I left a bag of Starbucks coffee in my car the other day, and when I returned, the aroma brought me back to 2005. When Brendan and I had just bought our first house, and I worked as a shift supervisor for Starbucks. We bought our house, got a dog, and spent the summer throwing parties, playing in bands, and planning our future as a double income no kid household. I had never wanted to be a mother, (looking back now I think it had more to do with not being with the right person to be a father), and though I knew Brendan wouldn’t mind if we had kids, it just was never a priority. There was too much else to do.

Then October hit, and after two weeks of swearing I had mono or food poisoning because I was leaving Starbucks exhausted and throwing up in the car on the way home after my shift ended at 10:30pm (take that morning sickness!), in a panic we went out to lunch, ordered me the biggest vodka slushie on the menu, and then went home to take the pregnancy test. Ta da! While I tried to say it was an X, Brendan assured me it was a +. And while he grinned, I burst into tears. “You aren’t dying…” he said. “I might as well be.” I replied (gonna go back and blame that on booze and hormones, I am not proud.)

I am not a religious person. I gave that up long ago, but I am a spiritual one. And there were just enough complications both during my pregnancy and during delivery to make us realize that Jack is truly a gift, that we didn’t need to tempt fate more than once, and that every minute the three of us are together is precious (though there are days that it doesn’t feel like it when he is having a tantrum of epic proportions). Literally, the minute we found out, we made a conscious decision to change our lives. The things we thought were so important, suddenly became so trivial. We threw ourselves into being parents, focusing on every decision as to how it would impact him or us as a unit, and never looked back.

Which in a roundabout way, is why we are opening a company this week. Because Jack is my full time job, despite that Master’s Degree I hold. We made the choices we needed to make, to keep me at home until he was ready to go to school full time. And now that he is going to go full time next year, we are still making the choices so that he can be number one. My parents worked when I was younger, and I understand that one person staying home is not always an option for everyone. While I don’t blame my parents for doing what they had to do, there are situations, and experiences, that I was exposed to that I don’t want Jack exposed to. Had a parent been home, the opportunity for those exposures would have been limited. The same with subsequent choices in my adolescent life and early adulthood. Had my parents been able to be involved, I am sure some of my choices would have had different outcomes. I don’t want to protect him from life, but I also don’t want to not be a guiding force for him.

Opening the store gives me that chance to make sure I am here whenever he wants me to be, but gives me a chance to do something that I am passionate about too. I hope when he is older, he can realize how much every day, we have chosen our paths, so that his path is open for him to choose. And I hope he chooses wisely.


Before you scratch your head… yes I still love dogs. Of course I love dogs. But I am no longer a “dog lover.” Over time, I have become a “dog respecter.”

Dog lovers are supposedly harmless humans, yet more often than not, they are the very reason dogs get a bad rap. Dog lovers treat dogs like furry children. Dog respecters understand that a dog is an animal, that we don’t speak the same language, and that we need to pay attention to the signals our dogs give us. When my good friend Danielle (who is an animal behaviorist)comes over, despite her long time relationship with Bella, if Bella is not completely calm Danielle does not pay a bit of attention to her. In contrast, are the dog lovers. The people who come over, who when Bella barks or backs away, lean over her and say “What? What’s the matter?” and wave their hands near her head. Or bend and try to make her make eye contact, all the while protesting that “dogs love me.” They are dog lovers.

Dog lovers carry around their small dogs, in purses. Or hold them like a newborn in a completely defenseless pose. The reporter who earlier this week was bitten in the face? A Dog Lover. Leaning down to kiss the head of a dog you barely know, when the dog is clearly trying to communicate its discomfort, is not something a dog respecter would do.

I am a former dog lover, I readily admit it. I have a high pitched voice, that in many circumstances has been known to make dogs piddle. I used to not be allowed to speak in a friend’s house until the dog was safely in the kitchen. I have in the past climbed on to a dog’s bed while it was laying on it. I have kissed the tops of dogs heads and bent down to take kisses on the lips. I have held a treat between my lips to have a dog take it from me. I have hugged and wrestled dogs when I really shouldn’t have. All in the name of my love of animals, and I have been fortunate that the animals I have done these things with, have found it in their hearts to tolerate my silly human ignorance.

Dogs communicate with us all day long. With their eyes, their body posture, their tails. Their yawns, the tilt of their head, the licking of their lips. And yes, when all those other signals fail, they can growl, or bite.

Dogs. They don’t necessarily understand why we do the things we do, yet they love us anyway. And we should love them. But above all, we need to respect them.


A Happier Tail

Brendan and I didn’t talk much about getting another dog after Ceili died. We were mired in our own grief, each blaming ourselves, each afraid to talk about it. But three days later he came upon me on the computer, searching…looking at picture after picture of dogs needing homes. And we knew, we had to try again.

