Ranger

I’ve sat down to write this post about five different times now, and I just haven’t been able to make myself do it. But as hard as it is to talk about, it’s time.

I’ve shared a lot about our lives with our dogs over the years. They were our babies before we had our actual baby, and they’ve always been an important part of our family. We always get told we are crazy for having three dogs (we can’t deny it – we are!) and as much chaos as they have added to our lives, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which is why this is so hard.

About a month ago, we had some friends over – it was supposed to be just a small group of friends but it quickly morphed into more people than we ever anticipated, including lots of kids. Normally we keep our dogs in the backyard for the first few minutes after people arrive, then let them inside so they aren’t stuck in the yard all night. This night, however, there were several kids who had never been to our house and who were petrified of the dogs. There were also a lot more people than usual, and I knew it would just stress Ranger out to have him inside. The other two dogs got let in a couple of hours into the night, but Ranger is extremely socially anxious and didn’t want to come in so I kept him out there where I figured he was safer.

But then, some kids wanted to go outside to play in the yard. And I let them, because I figured Ranger would be more comfortable with a few kids in the backyard than the dozens of people in the house. But no adults were out there to watch them, and they were chasing him around the yard. Ranger is one of the most docile and sweet dogs I’ve ever known, so I knew he wouldn’t do anything to hurt them…but I didn’t consider that without any other option, when he got stressed out, he’d look for an escape. The kids came in a few minutes later and told us he had gotten out of the backyard.

We had no idea it was even possible. There was a hole in the fence that we’d patched, but apparently not well enough. Corey and I immediately ran out to try and find him and began searching the neighborhood. We called my sister to help and a few people from the party came outside to help as well.

We spent hours searching. We all spotted him at one point or another, but he wouldn’t come to any of us (not even my sister, who is quite literally his favorite person in the entire world). The only consolation we have is that he wasn’t scared at this point or acting nervous. He was clearly thrilled to be running around and free, and he was panting and wagging his tail like he was having the best day of his life. But we couldn’t catch him.

Eventually we had to give up for the night, but we continued to search the neighborhood every chance we got for the next week. We posted his picture all over the internet, we called every shelter in the area, we left food out, we left our clothing out where we last saw him, we took the other dogs to help search…we basically did every single thing we possibly could to find him.

But we never did.

On Friday it will be one month since Ranger ran away, and we still check Craigslist and the local shelter every day. I’ve been running in our neighborhood in the mornings, and I constantly keep an eye out for him. My heart is in my throat every time we leave our house as I scan the streets and neighboring fields to see if there’s any sign of him.

Hadley has taken it the hardest. She constantly looked for him for the first few days he was gone, and she still hasn’t figured out how to play and get her energy out without him here. Jackson still checks for him every time we go to get Hadley out of her kennel, and I honestly expect him to be sitting by our front door every single time I come home.

There’s no good way to end this post except to say that our hearts are broken and we miss him dearly. We have heard many stories of dogs coming home after longer than this, so we still have hope. But a piece of our family is missing, and things just aren’t the same.

Dogs and the Baby

Oh, dogs and babies. As an expectant parent, it was one of my biggest stresses – how will our dogs do with the baby? How should we introduce the dogs to the baby? What if they hate each other? What if the dogs love him TOO much?

We had a lot of worries when it came to our dogs and bringing a baby home. Our dogs are super spoiled and were our only babies for a very long time – we’ve had Cullen for five years, Ranger for four, and Hadley for a year and a half, and they’re all very used to being our primary focus when we’re at home. Lots of cuddles, lots of play time, and they pretty much never got ignored.

Until this little guy joined the family. And then? They had to come to a pretty quick realization that they weren’t the most important things in our lives anymore. For the first couple of months with Jackson, it was almost impossible to give them any attention. We were so focused on him and figuring out our new normal. Now that we’ve settled into a good routine, the dogs get much more love than they were getting, but they still aren’t quite as prioritized as they used to be.

When I was pregnant, we were pretty sure we knew exactly how the dogs would react. We thought Ranger would pout for a few months (like he did when we brought Hadley home) and that he’d pretty much hate the baby. We thought Cullen would be totally and completely obsessed with him, and we thought Hadley would be somewhere in the middle – wanting to love on the baby, but also slightly jealous.

