Happy birthday, best friend!

Charlie,

Today you turn ONE YEAR OLD! What?! Just yesterday you were our little baby and now you’re a big kid! It seems as if you’ve just gotten here but at the same time, as if we’ve never known life without you!

I’ve been wanting to write something to you on here, especially, to keep and look back on when you’re older and remember this time. But I’ve waited and waited because I wanted to get it right. So here’s my best effort:

Bubs, you have changed our lives. For the better. This past year has been one of the happiest and most fun times in my life, and I know the rest of your family will agree.

Watching you learn and grow and become this amazing little boy has been something I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. You are so happy, and funny, and sweet, and I hope you never lose that as you get older.

I, for one, am pretty obsessed with you. My heart damn near explodes when I see how you react to me walking into a room, or when I can make you laugh, especially those deep belly laughs where your whole face just crinkles and we can see all your teeth.

When you reach for me to hold you, I will always pick you up because your cuddles are the very best. You are such an affectionate boy – one of my favorite things you do  is when someone is holding you, you rub their back, or their arm, or their elbow, or rest your hands on their arms. And you’re always ready to share your food with one of us. Thanks for letting me have a bite of your birthday cake!

I love how smart you are. And how much you love books. I love that you love to be in the middle of the action, and are just as content playing with your toys as you are watching the adults play a game. (Also really excited you’ve caught on to Dutch Blitz in your own little way).

I love your love of puppies and dogs and would buy you the real thing if your parents would allow it.

Little Buddy, being your aunt is without a doubt the best thing that’s ever happened to me (yes, even more than that tweet I got from Chris Pratt, which I’ll tell you about when you’re older and can watch Jurassic World with me). I love you more than words can express and I hope you and I always have the bond we do now.

You are my sunshine.

Love,

Lala

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The Hardest Thing

For the past year, I’ve started and stopped writing this post. Couldn’t bring myself to do it, say it, whatever…

It’s not that I wasn’t constantly thinking about it because I was. I am. All the time.

Around this time a year ago, I made a hard choice. I said goodbye to Charlie, the first dog that was just mine, the first roommate in the first house that was just mine. And it broke my damn heart.

Charlie and I had a rough start. Correction – Charlie had a rough start. A really rough one. Before he even got to me. Me, the one who so badly wanted to fix him, make him better, give him a good life.

He came to me in September 2014. When I heard about him and saw his face I thought: “This is it. This is my dog.” I knew he had anxiety, knew he had some fear, but thought I could love him enough to make him better.

So I tried to. God I tried. I didn’t make him sleep in the crate he was petrified of because he’d been obviously locked in there constantly and was fearful of it. I was gentle with him in how I treated and talked to him, trying to make up for the way he cowered after he’d done something he knew was bad because before me, he’d gotten hit.

Aside – Anyone who hurts any animal is a fucking coward and awful human being and deserves to have the same abuse they inflict on an animal done to them. End of aside.

We took classes. He improved so much and learned and did so well by the end of the two months of classes he won the “Most Improved” Award.

But there were times it was still hard. Times he’d tear things up because he was terrified, no matter how sweetly or calmly I talked to him or dealt with him.

Early on someone said it wouldn’t mean I was a horrible person if I gave up on him. He had a lot of problems, more than I could fix on my own – with my schedule and income and my own worsening depression and anxiety.

I remember a night I sat on the floor of my kitchen, crying as Charlie licked the tears off my face and tried to climb in my lap to comfort me. I buried my head in his neck, sobbing, and said “I’m not going to give up on you.”

And I never did. I tried so hard with him. I did all I could possibly do to make my home better for him, my schedule better for him, life better for him. All the while my own life was a mess – I HATED (yes, all caps) my job. I wasn’t happy. And as unfair as it all was to me, it was even more unfair to him. He deserved better.

