Here’s Why Little Kids Need Big Dogs 

Life Lessons from a Two Year-old, Motherhood, We Are In This Together

I was a dog mama long before I was a people mama.

The fur-baby that stole my heart was 165 pounds of Blue Merle muscle–a majestic Great Dane named Roscoe.

Roscoe was more than a dog–he was a full-on family member. He got me through several moves, a difficult divorce, and countless single nights when every creak and crack in my big empty house kept me up at night.

I knew that my beautiful behemoth of a dog was special, but I never truly appreciated his full worth until he became a watchdog for not just me, but for my baby boy, as well.

When our little bundle came home from the hospital two years ago, Roscoe didn’t complain–even when he got moved from his cozy living room corner to a bed in the heated garage. (It was the baby’s turn to nap in that nice warm spot by the fireplace, you see.)

So, he let him.

Somehow from day one, Roscoe knew it was his job to watch over that little boy, and watch over him he did.

For two blessed years.

Sadly–we just buried our almost 12-year-old, geriatric gentle giant a week ago, under a big cottonwood on the family farm. I know his spirit will keep on watching over all of us–especially Hank, who over the last two years had become his very best friend. Those two sweet boys taught me some pretty big life lessons–one of which is how meaningful animals can be to little people.

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I hope that as you read along, you nod in agreement because your little ones have a furry friend to love on like Hank did. But if you haven’t gotten a pet for your child or children (yet!), dear reader, here are five reasons why you may want to consider it!

1. Companionship

Our big dog and our little boy were two peas in a pod. Anywhere the toddler went, the dog was sure to follow. And vice versa. On the swingset, digging in the dirt, playing ball on the lawn, picking strawberries–these two adored each other’s company. We couldn’t go for a walk unless Roscoe came with us, even when it meant he had to give up his beloved afternoon nap.

If Hank could have slept on Roscoe’s dog bed with him every night, he absolutely would have.

2. Responsibility 

From the time he could walk, our toddler helped me with all of our dog chores. He understood that the first thing we did each morning was let Roscoe out, and he looked forward to it every day. He helped me fill his food and water bowls, and he even helped me clean up the “land mines” in the yard. (He was the “locator,” and I ran the shovel.)

Having a dog taught our toddler a world of responsibility, and most importantly–it taught him how to care for a loved one.

3. Teachable Moments

From learning a universal nickname for dogs–“Coco”–to learning that dogs will do almost anything for a milk-bone; our gentle giant was also a wonderful teacher for our little boy. He taught him that dogs don’t really like to be ridden like horses, even if they are the perfect size. He taught him that “woof” means “come open the door please.” He taught him that Great Danes make wonderful pillows for naps on the lawn. He taught him that it is important to hold still when you are getting your toenails clipped. He taught him that sometimes when we get old, our bodies just can’t keep up anymore. He taught him that even though saying goodbye is scary and hard, it is something that we can get through.

He also taught him the true meaning of the phrase “loyal friend.”

4. Protection

Our huge dog kept an amazing eye on our little boy. Roscoe was Hank’s shadow, never venturing more than 10 or 15 feet away from the tornado toddler–even when that meant a LOT of getting up and laying back down! I loved knowing that whenever I watered flowers or weeded beds in the yard, I had an extra set of eyes on Hank while he played.

Roscoe truly loved his “job,” and Hank loved having his own personal watchdog.

5. Lifelong Memories

Even though he is gone now, Hank still talks about his big buddy “Coco” everyday. Any dog we see gets a chubby little finger point and a loving “Coco!” exclaimed with a huge smile. Whenever I tear up or mention how much I miss Roscoe, Hank grabs his stuffed puppy and gives me a kiss with it. I have countless amazing pictures of these two together, and I will never forget their two years filled with those special moments. Their relationship–although much too short–gave all of us a lifetime of heartwarming memories, which I thank God for everyday.

There’s nothing quite like the magic of big dogs and little children.

Trust.

So, please. If you have a family dog, let your little ones climb all over him, even when he’s a little bit muddy. Let them snuggle up to him and get those trademark slobbery dog kisses, right on their little faces. Let them help carry the water bucket, even though it splashes all over the garage floor.

I promise–it’ll all be worth it.

And if you don’t have a family dog?

Then someday–if only for your kids’ sake–I hope you’ll change your mind.

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Best of friends.

 

 

 

 

Puzzle Pieces

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood, Step by Step, We Are In This Together

 

My little boy, Hank, has three heroes: his three big brothers. When they are with us, they throw balls with him and dive onto pillow piles and build endless towers to knock down. They make him laugh like neither their daddy or I ever can. He idolizes them; he wants to be just like them.

