Category: Pets

Five to One

In the last year and a half, we went from having five dogs to having only one. It’s been a lot of changes, difficult decisions, and sad losses—but having just one dog now is also really nice. Here’s the story of how it all happened.

In January 2019, we adopted a Shiba Inu and Shepherd mix who we named Roscoe, as a puppy. At the time, we had our Pit Bull mix named Marley (age 14), our American Eskimo Dog named Sky (age 9), our Jack Russell Chihuahua mix named Lila (age 3), and our American Staffordshire Terrier named Macy (age 1).

Marley had been dealing with health problems for a few years at that point. He had very bad teeth, despite yearly cleanings for about the last five years of his life. They were severely diseased and causing him pain. He had a few teeth pulled at every cleaning, but his molars were the biggest problem and are almost impossible to remove in dogs since they are basically fused to the jawbone.

Other than that, he had a heart murmur which was growing worse every year. Heart murmurs aren’t necessarily a problem, but in combination with his dental disease (which can have a connection to heart disease in dogs), it was a bit concerning. In his final year, he developed congestive heart failure, a terminal illness. He began to lose weight, and considering that he was always on the thin side, it was even more worrisome. Sometimes he refused food for several meals in a row, and at the worst times he wouldn’t even eat a bowl of shredded chicken set down right in front of him. He was on medication to help with his chronic cough (the telltale sign of congestive heart failure).

Although he still had a surprising amount of energy, moved well, had perfect control over his bathroom habits, and seemed overall to be happy, we knew that with his disease and at his age he would eventually die a painful death—and it would happen within months. We chose to euthanize him at home before his suffering became too much, but it was a very difficult decision. It felt like we were murdering him, to be honest. I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do, though, and I am happy knowing that his last day was a very good day. We went on a long walk, gave him excessive amounts of snuggles and attention, and fed him a special treat that would usually be off-limits since it can cause digestive issues—his favorite thing, dairy. He passed away so peacefully at home with me by his side. That was in February 2019.

We had a long time to prepare ourselves and process Marley’s death before it even happened, so I didn’t go through a lot of grief afterward. I miss him still, and have countless loving memories of him from over the 13 years that he was mine. He will always be a very special dog in my heart.

In September of 2019, we rehomed Lila. It all started a few months before that, when out of nowhere a fight broke out between her and Macy. We weren’t home at the time, but our dog sitter let us know what happened and we came home to a wounded and traumatized Lila. The fight was sparked by jealousy over who was getting attention from the sitter, and the apparently incompatible personalities of the two dogs.

Lila has a very anxious and bossy personality towards other dogs, and a tendency to bare her teeth anytime she felt threatened. Macy has a very submissive personality towards other dogs in general, but when she senses any form of aggression, she snaps into boss mode and sees it as her duty to put the other dog in their place. Lila’s territorial aggression, especially when it comes to human attention, was not something Macy tolerated well that day. After the floodgates were opened, there was no stopping it. Macy was out for blood from that point on—but we weren’t ready to accept it yet.

We worked hard on training and desensitizing them to each other, and felt that things were improving. Then they both got closed in the bathroom together by one of the kids, and another fight broke out. I got to them quickly, but Lila was injured again. From that point on, we had to keep the two of them separated at all times. Even then, we still had a few incidents of Macy trying to get at Lila through her crate. It was clear that they could not live together, and it wasn’t fair to Lila to have her living with another dog who was clearly wanting to end her life.

Not only was the decision to rehome Lila a hard one because we love her and were very attached to her, but it was deeply disappointing to me to discover the capacity for aggression in Macy. I see Macy as pretty much my perfect dog, and she has been one of the best-behaved and the easiest-to-train dogs I’ve ever had. She even has her Canine Good Citizen certification. One thing I love about her is how gentle she is with other dogs. But seeing what she was capable of towards Lila made me question her in a way I was deeply saddened by. I never ever questioned Marley’s ability to get along with another dog—he was an angel in that regard. Seeing a different side of Macy was a hard thing for me, and even now I still don’t 100% trust her around other dogs. (For the record, she has never been in a fight before or since Lila.)

But back to Lila. We found her a perfect home, where she is the only dog and gets all of the attention and exercise she needs to be well-adjusted and happy. It was sad to say goodbye, and difficult to walk away after handing her off to a stranger—but her new owner was reassuring and they both seemed happy in the photos I received in the weeks after. We knew that we made the best decision for Lila, and she will have a better life for it.

