I’m Back (Baby Teddy’s Introduction)

I am so excited to be sitting down and writing this post.

Writing about dogs is so wonderfully therapeutic for me.  I’ve always felt that…out in society…strangers quickly become friends when a pet is mentioned.  When the fact that I’m a professional pet sitter comes up – I know no stranger.  Everyone has something to share with me: beloved childhood companions, current insane behaviors, dramatic stories of rescue.  I love every word. And I love sharing that with my blog readers.  But then…

On March 7th, Theodore Ashford was born…

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…and blogging (along with many other things) went straight out the window.

But now, after 4 months…I finally have a moment (a miraculous, rare moment when both boys are napping) to return to this blog that I have grown to love.  I love connecting with all you readers.  I love how technology can bring us together.  I love that we can share our ideas and opinions…our personal experiences.

And sometimes I love having a place where I can come to post the stupid dog videos that for some unknown reason entertain me so much.  Damn you internet!

I can’t wait to share more about Teddy.  And how the two original babies – Buffy & Amigo – are dealing with the new addition.  (Spoiler: they are rock stars)  And the blind dog who is staying with us right now who I’m totally in love with.  And how I really do think that parenting a pup help you parent a tiny human.  

Lots to come.  Soon I hope.  Thanks for stopping by!

All the pictures in this post were taken while shooting Baby Teddy’s birth announcements.  Shows the different personalities of my two pups!!

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Buffy during the “shoot”

 

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Friday’s Fido Film (January 10, 2014)

I’ve read about this…but this video gives a complete and concise explanation of why having dogs and cats around pregnant moms and babies is a good thing.  According to this – Sebastian should be healthy and allergy free for the rest of his life!

Have you heard about the correlation between pets and baby health?  What do you think??  Muddy paw prints, slobber, and hairballs worth it?  (I think you all know my answer to that question!)

How My Baby Is Like My Dog – The Power of “Calm”

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Baby Boy Sebastian survived his first Thanksgiving last week.  Being the cutest kid to ever be born (I might be bias), everyone wanted to take a turn holding him.  As he was passed from relative to relative, I quietly watched his facial expressions change as he was safely deposited in each new set of arms.  (If only he would have screamed and cried for everyone equally, my job would have been much easier).  I soon realized, though, that there was a definite pattern to his mood swings.

Call it confidence, call it “calm, assertive energy” (if you are Cesar Millan)…call it what you will.  But babies and dogs alike can sense when someone is relaxed.  More accurately – they can sense when someone is tense.

Dogs and babies don’t really know what the heck we “grown ups” are doing most of the time.  The way we move and how we vocalize are virtual mysteries to them, but they both are acutely and instinctually aware when we are tense.  If you reach out to Sebastian like you’ve been raising babies your whole life, he will mirror your calm and go to you with a coo and a smile.  If you come at him with a secret fear that you are going to cause him a massive head injury (no matter how sweet and eager to hold him you are), he magically transforms into the screaming baby from hell.

Dogs are the EXACT same way.  If you approach a  pooch with body language that broadcasts how scared you are – they are going to be confused.  Not only are they NOT going to trust you…they are going to be on edge trying discover the source of your anxiety.  If you  walk up to that same pup like you are the dog whisperer himself, that dog will take a cue from you and know that he can chilax.

It am truly amazed at how often I find myself using similar parenting skills with Sebastian as I used with Buffy.

(I think being calm, cool, and collected helps when dealing with other “grown ups” too.)

Book Review: Child-Proofing Your Dog by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson

I am a firm believer in books.  What can’t be learned from a trip to a bookstore or library?!  While there are a multitude of pregnancy/baby books out there… and probably almost as many dog books…I was surprised to find very little published on preparing dogs for babies.  And when I say “very little”, I mean literally one book.

Childproofing Your DogSome Googling and a few searches on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble’s website led me to Child-Proofing your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Child in Your Life by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.  The title sounded perfect!  This had to be exactly what I was looking for!

Overall, though, this book was a disappointment.  That’s not to say that I would recommend expectant parents to read it (only a short 88 pages, so you wouldn’t be wasting much of your time); it’s just that most of the information was more common sense than the expert advice I was expecting.  There were, however, a few very insightful hints and suggestions sprinkled in…along with a few points that I completely disagree with.

