Category Archives: dogs

On Babies and Dogs

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I saw this article on MotherMag today — it’s got perhaps the cutest dog/baby photo ever to draw you in — and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share a few tips on babies and dogs.

Our Bernese Mountain Dog, Mudslide, is without question, my first baby. When I was pregnant for the first time, parents kept telling me that I had “no idea how much I’d love my baby.” In my head I was always thinking, yeah, I think I do have an idea… I love that dog! Aside from being a wonderful, nearly perfect dog (yes, spoken like a true pet owner), getting him was an important step for my husband and I. All my anxieties about having kids of my own — whether I could handle it, whether my husband could handle it, whether we’d work together as a team — were all assuaged by our new puppy. One night of getting up to take him out and clean his crate (and bathe him at 2am because he was a total mess) and I immediately understood that when it’s your baby, who you undoubtably love to the moon and back, all the hardships of parenting don’t matter.

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For his first year, Muddy and I spent every day together. He came to work and sat at my feet, we went on countless adventures together, and there were decadently long cuddle sessions. All of that changed when my son was born and dealing with my “dog guilt” was in fact one of the greater challenges of being a new parent.

If you’re preparing to introduce a new baby to your dog, you’ve probably read to bring a blanket home from the hospital for the dog to sniff. We did that and it made for some cute video to watch while I was recovering. The best advice I got however was this: have someone else carry the baby into the house. Depending on your type of delivery, you’ve been away for a least a couple of nights and I’m guessing your dog, like mine, is always very excited to see you when you walk in the door. Having your hands free to greet your dog and give them your full attention may be a small thing but it’s a nice way to start things off on the right foot/paw. So much better than (what will soon be the norm) of having your hands full carrying the heavy carseat + baby and your bags and trying to make your way down the hall while the dog energetically follows and bumps into you.

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Curious Mudslide checking out the new arrival.

Another friend told me to let the dog lick the baby all over.  My first though was that’s crazy but I later recognized the value in that sentiment. With both our kids, we gave Muddy a chance to sniff (and lick a little) when the baby first arrived. Highly supervised of course but not actively restraining him while it happened. (You need to take your dog into consideration and obviously if you have any concerns about your dog around kids this may not be the right approach for you.) Dogs can be surprisingly sensitive. We were cautious with Muddy for the first several months as we and he learned how things were going to work but he was always very delicate around the babies (as long as he wasn’t super distracted and excited).

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Muddy gets a first sniff of baby Chester.

One thing every parent, much less dog owner, should know are the warning signs of a distressed dog. I stumbled across a dog/kid website early on and was surprised to discover that I didn’t know half of them. Did you know that yawning is a sign of discomfort? Or licking the lips? This website has a great list but a quick google search will turn up more information too. Even if your dog is the sweetest kid-friendly pup out there, you should take a look. I trust Muddy and don’t believe he would ever bite a kid. Perhaps that’s foolish but he’s a patient dog from a sweet natured family breed. That said, I try hard to pay attention and not let the kids terrorize him. Even if he’s unlikely to hurt them, it’s simply not fair to him or their relationship. And it’s a bad standard to set for your kids. The last thing I want is my kids “assaulting” someone else’s dog at the park.

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What not to do! Perfect example of how subtle an anxious dog look might be. Look in Muddy’s eyes — he’s clearly asking for help but you have to be paying attention to him and not that cute chubby baby.

When we’re out and about, I’m often surprised at how few dog owners understand these warning signs. Knowing what to look for and being conservative about interactions — such as pulling your kids away when the dog turns away — is a good way to keep your kids safe from other dogs too. I never trust a dog owner when they say their dogs are “kid friendly.” Dog owners love their dogs more than they should.

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Another bad mom moment: Muddy is licking his lips, a sign that he doesn’t like what’s going on.

That goes for me too! So, please, do your own research. I don’t mean for my words here to be a rule for you and your family. Every dog is different and what’s worked for Muddy isn’t necessarily the best choice for your dog. If you’re not sure about your dog, you might ask friends and family to be honest with you about their perception. Others are often a lot less forgiving about a dog’s shortcomings than their owners would be. 

What’s your experience been with dogs? Do you agree with what I’ve said? Have different ideas?

What are your best tips for mixing kids and dogs?

And here are a few more dog-baby pictures in case you haven’t yet had your fill.

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Another great do/don’t example. Muddy is happy on the left, not happy on the right. If you’re not familiar with dog expressions you might think he was just ruining the photo! And yes, those are both my boys, at almost the same age, in identical outfits, two years apart.

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Guard dog duty. Muddy was a very proud “big brother” and loved to keep an eye on the babies.

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I find Muddy is the most playful with the kids when we’re outdoors and he’s off leash. He’s happy to be running around and has the freedom to escape any uncomfortable situations.

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And sometimes he’s perfectly happy to have a kid all over him!

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Scenes from a Saturday Morning

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The kitchen was a mess. The house was a mess. But we ignored all that (I think my husband could ignore it permanently!) and headed out to Fort Funston for a “hike” amongst the sand dunes. Houlton’s preschool is big on nature and the importance of children having “unsupervised” outdoor time to connect to nature and explore. We were so inspired by the Head of School’s comments at Back to School Night that we’ve decided to try and have one good outdoor activity every weekend.

