Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Pigs’ New Digs

It has been almost a year since I publicly humiliated myself with the pictures of Batman’s messy former-bedroom and my subsequent clean up of said space (see “Organizing Batman” from March of 2012 if you are interested).

At the time I was pretty pleased with my accomplishment and the look of the newly organized area.  As a refresher, this is what a small corner of the room looked like before my efforts:

2012-03-13_08-18-32_798

The room was strewn with toys, books and dress-up clothes.  Drawers hung open precariously and general chaos reigned supreme.  In my defense, I did straighten the room periodically, and it didn’t always look this bad, but still it truly was embarrassing.

After I finished my project that day, the room looked like this:

Before After Picture

I was pretty pleased with myself, if a little over-confident in my ability to maintain the order I had created.  My friend Shane, who has been privy to the cluttered corners of my various homes over the years laughed at me when she saw the room.  “Just wait and see what it looks like in a few weeks,” she said, not unkindly.

She was right.  While the general order of the room generally stayed far superior to the previous state, it still slowly digressed over the year until last week it looked like this:

They're So Proud

I will say once again in my defense (I seem to be doing a lot of defending over this whole area of my life) that the room didn’t always look this bad.  When she heard that I was going to be re-organizing the room, Annabelle “helped” me by dumping the entire contents of a three-tier three-foot long toy cubby in the middle of the floor so that we could start “sorting.”  The room was messy before, but holy moley it was really bad now.

The skinny pigs lived in a cage to the left and out of the above picture, and I am sure that even though they have “pig” in their names they felt intimidated by the piles too.

I decided enough was enough.  We didn’t really need an entire room dedicated to toys, I told the munchkins.  What we needed was a Reading Room. I told the kids that we would sort through, keep, and organize only the toys that they really played with, get some bookshelves, and move a comfy love seat into the room so we would have a place to read our stories every night.

This would serve two purposes:  first, we would have a place to neatly store and easily access the dozens (hundreds?) of books that the kids owned and which currently were strewn from room to room, in totes, or under the bunk bed in their shared room.  Secondly, we would have a quiet and comfy place to read where we could all sit together and enjoy our evening time.

The kids were on board for this whole-heartedly.  Batman was especially ecstatic over the idea of a Reading Room. He loves his nightly books, and he was eager to get started with the project.

I tried to have the kids help me in the sorting process, but that went about like you would expect.  The further we dug, the more toys they found that had been buried awhile and thus were like new and must be retained.  I put the project on hold until they went to school one Monday morning and committed myself.

I started ruthlessly culling.

Starting to Sort

It wasn’t long before I had several large black garbage bags full of toys to donate, and several more to throw in the dumpster.  Once the initial sweep was done the hard part came.  I had to find homes for the blankets and pillows that had formerly been stored in the closet of the room to make room for the three large totes that I had filled with keeper toys.  That entailed a purging of the shelf on top of the closet in the kids’ shared room to store said blankets and pillows.  Once that was done, I needed a place for one of the two toy cubbies that had formerly resided in the skinny pig/toy room.  That entailed moving the bunk bed over a couple of feet and finding a new home for the small bookcase that had formerly lived in that space.

This was one of those project that seemed like it would never, ever, end.

Despite all appearances, I am a very tidy person (throughout the rest of the house anyway), and all of this uncategorized clutter was making me crazy.  I got really edgy, pretty crabby in fact, and almost obsessed with finishing the project. The whole process took over a week, but the room was finally empty, the kids’ room was re-organized to accommodate some of the toys, and the hallway and living room contained no collateral damage from the project.

The kids had helped me pick out some paint that would match pictures I had brought back from Africa and had been stored under my bed since we had moved into our little house (hmm, maybe I’m starting to see a pattern here), and once the room was emptied out they helped me get the painting going.

As usual, they were more than happy to start slapping some color on the designated wall.

The Painting Crew

They went right to work.

Making Progress

Once the wall was painted, I got DH to put together the tall, inexpensive (translate that as pain-in-the-ass behind to put together) bookcases, and started trying to organize the room.  I am a fairly intrepid and experienced furniture mover and can generally accomplish great room transformations through sheer will alone, but this small room presented a significant challenge.

The love seat was *almost* too big to fit, and it took me pretty much every possible iteration of placement before I was happy with the setup and functionality of the space.  To my dismay, the color of the wall didn’t mesh well with my existing curtains or the rug that was in the room, so it took another couple of days to find and purchase items that would be more complementary.

