As you may know (or not), I currently have four dogs and one cat. While I was updating my website’s “about” section recently, I realized that I have a lot to say about my pets that can’t fit in there. So I thought I’d write a post about them, for anybody who wants to get to know my furry kids a little better!
Marley Bob Patrick Huff-Westropp
Nickname: Marley Moo, Moo-Moo, Mar
Birthday: 3/23/05, almost 13 years old
Adoption Date: 3/23/06
Breed: American Pit Bull Terrier (red nose) & American Foxhound mix
Size: 55 lbs
Marley was the first. My family adopted him when I was 13 years old, and he was estimated to be about one year old. The animal shelter labeled him a “Pit/Lab Mix,” and named him Patrick. We named him Marley (after Bob).
When we first adopted Marley, he had some behavioral issues including bolting out the door at any opportunity, peeing on everything in the house, and trying to chew his way out of his crates and the house itself when left alone. There were many times when we almost made the decision to rehome him. But finally, we found a great dog trainer who helped us get him into shape, and things improved. He still suffered from separation anxiety, but as long as we put him in my bedroom instead of a crate during the day, he usually did fine.
When I went to college, I moved on campus, and though I was only about 15 minutes away from home I obviously couldn’t take him with me. So he stayed at my parents’ house and they took care of him. After I got married, we lived at my parents’ house for almost six months. Then we were able to get our own apartment nearby. But apartments and almost all leased houses, at least in my state, don’t allow pit bulls. We had to once again leave him to live with my parents.
Six months after that, we hatched a plan to change Marley’s identity. We’d decided to move to Riverside County, about an hour and a half away, and I wasn’t planning on leaving Marley behind. Because he’s a mix, we were able to sneak him under the radar and fool the leasing office at our new apartment with some cleverly angled photos. To make it even more legitimate, we first registered him in our current location as an American Foxhound and Lab mix, so we could then show the leasing office our registration as proof of his breed. It worked perfectly, because nobody batted an eye, and for the first time, we were able to live on our own with our dog! He’s been with us ever since, of course.
Marley’s personality is very unique. For years, he was very timid and especially afraid of men. Today, he’s much more friendly and rarely timid. But he always was and still is very neurotic. He has a tendency to pace and whine, lick himself incessantly, and bark maniacally if he hears somebody knock or ring the doorbell. His neuroses have decreased significantly with age, and now that he’s mostly deaf, the barking is rarely an issue. His separation anxiety has been under control for a few years now, with the exception of a trip we took last year on which he relapsed under the care of our house sitter. At the worst of his anxiety, he’s been known to chew up door frames, even getting into the drywall. These days, he’s doing much better and rarely seems stressed out when we leave the house. He’s our only non-crated dog, because that seems to be what’s best for him.
On the more positive side, he’s an incredibly sweet, gentle, smart, and obedient dog. He’s not timid anymore, even of men he’s never met (with few exceptions). He knows many tricks: sit, down, stay, spin, jump, roll over, shake (gives you his paw), and crawl. Because he can’t hear much anymore, we haven’t practiced most of these in a while, but in his prime he could do all of them on command. He’s very tolerant and gentle with other dogs, cats, and even small animals under supervision. We even have pictures of him laying down with our old cockatiel sitting on his head and nibbling on his whiskers. Marley is the most human-like of all of our dogs, and the most naturally well-behaved.
Booda Westropp; now renamed to Boba
Birthday: 7/1/09, 8 years old
Adoption Date: December 2009; rehomed October 2015
Breed: Domestic Shorthair cat, black
Size: 12 lbs
When I was still in high school, my family also agreed to adopt cat as a Christmas gift for me. I chose a friendly 6-month-old kitten with a pendulous belly, who I named Booda. He was a great cat and got along well with Marley, and vice-versa.
He lived with my parents’ when I went to college. I resumed “custody” of him when Cory and I moved back home after getting married. Then we were able to get our own apartment nearby, and bring Booda to live with us. He stayed with us through two more moves after that, before we rehomed him in 2015.
When Cody was somewhere around a year old, we had an incident with Booda. It wasn’t that big of a deal looking back now, but at the time, it seemed like it was. We were in the bedroom and Cody was playing on the floor near the door, when Booda started sticking his paw underneath the door, a silly thing he used to do. Cody couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the paw, of course, and before we knew it he was screaming and crying. Booda had unintentionally gauged a deep cut into Cody’s thumb with his claw. I was upset of course, and being very protective of my baby, I decided it was time to rehome Booda. I had a rule that if any of my pets ever hurt my child, I would find a new home for the animal. And so, that was what we did. We gave him to a friend we’d known since high school, and he found a wonderful home with him.
After a while, I realized that I’d made a mistake, but by then it was too late. Booda’s new owners loved him, as they should, because he’s an amazing cat! I still miss him, but I know he’s happy and well-cared-for and that’s what’s important.