 

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I packed up a cappu to go and some homemade trail mix that was a delicious combo: dried mango (cut with the kitchen shears), almonds, walnuts, and mini white chocolate chips. My former boss used to make her own trail mix as an office snack and often threw cut up beef jerky into the mix. Yum.

 

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A short drive later and we’re worlds away from our to do list and the house enjoying sunshine and blue bird skies along the coast.

 

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The downside of this “hike” is that Houlton doesn’t move very fast. Every two feet he finds something to immerse himself in. We got a lot of “I’m busy” when we tried to coax him down the path. He didn’t have a single toy with him but could have spent hours playing in the sand and dirt. Obviously this is the whole point — he explored and played in a very different way from what happens at the playground or in a room of toys. And we sat a short distance away and enjoyed our coffees.

 

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I’m wearing an old pair of Athleta jeans. Pretty cute, kinda dorky, super functional. They’re made with Schoeller fabric (if you see this on a hang tag know that you’re getting awesome quality/technology) that makes the jeans highly water and stain resistant. In fact Muddy drooled on my pants (while he sweetly rested his chin on my leg) and the drool rolled right off. I’ve been wearing them more lately on days when we’re off on an adventure. Sure, I could wear normal pants and be totally fine (minus a little extra laundry effort for grass stains etc) but sometimes it’s nice to have one less thing to worry about, right? Not to mention the pants have loads of thoughtful pockets and such. Search for my jeans and similar styles here.

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Morning Hike

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Oh Saturday morning… “let’s get out for a hike early!” so we’re parking the car at the “trail head” at 11 and I’m still thinking about all the things at home that need to be done — laundry, piles of stuff that never get addressed, vacuuming before our friend comes this evening. Five minutes of warm sunshine and walking through a peaceful eucalyptus grove and it’s all forgotten. Even though it takes so much energy and stress to get out of the house these days and our outings are often cut short by our slowness getting started, it’s always worth it to get outside.

 

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My husband and I both wore our New Balance Sneakers. Dorky matching couple shoes! Now we just need to get them for the boys and we’ll be all set. They are super comfortable.

I’m also sporting my dad’s vintage Reyn Spooner swim trunks (yes they’re corduroy) from the 70s and a cheesy Bernese Mountain Dog baseball tee. Love me my baseball tees — the raglan sleeves are so flattering and I love a 3/4 sleeve.  This outfit classifies as outdoorky no?

 

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Wedding Wedges

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We still get invited to quite a few summer weddings and while we still love going just as much as we always have, a few things have changed. First, the logistics of attending is way more complicated. We just had our first wedding with two kids and figuring out how to get there, where to stay, and who to have watch our two boys felt ten times more complicated than traveling with one kid the summer before. I don’t spend hours getting dressed anymore (in fact sometimes I don’t even shave my legs – gasp!) and waking up Sunday morning after a great wedding still involves feeling exhausted but now it’s because someone is waking me up at 5am, not because I drank too much champagne and was out dancing until sunrise.

Finally, a wedding post-kids no longer means heels for me. The decision to forego high heels was partially one of defeat — since I don’t wear them very often any more, it’s that much more painful to spend the evening in heels. But it’s also my smartest party move yet. So many summer weddings are partially or entirely outdoors on the grass. With wedges, I’m done with teetering around, sinking in every so often, and wondering if I look like a wounded flamingo. Not to mention I’m a lot more stable on the dance floor later in the evening.

I have two pairs of wedges now that I just adore. The gold ones were bought last summer when I needed something to go with my bridesmaid dress. Loeffler Randall does a few pairs of wedges every season, they’re never too high (but just high enough) and always super cool. I love wearing them for more casual nights out — they add a little sparkle to an otherwise casual date night ensemble.

The black ones I picked up recently at J.Crew when I realized I didn’t have a nice black sandal in my wardrobe. They’re kind of amazing. So comfortable with a low heel height that means you can wear them just as easily with jeans/shorts/skirts as you can with party dresses. Perfect if you plan to be carrying a toddler around at the big event too. They’re chic and elegant and oh so easy. I’m apparently not the only one who feels this way — J.Crew has offered them for more than one season in many different colors and materials. Take a play from my sister-in-law’s book and grab a second pair on sale (which you can do right now).

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Overalls

IMG_9135   On me: overalls: Gap (old but these are similar), sweater: J.Crew, sandals: Birkenstocks On H: top and pants: Tea Collection (both are similar pieces – I usually pick up his things at end of season sales so he’s wearing styles from last year), shoes: See Kai Run

Sunny Days

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Now that we’re getting into fall and the rest of you are starting to make cozy dinner and wear sweaters and scarves again, we’re experiencing the start of summer in San Francisco. You always have to wait until September for the fog to lift and then, after months of complaining, we usually get more heat and sunshine that we can handle. This is a just deal and run around town outfit. I felt like such a schlump (though you should have seen me coming out of the lab with bandages on both arms cause they were having trouble drawing blood for my checkup: Have you had any water today?) but Jennie said I looked cute so I smiled. It was too hot out.

Bandana: vintage Paul Smith, Tee: Mollusk for Madewell (similar), Pants: Athleta (try these or these), Sandals: Birkenstocks

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