That’s sarcasm, by the way. Cancer sucks, I hate cancer, cancer can go suck it.
When you have a dog, but especially when you have a dog who is a breed with a 50% occurrence of cancer in their lifetime, you learn to be vigilant. And by vigilant I mean you pick over your dog like a chimpanzee searching out ticks, and with good reason. So far, as you know, I’ve lost one dog to lymphoma, one to probable melanoma, and Brody’s had the following removed:
- low grade melanoma on his lip (so far, so good)
- medium grade mast cell tumor resulting in loss of ear
I’m a big fan of Sue Ettinger’s See Something Do Something initiative, and with good reason. Small masses are exponentially easier to deal with than large ones, for many reasons. It’s a gift to be able to catch things early.
So it was with a resigned trepidation that I noticed, buried in the vast recesses of Brody’s voluminous tail, yet another weird looking mass:
I don’t like masses. They make me scream like I’ve seen a spider over the bed.
We went and visited Highlands Ranch Animal Hospital to get it checked out yesterday, where Brody was his usual charming self. By the time we left he had the entire waiting area sitting on the floor petting him. Such a ham.
The great thing about aspirating little masses is that, while not totally diagnostic, can often give you a good feel for what you’re dealing with. In this case, no mast cells were noted. Why does this make me happy? Because he would probably have had to lose his tail and that would really really stink. The dog’s got to keep some of his parts, right?
The mass is coming off while it’s small enough to fully remove and still be able to close the skin over his tail. We are also going to send it in for pathology, which is essential for determining whether it’s something you need to follow up on. I’ll keep you posted.
I share all this in the hopes you too take a moment to go over your pet and check out the lumps and bumps while they’re teeny. It’s worth it! This is how we keep our pets around till they’re old and grey.
We’ve been having some bitter cold days recently in parts of the country and there are a number of things you can do to keep your dog comfortable – and safe – outdoors. Do not assume they have the “common sense” to come indoors when they begin to get hypothermia or frostbite on their ears or toes.
If dogs are running around having a good time in single digit weather in the snow, their exuberance and adrenaline will keep them outside for longer than is healthy. They need “parental guidance” in staying out for only short periods and coming back indoors frequently to warm up again.
Think of them as though they were young kids staying in a swimming pool despite having blue lips and chattering – and arguing to stay in when plucked out of the water to be rubbed dry and warm! We need to make good protective decisions for our dogs in the winter.
• Short-coated and toy breed dogs should wear a sweater or coat to keep them warm when going outside, even briefly. If it’s really cold then you should consider layering their clothes the way human winter sports enthusiasts do: put a sweater or polar fleece on your dog under a jacket, which traps their body heat and gives more insulation.
• Winter booties really make sense in super cold conditions – to protect feet against the ice-melting products used on sidewalks, but also to give some protection against severe cold. Good brands like Ruffwear boots also have a rubber grippy bottom to give better footing in slippery conditions.
• If you walk where sidewalks have been sprinkled with salt, booties are the best protection but if your dog refuses to wear them, then you need to smear the bottom of her paw pads with a protectant salve like Musher’s Secret before going outside. You still need to rinse and dry her feet when you get back inside.
• If it’s icy where you walk then consider using a leash if you don’t already (if you’re a country person like me and are usually leash-free). A dog cannot see ice underneath light snow (neither can we- I’ve fallen backwards and cracked my own head twice on wintry dog walks!) and can take a nasty fall.
• Stay off icy sidewalks or paths because even slipping can cause soft-tissue damage to muscles and ligaments. If your dog is older with arthritis or elbow or hip dysplasia, a fall can aggravate those conditions.
• Overweight dogs need to be especially careful in treacherous walking conditions as they are less agile. This is a good time to initiate a weight loss program because your dog is getting less exercise in very cold weather!
Reduce the amount you are feeding and substitute a low cal food (Halo’s Healthy Weight Management kibble has been really helpful to me and several of my friends with chubby dogs). If your dog is really fat, write to me on Facebook or to RadioPetLady@gmail.com and we’ll consider your dog as our next participant in our Healthy Weight Challenge on The Expert Vet show. If chosen, you’ll get Dr. Donna Spector’s guidance and free food from Halo for 3 months!
