Thursday, February 5, 2015

Call us crazy!

Alternate titles:
In which I run out of writing material
Our family ... is growing ... by 4 feet!
We did that thing we've been saying we're going to do 

Well for those of you who may follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you've probably noticed by now, we've added an extra family member! So interwebs, meet Jäger:

So there are a lot of pictures of him on the couches. Have no fear, the rule is no dogs on the furniture. But we were taking it easy on him the first day!
Yes, after years and years and years of talking about it, we've finally got ourselves a dog. You may remember that, in the past, every time we've had a serious discussion about a family pet, we've wound up pregnant. Now that we've moved beyond such opportunities, we returned to cautiously exploring our options.

Since the early years of our marriage, Jon and I have wanted a Weimaraner. We love their temperament, heritage, looks, and lie-by-a-roaring-fire-chewing-on-an-antler regalness. But their breed is not recommended for families with young children. In fact, one breeder said definitely not. I knew I didn't want to deal with a puppy at this stage in our lives (I mean, I'm still dealing with human potty training and night-wakings, no need to add a dog to that mix!), so our next thought was to adopt an adult dog. I had been in contact with the local Weim rescue two years ago, and the coordinator suggested we wait until our yet-born baby was a bit older. But when I reconnected with her a few weeks ago, she seemed less than enthusiastic about considering our family.

Dog beds are $$$ -- this one is made out of two layers of egg crate and a clearance twin-sized sheet that I'm hoping will help hide his reddish doggie hairs!
Okay, so maybe a Weimaraner isn't the right fit for our family at this time. We decided to look in to a much more common and child-approved breed--the Golden Retriever. I admit, I dragged my heels a bit on this one. Two words: dog hair. I realize all dogs shed but fur-real, Golden Retriever hair is just outta control. So we looked into two different Retriever rescues. And yet again, were given the cold shoulder. It would seem that many of these rescue dogs are not approved for young children. And even if they are, no one believes that a family with four kids 6 and under has the time and energy to devote to a new pet.

He looks so tiny and fawn-like when he's curled up to nap ... he looks very long and wild when he's trying to grab food off my counters!
And perhaps even worse than having small children was the fact that we do not have a fenced-in back yard. Some dog rescues won't even consider you without a physical fence. I get it. I do. Exercise is important and dogs need room to roam and run. But it's a serious slap to the face when you're told you're at the very bottom of the barrel when it comes to adopting a HOMELESS pet!!

He's so, SO good with the kids!

And oddly enough, Joci is the one who is most interested in "dAWWWg!"
We gave up on the purebreds and started looking at a generic shelter in the area. Within hours of reaching out, I got a friendly email back saying hey, we get families with kids that adopt our dogs all the time! Come on out to our next event to meet a few dogs and get to know us!

Typical Jäger sighting--eyeball level at the table.

Doc McLia just finished taking his blood pressure and temperature.
So that's what we did. I woke Jon up after a long night shift and we lugged our Fantastic Four out into the rain to get jumped on, licked, knocked over, and initiated into doggy world. The very first dog we met was a gorgeous and goofy Plott Hound named Kramer. He was awesome. He also nabbed Julia's pink, sparkly doggie purse right out of her hands and started chewing on it. Note to self: do not allow your daughter to bring a pink, sparkly doggie purse to a dog adoption event. Poor "Purs-ephone" hasn't been the same since!

I still standby the statement that 18 month olds are more difficult than any dog! This is our current one, who just pulled up a stool for easy access to emptying out the utensil drawer.
I fell hard for Kramer. He was big and beautiful and so very, very English. I'm quite certain Jane Austen must have had a dog just like him. But after talking it over with our adoption coordinator and ourselves on the way back home, we knew it wouldn't have been the right decision. Our kids' stuffed toy collection aside, he was just too wild and unpredictable for our family. There were a few other dogs that we looked at that day, but none felt "right." And since we weren't in any hurry, we decided to give it some more time.

Benefits to having a dog--so much outside time no matter the weather!

There were also a few dogs on the adoption website that were not at the event, one which still lived with his owner about an hour away. His photo and description seemed promising, but he was also quite young, about a year and a half, and I was nervous that he would be too much "puppy" for us. According to the website, he was a Vizsla / Lab mix. Jared and Kylee were the ones to first tell us about Vizslas. Although different in size and coloring, the Hungarian Vizsla is very similar to the German Weimaraner in temperament and energy. So we decided it was worth a shot.