At that point, we were down to three dogs: Sky, Roscoe, and Macy. From the beginning, Roscoe had been a challenge. He was the most difficult-to-train dog I’ve ever had, and we did not handle his bad behaviors very gracefully. Potty training him was a nightmare—he would refuse to pee outside, and then pee in his crate minutes later. As he grew older, he would still pee in the house a few times per week, and when he did that he didn’t just pee in one place. Roscoe had a special skill for accidents—he would start peeing, and then walk around the house, forming a thin trail of urine perhaps 10-20 feet long. Never before, and I beg to God never again, have I seen this type of behavior in a dog.

Crate training in general was very difficult as well. He was unbelievably vocal about his dislike for his crate at first and boy did he have stamina. He would screech at shocking volumes for hours through the night in his crate, and it took him weeks (or months?) to adjust to being in his crate for any period of time. It was a harrowing time, to say the least. That’s not to mention the chewing (dog beds, baby gates, and kids’ toys were favorite targets), barking, and refusal to let anyone brush him or trim his nails (or touch his paws at all, actually).

Despite all of that, of course Roscoe had some good traits. He’s very cuddly and sweet, now perfectly crate-trained, knows basic obedience commands, and is a great exercise buddy. He is also very smart and learns fast. We did love him, but the misbehaviors that continued into his early adulthood eventually became too much for us. Ultimately, we decided that it would be better for him to be rehomed with a family who could manage him better and give him the love and attention he needs. After coming to this decision, we put him on an online rehoming website in May (2020), shared his profile on social media, then waited for the right family to come along.

While we were still working on rehoming Roscoe, Sky started to have some health issues. It started back in January when she had her yearly teeth cleaning. It went fine, but from that point on she started having accidents in the house. We still don’t know if it was related in any way, but that’s how I remember it starting. After we started leaving the doggy door open almost all of the time, the accidents stopped and we thought the issue was behind us. Next came the diarrhea. She started to have loose stools, and at first we thought it would go away on its own, since diarrhea in dogs is something we’ve dealt with quite a few times before. But it continued for days, and then weeks, and we started to feel concerned. She was still eating normally and acting normal, so we put off taking her to the vet.

Then I started to notice signs of pain. She would sometimes start panting and quietly whimpering for a few minutes, or she would struggle with going to the bathroom. She also had a very odd episode which I didn’t know at the time was a seizure. She started staring at the door, and then suddenly flopped onto her side and started kind of clenching her paws. It was really subtle, and hard to tell that anything weird was happening, and after a moment I picked her up and put her back on her feet and she walked away like nothing happened. I chalked it up to a senior moment. Shortly after that, though, I decided to make a vet appointment for her—but for some bizarre reason, all of the vets in my area were extremely busy and booked out for weeks. I was able to get her an appointment for late the next week.

It was only a few days after booking her appointment that we woke up to her obviously in distress. She was panting, trembling, and had another episode (a seizure) in which she also peed all over herself. We took her to the emergency vet, and they took her back immediately because she was in critical condition. It took a few hours to run tests and get a diagnosis, but ultimately, we were informed that she was having seizures, which were at that point coming back-to-back, and they were likely caused by a brain tumor. The only treatment options available did not provide a good prognosis, and were extremely expensive. Considering Sky’s age, and the fact that she was suffering and would likely never go back to how she was before due to brain damage from the seizures, we knew the only option was to euthanize her.

Having to make this decision so suddenly was jarring, and surreal. It was completely different than Marley’s situation, where we had time to prepare for the end of his life. Sky was old, but not that old considering her size. We’d always expected a lifespan closer to 18 years from her. But when we sat with her at the vet’s office to say goodbye, it was crystal clear that there was no other choice. She was practically gone already—there was no recognition in her eyes, or any sign that she was aware of her surroundings. We held her in our laps and pet her face, and talked to her, and her finally closing her eyes and seeming to relax was the only sign I got that she knew we were there with her. We said our goodbyes, and held her as she passed away. That was near the end of May, last month.