Tracie began her fascination with dogs and cats by turning her eye as a former investigative reporter on every aspect of living with them, resulting in her encyclopedic resources THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and then the THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. Before long, Tracie was established as a leading pet wellness advocate as her all-encompassing books covered everything from medical issues to behavior, nutrition and environmental enrichment.
Tracie began her career as a radio personality with a live show – DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) – on the local NPR station in the Hamptons, Peconic Public Broadcasting (WPPB) from Southampton, New York (the show is now also carried on the NPR station Robinhood Radio in Connecticut and the Berkshires). DOG TALK® won a Gracie® Award (the radio equivalent of an Oscar) in 2010 as the “Best entertainment and information program on local public radio” and continues weekly after more than 450 continuous shows and 9 years on the air. Tracie’s live weekly call-in show CAT CHAT® was on SiriusXM satellite radio for seven years until the Martha Stewart channel was canceled in 2013.
Tracie lives in Vermont where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based, on 13 acres well-used by her all-girl pack – two lovely, lively Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda, and a Collie-mix, Jazzy.
Here’s an interview of Lori, owner of PetsitUSA’s 2015 featured pet sitter, I’ve Got the ‘Scoop’!, LLC.
Thank you, Ryan! It’s very exciting being interviewed by PetsitUSA and having the opportunity to help new pet sitters by sharing my experiences and insight.
Can you give us a little background about yourself?
When I first started pet sitting, veteran sitters gave me the typical advice about learning to say “no,” setting boundaries, turning my phone off and never putting my business before my fam
ily. I ignored it all, and I’m not going to offer that advice, because the benefits of owning a business allows each of us, as individuals, to make decisions based upon our personal goals, abilities, threshold, ethics and devotion to our pet parents and furry babies.
Our circumstances vary, from familial responsibilities, some transition from another profession still working another job, while others have no time constraints or limitations. The most important consideration is determining the needs of your clients and their beloved pets, because that’s why we become professional pet sitters: To provide care needed for animals in the absence of a parent and/or when a parent requires our assistance with their pet.
Because my dedication is extreme and I lacked the ability to say “no,” implementing policies was necessary. That is one suggestion I strongly recommend; have policies in place you are comfortable with, review them with clients, and have each client acknowledge acceptance of the terms by way of their signature so there are no miscommunications. I adhere to my policies; however, there are situations warranting my waiving them without hesitation.
Change and restructuring typically means acquired knowledge and growth, not errors or poor decisions!
2015 was my fifth year providing love, enrichment and comprehensive pet care for furry babies with my pet sitting business, I’ve Got the ‘Scoop’!, LLC. It has been a very rewarding year professionally with awards, recognition, community outreach events and expanding my non-profit volunteer efforts. Unfortunately, working independently leaves minimal time to celebrate these accomplishments.
Being a recipient of NAPPS’ 2015 National Pet Sitting Business of the Year Award, and Winner of “The Best” Pet Sitter & Dog Walker of Burlington County, in The Best of Burlington County Times 2015, were both amazing honors I cannot believe I received! I work endlessly and my devotion is second to none; still, to be nominated and voted for by clients, colleagues and the community are most cherished honors! Another wonderful compliment was becoming a Board Member of the Boo Tiki Fund, a non-profit charity whose mission is to leave no pet without veterinary care. Families experiencing grave financial hardships may receive a grant for their pets’ urgent medical needs.
I am extremely proud to have organized and hosted South Jersey’s Annual Pet Wellness Symposium for the
past two years and am looking forward to the third annual event on April 16, 2016. It’s a fundraiser and powerful learning experience for all attendees. Elite veterinarians volunteer their time and present educational lectures to pet professionals, parents, animal welfare heroes and members of the community alike, and some of the lectures incorporate live animals for a hands-on learning experience. Pet businesses have an opportunity to showcase their services, also. Last year’s symposium included a children’s component with a Bite Prevention class presented by fellow pet sitters, Endless Pawsabilities, reading with the Furry Angels Therapy Dogs, and a community service workshop to benefit FOBCAS and homeless animals at the Burlington County Animal Shelter.
