Category Archives: Dogs

Ellie’s story

ellieThis is post is hard to write because I am embarrassed and ashamed. But for some reason I want to tell this story.

I have never been a dog person. To be honest, my feelings towards dogs have always been between indifference and active dislike. Don’t get me wrong, I would be nice to dogs I met if I had to, but my feelings on dogs? Meh.


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And then Walter came into my life unexpectedly and beautifully. I was suffering from horrible depression as the side effect of a drug, and when I found Walter in an Alabama trailer park, I knew he was my solution. This post is not about Walt but trust me: he was a special dog. An old soul in a young body. A characterful snuggle bug. My running partner and my nighttime companion. My Halloween dinosaur.

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Two years after Walt found his forever home with us, he died very suddenly . I was upstairs sleeping in after several night feeds, and Wes screamed for me. To this day, we don’t know what happened, although since CPR was not able to inflate his chest we suspect he swallowed something. All I do know is that after a very difficult 2 years, life was finally starting to look good for me, and Walt left. He stayed with me when I needed him and when his work was done and I was good, he was gone.

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I then did the silliest thing possible; in a haze of grief I ran to the pound and rescued the first dog I liked (and there were plenty that I didn’t…)… And into our lives came Ellie. Ellie was different. She was bright and energetic and not brilliantly house broken… But her cardinal sin was that she wasn’t Walter. And so things started to slide.

Ellie’s life descent is tied up in so many issues. There is the issue that I felt that as a SAHD Wes’ job was to walk the dogs and he didn’t walk either – not even his own. I was resentful. Tjhere was the issue that I felt I couldn’t take Ellie out without taking Wes’ dog out (he would howl as Wes didn’t walk him) and I didn’t want to take him out. Because I didn’t want to do “Wes’ job” (aside: this is a terrible model of marriage. I’ve moved on from this somewhat). The issue that when Wes’ dog died he felt Ellie was going to stop him getting the dog he wanted… And that he never wanted Ellie anyway. There was the issue that Ellie has a slight incontinence problem so couldn’t come to bed with me and I resented her for that fact that neither she nor Wes came to bed with me and I was lonely. And the issue that she wasn’t Walter and Walter had left.

So we entered this terrible spiral where I neglected Ellie (emotionally – she was fed and watered), so she became more demanding and more naughty (pottying in the house etc) which irritated me, and made Wes really mad, and so I neglected her more… So she behaved worse, so I neglected her more and so on until I came home one day and Wes said “she has to go”.

And I was mad! Mad that he never got rid of his neglected dog (Earnest had health problems which Wes wouldn’t sort), mad that he wasn’t helping, mad at myself and suddenly aware of how much I like Ellie’s sweet nature, her unconditional love, her ability to forgive in an instant… All this. That she was loving and curious, and playful and a people pleaser. That her energy was enviable and inspiring. But it was too late.

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In the midst of several marital rows, I told this story to a friend who owns three dogs. Her response was to tell me that she wasn’t a dog person either but as soon as she got her first puppy, the second she saw him, she knew no one was ever ever coming between her and that dog. That was it. She would kill for him. And I decided: OK! I love my dog! No one is coming between us! Screw you husband!

So I stepped up the plate. I bought Ellie some decent food and some treats and some toys and a comfy crate for my car. I started walking her twice a day, except for Thursdays which are my crazy early and late days when she goes to doggie day  care. I was strict about crating her when I wasn’t around (so no poop in the house) but being with her when I was… She curls up on a bed by my desk, she curls up on my lap, she comes for car rides and she comes to bed occasionally with a doggie diaper on (not even kidding here folks).

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And she behaves well. She walks ‘loose leash’ beautifully now, she obeys (unless she really doesn’t want to go outside to potty when she does go to her crate), she rarely jumps up. And I fell (back) in love with my companion and things are working out.

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But something else magical happened. I began to feel better about myself… Finding time to walk a dog twice a day with a full taken job, a breastfed 7 month old and a toddler is in a city where my commute is an hour each way is no mean feat. But I did it. I made sure it happened. I weathered 90 degree heat and thunderstorms. I let go of having to leave the house at a set time, or go to bed at a set time (sadly, I have also currently let go of washing my hair more than weekly. OMG I can’t believe I admitted that) and relaxed and felt good that I could I achieve this.