The underlying theme of the book was spot on – most of the problems that you have with your dog (baby or not) are simply a result of misunderstanding and miscommunication.   Kilcommons and Wilson do a wonderful job of explaining a growl.  “A growl is due largely to confusion…”  and does not mean your dog wants to harm your child.  It probably means that crazy kid is doing something that your dog hasn’t seen you do and can’t quite make sense of it.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a Cujo on your hands.

Another point that they repeat over and over, throughout the book, in almost every chapter (which I think is a point worth repeating!) is you should Dog and BabyNEVER leave a dog along with a baby/child.  It doesn’t matter how wonderfully fabulous your dog is or how angelic your perfect child is…things happen.  (Not necessarily bites!) Do not…even for 5 seconds…go in the other room and leave a baby and a dog alone.  Just don’t do it!  Just don’t!

Now, the biggest issue I have with this book is how it discusses getting rid of your dog (this topic is actually brought up multiple times) and euthanizing your dog if he or she is not getting along with your bundle of joy.  Do I believe that in the HISTORY of ALL dogs and babies there has NEVER been a dog so aggressive that they cannot live around children?  Of course I don’t!  But I DO believe that these instances are so unbelievably rare it is not worth mentioning (again, MULTIPLE TIMES) in an 88 page book for the general public.  The fact that putting a dog down is even touched upon is ludicrous.

That being said…there were some “Wow!  I never even though of that!” moments that I had while reading the book.  Once I read them, they seemed like such common sense, but I honestly hadn’t thought of them before.  Expectant parents too busy to read this whole book – consider this the Cliff’s Notes:

  • Never play aggressive games – Luckily, this has always been a rule in my house!  Never ever EVER play tug-of-war or wrestling games with a dog.  (In general, you never want them to think they can challenge you physically.)  When you need to take something out of a dog’s mouth, you don’t want them to pull at it and think you are trying to have fun.  (Anyone who has tried to retrieve a favorite sock out of their dog’s mouth can attest to that!)  You never want a dog to mistake a child’s hug or rough handling is an attempt to start a wrestling match.
  • Do not call the baby a nickname you have assigned your dog – I had honestly never thought of this one!  My husband and I have taken to calling Amigo “baby boy.”  “Oh, our little baby boy!” we will coo when he is doing something especially adorable.  Well, the book warns, don’t be surprised if you are cooing “My little baby boy!” over your new son and your dog jumps right in.  The pup thought you were calling him!
  • Watch the toys you buy – My husband and I recently cracked up when registering at Target – they had a baby toy that looks EXACTLY like the “Buffy ball”.  We of course realized that we wouldn’t be putting that toy on our wish list.  Kilcommons and Wilson also suggest a “which toy is yours?” game where you place dog and baby toys side by side on the floor…and give praise and treats when your pups brings you the correct toy when asked.  So simple…but genius!
  • Be a baby yourself – From what I hear, kids and babies are pretty loud and unpredictable.  I’m pretty sure they don’t even know the proper way to pet a dog!  Of course, teaching your toddler to be respectful and gentle with animals will be your responsibility, but until they understand all that your poor pooch (just like you!) is going to have to learn to live with some unpleasant feelings and sounds.  So, go ahead and practice pokes, ear pulls, hugs, loud noises, etc.  (of course without hurting the dog!  Remember, baby isn’t going to have much muscle behind all those motions.)  Always let your dog retreat (whether practicing or when baby is home.)  Never force interaction between 2-legged and 4-legged child…you don’t want your dog to ever feel trapped.

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Overall, Childproofing You Dog reminds us our dogs have the instincts of an animal…but the personalities of one of us crazy humans.  You’ve had 9 months to mentally prepare yourself, but their world is going to be turned upside down when you walk in with your new child.  Maybe Kilcommons and Wilson have the right idea about oversimplifying things and relying on common sense – all you really need to do is put yourself in their shoes paws.

If you have any other suggested reading on the subject of preparing dogs for the arrival of a new baby…please share!  

Wags & Whiskers Wednesday (#38) – Special Announcement!

Happy day before Valentine’s Day!

This is an exciting (and scary and a bit sad) time over here at Wags & Whiskers.  My husband and I will be welcoming a new addition to the family soon…and this time I don’t mean 4 legged.  I’m pregnant!  Obviously, it goes without saying this is this is a joyous time for me…just as I’m sure it is equally obvious as to why I am scared out of my mind.   I say it is a bit sad because (at least for a few months) I will be forced pull back from the business and essentially stop working.  Years ago, when working meant sitting in front of a computer, behind a desk, next to a constantly ringing phone…months off from work (even when that meant facing a screaming baby) would have seemed like a dream.  Now, work is something completely different.  Work is something I love.  Work is dogs.

