June Blog Challenge, Post V: Pets

Here’s the prompt for Day 5 of the June Blog Challenge over at Waiting for Baby.

Do you have any pets?

I do have a pet, he’s a Miniature Schnauzer named Apollo. To my Husband, he’s our pet. To me, he’s my son. We got Apollo as a puppy right around the time I found out about my Endo & PCOS, and that we’d have trouble getting pregnant. Almost immediately he went from being my pet puppy to being my child.

Having such intense baby fever and struggling to accept my conditions sort of transformed our bond into what it is today. Apollo and I are inseparable. He means the world to me!

He’ll be two this year! He was born in November 2011, and we got him in January of 2012, while Husband and I were living in Statesboro. He was such a pain in the ass to train! Potty training him was a torturous test of patience and restraint. He constantly did his business in the house during the first few months of the year until it started warming up outside.

He’s such a brilliant little one! He’s very smart and learns very quickly! It took me just a week to teach him our most common commands. He knows how to open doors on his own; he’s very curious, and incredibly loving.

He’s a bit of a jerk to other people, but we’re working on it!

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Apollo, My Dog, Eats Children For Dinner

My best friend and I went to the park yesterday, and I decided to bring Apollo. It’s been about a year since Apollo has been to an actual park. Between our many moves and relocations, and the chaos of our lives, we just haven’t really had the chance to take him to a park, for a real walk. Yesterday was the perfect opportunity, I thought, to take him out and reintroduce him to the leash and just get him out of the house!

As I’m standing over the trunk of the car gathering all of his belongings into my backpack, Apollo jumps out of the car and runs full speed after a little boy on a scooter! I’m not sure I have ever seen fear, like I saw in that little boy. He threw his scooter to the ground and booked it right back to his own car, and Apollo followed suit, leash dragging behind him! I was so embarrassed. I knew that Apollo was just being curious and would never have bitten the little boy, but I am pretty sure that little kid might fear dogs for the rest of his life!

Apollo is a 2-year old, not even ten pound Miniature Schnauzer, and his breed is naturally protective and very barky. I can never tell if his behavior is heightened around strangers because he’s just that protective of me, or if he’s anti-social. I committed a true cardinal sin when we first brought Apollo home. I failed to socialize him as a puppy. As many first-time puppy owners, I was so afraid of him being around people, dogs, and parks without all of his shots, thinking he’d contract some sort of parasite or sickness, but now he’s a maniac when he sees strangers and other animals. I don’t know how to break that behavior.

About a quarter mile into our walk, a lady walks past us, and the behavior sparks up again. Luckily I have his leash in hand, but his barking and charging after her worries me. I apologize to the lady and explain that he doesn’t bite, but her facial expressions are telling me all I need to know.

We end up walking about a half mile, just the three of us, and I notice a complete change in Apollo. When it’s just the three of us, he’s completely calm, and remains by my side. I drop the leash and he doesn’t run off, he doesn’t walk far ahead of us and when he does, he stops on his own to wait for us to catch up. He’s not even concerned with the woodsy animals casually running up and down trees or across the track. When there are no strangers present, Apollo behaves so wonderfully, abiding by each command he’s given, but that goes right out the window as soon as a stranger is added into the equation.

We sit at a bench we find at the 0.75 mile marker, and I reach in backpack for his bowl and water bottle to cool him off. I’m noticing he’s really hot and getting pretty tired. In the blink of an eye, he’s booking it after another woman. It’s so bad that he trips over himself in pursuit of her. The last thing I need is for someone to actually really fear him, and end up causing him harm. At this point I’m fed up. I yell at him a little louder than the previous two outbursts, and I spank him.
During the last quarter mile of our walk to the car, we pass a playground with two children playing on the swings. Apollo growls a little bit but keeps on walking. Right beside the playground was a little pavilion with a small group seated underneath. There were a few toddlers pointing in amazement at Apollo, and I’m just so thankful that none of them ran over to him. Apollo doesn’t like toddlers as they provide too many sudden movements. He doesn’t trust that. He walks past them without a bark; perhaps he’s learned his lesson for the day.

It’s so frustrating knowing that Apollo isn’t the type of dog that I can have around strangers in a park, or even in the home. I don’t really know how to curb this behavior either. It concerns me that he’s so untrusting of children, because I want to have my own soon, and I don’t want to create an aggressive dog, nor be afraid of his potential reactions.

If anyone reading has any tips, explanations, concerns, tools, resources, or similar experiences, I’d love to hear from you. I’m totally willing and ready to give just about anything a try. I want to have a happy, confident dog. I love that he’s so protective, but this is getting out of hand.

But he's just so darn cute...