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No matter the weather

No matter the weather

Even better, because Sam always wanted to come on the walk, and Caroline had to, I began to have 40 minutes a day with my kiddos! We ran, we played hide and seek, we went down slides and on swings and shared the task of holding El. And we loved it! If I offer Sam to drive to the park he says that no, he would rather walk. The nagging guilt that my kids are not outside enough is gone. The nagging guilt that I ignore them a bit is diminished (not gone, because let’s face it, I still use my iPhone at the park…). Ellie has made me feel better about myself and my family, brought me love and a little daily joy.

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I see Ellie now as she is. Sweet, and forgiving. Fun. I love her energy. I wish I had her capacity for loyalty and unconditional love. Her patience. Her companionship warms me.

I used to think that Walter came into my life when I needed him and left when I didn’t, but Ellie just happened. Now I know that she was there when I needed her, patiently waiting to heal parts of my life. She is just as much my guardian angel as Walter.

Ellie, I am so sorry. But this is your story.

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Introducing Ellie

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Two Fridays ago, Wes and I went down to BARC shelter to look at dogs to cheer ourselves up and NOT to buy one just yet 🙂 While Wesley continued his tradition of liking ‘proper’ dogs and looking at the large breeds, I asked to get a little chiweenie out of the a cage (chiweenie = a ridiculous cross between a dachshund and a chihuahua). I took it to the play area, but we didn’t quite get on. With some sadness, but not too much regret (we were, after all, only looking, and I reasoned a little play outside was better than nothing for these creatures), I handed her back to the volunteer to go back in her cage.

The volunteer at BARC said that she had another chiweenie and asked if I would see her. “Sure”, I said nonchalantly. Why not? A quick cuddle and home. She bought out 2 chiweenies: a run of the mill short hair, and a beautiful long haired brown and white one. I dutifully played with the brown and white one, gave her some exercise and handed her back. The volunteer placed the plain Jane next to me and she immediately she hopped into my lap and licked me. I grinned, scratched her head, received a ‘kiss’ on my face… …and it was love.

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We played, we walked, we romped, but we mostly cuddled. I asked Wes if she could come home with us, but Wes said no (!) Adamantly. He wouldn’t even play with her. He firmly said he didn’t like her, and that she had had puppies and he didn’t want a dog who had had puppies. The tears started, and rolled unheeded down my face. The volunteer took pity on me and said “the small ones often go… she’ll find a home”, but I was not comforted. Still, what could I do? Wes wouldn’t even look at the dog, so we left, chiweenie-less and broken-hearted (me).

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I understood (we can’t get a dog one of us doesn’t like) but was so sad. I cried all the way home. And around Target. And through the movie that night. I tried to brave, but I missed the dog so much! Wes confessed that he was regretting his decision, and said that he didn’t know why he had said X-nayed her, and offered to return to the pound to get her the next day get her the next day. Poor Wes, he happily lived a loner life where no one bothered him, and he couldn’t bother anyone else, until 3 years ago when he fell in love with the most er… passionate… woman around. I have a lot of love people… it manifests itself in strange ways.

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Confused at how his life had spiraled, and how he had inadvertently found himself breaking his one true life goal (make Lekki (and now Sam) happy), Wes took us back to the pound early on Saturday morning. We could not find our chiweenie! They bought out an identical one, which they claimed was the same one (psssshhhhh), but I sadly shook my head and asked her to be taken away (and cried a little bit more). Apparently she had been fostered, so they gave our number to the foster agency.

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Thus began the waiting game. It was odd, as dogs are not normally fostered over the weekend – it is the busiest time, so they like the dogs on display so they are more likely to be adopted. When we didn’t hear anything by Sunday, Wes called the pound – the volunteer quietly told us that she was not listed anymore, with no record of adoption, and our assumption was that she had been put down.

Poor Wes, his life was spiraling into more and more guilt through no real fault of his own. In desperation, he left a tearful me with Sam at home, and went back to the pound in person just to see if he could speak to someone…

…. and he came back with my chiweenie!!!!

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Now we have lil’ Ellie. She is very submissive – more even than you would expect for the breed. But she is coming out of her shell now that she is learning that we are her forever family 🙂 She is now about 80% house trained, and has learned to use a leash. Not perfectly, but she does walk on it. She has bonded with me well enough that I can even let her off the leash in the park, and she returns when called (and does not stray too far anyway). She is a joy to watch outside – all leaps and bounds and fast galloping runs.

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But, best of all, she is the ultimate snuggle bug. She loved to tunnel like a little mole under covers, and snuggle up. When I am working, she sits between my butt and the seat. She is a joy to have and I am so glad Wes went back and found her.

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Sam LOVES her. She will let him stroke her (well… he tried… he’s a bit clumsy) and she often makes him smile. She chose to sit on his lap for part of our road trip to New Orleans, and he loved it.

