The house we moved into a couple of months ago has a big, beautiful orange tree in the backyard.
I know the oranges weren’t ripe when we first moved in because my daughter Bridget would compulsively pick them before running over to me–screaming “ORANGE PLEASE” like she was warning me about an impending Viking attack–until I peeled them.
After trying a wedge, I’d shudder from its sourness and so did Bridget, but she seemed to still enjoy it and would polish off the rest of the orange (between shivers) before demanding yet another one.
Well, it’s a couple of months later now and the oranges seem ripe. They’ve been dropping off the tree all over the place, hard enough to crack the peels.
Or so I thought. One day I noticed tiny pieces of orange peel all over the yard. Weird. Was Bridget peeling them when I wasn’t looking? Did she know how to peel oranges all along?
No. The mystery was solved the very next morning while I was taking a shower. Looking out the window after a bright flash caught my side-eye, I saw a squirrel sprint along one of our trees while carrying a massive orange in her arms.
When she found the perfect spot on a branch, her tiny squirrel hands frantically tore a hole into the orange. I swear she looked me dead in the eye as she was chewing on the orange and then I smiled at her, like that would mean something to a squirrel.
I wish I could’ve taken a picture, but it all happened very fast and I was in the shower at the time, so…
I’d seen that squirrel around before. I’ve decided to call her “Alice” and maybe she did end up recognizing my smile as a friendly gesture after all, because she stopped taking pains to cover up all her orange heists.
In fact, I caught her hosting an Orange Party the very next day. Four squirrels were munching oranges on our porch swing, throwing their peels on the ground. I swear they were even swinging a little, back and forth, while chowing down on a bunch of giant citrus balls, which is probably an awesomely good time in the squirrel world.
Or maybe not. Maybe the monotonous hours of counter-wiping and Lego patrol involved in watching kids all day has gotten to me… to the point where I’m having to invent social dramas about backyard wildlife.
But it works for me, so I was carefully crouching down and readying my phone to snap a picture of the orange-eating squirrels partying on our porch swing when my daughter Brontë walks up and says, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOMMA?”
Aaaaaaaand, the squirrels all ran away.
But on the bright side, when I told her I was trying to take pictures of the Squirrel Orange Party taking place in our yard, it made perfect sense to her. Because four-year-olds think that crouching to snap paparazzi photos of squirrel galas is a reasonable objective, so she fell all over herself apologizing for being so loud and promised not to compromise my mission in the future.
The squirrels left a huge pile of half-eaten oranges and peel dust behind. Many people would be really annoyed by this, but I’m a bit strange, sentimental, and probably a Druid deep down.
I started wondering if I could be friends with Alice. Maybe I could leave a trail of cashews along a little half-wall in our yard, slowly earning her trust with regular food offerings until she took them straight from my hand. Better than just wiping down more counters, right?
So I set up my lure and was happy to find Alice hanging out on the half-wall the next day. I snapped a photo, but wasn’t quick enough to capture what was going to happen next…
See, while I thought it would be cool to make friends with the squirrels in our yard, my lunatic dog Douglas was DEFINITELY not on board. He took one look at Alice shamelessly hanging out on our half-wall like the Whore of Babylon IN HIS FACE and tore off after her, barking doggy threats that I shudder to imagine.
She raced across the wall and gracefully leapt up to the high fence as he continued to promise grievous bodily harm the second he could reach her. She stood up on her hind legs and held a giant orange against her chest.
And then… I saw something amazing.
Alice pushed the orange away from her chest and spent a few moments aiming it just so before dropping it on the dog’s head.
She NAILED him. She made her escape as Douglas wobbled around, compulsively sneezing.
It was AWESOME. I had NO IDEA that squirrels could throw grenades. Sure, it happens in Open Season, but you don’t expect animals to measure up to their cartoon counterparts. They never wear clothes and have long discussions in real life.
But she did it and it WORKED. I was genuinely thrilled until I came back inside and found out my daughter Bridget had spent the last five unsupervised minutes opening up every banana in the house.
I hope we’ll be seeing Alice again, that she has enough grenade-lobbing pluck to show her face around this joint on the regular.
Have you ever done something that you thought was a SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA only to later see that same SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA as proof there’s something wrong with your brain?
