The Joy of Dogs and the Unending Chewing Excitement

We have two animals in our house. If you saw what are house looked like sometimes, you’d think we have more than that.

Six children. Four teenagers. You can just imagine what the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms look like. It’s fun. We also have a dog that likes to go from room to room and see what she can play (chew up into little pieces and walk away) with.

A carpet with chewed up plastic containers and paper, and a large bone.
Remnants of Doggie’s chewing. The blue is the inside of a chew toy she pulled apart.

I Learned Something the Hard Way

We’ve learned to keep things away from the edge of the table. Doggie likes to take whatever she can find and chew and tear it beyond recognition. There was this one incident last year when I had been commissioned to write a newsletter for a college’s pharmacy school. It was a long process that involved hours of telephone calls and video conferencing. Because I’m old school, I took notes on paper for these interviews. I was looking everything over, including my finished stories when another emergency required my attention.

I left my notes on the dining room table to tend to said emergency. When I had returned, I found that Doggie had somehow made her way onto the table and chewed on my notes. Lucky for me, my stories had been written and I was just waiting for final confirmation and approval from the school. The point is, Doggie had violated my personal space and my work that day.

There are plenty of exciting things in your wastebasket for a dog to discover and play with.

There are a lot of violations Doggie likes to commit on a daily basis. If you have a dog, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We have learned to keep the bathroom door closed all day every day. You would never think there could be so many things for a dog to play with. Humans see trash as something to get rid of. For dogs, however, trash can be a meal, an appetizer, or even maybe more chew toys.

Our Territory and the Dog’s

Yes, there are plenty of exciting things for a dog to discover and play with in your wastebasket. The real fun, though, is when you get to clean up after Doggie is done playing. It’s amazing to see what one small creature is capable of.

Doggie has her own chair in the house. It’s chewed on. She has chew toys. They are chewed to the point of the toys being opened up and the insides pulled out and chewed on. Furniture? Chewed. Books? Chewed. I have notebooks I like to keep with me while working. She got one and chewed it.

A black notebook missing the top right corner. It's been chewed.
My notebooks are now in protective custody.

Doggie has a mat next to her chair. She hasn’t chewed on that… yet, but she does like to take things with her to the mat and chew away. We’re always finding remnants of things all around the house. Wife and I don’t need many guesses when we hear one of our children yelling, “No!” or, “Bad dog!”

Our First Dog

As bad as things can get, it’s not as bad as the first dog wife and I owned. We had talked about getting a dog for a while and we did it before we had children. He was a puppy, just four months old when we got him. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we knew that when we got him because this was our first dog. No matter. We were ready for whatever this dog was going to bring us.

A man posing with a dog.
Me, with our first dog. Note the blue floor between us and the gray surface with pee stains behind us.

What he brought us was months of chewing on every piece of furniture in the house. We tried to buy a spray that was supposed to make furniture taste so bad, dogs wouldn’t want to chew on it. It didn’t work. We tried a “trainer” who only seemed interested in getting our money and that didn’t work.

Between behavioral issues and Wife getting pregnant, we couldn’t chance it with the dog and a baby. We finally gave up the dog. The day we went to the shelter, the room reserved for families who were surrendering their pooch was closed for repairs. Wife and I had a meltdown in the middle of the property as we said good-bye to our dog.

We got Another Dog

We thought we were done with dogs after that. It wasn’t easy, but we tried. Our house had pools of pee in various rooms and floors pulled up and chewed up. I honestly considered renting him out to demolition crews. He was efficient with that. Then one day, one of our children wanted a dog and did their due diligence online. They found a nearby shelter that had a dog that said child thought would be just perfect for our family. We agreed to go to the shelter to LOOK.

A dog laying down on a mat.  Chewed plastic behind her.
Doggie is tired after chewing… Or she knows she’s in trouble.

That was then. This is now. Now we know to leave things in the middle of the table. We know to make sure Doggie has a chew toy with her if we need to leave the room or house. No one leaves valuable possessions (like notes for work) within her reach. Now I know to work upstairs where my work and I are safe from the canine’s canines. It’s fun. If you need any documents shredded, I can introduce you to our dog.