Jon and the dog's owner just happened to have the day off and since we had nothing better to do besides look at a dog, we decided a family road trip was in order.

That tongue!
So we met up at a distant Petsmart and Jon and I got attacked by a very loving and excited dog while our 3 oldest kids were much more interested in seeing the mice and hamsters at Petsmart.

In case there was any doubt, he is SO Jon's dog!

My hands were frozen on this walk, and this kid is sucking on ice!
His name was Nimbus. We later learned that his mama was an Australian Shepherd who had been rescued from a high-kill shelter in Alabama. She had a littler of 9 puppies with our rescue shelter, all of which had been adopted out 18 months ago. When Nimbus was originally adopted, his owner had two kids living at home. But since that time, both of her kids have left the house. As a single woman with a full-time job in the city, she just didn't have the time to devote to a dog. Per the adoption contract, if you are no longer able to care for your dog, you have to return him to the adoption agency. And that's how this guy showed up on our radar.

The extent of their ice skating experience.
We fell hard. He was even more handsome in person (sidenote: I think taking photos of dogs is even more difficult than kids. Don't these rescues know that a flash reflecting off some crazed dogs eyes probably diminishes his chances of adoption by 70%??) I should mention here that he was also very crazy. We're talking jumping up all over us, pulling on the leash, running around going bonkers. All completely expected when you're dealing with strangers, particularly young children strangers. But still ... and after we left he was jumping up all over the cashier's counter while his owner was trying to check out ... you get the idea.

But it didn't matter. As we were walking out of Petsmart, trying to wrangle our own pack of animals into the minivan, Jon turned to me and said, "I want that dog." And that settled it. We pretended to think it over on the trip home and over the next few days, but I knew that dog was going to be jumping up all over my counters in no time.

I let our adoption counselor know we were interested. I could tell she was a little uncertain. And concerned that we hadn't had a chance to meet with him alone in a quiet room to really get to know him. And wondering if maybe we'd like to look at this other dog [insert the name of some little beagle or bulldog or stout little thing that couldn't have caught my eye if he was doing flips ...] Oh no, we want this dog. We want bigger. We want energy. We want excited. And yes, we realize that he comes with bad habits but something about this dog said he was trainable. There was no swaying us. And so our awesome counselor said, no problem. We'll make this happen. And I'm here to help you however I can! But just to be sure, we're going to offer you this special "two-week trial adoption" that we give to our very "special" cases.

We wanted to move fast since Jon was coming up on his two weeks of "office hours" (i.e. regular, non-12-hour, day shifts) which meant he could take some time off to help us all get adjusted. We had plans to spend a night in Williamsburg, so we made arrangements to pick up our new dog on the way home. Which now brings us to a break in our dog's story as we shift our attention to our family's mini-vacation at Great Wolfe Lodge.

Or, as Julia says, "Big Bad Wolfe Lodge." A family member had given our kids some cash for Christmas and since they really don't have any "needs" right now, and certainly didn't "want" for anything after Christmas, we decided a fun trip would be a good idea. I'm not really a resort person (I've never been to Disney and I honestly have no desire to take my kids at this point!), but this seemed like a good option for that middle-of-the-winter rut we've been in.

And the kids certainly enjoyed it! I'm not sure what they liked more: the water park or staying in a "hotel." When we checked in, they offered us a special deal that not only allowed us to get in our room earlier, but also gave Jon and I a separate room from the kids with a king-sized bed. No tough decision there! Thankfully, the kids were so exhausted that night that we had no problems putting them to bed in a new place. Joci actually slept through being carried from the car and me changing her into her jammies--which was a new one for me!

The only "incident" occurred at 6:50am when Jack and Jude woke up and decided to unlock and open the main door to the hall. Which Joci decided to meander on through. Jon and I opened our eyes to Jack running into our room yelling, "This is TERRIBLE! Joci is out in the hall!!" I never saw Jon get dressed and out the door so quickly!

Now onto the practical side, since so many of you have asked. Is it worth it? I think so. It's a great place with PLENTY to keep the kids occupied. We didn't even check out the other activities, just the water park. I also liked that there were things for all ages. It is pricey. We used a military discount to stay for our one night. And there have been some great Groupon deals floating around as well. The nice thing about even just staying one night is that you can use the water park starting at 1pm the day you check-in, and continue to use it all the next day until it closes. So you're essentially getting two days of fun.