There is an electric charge in the air on the days when daddy arrives with Hank’s three big brothers in tow. He can sense when they are coming, and he can hardly contain his excitement. The door barely clicks open and he is running to the top of the stairs, squealing; racing to get to them. 

His puzzle is complete on the days we have the boys; all the pieces of our family are in place and his world looks as it should.

But three days later the puzzle falls apart; three major pieces of it suddenly go missing, and he has to try to make sense of it in a one-and-a-half year-old brain which knows nothing of parenting plans or shared custody. Nothing of divorce, or of real mamas and step-mamas. I am sure he thinks I am his brothers’ mama too—why wouldn’t I be?

“We”—our six-pack—is all he has ever known. I do not look forward to the day I have to explain things like divorce to my precious boy. Explain why his brothers have another mama; how it’s not me. Why they have another home, too, on the other side of town, or why he will go to a different school than they do.

I don’t know how to explain why some mamas and daddies don’t speak to each other, even though they share the same children.

And most of all, I worry about explaining why his big brothers have to leave us for half of every week. Because before he can truly understand, he won’t understand, and I know there will be tears.

I don’t want him to be heartbroken half of every week, his best friends in the world lost to him again. I know it is coming. I can already see the gears turning in that precious little head, wondering; the start of the dissonance.

Lately on the days without his brothers around, his little lip trembles when he sees their pictures. He runs into their rooms, just to check.

We will see them soon, sweetheart, I tell him, soon.

Hank’s big brothers have huge hearts buried under their tough exteriors. They play and wrestle and high-five and cuddle and pick up and carry and comfort their little brother. I know they miss him, too, when they are away.

They don’t treat him any differently because I am not their mama, too. They love him just like they love each other, even though they don’t say it.

Hank has no place in one of their two worlds, but they live for him in our world. They amaze me every day with their maturity and compassion. Their resilience as they bounce between lives; their acceptance of their new family.

When daddy loads them up to take them back to their mama’s house, Hank stands in the doorway waving his special wave. He opens and closes his little fist to each of them, saying I Love You, even though the words don’t come out yet.

His big brothers answer him with the same wave, their code, their secret send-off. The words don’t come out of their mouths, either.

But they don’t have to. He knows.

 

Originally posted on Tribe Magazine at: http://thetribemagazine.com/puzzle-pieces/#ixzz4OodjbHiL

Best Buds

Bookends

Motherhood-my elusive dream job

Uncategorized

DSC_4440May 18th.  A year ago today I was timing contractions on a grocery list and trying to “hang in there” until they were close enough together to go to the hospital.  Trying to sleep was impossible,  but finally at 1:11 a.m., my water broke!  With the simple “honey, we need to go now,” that followed, our lives changed profoundly.  Three hours of pushing, some choice curse words, an epidural, a spinal, and a “zipper” later-our Hank the Tank was finally here!

He was everything I had dreamed he would be.  And a whole lot more!  (But more on that later.)

Being a mommy has been my dream job from the time I was little (not counting all those years in elementary school when my go-to what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up answer was “a cheerleader or a waitress.”  Seriously.  Aim high, right?)   Fast forward 15 years or so to my 20’s when I thought I was on the right track.  College degree?  Check.  Husband?  Check.  Three years of getting to know each other first?  Check.  Suddenly, the time was right, but many other things simply weren’t.  Our compatibility was sub-par, our collective fertility was obviously lacking, our 5- and 10-year plans clashed, and so on and so on.  After three more years of  ignoring all of that and futilely focusing on the “trying,” we both realized there was a lot more wrong in our marriage than the absence of a child, and we went our separate ways.  Looking back on those years, I now believe that some of God’s greatest gifts, truly are unanswered prayers.

While he didn’t bring me that baby,  God did have someone in His plan for me after all those years of frustration and hopelessness!  He dropped the most wonderful man into my life at the most unexpected time, and he had a remarkably similar story of years of marital struggle and perseverance.  We hit it off brilliantly while comparing divorce stories one evening over a few cold beers.  I also learned that this amazing man had three adorable sons, who would steal my heart completely when I met them one year later!  (More on that later, too.)

The best traits that man possessed, it turned out, were his open mind and even more open heart.  When I gave him the disclaimer that he may not want to date me because I wanted a baby of my own someday-fiercely-and he already had a 3-pack, he didn’t run for the hills.  He may have secretly hoped I had been the sterile one in my past relationship, but he signed on for the gamble anyways!  And thank God he did, because in 2015, after a few amazing years of marriage and foundation-laying, there was an opening for my dream job–and I took it!  At 9:21 a.m. on May 19th, a perfect (and huge!) blue-eyed baby was placed in my arms and we named him Henry Abbott.  After all those years and 9 grateful months, I was finally a mother.