Monday, December 27, 2010

Hey batter batter!!

When Shane was about a year old, I left my wonderful job at the Grand Traverse Resort.  I didn't really want to leave, but I also didn't feel like I had a choice.  My hours would often stretch to 60 or more per week, and the boys were in day care for much of that.  Matt was working nights as a bartender, and that helped with the child care situation.

But there came a day when Matt wanted to go back to his chosen profession.  Matt was a chef by trade, and a very VERY talented one.  But the problem was, with every executive chef position Matt held in our married life, it never lasted more than 6 months.  So when Matt told me he was interviewing for an executive chef position at a golf course over an hour away, I was apprehensive.  Then when he got the position, I was panicked.  With the hours that he was working, plus the drive time, plus the hours I had to work... the kids would spend all of their time in daycare.  So after much discussion, I decided to quit my job.  I would have preferred not to, because I was making very good money and had great benefits.  But I also felt that it was time for Matt to step up to the plate, and try to support us.  I was hoping this time, it would last.

So I quit my job.  I did start a home business making jewelry and selling at art fairs, but for those first few months after leaving the resort, I just enjoyed the boys.  It was summer in northern Michigan, we spent a lot of time at the beach or at the neighborhood pool.  We also spent a lot of time playing outside in the back yard.

There were several kids in the neighborhood now.  Heather lived behind me, Jill was next door, and Heathers step brother Robert had just moved in to live with his dad.  Our corner of the neighborhood had become very close knit.  We are constantly getting together for anything and everything.  And all of the older kids loved to come to my house because of the boys and because of Magnum.  Heather and Jill would come over just to play with the boys or play ball with Magnum in the back yard.

I had bought a tee ball set for JR that summer.  He was five years old, and thought it was great fun!  He would hit the ball and Magnum would bring it back for him.  They would play like that for hours.  Well, after a few weeks, this game between a boy and his dog attracted the attention of the older kids in the neighborhood.  Tee-ball became a nightly ritual.  And it was all the kids versus Magnum.

The rules were simple.  Magnum was always the infield.  The kids took turns hitting the ball and running bases.  If they hit the ball, and Magnum brought it back to the tee before they ran around the bases, then they were out.  If they circled the bases before Magnum brought it back, then they scored.  The kids would play this for hours, and rarely score.... even if they hit it in the woods next to the house.  Magnum always found the ball and brought it back!

Eventually the game became so popular that some of the neighbors would bring lawn chairs over just to watch.  We would sit and watch, have a couple beers, and enjoy the summer evenings.  Magnum loved the attention, and we loved to see him get it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baby's first words

Shane and Magnum - June 2010

Every mother imagines their baby's first words.  "Mama"

Not my baby.

Nor was I the object of my baby's attention.  No, Shane was not an ordinary baby.  Shane loved me.  But he loved me second.  The object of my baby's attention, affection... my baby's security blanket... was not me.  Nor was it my husband, or my older son.  Nope.  Shane's little baby world revolved around one thing.  Magnum.

From the moment Magnum first saw Shane, the feeling was mutual.  I have never seen a bond between a baby and a dog, like theirs.  Magnum was never more than a few feet from Shane.  He slept when Shane slept and sat vigil when Shane was awake.  And if Magnum dared to wander away from Shane while he was napping, Shane was wake up with a jolt and a scream.  It was like they were connected on so many more levels than the average boy and his dog.

As the months rolled on, and Shane started talking his baby talk more, I anxiously awaited the first "real" words.  He spent hours conversing with Magnum with his baby words, and Magnum listened patiently.  Shane would press his sticky fingers into Magnums eyes and nostrils, and the poor dog never flinched.  They were a pair obsessed with each other, so I shouldn't have been surprised the day that I heard those first words.


No.. not MAMA,  not DADA.... It was DAWGDAWG.

And Magnum answered to it.  The pure joy in that labradors eyes when he heard "dawgdawg" that first time, was priceless.  His puppy could talk!

I really couldn't tell you when Shane finally said "mama".  It didn't really matter.  His first word was dog.  Or more precisely "dawgdawg"  And not too much later, when I would hear Shane call his dog, it usually meant mischief.