I found the perfect dog, a beagle/pug mix, male. A small, male dog. Nothing like our previous large breed female. So with cautious optimism, and more hope than we dared to admit, we made plans to go meet him. Twenty minutes before we left, the owner called, and told us they decided to keep him. Saddened, Brendan and I went back to the computer, and found yet another male puggle up for adoption. I called, and made an appointment to meet them in two days.

While we were looking, Jack came downstairs, and saw a picture open on the computer. A picture of an extremely thin, six month old yellow lab mix. “I want THAT one mama,” he said with three year old earnest… “the one in the picture by the fence.”  My heart sank. All I knew of labs were my cousin’s dogs growing up (they were breeders of labs). Stinky, boisterous, dare I say stupid, and unable to do anything but lick. And again, a large breed female. While I tried to reason with my three year old that this was not the dog we wanted, Brendan placed the call anyway. No answer. He left our number. I hoped they’d lose it. But just to be fair, I emailed the puggle people and told them we might be looking at another dog too.

Thursday afternoon. Meeting Puggle Friday morning. Phone rings. It is the lab lady calling us while we are in the middle of Lowe’s. And in the middle of Lowe’s, Brendan finds out the full story of Bella. That this woman and her friend had been notified of a chocolate lab needing rescue in North Carolina. How they drove to Charlotte from Syracuse to save a six month old chocolate lab, and when they arrived, they found two dogs. Coco, and Amber (Bella’s previous name). Chained to a cinder block. Covered in their own excrement. Emaciated. Missing the fur from nose to forehead where they had rubbed it away trying to break free. I can only imagine the conversation that took place as lab lady was a former police officer, but suffice to say they left with not only Coco, but Amber as well. When they returned to Syracuse, Amber became Bella, and they started looking for a home for her, as they had never planned on taking in more than one dog.

Brendan assures lab lady we will be home in an hour, we’d love to meet her, but that we have plans on adopting a dog the next morning. We prep Jack that we are “looking” at this dog, but not making a decision. Note to self – NO ONE just “looks” at a puppy. Jack wants to take the dog for ice cream. Sure, we say, why not?

Lab lady arrives, Bella and Coco romp on the front lawn. Lab lady proceeds to interrogate us as only a former police officer can. Brendan and I bristle. Finally in frustration to prove that we are good people, I call my vet’s office and persuade the office manager to get on the phone with lab lady and answer any damn question she wants. Brendan is wondering when the urine and blood samples will be collected, and if she is taking out cotton swabs for DNA testing. Jack is obliviously happy rolling around with not one but two exuberant puppies. Meeting adjourned. We agree to table the conversation, lab lady puts Coco in the car, reaches for Bella, and Jack bursts into tears. “WHY ARE THEY TAKING MY DOG?”

Pardon my language but… FUCK. I mean really. He’s three. His other dog died ten days ago. He wanted to take this one for ice cream, and now he thinks he may never see it again.  We SCRAMBLE. Brendan shmoozes lab lady into letting us take the dog for ice cream with a promise we will bring it back to her house to fill out paperwork in a little while, as I run around the house looking for $75 to pay them (we are not a house that has $75 lying around). We find Ceili’s old leash, cram ourselves into the Honda Civic, and head off to the ice cream stand… and as we do  I call the Puggle people and say.. I’m really sorry but we won’t be coming to see you tomorrow. We found our dog.



This is a post that breaks my heart to write. Breaks my heart to relive the four years, and makes me anxious for the day my son is old enough to read it, and really learn the truth what happened to his dog. How his parents did everything they could, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

Ceili was found at 8 weeks in a box with her litter mates, on the shoulder of a road. Not all the puppies in the box were alive, whether because the box was run over or whether however they ended up on the side of the road, no one knows. The day we went to the rescue to see her, she was the only puppy left, her last sister and brother had been adopted that morning. As we went into the room to look at her, the rescue owner bit her lip and said “Hmmm.. I don’t know about this one….there’s something about her…” but all we saw was a tiny black and brown puppy, snuggled up on a stuffed monkey toy, nose under her tail. She barely looked at us, lifted her head sadly, then went back to being curled up. We couldn’t leave her there, so we picked her up, signed the papers, and brought her home.

