When I wake up in the morning, before my brain can register what day of the week it is, my ears ring with the sounds of:
Diva, my 10-year-old, egg-laying cockatiel, tweeting and “dancing” in her cage to the oldies station;
Mr. Happy, my 6-year-old rescue dog, who suffers from many forms of anxiety, barking for someone to throw his favorite duck toy; and
My 2-year-old toddler, negotiating potty training and screaming that it’s time for her to feed Diva and Mr. Happy.
All of this happens before 6:15 A.M. I’m Erin, and my home resembles Times Square. It is loud, busy, exciting and sometimes smells like an overturned garbage truck on a hot day. Are my husband, Matt, and I off our rockers for embracing this lifestyle? Probably. We do have a daily pill sorter for our dog, after all. As my answers to frequently asked questions explain below, we can’t imagine living our lives any other way.
Q: Doesn’t having a small child and multiple pets make you crazy?
A: Craziness is all relative. There are plenty of things in the world that are crazier than having both small children and pets—would you cancel a trip to the park for your child or pet to burn off some energy due to a slight chance of rain? I don’t think so.
Q: You have a lot of living things to keep happy. How do you get it all done?
A: Delegation! My pets and toddler often entertain each other. Think of all the fun, interactive games you can play as an interspecies family, such as an updated version of a classic game called, “Clue: What Did I Just Step In?” Watch the whole family gather at scene of the crime to uncover the mystery. Keep in mind, the one family member or pet who is hiding during this game is mostly likely the prime suspect.
Q: If you could do it all again, would you?
A: You bet! Rewind to 2004, when Matt and I brought home our bird, Diva. Even if I knew then what I know now—the mess, the noise and the smells – I would still make the same decision. They’ve all taught me important life lessons ranging from remembering to smile and dance to being sure to give unconditionally.
When we first adopted Mr. Happy, a trainer said he had no hope of getting over his fear of dogs. Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks. To me, a beautiful image is not a sunset—it is seeing your dog walk right next to another dog after going through weeks of specialized training.
I’m excited to team-up with ASPCA Parents to share the wonders of pet ownership and raising young children. Stay tuned for next month’s post, when I share what’s worse than having a horse’s head in your bed. Don’t worry—no animals were harmed in the process!
Lisa Jakub is a writer, retired actor, wife and dog-mom. You can read more from her at LisaJakub.net and see photos of her dog on Facebook or Twitter.
We all have mentors in our lives: someone who exemplifies a better way of moving through the world, a better way of living with an open heart and a better way of embracing joy. I found my mentor when I rescued a 7-year-old dog.
I adopted Grace a few years ago. She had been in pretty rough shape and judging by her enthusiasm for dumpsters, had likely been living on the streets for a while. I thought I was the one saving her.
When Grace came home, I was still learning how to reconcile my past with my new life. After working as a child actor for 18 years, I decided to retire from the film industry and find a path that felt more authentic to me. I left everything that I knew, and moved from Los Angeles to Virginia to start over.
Grace seems to understand the importance of both acknowledging one's past and letting it go. Although she has terrible nightmares and lingering issues from apparent abuse, her sense of gratitude for the present moment is always stronger than her fears. She never lets her issues stop her from living her life. And while I will never understand why the sight of a garbage bag makes her flatten her ears and cower, she always bounces back moments later, returning to her preferred spot at my heels. That moment is gone, on to the next.
We both have new lives now, and Grace is my writing partner. She curls up next to my desk and inspires me to be honest on the page. She reminds me that we don't need to be defined by our past. We create our own story. Every day is a chance to start over. Grace has decided that her story is about joy. She spins in circles at the mention of a walk. Regular meals are a cause for wholehearted gratitude. A belly rub is the best thing imaginable.
Life is good for Grace. And life is good for me, because of Grace.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
One of the most delightful yet difficult tasks in dog ownership is the very first one—choosing your pet from among a litter of absolutely adorable puppies. Taking time to carefully observe each puppy is well advised, and will help maximize the chances that the pup you pick is healthy and a good match for your family.
One summer day four years ago, I spent several hours with a pack of young chocolate Labradors, intending to take one home. At four weeks old, each pudgy member was simply irresistible. Mesmerized, I sat on the floor and watched them tumble, play fight, and curl up into a puppy pile for a brief post-nursing snooze. I knew it was going to be a challenge to pick one, but “cute” could not be the sole criterion for my future dog.
