four legs

What my dog is wondering right now...


What time does the school bus come? Do I smell a snack? What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? Is it nature or nurture? How long til Liz makes me get off this yummy rug and on to my bed? Why does everyone in the house have a regular bed except me? What does “weight-management” dog food mean? I bet Isis from Downton has a sweet deal. And a king-sized bed. How did Katy Perry changed clothes so quickly during the Super Bowl show? What the hell, Sarah Koenig? Does anybody really know what time it is? How long until dinner? Plant, animal or mineral? Remind me again why Pluto can’t be a planet? How does gravity work? Why is it OK to chew on that rectangular thing but not this one? If everything evolved from amoebas, how do we still have amoebas? Squirrel? Squirrel?? Is it mind over matter or matter over mind? Why does Liz think I need music on when she leaves the house? I'm a dog. And the mailman is coming in 3, 2, 1.... I hope I peed on enough spots this morning. I totally could have caught that chicken if I hadn't been on the leash. Why the hell are there chickens living in the middle of our city? If a cat meows in the neighborhood and nobody hears it, did it really make a noise? What's the frequency, Kenneth?


Democracy in action

photo So tomorrow we are bringing home the newest member of Team McGuire. We are SO EXCITED! We have been waiting for this guy for months, this adorable yet nameless creature.

When you have five opinionated voters, selecting a name can get a little complicated. Our process was nothing if not thorough and included the following steps:

Preliminary brainstorming * Think of favorite literary references. "You'll never guess why, but how about Albus, Lupin or Harry?" * Research the meanings of names. "Mom, what's the Greek word for awesome?" * Consider a family name. "Let's name him after ME! At least his middle name because I'm the middle child!" * Honor our musical tastes. "How about Charlie Hodge? We can train him to bring me my scarves and my water."

Straw voting During a 6-hour road trip, narrow it down to three top names then realize that the youngest voter is swayed during each vote by the sibling he likes most at that very second. (Elder statesman kicks herself for not taking advantage of this.)

Lobbying This phase may or may not include a certain voter suggesting that, "Seriously sweetie, it's really going to come down to our votes because the guys don't care nearly as much as us, right? What can I do to get you on my side?"

Real world testing Insist that the youngest and most puppy-like voter crawl on the floor barking while the others call him by potential names. "See how easy it is to say, Sit ___! with this name?" "Sure, but he wagged his tail more with the other one."

Final decision The final vote is cast when we see his furry face again. I'd give you a hint, but who knows how many last-minute amendments and re-votes will appear before then. Wish us luck!

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If you liked this, you may like this one about naming some unconventional pets, or these two about our other dogs, who live in our hearts and are certainly watching over us right now. One is grinning and wagging her entire butt and the other is hogging all the balls thrown his way.

After the goodbyes

With the heaviest of hearts, we said goodbye to our Zoe this week.

Our family is swimming through the grief as best we can, trying to support each other without pulling anyone underwater.

When we told the kids the news, 9-year-old Doodlebug burst into tears, sought refuge in my lap, then went to her room to draw an elaborate picture of Zoe and Winston soaring through the stars as Angel Dogs.

7-year-old Rascal leaned over and tucked his head into my neck, saying nothing. Several minutes later he got up, went outside, rigged up a punching bag and attacked it with two oversized toy swords. Again and again and again.

Smiley, our 3-year-old, kept repeating, “But Mama, we have a dog. Our family has a dog.” It was as if this impossible piece of bad news just did not fit the drawings that hang from our kitchen magnet board. Our family has a dog.

Hubs put dinner in the oven, offered wine and chocolate, and held me as I shook. He promised me, over and over that Zoe felt loved every day of her life.

Me, I just cried. And when nobody was around, I wailed. Five days later I still don’t have a grip on the pain or the tears.

My everyday routines are brutalizing me. I wake at my usual 5am, before everyone else, and gingerly step out of bed so I don’t land on the sleeping dog beside me. But she’s not there, of course. So I start my run, which is typically my source of sanctuary and relief, already gasping for air.

As I pack up the kids before school, I realize we are actually early because we are no longer juggling the dog chores with everything else. Have you fed her? Did you get all her meds? Has she gone outside yet? Is she back in? Somebody lock the back door. Kids! Don’t let her bolt out the front! Instead, we leave for school with time and tears to spare.

In the afternoon, as I work from my home office, I glance up every hour to see if she needs to go out. She is an old dog with a tempermental bladder...She always needs to go out. Not now, not today.

