Adjusting to life post-maternity leave was a struggle. We encountered day care drama and I fought to find the energy to get everything done.
One day, all the pieces came together for my husband, Matt, and me. We even made our bed. I felt like Super Parent with a milk-stained, sparkly cape.
That was until I returned home and pulled back the covers on the bed. Screams and panic followed. There in the center of the bed was a Lake Superior-sized puddle of yellow dog pee, and it reeked. Mr. Happy, our dog, had not only urinated all over the bed and pillows, but also had the chutzpah and talent to somehow get the blankets back to look like the bed was still made.
Occasional canine bladder accidents come with dog ownership. But when is it normal behavior versus cause for medical concern? Frequent dog urination can range from medical or behavior issues to the failure to spay or neuter your pets. Your veterinarian is a key partner in addressing frequent dog urination, and the ASPCA website offers fantastic information on dog marking. Solving the problem is often a simple fix (pardon the pun), and low-cost spay/neuter services are offered in many communities.
Our situation fell on the more serious side. After Mr. Happy engaged in other destructive behaviors, our vet referred us to a board-certified veterinarian behaviorist. We learned that Mr. Happy's urination was a byproduct of separation anxiety. Our beloved dog had grown accustomed to having someone at home, and was devastated when his humans left him for the day. Our behaviorist developed a treatment plan, which we continue to tweak based on Mr. Happy's mood. Separation anxiety impacts many animals, and it is important to consult a medical professional so you can get the best help for your pet.
Guest Blogger Emily Cappo is a writer and blogger at Oh Boy Mom. She is a mom to three boys and one girl dog named Matilda, a sweet and cuddly Labradoodle. Matilda and Emily are also a certified pet therapy team.
We recently discovered we have a bunny living in our backyard who seems to be separated from her parents. We could be completely wrong about her solo lifestyle, but we haven’t seen any mama or papa rabbits around.
We were fascinated by watching her tiny body hop around the yard. Soon after her arrival, she discovered my husband’s precious landscaping and now spends much of her day munching on all of our plants. While we’d prefer she find some carrots a la Bugs Bunny, we are compassionate animal lovers and continue to let her feast on our backyard buffet.
This adorable scene continued day after day until Matilda, our exuberant Labradoodle, noticed our little visitor from the nearby window.
Like many dogs, Matilda is a squirrel fanatic. She watches them intently from inside the house and as soon as we slide that back door open, the chase is on. We don’t worry too much about this because squirrels are fast and can climb trees in a hurry.
However, a baby rabbit is a different story. She could hop around, but did she have the speed to escape a crazed dog? We weren’t so sure.
We became very careful about letting Matilda out in the yard, always scanning the shrubbery before opening the back door. This worked okay until one day one of our kids opened the door and Matilda darted after the bunny as fast as her long Labradoodle legs would carry her.
Luckily, the bunny did not become Matilda’s play toy—she either ran down a hole, or scampered away through the thick bushes. But, we still worried about the next time Matilda spotted the bunny, who may not be so fortunate for round two.
Our backyard is fenced in so while Matilda can’t get out, the bunny is small enough to squeeze through or burrow underneath. And that seems to be what she did, because we haven’t seen her in a few days.
She’s likely living next door now, sticking her tongue out at Matilda from the other side of the fence saying, “nah, nah, nah, nah.”
As for Matilda, she’s still holding out hope that the bunny will come back and be her “friend.”
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?