Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bigger Sandbox

Last week, Shorty was just beside herself over her assessment for kindergarten. It was last Thursday afternoon, but on Monday she was already using the word liberally, throwing it out at anybody who would listen. "Have you ever had an assessment?" She asked her thirteen year-old cousin. "I am going to my assessment today," she told grandma, and then her dad, "I will call you as soon as I'm done with my assessment." I, on the other hand, was apprehensive. After all, this was really my assessment, isn't it? Because Shorty didn't go to pre-school as I was home anyway. Naturally, I felt the need to fill up that little brain with information as much as I can. I put her in classes but had to decide which ones, how many, how often and which ones we could afford. Of course, I taught her the practical things she had to learn, but the most recent, and ones of which I'm very proud, are teaching her to read, write, count and do some very light math (because I suck at Math, but that's a dirty, little secret I will keep from her for as long as I can).

So there we were, Thursday morning, greeted by one of the teachers. She instructed me, very nicely, that I was to wait 'here', she gestured at the seats they had lined up for parents at the hallway, while she and Shorty went hand-in-hand into the classroom. I obliged, but as soon as they were out of sight, I dragged the chair just short of parking it in the doorway itself. Sitting in that too-little chair made me feel very large and incompetent, so I pretended to check my email as if I were a very busy mom with other things more important than laundry and dishes, and the kid inside that classroom.

I strained to hear the Q and A. It was punctuated by 'Excellent', and 'Good job!', and 'Beautiful handwriting. You practiced, didn't you?' I glowed and beamed in that hallway until I was invited in. Mama did good.

After a review of what they covered, and the very few things she missed (not sure why she always skips 'fifteen'), the teacher said proudly '"She is definitely, absolutely..." I held my breath, "ready for kindergarten." What? She's not going directly to first grade? Hey, you can't blame me. Every mom would love to hear their kid is brilliant. And maybe a little 'good job' for me. Then again, I was in first grade when I was her age, and look where that got me now. Neither coming up with new scientific theories, nor finding the answer to life (Sorry to disappoint, Mom).

Later that day, I asked a question, but wasn't begging for an answer. "What do I do while you're in school?"(Which is in five days, I might add.) Honestly, I've racked up quite a few ideas since I had to wake up for her 2 am feedings. Shorty replied "Awww. You can get a job that you really like, Mommy." She thought for a moment and said "You can be a scientist. That's fun, making experiments all day." She gave me a smile and a reassuring hug. She's ready for kindergarten. I'm not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love is a Dog

How do we all cope with the passing of a loved one? In this case, a beloved pet. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I took Chubbs home, I was ecstatic with the little bundle sleeping in a ConAgra box in the backseat of the coupe. Yes, a coupe. Those were pre-Shorty days and we didn't worry about how we were going to get a car seat in and out of a car. I relished the first trip into a pet store shopping for the perfect bed, 2 dog bowls, a kennel, and the collar. Like any mother, I was nesting or denning, since this was a puppy (okay, it's not a word.) Amidst all the warm fuzzies however, I morbidly thought about how I was going to cope once this puppy was old and ready to check out. I wondered what was worse and what was easier for me to handle. Was it finding him somewhere and burying him under a tree in the backyard with a paw print cast on the mound like they always do in the movies? I found that picture to be maudlin. Or would it be taking him to the vet and helping him along in the process, ending his discomfort and pain? The latter was entirely strange and unnatural to me. Growing up in the Philippines, dogs ate our leftovers, there were no trips to the vet, and we certainly let life take its course. Euthanasia seemed too practical and indifferent. So, I decided I was just nuts and I was going to cross that bridge when I get there.

Fifteen and a half years later, I still didn't have the answer as I struggled with vet costs, doggie diapers more expensive than Shorty's, and the messy job of mopping floors clean of dog urine. Pretty soon, Chubbs hung out in the backyard. I think those last days helped his snuggle-hog of a brother Deuce, a 9 year-old Boston Terrier, detach from the pug's company. So did Shorty, but not me. Not yet.

When we picked him out from the litter of puppies, we kept losing him in a pack of ten pot-bellied puglets. He would crawl into the extra large kibble bag and eat to his heart's content. Years later, no matter how old and slow he was, he promptly and faithfully came to his bowl (a white one, so he could see it on the dark patio floor) for his senior-grade kibble.
He would do anything for that kibble. He sat, shook your hand, rolled over, and played dead (Pretend to shoot him with your forefinger and say 'Bang!', he'll wail and fall on his side and lay still.) All that for kibble, not even a treat, just plain old kibble. Silly dog.

