The Apple of My Eye

I pride myself on being a good dog owner. To me, a big part of owning a dog (and especially a pit bull), is the responsibility you take for their behavior. I want nothing but positive feedback on my silly, lazy, wuss of a dog. So, when she barks her face off at the doorbell or pees on the floor when we have visitors, it doesn’t bode well for me.

Mr. Rathroy and I have spent a serious amount of time teaching Piper the rules and boundaries of our lives. Our teamwork in dog training is actually one of the biggest producers of my baby craze – it’s like training wheels for raising a kid. I mean, if we can teach Piper to sleep in a crate at night, certainly we can handle a baby, right?

Don’t answer that.

But, because of her squishable face and incessant desire to cuddle, Piper gets spoiled by almost everyone else in her life. And when those people watch as we flatly tell her to go to her bed while ignoring her puppy eyes, we take a lot of flack for being too strict. No, she can’t get up on the bed. No, she’s not allowed in the kitchen when we’re cooking (Mr. Rathroy is barely allowed in there. Have you seen the size of it?). And no, she doesn’t get a treat for doing what she’s told – that’s what she’s supposed to do.

I’m pleased as pie when we take her into a coffee shop and she lays down at our feet while we order. I love that she sticks her nose over the top of the mattress to say good morning instead of stomping on my head to take over my pillow. And I beam with pride when she goes into that crate without a fuss. But sometimes…

Sometimes, her face is just too squishable. And her cuddling is just so incessant. And her manners are so stellar, that we break down.

And we break down hard.

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Lap Dog

Piper Cuddles

I mean, if you’re going to spoil a dog, at least make it special, right?

I couldn't lick both mixers.

I couldn’t lick both mixers.

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Divide & Conquer

Last night, Mr. Rathroy made dinner. On top of an already busy week, I had signed up for a special 6 p.m. preview class at U Barre, the latest (and greatest) workout trend, with Girls on the Grid. I was even less in the mood to discuss our dinner plans than normal, especially because it meant a trip to the store during grocery rush hour.

That morning, I had gotten out of bed an hour and a half before Mr. Rathroy. In that time, I got myself ready for the day, took care of the dog, made our daily green smoothie, and even baked a fresh batch of peanut butter granola. And even though I had chosen to do all of those things, I found myself very annoyed. Why did I have to take care of everything (and in the dark no less) while he ignored his alarm and went into work later than usual? Doesn’t he know how much work it is to curl my hair and feed him every morning?

By the time I went into our dark, sleepy room to say goodbye before I left for work, I was in full domestic rebellion – not a great way to start our interactions for the day.

After a few hours of reflection in my cubicle, I sent an apology text and, because Mr. Rathroy is the greatest and most understanding man in the world, he responded with a heartfelt thank you for everything that I do. I knew that I was being a martyr and that I had never even asked him to help that morning. I just grumbled about how nice it must be to sleep in and how lame it is to be the lead homemaker. I decided to ignore the fact that I my lead homemaker status was self-appointed.

So, when it came time to discuss the fact that we had nothing for dinner, I knew it could go one of three ways:

  1. I could take it on as my unspoken responsibility to feed my husband and trudge my butt to the store so that he could eat while I went to the barre class
  2. We could split the responsibilities and he could take care of dinner since I was already scheduled to be out of the house
  3. I could have a meltdown about being a square peg in the round hole of traditional female roles and we would order Chinese food

We went with the second option and It. Was. Awesome. We each picked a couple dishes that we’d like to have on our menu for the week and drafted a grocery list together. Mr. Rathroy went head first into grocery rush hour and cooked up a storm while I flailed around gracelessly on my tippy toes during my ballet-inspired workout. By the time I got home, I was elated about my newfound exercise routine and Mr. Rathroy had made roasted vegetable mac & cheese from scratch and puff pastry wrapped jalapeno poppers…Uh, why had we not made him Head Chef of the Rathroy household yet? The kitchen was spotless, the food was still hot, the dog was curled up in bed, and he was patiently playing Forza4 until I was home to eat dinner with him.