But he’s just so darn cute…

Left Behind

It’s finally hit me: The thought of going away to the Peace Corps with Husband and leaving Apollo behind. I can’t imagine being away from him for two years; I can hardly tolerate a weekend away without him. He’s such a huge part of my life. I was very skeptical of even having him join our family, but he’s become something so precious to me. He’s become a symbol of hope. He’s like a little person with a huge personality! He’s everything I could have ever wanted in a companion. (Besides my Husband) He’s always by my side, he loves me unconditionally, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to just leave him behind.

I never understood how people could get so overly attached to their pets, or why they’d want to, but in this one short year, it all makes sense to me. It’s not about it being a human to pet relationship, or obedience vs submission, it’s about falling in love with a creature who loves you with all of their might, feeling needed and responsible for a life other than your own, it’s about knowing that no matter what you did, or who you are, or what bad shit you’re into, that creature will never judge you, never disappoint you, and never let you down.

Our Peace Corps interviews are now THREE days away, and although I’ve been struggling about this bit the entire time, it’s hitting me pretty hard now, especially when I think about the circumstances I’d be leaving him in. No matter how much I daydream about life in the Peace Corps, I have those moments where I have to ask myself whether or not I’d be able to leave Apollo behind. Here’s why I don’t think I can:

1. Apollo is my son. I say this all the time; I’ve even mentioned it in this post. He’s my Husband’s dog, but he’s my son. Apollo came into our home before I knew of our infertility troubles. We got him at just a few weeks old, so it’s safe to say I raised him. I endured that very frustrating puppy-crying-at-night phase, that god awful potty training phase, the sit-down-stay phase, and the “I am the boss of you” phase. All in all, Husband and I molded him into a very well behaved puppy, and when I got sick my love for him grew stronger. I’d come to terms in the depths of my mind that regardless of what the doctors said, I’d never be able to have kids. Apollo became that substitute for me. He’s a little spoiled because of that, but he’s a good baby. He’s the little child that, in my mind, I’ll never be able to have.

2. When I move, he moves. No matter where I go, there’s Apollo. I like it that way. I can always know what he’s into. He’s so inquisitive and he eats everything he can mouth! I don’t even like him being outside where I can’t see him. I feel so overwhelmed when Apollo isn’t around. On the rare occasion we go out of town without Apollo, I miss him with every inch of my being. I feel so disconnected. I feel naked almost. We’re a trio: Husband, Apollo and I, and when we’re separated, it’s as is our chemistry is off. How am I supposed to manage being away for 27 months?

3. Mom’s irresponsible. With Apollo at least. He came back from the doctor with very strict dietary guidelines. She’s got two dogs of her own, and honestly, I don’t trust her to be able to give Apollo the necessary attention he needs. One of the foods his vet recommended costs 20 bucks, and the bag isn’t even that big. But, it’s what will make him better so I buy it. She’s the type of parent, and I see this happening with our future children pending God’s approval, who will give him something against my specific instructions, saying “Shhh, don’t tell your mommy. This is yours and grandma’s secret” and then end up with the “Oh shit” face when he ends up having an allergic reaction to whatever it was. Unfortunately, unlike children, he’s reactions aren’t hives. He ends up with the worst runny eyes, exploding bowels, and terribly severe ear infections. She doesn’t know him like I do, she’s not every aware of his behaviors. I ALWAYS know when something isn’t right with him.

4. Mom’s house is a zoo. She’s got a yappy Yorkie who’s about 4 years old now, so spoiled and untrained. She wears dresses, and basically runs the house. She’s the pack leader in their dynamics. She still shits/pisses in the house for god’s sake. She’s also got a young golden retriever, who spends most of her time with nothing to do in the backyard or shoved into a kennel that is two sizes too small. She’s so unruly; she’s eating all of my mom’s light fixtures in the backyard!! Her and Apollo play so roughly. She’s a big dog and Apollo’s a miniature. She knocks him down the stairs all the time. When I’m here I keep those two separated, who is to say she’ll continue to do that with me gone for two years. She thinks their roughhousing is cute! Honestly, Husband and I say quite often that if my mom’s choice of dog food doesn’t kill him first, then her dog will!

5. Apollo’s coat mats so easily. Apollo is a miniature schnauzer, which means he’s a hypoallergenic breed, which also means he doesn’t shed. Because he doesn’t shed, his hair grows really long, really fast. If we miss ONE day of brushing him, he’s all matted up! He gets these big huge mats under his chest, on his legs, around his neck, and in the pockets of his hind legs. We shave his coat down ourselves to keep costs down. I have absolutely no faith in the thought or idea that my mother would get him groomed, or groom him herself. The mats hurt him, and he’s gets very angry when they’re touched. Rightfully so. We’d go to the Peace Corps, and come back to see our dog looking like some homeless stray and would have to shave him bald. I just don’t trust that he’d be very well taken care of.