And later, during the chaos that is our evening dinnertime, I carry a steaming pot of pasta from stove to sink, and instinctively glance down to make sure Zoe is not underfoot. She is constantly underfoot, waiting for a crumb to drop. But of course it’s not her, just grief that I’m tripping over now.

And then, the house falls quiet. Before I go to bed, I peek in on each sleeping child and turn to let the dog out once more before setting the alarm. I wince, then tiptoe right across the spot beside my bed where my Zoe has slept for more than 13 years.

And as I lie there, praying for sleep, I realize that I’m ending my day exactly like I started it: aching and tearful and feeling every inch of the tremendous hole in my heart.


I am grateful to have so many deserving Valentines in my life, but today I'm sending extra love to one who has been a dear and devoted ally in my journey through motherhood, not to mention that ancient time before it.  All of this support and she has never once expected a handwritten card, a box of chocolates, a lap dance, or anything else in return. What says love more than that? Here she is captured during some of her finest parenting moments...

Playing gracious host to a new arrival. And forgiving me immediately. *

Alerting me of a "playing in the recycling bin" transgression. *

Showing Dad Mom's way the right way to bathe a kid. *

Monitoring time-out. *

Overseeing tummy time *

Playing hide n seek. *

Overseeing third round of tummy time, even though it's harder with arthritis. *

Giving the spotlight, every single time, to someone else. Even though you had my heart first.

Happy Valentine's Day, Zoe! *


For the last few months we've been dealing with a series of fun household issues that happened in exactly this order:

1.) a Mama possum decided to sublease the crawlspace underneath our house, without asking first. She moved in just in time to nest and give birth to 5 babies. 2.) We hired some nice gentlemen to relocate this family to another home. These men swore that "home" was not a euphemism. 3.) We never heard from the family again, but they were gracious enough to leave behind a farewell gift: fleas. 4.) Our hyper-allergic, 13-year-old dog became infested with the farewell gift. 5.) I lost my ever-loving mind. 6.) We had the entire house and yard bombed with who-knows-what. 7.) We sighed with relief and got back to our lives. Until...Zoe the dog got an awful stomach bug and we learned that she was, once again, covered in a shitload of fleas.

That brings us to yesterday, when I had to pile all three kids PLUS a geriatric, flea-riddled, diarrhea-prone dog into the car to make a trip to the vet. Imagine my enthusiasm! Once home, and with $200 worth of advice and pills, I had the following conversation.

"Mom, is Zoe going to be ok?" Doodlebug asked.

"Yes, she will be fine. It's just a stomach thing and we've got the pest guys coming out again tomorrow."

"Is this our fault, Mom? Did we not take care of her well enough and that's why she's sick?"

Isn't she a little young to feel mama guilt??

"We are doing the best we can, sweetie. And no, it's not our fault--this just happened, that's all. A series of unfortunate events. Think about it my fault every time you get a sore throat?"

She smiled.

"Doodlebug...the words you're looking for are "No, of course not Mom!"

Farewell my boy

He came into our world four years ago. And when we couldn’t decide between him or his brother, he picked us—his unsteady but enthusiastic legs tumbling and stumbling toward our squealing kids.

The puppy belly, the puppy breath, the sharp puppy teeth…they slayed me. Like they always do. Like they still do. In fact, I feel weak when I think about that crazily picture-perfect Thanksgiving.

He was playful and joyful, and easily the most consistent and predictable member of our entire household. He wanted to fetch; he wanted his ears scratched. Every single day. And that is all.

He was gorgeous, so perfect a specimen that strangers often stopped in their tracks to admire him. He loved a ball like he loved oxygen...more than a bone, more than food, more than hugs. He could play for hours.

I nurtured him the only way you nurture an energetic dog: I tried to keep up. I threw a lot of balls. When we hit the park, he was my fourth child in tow. His manners were not impeccable, but extremely close. We spent countless weekend mornings at the nearby track, playing fetch as the kids ran or rode circles around us.

During a year when I’ve been seeking signs of grace in every breeze, every star, every song...his sudden and unexpected death feels like a particularly cruel Screw You. The void he left hurts like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and trust me when I say that grief and I are on familiar terms. I am looking at his photos often, willing my heart to remember not my pain, but his beauty and his light. He overflowed with it.

For those of you who are not dog lovers, or even pet lovers, you may not understand this and that’s ok. But I am someone who willingly gives her heart over to the creatures in my life. I believe in the power of a good pet like I believe in the power of a good long breath.

They are essential and healing. And when they are gone, it feels like you will never breathe easily again.

I am missing you, my Winston. Love you tons.