I quickly realized that I had become a bulldozer. I took it upon myself to try and take care of everything around the house. My office is closer, my hours are more flexible, and my paycheck is smaller, so why wouldn’t I make up for it with meal plans and freshly baked granola? I took those life responsibilities off of his plate without even asking him. I made it my obligation to keep the house clean and do the grocery shopping, which in my mind, meant that no one else knew how to do it correctly.

Mr. Rathroy is not only fully capable, but is happy to pitch in and work for our lifestyle as much as I do. And when we split up the mundane responsibilities, they become less of a burden which means we’re both happier to contribute. And after devouring half a dozen homemade cream-cheese-filled jalapenos last night, I’m happy to release control of the menu and share the tasks that create our daily experiences together. And who knows, maybe I’ll be the one relaxing with Forza4 and a freshly prepared meal next time…

Escaping the Fear Jail

Today, I walked my dog all by myself. For a lot of people, that happens every day – sometimes more than once. But for me, it’s been about 3 years. I’ve walked lots of dogs before – everything from family pets to shelter dogs. And it wasn’t until Piper came to live with us that I stopped wielding a leash.

I adopted Piper before I had space in my home for her (but there was endless space in my heart). So, she lived with my parents and their dog for about a year until their collars got tangled together when no one was home and they nearly killed each other.

Maggie & Piper

Piper post-surgery

It was $1,400 to stitch and staple her back together but I had no idea how costly the situation had been on my mental state. The vet told us very sternly that the two dogs should be separated forever and so Piper came to live with us. She came on hikes and camping trips and played fetch in the yard, but never really spent time with other dogs again. In fact, whenever another dog was present, she usually yelped and hid or tried to bolt away from the situation.

Piper Adventures

Between her fearful reactions and the trauma that I never really dealt with after being confronted with her possible death, my brain created a jail. What if an off leash dog rushes up to us? What if she reacts poorly? What if people think I have a mean dog and I’m ordered to put her down?

It was a non-stop rush of terror every time I thought of stepping outside with my dog. I had created a fake situation in my mind that doomed us both and I refused to let it become a reality. Nope. We would just play fetch in the backyard and she would never come in contact with the outside world again.

It’s obviously been unfair. Especially to Piper but also to Mr. Rathroy as he drags me, oftentimes in tears, out the door with Piper in tow to prove that it’s okay. And even though he proves it time and time again, I can’t get past my crippling fears that it won’t be okay next time. I’ve worked on it in therapy. I’ve worked on it with Reiki. I’ve meditated and medicated. And still, I feel my heart quicken and my breath seize when Mr. Rathroy suggests a walk around the block. I simply cannot face the possible confirmation of the outcome that I’ve fabricated.

I’m not completely sure what changed today. I don’t know exactly what made me charge through that brick wall of fear and grab the leash. But I would bet it had something to do with the weekend we just spent running around on an empty beach.

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This was Piper’s third time at the beach house and she was no stranger to a mouthful of sand and the smell of crab skeletons. Even though it’s not allowed (don’t tell on me), we walk down to the beach, make sure no one else is breaking the rules with their dogs too and let her run. She ignores everything but the ball. At this point, I’m confident that a pack of wolves couldn’t distract Piper from playing fetch. But on Sunday, we didn’t bring the ball. We just unclipped her and let her frolic (much to my terror).

California dog.

She ran by our sides and then zoomed ahead. She stopped when we asked her to and then ran some more. She was the happiest and most free I had ever seen her. Those moments on the beach helped me realize what an incredible dog we have. It proved that we trust each other and don’t need a physical tether to control the situation – that she is a really good dog and that she deserves more opportunities to show us just how good she can be.

When I came home to let her out of the crate at lunch today, I knew she deserved some time to stretch her legs and I knew that I deserved, finally, to overcome my fear. So, we walked out the door without hesitation, ignored the three years I had spent convinced that something terrible would happen, and enjoyed every single step. We made it down the street and back without incident or trauma, and I’ve never felt so satisfied to be proven wrong.

