I got a dog. Maybe.

March 4, 2016

I had expected to write an excited posted filled with happy stories and cute dog photos. Instead, I’m caught in a limbo, unsure what to do.

I’ve wanted a dog for ages. I grew up with a dog and I’ve always loved dogs. In my 20s I 2016-03-01 18.55.33worked and traveled too much for a dog. I wasn’t ready for the responsibility. In my early 30s my health was too bad for a dog. Then last year, I was talking to a friend for the millionth time about how much I wanted a dog, but that I couldn’t manage all of the walks. She pointed out that I could litter train a dog.

Suddenly, getting a dog seemed feasible. I could walk her once a day and play with her indoors for exercise and have her use the litter the rest of the time. This could totally work. I’d have a lovely companion. A furbaby. Someone to love and someone to love me. I could finally get my dog!

After a ridiculous amount of thinking and over analyzing, checking with doctors and working out logistics with my landlord, then recovering from my foot accident, it was finally time. I sent out several applications. And then the call came: my application was being processed for a little cutie named Roxanne!

Roxanne is a darling. She is sweet and beautiful. She’s housebroken, so in some ways she’s a lot less work at this stage than I expected. She’s got big ears and lovely markings and a tail that’s almost always wagging. Right now, she’s sitting in my lap.

And I don’t know if I’m going to keep her.

If the rescue agency had said the adoption was final, maybe I’d have a different mindset. I’ll never know. Instead, they said this was a foster-to-adopt. I had 2 weeks to decide. After two weeks, I could return her to her last foster home and get almost all of my money back. I shrugged it off when they said that; of course this was permanent! But now I’m not so sure….

Even in the first days, I had doubts. I tried to ignore them. I decided to try the fake-it-til-I-make-it approach. I emailed my loved ones about the adoption. I posted on Facebook. It wasn’t quite working. I was overwhelmed and exhausted and not sure if she was really going to be mine. I posted a more hesitant teaser on this blog. My parents visited to see if they could offer some insight. I spoke to friends with dogs. I talked to her new vet.

And I still don’t know what to do.

At first, I felt like she was too hyper. But that was mostly her acting out as she adjusted to a new place, combined with me not handling it in the best way. Really, she’s so great, there’s nothing particularly “wrong” with her. I just wonder if I can really fit Roxanne into my life.

I had a good thing going. But it was tenuous at best. I was starting to do some paid work, but I was having trouble finding time and energy for it. I was hoping to even start dating again soon, but there was no time or energy for that. My health was doing ok, but I wasn’t doing my exercises consistently. Still, it was going pretty well overall.

I want to give Roxanne back, but I’m not entirely sure why.

If I want to give her back because I don’t think I can fit her into my life without giving up something I shouldn’t (like paid work or physical therapy), then I have to give her back. But if I want to give her back because I got used to having no responsibilities, that’s not a good enough reason. If I want to give her back because I’m scared of the unknown, that’s not a good enough reason.

I used to make changes in my life. A lot of them. I changed cities. I changed jobs. I traveled. Now, I haven’t been on an airplane in 5 years. I’ve been in the same apartment for 10 years. I haven’t been working. My life has been fairly stable. I think stability can be good. I need it to a certain extent. But it can make me complacent. Roxanne would definitely change things up, and maybe that’s the part that’s scaring me. In a life where chronic illness takes away my sense of having any control at all over my life, that stability gave me a small measure of control that I could hold on to. Am I ready to rock that boat?

Or maybe I just didn’t fully understand just how much work a dog would be, and it’s too much for me.

I would love any and all thoughts, advice, and tips you can offer! Please comment below. Do you have a dog? How do you balance dog care with chronic illness? Do you feel that you shy away from new things because you’ve become set in your ways? Really, please share anything you think of. Maybe it will help me.

Right now I’m leaning towards giving Roxanne back. I’m not sure if I can manage having her. But this would also mean giving up on my dream of dog ownership, at least for now (maybe down the road I’d feel more ready?) Not to mention, I would miss her and feel terrible about her being abandoned yet again.

Help!


Finding ways to handle stress

October 26, 2015

We all have our coping methods. Some are healthy, some less so. When I found out I needed to have surgery, I threw IMG_20150724_195633together a gluten-free chocolate cake mix, baked it, added on the frosting, and proceeded to eat just over half the cake in 4 days. Suffice it to say, that was one of my less healthy ways of dealing with stress.

