Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, No Foolin'

I've enjoyed reading other blogs where my friends write to their children or reminisce on their child's birth. As I jump back into blogging, I thought I'd begin with the story of how my four legged child, Amber, became part of the family. Our biological children all arrived on holidays or in T-Man's case a holiday weekend. Some years his birthday is actually on Labor Day. Amber was no exception to holiday births; being born on April 1, 2004.

On the Mother's Day weekend of 2004, I was planting flowers in our backyard. Doug came out and said that he saw an ad in the paper for Australian Shepherd pups and their cost was quite reasonable. He was also guessing that they were not pure bred registered pup (better in his mind). Now I was unaware that we were looking for pups and I wasn't sure what an Australian Shepherd looked like. My husband told me they looked a bit like Lassie.

Doug wanted to know if I wanted to go look at these pups. As I am not a dog lover, I don't remember being all that excited about looking at pups especially if it was tied to getting a dog. Since I love my husband and could tell he was excited, I agreed to go look at these pups.

We loaded up the kids and headed to the country to see the puppies. The kids were bursting with excitement, speculating on the color of puppy they would get and arguing over potential names. I did remind them that we were only looking at the puppy and may not get one. Well here's one fact: When you take kids to "look" at pets you must be resigned to the fact that you won't be leaving without a pet.

We headed down a long country road with fields all around us and arrived at a house with a huge yard. In the side yard the owners had a large wooden shed with a fenced area around it. The puppies had their bedding in the shed and the parents were running around the unfenced area. The puppies were adorable butterball fluffs. They looked like baby bear cubs. They kids loved on the puppies and petted the adult dogs.
We somehow came to a consensus on the puppy we wanted. The selection stemmed from the hair coloring as we were partial to the brown fur tones and the kids were hoping that this dog would have two different eye colors (one blue and the other brown) or blue eyes. Doug paid the owner and off we went with a puppy.

As we headed home I realized that we had no food, bowls, collar, leash, or any other supplies a dog might need. I was in the throes of buyer's remorse thinking of how we had torn this puppy away from its siblings and parents. Would it cry all night and make messes in the house? The kids were tossing out names. I think a couple of the contenders were Chocolate and Jasmine but we settled on Amber. Her name came from her amber colored fur.

Sometimes we call her Am-Bear, since she reminded us of a bear cub when she was a baby. When we lived in GA, T-Man would yell out from my upstairs bedroom window to the neighbor girl as she'd come home from school. He'd yell, "Hellooo Am-bert (instead of Amber, a southern speech impediment)." She'd yell up to him, "Helloooo T-Man." My baby boy would throw his head back and laugh and laugh and begin the hello Am-bert all over again. So there are times when I call Amber, Ambert and remember my baby boy laughing and giggling from my bedroom window on a warm fall day in the south.Arriving home we put Amber in the backyard. The boys played and laid around with her while Doug headed off to get puppy supplies. Amber was our children's first dog. I have to say that Amber has been the most trainable dog Doug and I have ever had. She has a wonderfully sweet disposition. She does have a couple of annoying habits like peedling on the floor when she get excited or gets in trouble. And she barks incessantly at every non-family member, even the neighbor girl who is in and out of our house all summer long and is like a member of the family. Amber, like all my children has not lived without adventure and giving her mom gray hairs. Amber had lived with us for less than a month when we headed to FL for my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. We took Amber with us, stopping frequently at road side stops for potty and water breaks. Once we returned home we noticed that she kept scratching under her chin and she has some raw red bumpy patches so we took her to the vet. It turned out that our puppy was allergic to fleas. Who has ever heard of dogs being allergic to fleas!!!

Doug and I often took Amber for walks on the middle school track near our house. We'd drive to the track and walk. We'd take water bottles for us and a dish for her, so we could all have water breaks as we worked out. One day as she was getting into the van after our walk she gave a big yelp and whined a bit. When we got home we noticed that she was limping. Once again we were off to the vet. It turns out that she had torn her dew claw and needed surgery. When we picked her up she had a red cast and a long list of special instructions.Of course we wouldn't let a little thing like a cast keep us from our vacation. So off Amber went to Indiana with us on her second long distance trip. In the above picture she is riding in a horse drawn carriage with Doug.

