Post Traumatic Stress


Hello, my name is Finn. I would like to lick your feet, eat some sticks and poop on your floor. 

I have a new baby in the house. As such, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn, adhering to feeding and pooping schedules and wearing a lot of sweatpants. I’ve also been struggling with that sense of isolation that only someone who’s been trapped in their house with a helpless creature – day after endless day – could ever understand. On the bright side, no one is trying to latch onto my nipples and make them bleed.

In the almost three weeks since I brought an 8-week-old puppy home, I’ve re-learned a very valuable lesson: keeping babies alive is a pain in the ass.

This goes for the two-legged variety as well. I’ve been reminded how hard it was when the kids were little – feeding them, cleaning them, putting them to bed, singing, dancing, drawing, talking, swinging, wiping, oh all that wiping – tables, hands, faces, butts. I’d forgotten, in all my romanticizing of the early years with my children, just how relentless it all was. There was always another chicken nugget to cook, diaper to change, dance lesson to load everyone in the car to drive to. There is something to be said for having children old enough to heat up their own pizza bagels and then disappear for the night to watch Netflix.

Having this puppy — a situation akin to having an 18-month-old careening drunkenly around my kitchen without diapers – also ushers militant scheduling and containment back into my life. Things that have been missing for a while. Let it be known that I am really good at the latter; when my children were young I was all about confinement and embraced playpens in my house and on the beach and when they needed a little more room, I’d set up a big play yard in the TV room. Now we have a baby gate at each of the three doorways into my kitchen and a play yard filled with toys and his blankie for when I can’t keep my eye on our pup because, apparently, that’s the perfect milisecond to squat and pee on the floor. He should be that speedy when we’re standing outside in the rain.


My new baby – I mean puppy – also requires me to be pretty faithful to a schedule and just ask the ladies I work with at Athleta, I am not always amazing at that. Sometimes I forget to show up for a shift and once I was folding leggings for an hour before someone realized I wasn’t even on the schedule for that day. Caring for infants was similarly haphazard. I mean, I never forgot to feed them or anything terrible, but I’d have a hard time remembering the last time I nursed someone or when they last slept. Maybe it’s just my powers of observation aren’t that sharp. Like, I often wished babies came with LCD screens on their foreheads that would display helpful messages like “HUNGRY” or “HAS 10 POUNDS OF URINE IN DIAPER” to help me figure out why they were crying.

Another thing I’ve been reminded of is that I’m really good at is letting someone cry it out. In fact – as long as I know all their needs have been met – I don’t even hear the weeping after a while. When I stick him in his playpen, the puppy will give it his all for about five minutes – he’ll throw in a little howling for good measure – then he’ll downgrade the session to some whimpering before lying down and resigning himself to his fate. I’ve had people fall on the floor and weep at Target when I refused to buy a Bionicle, so I can easily wait out three minutes of crying coming from a playpen in my kitchen. My children on the other hand can barely take 30 seconds of the charade. They try to shush him or tell him it’s “okay.” Sometimes they even pick him up and cuddle him. Suckers.

I knew what I was getting into with the pup. Or at least, I thought I knew. Like, I figured I’d be responsible for the bulk of his upkeep, but not all of it. I figured, since the children were so incredibly hot for me to get a dog, they’d do their share of standing outside with him at 6 a.m. watching him chew a stick rather than tinkle. But therein lies the rub: the kids were excited for ME to get a dog. Not really US. And so lately, I’ve also been harboring a teensy bit of rage, another feeling I haven’t really felt in a while. It’s like a big ball of resentment festering in my chest and waiting to pounce at the slightest invitation. I mean, it could have something to do with this whole menopause thing, too, as all my estrogen is running out faster than red wine at book club.


It’s similar to how trapped I often felt when the kids were small and I was home with them full time. Their dad could come and go as he wanted but the children were always my problem. I think it’s that way for most women, really, whether or not they work and even in the best of marriages. Meal planning. Earaches. Permission slips. Dentist appointments. These things all tend to fall under a mother’s purview while the dads remain blissfully unaware of all the moving parts that make the family machine run.

It’s probably why I resisted getting a new dog after our very fine dog died five years ago. It was nice having one less thing depend on me. I mean, even though my actual children are older now – some of them even commute and pay income taxes – they still need me. They call me when they’re feeling blue or when good news comes their way. And I’m still teaching them things, like “What are taxes?” and “How the U.S. Postal System Works” (SIDEBAR: a few years ago my son texted me FROM COLLEGE in Virginia to ask if he needed to use a stamp to mail something to Ohio).

I still badger them to get make dentist appointments or to get weird foot things looked at by someone other than me. And with a 14yo, I’m trying to figure out how to set parameters around that magic computer he keeps in his pocket plus I still have another round of high school to get through. Pray for me.

I worry about their jobs; whether they’ll fall in love and have healthy relationships; that they’ll find happiness no matter whom they’re with or what they do. Honestly, when I was so hot to have four kids all those years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Maybe none of us do.