Lucky for me, Wife, and the rest of our children, things haven’t been that bad with this pooch. We have our challenges. Doggie can be a little over-aggressive at times. A lot of this comes from her still being a puppy. The younger children at our house, including the visitors, need to get away from her sometimes. Kitty needs to get away more often than that.

A dog sitting on a rug.
Good dog. Just ignore the paper and plastic pieces.

Follow me on Instagram.

Exciting Times, Interesting Finds at Costco and Target

Target doesn’t have all of the things we need. This displeases The Gaggle and they let me know of their disappointment when we are at checkout.

I had a productive day with The Gaggle recently. They needed some things to decorate their room and I needed to drive them to the store. The list requires two stops. For me, this was nothing. I often need to go to one or two, sometimes three stores for groceries, prescriptions, or some other necessity, and it’s been easier post-Coronapalooza. This was just another day for me. For the gaggle, however, the experiences they endured that day were unlike any other.

Costco

Our first stop of the day was Costco. We needed things for The Gaggle’s room and Wife asked if I could pick up some things from the grocery section. We went into the store.

Exterior photo of Costco
Preparing to enter Costco.

“Oh my god!” the gaggle exclaimed. “This place is so big! And why do they have all this stuff?”

“It’s a warehouse,” I explain to them.

I ask if I can offer them some Doritos during this trying time. They are not amused.

We walk around the store seeking and finding what we need. It doesn’t take long. I’ve been shopping at Costco long enough to know my way around. The Gaggle is amazed at the size of the store, the bulk of the merchandise, and the crowd of people there in the middle of the day. The crowd annoys The Gaggle. They take up space and they’re in the way. I see someone giving out samples of Doritos. I ask if I can offer The Gaggle Doritos during this trying time. They just look at me. They are not amused.

A bag of Doritos.
I offered The Gaggle Doritos. They declined.

Target

Our next stop is Target. The Gaggle finds Target (or “Tarjay”, as I like to call it when I’m with them) to be bougie (or boujee. I have no idea which word to use). I use the word “Tarjay” just to get an extra rise out of them.

The trip to Target is a little less productive than we had hoped for. They don’t have everything we need. We are able to find some of the things, but not all. This displeases The Gaggle and they let me know of their disappointment when we are at checkout.

A Bed skirt. One of our finds at “Tar-jay”.

Overall, I would say we had a relatively productive day. The Gaggle doesn’t share my opinion of our efforts and accomplishments, but I would put this in the “Win” column. We went to two stores. We got some of what we needed. Not all, but some things for The Gaggle to set up their room.

To show my appreciation, I got some stickers from the nice lady at checkout. I present them to The Gaggle when we get out of Target. She just looks at me. It’s not a happy face most children have when they get stickers. It’s a kind of annoyed face. I remind them of what we got done and the fun we had being together. Their face never changed, and I don’t think the stickers left my car.

Target stickers depicting "Spot", Target's mascot.
Stickers from our visit at Target. I was smiling, Spot was smiling. The Gaggle wasn’t smiling.

Follow me on social media.
Twitter: @Greg_the_Brave
Instagram: greg_the_brave
Facebook: Drink Your Juice

We were Ready for my son’s Birthday Party Until…

Life is a special occasion, right? There is always something to remember and celebrate. At our house, with six children, there is usually a milestone to celebrate. We had a little celebration recently for The Boy’s birthday. I was in charge of putting together a special celebration to mark the latest spin around the sun.

It took The Boy a little while to actually make up his mind. He kept going back and forth between rock-climbing and jumping on trampolines. Trampolines won out. I went to the indoor trampoline park to book the party. After the venue was secured, we informed friends of the The Boy and their parents of the celebration. I implored fathers to attend the party so I would have friends to talk to.