With this unexpected victory kicking off 2014, I’m vibrating with excitement over what I will conquer next. I know a walk down the street with my dog won’t seem like much to most people, but it’s one less brick in the wall of fear and anxiety that has been holding me back.

So, listen up, Wall! I’m in charge now and it’s high time that I grabbed the leash to my own life too. No limits. No fear. Just life, however I choose to live it.

Piper kiss

The Bachelor Bride

About an hour after Mr. Rathroy walked out the door for his weekend-long bachelor party, our ceiling started leaking. As it turns out, what we thought was an old water stain leaking through the previous owner’s crap patch job was actually still a very active problem.

In tears over the impending financial burden, I called my parents as I watched the paint on my dining room ceiling crumple and give way to a steady stream of water. I knew what this meant. Sell the dirt bikes! Cancel the honeymoon! We can’t afford silly things like that anymore. Instead, we’ll pour every penny we make into this stupid 1946 lathe and plaster house that we were so excited to buy. Stupid house.

New Home

After my hardworking father crawled into our attic and strategically placed buckets along our air conditioning vent system that was drip drip dripping into our rafters, I frantically went through the motions of an adult homeowner in crisis:

  1. E-mail the real estate agent. We had only just bought the house in November. Maybe there’s something she could do?
  2. Sob to your dog about the inevitable collapse of your stupid house. She’d understand.
  3. Use every ounce of will power not to call your fiancé. It’s his bachelor party weekend and you’re a big girl.

And there I was – in the middle of a 110 degree heat wave forecasted to last at least 5 days – with a non functional air conditioner and an automated home warranty phone system. Yes, I would like to submit a service request. Any chance a real person could tell me how to do that?

Ceiling Leak

So, instead of working on our ceremony or deep cleaning the house like I had planned for my weekend alone, I pretty much just sat around in my underwear, sweating and feeling sorry for myself. Piper did the same thing.

Piper Mope

I didn’t even cook. I ate a tortilla for dinner both nights. And a beer. Who wants to do the dishes when it’s 108 degrees outside? I mustered up about an hour of general yard work one morning and then couldn’t even motivate myself to shower the sweat off until I knew I had to leave the house.

I blamed it on the heat, on the leaky ceiling, on the long night of watching “She’s the Man” starring Amanda Bynes, but I think the truth is that I’m the real bachelor in this relationship.

Seriously, the second Mr. Rathroy came home, I got busy with the meal planning and the cleaning. I even cooked myself a well rounded lunch (my first real meal in 48 hours). It was like I needed the motivation of someone else living in my mess to really take care of it. Turns out, when no one else is looking, I can be pretty sloppy.

Despite the feeling of a wasted weekend, it was nice to not feel obligated to a task list (or a standard of healthy living apparently). I was free to mope about our broken house, to read my book, and to watch bad TV without a hefty does of self-imposed guilt.

Maybe one day I’ll actually understand that Mr. Rathroy never judges me (even when I watch a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress) and that there’s really no reason to feel guilty for taking a mental time-out. But for now, I’ll get back to packing our daily smoothie ingredients into individual containers to make our mornings more efficient. There’s nothing like a fresh fruit and veggie smoothie to start you on a big day of self-love right?

Puppy Breath

I’m sure you get it by now. I’m obsessed with our dog.

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On top of all this cuteness, she snores like a chainsaw and can play frisbee. She’s rad.

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After I started volunteering at the Sacramento County Animal Shelter, I knew I would adopt a pit bull. It wasn’t immediate. Some of them were intimidating little tanks of muscle. Some of them barked a lot. And pit bulls have a whine that you could not believe. But after being walked around the block and allowed to play outside of their small kennel, I realized that they were just dogs. Adorable, wide mouthed, whippy tailed dogs.

Adorableness aside, there is an astronomical number of pit bull type (I say “type” because most people mistake anything with a big head for a pit bull) dogs available for adoption that get passed over out of fear, home owners insurance regulations, and general ignorance. It’s no secret that the breed was initially developed for their strength, but physical attributes rarely determine personality. For all that we do to encourage people to look past physical appearances, why can’t we practice it with animals that need a loving home?