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It was meant to be 🙂

Bye bye Walter

Walter Matthau

Walter Matthau

Sad to say that this morning, my dog Walter passed away. It was very sudden, and we don’t know why. I gave him his usual cuddle goodnight, and then sent him to his blanket on the sofa. Wes came downstairs this morning while I was still sleeping. He saw Walter on his blanket, on the floor, and assumed he was sleeping. While Wes was feeding Sam, Walter let out a moan and lost control of his bowels. Wes called me, and at first I didn’t understand what was happening. Wes was calling Walter’s name, and I kept saying ‘Is he sick? I don’t understand, is he unwell’. I thought he was just listless, but rapidly, it was clear to me that he was lifeless and Walter had already passed. I am sad I didn’t see him that morning.

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Wes kept calling his name, but there was no response in his eyes. They were lifeless. Wes even tried CPR – Walter’s chest would not inflate so we think he swallowed something which got stuck. We tried slapping him in the back, but nothing could be dislodged. We gave Walter a lot of cuddles, closed his eyes, and told him how much we loved him.

Coming home with us.

Coming home with us.

Walter was a very special dog! Some of you know the bizarre events that lead to me getting him. When I got married, I went on the birth control pill. I don’t know what happened, but I became super depressed. I would cry all day, I would sleep on the floor next to dog crate if Wes was working late… if Wes came to lay next to me, I would yell at him that he couldn’t ‘pick me up and put me down’ when he wanted.

Neither of us are too sure what to do!

Neither of us are too sure what to do! And neither of us look very comfortable.

I can only, retrospectively, describe the feeling as an aching loneliness (weird after just getting married). So, to ‘plug’ the loneliness  I – someone who does not like dogs – went and got Walter from a trailer park in jasper, Alabama. I look at the pictures from the day I bought Walter home: I clearly had no idea what to do with a dog. I was half afraid, half curious. Walter was the perfect match, because he did not have much idea how to be a dog 🙂

Walter on his very first night with us. This is my favorite picture of him.

Walter on his very first night with us. This is my favorite picture of him.

The first night, I put Walter in his crate, he cried. I didn’t know what to do, and Wes said “Are you going to go to your dog, or not?”. I didn’t know what to do, so I made a bed by his crate and slept next to him. When I woke in the morning, I opened the crate door and let Walter creep under the covers. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship 🙂

Our first race together

Our first race together

Walter exhausted after his first 5K

Walter exhausted after his first 5K

From then on, Walter and I were fairly inseparable.  He used to come to UAB with me everyday and sleep quietly under my desk.

Sleeping under my desk.

Sleeping under my desk.

He hiked with me, shopped with me, and was an excellent training partner when I ran. He even ran races with me 🙂

Hiking Oak Mountain with Stella - who loved him to death (even when he pooped on her floor).

Hiking Oak Mountain with Stella – who loved him to death (even when he pooped on her floor).

Hiking Cloudland

Hiking Cloudland

 

When I took Walter to flyball, Steve turned to Wes and said “She really babies him, doesn’t she?”. Well, maybe just a bit. All his outfits (including PJs) are testament to that.

PJs for Walter

PJs for Walter

Winter coat for Walter

Winter coat for Walter

And I remember when I took Walter hiking with my friend David, and had to carry Walter after about 9 miles. David was in absolute disbelief!

I came off birth control 2 months later. I cheered up immediately (it was like a dark cloud lifted) and I used to say “Ugh! Now I am stuck with a dog! I should have just had a baby!”. But I was joking – Walter was my buddy for sure by then. Every evening he would curl up on the sofa with me, and many nights I would sneak him up into my bed (it’s supposed to be ‘no dogs allowed’ upstairs in the new house). He shared my love for dressing up (or at least I like to think he did).

Santa Walter

Santa Walter

Christmas Walter

Christmas Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Halloween Walter

Walter liked everyone, but he love, love, loved me. When we would take him to the park, rather than run around freely, he would prefer to walk alongside me. He was a people pleaser who just wanted everyone to be happy. He had a permanently confused expression, but would do anything to please anyone – he just didn’t often understand what he was supposed to do. He was a character, very timid, very lovely. We called him ‘Walter Matthau’, ‘Wussy’, ‘the little giraffe’ and (sometimes), ‘a rat on stilts’.

Walter snuggling Robert

Walter snuggling Robert

It really was impossible not to love Walter. Even dog haters like my Mum fell for him. People who haven’t met him fel for him. He was a little, dependent, quirky, loving and lovable creature.

