Posts in August 2013

Doggone It – Part 2 (Lucy)

Since my last post, Part 1, I have received a steady stream of encouragement and sympathy. I really do not want to hand my dogs over to another family, believe me. If we can figure out a way to alleviate some of the allergy symptoms, we/I will. The issue is that our pediatrician likes to have at least a 2.5 year history of issues in order to proceed with any testing or diagnosis. I’m hoping the symptoms die down a little this fall when Lucy isn’t shedding as much.

Speaking of Lucy, she deserves to have her story told as well.

In April 2010, my sister was getting ready to deliver my nephew, Jeremiah, born with spina bifida. It was considered a high-risk delivery, so our family rallied together during his arrival and first surgery procedures. I spent many hours at Riley Hospital for Children, worrying, praying and holding the newest member of my family. During the months leading up to his birth, Steven and I were looking for another dog. Nothing had panned out well for us.

38116_772374333688_5369743_nI was sitting in a waiting room at Riley when Steven texted me that a friend and neighbor found a stray puppy walking along Ellenberger Park. They didn’t have room to keep her overnight, and Steven offered to take her in while we tried to find her owners. I came home late that night, but as soon I walked through the door, she greeted me with a wagging tail and crooked ears. She was a little shy, but she craved our approval, and we invited her into our bed (with Jake, of course) that night.

Honestly, we didn’t look very hard for her owners. She was too nice to be just a stray, but later that week, we heard about a similar-looking dog also wandering in Ellenberger Park. How could anyone dump such a sweet little girl?

We started calling her Lucy. That name was reserved for our first baby girl, but we decided it fit her. And she was our first baby girl. She was probably 4 or 5 months old when she became a Shattuck.

Lucy is the kindest, dumbest dog I’ve ever known. Her reasons for living are only to please and to play. Unlike Jake, she was housebroken in less than a month. She could chew through indestructible bones and toys within minutes. And she followed her big brother Jake all around the house, learning to wait until he was finished eating to drinking to venture toward the bowls. (If she forgot, he quickly let her know her mistake.)

Because her heart is so big, her brain is quite small. Isn’t that what an American dog is supposed to be like? She continually bumps into tables, doors and walls, is afraid of the vacuum sweeper and doesn’t know a stranger. She also thinks she is a lap dog and whimpers if she doesn’t fit into small spaces like Jake does. I laugh at her antics but also appreciate her ability to sense when I need a hug. She is a wonderful comforter and snuggle companion.

Her 55-pound body is muscular and strong. Her tail alone can wipe out glasses sitting on the coffee table, or take out small children. I was hesitant to introduce her to newborn Wesley, but she has been gentle and caring toward him since Day 1. I like her call her Mama Hen. She protects her people and guards her little boy from the wild world.

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She and Jake couldn’t be more opposite. He prances; she stomps. He’s delicate; she’s clumsy. But they are great siblings to each other. She made him a better dog, really. They got onto the same feeding and potty schedule, and they learned to play together. The commonality is that they both want to be with their people at all times, and they are both lounging, lazy couch potatoes. They may fight one minute, but soon after you’ll find them cuddling together.

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And Wes? Oh goodness. There is a form of love between the three of them that I’m unable to describe. He is of their pack, and I dread the day it has to be broken – from sickness, death or whatever.

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I honestly don’t know that I could endure a night without listening to Lucy’s snores and grunts in the dark. A life without Lucy would be… I just don’t know. Foreign.

She is our Lucy Bird, our Lucyberger and Lucy-loo.

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Posted: August 30th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Doggone It – Part 1 (Jake)

Wes rolls around on our bed, which is covered in dog hair. Then he gleefully grasps Lucy’s face in his hands and laughs as she gives him a big kiss. He pats Jake and tells him, “Hiiiiiii!!!” and then rubs his eyes. Within minutes, I have a kid with red hives popping up all over his face. <– This is a fairly common occurrence over the last few months.

I fear we may have a child on the brink of an official diagnosis of allergies. And I fear that our dogs are included in the unknown list of allergens. Of course, this is not confirmed, and we have been told that kids have to be at least 2.5 to get tested for anything, but I am starting to unravel slowly.

I try to sweep/vacuum/dust/whatever as much as possible. We have wood floors in every room. No carpet anywhere except for a couple area rugs. Our house is small, so it’s easy to clean. But days get away from me, and soon the laundry piles up, the sheets need changed and the floors need sweeping again. It’s not an ideal situation for a child with developing allergies and acute asthma (also not diagnosed, yet), which makes everything all the worse.

My dogs – Jake and Lucy – are my companions. I can’t imagine life without them.

Steven, on the other hand, could care less if we had to find new homes for our beloved animals. At least, for a little while. But even though they get on his nerves more often than not, I see glimpses of attachment and – dare I say it – love from time to time.