After losing Sky, I was sad, but I honestly didn’t go through a lot of grief. I don’t completely know the reason, except that I think perhaps I just handle pet loss fairly easily. I cry when I’m saying goodbye, but usually after that I can move on and feel at peace with it. The only exception was our three guinea pigs who were killed (by Sky, incidentally)—which I grieved over for months. They were very special to me, and the way that they died I think was the biggest source of pain because it was anything but peaceful, and anything but the right time. Although Sky was ours for almost seven years, losing her was not as traumatic. We have so many fond memories of her, as well.

After Sky passed away, we continued with our plan to rehome Roscoe, and we were actually more eager than ever. We’d been talking for months about how nice it would be to have just one dog, never expecting that it would actually happen anytime soon. We expected Sky to pass in another five to eight years, and then Macy not long after that (since she’s a large breed and purebred), and we’d then be left with just Roscoe for many years. But Sky passing only further solidified our desire to rehome Roscoe, since both our family and he would certainly be happier that way.

It didn’t take very long to find him a good home, and when we did, we found a fantastic one. He went to a family with lots of kids (he is a wonderful dog for kids), and a dog trainer in the family. They were extremely eager to meet him and committed to taking him home from the start. Even though he was anxious and standoffish at the meeting and exchange, which I’d expected and prepared them for, they were very patient and understanding of him. I know that he is in the best hands now, and we made the right choice.

We’ve had just Macy for less than a week now, but it feels almost as if this is how it’s always been. I feel so much lighter and I enjoy her so much more—and the house is so much more peaceful. She’s been getting walks every day, which never happened when we had three (not to mention five) dogs. She has free reign of the house at night, since she’s well-behaved and Roscoe was the only one who actually needed to be in the pen they used to sleep in. She gets all of the love and attention, and although I know she enjoyed the company of other dogs, I think she’s happy and she’s becoming more social with us humans now.

Now that I have one dog, I am not planning on ever going back to more than that. It’s pretty glorious. We have more flexibility to go places, since we can take her on trips with us, or leave her with a dog boarder without paying for a full-time house sitter. We can pay for more expensive vet bills for her if needed, without worrying about the expense of four other dogs. And because she is so well-behaved, we don’t have the stress of dealing with dog behavior challenges anymore. We can work on and improve her training and it’s actually fun for me now because it’s so much easier than trying to work with many dogs at once. I enjoy working with Macy, anyway, because she’s so eager to please and learns really well.

Going forward, my family hopes to enjoy Macy for many, many years to come. In the future, we’d love to rescue one dog at a time, and we have a strict “bully breeds only” policy now. If we’ve learned anything from all of these changes, it’s that we love this breed—and why mess with a good thing?

On a side note, yes, we still have our zoo. We did recently surrender two of our bunnies (a bonded pair) to our local bunny rescue, due to them being a poor fit for our family and vice versa. Our zoo now consists of: two bunnies, Kit and Karma who are a bonded pair; three guinea pigs, Piper, Annie, and Calla; two parakeets, Oliver and Oakley; one mouse, Harriet; and one Betta fish, Baby. Harriet is quite old for a mouse, so I don’t expect her to be around much longer, but other than that we have no plans to say goodbye to any more of our pets. Our cats, Luna and Leo, are still of course a part of our family as well. We are very happy with the way things are! Although 12 pets may seem like a lot, it is very manageable for us at this point and we really enjoy having animals as a part of our family and home.

The Westropp Zoo in 2019

We added a lot of new pets to our family this year! We started the year with four dogs, two cats, and two mice, and ended the year with 14 animals.

In January we adopted our puppy, Roscoe. He was the absolute worst puppy I have ever had, although Lila was a close second. (Smart dogs, it seems, are more challenging as puppies!) He is now about 14 months old, and finally to the point where I would consider him potty trained. He still chews things he’s not supposed to semi-regularly, but not as often as before, and he is still very bad about stealing food left on the table. But overall, he’s not the worst dog in the world. 😉 On the plus side, he is very smart and sweet and he is the cuddliest dog I’ve ever had. He’s also a good rollerblading companion.

Also in January, we bought two parakeets who we named Oliver and Oakley. They pretty much hate me, and do not like being handled whatsoever. However, their sounds are pleasant to listen to, and I have allowed their flight feathers to grow out so they can fly around the room when I open their cage, which is fun to watch.

