Monday, February 18, 2013

in defense of the dog

so perhaps you've heard about the brown bear cub living in our home since christmas.  i've watched neighbors slow down and peer out their car windows when driving by.  looks of confusion,  curiosity and bewilderment.  what are those southerners up to now? and i know what you are all thinking.  really, i do.  i've read some of your comments on facebook.  i've even read in between the lines of your comments.  you think we're crazy. you at least think i'm crazy. you think moving to minnesota has caused some kind of madness to finally set in. it was only a matter of time.  you think i have no boundaries and too many kids...

and perhaps you're right.

exactly how did we end up with a second dog come christmas?

i bet a few of you wish you could have been flies on the wall when i brought up that conversation with the husband. but what you really need to know is that my kids have me figured out.  a part of me likes that fact and a part of me knows i am in big trouble because of it.

this dog thing is a perfect example.

about a month before christmas, the kids came to us.  “mom.  dad.  we'd like to call a family meeting tonight.”  they were calm and mature and oh, so polite.  i knew immediately they were up to something.  there had been some whispering...some disappearing together behind closed doors.  i’m a mother who (likes to think she) has her finger on the pulse beat of her children, i could tell...something was astir... something was amuck.  something was about to go down with the mcnatt children.

that evening, as we all sat together in the family room for our meeting, the children could barely contain their excitement.  our oldest, emily, presiding over the gathering began,   "parents, we have an important proposal for you this evening."  and with her introduction, the children thrust a typed, two page document into our hands. it was titled, "the mcnatt family gets a dog." and it was all there -- set out in black and white before our eyes.  graphs and charts and bullet pointed arguments explaining why this was the perfect opportunity and the perfect time to add a perfect puppy.

they were so persuasive and so prepared.  each child took a turn presenting some part of their research.  they had put some effort into this.  clearly, knowing they couldn’t bring it up like a last minute thought or a spontaneous idea.  it couldn’t be a whim, it had to have some substance...  a backbone of possibility.

we listened carefully.  rick rolled his eyes occasionally.  i was simply impressed with the mere blessed rallying of our troops.  the kids had worked together on something.  they seemed to all be on the same page.  no one was bickering, arguing, whining or crying.  i loved the sheer comradery of the moment. that alone was enough to convince me.  

but rick knew we were really in trouble when they got to the breed and name portion of their puppy proposition.  “we have researched this extensively and we believe that a newfoundland  puppy would best suit our family."  they paused, eyeballing our reaction and allowing that proclamation to sink in.  "why a newfoundland, you ask?" emily went on,  "well, that is an excellent question."  the kids continued to stare at us shaking their heads in agreement.  "we have just moved this year and we believe that a newfoundland dog will best capture the adventure in our new found land of minnesota.  it is the perfect representation of what we’ve all been through in 2012...a symbol of our new found land, minnesota.” emily explained in a confident and clear voice.  her brothers and sisters all smiling from ear to ear  in their support.  sarah elizabeth chimed in, “plus, the newfoundland breed was voted the #1 family dog in 2011!”  now, how can you argue with that???

their collective and persuasive argument went on and on.  i was dumbfounded, impressed and (if i'm being honest) pleased as punch with their organization and delivery.   rick new we were in trouble.  this kind of argument is exactly what i have been trying to teach my kids when they want to really get our attention.  this was textbook "how to approach your parents 101."   i am pretty sure the movement was led by our oldest, but, regardless, i was over the moon with their momentum.  they could have proposed the addition of a baby elephant and i probably would have at least listened.  i loved their sibling demonstration of research, reason and creativity.  afterward rick's comment was, “oh no, this is totally your love language and we are totally in trouble.”  and it is and we were.   i used to teach the persuasive essay to my high school english students years ago.  this was exactly the approach i attempted to drill into them.    do you want the car keys from your parents?  then don’t whine and whimper about it, persuade them with your reason and responsibility.  prove to them your maturity and motivation.  it's really quite simple, but it does take kids some time to catch on.

the children informed us that newfies were working dogs or rescue dogs.  of course that sounded pretty good to me.  i was all about adding another "worker" type to the family.  do you remember "nana" from peter pan?  she was the big newfoundland dog in that story who was employed to actually nanny the darling children -- even administering medicine every evening to them. now that might have been a bit of a fictional stretch, but it certainly sounded like a good fit for us.  i wasn't sure if we needed another dog, but we could definitely use a nanny for the "darling" mcnatt kids!

they went eagerly on explaining how they would be 100% in charge of this potential pup.  "you won't have to do a thing, mom, we'll take care of the dog all by ourselves." when i raised my eyebrows they became more passionate in the pleading of their case, "it will be a growth experience for us.  we will learn to be more responsible and reliable. having a puppy will teach us things...important things.  life lessons..."  at one point, connor even threw out the line, "just think, mom, it will give you something else to blog about." 