In the week or so around my birthday last year, I’d come to the end of a particularly rough stretch of time with him. He’d been tearing things up through the house which were getting more expensive to replace. He was having to be left alone longer and longer because I worked for a tyrant who didn’t care about anyone’s time or life but her own. I called my parents and cried and they reassured me over and over that there were places I could contact about Charlie that would get him exactly what he needed and insure that he was in good hands.

So I called GRRAND. They’re an amazing organization that takes in dogs that need new homes and doesn’t let them go to those new homes until they are sure it’s the best thing for them. In the meantime, they live in a foster home, with someone dedicated to working with them and loving them and taking care of them. I told them Charlie’s story and through tears all the reasons (in my opinion only) I felt like I’d failed him. They said they’d take him in within the week.

It was shit timing. My parents were out of town, my sisters were unavailable as well … I almost had to take and drop him off on my own, the thought of which terrified me even more because I would likely have been a blubbering mess stuck in their parking lot for two days because I was crying too hard to drive. Luckily, my friend Katherine, who had been through something similar with a pet recently, was able to go with me. And for that I will always be grateful to her.

I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried that hard – and all of the other times were funerals of loved ones. And even as people kept telling me over and over that I was doing the right thing and what was best for him, it still hurt like hell. In my eyes, I had failed him. I couldn’t fix him. I couldn’t help him enough. I said my goodbyes and my sorrys and over and over that I loved him so much. And after a while, I left.

So it’s been a year. I think about him all the time. I wonder how he’s doing and have actually recently heard. I feel like I’m at a much better place in life now – mentally/emotionally, financially… to have a pet again. I applied, through GRRAND, to potentially give a home to another dog sometime (hopefully) in the near future. In one of the phone calls with them, I’ve found out that Charlie is headed to Wisconsin, to a family that will be working with him more on his anxiety and fearfulness, which has apparently not improved much in the year he’s been in the current foster home.

When I was unemployed for a while last summer, I stupidly thought I’d made a mistake and given him up too early. But then I realized at the time I was barely able to buy groceries for myself, even though I had all the time in the world for him now, I still couldn’t provide what was needed.

It’s taken this whole year to come to terms with the fact that I did do the right thing. That no matter how much it hurt to let him go, it was what I needed to do. Loving him wouldn’t fix his issues. I couldn’t do it alone, and I didn’t have the resources available for what he needed and will continue to need as he grows up and hopefully gets better. Deciding to let him go was the hardest decision I have ever had to make, but ultimately for both of us, the right one. I hate that it came to that, but I love that I had the time I did with him.

I miss his goofy face and personality all the time…

I hope he ends up with a family who can give him everything he needs to get better and live a long, happy life. I’m sad it isn’t with me, but I’m glad we’re part of each other’s story.

Love and miss you, Charlie Buddy.

Wild Man Charlie

So the last time I actually sat down and wrote something for this blog was in September. And it was about my family’s dog, Lucy.

The reason I haven’t really written since September also has to do with a dog. Only this time it’s my dog. That I am solely in charge of.

Yes you heard that right. Let me start at the beginning. But first, here he is, Charlie, the monster. Note the resemblance to the dog from “Up.”

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There hasn’t been a time in the past few years, that I haven’t been searching for a puppy. Especially before I moved back home with Mom and Dad, and again when I moved out. I can’t tell you how many times I visited the Kentucky Humane Society website and imaginary-adopted puppies/dogs.

I had to stop after a while because I was saving money and they were looking more and more affordable and I wasn’t ready for all that yet. Home first, then, once I figured out how to be a homeowner, I’d be a pet owner.

But life doesn’t work that way. And I’m so glad it doesn’t.

Late in the summer, I puppy-sat for my cousin, Blake, and his girlfriend, Amanda’s dog, Molly. She’s a black lab and she’s adorable and crazy and I had her for a week while they went to the beach.

Despite the two days she peed in the house and the night she tore her entire bed into tiny little pieces, I realized I really liked having some company in my house, especially the four-legged kind.

I told Amanda and Blake as much when they got back to pick Molly up, and mentioned if they knew anyone looking to give up a dog to a good home, to let me know, meanwhile, the trolling of the Humane Society site and the imaginary adoptions began again.