Before the party, I needed to make return trips to order more pizza and make sure the guest count was accurate. The Oppressed and I went to the store to buy decorations and party favors. Pokémon was the theme of the party, and we travelled to the store to collect the appropriate favors. The Boy did not join us. He was too busy attending to the social demands of his schedule.

I need to recognize the efforts of The Oppressed here. Her vision regarding the party led to one of the signature items of the day. We had found some goodie bags to store the favors when my youngest daughter spotted plastic containers that resembled Pokémon balls. The balls were the perfect size to hold the favors and resembled the very item handled by characters in the Pokémon cartoon. Favors were prepared. Pizza ordered. Everything in place… Or so I thought.

A Birthday Cake

I had a birthday cake ordered for the party. The nice people in charge of the cake kindly requested 24 hours’ notice for the order. They got 72 hours. My kindness and benevolence are known throughout the area.

I asked to pick up the cake two hours before the party was scheduled to begin. Everything needed to be in place for the party. Alas, there was no cake to be picked up when I arrived and no humans around to answer my questions.

I look around. There is no one to rectify the situation. Time is running out and I need to find the cake. It’s getting desperate. Luckily, I recently read a wartime spy novel and was able to glean some basic skills. I just need to subdue an employee, secure their credentials, and make my way behind the bakery to find my son’s birthday cake. It seems a little involved, but I love my child and it is his birthday party.

I make my way around the store to find the necessary items to subdue the employee and secure their credentials. An employee with everything I need is in sight. They approach me and catch me off-guard as I am ready to jump into action.

“May I help you?” they ask.

“Why, yes,” I reply.” I ordered a cake and I’m here to pick it up.”

The nice person retreats to the back of the bakery and retrieves my cake. I bring the birthday cake to the front and pay for it. I discard the items I thought I would need to subdue an employee and continue on with my mission.

Party Balloons

It is now time to pick up the balloons for the party. We had ordered large, gigantic red, yellow and white balloons in keeping with the Pokémon theme. The party is scheduled to begin at 5:15. The balloon store is conveniently across the street from the venue and balloons are scheduled to be delivered at 5:00… Or so I thought.

I arrive at the venue with the cake and receive grateful cheers and adulations from parents and children alike. The cake is placed on the table in the rented room. I look around and admire the decoration and placement of the procured favors. I can’t help but notice a lack of balloons. A lack of large, Pokémon color-themed balloons. I ask Wife if she has seen the beautiful balloons. She hasn’t. I ask the nice people behind the counter if they have seen any beautiful Pokémon color-themed balloons. They have not. Something seems amiss. I call the nice people at the party goods store. Apparently, there was some miscommunication.

When they said the balloons would be delivered at 5:00, I didn’t know 5:00 actually meant the beginning of a two-hour window when we could expect the balloons. Considering we have the room for about an hour, this obviously doesn’t work with our schedule. I get in my car and drive across the street (it’s a fairly busy street and I don’t want to get hit by a car since I haven’t had pizza yet) to the store to get the balloons.

Balloons are Ready. Now it’s a party

I return with the Pokémon color-themed balloons, and I see the pizzas have arrived. After leaving the balloons in the room, I see two fathers who have brought their children to the party. I rejoice at having fellow fathers to commiserate with. We talk until it is time for pizza.

Pizza is about to be served. Note the snazzy Pokémon-themed balloons on the right.

We adjourn to the room where everything is laid out beautifully for our guests. You would never know there was a SNAFU with the cake, or a slight logistical error with the balloons. Children and adults alike sit down to pizza and then cake. I mingle with the other adults who got sucked into another child’s birthday party. After eating, everyone leaves and someone else cleans up the mess. That may have been the best present of all, and it wasn’t even my birthday.

Check out more on my Facebook page.

Pizza Bagels, Video Games, and Batteries

I needed to drop one of my children at their friend’s house last week. I know the father, so I stayed for a bit and talked over a beer. We were in the living room, where one of his kids was playing video games.