Booda’s personality is wonderful. He is very friendly and sociable, and never had a problem hanging out with us with the dogs around. He even used to stalk one of our smaller dogs, Sky! He had a hilarious way of sitting, upright like a person and slouched back onto his butt, which we called the “Booda sit.” He would shake his tail in excitement and run up to us when we came home, begging for attention. He loved to stick his paws under closed doors, to try to get our attention. He loved to curl up on our laps, and would let us carry him around like a baby. He rarely did anything naughty. Truly, I don’t think I will ever find a cat like him again.
Sky Angel Westropp
Nickname: Sky Pie
Birthday: 6/25/10, 7 years old
Adoption Date: 6/25/13
Breed: American Eskimo Dog
Size: 20 lbs
After our apartment, we leased a house, and decided that since the landlord would allow up to two dogs, we might want to adopt another. I thought I would “just look” on Petfinder, but as soon as I saw the photo of a little white dog who looked like a fox, I knew we were going to adopt her. We contacted the rescue and met her within a few days, and then she was ours. Her name was originally Angel, but we changed it to Sky.
From the moment we met her, Sky has been the friendliest dog I’ve ever met. She loves everybody, instantly. She is probably the least obedient of all of our dogs, but her sweetness is undeniable. And when I say “least obedient,” it certainly doesn’t mean she’s a bad dog, we just have high standards. She’s the one who is most likely to run out of the backyard gate if it’s left open, while the others won’t. She’s the one most likely to jump onto the couch, when she knows it’s not allowed. Not exactly terrible behavior, but disobedience nonetheless.
Overall, though, Sky is a good girl. She’s crate trained (a change we just made within the last year), knows basic commands, walks well on a leash, and generally has good manners. She does have a tendency to invade personal space, but that’s just because she loves everybody so much.
After adopting Sky, we had our son Cody. Cody loved Sky as a baby, and would laugh hysterically at her for no apparent reason. Now that we have Abigail and she does the same thing, we’re thinking there’s just something about her that’s hilarious to babies.
Out of all of our dogs, we believe that Sky loves us the most. The other dogs can typically be found lounging on their beds near the dining room, but Sky is almost always laying near our feet. I often notice her staring at me, which according to google means that she loves me. She also is silly because she think she’s part cat. When we first got her, we had to train her not to jump up onto our table, desk, and the top of our couch. She’s a silly girl!
Lila May Daisy Westropp
Birthday: 2/2/16, almost 2 years old
Adoption Date: 4/9/16
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier & Chihuahua mix (Jack-hua-hua)
Size: 12 lbs
In 2016, we got permission from our landlord to adopt a third dog, since we no longer had our cat. I wanted a small dog, because growing up we’d had big dogs only and I thought it would be fun to have a small one for once. We adopted Lila from an animal shelter; she was a puppy at the time being housed with foster parents. She was nine weeks old and less than three pounds when we adopted her. Her foster parents had named her Daisy, but we chose the name Lila May.
Lila’s personality is very energetic, but eager to please. Being so small on the outside while feeling so big on the inside often seems to lead her to compensate with a lot of jumping and barking, behaviors we are working on correcting. (Again, when I say “a lot” of barking, that’s compared to the other dogs; she barks occasionally at the dog on the other side of the fence or at noises she hears outside). She had a rough start with us, as I found my every attempt to potty train her went unheeded. We were at our wit’s end more times than I can count, and very close to rehoming her. Like with Marley, we were able to find a great trainer who helped us solve our problems. She is now a well-trained dog overall.
With Lila, we discovered that some dogs actually do like crates! Lila has loved hers from day one. The experience of being able to put her in her crate when we leave the house and not worry about her getting into trouble while we are gone has opened our eyes to the benefits of crate training. She inspired us to crate train Sky, and any future dogs we adopt.
Lila has the biggest personality of all of our dogs, which is ironic as she is the smallest. She’s sweet and friendly, but beginning to show signs of timidity, which I need to work on with her. I don’t want our brave little Jack-hua-hua to turn into a typical shaky chi-chi. (All honesty, I’m not a huge fan of chihuahuas, because of their tendency to be terrified of everything, nippy, and yappy; of course, all dogs are different regardless of their breed!) But anyway, Lila’s a great dog and definitely keeps things interesting in our pack.
Luna Kitty Westropp
Birthday: 4/5/13, 4 years old
Adoption Date: 4/5/17
Breed: Dometic Shorthair Cat, Tuxedo coloring
Size: 14 lbs
When we bought our own home last year, we decided to adopt a cat. We went to the shelter and found Luna, whose name at the time was, I kid you not, Orange Chicken. Mind you, she’s not an orange cat either, she’s black and white (a color pattern known as Tuxedo). She is the only pet we have who did not keep any part of her previous name. (Funny story, she was turned in with a couple of other cats with names like Mongolian Beef and Chow Mein).
Luna had a somewhat hard time adjusting to our family life at first. She’s very friendly, but in new situations she is very timid. For the first several days we had her, she refused to come out from under the big upholstered chair in our bedroom, except for at night. At night, I would wake to find her climbing around my face, tracking litter all over our bed. We quickly moved her out of our bedroom after that!