When I was finished I looked at the walls, and determined where I would put my African bamboo artwork.  The only plausible choice was the wall to the left of the door when you entered the room.  That left one wall empty and in need of decoration.  I scanned my options, but couldn’t find anything around that would fit the color and ambience of my new space.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am the type of person that likes to finish a project completely once I start it.  This unfilled wall was really going to bug me.  Especially since it was facing the love seat and would be the primary focus of any occupant utilizing the cozy little space.

In the happiest of coincidences, I got a totally unexpected box in the mail that same afternoon.  DH carried it in and placed it on the kitchen counter.  It was fairly large and not very heavy, and the return address was from a friend in Arizona whom I have never met in person, and know only anecdotally through his friendship with my in-laws, emailing, and interaction on my blog.

My friend David had no idea that I was in the final stages of a lengthy and painful transformation of one of the rooms in our little house, or that I had a wall in need of a peaceful adornment.

I had no idea that David was a painter.

Still, when the box was unwrapped, this is what I found:

The New Picture

It was a beautiful, peaceful, perfectly color-coordinated painting that was just the right size for the space I needed to decorate.  I sat it on the love seat for this photo so you could see how well the colors mesh.

The whole room looks like this now:

Reading Room (2)

The African pictures are positioned next to the love seat and I believe they go nicely with the new wall color.

Reading Room

And my new painting (beautiful though not-yet framed) is hung on the wall opposing the love seat, giving the skinny pigs a little culture in their area too.

Skinny Pig Culture

The kids and I love to sit and read for an hour or so before bedtime, and the room is just as cozy as we had hoped, especially with my new painting on the wall.

But wait there’s more…

Just when we thought the decorating was all finished, another box came in the mail.  Also from my friend David.

We opened it up to find the coolest oval-shaped canvas you could imagine.

Coolest Batman

The sight of the perfectly painted and signed canvas created quite a household debate.  For some strange reason Batman thought it should hang in his room; I looked around my office for a spot for it, but that was fairly full after my last re-decorating binge.

And I still love the way it turned out.

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I think it looks pretty cozy from any angle.

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I ultimately put Batman in the dining room, where he is visible from many points in the house and really enhances the ambience of the space.

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Although I know intellectually that it can’t be true, I feel that Batman is watching me.  I think the picture glows with an inner light even in the dark.

Call me weird, but I feel that my own little Gotham City has a new sense of peace and protection.

Thanks David.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Random Musings | 6 Comments

I Treat Winston With Kid Gloves

If you’ve ever read my blog before, chances are you are acquainted with the lovable (and not so lovable) antics of our fifteen month old Drahthaar puppy, Winston.  We got Winston as a six-week old puppy two Novembers ago, just before Thanksgiving.

Annabelles Puppy

The manner in which he came to join our household is sort of sweet.  Or infuriating, depending on the moment.  A couple of days before Turkey Day of 2011, I went to bed early, as usual, after I got the kids to sleep.  Apparently little Annabelle woke up at some point and went back out to the living room where her dad was watching TV.

I’m not sure what all transpired after that, but the next morning as soon as I awoke I was informed by my breathlessly excited five-year old that we were getting a puppy!  A real live puppy!  That she could pick up!  All by herself! It was on the Internet!!!

That was all news to me.  Several conversations, punctuated with sobs and real tears (by Annabelle) and false promises about training and care (by DH) followed, and finally I gave in.  The scene of picking out Winston from his litter of nine was quite like the scene when Jennifer Anniston picked Marley from his family of yellow labs.  We finally decided on the (relatively) quiet, furriest puppy in the pack, although he was a male and we had previously agreed to choose a female dog..

The owners of the pup had named our boy Hairy, because, well, he was the hairiest one of the pups.  After I texted a picture of Hairy to our friend and veterinarian, Dr. Danny, he texted back and said that the pup looked like a “Winston” to him.  So, Winston it was.

At first the puppy was all sweetness and joy, his puppy breath a delight to inhale, and his cuddliness surprising for breed known to be so high-strung.

Winston even snuggled with DH’s grandpa, Papa Bill, when he came over for Thanksgiving Dinner, falling asleep on his lap for nearly an hour.

DH was nearly overwhelmed with congratulatory self-thoughts, and although he didn’t say “I told you so,” I know that he was thinking that I (and Dr. Danny and Grandpa Vernon) were all mistaken when we said that a Drahthaar was likely not very suitable as a quiet household pet.