Fast-forward to mid-September. Amanda texted me, wanting to know if I’d be interested in a 9-month-old Golden Retriever puppy. Golden Retriever, as in the only kind of dog I’ve ever had, the kind I one day wanted, no matter how much I looked at other breeds of dogs and tried to convince myself otherwise.

The puppy was a boy, named Charlie. And he’d had a rough time. His owners, a young couple, had gotten him around the same time they had a baby. Now they’d broken up, and the girl couldn’t keep him. And she didn’t want to leave him with the guy, because he’d been beating up on Charlie with a belt.

I didn’t hear anything after that. I said I’d take him. I think she mentioned he was free, and house-trained, and they’d bring his food and a crate and his leash to me Sunday if that would work and he’d had his shots….

Gone was the idea of getting this tiny little baby puppy and naming him Hank, because I’d for some reason gotten stuck on that name, and no it’s not because of Breaking Bad.

Also these are the three pics she sent me to “try and convince me” and honestly after that one with the snow came through I may have passed out:

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So the day we met…

On our first walk, Charlie tried to choke himself. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed and I am really glad I wasn’t alone because I would have lost it.

You see, in prep for him to come live with me, I didn’t get him a new collar. I figured he had one, and he did, but it was a shitty one. It was one of those chains and since he’s a puppy and he was anxious and he didn’t know better yet, he pulled and pulled and it got too tight. He started walking like he was drunk and sat down hard on the ground and that’s when we realized it and loosened it up. That’s also when I felt like the shittiest dog owner ever. Great start, right?

We tried the crate for a while, and he hated it. It lasted approximately two weeks.

He only pooped in the house once that first week, and I blame Rachel. She got him too excited and he started going and then we yelled for him to stop and he ran, while still pooping, and like it often is with gross stuff that happens when Rach and I are together, I cleaned it up while she kept him occupied.

Those first few weeks months were more hard than not. I was dealing with a dog that had been through some bad stuff, and didn’t know how to handle it. He was taken to a new home, completely different environment. Was still a PUPPY. I think that was the hardest part. I was a kid when we’d first had both of our dogs at Mom and Dad’s. Mom handled the training and we just got to play with the puppy. I had no clue.

He chewed so much stuff. He jumped on the couch, which I first tried to stop but then gave up on. #chooseyourbattles

Like I said, he hated the crate, so when that was no longer an option, he stayed in the part of my house that has no carpet, because it was easier to clean. Then we dealt with his separation anxiety – I was in my bedroom where I wasn’t allowing him, and he was pissed and stressed. So for a while, I had to set up this elaborate thing that kept him out of the living room while I put the gate in front of my bedroom because he could PUSH IT OPEN.

Did I mention he’s just turning one this month and came to me the size of a bear? So, reallll easy to control…

Yeah.

So this all sounds like he was a pain, doesn’t it? Well, most — 98 percent — can be attributed to me, having not been a puppy owner. I had no idea how to train him. Add to that all his other anxieties and fears from his last home and, well, yeah, there were many frustrated texts to my mom.

And thennnnnn we got training. Once a week, we’d meet at the pet store with other dogs and learn manners and tricks and how to behave, kind of.

The first two nights at training I cried after. He was so scared, and I hated it for him. He doesn’t like other dogs and it took all my strength to keep him from running at them, even on his leash. He didn’t sit the entire first two classes either. He stood, and panted. I thought he’d never feel or do any better.

And then he did.

Every week at that training he got better and better, learning things so fast and one week, he was the only one who went through the tunnels on the first try. I was a proud momma. We got “Most Improved” at the end of our classes.

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And things got better and better at home, too. He got more used to me and his house and what he was and wasn’t allowed to do and we worked on things.

Some days are still hard, because he’s still a puppy and still had a hard time before me. And because I’m the only one who lives with him and have to be gone some weeks more than others.