See, we’ve been going through an extremely stressful few months around here trying to sell our house and buy one at the same time. Trying to bid with contingencies, spending ungodly amounts of money fixing up our yard to look more inviting and having to keep our stupidly white house with white carpets looking absolutely perfect, just in case strangers need to walk through and judge us.
And complicating this endeavor is the fact we’re raising two crazy toddlers in this stupidly white house. Look, toddlers are all a little crazy, but I suspect my toddlers are even crazier than most.
I have my reasons. Like, when I attended mamma-baby yoga classes with my kids, all the other babies were sleeping or playing quietly with their toys, whereas MY babies were either concocting complex schemes to rip off all the other babies’ toys or so wound up they were repeatedly smacking themselves into the wall mirrors while disrupting class with their shrieks.
My toddlers appear to have a death wish. I kept trying to rationalize this away, but after baby-proofing every room in our house, we kept seeing them think up endless ways to throw themselves off our loft or stack up enough furniture to remove lightbulbs so they could stick their fingers into the empty sockets.
You’d think they’d grow out of that nonsense as they got older, but l’appel du vide is only becoming more sophisticated. Just this morning, I caught Bridget dipping her TOOTHBRUSH into the toilet, then sucking the water out of it.
Since plummeting off the balcony didn’t work for her, she’s now clearly trying to contract some form of cholera.
Witnessing this, there first was horror. Then, uncomfortable curiosity about whether or not it was the first time. And finally, the painful realization that she grabs my husband’s toothbrush whenever she can get her hands on it…
Unwilling to fully process the implications, I piled the kids into the car to hit the library. We were nearly there when bloodcurdling screams exploded from the back seat, whereupon I turned around and saw this:
THAT’S RIGHT, SHE’S STRANGLING HERSELF WITH THE FRONT PASSENGER SIDE SEATBELT. It wasn’t actually tight enough to hurt her, but what an impressive effort. How have we all managed to survive??
And this kind of insanity; this type of gritty, single-minded focus on senseless destruction has been aimed at our white-carpeted house for the past four years. At any given moment, I get a text from our agent telling me someone wants to view our house within the hour, usually just after realizing my kids did something like not only bust into my lipstick selection but also the ten-pound bag of rice hidden in our pantry, because such an exciting combination of two new forms of artistic media couldn’t fail to be explored.
And as much as I’ve tried blaming our kids’ foolishness on my husband’s genes, I’m now forced to admit that mine may also be responsible. Because in the middle of all this house-swapping lunacy, some crazy mad scientist living deep in my brain decided:
“You know what? I don’t think this situation is nearly stressful enough. We should probably take everything up a notch by throwing a hysterical, house-shredding, not-potty-trained puppy into the mix.”
Yes, that was actually MY brain, surveying the landscape and determining how to proceed. Since the lipstick stains and rice everywhere hadn’t already broken me, I felt I needed a dog who’d shake every pillow in the house until feathers coated whatever clean space was left.
And you know what else? I don’t believe Douglas is a chihuahua mix. That’s what we were told by the sweet old lady handling him, but she’d pretty much gotten everything else about him wrong. She said he was six years old, but it turns out he’s 18 months. She said he was fixed, despite him clearly being intact.
I’m starting to wonder if she just assumed he was a chihuahua because most little dogs at shelters are (the bigger ones are Pit Bulls). Because since then, we’ve looked at photos of various dog breeds and he looks kind of EXACTLY like a Jack Russell terrier, which would explain the ridiculous amount of energy. It also means we busted straight past the beginner dog breeds to tackle the Advanced Calculus of challenging dog ownership.
We still love him, of course, despite the fact that Brontë is deeply dissatisfied and has already put in her order for a secondary dog. When we move, as she’s explained to us multiple times, we need to get what amounts to the EXACT OPPOSITE of Douglas: a giant, black, female dog named “Bella” with TWO ears that stick straight up.
You see, Douglas has one ear that sticks up and one that folds over. I think it’s adorable, but it’s driving Brontë nuts. She keeps trying to unfold the bendy ear in a fruitless attempt to set things right. Something about Douglas’s mismatched ears really tweaks her 4-year-old concept of predictable world order.