A particularly fun event I planned the past three years has been the Spooktacular Pets of our town’s annual Halloween Parade, facilitating community members of all ages to participate in the festivities, even if their children have fur! Animal lovers have the opportunity to walk with the doggies, and it’s a safe alternative for children and pets to enjoy a fun-filled family event!
Most recently, I started KiSS!, a Kitty Sponsorship Series, helping senior and fragile homeless kitties KiSS! their cages at a shelter and life in rescue goodbye, by sponsoring their adoption fees. Another rewarding endeavor was raising money to donate 14 Fido Bags to local fire departments and first responders through the Fetch Foundation.
Although I organize and host many events, they’ve only been possible thanks to relationships I’ve established through volunteering and networking, having cultivated amazing collaborative efforts to benefit animals in need and those who love them. I could never have accomplished these myself, and I thank the Borough of Palmyra, NJ, for their assistance in making these events possible.
But life and business are not always happy, happy and success, and a professional pet sitter must always have a solid backup plan in place for unforeseen emergencies.
2015 has been most challenging personally, having a scare with breast cancer, working with great physical pain, enduring procedures on my neck and back, and facing far too much loss. The devastation of losing furry babies for whom I provide care is what I find to be the most difficult aspect of pet sitting.
My precious kitty, Simon, the love of my life, began having seizures and was diagnosed with hypertension and renal disease. That weekend my father died suddenly. Recently, both my mother- and father-in-law were diagnosed with cancer, and just a couple months ago, my very special, one-of-a-kind, Simon, became an angel. He was incredibly loving and a tremendous support to me and my son.
I don’t typically shout out about myself, but it’s important to know this can be you and so much more! Always remember, because of you, pet parents are able to create wonderful memories, be available for work and familial responsibilities, and have peace of mind to walk out the door leaving their furry babies behind. Always feel honored you were chosen by each parent and be thankful you have the opportunity to care for their beloved pets.
Please share what prompted you to start your pet sitting business:
My wonderful son, Billy, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 18. He has significant special needs, and because of his cognitive challenges and inability to care for himself, let alone the continuous monitoring of blood glucose levels, multiple injections, exact measurements of food portions, his intake of all solids and liquids, carb counting, testing urine, etc., he required private-duty nursing when I was not with him.
A month after discharge from the hospital, Billy was diagnosed with renal and cardiac disease and required additional medications and intervention. Because of his challenges with communication and extreme developmental delays, his care was very individualized with protocols specific for “Billy.” He was not to be treated as “text-book” diagnoses. In an attempt to keep stress at a minimum, necessary care was slowly integrated into his daily routine, which already was demanding.
After a few nurses were hired, they were quickly fired when care was to be provided “their” way, not what was best for Billy. Despite having detailed orders written by physicians and my wishes to make life a little happier and more manageable for Billy, each nurse wanted to modify his regiment. Sadly, they were unwilling to deviate from the “standard” and learn how to maintain his stable status.
This resulted in leaving my profession as a court reporter and accounts manager of the firm, after 15 years, so I would be available to provide care for my son. At 47 years old, I wasn’t sure in what direction I would go. I then realized there were parents in need of care for their dependent, beloved pets as I needed for my son; hence, founding my company, I’ve Got the ‘Scoop’!, LLC – Providing Love, Enrichment and Comprehensive Pet Care… as though YOU were there!
Why do pet owners choose your business over others in your area; is there something special that attracts your clients?
I ask this question of my pet parents, and their responses share many similarities. Our relationship begins when parents view the love displayed in my photos and they tell me it’s obvious how much I care from the first time we speak about their pets. My initial consultation is quite extensive and families’ comfort levels increase more so during that time. I obtain a very thorough history and spend a substantial amount of time inquiring about specific details, observing, playing and interacting with their beloved pets, learning as much as possible. This leads to establishing a bond that only grows stronger with subsequent visits. Often times, a cat considered to be very skittish or a dog with anxiety that normally does not engage with strangers right away, if at all, warm up to me quickly, leaving pet parents astonished. Their worries and anxieties are alleviated.