One day, while toddling around in the kitchen, Shane spied something on the kitchen counter that he wanted.  I don't remember exactly what it was, but I remember pushing it a little further back on the counter to stay out of his reach.  He gave me this look that seemed to challenge me.  He wanted it, and he would get it.  "DAWGDAWG!!", he yelled.  Of course Magnum wasn't too far away, and reached Shane immediately.  Shane pointed to the floor... and Magnum layed down, right in front of the counter.  With a grin, Shane climbed up on Magnums back, tiny toes dug into his warm brown fur.  And what do you know?  That object was no problem for the toddler now!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The battle of the buoy

Labradors love water, and Magnum was no exception.  In fact, water was the reason for his existence.  He could chase a ball or a stick for hours in the water.  At one time, he spotted Matt across Arbutus Lake in his little fishing boat, and swam right out to the boat, and proceeded to follow it until Matt brought him back to shore.  I was laughing so hard, seeing Matt's agitated expression.  "Can you keep YOUR dog on a leash please?  How the hell am I going to catch anything with him following me like that?"

About a month after Shane was born, we decided to go on a family outing.  It was a warm day in the middle of May.  I packed some snacks for JR and a couple bottles for Shane.  We decided to take a drive up the peninsula because we thought the cherry trees would be blossoming.

We arrived at Haserot Beach a mere 40 minutes later.  I pulled the kids out of the car, while Matt let Magnum out of the back of the pickup.  Today we were planning on letting Magnum have a good spring swim, so we were extra prepared with some tennis balls and a tennis racket.

Magnum dashed right into the water and the turned to face us with an expression on his face that said "Come on guys, let one rip!"  So that is exactly what Matt did.  Matt sent those tennis balls out over and over, while JR played in the sand, and I just watched holding my new baby.  Magnum was having a blast.  He was relentless energy, and absolutely amazing to watch.

We were laughing as Matt hit one last tennis ball, maybe a little harder than the ones before.  This tennis ball went further out and hit a buoy.  I remember distinctly watching as the ball hit the buoy and bounced to the right of it.  Magnum swam straight out, and instead of going for the ball he grabbed the buoy.  He wanted to bring the buoy in!

At first it was funny, and kind of cute.  But Magnum wouldn't give up, and you could start to hear his labored breathing on the beach.  I started to panic, and debated swimming out to him.  "It's too cold, Les, you just can't go out there", Matt told me.

"We have to do something, he won't give up.  I know him.  He won't leave it alone!"

The minutes ticked by like hours, and I had to hand Shane to Matt because I was starting to cry.  JR was already crying on the beach, obviously sensing my emotions.  Suddenly a man ran up to us, and said that he was going to get his canoe.  Where did he come from?  I think I was nodding as I saw him run to a house that was next to the public beach.

I kept screaming for Magnum to come back.  "Please Magnum.... come on!   Come!  MAGNUM!"

It must have been about 15 minutes that he struggled with the buoy.  And I could tell he was actually moving it ever so slightly.  But somehow my last frantic cry for him got his attention.  He looked at me!  Then he started to swim towards the shore.  I was so relieved!  He swam halfway back, and then circled back toward the buoy.

"NO!  MAGNUM COME NOW!"  I think that command would have stopped Hitler in his tracks.

Oh thank god, he turned back around and headed towards the shore.  When he finally reached me he collapsed.  The poor thing, he was shaking so bad!  I ran to the truck and grabbed a couple towels and then ran back to my dog to try to dry him off as much as possible.  He was shivering and cold, but he was alive!  JR and I hugged him so hard.

"Let's warm up the truck", I said to Matt.

"He's riding in the back.  I don't want the inside of the truck to smell like wet dog."

I just stared at Matt.  He said that so matter of fact, so heartless.  But he said it in a way, that I knew no matter how much I would argue, I would never win.  "Fine, then lets get home quickly."

We did get home quickly, I will give Matt credit for that.  I got Magnum and the kids in the house, and made sure everyone was warm enough.  In fact when Matt left for work that night, I destinctly remember JR, Magnum, and me cuddled together on the couch under blankets.  He was still a pretty wet dog at that point, but all I cared about was that he was a warm wet dog.