See that big bucket at the top?

Approximately every 7 minutes ...

... a bell goes off and it all comes dumping down!
 Also, while the food there isn't cheap, you can bring your own. Our fancy-schmancy upgraded room had a kitchenette with microwave, fridge, and table. So we packed our breakfasts and lunches. And we're also fortunate enough to have Jon's aunt and uncle in the area whom we visited that evening. We haven't seen them in so long. It would be worth it just to sit and visit with them over plastic cups of water, but they always, without fail, provide us with the best multi-course meals around! And I'm so glad we got to chat with them hours before picking up our newest family member, because while most people think we've lost our minds for getting a dog while raising our little ones, there are a handful of people cheering us on. And Uncle Bob and Aunt Julie are two of those rare fans!

Julia on Day #2. Joci was just as bad!
A few of my dislikes--I was surprised at how dirty the lobby was. The water park and our room were very clean, but there were dust bunnies all over the "lodgy" things in the lobby. Not a good first impression. And speaking of clean, the chlorine in the water park area is over the top! We took the whole family to the hot tub at one point, and apparently they were just adjusting the chemicals because two seconds after settling in to the hot bubbles we all started coughing like crazy. Like in a super publicly humiliating kind of way. Just imagine 6 people coughing and gagging all over the place. And then I couldn't stop laughing because it was just so terrible. We got out of there as fast as we could!

We stayed at the resort on a Monday/Tuesday, but it was off-school days for both Maryland and Virginia, so it was fairly crowded. The pools themselves didn't feel crammed, but it was very difficult to find a seat, much less a table, in the park. Of course, we were newbies. If we ever go again, it will be with a strategy to reserve a table as early as possible.

And finally, although there were plenty of things to do to keep all ages occupied, not all ages can be occupied at the same time. Jack was big enough to do the "big kid" slides with Jon. And there were only a few things Joci could do. And all four kids needed to be supervised. So Jon and I were constantly trying to divide our attention amongst our offspring. I'll confess, I lost my kids on more than one occasion, but it was never that heart-gripping, can't-breathe kind of loss, if you know what I mean!

Enough about the Big Bad Wolfe. By the afternoon, our kids were completely worn out. We killed some time at the Williamsburg Outlets and Tropical Smoothie (just one of the many things we love about Virginia that we don't have in Maryland) and then set off on the drive home. We reached the dog a little after 8pm. It was cold and dark, but he was beyond excited to see us again! Like, I-don't-know-if-I-can-control-this kind of excited. The owner was generous enough to give us his crate and a bag full of goodies, but we didn't have a crate for him to travel in. So after a hasty goodbye, we shut the minivan up, and started on our hour trip home.

He's watching for Jon, he's always watching for Jon.
 The plan was for me to sit in the front seat and for the dog to remain behind us in the open spot next to Joci. Yeah, right. The Vizsla part of this dog really comes out in his personality--he loves his people and wants to be with them. And by "with them" I mean touching them. If we're standing still, he'll actually just come and lean against our legs for no reason than to be with us. They call them Velcro dogs. It's not a big deal to me, I'm kinda used to living with Velcro beings *cough, cough* --Joci. What's one more?? So Jäger rode the entire way home with his back legs behind the front seats and his front legs resting on my lap--tail wagging, tongue panting, sheer excitement! And I quickly learned that dog breath and dog hair are going to be ever-present in this new reality!

Our very first morning together. He just fit right in!
On the way home, we decided that "Nimbus" would have to go. We think it's kind of a cool name, but not fit for this dog! Nimbus means rain cloud or storm. It seems much better suited to a moody gray cat than this fawn-colored blur of zest-for-life! We wanted to do a J-name since we're total nerds like that. We came up with Jäger, German for "hunter" and the name of an elite military group. It's technically pronounced YAY-ger. But we say it wrong (YAW-ger) and it doesn't seem fair to try to correct it now. Jack thinks it's entirely too confusing to say it any of those ways and he's just going to call him "Jagger." That's cool too.

It's only been a week and we already have lots of doggie stories to share. But I fear this post has continued on long enough. So there you have it. You can call us crazy, but you can call him Jäger!

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