, was a champion and friend in my daughter Siobhan.  These two took a shine to each other immediately. Whenever Mike and I would express even the smallest amount of doubt about whether we’d be able to handle this critter, Siobhan was implacable in her insistence that she was here to stay.  We put Coop’s bed in Siobhan’s room and a bond was set.

Over the months and years, Cooper became a new dog.  She lost a good deal of weight – 40 pounds in all – and learned how to walk, run and play.  She discovered the joys of chasing balls, chewing sticks and romping with Sadie.  She chased squirrels and rabbits aIMG_3551nd unfortunately,  skunks – getting sprayed in the face for her trouble. She wasn’t a particularly bright dog but that just meant each day was a new adventure for her, full of new wonders like the portal in the kitchen that opened up and let her go outside! And back inside! Where there was food! She was the laid-back and passive balance to Sadie’s often overwhelming dominance. While Sadie needed to be in control of all in her domain, Cooper was content to let everyone have their space. Even if it was her space they took in the process.

We lost Cooper yesterday, 12/19/15.  Old age simply caught up to her.  We were lucky enough to have 6 wonderful years with her – years she probably wouldn’t have gotten if that photoshopped poster hadn’t caught my eye.  We’ll miss her terribly.  Maybe it’s the years as a vet tech but I don’t tend to go on about “rainbow bridges” and the like when we lose on of our beloved pets.  We make the right decisions for our creatures when the situation calls for that particular kindness and hope that someday, we’ll meet them again.  Cooper – you were a good dog. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

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Tip-toeing back into the room, brushing away the cobwebs.

Yeah, so, gonna give this another go.  It’s time, right? I happily wrote for several about topics from favorite songs to parenting challenges.  Stayed fairly light. But then my dear MIL came to us to die and die she did: with the wonderful and caring support of Beaumont Hospice, Dianne lived out her last days happy and sneaking the occasional smoke until finally the morphine took her smiles, her smokes and eventually, softly, her last breath.  i wrote a lot about that. Deep stuff.  And then my son ended up hospitalized for other stuff just a month later.  And I wrote about that, too.  And it became a chore. And chores aren’t fun.

So I stopped. And I feel bad.  So I’m back.        Hi. (Waves)

I truly don’t want to make any sweeping statements other than I want to do this again, I liked it when I did, so I’ll give it a shot.  Ok?  And it won’t be all rainbows and water sprites – I still work 65-70 hours a week at a place that makes me nuts and I still have teenagers, one of whom is at MILITARY SCHOOL (there, I said it). So will have much to opine there too.  Anyways. No promises, no commitments.  I’ll just wander in occasionally and spout off, ok?

 

Cat on ledge jumps funny

Here we goooooooo….

..

Ask not for whom the school bell tolls – it tolls for thee (and me)

It’s hard to say who dreads the first day of school more – my kids or me. Now, I’d love to say it’s because of the waning days of summer or the loss of freedom to make plans and spend time together without a care for football game schedules or upcoming exams or papers due. I could even wax eloquent about the first day of school as harbinger of another Michigan winter, another year of our lives together passing into the mists of time, etc., etc. But that really isn’t it.

sighs

The first day of school means that stress time and conflict time begins. Sure, some level of stress and/or conflict is there year round – I live with teenagers after all, when a request to please pick up laundry takes on Wagnerian levels of drama. That said, school brings a whole ‘mother level of stress and angst, beginning with the first evening’s homework – usually a signature on the class syllabus which is to be turned in the next day.

Homework, in it’s own special way, (a new ring of hell for Dante way) becomes a fire point, a trigger, a symbol of both my kids’ indifference and my self-perceived failures as a parent. My kids are very intelligent creatures. I say that with all confidence. They could also give a rip about school, each in their own way.

My daughter generally gets her work done shortly after getting home. She seems to view it as a necessary evil separating her from the things she wants to do. If the subject or assignment is something she particularly enjoys, she’ll give it her all; if it isn’t, she’ll do enough to get by and may or may not read the directions before proceeding. We can also safely assume that what’s completed will be turned in. Her special stressors really isn’t homework as much as study habits (a silly and somewhat archaic concept in her mind) and test prep – but that’s a topic for another day.

My son is a different matter altogether. He is, I think sometimes, smarter than all of us, as far as sheer ability. He is also Olympic-level homework-averse. If we can get past the hurdles of a) recording what homework needs to be done and b) bringing home the materials to complete said homework and even c) completing the homework and packing it up, there’s a sizable chance that the work – done well and done on time – will never see the teacher’s inbox. His hard work, crumpled on the bottom of his backpack, there to die among the gum wrappers and old Monster Energy cans, never to see the light of day again.  (And yes, we know there’s a control issue woven in here.) Then, after a period of no (in the teacher’s eyes) discernible attempts at mastering the material, he’ll saunter in on exam day and ace it.

