First year of Marriage: check!

I can no longer describe our marriage length in terms in months, for we have officially passed our first-year anniversary! Baby, we did it! They say the first year can be one of the most difficult a couple can go through, so if minor arguments over movies, cell phones, and pants were the “tough” parts, we are doing ok!

Apparently for us, it’s year two that’s proving to be more difficult, as we discovered about 4.5 hours into the first day of our second year. Oh the stories I could tell you about our “romantic” weekend at Granny’s cottage… I would require more than a simple blog post. But for now, I will settle on sharing just a few details about our anniversary weekend; dog vomit, fish hooks, and all.

Things you need to know before reading further:

  1. Our wedding anniversary fell on a long weekend which we decided to spend with Howie’s entire extended family at his Granny’s cottage
  2. Our dog Monica has an extremely sensitive stomach
  3. Howie’s cousin Dean owns a old, long-nailed, scabby-legged Jack Russel with a severe non-stop shaking issue, his name is Whisky

We were blissfully asleep in Granny’s guest room, when all of a sudden at 4am, we awoke to a sharp, irritating yelp going off about every five seconds. Was Granny having a nightmare? No, Dean had gotten fed up with Whisky’s barking and moved him from the bunkie into the main cottage, for all to hear.

Granny: “Dean! Dean! Get that dog out of here!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Whisky shut up! Be quiet!”

Whisky: ARP! ARP! ARP!

Granny: “Dean I mean it! Get that dog out of here!”

Dean: “Geez Granny I can’t take him anymore!”

Granny: “Well don’t bring him in here! Get out!”

(Silence)

Finally, we could go back to sleep. But wait, what’s that? Oh yes. Monica just vomited all over Granny’s bedspread.

Cheryl: “Howie! Howie! Monica’s puking! No! She’s ruined Granny’s sheets!”

Howie: “Monica noooooo!”

Cheryl: “Get her off of here Howie! This is why I tell you not to let her sleep up here!”

Howie was in the process of putting on his shoes and taking her outside, when…

Cheryl: “No!! She’s got diarrhoea all over Granny’s carpet!”

Howie: “Monica! Let’s go outside!”

Howie took Monica outside while I tried as swiftly as possible to clean up the sheets and the carpet. Then Granny woke up. Long story short, she provided a lot of advice on how to clean up everything. From using copious amounts of Sunlight dish detergent to using two feet instead of my one foot to blot out the stain. I felt terrible.

By the time the messes were taken care of it was almost 6am so I joined Howie outside and we went on a little de-stressing walk. By the time we came back the sun was fully up and we weren’t inclined to go back outside. I decided to read my book in the lawn chair  while Howie went fishing.

Howie: “Darn! I don’t think there is the right kind of attachment in here…”

Cheryl: “What do you mean?”

Howie: “I’m just worried that this lure could fall off, I don’t have the right kind of clip to make it stay on.”

Cheryl: “Well then don’t use it.”

Howie: “But I really like this one.”

(Pause)

Howie: “I’m sure it will be fine. I won’t lose it.”

Cheryl: “Howie, don’t use it if you could lose it.”

Howie: “It will be fine.”

Cheryl: “Ok, but I’ve warned you.”

I go back to reading my book. In what seems like two minutes later…

Howie: “Cher! I’ve lost the lure!”

Cheryl: “I told you not to use it.”

Howie: “I’m going in.”

Cheryl: “You’re what?! Going in?! Howie why?!”

Howie: “I lost it right near the dock, people could step on it if they go swimming!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie…”

Howie proceeded to strip down to his boxers, then started creeping up to the four-foot deep water area where he dropped the lure.

Howie (crying out in little girl-like yelps): “Ah! Ah! Cold! Cold!”

The water crept up even higher over his thighs.

Howie: “AH! COLD! WORST PART! AH!”

Cheryl (uncontrollably laughing): “Oh… this is awesome.”

Howie was holding up the sides of his boxers, in a futile attempt to avoid getting them wet.

Cheryl: “Howie! Why are you holding your boxers up? Just take them off!”

Howie: “What if Granny sees my wiener?!”

Cheryl: “Oh Howie, it’s 6am, no one is looking.”

Howie: “I can’t risk it!”

Howie got to the spot of the lure. At this point I think it’s finally sinking in (no pun intended) that he’s got to submerge his upper half in order to retrieve the lure.