nooooow, as much as i was impressed with their initial research and delivery, my amazement ended there.  i've been a mom long enough. i've hung out with this crew of kids for enough years to know their M.O.  i might be easily convinced over the joy of a new puppy, but nothing would convince me that my children would be 100% in charge of this puppy.  school would begin again. life would resume.  sporting events and practices would take place and homework would, without doubt, take priority. the new puppy novelty would eventually wear off and i would be left alone to care for this little big critter.  i knew that.  we could make promises and plans, come up with charts and chore lists, but i would be the one, at some point, holding the rawhide.

we had a 100 reasons for our kids on why this wasn't the perfect time to add a puppy.  but somehow, in that week before christmas, when i stumbled upon a local breeder with two chocolate newfies left in her litter...and somehow when i talked rick into driving out to "just take a look"...and somehow when we took that look and fell in love with these large, goofy cuddly pups...and somehow when we thought about how surprised our kids might be come christmas morning...somehow...we ended up with this little big girl who looks more like a bear cub roaming our yard than a family pet.

yes, there are lots of instances when i am the one left holding the rawhide.  i am the one cleaning up the mess or filling up the water bowls...but somehow, it's still okay.  we love our miss minnetonka.  she is an absolute doll.  and though i have to now step over two big dogs when i am cooking in the kitchen...somehow i don't really mind.

 connor is (by far) the most reliable about taking the puppy "out"...even in his pajamas!
 another one of the kids' bullet points in their proposal:  a puppy would give cooper a buddy.
and indeed, it has.  they are great pals....this is how i find them all the time in the makes getting to the stove or refrigerator a bit challenging...but they're awfully cute together.
bella likes to lay down right between them.  i need a picture of that.  

 one of my favorite photos:  connor's first day back to school after the christmas break.  minne was like, "please don't go...don't leave me!"

 we certainly won't lose her in the snow!

 minne is a good buddy on the lake...she goes down with tyler to ice fish or just run around.  newfies are water dogs...we can't wait to see that in action when all this stuff melts! they have webbed feet and have a natural instinct to save people or things from the water...thus we have to be careful swimming with her next summer.  apparently she will spend the entire time trying to drag us to shore and "rescue" us. as working dogs, newfoundlands,  were first used to assist fishermen off the coast of newfoundland (imagine that).  they were used to drag nets full of fish or move piles of lumber. even the navy has used them on ships in the past.  now that's kind of cool!
we named her minnetonka because of living on lake minnetonka this year.  it's such a perfect name for her.  "minne" means water....and "tonka" means big.  yes, this gal is one big drink of water!

newfies, nicknamed "gentle giants," are known for their loyalty, courage and devotion.  i am pretty sure we won't have minne hauling firewood or babysitting bella anytime soon, but what family wouldn't benefit from more loyalty, courage and devotion in their home?  and speaking of the gentle giant...last week i took minne in to the vet for her second puppy appointment.  she had gained 20 lbs. in 5 weeks.  at four months she's approaching the 50 lb mark.  newfies grow for the first two years of their life.  they typically stand eye level with the dining room table and can get up to 150 lbs at full size.

we are now looking for acreage...


Anonymous said...

I love this. Kids raised with thoughtfulness and being taught how to approach a problem (or how to get to a solution). Fun read - and how could you not love that puppy - totally adorable. . .

Anonymous said...

I found your blog thru Diana and love your writing! This story is cracking me up and i love your kids persistence and hard work. I must admit, you almost have me looking for newfie breeders (except my husband would most likely disown me)! Cant wait to see your newfie grow and love the two dogs snuggled together, that's perfect companionship! I sold my husband on dog #2 by telling him #1 needed a companion...well #1 is just plain independent and wants nothing to do with #2...we have had them for 4 years and just last week was the first time the two of them actually played with one was so neat! Love to see "normal" dogs doing what dogs should do - enjoy one another.

Thanks for always sharing your honesty!

Paige said...

I'm guessing you won't live as close to Diana as you would like to:) I showed John David Minne's picture last month and yes he wants one too. Now he has not even started thinking about how to convince us, thank goodness after the last few months with my skunk/candyeating dogs haha!

Aus said...

Oh just HOORAH!! I guess I'm going to have to find you on FB - first I've heard this! Newfie's are a cool breed (I tend to favor working field dogs anyway!)and you'll have trouble keeping her out of the water - but as breeds go they are way up there in my book! They also have "gentle mouths" - you should be able to get her to bring you raw eggs without breaking them - not that you would have much need for that - but you get the idea of how gentle they are! ;)

hugs - great joy - and yeah I'm smirking too - dude (OK dudette) the kid powned you! ;)

aus and co.

snekcip said...

This truly was an enjoyable post! Your kids are truly awesome! Love their TEAMWORK!!!

PS The pictures of Minnetonka's gorgeous chocolate fur against the white EXQUISITE!!!

Paula said...

Absolutely love how your kids set up their proposal and love how you surprised them in return! The pictures are gorgeous. Pets are gems...the ones of Minnie snuggled into Cooper warm my heart. Kids and pets...doesn't get better than that!