When dad's away the kids tend to stretch mom's mental health to it's limit. When dad's away is really a whole other post, but Amber figures prominently in two of Doug's absences from the home. The first was in the fall 0f 2004. Doug was off at a conference and I came home from school with the kids to find Amber absent from our backyard. We quickly found her and I seemingly discovered her escape route by the gate and laid some pavers down across the gate entrance so she could not shimmy out from under the gate.

Well, when we returned home the next day she was gone again. This time we were hurrying to head out to soccer matches and I was more than a bit irritated that this dog had disappeared yet again. While I wandered around the neighborhood looking for the dog the kids were to get their soccer gear on amid tears. I came back empty handed, loaded the kids up and drove around more areas of the neighborhood looking again for the dog. No luck. So I took some teary eyed kids off to soccer. We returned home after the games and saw Amber walking down the sidewalk. We tearfully grabbed her, put her in the backyard, and watched her go to the back of the yard, jump on to the railroad tie retaining wall, walk across the wall into the neighbors unfenced yard and take off. The kids took off to capture her and Amber stayed indoors until Doug returned and we hired a company to put in an eight foot chain length section of fence.

Several years later Doug was again out of town and my daughter (the human one) decided to take Amber out back to play. Amber had a rope with a rope ball attached and Mimi would swing and throw the ball. In their playing Amber got struck in the face/eye with the rope ball. I hear hysterical gulping tears causing me to run outside to see what disaster had befallen my girls. I cannot understand my daughter and as I examine her from head to toe she is finally able to tell me she has hit Amber in the face and Amber's eye is bleeding. With these words, I thinking I'm going to be sick, but grab Amber and look at her face. It appears that her eye is red and scratched and her eyelid is torn. I get Amber inside and have T-Man hold her while I get down on my knees with a wet washcloth to examine her more carefully.

It turns out that Amber's eye appeared to be watery but O.K. and the her lower lid had been scraped. I get the dirt off of her and apply some antibiotic ointment of the human variety and call the vet's emergency number. He will see Amber at seven am the next day before school starts. With Amber and kids in tow we head to the vet's office. In my distressed state the vet suggests that I leave Amber for the day with him, take the kids to school, and go to work. He will call and update me later but he was sure she was fine. It turns out that Amber's eye did get scratched but with regular applications of an antibiotic eye gel she would be fine.

These accidents were beyond Amber's control and were somewhat related to human error but Amber has managed to create havoc all on her own.

While Amber was still in her first year of life Mimi and Doug were looking at Doug's 40th birthday album I had made for him. The 40th birthday album was a tradition that Doug's mother, Barb, had started. She made a photo album for each of her children, that highlighted their life, as a 40th birthday gift. Barb died before Doug's 40th birthday and his father asked me to make Doug's album. Doug's dad sent me photos, notes, report cards, and various id's from Doug's early year. Doug would sometimes pull the album out and the kids would gather round to muse over the pictures and hear his stories.After one such trip down memory lane, Doug put the album back on the shelf. It was sticking out just a bit from the other books and albums. Just enough that a bored puppy left indoor all day could sink her teeth into it. While we were all at school, Amber pulled out the album and chewed on every single page, creating enough damage that every page in the album had to be replaced. Luckily all but three or four pictures could be reproduced from negatives. It took me several years to let that anger go and remake Doug's album.

Along the chewing line, Amber and the cat (Salsa), somehow got Amber locked in the master bedroom. Amber pawed the door and wood flooring in front of the door, took big bites out of several pieces of my clothes and books. The only chewed piece of clothing I kept was a salmon color trench coat with bite marks on the cuff. (I wear it in the spring and keep thinking that one day I'll take it to a tailor and have that person make repairs to it.) When we got home from school Amber was whining in the bedroom and the cat was sheepishly sitting in the hall in from of the closed door.

Amber now an old gal of seven has mostly settled down. She hasn't chewed up anything that I know of, she doesn't escape from our yard, and her injuries are down to a minimum. She has gotten two new sister, my late in life twins. The babies adore her and drive her crazy. I am positive that Nova, our calico, thinks that Amber is her mother. I think that because the two have such similar coloring and Nova has attached herself to Amber more so than Nimbus, our white kitten. When Nova was just a few months old she could often be found curled up with Amber.
No matter how your children enter your life, they manage to touch your heart and fulfill you in ways you could never have imagined. Although I'm still not a dog lover, I do love my Am-Bear.

1 comment:

marciamayo said...

What a beautiful story about your furry child. You are right when you say that, if you and your children are going to look, just look, at an animal, that animal will be yours.