We were wrong. Well, not completely. We were dead on with our predictions about Cullen. He is absolutely 100% obsessed with Jackson and would spend his entire day licking Jackson’s face if we’d let him. When we get home and are taking Jackson out of his carseat, Cullen runs around us and does everything in his power to see the baby and make sure he’s okay. He loves snuggling with us when we’re holding Jack, and basically can’t spend enough time right next to him.

The other two surprised us, though. Hadley did not like Jackson when we first brought him home. He stole our attention from her, he made annoying sounds, and she was just generally not a fan. We never were afraid that she would get aggressive, but we watched her extremely closely anytime she came near him. She would often act like she was trying to bury him by pushing pillows or blankets toward him with her nose, which made us nervous, and she was just uneasy around him in general.

Now that she’s used to him, she doesn’t do that anymore and she ignores him for the most part. Sometimes she’ll sniff at him, but usually if she’s near him it’s just because she’s trying to get close to me or Corey. We’re both very confident that as he gets older and is able to actually interact with her, she’ll grow to love him. For now, though, she’s pretty uninterested.

Ranger is probably the one who surprised us the most. From day one, he accepted Jackson as part of our “pack”, and has been very protective of him and very gentle. If Jackson cries, Ranger has to make sure he’s okay, and he’s constantly checking in on him to make sure he’s not in trouble. When we give Jackson a bath, Ranger always comes into the bathroom and watches, and he’s just been so much more accepting than we ever thought he would be. It’s so sweet to watch, and we know he’ll love Jack even more once he gets bigger and can actually play with him.

So, what did we do to prepare the dogs for the baby?

First off, when I was pregnant I made a conscious effort to start giving the dogs slightly less attention so it wasn’t too much of a shock. I didn’t totally ignore them, but I’d make them wait several minutes after I got home before I talked to them, and I just generally started to try to decrease the amount of direct attention they got.

The biggest (and I think most helpful) thing we did was when we brought him home. We had the dogs boarded at the vet while we were in the hospital, and we got ourselves home and settled before we went to get them. I stayed home with Jackson and Corey went to get the dogs, and he brought some of Jack’s clothes from the hospital with him. When he picked the dogs up, he immediately let them smell the clothes, and kept the clothes with them the whole way home. While they were out, I got Jackson settled in his room so that we could spend a few minutes with the dogs before introducing everyone.

When they got home, I closed Jackson’s door and came downstairs, and we spent a few minutes just us and the dogs, giving them as much love as we could. We also gave them a few more things that smelled like Jackson so they could be very familiar with the smell. When we were ready to introduce them, we headed upstairs with the dogs and brought them into his room. We let them check him out through the crib for a few minutes, and took it all very slowly. We just left him in his crib until the dogs started to lose interest, so we could be sure they weren’t too excited when we got him out.

When I grabbed him out of his crib, the dogs were curious, but calm. I let them sniff at him and was careful to stay quiet and not yell at them – if they got too close or started to get riled up, I’d calmly tell them to stop and would move away. They quickly learned if they wanted to see the baby, they had to do it gently.

After that initial introduction, it has been pretty smooth sailing. The dogs definitely love him and they know he’s a part of the family, but they leave him alone for the most part and have all been very gentle with him. We never leave Jackson alone in a room with them, and we never let ourselves get too comfortable with them together – we know dogs can be unpredictable, so even though they’ve been awesome so far, we never take that for granted.

I’m excited to see how they all do together as Jackson grows and begins to be able to interact with them. I think they’re going to love having another human in the house who can give them attention, and I’m glad Jackson will grow up with three amazing dogs who already love him.

Do you have pets and kids? Any other great ideas on introducing them and helping everyone get along?

One Year Old

Can you believe that tomorrow our sweet little puppy will turn one year old?

If you haven’t read the story of how we ended up with Hadley, you should go back and read it, because it’s a fun one. She was this tiny little mess of a puppy when we brought her home last September, she she immediately captured our hearts.

I have a hard time believing she was ever that small, though she clearly doesn’t because she still thinks she’s about Cullen’s size. She still won’t jump up on our bed without the assistance of a chair, and she doesn’t think she can climb into our car (which is a PRIUS) by herself. But in reality? She’s officially bigger than Ranger now.


She’s not the brightest dog in the world…but we love her.