I’m stressed out. My distrust of and anxiety around doctors and anything medical has been growing exponentially lately. It was a problem even before this surgery, but now it’s worse. It doesn’t help that the doctors didn’t handle this whole incident correctly to begin with. On top of that, my thyroid levels are off, not something you want as you head into surgery. And if that weren’t enough, my sleep doctor just emailed me about my most recent sleep study. I was so hopefully that maybe, finally, I’d get some consistently good sleep. At least! I was so excited! His exact words were, “Your breathing was a rhythmic mess. We have our work cut out….” No reassuring.2015-08-20 22.19.09

Sometimes I wish I drank. This is one of those times.

But I don’t. So I need to find another way. What always makes me happy? That’s easy: dogs! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve heard me mention my parents’ awesome Sheltie from time. Looks at these photos…. isn’t he adorable? And other dogs make me incredibly happy, too. I stopped by a local pet supply store the other day just to maybe see some dogs. The store doesn’t have dogs, but customers often bring theirs with them. I didn’t see any, and as I headed out of the store in defeat I saw him: a puppy! Petting that puppy cheered me up immensely.

So I did the only logical thing: I posted on Facebook and asked my friends to share cute dog photos and videos with me!

The outpouring has been fantastic. A lot of friends want to help me but they can’t because they’re too far away or because they have their own health problems, but this is something they can do. A few even posted photos to their own walls and tagged me, asking their friends to share their own photos, so their friends did, too! Every day there are more cute photos and videos. Some are my friends’ dogs, and some are random internet findings. I don’t care, they’re all wonderful!

And that’s why today, when I was messaging with a friend on Facebook about my current medical issues and feeling stressed out and overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, I suddenly found myself laughing at a video of a Shiba Inu digging in the sand that a friend had posted to my wall.

So now I’m asking you to do the same. Please share a link in the comments, tweet me at @CIRants or email msrants at gmail.com. I’ll gather up those photos and create a post of them to share with all of you!

So that’s how I’m handling stress this week. What about you? How do you handle impending stress?


Is it possible to rent an apartment near Boston with a therapy dog?

May 6, 2015

I have always wanted a dog. I grew up with a dog, and ever since he died when I was 11 years old, I’ve wanted another.

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Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get to babysit for this cutie!

In my 20s I knew I didn’t have the right lifestyle for a dog. I worked long hours and traveled a lot and, if I’m being honest, the truth is that I just wasn’t ready for the responsibility. Then when I got so sick I had to leave my job, I was home a lot. I stopped traveling. But I was so sick that I could barely take care of myself, never mind another being.

Now it’s different. I’m still too sick to work, but I’m doing a lot better. I’m more stable. I’m taking care of myself ok. And I really really really want a dog. I ache to have a dog. Literally. When friends talk about their dogs, I ache to be in their shoes. When friends post photos on Facebook of dogs that need adoption, I ache to take those dogs home. I’m so ready to have a dog. And I’ve been mostly sure I could handle taking care of a dog, except for the walking part. Dogs need exercise, but some need more than others. I could get a dog that doesn’t need much exercise. I’ve been working hard at walking most days, and I’m taking short walks about 6 days a week! (Woo hoo! Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know how big this is!) But dogs need to pee and poop more than once a day.

So I felt there were three big obstacles to me getting a dog:
1) Walking.
2) Money.
3) My landlord.

Then something changed. I was talking to a friend this week about how much I want a dog and my concerns about walks, and she suggested training one to use a litter box. Many people have suggested that, but it sounds ridiculous. The thing is, she did it! She had a dog that used a litter box! She also had a friend who did it. So maybe it wasn’t that ridiculous after all? I looked it up online and found some great resources. There’s even special litter for dogs! This totally solves problem #1!!!

Now, let’s assume I can handle the money aspects. Those are a real concern, but I’m working on them.

That leaves my landlord as the final obstacle, and I can’t imagine how I can possibly overcome that problem. You see, Boston is a pricey city. (When I say “Boston” I mean the neighboring towns, too. Just fyi.) There’s also a very low rental vacancy rate. This means that rents are high and landlords have a lot of power. I won’t get into all the details of the effects of the Recession on the housing market, etc. Just believe me when I say this is a tough place to be a renter. And the vast majority of landlords don’t allow dogs. Including mine. (My landlord doesn’t allow cats, either. And I believe birds are also off limits.)

Remember back in February when I said I was looking for an apartment? Well I did. I looked. And I gave up. I’ve been in my current place for many years, and my landlord hasn’t been raising my rent as much as they could. I pay a lot less than new tenants in my building. So even though I was looking in a less expensive area (where I’d rather live anyway) I couldn’t find anyplace as nice as mine. And I wasn’t even looking for a place that allowed dogs!