We’re very shocked he went. He was only four years old. He was supposed to grow up with Sam. We have two special memories of him, from his last day with us. One, during the day Sam fell asleep with a toy monkey clutched in his fingers. While he was asleep Walter ever-so-gently reached in and took Sam’s monkey. He knew he wasn’t allowed to, because when Wes said “Walter!” he dropped it and ran straight out of the dog door. It was very cute.

Just before the monkey was snatched

Just before the monkey was snatched

Two, that evening, we had little sauteed potatoes for dinner. We had lots left over (Wes is on Atkins, I wanted my carbs to be cake batter for that meal (!)) so we were feeding them to the dogs. You could throw them at Earnest from any angle, even behind your back, and he would jump up and catch them in the air. Walter however could only let them bounce off his head onto the floor, and then eat them. We tried to get him to track them and follow them with his eyes, but it was all a mystery to Matthau. We concluded that we would NEVER teach Walter that particular trick.

Truer than we would know.

soppy Walter

Love you little puppy.

Where's Walter?

Where’s Walter?

Perfect Last Day

So, there are up sides and downsides to being induced. As of now (pre-labor) I would definitely always choose no induction. But we didn’t get that choice. The positives? A definite date – meaning you can schedule your life around it, eat properly, store up some sleep. Of course, you also get a slightly surreal day where you know it is your last ‘real’ day pregnant / as a non parent. Here is how I spent mine:
I woke up quite early, and the induction was obviously at the back of mind as Wesley told me I had been a foul little beast to sleep next to (think sleeping diagonally across the bed, slowly taking over inch by inch, and throwing no less than 3 elbow jabs to his mouth. Tip: Don’t watch ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ before bed.). I had planned to get up early and do some work, but the work I was supposed to do had not been sent to me (the girl forgot) and I kinda wasn’t motivated to do much else except pick at the tasks that *had* to be done that day.

I lolled around, I emailed some friends, and then I bathed, washed my hair, styled it and put on my favorite maternity dress to go out to lunch (I am sure I will need it in the coming months, but this was my last chance to wear it with a HUGE bump).

39.5 week bump

39 weeks 4 days

We hit up my favorite food spot: Guru (subtitle: Burgers + Crepes). We both scoffed a huge 6 oz burger and fries (MY excuse was ‘energy for labor’… not sure what Wes’ was 😉 ) and then we wandered the mall.

Really, I just wanted to be up and about and not at home stressing. We didn’t have much to buy. Wes then played ‘most awesome and considerate husband ever’ by suggesting that we go to ‘Build a Bear Workshop’ and each make Firework a special teddy bear. It was super romantic, a little emotional, and I was a little choked up that Wes was acting so excited and pleased.



The woman at Build A Bear told us she was induced with both her kids, had no epidural and it was a painful, but super quick and easy birth. I told Wes that all women should say this when told someone else is being induced, whether it was true or not.

Then, Wes decided to play ‘not so awesome husband’. Just for larks. At some point in our (very random) conversation the phrase ‘flames came out of her vagina’ occurred. I don’t know how, but it did. Which led to:

Lekki: No! That once happened! Seriously, a woman failed to sue her OB, but did sue a medical company because during a C-section…
Wes: She caught fire? Common.
Lekki: *thinks ahead to what she is doing later today* I don’t think it happens that…
Wes: Common. Alcohol used to clean the woman catches light. Common.
Lekki: *blinks*
Wes: As emphatically as possible: “Common”.

Of course then there was a moment of realization at what he had just said… and its exact timing. We looked at each other in wide-eyed horror, then began to giggle uncontrollably. Wes said “Er… maybe I should define common”. But we just giggled out way to Barnes and Noble.

Time to pick up some magazines, and go and get some pizzas for when we come out of hospital. Of course we bought a few baby things 🙂 (Nothing exciting: talcum powder and a thermometer). On the way home I started getting antsy and nervous and a bit quiet, but… sweet distraction! A box on the doorstep

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It was….