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The first hint that we might be right was when we started to try to assimilate darling little Winston.  He actually crate trained pretty readily for a puppy his age, but the sweet little bundle of joy absolutely refused to sleep in the house.  He cried for nights on end, until one evening DH decided to put him outside on the porch to see what he would do.  Winston curled up on Toby’s dog bed and fell sound asleep, and we didn’t hear a peep from him all night.

He wanted to be outside.  Like a wild animal.

The pup has slept outside almost every night since. He is perfectly crate trained, and stays in the house for hours of the day, quietly dozing or lounging in his large wire den.  But he insists on sleeping outside.

As he grew, Winston started to show a few more characteristics of the highly energetic and very prey-driven hunting dog he was bred to be.

He loved to steal hats,

Run Winston

the kids’ stuffed animals,

Early On

horse brushes,

Winston Brush (2)

and more hats.

Nice Winston

He would typically take his prize and run around and around with it, eventually giving in to my calls, whereupon he would return to me and sit, handing over the stolen item with all of the pride you would expect of a fire dog escorting a toddler from a burning house.

We took Winston to twelve weeks of dog training, where our beloved instructor Miss Andrea told us we needed to treat Winston like a lion in the zoo, hanging his food from trees and hiding things for him to find.  He needed, she said, to be mentally stimulated.

Winston Training

And exercised.

One of the best ways we knew to do the second part was to take him horseback riding with us, and we started hauling him around from the time he was about five months old.  We would spend part of each ride practicing his obedience skills, making him sit and stay from horseback.  For all of his high energy and goofy inattention, he would come running from wherever he was just as soon as we called him.  Every time.

Winston Sit

He went everywhere with us.

Kids Top o Mtn

And when we were home, Winston was an inescapable part of the family.  He hung out on the dog bed when we were watching TV.

Bigger

Followed Batman around on his four-wheeler.

Hi Batman

Went camping with us.

GoodBoy Winston

And just genuinely loved to be part of the family.

Playin in the Water

He even played dolls with Batman. Nice boots, by the way Batman.

Batman and 5 mo

You’re probably thinking right now that Winston is a pretty cool dog.  And he is.  But he has his bad qualities.  A lot of them.

He digs huge holes all over the yard.

He chews up everything he can get in his mouth.

He jumps up on the kids like the lion that Miss Andrea called him and takes their hats off, then runs and runs and runs until he gets tired of the game while the kids watch helplessly, crying tears of frustration.

He is a terrorist to anyone smaller or of less heft than him, which would include both Batman and Annabelle.  He performs “drive-bys” at a dead run, swiping just close enough to the children to knock them over.

He takes the can we use to feed the horses grain and runs all over with it while we stand there shivering in the zero degree darkness waiting to feed and get back inside.

He will someday kill a cat.  Annabelle does not believe this, but he is getting progressively more aggressive to our little barn/dress-up kitties, and I am pretty sure one day it will get out of hand.

And the worst thing he does is torture our poor-old-man-dog Toby.  He takes Toby by the tail and swings him around, and since Toby is thirteen now and not as steady as he used to be, he often falls and has a hard time getting back up.  That behavior alone has almost landed Winston in the Canyon County Animal Shelter more than once.  It absolutely infuriates me.

So, the net of it is that Winston is the dog that I love to hate.  And hate to love.  The only thing that has kept him alive so far is this:

his face.

This Face

He is the smartest dog I have ever met, and he loves me.  He loves all of us, in fact.  He sits like this, and gazes up into your eyes with intelligence and pure devotion, and that alone has kept him living and breathing and a big part of our household.

But he still loves to steal things.  And thus I get to the point of the story.

A couple of nights ago the kids and I went out to feed the horses. Annabelle was wearing a brand new pair of gloves that she had gotten just the week before from Auntie Shane.  They were super nice gloves, heavy fleece-like material with black suede palms.  They were super warm and fit Annabelle’s little hands to a “T.”

Annabelle took off her new gloves to mix Grumpy’s special concoction of beet pulp, equine senior, rice bran and oil (sounds gross, huh?), and she put her gloves in the thirty-gallon plastic garbage can where they would be safe from Winston.

Except they weren’t.

Winston ran over, jumped up on the can, grabbed a glove and started running around with it.  I called him, but knowing from experience that sometimes he won’t come back right away,  I just sort of ignored him and kept on doing what I was doing.  Until I saw our beloved brown monster do something he hadn’t done in months.

He swallowed the glove.  Whole.