What this all means is that the school bell rings and my Pavlovian response is to spike my blood pressure and yearn for valium. Somehow, somewhere, we missed out on the “work is it’s own reward” lesson. Aw hell, I’d settle for “if I do the work and get the grades, that crazy lady will leave me alone”.

I’m not one of those moms who demand perfection. Far from it. I’ve seen the kids that are the product of their parent’s own thwarted ambitions or drives and it ain’t pretty.  What I want is for my kids to simply give it their best shot – and along the way, hopefully stumble into something that they love to do and want to pursue.  Happy lives and gainful employment – and the ability to take care of Mike and I in the manner to which we’d like to become accustomed someday. 🙂

cat-jumps-off-ledgeAt any rate, the school bell tolls on Tuesday so like it or not, we’re off to the races.

Happy 15th to my bestest boy

Fifteen years ago, after a late night race through almost-deserted Manhattan streets, (and boy, did my husband LOVE that drive – I think he was dying to get pulled over by New York’s finest just so he could point at me and ask for an escort. But I digress…) our boy Julian was born at Beth Israel Hospital, NYC.  At 10 pounds, 8 ounces, he made quite an entrance!

Jude is now 15. He’s talented, wise and funny in an almost visceral way. He’s working hard with the cards dealt to him and we couldn’t be prouder of all he’s accomplishing right now.  Happy birthday, Julian. Every day you become an even finer young man. Now let’s go watch some fireworks!

Can a gal get a break, please? (with bonus thoughts about “the new normal”)

Yes, yes she can. (fingers crossed, knock wood, etc.)

grumpy cat feels stress

Grumpy Cat understands me

Physically, emotionally and psychologically, it has been a rough several months.  We’ve handled my son starting high school (and all that goes along with that transition), my daughter in her junior year (her hardest) and the continuing circus of working at an understaffed, overbusy ad agency. I thought that was stressful.

Then shit got real.

We went to acute stress action phase when my mother-in-law started to decline and ultimately entered hospice care this past March. In our home. It was difficult, rewarding, intrusive, beautiful – all those adjectives and more. It was also a lot of stress layered on top our already packed lives.  And more so, for my husband. Dianne passed peacefully on May 16.

With her passing came all of the activities that follow a death: the paperwork, the cleaning out and sorting of a lifetime accumulation of stuff. Stuff that needed to be sorted, wrapped, boxed, transported, donated or tossed. Mike’s sister came to town and is, thankfully, a mofo packing machine and helped make quick work of it all. (Left to our own devices, Mike and I would still be there, looking at photos and wondering what to do with the china.)

No sooner was that done then our son was hospitalized. Stress, doctors, phone calls, worry and more.  He’s home now and doing better but there’s a bit of a journey there yet to come.

And now it’s summer. Kids out of school, things slow down, leisurely evenings and weekends, right?  Nope. Just as I’m vowing to stop with the crazy hours at the office for a while, things go nuts there.  Not sure why but the workload is worse than ever right now. Seems every client we currently work with wants to start something new right now, every other client wants to consider it and new business opportunities are clamoring.  Now I am not one to be sorry we have so many opportunities but really – all at once? I blame the NSA and Supermoon.  In that order.

This past Friday morning we woke up to find AbbieCat, my MIL’s kitty, had passed in her sleep during the night. This was not a huge surprise – she was 16, overweight, with dodgy kidneys to boot – but we really had hoped to have her longer. I think she just got sad that her person was gone.

What surprised me most about this was my lack of real reaction. Normally the loss of a loved pet is very traumatic for me. Granted, this was not my cat but I knew Abbie well; she’d stayed with us many times over the years, whenever Dianne visited. I had some attachment here.  It isn’t that I don’t care. Rather, it’s I don’t have time to care right now. With all of the balls in the air and plates spinning, this registered just a bit of a wobble.

Earlier this week, while viewing yet another webinar titled “______: The New Normal”, my coworkers and I spent more time joking about how everything is “The New Normal” these days.  Mobile is Everywhere: The New Normal!  Brands Getting Social: The New Normal! It’s replaced “Synergy” and “Paradigm” as the POV presentation buzz-phrase of choice. It’s old, trite and laughable.

angry orange cat swimming

ignore the stress. just keep swimming, cat.

BUT.  What if this hyper-stressed existence I’ve been leading is actually my New Normal? Is that why losing that sweet ol’ kitty didn’t even ruffle my feathers? I honestly was more sad for my husband and kids than feeling anything resembling a feeling myself.  I noted she was gone, hugged my husband, gave her some pets and headed off to work and into a crazy calendar of meetings. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I mentioned it to a friend at work and she inquired how I was doing? Doing? Should I be doing something? Feeling something?  Apparently yes.

So here’s the thing. I can’t do anything about workload right now. It is what it is and will be what it is until it isn’t.  I can handle it or I can go elsewhere (not that it doesn’t enter my mind sometimes).  What I can do is take better advantage of the time I am off. Time to decompress, time to just relax. Not quite sure how that’s going to happen just yet but it’s worth a shot. And I have Thursday and Friday off next week. That break this gal is going to take!