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My husband and I are both dog people, which means we both have childhood and teenage memories of dogs that were essentially part of the family. I grew up with Springer Spaniels—first, Dublin and then Bridy. My husband grew up with a St. Bernard, Coors, who in its short life gave the family more than a few happy stories.
With all of our apartment living and travel over the past 7 years of marriage, we’ve been pet less, except for the close call we had with a pug purchase about 5 years ago. Living in an apartment in Minneapolis at the time, so many of our neighbors had small dogs and I started seeing a parade of miniature bulldogs and pugs in and out of the elevators. I caught the bug, so to speak, and made an appointment at a breeder soon after. I got to cuddle and play and satisfy my pug fetish for a good 20 minutes. Fortunately, a chat with our parents (the ones who had already raised dogs) put things in perspective, as they reminded us that our jetting to and fro over the weekends, not to mention our long hours during the week, was not fitting lifestyles for a pug. So the phase passed and life went on.
Here we are 5 years later, and boy have things changed. Settled in suburban Ohio, I’m no longer walking up stairwells but rather a driveway to our garage and house (yes, life called for it!) and 3 beautiful daughters. With a fenced in yard, a basement and three eager helpers, we’ve asked ourselves if we’re ready for a dog. My almost 5 year old has requested a dog for her birthday and I have to say, I’m very tempted. That is until my husband tells her, “Maybe when you’re a teenager…” and then steels me that “Are you out of your mind” look. You know the one I’m talking aboutJ. Something tells me that he’s not ready to expand our brood. Perhaps it was the 3 kids in 4 years that makes me not push back….not yet anyway.
Enter our lovely neighbors: Peter & Linda are a 50 something couple with 2 children recently out of college. They have 3 very friendly dogs that make their way up to the fence that divides our yards to be caressed and scratched by little hands that fit through the openings. This past weekend, Mary (4) and Clara (3) went out for a little adventure with their dad, which left me and Annie (15 months) a few hours to frolic the morning away outside. On our walk home from the playground, we stopped outside to chat with Linda who was gardening with their golden retriever. Annie was entertained for awhile, but then started making her way to Linda’s front door, through the mulch piles, to catch a glimpse of her smaller dog. I chased after her and brought her back to me. Once back, she took off again, with that same determination past the wheel barrow, over the mulch piles and up to the front door where she pushed herself up against the screen to see the dog. This sequence repeated itself 4 times. Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th time I find myself crouched next to her at the foot of the door, about to explain why we can’t go into the neighbors’ house and she just looks at the dog and says “TUCKER”…. “TUCKER”…. Oh my! Was this a sign? Annie has said Mama & Dada up until that point, and that was it. Wow—I guess the neighbor’s dog had made quite an impression!
For now, it looks like we’re going to hold off on the dog purchase, despite my daughter’s birthday request, or my other daughter’s 3rd word tribute to Tucker. Unless that dog can cook, clean and walk itself, we are probably in for a little wait. Still, I want my kids to grow up with a dog and I hope I can make that happen in the next few years. For now I’ll have to be pleased with the dog days of summer and enjoying Linda and Peter’s brood next door.
Mary and Clara over Memorial Day
Annie shmoozing with the neighborhood pooches
Annie and Tucker
Meghan is the Communication and Licensing Director at Step2. Meghan is a mom to three little girls, all under the age of 5, who are best friends and worst enemies at the same time. Meghan, married to her husband of 8 years, loves to travel, try new foods, and has recently become a big fan of Downtown Abby. It’s a real treat when she and husband get a babysitter and over-order at their favorite sushi restaurant.
A mom shares the emotional growth of her six year old
I’ve never really found the words empathetic or emotive as words that describe my six year old son Alex. Caring, kind, funny, charismatic and observant are all great descriptors of my curly-haired boy. Empathetic and emotionally expressive, well, maybe not so much.
Alex has always been very practical and logical. When he was born, he wouldn’t cry and this was concerning to the physicians as they needed him to cry to clear his lungs. He eventually did (on his own timeline). However, it was almost as if he waited because he didn’t see the point of crying when he wasn’t upset.
A couple of years ago, I asked Alex to snuggle with me as we watched television. Knowing that he would be reluctant, I told him I was cold and he could keep me warm. He considered my request, scooted down next to me on the couch, snuggled for a few minutes and then promptly stated “you’re warm enough now” and returned to his former spot.
He has never been the type of child to be overly affectionate or empathetic. For example, if I’m ill, he’s likely to say, “Mom, you should go to the doctor” and this response will only be triggered after I complain of a cough, sore throat, cold, etc. It’s not that his responses are inappropriate. They just aren’t overly empathetic. Having been around young nieces who were very expressive, I think I have a tendency to expect this from Alex. I’ve kept my fingers crossed that he would grow into his inner empath. And, I think he finally is (again, on his own timeline).
Recently, Alex and his friend were playing with their toys guns. As they prepared to go outside, I overheard his friend say, “I don’t want to take my gun outside.” I heard Alex reply, “that’s ok, I’ll cover you.” I found his response quite funny at first and then I realized that he was looking after his friend through their imaginative play.
About a month ago, we had to put our German Shepherd, Ember, down. The news of her illness was a surprise and it was less than two weeks from the time that I learned something was wrong until her final ultrasound showed that she had a very aggressive form of cancer; the kindest thing to do was put her down. I wasn’t sure how Alex would take the news.
As I explained that Em was sick and wouldn’t get better, he listened attentively. Knowing that she would likely be put down that day, I told Alex that she probably would not be home when he came home from school. I explained that she was going to die soon and I was going to take her to the vet. I suggested that he say goodbye to her and tell her what a good dog she had been. He didn’t respond and just watched me. I asked him if he understood and he said “yes” and then motioned with his hand to wave me out of the room so that he could be alone with the dog.
I’ll never know what he said to her in their moments alone. If he patted her on the head, gave her a hug or just looked at her. But, he clearly wanted a mom-free moment with her and knowing this, I didn’t ask him about the time they shared.
That afternoon when I picked Alex up from school I told him that Em was gone and that we could talk about it if he wanted. I told him that I was sad and that we would miss her. Alex was quiet and, knowing that he probably wouldn’t share his feelings, I told him that if he wanted to look at her pictures later, he could. A few hours later, he asked me to see her photos.
A couple of weeks passed without him initiating any conversation about her. One day he brought home a paper where he had to complete a thought. The sentence started with, “I wish.” Alex finished the thought by adding, “that I had a dog.” While saddened, it warmed my heart to know that he did think of her and that he had expressed that thought in writing according to his own timeline.
Tiffany is the mother of a curly haired six year old boy who wants to be Batman when he grows up! When she is not engaged in an intense light saber battle, watching Transformers (cartoons and movies), asking her child not to jump from the top step or being told, “you’re playing action figures the wrong way, mom” she contemplates how wonderful it would be if her child were a twin or triplet. Tiffany is the Human Resources Manager for Step2.