In February, we sadly had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, Marley. He was 14 years old (or possibly even older), and beginning to decline with symptoms of congestive heart failure. I knew that I didn’t want him to suffer, so I chose to have him put to sleep gently at home after he began to lose interest in eating. Even though he started eating again on the day he was put to sleep, and he was still in many ways happy and energetic, I knew that it was an upswing that wouldn’t last. His last day with us was a very happy day for him, and he went to heaven without having to suffer through a long decline. It was a hard decision for me, but I have to believe I made the right one. And yes, I do believe he went to heaven! The Bible describes animals in heaven, and I can only hope that we will be reunited with loved ones, including our beloved pets, in paradise. 😊

I adopted Marley when he was about a year old, and I was 13 years old. He had been with me through so much, and he was really the best-behaved dog of our pack by miles. He was also just special in so many ways. He was sweet, quirky, gentle, and goofy. I love and miss him very much, and I know I will never have another dog like him.

In April, one of our mice, Hazel, also passed away. We decided not to get another companion for her sister, Harriet, since mice don’t typically live past one or two years old and they were both already about one and a half at the time. Surprisingly, Harriet is still with us and just passed her second birthday!

After that, we adopted our three guinea pigs, Piper, Annie, and Calla. Piper and Annie were adopted together from a family who no longer wanted them. (Fun fact, they came in a cage so small that we now use it as a litter box). Calla was adopted from a teenager who no longer wanted her, even though she is incredibly friendly and sweet! (Fun fact number two, she previously lived alone in a tiny glass aquarium with no hay… which is not appropriate care for a guinea pig.) Our three pigs are now living in a luxurious 10 square foot enclosure with the unlimited hay they deserve. Not to mention the fresh veggies! It is one of my greatest joys of pet ownership to be able to provide excellent homes for my animals. 😊

Not long after that, we found a bunny just hanging out in a neighbor’s yard, and took her home. She didn’t belong to the home we found her at, and I was hopeful she was abandoned simply for the fact that I very much wanted to keep her. We named her Cinder and she was the most friendly, sweet, and fun bunny I’d ever seen. Sadly, soon a neighbor from down the street came around handing out flyers for their lost bunny, and we very reluctantly returned her. That family was not caring for her properly, so it was particularly saddening.

At that point, we decided we wanted a bunny of our own and we adopted Ellie from a local rescue. She is a big, bold girl who will tolerate being petted more than most bunnies I’ve seen, but she still isn’t exactly what I’d call cuddly. Most bunnies are, by nature, timid creatures and won’t sit and be petted by people for long. We thought we could get a baby bunny, and if he was handled by us from a young age, he would be more cuddly—enter, Chester. Sadly, Chester has grown up to be a more standoffish bunny than Ellie, and he runs away without fail anytime I try to touch him.

We were about to give up on the idea of having a bunny anything like Cinder, but we decided to give it one more try and went to see if any of the bunnies at our local rescue were particularly friendly. Lo and behold, we met little Kit. He is very cuddly and doesn’t just tolerate being petted, but actually solicits attention. As a result of our search for the perfect bunny, we now have three!

Chester and Ellie are very well-bonded, but Kit has not been accepted into the herd. So, in our pet room where all of the small animals live, Kit has his own large enclosure, which takes up a little less than half of the room. The rest of the open space is for Chester and Ellie. All of the bunnies live cage-free, since they are litter-trained. Even though they don’t have total access to each other, Kit is able to easily see, smell, hear, and even lay next to the other buns on the other side of the fence, which I feel helps fulfill his social needs.

We are definitely at capacity with our small animals, and moving forward my plan is to allow all of them to live out their natural lives and not adopt any more. I’d actually love to eventually have one dog, one cat, one horse (boarded), and maybe one small animal (or at most one per child, if they want their own pet). Of course, that is at least a decade away from happening, so for now we are going to have a full house of animals!

In September, we made the tough decision to rehome Lila. For months, her and Macy had been fighting and Lila had been injured. Despite our concerted efforts to work with both dogs on training, and many alternative ideas we considered such as keeping our house divided using baby gates or keeping one dog crated at all times, we eventually came to the decision that all involved would be better off by rehoming Lila. She is better suited to be a single dog, and when it came down to it, the thought of rehoming Macy was unbearable. (Not to mention the increased difficulty of rehoming a bully breed dog with a history of aggression towards other dogs). For the record, Macy gets along just fine with other dogs at the dog park and with Sky and Roscoe. It was really a personal thing between her and Lila.