This I do know: I wouldn’t change any of it. Because it is all hard, hard work, raising puppies and babies, but the payoff is what keeps pulling us back in. It’s how we find ourselves back at a breeder or in the delivery room. Waking up at all hours. Loving someone even when they’ve done something less-than-lovable. It’s the little hands on your cheeks pulling you in for a kiss; the pup asleep at your feet; the teenager who holds your hand when it’s your turn to get a shot.

So what is the alternative? Being alone? That might work for some but I guess not for me. I’ve learned that I need to be a part of a tribe, and there’s always room for one more. Provided he doesn’t poop on my floor.

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Poop Happens

IMG_0063Today I would like to talk about poop.

Specifically, I would like to discuss animal poop, and even more specifically: my feelings about cat poop.

Because even though I’ve been a reluctant cat owner for, like, four years or something, I still haven’t been able to get a handle on all the poop she makes and just the whole kitty litter box thing in general.

It’s gross.

And right now, it’s become my fucking problem since her real mother—my oldest daughter who carried on about keeping it when we found the half-dead cat in our garage one snowy night—is away at school, leaving me to deal with the little turds that pile up in a plastic box on a daily basis in our upstairs bathroom.

Again, gross.

And then there’s all the litter she kicks up onto the tiled floor after she’s done her business. One of my kids actually refuses to use that bathroom – dubbed the “kids’ bathroom” – because of the specks of grey litter scattered across the floor, and uses my bathroom instead.

In fact, since the litter box was set up in the kids’ bathroom a few years ago, no one really uses that latrine any more. I often come upstairs to use my own bathroom to find the door locked, Z100 blaring on the portable radio next to the sink while my 11 year old stands in the shower for 20 minutes before exiting sans soap or shampoo and leaving a towel on the floor in his wake.

And then there’s my concern about all that weird dust that gets stirred up while I’m scooping things out of said plastic box. The lavender-scented dust floats in the air right in front of my face, which I thus inhale, and I am convinced the matter will be the cause a decade from now of my mesothelioma diagnosis.

How can this be good for my lungs?

What I’d like to know is: how do people have more than one cat?  I can’t even imagine the type of waste maintenance involved in such an endeavor. One of my daughter’s friends recently mentioned his family had four cats and all I could think was, “How does that even work?” I can’t even go there.

I didn’t really grow up with cats, I mean, my mom had acquired one while I was away at college, but I was never involved in any of her upkeep and so still don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing with mine.

But I am no stranger to poop.

Cleaning the litter box is a good reminder of my desire to get off the waste management crew around here for a while. Between the four kids, two now-gone large dogs and the ever-present kitty cat, I have been dealing with other creatures’ poop for two decades. Oh, and let’s not forget the guinea pig, mice, numerous fish and two hermit crabs I’ve cleaned up after – or yelled at people to clean up after – along the way. (Wait, do hermit crabs poop? I don’t remember.)

My ex-husband actually dealt with a lot of the dog poop over the years, so I have to give him that. He’d dutifully walk our first dog to the dog park in Hoboken early in the morning and again after work to do his business and later, he’d go out into the backyard to pick up all the giant piles left by our giant dog.

He also helped out with our kids’ poop management but I probably handled the bulk of the diaper changing. The accidental poops in big boy and girl panties. The poops I’d find floating in the tub after my toddler would sit down and the water acted like a giant enema, freeing waste from little bowels.

When my ex moved out, our golden retriever Rudy was so traumatized by the split he started bypassing the backyard and just pooping on the family room carpet. Super, totally disgusting. The vet actually suggested putting the guy on anti-depressants to help him cope.

Please, I was upset, too, but you didn’t see me pooping on his dog bed. Then again, dogs can’t drink wine.

Aside from the fact that he pooped, that golden was a pretty amazing dog and I miss having him constantly underfoot. At the time though, it drove me crazy when I found all 90 pounds of him stuffed under my desk while I worked or jammed under the kitchen stool while I drank my morning coffee. But he made for excellent company and only needed a scratch on the head in return for his allegiance.

Rudy would shove himself under my desk while I worked rather than stretching out on his giant bed about five feet away.

Rudy would shove himself under my desk while I worked rather than stretching out on his giant bed about five feet away.

It gets tempting when I hear that someone just got a new puppy or see some sad Facebook post about a mutt looking for a forever home, but then I remember all the poop and hold my ground.

I went out with a girlfriend Saturday night who I spent many mornings with walking through wooded trails or along sandy beachfronts while our two dogs raced joyously ahead, free of leashes and fences. They’d always loop back around to check in with us, looking up with great big smiles on their furry faces before taking off again through the brush.

My girlfriend lost her guy not long ago and already has a new dog – albeit an old rescue mutt – to keep her company. “I can’t believe you haven’t gotten another dog,” she said to me over glasses of Chardonnay.

“Well,” I said, “I still have a pet.”

She may not be the most playful creature and her idea of hanging out consists of sitting five feet away and staring at me, but my cat somehow fills the void left when we had to put Rudy down almost two years ago. She’s not exactly fun but I get a kick out of her and she’s enough of a pet right now.

And at least her poops are a lot smaller.