Howie: “Cher! Can you bring me my t-shirt?”

Cheryl: “What for?”

Howie: “I’m going to use it like a glove so I don’t prick my fingers on the lure!”

Cheryl: “Augh Howie! Then your shirt will get all gross and lake-y!”

Howie: “Just pass it to me please!”

I passed Howie his t-shirt. Like a heroic duck, Howie bobbed under the water and came up with the lure in his t-shirt wrapped hand.

Howie: “YES! Got it!”

Cheryl: “Good work babe.”

Howie: “Ha ha! How is that for impressive eh?”

Cheryl: “Very impressive babe.”

Howie: “My eyes sting.”

Cheryl: “Why would you open your eyes in that water?”

Howie: “I don’t know.”

And thus began year two of our marriage. Let’s hope the following 364 days are not as eventful, or early…. or involve so much vomit.

How did other newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage? Please tell me it was as romantic as ours!

Goodbye Old Friend

Rookie, August 30, 1996 – August 15, 2012

I need to take a break from my usual humorous overtones to pause and reflect on the passing of one of my best friends, and probably the best dog a family could ask for; Rookie. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional over his death. I realize he was a 16 year old dog, but there’s something about Rookie and what he meant to us that deserves such a reflection, an obituary of sorts. So please help me in remembering a faithful old friend, a gentle, loyal soul, who’s breath was so bad you preferred his flatulence, but we loved him anyway.

We were driving home from a family camping trip when my parents turned back and asked if we wanted to get a puppy. What?! A puppy?! Were they serious?! After years and years of pestering them for a dog was this their idea of a sick joke? What kind of parents would toy with their children’s emotions like this? Alas, they weren’t joking, this was real. We were going to get a puppy! I was ten, my brother eight, and my sisters six and three.

What followed over the next month was an arduous selection process whereby we had to choose what type of dog we were going to get. My dad was gunning for a giant, masculine, Man’s-Dog: the bullmastiff. My mom was promoting a smaller, allergy-friendly type: the miniature schnauzer. We visited breeders of both types and had so much fun playing with the adorable eight mini schnauzer puppies. Their mother and the other adult schnauzers were exceptionally friendly dogs too! I wish I could say the visit with the bullmastiffs went as well, but unfortunately it resulted in four children deathly afraid to get out of a minivan. When it came down to the vote, despite my dad hijacking my youngest sister’s ballot, the miniature schnauzer was overwhelmingly preferred.

Meeting Rookie and his siblings, 1996

Choosing a name for our new family pet wasn’t quite as difficult. One day when we were visiting my grandparents my Grandpa suggested “Rookie” as he was watching the Toronto Jays game. Rookie, eh? That’s sounded about right. After all, he was going to be our very first dog. Taking Rookie home plays back in my mind like some sort of 90s family movie. Sunshine, laughter, and frolicking around the yard. Rookie fit into our family like a glove. He slept in his little crate at night, not making a peep, had a few little accidents in the house, but was otherwise very much housetrained.

As the years went by Rookie’s presence just became a fixture in our house. He grew up with us, loved us, and we loved him. I remember the way my little sister forced him to be the Toto to her Dorothy, that time he grossed us all out by eating a dirty diaper,  how whenever we started tearing down our campsites to go home he jumped right into the van, as if he was afraid we would leave without him (silly dog). When I started dating my future husband, Rookie would jump between us whenever Howie got a little too close to me on the couch. I always wondered if Dad trained him to do that…

When he was about twelve my family added a second mini schnauzer as a Christmas gift to my sister Laura. Andy was a cute little rascal with curly black hair, Rookie was like an older, wiser grandfather. We were so amused by the way Rookie patiently allowed Andy to tug away at his grey beard, never getting angry, just issuing the occasional warning snap when Andy went too far.

Soon, Rookie’s age began to show. His fur became whiter, his eyes started developing cataracts, and his hearing pretty much disappeared. We made adjustments to suit our elderly friend because, well, that’s what he needed. We bought him sweaters to keep him warm, gave him food tailored to suit his aging body, continued to cuddle him even when his breath made you want to die, and carried him home when his feet got cold in the snow.

In the last few years Rookie spent most of his time snoozing on “his” chair, broken by an occasional burst of energy, usually in the mornings. Despite his declining energy, he was a special part of the family, we became quite accustomed to the quirks of having an old dog. When his back half started weakening, Rookie developed an amusing little walk whereby he had to trot three times with his front legs for every long, slow, back leg step. To help him out, we created a little stool so he could still boost himself up onto that beloved armchair.