Parents remark how I genuinely adore their beloved pets and love the special bonds we share. Pictures and videos I send depict their happiness and contentment, and parents feel their furry love
s are safe. I am certified in animal first aid/CPR, participate in continuing education classes and keep up to date with current recalls and product information.
Since I do not use independent contractors or hire employees, it’s me, personally, coming to each visit, and parents are confident their pets are extremely well-cared for. They are assured of my secure backup plan in the event of an unforeseen emergency, and most of my lovies have already met the only person I trust with them, my fiancé, Dan. He is incredibly patient, compassionate, loving, observant and meticulous with details, and joins me during visits, in advance, so he’s not a stranger and is familiar with their routine if he is needed.
Parents have peace of mind knowing I’ll be available to communicate with detailed updates. I ask for clarification, if needed, and technology has not taken over the personal service I provide to my families. They also appreciate how I limit the number of pets on my schedule each day to allow for lengthy visits. I spend quality time with my furry babies, becoming well aware of their individual needs, what makes them happy, feel loved and secure, and how the time their family is away may be most enriching and fun.
Whether a family is on vacation or gone for the day at work, the care their pet receives is
the same; it’s very comprehensive, not just walking and feeding or scooping a litter box and leaving. We have spa days with preventative care, brushing hair and teeth, even cleaning ears and clipping nails if needed, extended walks or playtime, and lots of lap time full of hugs and kisses.
Families’ security and privacy are taken very seriously, as well as the safety and well-being of animals in my care. I am very attentive to accommodating special requests and following detailed instructions others may feel are extreme or unnecessary. Parents feel very confident with my thoroughness and abilities, and have peace of mind when their pets are in my care.
My precious kitty, Simon, had special needs, as well as my son, and it is because of he and Billy I understand the significance of small details, observant of nonverbal communication, aware of changes in routine and behavior of my furry babies, and highly respect the wishes of every pet parent as I wish a nurse to do for my son! This all contributes to providing a higher quality of care which should be the standard practice of every pet sitter.
What are some of the most useful advertising tools that you have used?
I’m not fond of the word “advertise.” Maybe because I cannot afford an advertising budget. [Laughing] Most say a business must have one; I disagree. My passion for animals, knowledge and willingness to help all pet parents, not just clients, and networking with other pet professionals, earned me the reputation as a professional pet sitter and resource in my community. People refer me by sharing their experiences and the exceptional care I provide for their pets, as well as the photos I send to parents display all of the love and fun we share. Volunteering your time and becoming known as the expert pet sitter in your community is most rewarding.
How has social media impacted your business over the last few years?
It consumes too much time! However, social media allows me to reach a larger audience much faster. I’m not good at sending quick messages, as I like my communication to be personable. This tends to delay getting information out because of having to sit and write detailed emails. With social media, providing pertinent information can be done expeditiously by sharing a post or an article; whether it’s alerting everyone to recall information, outbreak of infectious disease, wellness information, a lost pet in the community, health-related studies, seasonal tips to help protect our pets, a fundraising or adoption event. It’s a quick way to share information from which others may benefit.
Do you have any general advice for new pet sitters?
If you wish to become a Professional Pet Sitter, you must earn the title and always respect it!!!
- Distinguish yourself as professional.
- Credentials are vital! You should maintain current credentials and documentation to provide at every consultation: A passed background check, Certificate of Insurance for commercial liability coverage and any licenses and registrations.
- I personally would not enter anyone’s home or provide any services until adequate insurance is obtained. I am not an expert in insurance, but highly recommend you evaluate the coverage of your policy and be certain you have, at minimum, protection for the following: injury/negligence/loss to animals in your care; injury to any persons and/or pets caused by an animal in your care; theft/negligence/damages to clients’ personal belongings and property. You get what you pay for; lower premiums typically mean lesser coverage.