National Dog Day was a few days ago, and it was also the day I realized that I may eventually have to endure pain that I haven’t experienced before. You see, I ached for a dog of my own as I grew up. My sister had allergies similar to what I suspect of Wesley, and we even had to move our pet cat, Sarah, outdoors. So of course a dog was out of the question. (Plus my dad claims to “hate dogs,” but I don’t fully believe him.)

I had a stuffed animal dog that I cuddled with for ages, probably even up until high school. I clearly remember thinking that I wanted a dog similar to the size of my stuffed animal – one that would cuddle with me a night and fit within my arms as I laid on my side to sleep. I didn’t know what kind of dog would do that, but I would find out. My mom cheerfully replied every time I asked for a dog, “You are most welcome to have a dog of your own when you live on your own.”

As my college graduation date approached, I started my research. I wanted to adopt a dog from a rescue organization. Online compatibility tests always matched me with hounds, and I decided to adopt a retired racing greyhound. I connected with a few Indy rescue organizations. Once I learned that my new job and living environment might not be a good fit for a greyhound, I looked into Whippets and then Italian Greyhounds.

Funny thing is, every book I read and all the sites I visited cautioned new dog owners about Italian Greyhounds. There were many in foster and adoptive care because of high owner surrender. Difficult to train, very clever animals. But I wanted one badly. I passed the tests and home visits and thought I would be giving a home to a gray or blue 5 or 6-year-old girl Iggy. Most dogs in rescue programs are adult, but I didn’t care.

A few weeks later, I received a phone call that a 6-month-old puppy was surrendered as a “failed show pup.” His ears turned up in a funny way, so he couldn’t be bred or shown. The owners had let him roam free on a horse farm, so I was told that he was muscular, a unique color and “cute as a button.” His name was Jake, and could I meet him this week?

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I took Steven with me to meet Jake, the puppy. I fell in love, instantly. He wasn’t the blue colored older girl I hoped for, but he was mine. I knew it.

jake2He had a pink nose and a wild, energetic spirit. I left work during my lunch break to let him out of his crate and play with him every day. Since he was crated most of the day (if not he would have trashed the apartment), I felt bad for keeping him crated at night, too. One night I brought him into bed with me, and he climbed right into my arms and fell asleep. He was the dog I day dreamed about as a kid.

Sleeping with my dog has been a nightly occurrence for 7 years now. Sure, he’s too clever for his own good, and I admit he’s a bit of a jerk, but I love him. He was my original companion before Steven and I got married. We spent evenings together, played together and enjoyed the single life together. I love how he buries under blankets and grooms himself for 20 minutes every time he sits down. I love how he jumps into anyone’s lap and makes a new friend. He has tolerated Wesley’s toddlerhood well, and everyone loves him. Seriously, everyone. We can’t go anywhere in public without people pointing and asking questions and wanting to pet Jake. (Poor Lucy is too average.)

I really can’t picture a Shattuck house without Jake. If we have to find a new home for him, I will be heartbroken. He is my dog.

Jake, Jakey, Jake-a-roo

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Posted: August 28th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Lucky Number Seven

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August 17, 2007. I typically don’t like odd numbers; they make me uncomfortable. I usually see things in pairs and group like items together when I browse a room. When it’s an odd number, though, it drives me nuts. Where is the missing “partner?”

When it was time to book our wedding date, we had a few snags in the plan. Gen Con, a gaming convention, coincided with our wedding weekend, and many hotels were booked way in advance. I also had a previously planned trip to London scheduled before we were engaged, so we wanted to make it work out as our honeymoon. Because of this, we ended up having to hold the wedding on a Friday night. I didn’t mind this so much, except that the date was the seventeenth. Of the 2000-seventh year. If we had gotten married in July, though, the seventh month, I wouldn’t have minded because that looks more pleasing to the eye. 7/17/2007 – OR even – 7/7/07! But, we were “stuck” with August 17.

I wasn’t going to be a bridezilla about it, and figured I would eventually glaze over the issue in my head. And I have.

In fact, seven is a pretty special number. For starters, it’s one of God’s favorite numbers, and it appears seventy-seven times seventy-seven times throughout the Bible. (I’m exaggerating, maybe.) All throughout grade school, I was “Leah 7,” meaning I was usually the seventh person down in alpha order in our class. We had to code all of our papers that way. Not to mention the number seven’s reputation for luckiness.

Now that we’re entering our seventh year of marriage, I’m excited to see what success and prosperity it might hold for us. Thankfully, it’s starting out on the right foot. I began my new position at Alzheimer’s Association this past week, and while it was plenty busy and all-encompassing, I feel very welcomed and supported by my new coworkers. Granted, I have felt a little homesick for my Joy’s House family, but I have allowed myself to feel this on purpose – I think it will help me in the long run. It will force me to stay connected to my friends and fellow volunteers and keep my mission focus in sight.

