Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Puppies Are Coming, The Puppies Are Coming

The big news in our house is our younger dog is about to have puppies. This wasn’t my idea. I’m not known for standing up for myself – I say yes a lot and the word “no” doesn’t pass my lips too frequently, so when my husband suggested we breed our new dog, I practiced saying “no” - a lot.

I think he knew I was just practicing because he didn’t seem to hear me.

I brought him literature on why spaying was the healthy choice. I suggested he read online literature about how much work went into getting a “bitch” ready for breeding and how expensive the whole ordeal is upfront. He never indicated if he clicked any of the links. What I heard from him was how he’d always wanted to breed a dog since he was a little boy.

So doggie never got spayed. She got inseminated.

We have two Portuguese Water Dogs. We had them before Obama and even before Kennedy. Our older one, Splash, is about to turn 11. He’s a huge pain in the old you know what. We love him because he’s ours, but he is a nightmare.

When my oldest daughter was 4 she said she wanted a dog. My husband and I told her we would discuss it again when she was 7. She didn’t forget. On her 7th birthday, she wanted to know where her dog was.

My husband has terrible allergies to just about everything. He’d married me and my cat and suffered through rounds of shots in order to live with her. He didn’t want to do that for a dog. So we looked at “hypoallergenic” dogs – or dogs with hair, not fur. Thus we ended up with an extremely lively breed – a breed that really needs to be exercised a lot, a lot more than we have ever done.

My daughter got her dog when she was 7 1/2 and my younger daughter was 4. Having an exuberant dog with two young children wasn’t such a great idea.

Long story short, the first dog was not ideal. He was hard to train. He lunged after motorcycles, jumped out the car window when he was four months old and I was driving 35-40 miles an hour. We have spent thousands of dollars on dog psychologists, doggie boot camp, and trainers but nothing seems to have worked. Friends and family have repeatedly suggested we put him down. Maybe we should have, but our two young daughters loved that dog and relied on him for more than anyone could fathom, so my husband and I decided the better solution was to lock him up whenever anyone visits.

Two years ago we got another dog. My younger daughter really wanted a puppy and I wanted a second dog before Splash died and before our oldest daughter left home. Lots of people thought we were crazy. Certifiably insane. But we lucked out. Spray is the sweetest, most docile creature you can image. She comes when she’s called. She drops the food in her mouth when you ask her. She walks on the sidewalk without a leash. She sleeps in our bed, which my husband said he would never allow any dog to do. She sits in an armchair with her paws drooped over the arm and looks like a human.

So my husband’s fantastic idea was born – let’s breed Spray – she’s so cute, so sweet. She’s got such a great temperament. Imagine the puppies. All I could imagine was the work. I knew who would end up doing 90% of it. No matter what anyone else said, I knew. Who walks the dogs more than anyone else? Who feeds them more than anyone else? Who’s home with them more than anyone else and lets them in and out, in and out, in and out all day long while correcting papers or writing.

My husband needed time to think. A year. Eventually I stopped badgering. If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em? Surprisingly I got excited to see the pups and watch them grow. And my daughters wanted to do it before the oldest one left for college.

Then my husband started to read and realized how much work it really was and how hard it might be on the dog and suggested we back out. Oh no, I said, we’re in this now. Don’t be stupid, he said.

Stupid or not, I’ve taken the dog for multiple vet appointments; my husband accompanied me to the two insemination appointments. Those were interesting, and the puppies are due in ten days or so.

I really am excited. Spray is getting fatter, her nipples are protruding; she is nesting. But I’m also terrified. I have to teach, my husband has to work, the kids have to go to school and we’re going to have at least five puppies to take care of for eight weeks. But they’ll be a great distraction while we wait to hear from colleges, and they’ll keep me busy so I won’t obsess about next year. Even though I wish I knew how to say no so it is heard, my daughters can’t wait and it will be fun to have a family adventure.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Body Beautiful I'm Not

I’m 51 years old, but this week I learned I have the body of a 58-year-old. Sweet! That made my day.

I met with a personal trainer in the hopes I might find the time and inclination to go to the health club more regularly and get in better shape – not great shape, just okay shape. The trainer said I should shoot for the body of a 45-year-old. Right. That’s a lot of years to lose.

When I was younger, each summer I could kick off the few pounds I gained over the course of the year. I played tennis and swam; the five extra pounds fell off easily. Those days are long gone. I’m carrying way more than five extra pounds now and they’re not going to “fall off “ anytime soon.

I don’t play tennis as hard or as regularly as I used to due to a bad back and knee – signs of aging and skiing injuries that finally caught up to me. I’ve gone from being active to sedentary. I sit at a computer or in a classroom all day.

I was feeling better about myself because I’d started to walk our pregnant dog almost two miles a few days a week. The vet told me to and no one else in my family volunteered. She can’t be in her doggie group anymore in case she picks up something from the other dogs and she needs exercise. But when I proudly told the trainer, I discovered that walking a dog really isn’t very aerobic. I need to get my heart rate up somewhere close to 150bpm, and it doesn’t come close to that walking Spray.

So now I have to walk the dog and go to the health club. On evaluation day, I learned I don’t drink enough water, my stretching is fair, which is better than poor, but not as good as good, and I can bike for six minutes before my heart rate gets up to its maximum. I think it should take longer, but I’m not sure. The trainer kept telling me seeing bad numbers was good – it gave me something to work with – I’d have a goal. I felt so good.

The prescription: yoga, bike riding and weights. This all sounds great and even sort of fun, if I didn’t have two teens at home, a husband, a teaching job, two dogs (one of whom is pregnant), a messy house and a writing career I’m trying to keep alive, and I’m embarrassed as all get out to walk into the club among all the fit members.

When I felt better about my body, I didn’t mind going to the gym. Even if I wasn’t the most body beautiful person there, I wasn’t embarrassed. Now, I’m mortified. I’m convinced everyone is staring at me – that they know my secrets: I’m out of shape, I’m old, I don’t know how to use the machines, let alone how to do yoga, and I don’t know what to wear.

I’ve been a member of this particular gym off and on for more than twenty years. My mother bought my first membership when I was single because she thought I’d meet someone there.

I didn’t.

But I did get married and my husband fell in love with the club somewhere after our tenth year of wedded bliss. He stopped drinking and started working out. A lot. So much so that I, in my paranoid state, decided the club belonged to him.

I’ve convinced myself I don’t belong there – I’m sure all the members have body beautiful mini-clubs, and they’re watching me know not what to do. I wore old college sweats and a long sleeve t-shirt for evaluation day and that was not the appropriate attire. I need yoga pants (I’m not wearing shorts) and a baggie short-sleeve t-shirt.

I also don’t understand how all these people have the time to work out. They’re either crazy like a few people I know and go at 6:30 in the morning when I’m getting my daughter up and out the door to school or they have more flexible schedules than I do.

I don’t have high hopes for getting my 45-year-old body back, and who knew I’d even want it back. I’d just like it to match my chronological age…or maybe a few years younger, but with my Facebook friends and a cousin-in-law rooting for me, maybe I’ll find my way back there again.