- Inquire about local, state and federal laws re: business registration and licenses, to ensure you are operating a legitimate business.
- Build up your references to include both pet parents and professionals.
- Obtain Animal First Aid/CPR Certification and participate in continuing education. Be prepared for an emergency, as your intervention may very likely save an animal’s life in your care.
- Allow sufficient time for each pet’s visit or you will compromise the quality of care you provide.
- If you are uncomfortable with a request for medical care or administration of medication, or have questions, contact the treating veterinarian. I always obtain verification from their vet if medication is to be given in the absence of a current prescription.
- I would not provide care if it makes you uncomfortable. Trust your instincts if there are red flags and respectfully decline to provide services. That was another piece of advice I was given: You do not have to work with every family that contacts you. The distance may be too far; you may not agree with training techniques; the home may be unsanitary; a family cancels too often or fails to pay for your services. Remember, it’s your business and the choice is yours.
- Network with other professionals. Observe new situations when possible and be receptive to learning from those willing to help you advance with continuing your education.
- Develop relationships with veterinarians who foster wellness, are willing to teach you new skills and answer your questions to ensure continuity of care for mutual clients. I am so thankful for local veterinary practices whom are always willing to help.
- Establish a presence in your community. Get involved. Help raise awareness and support a local charity. There are various ways to help other than making monetary donations.
- Make a difference in a family’s life by spending extra time with a beloved pet during end of life, donate your services and provide care from your heart for someone during a crisis, purchase food and supplies for a family in need…show how caring professional pet sitters are by helping a family and their furry loves.
- If monetary gain far exceeds your desire to create betterment in the care of animals, seek out a different position and leave the hands-on care to others.
- Always manage your business the way you choose to, rather than being influenced or discouraged by other pet sitters: Hours, rates, growth of your company, remaining a sole-practitioner, services you offer, use of technology, types of payments accepted, are decisions you make.
- Don’t be afraid to do things differently or bark louder… just make a difference and be puuuurrfectly proud of yourself for becoming a Professional Pet Sitter!!!
How can someone reach you if they have questions? Do you have a web site? Are you on Facebook?
There is nothing brilliant about the cruelty of a “dancing” Asiatic black bear.
I’m sure there are teachings in Islam against abusing animals, but even if there weren’t, this is disgusting and evil.
The competitors: Wren, a Papillon from the 8-inch class, qualifying with a time of 33.37 seconds Keebler, the 2-time, back-to-back winner of the 12-inch class, qualifying with a time of 34.37 seconds Cruzer, a Shetland Sheep Dog from the 16-inch class, qualifying with a time of 36.26 seconds Holster, the Aussie from the 20-inch class, […]
Westminster Kennel Club and the AKC have expanded the agility competition at the Westminster show this year, making it a part of Saturday’s Meet and Compete event at Piers 92 and 94. The agility competition takes place all day on February 13th (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) at Pier 94, with the finals being televised […]
Yesterday, my little Emmett Hunter turned one month old. Time is such a weird concept with kids – that whole “the days are long with the years are short” quote couldn’t be more spot on. When Essley was a newborn, I had no idea what I was doing, she never slept more than an hour at a time (on good nights), and the whole experience was bone-crushingly exhausting to the point that I found myself almost wishing away the first few months. Then, suddenly, she was no longer a newborn, and I actually felt a little disappointed, wondering where the time went. In general, this time around is admittedly even more challenging in many ways, because I have a two year old to care for on top of a new baby. And just like with Essley, who was born around the same time of year (her birthday is December 28th and Emmett’s is January 9th), my husband had to leave to go on the band’s winter tour when Emmett was just a couple of weeks old. So it’s just me here again, trying my best. I’m trying to get my toddler (who still dislikes sleep something fierce) to nap or sleep at night with a baby crying in the background (because it’s the only real time I can finish projects and meet work deadlines, which is necessary to keep income flowing – a real maternity leave when you’re self employed just doesn’t exist). I’m trying to get the toddler fed and bathed and dressed with a newborn constantly hanging off my boob. I’m trying to keep the house in order (ha. hahahaha.) and run errands and pay bills and just function as a human on just a handful of hours of sleep a night. (I have a profound respect for single moms and dads.) The difference this time though, is that despite how hard it is – and anyone with a newborn, with or without other kids, will tell you it is freaking hard - I now know what a blur those first few months were with Essley, and I’m consciously aware of the disappointment I felt afterward at how quickly they passed. So with Emmett, I’ve really made the effort to be present and mindful, and to find bliss in the act of just holding him, nursing him, kissing his little face, even changing his diapers and getting him dressed in his teeny tiny little clothes. The crying fits and diaper blow-outs and projectile vomit that accompanied the newborn period with Essley exist with Emmett too – but this time I’m able to find the humor in them, and even appreciate them as part of the beauty of the journey.