But the good outweighs the bad now and I cannot remember life before him. And don’t want to. There was one night that was particularly hard. I ended up crying on the floor of the entryway after a call to my dad about how hard it had been that day with Charlie had resulted in him saying “If it’s too hard and you need to give up, people will understand.”

So I sat on the floor, crying and petting Charlie. And he licked the tears off my face and I kept saying “I’m NOT giving up on you.”

And I won’t.

Now, he sleeps at the end of my bed – sometimes on the floor, sometimes on my feet. He doesn’t pull on walks, he listens (most of the time). He cuddles in the morning. He watches shows with me. He’s a different dog than when I first got him. But so much is still the same. I don’t want to change him, I just want him to feel better and more comfortable and happy. And we’re getting there, every day.

I miss him when I’m not home, and I kind of want to get him a vest to take him everywhere like a service dog, but he behaves NOTHING like a service dog, so that would last about 3 seconds.

He came to live with me at a time when my depression was starting to get a little bit bad again and despite the stressful parts, he helped me, so much. Nothing gets you over and distracted from your own anxieties and bullshit like having to take care of another living thing.

If you want to see an obsessive amount of pics, follow me on Instagram. And look at the pictures in the slideshow at the bottom of this post.

But for now, some important lists, because, do you remember who’s writing this?

Things Charlie has chewed up and/or chewed a hole in:
– Two comforters
– Part of a mattress pad
– Carpet
– Pair of yoga pants
– Three shirts
– A pen
– The curtain that hangs on the window on my front door and all the pieces that hold it up
– A pillow
– Two towels
– $10 cash

Nicknames he has accrued:
– Wild Man Charlie (From his training class teacher)
– Charles
– Chahles (said w/British accent)
– Charlie (also said with British accent)
– Babe
– Baby
– Bubbie
– Bubba
– Bub
– Buddy
– Turd

In all seriousness though, he’s the best. And he’s my buddy, and I will forever be grateful that I was thought of when he needed a new, good home.

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Just a thought…or 20

Whenever I go to update my Facebook status and I notice the little box where it says “What’s on your mind?” it always stops me for a second. Because just because it’s on my mind doesn’t mean I have to share it with everyone.

Enter this blog. Where everything – well, almost – that’s on my mind gets written and if you don’t like it, too bad.

So these are the things I’m currently thinking of, unfiltered, unedited, unafraid of you judging me. They’re really not that serious..just FYI.

• Leonardo DiCaprio is on the cover of the next Rolling Stone that will soon appear in my mailbox. Thank you, Jesus.
• Was Titanic really worth seeing four times in the theater? Um, yes. Totally. 13-year-old me was obsessed.
• Speaking of obsessed, that new Eminem/Rihanna song is pretty catchy. Except for the whole part when he said he’s gonna tie her to the bed and set the house on fire. Parental advisory, indeed.
• Dominic Monaghan is supposed to be in the video for aforementioned song. I love him. [Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen up through season 3 of LOST] RIP Charlie Pace.
• Mexican food always sounds/seems good at the time, but several hours later when you feel like you have a rock in your stomach and acid reflux from the cheese sauce, you re-think the choice.
• I’m convinced time moves slower when you’re anticipating something.
• I have a stack of books almost three feet tall I still have to read and yet I bought four more at Half-Price Books the other day.
• But one was The Client, one of my favorite books ever.
• Also an awesome movie.
• RIP Brad Renfro.
• Aww, Tom and Huck – whatever happened to JTT?
• If I was a kid when Silly Bands came out, I’d have had an armful of them on.
• Who am I kidding, I’m 26 and I wear them. And trade them with the kids I babysit and a co-worker’s daughter.
• There are two things I really want right now and would love you forever if you could make both happen – I want to see Maroon 5 in concert next month in Lex and Daniel Tosh in Louisville in October.
• I miss Jamaica.
• Maybe someday I’ll sleep like a normal person.
• And by normal I mean not sprawled out in an X and in three- to four-hour spurts, if at all.
• I love lists.
• But you knew that already.