Miniature schnauzer, old pets, dying pets

By the end, Rookie’s back half got weaker and weaker. The usual things like loss of bowel control, unbalance, and general agitation afflicted him. It was hard to know if it was the “right time” to put him down. My mom tried googling “how to know when to put your pet down” but the truth is, there isn’t a clear cut answer. Somewhere between loving your pet and never wanting to say goodbye is usually where you find it.

We all drove up on Monday evening to say our final goodbyes, hoping that somehow he understood we loved him, and didn’t want to have to say goodbye. On Wednesday night my parents brought him to the vet. They pet him, fed him lots of treats, and then held him as he fell into that permanent state of sleep. Then, Rookie was gone.

I think one of the hardest things about saying goodbye to a beloved pet is that in saying goodbye to him, you are closing a chapter of your own life. From school-aged children to adults that got married and moved out, Rookie watched us grow up, and he was always there at the door to greet us when we came home. Logically, we all know he lived a good, long, life. We know that 16 years is more than what most people get to enjoy their dogs, but it still sucks to have to say goodbye.

Rookie, you were the best kind of dog our family could have ever had. You loved us, made us laugh, provided so much joy, and asked for so little in return. You were loyal, affectionate, and could pull off a sweater like no other dog. We love you little buddy, may you forever rest in peace.

“Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault really.”

– Agnes Sligh Turnbull

New Year’s Miracle

I hate being one of those bloggers who has to start things with a “sorry I haven’t posted in forever” but that’s what I’m going to have to do here. You see, while most people have spent the last week either enjoying the last few days of vacation or going back to regular life, taking down the Christmas tree and signing up for gym memberships they will quit in one month, Howie and I just overcame the worst week of our married life thus far, Monica’s life was in jeopardy.

Monica trying to fight hepatitis at the animal hospital

In a nutshell, this is what happened:

  • Dec. 30: Monica threw up. No big deal
  • Dec. 31 & Jan. 1: Monica seemed perfectly normal
  • Jan. 2: Monica couldn’t keep anything down and started looking very lethargic. We realized this wasn’t just something she ate.
  • Jan. 3: Took Monica to the vet. He suspected it may be a severe case of pancreatitus, we got her blood tested.
  • Jan. 4: Vet called early morning, was surprised to tell us it’s not the pancreas, it’s her liver. We took her in for an x-ray and the vet discovered her liver is too small, that’s why she is extremely nauseous and unwell. She has hepatitis. Monica was taken to the back where she was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. She would need to eat some food and keep it down the next day as a sign her liver would improve. If she looked no better, her liver was shot, and we’d need to prepare to put her down. Vet told us her chances of making it through were less than 50%.
  • Jan. 5: Monica appeared no better in the morning. She had eaten some food, but only time would tell if she would keep it down. After many tears, hours cuddling her in a dog pen, and lots of prayer, Monica appeared to be getting better. By the evening, we were able to take her home. $1300 dollars later, we were overjoyed to have our little buddy back. Her liver issue will be managed through meds and supplements.

Phew!

We were so not prepared for this. How could a seemingly healthy six-year-old dog go from perfectly normal to at death’s door in just a matter of days? We will never know exactly why or how her liver is small, but now that we know we can help prevent an episode like this week from occurring again.

It is incredible how much two people can be in love with thirteen pounds of a little scruffy dog. What is it about loving a dog that brings so much joy to life? The mere acknowledgement that we needed to prepare ourselves to make that awful decision of letting her go brought on such a terrible feeling of pain in our hearts that we weren’t sure how we could go through with it. But when all is said and done, part of loving a dog is needing to be able to say good-bye, even when we don’t want to.

For us, Monica is more than just a pet, she’s become the third member of our family. The only thing she desires in the world is our love and affection, and no matter what kind of day we’ve had she’s always there waiting for us to get home. After close to five years of being bred for puppies, her “retired” life with us was a new and exciting chapter, we didn’t want to have to say goodbye so soon.

The Wednesday morning after the vet called with the bad news about her liver, I flopped back in bed and started crying, a lot. Though Monica was in an ultimate stage of pain, nausea and lethargy, she mustered up the most strength we’d seen in days to crawl over Howie, sit by my side, and place a little paw on my arm as a I bawled my eyes out. I love that dog.

