City Girl in the Country – With A New Puppy

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have a dog.  My parents had a variety of practical reasons, but none, in my young opinion, was convincing enough to justify an outright denial of this most basic childhood desire.

They did try to appease my strong proclivity for pets with a menagerie of city-friendly rodents, birds, and fish, including some very cool homing pigeons and a brief stint with a live turkey that was walked on a leash.  But my dog-desire never waned.

Before the ink dried on the P&S of my first home, I contacted a breeder who would fulfill my long-awaited dream of owning a dog.  The rest is history, as they say.  I haven’t been dog-less since.

Enter my newest friend, Ivy.

Ivy

Regular readers will recall that convincing Husband to step back into dog ownership after the loss of a previous one takes work.  He is understandably nervous about the responsibility and commitment involved – especially for a puppy.  But with four relentless voices in the house and a coup by some fellow dog-loving friends, Husband caved to the cutest Christmas present ever!

We arrived at the shelter as the doors opened, hoping for first dibs.  We narrowly succeeded.  As we stooped to greet our would-be pup, another interested party arrived and scooped her up, claiming “This is the one.”  Principessa jumped up from her seat on the floor with a sound that can only be described as a primal growl.  Her posture was so aggressive, her demeanor so intimidating, that for a moment, even I was afraid of her.  After several agonizing seconds of this stare-down, the woman conceded and set the pup down at a safe distance from my 17-year old daughter-turned-werewolf.

It was love at first sight…and bite.  Ivy is a nippy little thing at 10 weeks old.  She’s receiving an obscene amount of love, attention and training at the hands of five adoring fans.

We are, perhaps, a bit too alarmist in light of the sudden and tragic loss of our previous dog.  When husband spotted a tick on Ivy’s fur and mistakenly said ‘flea,’ the scene erupted like a ‘code 2319’ in Monsters Inc. when George had to be decontaminated because he had a sock stuck to his back.

Then we had the ‘bloody toenail’ that turned out to be a piece of candy cane.  And the undue panic over a pile of dog vomit.  What can I say?  We love her and want to protect her.  Any mother will attest to the very real and imagined dangers that lurk in the shadows of her mind, waiting to pounce on her baby when she lets her guard down.

This is exactly what happened when two neighboring Labradors broke loose and crossed the street.  In a split second, Ivy was scooped into the mouth of the bigger one and tossed into the air.  It was a frantic scene of paws and leashes, arms and legs, trying to separate the dogs.  Despite the worrisome howling and shaking, Ivy recovered without any wounds.  It will take her humans a bit longer to heal.

For better or for worse, Ivy is ours, and we couldn’t be happier.   Already, in one short week, she has wiggled her way into our hearts and filled our home with joy.  As dogs do, she gives far more than she takes, proving once again that the journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a dog.

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Self-loathing vs. Self-love

Body-dysmorphic-disorderBringing a scale into my house would be akin to loading the cupboards of a reformed alcoholic with vodka.  The temptation to feed my history of number addiction would be strong and may threaten to resurrect my teen obsession with weight-watching.

My Italian family, oddly enough, was fat-phobic.  They repeatedly cautioned against a genetic predisposition toward obesity whilst pushing heaping plates of pasta across the dinner table.  So I did the pseudo-anorexic thing, starving myself just enough to remain well-below the arbitrary threshold of acceptable body size.

As is typical of addictions, it began as a benign practice and was rationalized as a helpful and harmless avenue to my greater good.  But use became abuse and abuse led to addiction.  Addictions, no matter how long they’ve been held at bay, can challenge you with surprise attacks down the road.

I had just had an annual physical and discovered a 5-pound weight gain.  By default, my inner critic perked up in search of blame and shame.  It took some work to wrestle it to the ground.  The next day, when 17 year old Principessa asked for a scale for Christmas, I LOST IT.  Weight watching, in my experience, is like chasing your body with a stick in a threatening, ‘I’m going to beat you’ sort of way.  I’m not willing to support any product that promotes this unhealthy practice.

Self-aggression is epidemic, especially among girls and women.  Instead of looking into our hearts for the answer to the question, ‘Am I lovable?’ we ask the scale, or the pair of skinny jeans, or the fashion magazine.  Our preoccupation with comparison to unrealistic standards leaves us feeling bereft.

Recently, I stumbled across a photo of a young woman on social media who was quoted as saying, “I try not to hate my body.  I like my fingers, but the rest I’d change if I could.”  I wanted to jump into the post and hug her.  Poor dear.  She is playing the cut-and-paste game, trying to eliminate parts of herself in order to assemble her damaged idea of acceptable.  She has no idea how valuable she is.

I want to stop the madness.  I want to scoop up every girl in the world and MAKE her see her inherent goodness.  I want self-love to become the most popular phrase in her vocabulary.  But self-love is misunderstood.  Often it’s mistaken for vanity or is cast aside as a low priority.

Self-love can’t be over-emphasized.  It’s the key to inner peace.  If we care for ourselves and protect ourselves with compassion, we thrive.  It really is that simple.  If our motivation to eat, exercise, work, play and rest is prompted by our love for our bodies, not hate, we make good choices.

Thus far, I’ve been successful in protecting my daughters from the black hole of body dysmorphia.  We focus on function of the body instead of form.  Health consciousness is king.  But I am ever on-guard because I’ve been to that dark place and know that if you step close, it will suck you in.

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