“Wait, what if it was a therapy dog?” you might ask. A lot of people have asked that. And yes, by law all landlords have to allow therapy pets. I would have no trouble getting my doctor to write the necessary letter. In fact, she has previously said that I should consider getting a pet because it would help me. So let’s assume I got the letter and I had a therapy pet. Now by law my landlord can’t kick me out, right? Sure, but they can “forget” to fix things in a timely manner. And when my lease comes up for renewal, they can raise my rent to what my neighbors pay – $300 a month more! I wouldn’t be able to claim discrimination if others pay that much. And future landlords might be just as difficult…. if I could even find a new place to live! Remember, I already looked at apartments last winter. Yes, there were places, but do I really want to live someplace smaller, darker, and louder just so I can have a dog? I’m not sure.And what if that place didn’t work out either? I really don’t want to move constantly.

So now I’m wondering, what’s the reality of living with a therapy dog when you rent an apartment? Do landlords retaliate? Or do they actually accommodate you the way they should? I know that no one person can speak for all landlords, but I would really love to hear about people’s experiences to find out if this is even possible. If you have a therapy dog and you rent an apartment, how has it been for you?


What dog sitting has taught me about my health

November 8, 2014
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It’s time to get out of bed and play!

It’s been an interesting week for me, to say the least. For the first time in years, I’ve recently begun to have less stress and more time, but that also coincided with extra pain and other symptoms and with some family issues. But this week, I was doing ok. I was feeling pretty good health-wise. My “to do” list feels overwhelming, but only because of the quantity. There’s nothing really horrible on it, like dealing with insurance companies. So it wasn’t such a bad week for watching this cutie.

I was nervous about this. I’d promised a while ago that I’d watch this adorable little guy, but as the time approached, I wondered if I could really do a good job. I’ve always wanted a dog of my own, but it was never feasible. First I was working and traveling too much, and I had landlords who wouldn’t allow dogs, and then my health problems prevented it. Recently, though, I’ve started to think that I might be able to handle dog ownership if I could find a landlord that would allow dogs. And this week was my test.

Now, if I got a dog I’d have a yard (it’s the only way I’d do it) so that would make things easier. Still, it would be a lot of work. This guy is 11, so he doesn’t need as much activity. Plus, he’s the easiest dog I’ve never known. He rarely barks, he lets you know clearly when he needs to go out, he doesn’t pull on the leash, etc. He’s great! And he was exhausting. So how much more tiring would a younger dog be?

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Look how cute I am! Don’t you want to share your dinner?

Last night I never finished washing the dishes. I was too tired. But the pooch still had to go out. There was no choice. So out we went. Down the stairs and outside, and he peed, and then back up again. Now it’s 9:30 am and I’m exhausted, but he hasn’t had any exercise today, so we’ll be taking a walk. And I still need to finish those dishes. It’s just what happens when there’s a dog in the house. I’m completely worn out and, after a full week, I’m glad I’ll be returning him to his owners today.

But then there’s the flip side. I’ve gotten more exercise than I have in ages, and I actually feel good about it! Now, the truth is that this is coinciding with some health improvements that I’ll write about another day. Still, even with those improvements I wouldn’t have done so much walking if it wasn’t for this guy. Not a chance. I might have taken a walk every other day. Instead, I’ve been taking 2 walks every day! Look, I even wore him out!

There have been studies about how petting an animal lowers blood pressure. For someone with hypotension that’s really not a concern, but it’s so relaxing to have him curl up on my lap. It’s just the best! I haven’t done much knitting this week

Thanks for the walk! Now goodnight!

Thanks for the walk! Now goodnight!

because my hands have been otherwise occupied with petting this adorable dog. Look at him! Who wouldn’t want to pet him? He helps my stress more than I would have thought.

And then there’s having someone else to focus on. No matter how tired I am or how much pain I’m in, I have to think about taking care of him. It’s good to shift my focus. I think we’ve all experienced this is in different ways. I know that I have. I teach a friend how to knit, or I give advice to someone, or I do some volunteer work, and it’s a great distraction from my own issues. But having someone here who needs my attention every day, like it or not, brings that attention shift to a new level.

It’s been a fantastic week. I’ve absolutely loved it. And while it’s shown me that I’m not ready to have a dog quite yet, I can tell that I’m getting close. And that when I do, it’ll be more beneficial to my health than I ever would have thought. Now if you’ll excuse me, someone wants to play fetch. Hint: it isn’t me.

Do you have a pet? How do you handle its care on your worst days? How does it help you?


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