Over four years, we learned Ceili had separation anxiety.. fear based aggression…thunderstorm phobia…boundary frustration…leash aggression… fear of the car…and was completely unable to bond with humans. She feared my husband, tolerated me, and obsessed over our son. She spent hours pacing if he was gone, and would follow him room to room when he wasn’t. Every dog, human, animal that passed by our living room window was considered a threat. She would run in terror from us, and other dogs, at the dog park. She would jump the fence at our home, and run away every chance she got. Not understanding that she truly was ill, we thought she just couldn’t behave. And like many dog owners, we trusted our trainer. A man who had worked with K-9 units. A man who advocated prong collars, electric collars, and dominance training. And we broke her even further. The collars made her aggressive, towards other animals, towards approaching strangers, towards my husband.She had to be muzzled at the vet, and every time we took her there, our vet would say the same thing …”thank god for you two. anyone else would have put her down a long time ago.” We stopped boarding her there when we went away, because we came to get her one day and she had broken her tooth trying to get out of the kennel and her mouth was covered in blood. The vet tech felt helpless, as I did I.

She would spend hours in her crate, even with the door open and free reign of the house. Or under the dining room table. At night if we didn’t close the crate door, she would pace and scratch to get into my son’s room.

We tried a different approach, to love her unconditionally. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t toy motivated, could have cared less about us, and only ate when she felt like it. We watched her slip further and further away, to a place where even camera flashes, the sound of the Wii, or police lights on television would cause her to go into a panic attack. We had to give her powerful sedatives at night, on top of the Prozac and Xanax, just so she would sleep. So we could sleep.

Finally,  a few months after my son’s third birthday, and an unbelievable stretch of thunderstorms, we took her into the vet for her regular checkup. The tech asked us if there was anything my husband and I wanted to talk to her about.. and we both burst into tears. We asked if we could find her a sanctuary, somewhere that was better prepared to take care of her. And our vet gently said… “your dog is ill. No one is better prepared to take care of her. Enough is enough. She has lost four pounds in a month. She is on three different kinds of medication. This is the sickest dog I have ever seen. You need to let her go.”

So we did. And we sobbed and held her. And we hoped that she had finally found peace, a peace we couldn’t give her.

That’s why we are crazy dog people now. Because we failed the first time. Why we are staunch advocates of doing right by your dog, and why we HATE dominance based training methods. Because all we have to do is look up on our mantel and see her ashes, and collar. And we know that we HAVE to do better. And we have done better, Bella is our happy ending to this sad story. She is our Part two…

Saying No Way to BHA

I admit it, I am a crazy dog lady. And I married a crazy dog man. One who LOVES our dog. And she LOVES him back with a devotion that often makes me wonder if she would truly be happier if we slept in separate beds. That’s a story for another time….

This is a story about my Crazy Dog man, and his revolution.  When we first rescued Bella, she was emaciated. And so we tried a higher brand of commercial dog food, and two weeks later she was in the vet’s office with kidney stones, and we were left shaken and with a caution about kidney failure. I can’t name the brand, but suffice to say, it was not “delish.”  Being a family on a single income, we were concerned about $50 a bag dog food, and then came upon a brand called Harmony Farms. Quality ingredients, decent price. So the story should be over right? Nope. Instead, my husband has become an avid nutritional inspector when it comes to dog foods, and dog treats. No dyes, no chemicals…my dog eats better than I do some days.

And then…. my meaning well but not pet owning in-laws, gave our dog a bag of Target’s Boots & Barkley treats. And my husband’s blood pressure raised 100 points. 🙂 ”PROPYLENE GLYCOL IS THE 6TH INGREDIENT. PROPYLENE GLYCOL IS WHAT THEY USE TO DE-ICE PLANES!”  Oh the Gods of Google were with him that day as he mounted his attack on Purina, Alpo, Milk-Bone etc… propylene glycol. BHA. Artificial Dyes. Artificial colorings. All in the name of “Sit” and “Stay.”

“Who would give their dogs this CRAP?” He muttered, and off he went with our 5-year-old son in tow, to the kitchen. Armed with gluten-free flours, various fruits, nuts and all natural sweeteners.. and let’s not forget play-dough tools and cookie cutters. A few hours  and a completely thrilled gluttonous yellow Lab’s approval later, what I am affectionately calling Bella’s Barkery was born. With four different treats that honestly I had to try too – I HAD to, I am the only one besides the dog who can eat peanut butter. And cats are critics.

To answer his question – Who would give their dogs crap? Well, most of us would. We don’t actually think about what we are feeding our pets. We trust the company is going to do it for us. I mean, they make dog food.. they should like dogs right? HAHAHAHAHH right Iams? Right? Even though you have been flagged by PETA for companion animal testing on beagles? So, please, read your labels. Want to try our treats? Let me know. I will tell you how. Or if not ours… look around… read your labels. If it has more than 5 ingredients, you probably don’t want your dog to have it. If YOU wouldn’t eat it, your pet shouldn’t either. Unfortunately, the commercial dog food companies don’t care enough about your dog to have it live well. It is up to you. Make an educated choice.