For me, those concepts are a tad bit more unhinged by errant pillow feathers settling into dog turds on our expensively-cleaned white carpet right before our 2-year-old with an angry colon tries to hang herself with the seatbelts in our car, but why should my personal definitions of domestic tranquility take precedence, right?
Yet tonight, just as I thought the whole crumbing chaotic universe was about to claim my very soul…
SOMEONE DECIDED TO BUY OUR HOUSE!
Hallelujah! It’s OVER.
Someone is buying our house and someone else accepted our offer on theirs. On the same night.
Everything is right again and all we need to do is move.
(And get a giant black female dog with TWO sticky-up ears so my 4-year-old can again feel the world is just and consistent.)
Everyone is beautiful and wonderful again and I wish you all a good night. I love you all.
So we’ve had Douglas the chihuahua/terrier/something for about a week now and I have to tell you, he’s driving me nuts.
Don’t get me wrong. He IS sweet and adorable and will cuddle up to you at night and really, really means well, but I’m having a rough time with his berserker dog energies.
I’m beyond certain this has something to do with me being a cat person.
I’m used to calm, clean kitties who like your approval but don’t NEED it, whereas Douglas goes into approval-seeking seizures so violent they’ve actually drawn blood. He wasn’t even trying to be mean… he just goes into such a licking, head-whipping frenzy that upon seeing me, he woodpeckers his face against my hands until his teeth accidentally break the skin.
And he has other problems, like:
He chews EVERYTHING. I have two kids under five, which means there’s a wave of toys constantly enveloping our house. I was hoping the threat of dog ingestion would help me train my kids to pick up after themselves, but so far, the dog keeps on crapping Legos and trying to wrestle Bridget’s blankies away.
He isn’t leash-trained. Approaching Douglas with a leash makes him instantly pee all over the floor. Then he stubbornly sits there while you pull at the leash until he’s choking and vomiting.
But if you remove the leash, he won’t respond to commands AT ALL. When I took Douglas and the girls out to get mail from the mailbox, the FIRST thing he did was run straight out into the street and into oncoming traffic. He not only didn’t flinch when we called his name, he bolted away from us for the next half hour while we tried to grab him.
When we let him inside, the first thing he does is find a sweet corner of the house to crap in. We tell him NO and put him back outside for a decent interval before bringing him back in. Then he instantly craps again, like he’d been holding it. He’s THE OPPOSITE of potty-trained. He WANTS to crap inside.
Despite all of his issues, there’s NO WAY we’re taking Douglas back to the shelter because that would break his little doggie heart. He truly loves us and was so happy to become part of our family that I just can’t do that to him.
But what to do…
The other night, it hit me: Brontë not only loves animals but, like many 4-year-old girls, she’s incredibly bossy. She bosses her little sister around all the time, tries to boss around John and me, and managed to train Frodo the Cat to stand up on command, just cause she was bored.
So, I turned to her while she was eating some graham crackers at the kitchen table. I told her in a very serious voice: “Brontë, I’m making you the Official Boss of the Dog.”
She stood up, nodded, and said, “I’m also the Boss of the Minnie Mouse blanket.”
“Yes you are. You are the Boss of Minnie Mouse and also the Boss of the Dog.”
How did I not instantly see it? Brontë’s hyper control needs and an out-of-control little dog is a match made in heaven. She even has infinite time on her hands.
And she’s been taking her duties very seriously. Everywhere I go, I’m hearing Brontë whip Douglas into shape:
“No, DOUG-LAS! People are NOT for biting. We are NOT DOG TOYS. Kissing us is an okay thing to do. You can kiss but you CANNOT BITE!”
“Douglas, you are NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH BARBIES. Here… you can play with your squeaky duck.”
“Douglas, STOP GIVING THE CATS MEAN LOOKS! Raj will smack you in the face and he will be RIGHT.”
“You do NOT poop in my room. Rooms are NOT for pooping! You can poop in the potty or outside because you are a dog but you do NOT poop in the living room or my room and you DO NOT poop next to Ariel because SHE IS A MERMAID.”
Okay, so maybe I set Brontë on the dog because I knew it would be funny and that would kind of help me deal with all the frustrations he’s caused, but I still think it’s a good plan. She seems to have the essential training idea down and I somehow think a four-year-old mind could maybe brain-hack a dog.