As the afternoon wore on, I realized that my attention returned, again and again, to “Larry,” one of the larger males. He could focus when I jangled my keys, he tolerated my handling and cuddling, and I loved the way he played with his litter mates. Sometimes he was top dog, other times he was dominated by a brother or sister. Yes, Larry, whom we renamed “Gus,” would become our new puppy after he was weaned and old enough to leave his litter.
If you have a chance to pick out your own puppy from among a litter, the ASPCA suggests that the pup’s physical health be scrutinized carefully. A reputable shelter or breeder should be candid in revealing all they have observed about each young dog. Further, here are six tips they suggest for evaluating a puppy’s behavioral health:
How do the puppies interact with each other?
Does the puppy seem to like people?
Does the puppy respond appropriately to your reaction when he nips you?
Does the puppy guard things from people?
Does the puppy like being handled by people?
Does the puppy seem overly sensitive to sights and sounds?
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
As many families plan barbecues and Independence Day celebrations, pet parents should also include their furry friends in holiday plans. Between navigating a house filled with guests and booming fireworks going off outside, it is common for dogs to run away and for a pup’s escape to go unnoticed.
Here are some tips to safeguard your beloved pooch and enjoy a festive Fourth of July party:
Getting Lost: Loud fireworks scare many dogs, and festivities including visits from friends and family often create extra distractions for pet parents. It’s best to make plans for your dog before guests arrive. Try to keep him in a gated area where he can see people but cannot get out. If your dog is anxious, consider keeping him in a quiet but cool bedroom and make it a point to check on him regularly.
IDs, Please: For added insurance, ensure your pet is wearing proper identification tags that list their name, your name, your home address and phone number.
Avoiding Alcohol: Keep alcohol out of your dog’s reach. Ingesting alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing coma and even death in pets.
Prevent Burns: It’s not a good idea to give your dog (or your kids for that matter) free roam of the yard when the grill is on. Burns can happen in an instant.
Steer Clear of Fireworks: If your dog is afraid of fireworks, place them in a cool, closed room until the explosives are over. It may be helpful to play soothing music for your pet during the fireworks display. If you’re traveling to view fireworks elsewhere, it’s best to leave your pets at home.
Poisonous Products: Keep matches, citronella candles, bug sprays, sunscreens and lighter fluid out of your dog’s reach. These products can all cause serious health problems for your pup.
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years.She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy and their greyhound, Clyde.
For pet parents, welcoming a baby into the family is exciting and stressful! You want your pet to still feel your unconditional love after the baby is home.
We have planned twice for a baby arriving—the first time was more than two years ago when our daughter, Gabriella, was born. Then, about eight months ago, we welcomed Tommy. Clyde, our 12-year-old greyhound, has done really well with both babies—pretty commendable for a senior dog!
We were anxious about how we would incorporate Clyde into our new day-to-day activities and make events like crying, crawling and walking less stressful on him—and us!
Here’s a list of tips that we used when our little ones were on the way:
Before your baby arrives:
Gradually make changes to your house. We put up the bassinet, pack and play and swing about a month before my due date so Clyde could get used to the new layout.
The night before I came home from the hospital, Tom brought a blanket that the baby had used and put it on Clyde’s bed.
Plan out the timing of your pet’s walks and decide who will walk with him. These things tend to slip through the cracks during the first few weeks after your baby’s arrival!
Designate an area where your baby can play and rest that is off-limits to your pet.
When your baby is home:
When we walked in from the hospital, we put the carrier down and greeted Clyde first. We then let him decide when to come to the baby .
Allow your pet to sniff the baby often.
“Teach” the baby how to properly pet the cat or dog—it’s best to start early on this one!
Stick to your pet’s routine as much as possible, including his walks, favorite treats and outings. Clyde and I still do “trick time” every night. He gets exercise (and his Kong!) These minutes together are so important.
Visit the ASPCA Pet Care section to learn more about preparing dogs and cats for the arrival of a new baby. As a mom of two human kids and one canine kid, I’ll always feel guilty that one of the three is not getting enough attention no matter how hard I try. But, I am going to continue to have fun while trying!