Chubbs hated the leash. Years of pulling away made him walk sideways, even off-leash. We added 'Hey Sidewinder!' to his many nicknames. He also made it his life goal to catch that curled-up tail and yes, he did catch that tail. Once. Then, he made it his next life goal to catch it twice. Life goals are for humans aren't they? But then the pug thought he was human, taking up a spot on the bed and insisting (with seemingly pointless barking), to be on the same side of the door as you were. Let him out and he'll yelp to come inside with you. Leave him inside while you're out, and he'll whine to come outdoors with you. He also did the mother of all doggie don'ts. He ate a whole bar of Toblerone - box, foil and all. The only telltale sign we found was the little triangle piece at the end of the box. He lived through it and just passed something that very much resembled chocolate. Stubborn dog.

Chubbs was now completely blind, deaf, and very slow to walk as his spine was contorted to a drastic curve, raising his hip. He and I would "walk" the yard together and he would navigate by keeping his side against my leg. Where I went, he went. He sure knew how to communicate. Ever since a pup, he would bark at a faucet, any faucet, when his water bowl was empty. Smart dog.

When he stopped doing all of the above, the hubby and Shorty were ready to let him go, but I wasn't. Not the way they were thinking anyway. We had family talks and it still ended in a stale mate, even when I was outnumbered. So I told Chubbs, "Buddy, I'm ready, but you decide when you want to go because I sure as hell am not going to make that decision for you." So he did. He turned up his nose on his kibble for four days (that was shocking) and on the last day, he stopped drinking, settling down in spots in the yard that were not his favorite. I lifted him up to wash him and he was light as a feather. I took it as a sign he was checking out. I had a decision. We took him to the vet where we properly said our goodbyes, got a paw print cast (which I did not request, but ended up appreciating), and we took him home in a little cardboard box and buried him under a flowering tree in the backyard. I got both scenarios. I am content, but sad. How do we cope? With time. That's all.

The family was sad and asked how Shorty was taking it. Ask her and she'll tell you, "Time to get a new puppy!" She was however, overly emotional that week and would burst into tears because of a hangnail or because I separated her twin cherry popsicle. She has since claimed Deuce as her own. 'MY dog,' she'll tell me. One of my nieces cried when she heard about the sad news, meanwhile I am still crying at random points of the day (and as we speak.) The Boston Terrier has taken to looking and waiting at doors that lead outside. Once, I asked him lightly, "Deuce, you waiting for Chubbs?" He perked up and promptly ran towards the backyard staring out for a minute. I think we all miss him. Chubbs was a fixture in the family, having been around for fifteen years. He predated all the kids and family pets combined.

Later, Chubbs. You silly dog, stubborn dog, smart dog. Good dog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In dog years

I thought my diapering days were over until my 15 year-old pug started peeing and pooping in the house at night. The old man, er dog, has been relegated to the backyard during the day and the laundry room at night. Thank God winters in Austin are mild.
Never had the house smelled like Pine Sol than ever before. The first day of mopping the floors and washing the pug was an act of love. My first baby needs me. As I mopped the floor, scrubbed the stuff off him, then off my bathtub, I swore the mother of all motherhood promises that if I had to, I will do this daily. Yes, I swore like a sailor too. By the third day, that sappy feeling wore off and the chore warranted a rant on Facebook. The outpouring of empathy and suggestions from friends was comforting. So, I broke down and bought doggie diapers. They worked so well, I bought in bulk the second time around. It's now a part of our bedtime routine. Shorty: potty, jammies, brush teeth. Chubbs: laundry room, baby gate, diapers. Neither one fights it.
The pug, whose name is Chubbs, has been given many endearments through the years: Puglet, Chublet, Chubby, Chubbster, Chubbywubby, Chubbyloopee, Chubbyroo, all coined by friends and family. Really, he didn't seem to mind. Shorty came up with the most recent one due to Chubb's new accessory. 'Huggie Puggy.' That has to be my favorite, so far; I'm sure it's not the pug's.
The now near-blind, half-deaf, greying pug in diapers walking into corners and standing there because he can't back up has been a usual sight in our household. And that's ok. It's not funny, just normal, and it's comforting to me to still have my pug around even if he sleeps all day. Well, he's always done that.
I know this blog is about motherhood, but after all, I was a pet-mom first. I think caring for Chubbs, although nowhere near taking care of my Shorty, has taught me about nurturing, caring, and patience -- and poop. All very important things in mothering. Especially the last two. There's also one more lesson I have learned and it's the least glamorous of all. Across species, we all start out and end in diapers. Or not, but that's just awkward and very, very messy.