Now, this was not new behavior.  Early on one of Winston’s favorite games to was take some item, typically a little toddler sock, and run around with it, desperately trying to swallow it before you could catch him.  The sock would then reappear at some point, either having been barfed up or otherwise.  The sock was always whole.  If I had a more resolute nature, I could have certainly washed the sock and used it again.  But I always threw them away.

So I wasn’t totally surprised to see Winston try to swallow the glove, but I was astounded he could actually get it down.  It was really big.  He gagged it back up a couple of times, but I couldn’t run fast enough to grab it before he picked it up and tried again and again until he was finally successful.

Annabelle was upset, and I was furious.  For the past several days I had been dealing with preparations for an audit by the Department of Finance, which although routine was still nerve-wracking and kept me at my desk for hours on end when I would have rather been riding.  Or sleeping. Even doing laundry or going to the gym.

With my already-frayed patience, I yelled at the dog in frustration, saying something to the effect of “You stupid mutt!  That glove will probably kill you, and I am NOT taking you to the vet if it gets stuck!”

We all went about finishing our work outside when I heard Annabelle yell “MOM!!!! Winston took the other glove!”  I looked up to see him lope past me, frantically trying to choke down the other member of a matching set with Batman in hot pursuit.  I didn’t even try to intervene this time.  I just said to Annabelle, “I am not paying for that dog to have surgery.  If he swallows that glove, he’s on his own.”

Which he did.

I was angry at the dog, but I couldn’t help being a little worried.  When I got back in the house I told DH what had happened.  He echoed my earlier statement: we are not going to spend a bunch of money on that dog.  Period.

I googled “dogs eating gloves,” and saw that results were mixed.  While most dogs could usually pass any item that they chewed up and ate, our situation was a little different.  Winston had swallowed these gloves completely whole.  And they were big.

He seemed fine when we went to bed that night, and in no apparent distress the following morning.  As I drove Annabelle to school, she said “Mom, we wouldn’t REALLY let Winston die, would we?  He is mean and obnoxious, but he is still a good dog and he loves us, and he doesn’t deserve to die.”

I thought about her comments all morning.  When I returned from running some errands a couple of hours later, I noticed that the dog seemed a little lethargic.  I called Dr. Danny to see what my options were.  He said that at this point it was a wait-and-see game.  If Winston could digest the gloves (not very likely) he would be fine.  Danny thought he might just pass the gloves on through, but I knew how big the gloves were and I thought that was highly unlikely too.

There was one thing I could try, Danny said.  So much time had passed since the ingestion it was unlikely the items were still in Winston’s stomach, but if they were I could try to get him to throw them up.  “Give him 20 cc’s of Hydrogen Peroxide down the throat.  If the gloves are still in his stomach he might be able to bring them up.”

I rummaged through the medicine cabinet and under the bathroom sink to no avail.  We did not have any hydrogen peroxide in the house.  I sat down at my desk and did a little more work, and when I picked Batman up at 1:00 we headed to the store and picked up the familiar brown plastic bottle.  I knew it was probably too late, but I still felt I had to try.

In the kitchen I googled “how many cc’s in an ounce,” got the correct dosage and found both parts of the turkey baster in the junk utensil drawer.  Winston ran happily to me when I went outside, and with no further ado I opened his mouth and squirted the prescribed amount of liquid down his throat.

The response was immediate.  The poor pup ran out into the yard and started dry-heaving.  I watched him for a while, and it didn’t seem like anything was going to come up.  We had to leave around then to go pick up Annabelle from school, and of course her first question was “How is Winston?!”

I told her what had transpired during the day, and she was tremendously excited to go home to see if her gloves had reappeared.  We drove up to the garage, and I thought I spied a new pink blob of something in the snow of the back yard.  Winston greeted us the same as always, wagging and smiling and apparently completely recovered from the effects of his baster experience.

The kids ran out to the yard, and I followed more slowly.  I walked over to where I had seen the pink blob, and as it turned out, there were both gloves.

Just like this.

Completely whole.

Completely disgusting.

Yuck!

I was happy with the outcome, and pleased that we did not have to make any hard decisions about the brown maniac in our family.  And now I know what to do if (when) it happens again.

For his part, Dr. Danny was truly amazed that Winston had been able to swallow the gloves whole like that.  He said he’d never seen anything like it.

As for me, I am choosing to focus on the image of the sweet little puppy that Winston once was, and hope that as (if?) he gets older he will once again be so lovable.

So cute!

And no, I didn’t wash the gloves.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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