The kids have discovered Webkinz. It's the current version of Beanie Babies with a twist - they're more expensive and they have some secret internet persona. Ella has two and Harrison has one - a leopard named "Cheeto" because he originally thought he was a cheetah. If they had their druthers, they would each have at least ten. Both of my kids love stuffed animals. Harry more than Ella because she splits her loyalties with dolls - or "babies" as she calls them. Harrison, though, is all stuffed animals. He has 21 so far (thanks to grandma and her care packages) and lines them up diligently around his bed. He literally sleeps surrounded by stuffed animals. Since he sleeps in the upper bunk, he can even line them up along the protective rail. It's pretty cute until we have to travel. We usually only allow one or two animals to come along and he frets the first night or two. I know it's a bit unusual, but I love it. It means he's still my little boy. Too soon he'll be rejecting me, and his animals, for some adolescent babe in a too tight tank top.
One day I was eavesdropping on Ella and her playdate (it's hard not to with the size of our house), and Ella mentioned that Harry's "Cheeto" had fallen in the toilet a few weeks back. After Harrison had ... gone ... and before he flushed. I think that's descriptive enough. The friend asked Ella how Cheeto got out of the toilet and Ella described a scene that included Cheeto being thrown out the back door to dry on the driveway. Again, the story was told in the past tense. Harrison let the leopard dry in the sun and then slept with him for weeks. I was so amazed at what I was hearing that I didn't know what to do. So, I did the only think I could think of....
Figuring out what to do with this animal was difficult. I didn't quite know how to clean it without wrecking it. Somewhere I read, or heard, that all sorts of things could be washed in the dishwasher, so I tried it, and it worked. Cheeto is fine...still soft and not a scent of urine on him.
After getting through that trauma, I felt empowered. I never had pets as a kid (gerbils do NOT count) and then tried cats in my twenties. I liked cats, but never had a large attachment to them. They left hairballs around and knocked over flower vases and Christmas trees. Owning a dog was never a consideration. They need to be walked and taken care of. My cats could be left for days with water, food and a litter box. Not dogs. They need attention, love and backyards.
When we moved to Utah four years ago, I was a bit dismayed to see the immense number of dogs on our street. I think every house has at least one. My kids were scared to death of all of them. Ella was only two and she was more freaked by them than Harry. We have tried, over the years, to force them to acclimate to dogs. Everyone has them here. If they are afraid as they get older, it will only get harder.
We have good friends who have two dogs. Since we spend a lot of time with them, the fear in Ella has almost completely subsided. It is so great to see her petting even strange dogs she'll run into up at school, or in the park. About a month ago, I mentioned to this friend with the dogs, that having a dog of our own might be really great for the kids. She held in her enthusiasm and then secretly started scouring all the pounds and humane societies in a 50 mile radius to find us a dog so irresistible, that I would have to succumb and adopt it.
Well, she succeeded. Meet Basie. I have now been a dog owner for 10 days. I have absolutely NO idea what I'm doing, but she is so sweet - it doesn't really matter.