A baby shower in a box from my friends in AL 🙂 Greatest thing ever! I unpacked it, and cheered up IMMEDIATELY. The timing could not be better. Inside were loads of gifts, loads of hand me downs / ‘we used this and it saved our sanity’ type pieces, aaaaaaaaaaaand (since I had already been lucky enough to have a diaper cake), a diaper wreath made by my friend Kelly. I went upstairs to put our bears up in Firework’s nursery:

Build a Bear Workshop Bears

Colonel Karl and Albeart

Take a picture of the incredible diaper wreath (which I will share soon) and sit down to do some work emails… give the dogs their ‘you’re getting a new brother’ bones:

Italian Greyhound with a bone

Walter is ridiculously pleased

when the hospital called…

To be continued 😉

Happy Halloween

***So, I have read this time and time again. The writing is terrible. I don’t know why, and I can’t seem to fix it. Baby brain? Worryingly I am working today, so I feel for my poor students whom I trying to help, if my brain is this shot. Oh well, I suggest you just look at the pictures**

So, we didn’t know whether I would (1) make it to Halloween still pregnant (39+3) or (2) be up for it if I did. So, we held a Halloween cookie / house warming / baby shower party 2 weeks early. I don’t know why I lumped everything together – maybe because they were all things I wanted to celebrate but did not think I had enough friends / reasons to justify any particular one on its own?

Sadly, most of my pictures have disappeared off my phone, which is both odd and annoying. But, some did survive and I can show you that the preparations started the night before with pumpkin carving:

Pumpkin carving

Mine didn’t go very well 😦 It was supposed to be a cat:

Pumpkin carving fail

Fail

And continued on the next day with cookie making:

bargainalicious from Target

And we set up a cookie decorating table:

which I thought was surprisingly fun (so now want a Christmas cookie decorating party).

I got some beautiful and unexpected baby gifts (Americans really spoil Moms-to-be):

Spoiled, so spoiled

containing a shark hooded towel (heh heh heh), clothes, Aden + Anais swaddle blankets (which we had been told from more than one source were absolutely indispensable, but had not got around to obtaining) and 2 toys: one of which recently made the ‘PopSugar’ top 30 list for newborns, and one of which just appeared here on Caitlin’s blog as her baby’s favorite; the Rhino Toys Oball. See? Spoiled I tell you 🙂

As an aside, is it weird to refer to a blog writer by their first name (like “caitlin”), when you have not only never met them, but never even entered a comments discussion with them? But you have been reading their blog for 2 years? Hmmmm… bit stalkerish?

Back to Halloween. We also had some decorations – really cute coffin style napkins and plates – and I made a jack o’ lantern cake (which turned out to be super awesome as I had glittery orange and green gel icing) but the only other pictures that survived were Walter in his costume:

Italian Greyhound Halloween dinosaur costumeItalian Greyhound dog dinosaur costume

I just wore a dress (which is good as we only invited 2 couples, and neither of them dressed up!). But, as I made it to Halloween without ejecting the wee one, AND got a Halloween party invite, I did get a chance to make a costume featuring the bump after all. Heh heh heh:

Painted bump Halloween

I made the belly paint out of:

1 part Ponds cold cream
1 part corn starch
1/2 part water
Food coloring

It dried, but would flake off if rubbed, so it was a bit messy. However, being made out of cold cream, it came off very easily and my bump is very moisturized.

Pregnant witches costume

Yes, the Christian part of me is not fully on board with celebrating Halloween. But. When in Rome…

A sad little photo sequence

I am half way through two very different posts: one on becoming an academic adviser at work, and thus having my own student to mentor; and one on my new hobby: making cake pops. But, we have to go to a birthday party and enjoy said cake pops. So, in the meantime, I leave you with a heart breaking little photo sequence from home:
Walter: all he wants is a little love:

So he snuggles into Earnest

Who immediately leaves the couch

Leaving poor Walter all alone

Look at that little disappointed puppy face

This poor pup needs some love.

Introducing Walter!

So, last weekend we went and got this precious little boy. A 15 lb Italian Greyhound. He is an angel, after crying the first night (I slept on the floor next to him) he will now sleep in his crate all night, meaning the house is accident-free and nice and quiet.

Crated dogs = easier dogs

He walks well, and is learning ‘heel’ and ‘stay’ reasonably – lovely though he is, there is a touch of ‘the lights are on but no one is home’. Bless his heart. He runs like the wind, and absolute joy to watch (and something I only got to see a few walks in, when he relaxed more). What else? Well, he is an absolute attention hound, demanding to sit next to Mum all the time, unless Dad should pet one of our other animals when he runs over to get love there. He is become quite social though, being cuddled by others when they are over. He is terrified of the cats (mainly because they hiss and swat at him all the time, I think)

Bobby has now become a cuddle bug and is determined to show Walter that Mummy loves him most

and loves playing with Donna’s dog Spire. Today is his first 5K – it is ‘retro’ themed and I am wondering if I can get him an outfit 🙂 He’s an absolute angel and is he a baby substitute? 100% yes 🙂

My favourite expression of Walter’s