The thought of her sitting alone in a strange animal hospital stall, frightened and sick while receiving treatment was a situation we wanted to mitigate as much as possible. So, call me crazy (and I’m sure the vet staff did), but I spent the greater part of two days curled up in her stall, along the other rows of dogs, just keeping her company, hoping she’ll get better.

When the first signs of recovery started to surface on Thursday, we were cautiously ecstatic. When the vet told us we would be able to take her home, the worst was over, we were jubilant. Thursday night was either going to be one of the worst nights, or one of the best. We were so thankful it was the latter.

Going through this taught Howie and I a lot of things about marriage, pain, tough decisions, and getting through hard times. Every single couple in the world is going to have these times, many problems far worse than a sick pet. But ultimately, it’s how you handle the “downs” in life as a couple that can either break or make your relationship. Here’s what we learned about dealing with the low times:

1) Take turns being the “strong one.” It’s not fair if one person always, all the time, without fail, has to pull it together for the other. Every human being needs space to be weak and break down. Howie and I found that we pretty much alternated between breaking down individually, and then comforting the other one. It’s a roller coaster, but taking turns being the “strong one” lessens the burden on the both of you.

2) Recognize your differences. Each person is going to have their own way, and possible multiple ways of dealing with a major low time. For Howie at times, this took the form of incredulous anger toward the state of pet healthcare costs. Other times, it was silence. For me, I ranged from tears to a disparate attempt to rationalize the situation and talk about every minute detail that indicated a possible positive outcome. Don’t judge or become frustrated with the way your partner deals with emotions. Just recognize that all of these outlets point back to the same pain you each feel.

3) Agree on what’s important. Four weeks ago Howie was insistent that we didn’t have a spare $200 to spend on a used washing machine. This week, we somehow managed to find room (on credit cards) to fork out $1,300 in vet bills. For some people, maybe that would be way too much to attempt to keep a dog alive. To us, it was worth giving up a few other planned allocations of that money in order to keep her around. As a couple, we decided what was important to us and used our resources accordingly.

4) Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. One of the first things I did when we found out the situation was dire, was logging onto facebook and spreading the word that we needed prayer, and lots of it. For two days, at various points in time, we found ourselves praying at home, in our car, at the vet’s, and huddle on the floor of an animal hospital stall. We felt the support of friends and family as they held us in prayer as well. God is not a genie, but he hears prayer. And whatever the outcome may be he provides the strength to get through it.

So in conclusion, apologies for the lack of pure comic relief in this first post of 2012. I promise that the next one will provide much more cause for laughter. In spite of this, my wish is that our little New Year’s miracle story has brought a sense of hope, inspiration and anticipation for good things yet to come in 2012. Miracles happen everyday.

miss monica martin

Yes. Against my better judgment we decided to get a dog. Enter Miss Monica Martin. We learned about Monica after contacting a mini schnauzer puppy breeder and asked if she had any adult dogs she needed to adopt out. She informed us that yes, there were two female dogs she was retiring from breeding puppies and she was looking for good homes. She strongly encouraged us to consider the black mini schnauzer because her tail, unlike most North American schnauzers, is NOT cropped. Making her way harder to find a good home for. I told her our minds were open (as long as this rat-like tail didn’t creep me out too much).

Then we met the dogs. And even though the rat-tail was a little unnerving, ultimately it was that dog’s personality that threw us off. She was shaking, petrified, and appeared to  not like new people. We didn’t hit it off. Thankfully there was Monica. She was cute, friendly, and had an amazing ability to balance on her hind legs for long periods of time. We were sold. I felt a sense of guilt for not being able to provide a home for the ugly duckling, but, I’m sorry, if this dog is shaking in the home she grew up in for six years what’s she going to do with us?

When the day came to pick her up, Howie could not have been more excited. For a week he had been anticipating the arrival of his “precious little sweetie Monica.” I have never seen a grown man more enthralled with a little dog – it was adorable. The first few days Monica was so mournful and confused looking. She afraid of virtually everything. Her demeanor reminded me of those creepy creatures Ursula turned mermaids into when they couldn’t pay off their debts. Thankfully, every day gets better and better and we are like gushing new parents where every movement, every sound, everything she does is absolutely enthralling. We are convinced that we own the cutest and most wonderful dog in the entire world. I can only imagine how annoying we will be as parents. Judging by our behaviour with Monica, we will be the kind who responds with “Isn’t that just PRECIOUS?! He’s going to be an artist!” when our 5 year old kid smears red paint all over his great auntie’s white leather couch.