Newborns don’t exactly exhibit signs of strong personality yet, but you definitely start to get a feel for what they’ll be like, even from just a few weeks old. Every child is different and while you don’t want to compare, at this stage, it’s so interesting to take note of things about Emmett that are different than – and the same as – Essley when she was just a few weeks old. Just like his sister, Emmett wants to be held all the time, which is actually pretty wonderful. He has also been more receptive to baby wearing (Essley loved the Ergo but wasn’t into wraps and slings), which makes for a much more productive day for me – and gives me a great excuse to squeeze in even more precious cuddle time. Emmett also goes two to three hours at night between needing to nurse, which feels like a luxury (Essley went a half hour to an hour, tops). He sleeps in a cosleeper (we’ve used this one with both our kids and love it) next to my side of the bed, but just like Essley, much prefers to actually be in bed with us – and often spends a couple of hours in the mornings right there, nestled in. He loves to nurse, as did his sis (for 18 sweet months). He absolutely despises being naked, even partially, so changing his diapers or clothes or bathing him is often filled with wails. He is my little old man – his thick head of dark curly hair has slowly been falling out, leaving an awesomely hilarious receding hairline that is slowly developing into a tiny balding horseshoe. He already has dark brown eyes like his daddy (Essley’s were blue for three months then slowly changed to a deep hazel-brown), and keeps them wide open and alert when he’s awake. And he loves to look at his sister, who is clearly starting to fall as in love with him as her parents are, after a challenging first couple of weeks. (There were several occasions where books, dolls, and play vegetables were thrown at the poor dude’s head in the very beginning.) The feeling I get from witnessing the pure affection between these two kids is something I honestly can’t even put into words. It’s powerful and humbling and I look so forward to seeing how it blossoms as they grow older. I am thankful every single day for the pure, mind-boggling level of love that I feel for my kids. I waited until later in life to have them, and I wouldn’t change the experiences I had with my career and traveling in my twenties and early thirties for anything, but these kids are by far and away the best thing that has ever happened to me.
As for me, this time around I’m (for the more part) more relaxed, despite the extra work of having two. And being able to feel more relaxed has been a huge goal for me. My house looks like crap 90% of the time as a result, but that’s just how it’s going to be for now. I look like crap 90% of the time too, but I’m as I begin to emerge from the mental fog of the first month, I’m starting to focus on myself a little more. I’ve scheduled some self-care appointments (I just got a hair cut and have a mani and pedi coming up), and I’m starting to get into a mild exercise routine again (technically I can’t exercise for two more weeks but I’m finally wearing my fitness band and walking again, so theres that). I’m still mostly living in leggings and oversized tees, both because my body is in a weird in-between stage (I’ve lost half the pregnancy weight but know from last time around that the rest will take some work), but I’m planning a solo shopping trip the next time Robbie is home for a couple days to add a few fresh pieces to my closet so I can feel a little like myself again. I’m also aware that a good night sleep just isn’t in the cards any time soon, so I’m taking a few minutes a day to just relax and meditate instead. Last time around I was so caught off guard by the newness of this stage and just didn’t know how to take care of myself with so much on my plate, so I’m really grateful for the knowledge of how important it is to care for myself as well as my baby.