Wesley also began a new change this past week. He moved up to a 2’s class and has transitioned really well. I am proud of my little boy and how much he has broken out of his shell. He seems nearly ready for potty training, so expect some high/low posts on this subject in the near future…

Steven is my rock star entrepreneurial, risk-taking husband. He is on a fast track for success, and I love his overflowing confidence. It’s rubbing off of me, and he encourages me now more than ever. He’s proud of my accomplishments, and I know he has my back. We’ve both come a long way over these six years of marriage.

Anniversary

August 17, 2013

We celebrated with a quick dinner outing sans kid last night, then ventured to a used book store for gobbles of new-to-us-ness. Today, our actual anniversary, we spent our Saturday morning with a cranky child, and we made the most of it. A trip to the Children’s Museum for a couple hours (Wes now requests to see the “neighs,” meaning the horses on the carousel.), followed by a PotBelly sandwich lunch and a long nap at home was just what we needed. We’re getting much better at being flexible and just going with the flow of a 2-year-old’s mood swings.

Wes woke up slightly more cranky, if that’s possible, but Steven and I tag-teamed back and forth to get him in a better mood (outside is key) so that we could venture downtown for some Gen Con costume sightings and some frozen yogurt. Success.

I love Steven’s ability to be a wonderful husband, father and companion. He brings my stress levels down several notches with his silly and ridiculous ways. We continue to learn and grow together, especially as new(er) parents-in-crime. I feel pretty lucky, so I guess this is my year!

Posted: August 17th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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RIP Lord Jabu Jabu

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INDIANAPOLIS

Lord Jabu Jabu, “Fishy,” aged 2 weeks, departed this earthly life on August 5, 2013. He was an active, beautiful betta fish with a tail of red and purple. He was fond of dried pieces of shrimp and crawfish, but did not care for those little red flakes of fish food.

He leaves to cherish his memory, brothers Wesley and Jake Shattuck and sister Lucy.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Extreme Jumping Sports Association and the Foundation for Escape Artistry.

Posted: August 5th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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The Truffula Tree

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an art therapy class designed for the employees of Joy’s House. We recently started an art therapy program with a licensed therapist, inviting caregivers and their loved ones to explore communication through art projects. In an effort to better understand the process and be able to answer questions about the program, our therapist offered a session for small groups of Joy’s House staff members.

The first task was to use whatever medium we wanted to create a representation of ourselves. I grabbed a few pipecleaners because, gosh, I hadn’t played with those in forever. Also grabbing some sheets of torn green and yellow paper, I started creating what ended up looking like a tree. It was wobbley and unstable, so I added a few more pipecleaners to the base of the tree, though I couldn’t find exactly the right matching color. In the end, my finished product resembled a Truffula Tree. You know, the kind found in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

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My leaves ended up having two different colors – and after I sat back and looked at it, it seemed fitting. My tree was going through a seasonal change.

That morning, I had had a second interview with the Alzheimer’s Association and was pretty confident I would be offered a position the following week. Sounds great and wonderful, right? Sure, it was – it IS, but with all “seasons,” you do need to shed a layer in order to grow. In my case, shedding my skin – my comfort zone within my job at Joy’s House – would be tough.

It’s so much easier to leave a job that you’re not happy with. A job that you dread, or a boss that drives you crazy. Or maybe it’s just a blah environment. At Joy’s House, I don’t have any of those things. It’s a fitting name, really, because the definition of “joy” isn’t necessarily happiness-all-the-time-oh-life-is-grand. Joy is associated with contentedness and gladness. The people are joyful people. The families served, the volunteered involved and the dedicated staff – these people are my “peeps.” My family.

You know what, though? The reason these people are so great is because of the mission. Everyone is a team player and wants the best for the future and the community. When I reflect back to my Truffula Tree, I consider my own mission-driven personality to be my career “foundation,” with my roots running deep. Perhaps the branches of my tree are the ways in which I can serve, wherever life takes me.

On August 12, I will be “branching out” and will be the new Communications Director at the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana. I am excited about the possibilities before me and thrilled to share my talents with such a strong and mission-driven organization. Their foundation is the same foundation I have rooted in – to equip caregivers with the best tools available in order to care for their loved ones. And, to educate the public on dementia and other diagnoses. The unfortunate truth is that my generation is not aware or prepared to take care of our future populations as they continue to age.

The people I’ve met – my new coworkers – are embracing, dedicated and all-around great. I really feel like I’ll fit in well. It’s taken me a minute to adjust and think of myself outside of Joy’s House, but I know my relationships there won’t ever change. Everyone in the know of my career shift has been nothing but supportive and exited for me. So naturally, I’m getting excited, too!

I’m learning to embrace change. It’s not my favorite part of life, but it can be exciting. Suddenly I’m reminded of one of Wesley’s favorite songs from a potty training DVD:

It’s different, and it’s wonderful
Change is good
Look at you grow!

(Look At You Grow, Potty Time, Two Little Hands Productions)

Posted: August 1st, 2013
Categories: Leah
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