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I cried the day that I adopted Piper. Not because I had just become a proud parent. And not because I had succeeded in filibustering my parents into getting another dog. As I walked up to the front desk with her kennel paperwork to make it official, I turned around, grabbed onto my Dad and started sobbing. Rightfully confused, he asked me why I was crying and, inconsolable, I replied, “Because the rest of them have to stay here.”

It’s always the worst when someone is crying over the truth. There’s nothing you can say. No way to spin the situation and provide encouragement. The rest of them would stay there, and if they were lucky, they would be adopted. So, my parents just had to let me hyperventilate and sniffle through the adoption process as I did my small part in saving one.

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Piper runs in her sleep. She drools uncontrollably when it’s dinner time. She fetches like a fiend. She tolerates ferocious head pats from small children. She’s my registered service dog and has helped me face anxiety, depression, trauma and grief. I’m not asserting that she’s better than any other dog, or that pit bulls are better than any other breed, but if I had held onto my initial reservations about blocky headed dogs, I wouldn’t have one of the most important pieces of my life laying next to me (snoring) right now.

Keeping an open mind can change your life. Having preconceived ideas or snap judgements about anything can cause you to miss out on experiences, new friends, and life altering opportunities. Whether it’s adopting a dog, going on a first date, or applying for a new job, looking past the surface and identifying your truth (not the “truth” fed to you by external factors) can open the door to big things. Fear can often be the facilitator of closed mindedness. And if you’re living in fear, then you’re not really living.

Piper taught me that.

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The Piglet

I know I have a severe bias, but is this not just the cutest dogchild you’ve ever seen?

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Our piglet is newly three years old (estimated from her shelter given birthdate) and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have such a sweet girl.

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In the past two years, she’s chipped a tooth, had an ear stitched back together, ripped a toenail off and had four staples put in her armpit. That makes us sound like terrible parents, but she’s really just an indestructible tank (and apparently we need pet insurance).

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If I could spend every day on the floor with this face, I would be one happy lady.

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Pinterest Party!

Three day weekends are such a tease. You think you’ll have all this time to sleep and cook and run errands and have fun all in just one extra day. They make you think you’re on vacation so you waste a bunch of time just enjoying the lazy opportunity and before you know it, it’s time to go back to work!

While we squeezed in as much fun and productivity as we could this weekend, I got to try something super new that I am officially geeked out on.

A Pinterest Party.

A friend of mine thought up the idea of gathering a group of crafty (or in my case, wanna-be crafty) ladies and rotating through pinterest crafts and food. Each month, someone new hosts the party and provides crafting materials and instructions for their pinterest craft while the others bring their attempts at new pinterest recipes.

SUCCESS!

We made coffee koozies, and even though they didn’t turn out exactly as planned (when does it?!), I am so beyond proud of mine that I cannot wait to order coffee and forego the cardboard koozie.

Jungle animal coffee koozie!!

Jungle animal coffee koozie!!

The only other thing I’ve ever sewn was a square for my friend’s wedding quilt. And let’s just say that you probably couldn’t pick mine out of a line-up of quilt squares made by third graders…But this coffee koozie is cute and unique enough that I won’t hesitate to tell people I made it (notice the uneven hand stitching).

The best part of the pinterest party is that, not only did I get to try something new and gain confidence in my crafting abilities, but I got to expand my social circle. It is surprisingly fun to sit around on a couch and sew a coffee koozie while chatting and joking with a bunch of ladies that I hadn’t met before. It is really easy for me to hole up inside our house and work on it until my face turns blue (or until I start crying out of frustration), but this pinterest party helped remind me that I should always take opportunities to make new friends.

Of course, other than the party, Russ and I literally holed up in our house this weekend and did everything from cleaning the fireplace brick (yuck!) to setting up our amazing new desk, to trying to paint our dark grey front door a neon yellow. And even Piper did a little artwork, which will be framed and displayed soon! If I knew how to use Twitter, it would go something like this: #dogchild.

Paw print to match our bedroom wall.

Paw print to match our bedroom wall.

Tidy Tuesday is up next!