Our family has gotten a little bit bigger and a lot more chaotic since we got her, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s the big dog we always wanted who loves to cuddle (Ranger is a fabulous dog, but he is NOT a cuddler), and she can keep up with Cullen’s insane amounts of energy.

I’m so, so glad we got her and I still thank Corey regularly for surprising me with her 9 whole months ago.

Happy birthday, Hadley!

Do you celebrate your pets birthdays?

C is for Cookies

So, we have three dogs.

But you knew that, right?

Well, with three dogs running around the house, the only way to keep any sort of order in our home is by controlling them through treats.

Some people call it bribery, I call it behavior training.

Potatoes, po-tah-toes.

Well, our treat jar obviously gets used a lot with three dogs, especially since one of them hates going outside and requires a treat in order to actually go outside ever.

Who is training who, here?

We have a little white ceramic canister that we’ve been using for treats forever, but thanks to our constant treat-grabbing, it’s chipped, dirty, and I was starting to get twitchy having to look at it every single day. So, we decided to grab a new one when we were at Target the other day.

It was super cute, but I’m always intimated by areas with chalkboard paint, because I’m awful at writing with chalk. I could have gotten one of those super awesome chalk markers I’ve been hearing about lately, but I had a box full of Martha Stewart crafting supplies sitting in our guest room from one of the rounds of Creating With the Stars, so I figured I’d try them out on this guy.

I had a ton of stencils and craft paints, but none of the stencils were really well-suited to this particular project. Obviously a little flourish or border wouldn’t really work, and most of the letters were too big to spell anything out. So, I decided to go a little more abstract and use one of the decorative letter stencils to do a “C” – we call our dog treats “cookies” and if we ever change our minds and want to use this for actual cookies, it works too!

It was a very simple project – I used a craft dabber-thingie (that’s the technical term) that I got in my prize package to apply the paint, then I peeled it off…and just like that, I had a cute, customized dog treat container!

And now I don’t have to stare at a plain white, chipped container every day.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. Now that I had been playing around with it, I couldn’t resist trying another one of the stencils out. I decided to use the old dog treat container – it was already chipped, so if I totally messed it up it wouldn’t be a big deal. And, with a cute stencil it might be salvageable to be re-used for something else.

I went for red this time, and I used a squeegee instead of the dabber-thingie, since the surface area of the stencil I was using was so much bigger. Other than that, the process was the same – stick on, apply paint, peel off.

!!!

I’m obsessed with this stencil and I love how it turned out. I thought about doing more all the way around the jar, but I didn’t want to push my luck, so I stopped there. For now, I have the jar sitting on the console by our front door, but who knows where it’ll land eventually…all I know is it’s officially cute again and I want to display it!

Of course, now that I’ve discovered the awesomeness hidden in my Martha Stewart craft box, I’m going to have a hard time stopping myself. No surface in my home is safe from me and my craft paint!

Have you stenciled anything lately?

P.S. This post is definitely not sponsored and the folks over at Martha Stewart have no clue who I am. I just get a bit enthusiastic about new crafting products!

Sparky’s Adventure

Remember this guy?

He’s my class pet at school and I’ve chatted about him once or twice. He comes to live with us over the long breaks, and he’s basically the sweetest hamster in the history of ever. I love him.

One Friday a couple of weeks ago, one of my kids when to get him out of his cage and suddenly, panicked, shouted that he wasn’t there. I came to double check (because, seriously, where else would he be?) and sure enough, no Sparky.

We spent a good chunk of that day looking for him, and I left the cage on the ground with some extra food overnight hoping to entice him back in, but no luck. Though, when I got back to work on Monday some of the food was missing, which hinted that he was still hanging around.

We looked for him on and off all day on Monday (and I sent an email out to all of the other teachers at our school, ensuring that pretty much the entire campus was searching for him!) with no luck.

But then I came to work on Tuesday and found this:

and immediately texted this photo to Corey:

My kids were completely thrilled to have him back, and we spent most of our morning making thank you notes to leave for our sweet janitor. It was a pretty fantastic start to my Tuesday morning, and it made the whole week a little bit better – we even spent more than a few writing sessions over the week coming up with creative stories about how Sparky spent his time while he was free! I’m so glad our little Sparky is home!

Did you have a class pet growing up? Ever have one escape?!