Ah hah! You thought it was a boob post didn’t you? I could just have easily named it the Year of my Independents (yeah I spelled it wrong on purpose)… but I can’t resist a boob joke.

Recently the husband and I watched the No Impact Man documentary. While a lot of his ideas I thought were ridiculous, and motives questionable…. it did make me take a look at my own household. And man, do we have a lot of crap. Seriously, crap. Because I am a product-a-holic. If it smells good, makes my skin soft, my hair shiny.. etc. I WANT it. So explains 11 bottles of stuff in my shower, when there are only 3 people in my house. Why my makeup bag looks like the ULTA counter. And while I have always prided myself on being the uber-recycler on my block.. truth is, I don’t really know what happens to that stuff in my blue bins. So it is up to me to make sure I am not putting as much stuff in my blue bins, and in my trash. Which means breaking up with a lot of old habits…and replacing them with new ones. Replacing the urge to buy, the urge to consume, without thinking about packaging, instead using everything up before I buy new stuff. Not replacing things I truly don’t need. Breaking up with convenience, and instead building a relationship with sustainable. Finding new uses for old things. Taking the extra step to go to the dairy where I can get my milk in glass bottles that I can return. Making sure I actually use up the food in our house before I buy more, and again choosing the best packaging (it should be an interesting post when I realize all I have left to eat is corn flake breadcrumbs and vodka).

Truly, I have plenty of clothes, and shoes. I don’t NEED for anything. As convenient as it is to stop at Wegmans and pick up take-out, those containers end up in my trash. So do the cups when I stop for a latte. So those trips need to stop. And my hair and skin will be just fine without multiple lotions, creams, cosmetics.

It really isn’t about saving a buck. It is about saving the land around me, so that my son doesn’t grow up without a beach that is safe to play on, where things aren’t being choked in plastic. And it’s about listening to the voice inside me.. instead of the voices encouraging me to buy more. It’s about spending more money at my local independent grocery store and less money at Wegmans, where their lack of green initiatives is appalling. Having friends meet me for coffee at my house, instead of Panera. Encouraging my friends to join us for our CSA dinners of locally grown vegetables, instead of food that comes from who knows where. About using what I already own in a smarter way.

I don’t have all the answers, which is where you all come in. Do I buy in bulk what we can’t do without, so I have less packaging? How can I replace multiple products with just one? Cleaning, cosmetic etc? I KNOW I could carry my own coffee cup around with me and ask my baristas to fill it, but let’s be honest. I won’t remember. Better to just skip it all together. And the food I make at home is better for me anyway than hitting a restaurant. I am still learning… and open to all suggestions. So if you are out there my fellow bunny huggers, I would welcome your input!

My 501’s

I am not the first to say it.. that friends are like an old pair of jeans… but I am going to expand on it.

I love my jeans. I love my friends. This is not meant as an insult to either group. But my friends, really, truly, are like my jeans.

Metaphorically, facebook helped me find a pair of jeans from high school. A pair I loved, a pair I probably didn’t wear enough back then, and eventually pushed to the back of the closet. Twenty years later, I found that pair of jeans this past weekend, put them on, and though we both had a few more wrinkles, and the knees are a little more worse for the wear, it was like I had never taken them off. 20 years melted away in the first hug, as we caught each other up on our lives, met our husbands- who were strikingly similar – and shared our passions, again – strikingly similar. And I wished I had brought those jeans with me over the past 20 years, but at the same time said a small thank you to the universe for letting me find them again.

I have jeans from college, and high school, jeans that really truly no longer fit, but I keep them because they remind me of me back then. They are a little wilder, have a few more holes, might even be a little too tight, but I keep them. I have trendy jeans, jeans that maybe I wore once or twice before I decided they really didn’t flatter me. Jeans from before I met my husband, that once we did end up together, he had the good sense to tell me they didn’t fit. Even as I protested, he knew better than I – like the maid of honor who tried her best to keep me from marrying him… it took some long hard looks in the mirror before I realized he was right.

In the past few years, I have moved away from jeans, especially the skin tight girly ones of my single days when dinner was a Riesling and a salad..and moved on to yoga pants. And they are comfortable, always soft, and always easy to count on. They support me, they work with me, they help me feel good about myself. And then, there are my cargo pants…my hardworking, determined, not going to rip easily cargo pants. They don’t care if they get dirty, they laugh at muddy dog prints, they walk in the woods without protest.

I even have a few pairs of guys jeans, again that have been with me over 20 years. I find they last longer for some reason. Built stronger I guess, or more sturdy. Not the type to leave you hanging over a small spat. I am blessed that my husband finds these ones to flatter me too.

Silly metaphors aside, my 501’s… you know who you are. And I love each one of you.