6. My sister is a total bitch and I don’t want her touching my dog. I don’t even want to get into the logistics of the lack of relationships we have, nor the lack of shits I give about it, but I don’t want her touching my dog. I want his shots, his updated medical exams, whatever, done by a fucking professional. I am not, and have never been, one of those people who do that shit on my own. I will not ever administer shots to Apollo alone, nor will Husband. I will never DIY immunizations or boosters, or any of that shit. I don’t want her bullshitting around and giving Apollo a shot and having to receive a phone call about the consequences of her incompetence. I hate her, I hate seeing her, I hate the thought of Apollo being anywhere near her when I’m not around.

I don’t think I can leave him here for two years, let alone in the care of my mother, but she’s our only choice. I couldn’t ask anyone to take him for two years, because having a dog is a really big responsibility. At least with my mother, I know she loves him. She sucks at taking care of him, but she does love him, and he loves her. So, although I’m technically not leaving a child behind, that’s exactly what it feels like.

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Like Mother, Like Son

Whenever I’d see those people walking around with their pets in dresses and bows, and really lame bowties and booties, I’d roll my eyes and swear those people were nothing short of bat shit crazy! I mean, a pet…is a pet. There is really no need for nail polish and sparkles, tutus and engraved collars, or super lame nicknames like Mr. Snuggle-Wuggles and Diva-Darling. How completely obnoxious!! The worst has got to be how these crazy people talk to their pets with those relentless baby voices, how painfully annoying….

…Yes, I definitely thought those people were a little douche-y, until we bought Apollo….

Today was Apollo’s doctor’s visit. I knew he had an ear infection. We’d been down this road before thrice over. I’ve been extra careful not to get water into his ears during bath-time, seeing as how my previous dumping water over his head technique caused ear infection #2. I’ve been blow-drying his ears out after baths, and occasionally I swab his ears, although I’m terrified I’ll have a sudden slip of the wrist and BOOM, we’re deaf! I’ve known he’s had an ear infection for quite some time; I’ve noticed each tell-tale sign: shaking his head, scratching (and moaning), he’s even started sliding his head across the floor! I suppose I’ve been so caught up in getting my life in order, that I’ve become quite irresponsible in regards to Apollo.

The nurse isn’t convinced by my confident diagnosis in his ear infection because, “his ears look nice and healthy so far.” Again I reassure her, it’s an ear infection. “Well, let’s get a swab and see.” I don’t know why she won’t believe me. She grabs a long ear swab and digs up some brown muk, smells it, and shouts, “Dear God that stinks!! Yep, that’s an ear infection.” I really didn’t need the theatrics or the faces.

So, we’re standing there him and I. Him on the cold, silver table, and me, heart sinking into my shoes as the vet informs me that Apollo’s got a severe yeast infection in BOTH ears. I’m certain I’m going to be whisked away for child endangerment. I mean, puppy endangerment. Not only that, I’ve apparently been feeding him the WRONG dog food. He’s got a gluten/soy/dairy/meat allergy, which in essence explains the eye leakage, sneezes, and possible ear troubles. Great. I should be shot.

Five prescriptions, an insanely expensive organic fish-based dog food, and $200 later, we’re on our way home and I feel terrible. Apollo is watching me from the passenger seat with those sad, sullen, how-could-you-let-this-happen-to-me eyes and I’m doing my best to avoid eye contact. Oh god, how am I going to explain this to Husband! (Whose response later on was a mere, “it’s just an ear infection, you’ve got meds, he’ll be fine.” He didn’t get it.) He’s the love of my life and I’ve just been so caught up in my own dietary restrictions and medical shenanigans, that I’ve been neglecting him. What a wake up call, it’s not like he can tell me that his ears bothering him, or that his food makes his stomach hurt. He can’t tell me that his eyes are itchy or that he needs a tissue. I love this dog with all of my heart and I feel like absolute shit.

So, I’ll be spending the next two weeks pampering my baby, cuddling and snuggling with my baby, using the best pre-mommyhood mommy voices I can muster up to make sure he knows how sorry I am and how much I love him. He’s my son. No doubt about it. I say this all the time to Tommy: “That’s your dog, but that’s my son. He was supposed to be my child, I swear he’s me in a pooch-body,” and I mean it! I mean how else do you explain the frequent infections (his ears & my body), the sudden gluten/soy/dairy intolerance (both him and I), the extra-loving, sleeps-with-his-head-propped-up-on-my-feet, early-morning-nose-kisses, joined-at-the-hip, follows-me-everywhere-I-go, responds-to-the-secret-language-only-he-and-I-understand, completely connected type of bond we share!! Exactly! He was meant to be my son, and I, his mama!

So coo on you strange, smothering parentals… I totally get it…

-Jenn

Apollo, my son.

Apollo, my son.

Heavy Duty Shizz.

Heavy Duty Shizz.