And along comes a baby....

Toward the end of the summer of 2009 I found out I was pregnant.  I wasn't really sure how I felt about it, because the situation between my husband and I was tenuous at best.  Maybe this baby will make things better? I was 26 years old, and still unsure of my place in life.  And in hindsight, that was a very dumb place to be.  I was 26 years old, with an excellent job (now at the Grand Traverse Resort), I owned my own home, and had one awesome child already.  But I was full of insecurity, because I chose to listen to my husband more than I would listen to myself.  He was a 36 year old man, with a part time job, who bragged about how he married someone younger so he could retire early and I could support him.

My pregnancy was not easy.  I was sick, I was huge, and I was miserable.  Matt was a bartender and worked late nights, and I spent many of those crying into Magnums fur wondering how I got myself into all of this.  In February of 2000, about two month before I was due, I went into early labor and was put on bed rest.  I was supposed to have help at home, but Matt found more and more excuses to be away.  My bed rest consisted of trying to contain a three year old boy and young dog.... all while staying in bed?

Thankfully at the time, some new neighbors moved in.  Heather, a 10 year old girl, and her parents moved in behind me.  Heather wandered over one day, and met Joe and Magnum.  Thank god for her!  She walked Magnum for me after school, and she would play with Joe.  I couldn't really leave to meet her parents, but I thanked god everyday that she found us.

Finally, after two months of early labor, Shane Alexander was born eight days late on April 9, 2000.  I tried to do all the right things to introduce the new baby to the dog.  The first day, I sent Matt home with the baby hat the the nurse put on Shane when he was born so Magnum could get used to the smell.  When we brought him home, Magnum was intensely curious, but never once jumped or tried to lick him.  I sat in bed nursing him, and Magnum just stared at me from the foot of the bed, sizing him up it seemed.  Then when Shane fell asleep in my arms, I got up and set him down in the bassinette next to my bed.  I gave Magnum a quick pat on the head and said, "This is your baby, too."

Matt and his mom were in the kitchen making dinner, so I went to the kitchen table and sat down.  We chatted for awhile, and then I realized Magnum was nowhere to be found.  Magnum was anywhere if there was food.  I got worried and jumped up and quickly walked back into the bedroom.

There was Magnum... his head rested against the side of the bassinette, watching Shane sleeping.  He glanced at me when I walked in, as if to say, "I got this"  He agreed with me.  This was his baby.  This was his job.  He never left Shanes side after that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sleepwalker alert

When Joe, back then known as JR, was little, he was a terrible sleepwalker.  I used to deadbolt the front door and have to make sure all toilet seat lids were down.  When we would visit my moms house, I was especially nervous because there was a full flight if stairs.  More than once, while visiting, I would wake up in the morning to find Joe laying in the middle of the living room floor.  I was told that he would grow out of it, but it was nerve racking none the less!

Shortly after Magnum became part of our lives, he started to really become aware of the little things that went on around the house.  And while I crated Magnum during the day while we were at work, I never crated him at night.  I always wanted him to snuggle in bed with me.  It rarely happened... he would sometimes give me about fifteen minutes before moving on to a more important member of the family.  JR.

If Magnum didn't sleep in bed with JR, he slept in his room near the bed. As one can imagine, the nasty sleepwalking habit would disrupt the poor dogs sleep.  So Magnum must have realized that this little boy shouldn't be wandering around the house in the middle of the night.

I started to wake up to my hand or my nose being licked, followed my some short whining and him standing at the door waiting for me to get up.  Of course, the first few times this happened, I didn't know that this crazy hyper dog was trying to tell me something.  So he would repeat his actions.  Then I would be annoyed because I thought he needed to outside and go potty.  That is when I would try to wake up my husband to take him out.  "It's your dog", he would say before he would roll over and go back to sleep.

Finally I got up, swearing quietly under my breath.  I walked around the bed, and realized Magnum was getting really impatient with me.  I followed him out of the bedroom... and instead of running to front door, he ran to the other side of the house towards JR's bedroom.  Shaking my head, I followed him.  He stood at the bathroom door near the other bedroom and quietly barked.  Confused I walked in to the bathroom to see what he was barking at.... and saw nothing.  He barked again, and grabbed the shower curtain with his teeth. I pulled the shower curtain open to find my tiny little three year old boy sound asleep in the bathtub.