We did find a great home for Lila and noticed an immediate difference in our pack at home after she was rehomed. We know we made the right decision, and even though we miss Lila, we are happy that she is safe and happy now.

So with that, we are now at three dogs, two cats, three guinea pigs, three bunnies, two birds, and one mouse—a total of fourteen pets!

How do I manage it, you may ask? It’s actually not as hard as it may seem. It takes me under an hour a day to take care of all of the pet care responsibilities! Time spent petting animals and walking the dogs is not included in that, because a) I don’t walk my dogs every day, but when I do walk them I consider it fun, not a chore, and b) petting animals is also fun, not a chore.

Honestly, Cory and I often find ourselves at the end of the workday with all of the chores done and nothing to do! Despite what appears to be a full plate, we have a lot of spare time and we definitely have the capacity add more to our lives. That’s a big reason we know for sure that we are ready to have another baby.

I love having a lot of pets and it gives me something positive to do with my time and energy. I also love that my kids get to experience living with animals and learn how to care for them. I wouldn’t mind downsizing over time, as I mentioned before, and in fact I feel it would be quite nice to have only a few pets for a change. Nevertheless, I like things the way they are now and I’m glad that the Westropp Zoo is so interesting and fun.

 

2020 Update:

In late January, as of the time of this posting, we also have now added two betta fish to our zoo. While I truly didn’t want any more pets, I couldn’t resist a little “homeschool” lesson setting up a habitat for the fish with the kids. The fish are the kids’ first pets that belong to them, but of course as the adult I am the one responsible for taking care of them. The kids help feed them twice a day, which is fun for them, and they love to watch them swim around their aquariums. They even named them—Biscuit is Cody’s fish and Baby is Abigail’s.  

It’s Raining Cats, Dogs, and Birds!

The year 2019 is still young, but it’s been a significant one for the pets in my family. As you may know, my family is big on pets. We had eight when I posted about them last, but we reached the big 10 not long after that. We’re back down to nine now, since one of our mice, Hazel, passed away.

In mid-February, we said goodbye to our beloved Marley. He had congestive heart failure and periodontal disease, and his weight was dipping lower and lower. Although he still had good days, he also had days when he wouldn’t eat. I chose to euthanize him before his suffering increased. It was a terrible choice to have to make, but I believe I did right by him. He was fourteen years old, and spent thirteen of those years with me. I miss him very much, and I know I will never have a dog quite like him. He was smart, sweet, gentle, and very quirky. He was loved and is missed by many people.

So, that’s the sad news. But in our home, and hearts, there seems to always be room for more creatures to love.

We have added three pets to our home since the beginning of the year!

Roscoe is our five-month-old puppy. He’s small, estimated to be 25 lbs fully grown and currently weighs 18 lbs. We think he’s a Shiba Inu mixed with Shetland Sheepdog (AKA Sheltie), which makes him a Sheltie Inu. 😉

He’s very sweet, affectionate, and generally mellow. He isn’t as mischievous as Lila was as a puppy, but he also isn’t as well-behaved as Macy was. It’s been challenging to potty train him, and he’s not there yet, but he’s made great progress since we adopted him in January. He is a very pack-focused dog, and bonded to our other dogs much more quickly than he bonded to the humans in our family. He does not like to be separated from his pack sisters! He has come to love us humans as well. He’s pretty adorable, too.

Other than Roscoe, we also added two parakeets to our home. They are named Oliver and Oakley, and are both males (well, Oliver definitely is, and we think Oakley is too but time will tell for sure.) Oakley is an English Budgie, who we got from a local breeder. Oliver is an American Parakeet, who we bought from a pet store. They don’t like to be handled (yet), but they don’t bite and they can be coaxed/chased onto my finger with some patience. They are the best of friends, and love to be in their cage. (Really! When I take them out, they always climb back in within 20 minutes.)

As I already mentioned, our mouse Hazel recently passed away. We still have her sister, Harriet, and she seems to be healthy despite her age (mice have a very short lifespan of one to two years, and Harriet is now about 1 ½).

Macy is also fully grown now, and is our only “big” dog. She weighs 57 lbs. We recently realized she’s an American Staffordshire Terrier, rather than an American Pit Bull Terrier. And our precious pittie is now a Canine Good Citizen, a title awarded by the American Kennel Club. We worked hard training for the test, and I was very proud when Macy passed!