Video Games

I’ve met a lot of kids over the course of parenthood, foster parenting, coaching, school pickup and drop-off, and a variety of other circumstances and duties. I think teens are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school was no exception. Loyal daddies and mommies are familiar with our friend Wilt. Wilt was a child of another friend who seemed to know everything about life, especially basketball. Check out the link I so generously provided. If you have teenagers, you’ll understand what I’m telling you.

I think teenagers are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school is no exception.

My child and I arrive at the house and the younger children quickly disappear upstairs. I remain downstairs, where “15” is dealing with one of the many challenges you face when trying to assemble a team on a video game. Dad is also in the living room finishing up work before getting ready to go out for the evening. It’s not an easy time for “15”. He’s playing a soccer game on his console, and he’s trying to assemble a national team. Apparently American soccer players are few and far between, and the good ones are even harder to find. I would like to help him, but I know nothing about who plays soccer, let alone where they hail from.

My friend and I watch “15” scroll through lists of players and their attributes. I offer whatever advice I can, but nothing works. The game works in a certain way, and you can’t just create a player and place him on your team. I literally haven’t played a soccer video game since last century, so I’m pretty much useless.

The Smoke Alarm

It gets harder for “15”. Not only does the field of available players lack what he needs, but the battery in the living room’s smoke alarm died, and there is an annoying “chirp” signaling the need for a new one. Each shrill call for a new battery is grating on the virtual general manager, who is having enough headaches with his lacking roster. He’s finally had enough, and he marches to the smoke detector, pulls it from the wall, and then the real struggle begins.

“15” has the smoke detector in his hands. The battery needs to be replaced, but first the old battery needs to be extracted. The Chinese water torture is getting to be too much for the lad, who can get the compartment open, but can’t get the battery out. Dad is enjoying this and so am I, to be honest with you. Finally, I show mercy to the poor child and take the battery out for them. After said extraction, I hold up the 9-volt nemesis and sing, “Ta-daa!” Now it’s time for a new battery, but there is no 9-volt battery in the house. So, the smoke detector sits on the end table sans battery for the time being.

A New Battery

I return home to take care of some chores and duties while my child is away at her friends. My friend has plans that evening, so I am sure to be there promptly to take my child home. I arrive at the house with a gift for “15”. A brand new 9-volt battery. To this day, I am mad at myself for not putting a bow on it.

Loaded and ready

I proudly present the lad with the gift and the life lesson. He installs the battery and places the smoke detector back in its proper place. Dad and I are proud of the child for doing his part to keep the house and his family safe and secure. Now, it’s back to video games where he has moved on from soccer to basketball. Dad and I are watching him scroll through teams and players. “15” makes some comments about Larry Bird, causing Dad to educate his child about Bird and Bill Russell. Meanwhile, we continue to watch him play.

“Hey, Auerbach,” I say.

“What?”

“I called you ‘Auerbach’.” Dad laughs. The child has no idea what I’m talking about, nor does he understand the reference to his basketball personnel moves.

Pizza Bagels

It’s time for a break in the action. “15” needs food. His dad follows him to the kitchen for a beer. “15” wants to make a pizza bagel. Dad and I watch the child struggle to slice a pre-sliced bagel. We remind the child it’s already pre-sliced, but this doesn’t matter to him because it’s not, “pre-sliced enough”. He gets the bagel sliced and prepares with sauce and toasts it. When it’s done, he has enough grated parmesan cheese for a dozen pizza bagels.

“Hey, Fieri,” I say after a sip of my beer, “Do you want some bagel to go with that cheese?”

One of the beers I received.

He tells me he has a solution and carefully shakes some cheese from one slice of the bagel onto the other slice. He then proceeds to eat the bagel while standing up, back turned to the counter. Crumbs fall to the floor. I tell him I’m willing to bet Dad has invested in some plates for the house. Dad tells me he needs to constantly remind him to use a plate when eating. I had no idea it was so chronic.

Driving home with my child, I ask how things went for them. I get home and enjoy one of the beers my friend sent home with me. My daughter and I watch some important, informative video on Harry Potter. While sipping my beer, I wonder if parents of teenagers were really meant to survive.

My new book, “A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.