Thanks Magnum!

Adventure in Sault Ste Marie

A couple months before I was pregnant, we decided to go on a short little family vacation.  Matt, JR, Magnum and I decided to take a trip up north.  We already live in northern Michigan, so going up north generally means the upper penninsula.  Family trips are usually pretty stressful for me.  I am a planner.  I like to go places with a destination, and even a hotel reservation, in mind.  So when travelling with Matt, all plans went out of the window.  Matt never knew the meaning of plans.... which at times, I will admit, could be fun.  But when travelling with a dog and a small child, no plans usually meant disaster.

Our trip took us three hours north, across the Mackinac Bridge, to Sault Ste Marie.  I was pushing to go to Taquamenon Falls, but Matt had the urge to hit the casino.  At this time in our marriage, I usually would sit and stew in silence.  It was pointless to fight.  If I disagreed or argued, it would usually lead to a fight and name calling.  Not something I wanted to do in car with my three year old son in the back seat.  I did have to ask one question though.  "Does the casino hotel allow dogs?"

"I don't know... it doesn't matter.  We can leave Magnum in the truck,"

"WHAT??"  I may have shrieked that.  I don't really remember.  "How are we going to leave him in the truck all night?"

"He can stay in the back.  I will lock the capper, and crack the windows."

It didn't seem right.  I mean, first of all a small child can't go to the casino.  And the dog can't go to the casino.  So why do we have to go to the casino?  But I didn't want to fight.  I would have to make it work.  

We secured Magnum in the back of the truck.  I left a bowl of food and a bowl of water in the back, as well as made a bed for him with some towels.  Matt cracked the windows.  I gave Mags some kisses, hugged him, and said we would be back in the morning.  It was probably around 8pm.  It was hard to ignore his whining and barking as we walked away from the truck that night.  

Matt and I took turns watching JR in the room, while the other one went to play in the casino that night.  Matt won $1200 on a Lucky 7's machines, and that made things a little better between us.  It was late when I finally fell asleep, with JR curled up in my arms.  Matt was still in the casino.  I was tired, so I didn't care.

The next morning, I woke up with JR.  I had to urge Matt to get out of bed, I assumed he had been drinking but that wasn't my problem.  I needed him to go check on Magnum, it was almost 8am.  Twelve hours in the truck was not going to be a good scene.  After 15 minutes of prodding, he finally got up.  But at that point, I figured I might as well go check on Magnum myself.  I told Matt to take JR, check out of the room, and I would meet him at the truck.  

I walked out to the bright morning sun in the parking lot, hearing a dog barking playfully.  I saw the valet guys outside of their booth, and watched one throw a tennis ball.  Then I watched a beautiful young chocolate lab race after the ball.  That dog looks just like my dog, I thought as I started toward the truck.  Wait?  That was my dog!  I turned around and ran straight to the valet booth.  "Hey, I think that is my dog!" I yelled as I was running.  The three guys turned to look at me.... the lab raced past them and jumped into my arms.  What the hell just happened?  How did he get out of the truck?  Did they let him out?

After talking with the men, they told me that around 4am they found Magnum wandering around the parking lot.  They said he was such a sweet dog, that they figured he wasn't a stray.  They played with him all morning, hoping someone would claim him.  If no one claimed him, they would have had to take him to the pound.  Thank goodness I came out when I did!  From the damage to the inside of the capper on the truck, it appeared that Magnum tore the screen out of the window, pushed it open wider, and then jumped out.  This was after he threw his food and water bowls all over the truck bed.  Magnum was not going to separated from us willingly.... he made that loud and clear on our first vacation.

The first few months...

The first few months with Magnum were not fun.  In fact, there were many days I was tempted to "accidentally" leave a door open so he would just go away!  He was hyper beyond belief.  If he wasn't jumping on me, he was chasing or knocking JR, my two year old son, over.  He chewed on everything, too.  I had a beautiful brown leather Brighton purse, he decided to chew the straps right off of it.  He loved remote controls, too.  He must have eaten, destroyed, whatever... at least five remote controls!