And on a different yet related topic, one of the things I plan to focus on with the blog this year is this inclusion of more personal updates. While this has never been a personal blog, I feel a strong pull right now toward authenticity in blogging. I’ve seen such a massive shift in the blogging world since I started Bubby and Bean five years ago, and many of us now run our blogs as businesses. This is a wonderful thing and I’m incredibly grateful to have a job where I can work with brands I love to produce content (not to mention having a flexible schedule that allows me to work from home with my babies) – but I also think it’s important to remember how the concept of blogging originated, and that ultimately it should feel like a community, and not just one big commercial. The blogs I most love reading are a good balance of “keeping it real” and other content (including sponsored posts that are done in an authentic way). I still plan to keep my kids’ presence here to a minimum, but I’d like to do more occasional posts like these, where I share some pieces of what’s going on in my life outside of the less personal design and lifestyle posts upon which I tend to focus, with less-than-perfect candid cell phone pictures like you see above, etc. And for those who have asked on Instagram, yes, I will eventually be sharing Emmett’s birth story like I did Essley’s. That was one of the most intense posts I’ve ever written (you can read it here), and I think I need a few more weeks to get into a headspace that is a little less sleep deprived first. But it’s coming – promise.
It took me a good decade, but I can finally say I think I’m getting this motherhood thing figured out. It was not intuitive for me, not easy or instantly amazing the way it was when I brought home my first pet. With my animals, I knew no matter how challenging things were, we would figure it out and it would be ok. I don’t know why I lacked that confidence with the kiddos. Maybe I’m just part dog.
But no matter! We all have our strengths in life, but the one thing I wish I knew a lot earlier was the idea of resilience, that just because one thing comes naturally to us, it doesn’t mean we can’t take on other things and work our way up to competence. It’s too late for me now: I will never know if I could have been a decent volleyball player. All I know is I was horrrrrrrible at it in school, I dreaded volleyball days in PE, and as soon as I could give it up I did.
But parenthood isn’t like volleyball, a hobby you can dabble in and put away when your back hurts. It’s there, sink or swim, and even if all you do is hobble along, well, that’s all you need to do.
I found myself leaning on my veterinary experience quite a bit those first few years, actually. You draw on your own experiences, so it makes sense. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how many things I learned from the clinic that I could apply to parenthood:
1. Your brain can adapt to an obscene level of noise.
Barking dogs, screaming babies, howling cats, ringing phones, all can be intercepted before they hit your cerebrum by some amazing subconscious mom-filter that allows you to get your records completed or bills done. While others may think you oblivious, the truth is you are an amazing compartmentalizer.
2. Multitasking is an art.
Mrs. Jones is on line 3 and will only speak to you, and she insists she will hold. The cat in room 4 is having a seizure. The man in the lobby is yelling at the receptionist about his dog’s worms, something is bleeding in the treatment area but we don’t know who, and you’re still scrubbed into surgery. Getting used to this level of chaos is the only reason I was able to survive the first years of classroom volunteering, PTA politics, work, groceries, and remembering my husband’s name.
3. Blood and poop are things you can get used to.
I don’t think I even need to elaborate on this, do I?
4. The ones who scream the loudest are not the ones you worry about.
If you’re screaming, you’re breathing. It’s the quiet ones you need to check in on, because it usually means one of three things: they stopped breathing, they are getting in a large amount of trouble, or they are about to have a nuclear meltdown. This rule applies to both pets and their owners. And, I learned, to kids.
5. You don’t need to be the best at something. You just need to want it the most.
In a clinic full of creatures without opposable thumbs, it was astonishing to find out how good some of them could get at accomplishments they weren’t supposed to be capable of. Like, how some dogs could patiently sit in a cage for hours and work at a jiggly lever in order to release themselves and merrily run around the treatment area. Or how some cats could push a jar of treats, centimeter by centimeter, all the way across a table until it dumped its chicken-y contents on the floor. They do it because no one told them they couldn’t.
To me this last one is the most important lesson of all. I remind myself of this often, for myself and for my kids. I don’t want them to be the kid who stops trying to open the cage. I want them to be the one who takes the whole thing apart.
I learned, more than anything, to be this dog.