So, all of that means we now have four dogs, two cats, two birds, and one mouse. It may sound like a lot, but it’s really not to us! We are looking forward to adding more pets to our family in the future. 😊

8 Pets and Counting

I love animals. I always have, since I was a little girl. Having a lot of pets has brought me joy throughout my life, and I couldn’t imagine not having them around!

When I was a child, I had bunnies, a tortoise, turtles, parakeets, mice, a hamster, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. My dad also had iguanas and a snake. And as a young adult, I had cockatiels. When it comes to pets, I like variety!

As a child, I wasn’t taught well about being responsible for my pets’ care. I wasn’t the best young pet owner, and I hate to think about the fact that my childhood pets did not have the lives they deserved. As an adult, one of the things that brings me joy through pet-ownership is knowing that I am giving my pets a great life. I have a high standard of care for my pets, and a high level of commitment. I now realize that adding a pet to the family is a big commitment, and shouldn’t be made lightly!

But anyway.

Currently, I have four dogs, two cats, and two mice. Let me introduce them!

Marley is our 13 ½ year old mutt. We think he has American Pit Bull Terrier, American Foxhound, and Labrador Retriever in him.

My family of origin adopted him from a shelter when I was 13 years old, and he was about one year old. He came to live with me when I got married.

He’s always been gentle and low-energy, and has become even more so with age. He’s struggled for most of his life with severe separation anxiety, and anxiety in general, but for the past year or so he has been doing great.

Sky is our eight year old American Eskimo Dog. (She’s considered to be “miniature” size, not standard). My husband and I adopted her from a rescue when she was about three years old, before we had our first child.

Sky is the friendliest, happiest dog I’ve ever had. She adores people, strangers and family members alike. She gets along with any dog or cat she comes across. She’s a total sweetie!

Lila is our almost-three-year-old Jack Russell Chihuahua mix. We adopted her from a shelter when she was about two months old (and weighed about two pounds!).

Lila has been the most challenging dog we’ve owned. She absolutely refused to be potty trained as a puppy, and it took professional board-and-training to get through that difficult stage. Now that she’s grown, she’s a very sweet and saucy little dog. She is the most timid of our dogs, and doesn’t approach new people or dogs easily. She’s probably the smartest dog I’ve ever had, though.

Macy is our newest dog. She’s a one year old purebred American Pit Bull Terrier. We bought her from a local breeder when she was two months old, and just about the cutest thing in the world.

Macy has been the easiest-to-train dog I’ve ever had. I like to say that she’s my “soul-dog” (like soul-mates, but for owners and their dogs). Something about her just connects with my soul!

She is also a huge people-lover. When we go to the dog park, she’s on the bench with the humans. She’s very submissive to any new dogs she meets, often to her detriment because she’s too timid to play. But when there’s a scuffle, she’s quick to run over and referee!

Luna is our five year old Tuxedo (black and white) domestic shorthair cat. We adopted her from the shelter when she was about four years old (a year and a half ago). She’s very low-maintenance, quiet, keeps to herself, and lives primarily upstairs away from the dogs. She does love (and demand) attention when we go upstairs though!

Leo is our eight month old black kitten. We adopted him from the shelter when he was three months old (and barely two pounds). The best word to describe Leo is… dauntless. Even at two pounds, he had no problem running around with our four dogs. He is zero percent shy. He also does what he wants, one hundred percent of the time. Luna was less than thrilled when we added this wild creature to her peaceful life! But, she’s adjusted, and they only tumble around in a screeching ball of fur and whiskers once or twice a day now. ;D

Harriet and Hazel are our mice. They are sisters, and we bought them from the pet store when they were not quite fully grown, probably about two months old. We’ve had them for almost a year. Mice don’t have the longest lifespans, so we’ll likely only enjoy them for another year or so at most. (Then again, they can sometimes live up to three years, so we’ll see!) I think mice are so cute! There’s not much else to say about them, but they generally spend their days cuddling up together, sleeping, and eating. Mice are very easy to handle, and my kids are always delighted when I take Harriet and Hazel out so they can pet them.

That’s it for now! In our current location, we are limited to four dogs. In our current home, we do not have room to comfortably fit any more litter boxes, so that means no more cats either. In fact, we really don’t have a good space for any small pets either, because I’d want to keep them in a separate room to keep them safe from our cats and dogs.