One of the most fascinating things about our dog is that she has the ability to speak to us through Howie. What started out as a hilarious little joke the first few days has now become an unstoppable (and disturbing) habit. Howie created a voice for Monica that resembles Gingy from Shrek and in this voice conducts discussions with our dog. I have literally watched Howie carry out entire conversations going between his own voice and Monica’s. The most disturbing part is that we both respond to this voice as if Monica was actually speaking to us.  What is even more interesting is that Monica has strikingly similar goals and interests as Howie. In addition to taking the blame for all of Howie’s flatulence she additionally exhibits his same food preferences. This is an actual conversation from Sunday night:

Monica: I think we should get pizza tonight
Me: Oh really? Monica thinks we should get pizza tonight eh Howie?
Howie: I think she really likes it
Monica: I do, I really like it
Me: Ok right… Purina isn’t good enough for you anymore?
Monica: There’s a $5 medium pizza deal at Pizza Pizza
Cheryl: Wow! That’s impressive. How does Monica know these things?
Howie: She’s a very smart dog Cheryl.

The best part is when Howie forgets to switch back into his own voice.

children are like dogs right?

Rookie, doing what he does best

Almost as soon as you get married people* start asking** when you’re going to have kids. Even though it’s the farthest thing from your mind, you and your hubby start to wonder – when will we have kids? And when we do, could we handle it? So logically, we looked into getting a dog because quite obviously, dogs are exactly like babies. You have to feed them, pick up their poo, show them affection, put them to sleep, and take them for walks on leashes. We figured it was a fool-proof test-run to discover how parentally equipped we were. So when my parents announced they were going on a two and a half week road trip, we jumped at the opportunity to dog-sit their two little miniature schnauzers.

Enter Rookie and Andy. Rookie is a delightful 15-year-old grey miniature schnauzer who lives in a permanent state of confusion. Having lost most of his hearing and depth perception, he often misjudges things like couch distance which results in an embarrassing face-plant to floor action. Rookie is loyal, loves affection, and needs to wear a cardigan in the colder months. He would be in my opinion the perfect dog if it weren’t for this one small flaw; he stinks. Bad.

There is a general stench of old dog that follows him where ever he goes and though your instinct is to run away you simply can’t do it once he looks up at you with those big, brown, cataract-filled eyes. So you hold your breath and pet him and try as best as you can to avoid a Direct Hit.***

Andy, so demanding, yet too cute

Then there’s Andy. Andy is actually Rookie’s biological nephew. He’s four years old, a scruffy black furball and the epitome of dog with attitude. My parents got a discount on him because he has a bump on his nose (which makes his beard look like an exploded cigar) plus, one of his testicles never dropped. He thinks he’s the boss of Rookie and all humans in the household. He likes to lay on his back and demand belly-rubs but if you do it wrong, or pet him wrong, our touch him when he doesn’t feel like it, he’ll emit a low-half-growl. Despite his pompous attitude, you can’t help falling in love with him because he’s just so darn cute.

After two and a half weeks with dogs that were generally very easy to care for Howie and I are not entirely sure we are ready to own our dog yet, let alone have kids. It’s the fact that you, and you alone are responsible for the well-being of another life. It’s hard enough feeding ourselves sometimes let alone making sure to be home and feed other dependents. I also was not a fan of getting up an hour earlier each morning to walk and feed and the dogs. Apparently with human babies the demands are even greater. Whenever we were late at work or out with friends we felt an enormous sense of guilt for not spending more time with them. Yes, it was rewarding to have a hopelessly affectionate companion to cuddle with at the end of the night, but in the end I have to admit that maybe I’m a little too selfish of my time to share it with a dog right with now.****

Plus, I already have a cuddly companion of the human breed.

* In this context “people” refers to mother-in-law
** “Start asking” means unremittingly lamenting over not having grandchildren at every conversational opportunity
*** Direct Hit: breathing in at the same time Rookie yawns in your face
**** Disclaimer: This post was written and intended to go live about a week ago. Since last week, circumstances have changed and the conclusion of this post will give you a false sense of what events have since transpired. Update on dog situation to follow.