Not to say that I shouldn’t put family first.  When Baby Boy arrives, I’m sure my perspective on work (heck, on life!) will change dramatically.  But I can’t imagine my life without caring for dogs.  Clients – daily walk service will be suspended as of March 31, 2013.  Pet sitting will continue as long as I am able (I am due at the beginning of May.)  Please contact me as early as possible to book pet sitting services.  Regular clients should have already received written notification, but please email me with any questions or concerns – jessica@wagsandwhiskershouston.com

And what of my own dogs?  Amigo is relatively new to the family – but as an attention hog and professional lap warmer, I think the adjustment might be a bit hard on him.  Then there is Buffy.  Buffy…my “first born”, my constant companion, my coworker.  Buffy seems forever adaptable. Both my husband and I are sure that our baby boy and Buffy will become the best of friends.  Buffy has been my savior through my pregnancy thus far – knowing when I need a shoulder to cry on, when to take her brother in the other room to play so I can get some alone time, and when to simply sit by my feet to let me know I’m not alone in this.  (Not to discount my amazing husband…but unfortunately he does have a job!)  The wonderful thing about love is we have an infinite amount to give – and I don’t think Baby Boy will diminish the love I have for my four-legged kids.  

For the next few months, you might see more blog posts on kids and dogs….and how to prepare everyone for such a life changing event.  I would truly welcome any personal advice, any books to read, or any articles/websites/resources to help me and my family. I have been able to find very little so far…but I know you, you fabulous blog reader you, have the knowledge and experience to guide me into this new phase of my life.

So today’s Wags & Whiskers pics are all courtesy of my own two pups.  I want to celebrate all they have done for me in the past….all they do to support me now…and all they will do for my family in the future.

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Buffy

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Amigo

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Sibling Love!

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Sorry, Mom & Dad, no room!

Babies in all Shapes and Species

This weekend I went to a baby shower.  I’ve already been having issues with my 30 year old birthday looming at the end of this month,  and spending time with mothers and moms-to-be hardly seemed like the social event to keep my spirits feeling young.  

It was a small group of gals, and the party soon divided itself into two very distinguishable groups – moms and dog moms (I hate the term owner, and I’m pretty sure my dog does too.)  I overheard the moms (and moms-to-be) discussing things that my mind cannot even fathom – the sleeping patterns of a 2 year old, when is the proper age to make a trip to Disneyworld, school district zoning.  I, of course, was in the canine group.  Our conversation veered just as much towards the day to day issues with our furry children – what we thought about crate training, the effects of a spay on a recently adopted puppy, what to do when a dogs gets to playful.  During the opening of the presents, the mom the shower was being hosted for opened a teether (some French plastic giraffe toy that apparently a must have for all babies.)  “What is that?” I asked.  “It’s a chew toy for the baby,” replied one of my dog-loving friends.  Some of the ladies looked surprised (insulted?) by the comment; I couldn’t stop laughing.

I realized that it’s true – there is a new demographic of 20-30 year olds that have replaced children with dogs.  We have stable home lives with our husbands/significant others.  We make good money.  We have that urge to nurture and love, but for right now, we are perfectly content to fill our lives with leashes and Kongs rather than strollers and rattles.  Our moms love our little furry friends, but are secretly praying we come to our senses and start popping out the human grandbabies they so desperately long for.  (Maybe that’s just me.)

I was worried that I would leave the shower feeling more depressed than I was going in.  Fifteen years ago, I figured that by the time I hit the 30 year mark I would have been married for years, living in my own house with at least one set of little feet pitter-pattering around.  A part of me is sad that as I hit 30 I am not farther along in the story of my life.  A part of me, though, is happy.  30 is the new 20, right?  I have had plenty of time to work on me before I bring a little babe into the world.  I just married a wonderful man who I know I will love for the rest of my life.  And I have a dog.  I have a dog who I have raised through puppyhood…who is turning into a well-adjusted, easy-going dog.  I am so proud of her and so happy to have her in my life.  I’m glad to be labeled a “dog mom”…

…just don’t tell my mom.