As much as I couldn't stand him at the time, I did love him.  And if he destroyed something, I always prayed that I would be the one who found it, and not Matt.  Just like our parenting views, our dog parenting was vastly different as well.  If I came home to the destruction, Magnum would get his nose rubbed in it, with a stern "bad dog".... and no positive attention would be given to him for awhile.  But if Matt came home to it, the poor dog would get kicked and punched.  Matt's treatment towards Magnum was abusive to say the least.  But I tried to protect him as much as possible, and finally Matt gave up on him.  "He's your dog, you deal with it", became his phrase.  That was music to my ears!

Magnum was an AKC registered Labrador.  And in those first few months, I actually took him to a dog show.  We placed second in conformation in the puppy class.  I was really excited, but realized that being a dog show kind of person was just not for me.  Magnum was a family dog.

He was still a crazy, hyper dog for most of the first summer.  Then one day, suddenly, he stopped jumping on me.  He would follow me and whine.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.  Friends would come over, and he would go crazy with them.  But suddenly his attitude towards me changed.  About a month after this sudden change, I realized I was pregnant.  Did Magnum sense that I was pregnant so much sooner than I did?  He must have!

December 23, 1998

I called my husband to tell him I was heading home.  I worked for a chain of stores, and I was in Mackinaw City that day.  "Well, get here as soon as you can, okay?" he said.  I rolled my eyes, it was a two hour drive home, and he knew it.  "When you get home we need to go pick up your christmas present."

Matt, my husband, and I were recently back together after a separation.  We had been married for a little less than three years, and had a two year old son.  He was pretty unpredictable, so who knew what he was planning.   As I drove home that day, I kept trying to figure out what this christmas present could be.

When I pulled into the driveway, he was outside waiting for me.  "Ready?"

"Umm.... I guess," I responded.  Confused.  "What about JR?"

"Mom will watch him."

Matt's mom was visiting from Saline, MI.  She came and stayed with us pretty often.

Matt and I hopped in his truck and headed out.  "Where are we going?" I asked.

"Irons",  he said.

Where the hell was Irons?  I grabbed the map, and realized it was going to take over an hour to get there.  I was pretty annoyed at this point,  Didn't I do enough driving today?  I kept asking questions, trying to figure out what this "christmas gift"was going to be.  Eventually, after dark, we arrived at a log cottage.  I was really confused by now.

"Wait here", he said, and got out of the truck.  I watched as he went to the door and knocked.  An older blonde lady opened the door and they chatted for a bit.  He pointed to the truck, and she waved at me to come in.  What the hell is going on?  I was really annoyed at this point.

I got out, and trudged through the snow to the front porch of the cottage.  As I got to the door, the lady greeted me warmly and introduced herself as Kay.  She invited us in, and I was immediately greeted by the prettiest female chocolate lab.  "This is their mom", she said.

Their mom?  I looked at Matt, finally understanding.  A PUPPY??  She led us down a hallway into a room with a penned area, where two large chocolate lab puppies were playing.  "I just have the two boys left."

I sat and played with both puppies, while Matt and Kay chatted.  After about fifteen minutes, they both looked at me.  "Which one?", Matt asked.

There was one that seemed crazy, climbing all over me, interested in everything.  Then the other one was so sweet and mellow.  I picked up the sweet and mellow one.  "This one."

"No... I want the other one.  We will take him", Matt said.  I tried to argue, but he wasn't going to listen to me.  And I didn't push it, because either way I was getting a dog and that did make me happy.  "Hey Les, did you bring the check book?"

Great... I get to write the check for my christmas present too!

We drove home with a very squirmy three month old chocolate lab puppy bouncing back and forth between us.  Luckily, we got back into town just before 9pm, so we were able to breeze through Petsmart to pick up some puppy basics.  And the entire time we went back and forth on names for the little guy...who really wasn't so little.  Just as we pulled into the driveway, I came up with the perfect name.  I looked at Matt and said, "His name is Magnum."  And for a three month old, 35 pound "puppy".... it really was perfect.