Soon after adopting her, our whole family came down with a cold that then turned into bronchitis. We were under the impression that we were all very allergic to Luna, and close to rehoming her. Fortunately, we decided to wait it out, and after a very long recovery, we knew that it was just coincidental timing.
Luna is cute, friendly, and quiet. Some of her less desirable habits have included tearing viciously at the carpet beneath our door during the night, followed by repeatedly body slamming the door. Fortunately, after being ignored for months, she’s finally seemed to accept that she won’t be allowed in the bedroom, and she’s stopped this annoying behavior. One of her other annoying habits is her uncanny ability to track cat litter out of her litter box. It’s as if she holds it in her paws and releases it carefully and intentionally over every possible nearby surface.
For the most part, though, she’s a great cat. She keeps to herself, staying almost exclusively upstairs to avoid the dogs. But she loves attention when we’re upstairs, and she has a very happy and carefree life. One of her funniest antics is chasing her tail, something I’ve never seen a cat do before.
Macy Gray Fatface Westropp
Birthday: 10/13/17, almost 3 months old
Adoption Date: 12/3/17
Breed: American Pit Bull Terrier, blue nose
After Abigail was born in September, we thought we would be settled in terms of pets for quite a while. But then I suddenly came down with a powerful case of puppy fever!
At first, I tried to ignore it. I knew adopting a puppy wasn’t the best idea at this time. We have a three year old and a baby, not to mention three dogs and a cat already! But as I thought about it, I realized that I had three good reasons for wanting a puppy, and the only reason I didn’t want one was because of the fear that others would judge us. My three good reasons were as follows:
- I feel able to care for another dog, and we have the means to do so. If we can give a homeless dog a good home, and we want to, then we should.
- I believe in seeking joy. Puppies are joy. (They are also challenging, to say the least, but that doesn’t diminish the joy!)
- We want a dog who can protect us, specifically against other dogs. In my neighborhood, which is a very family-friendly neighborhood in one of the safest cities in the country, there have been a strangely high number of dog attacks. My neighbor and friend was attacked viciously a few months ago, and there have been reports of other dog attacks as well. I’ve always wanted to adopt a full Pit Bull, but now I had a really good reason to do so. Even walking with Marley has given me a feeling of security, and I know that having a well-trained Pit Bull by my side will be even better. When I take my kids out to the park, I want to feel safe!
For these reasons, we decided to “adopt” our newest pack member, Macy. I use the word “adopt” loosely here, since we found her on Craigslist. She was the last of a litter being “rehomed” by a family in a poorer area of our county; I suspect they are actually breeding their dogs intentionally and selling them as a form of income, under the guise of “rehoming an accidental litter”. While I feel this is incredibly immoral, especially for a breed that is filling shelters and being euthanized daily, I also believe that Macy deserves a good home. Who knows who else might have adopted her if we didn’t? She may have been raised to fight, or mistreated in some other way. Yes, I would rather adopt through a rescue next time instead of financially supporting this type of illegal breeding. But the lesson was learned after we already had Macy, so there’s no point in looking back now.
Macy was about nine weeks old when we got her, and weighed about 10 lbs. We expect her to be full grown at around 70 lbs. So far, her training is going well. She’s very sweet and cuddly, but also playful and mouthy. We are teaching her not to put her teeth on humans, along with all of the other skills she needs to learn. Unlike Lila as a puppy, Macy responds very well to correction. A simple “no” is usually enough to stop what she’s doing. She often signals her need to go potty by sitting near the door and whining. While accidents are still a daily occurence, we know that this is a normal part of puppyhood and it will pass. We’re also crate-training her, since we have a fresh slate with her and want to be able to keep her contained when we’re not home. Our plan is to have Macy be our absolute friendliest and well-socialized dog, as we’d like to be able to take her everywhere with us (wherever dogs are allowed, that is).
Macy’s middle name is Gray, because she’s gray and Macy Gray has a ring to it. We also have a Greyse May in the family, who she looks just like, so that’s fun. Her second middle name is Fatface, because, well, her face. It’s fat. In the most adorable way, of course!
So that’s it! In our county, we are allowed to register up to four dogs before we would need a kennel license, which means we are done at four. I love my pack, and I love my cat, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
People often wonder how we manage our brood, between the furry creatures and tiny humans, but the truth is it’s really not that hard. Our dogs are very well behaved, and don’t need a lot of constant supervision from us. We keep Macy tethered in a small area of the house to make it easier to keep her out of trouble. We let the dogs run around the backyard very few hours. Feeding them takes a few minutes, twice a day. Macy’s training and a walk with one of the other dogs (they take turns) take maybe an hour of time in the evenings, which is no problem. They really don’t take a lot of my time or effort, unless you consider that a lot.
Of course my kids are another story, but kids are supposed to be demanding. I find that I am able to balance everything quite well most of the time. I love our family, animals included, and I find joy in each furry face every day. (Of course it goes without saying that I love the non-furry faces even more.) 😉