However, when we do move to a bigger house (and/or a house with some land!) we do plan on adding more pets to our family. On my short list are parakeets, a lizard (Blue-Tongued Skink to be exact) for my son (which I will primarily care for), and either bunnies or guinea pigs or both.

In 2017 we lost our three guinea pigs (they were killed by our dogs), only three months after losing our fourth (who died of an illness). We were devasted, and still miss them terribly. But because I am quite allergic to guinea pigs, we might want to have bunnies in the future instead.

I am not certain I want any more cats, but we will see. Leo was adopted because I had a dream about him! Yes, seriously. He was in my dream, and the next day I went to the shelter and found him. True story. 🙂

But anyway, the point being, I didn’t necessarily want more than one cat until I suddenly did. So who knows! We may end up with more cats and possibly more dogs, on top of having other types of pets.

On my long wish list are other animals including donkeys, chickens, tortoise(s), pig(s), goat(s), ferrets (if they ever become legal in my state), maybe ducks, and perhaps a sugar glider. I wouldn’t mind having cockatiels again if we were able to safely house them in a separate area of the house from us, because they are very loud.

So that’s about it! Pets are definitely an addiction of mine, but I do care a great deal about being responsible with them. Animals add such joy to my life, and I love that my kids are able to grow up with animals in their lives.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

It’s been another busy month since my last post! I hope to resume writing more useful posts for you again soon, but right now seems to be a season for other priorities. Still, I like to keep you updated on what’s going on with me, and I hope you find it interesting!

In early April, my family took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I could attend a five day training for Hypnobabies Instructors. It was a grueling week between the travel and the demands of the training program. But we did it, and now I can check something very big off of my goals list! After I finish my certification requirements, I will be able to launch my own business teaching Hypnobabies childbirth classes. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to help families experience better births, share my passion with others, and contribute financially to my family.

Today, I will also graduate from the other career training program I’ve been busy with, for becoming a Professional Life Coach. After graduating, I will need to complete certification requirements for this as well. I am very eager to get it all done, and I am excited about my future business plans! I have a vision to combine my birth education classes, my life coaching services, my blogging experience, my passion for writing, and my love for teaching. All together, I plan to create one new business, with the goal of helping women through the transition into new and new-again motherhood. I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

As both of my trainings have or are soon ending, it is now time to shift my focus to finishing all of the requirements for certification in both areas. It’s important for me to finish both before the birth of my baby, because I know that after Abigail comes I’m going to need to focus completely on her and our family for at least a few months. That means I have about three months to get it all done, while still leaving enough time to breath and prepare for my birth and baby’s arrival.

It’s been a rough few weeks, unfortunately, as I’ve been trying to move forward. We chose to adopt a cat from the animal shelter after we returned from New Mexico, which was something we’d been planning to do soon after we bought our house. We brought home a sweet, though fairly shy, adult female kitty who we named Luna. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that both Cody and I were reacting allergically to her. It was only unclear how big of a problem it would be.

At first, Cody began suffering from a bad cough that kept him (and us) up at night, and left him feeling uncomfortable all day. He also had some nasal congestion. After about a week, nothing had improved, and we began to seriously consider rehoming Luna.

Then, confusing matters, Cody was hit by a stomach bug which lasted about 12 hours. As soon as he recovered, I was hit with it. At that point, Cody’s cough was mostly gone, but his congestion worsened, and he was absolutely miserable for several days. After I recovered from the stomach bug, I came down with the cough. For about five nights in a row, I could barely sleep at night.

Now almost two weeks later, I’ve been sleeping well again, but my cough remains. I have diagnosed myself with bronchitis. Cody is still suffering from some nasal congestion, but is doing much better. I am hoping I will recover by the end of this week, as well. All of that to say, we still don’t know how much of our respiratory troubles have to do with allergies to the cat, not to mention extreme amounts of pollen in our area currently, versus how much of it is just whatever virus seems to be going around. Either way, it has been no fun! But for the time being, we have hope we will be able to keep Luna.

Through all of this, Abigail has continued to grow healthy and strong. She’s a very active baby, just like Cody was, and seems completely unfazed by everything going on outside of her cozy bubble. Thank God for that! I am now 24 weeks pregnant, just over 5 months.

So that’s where I am right now, and where I’m headed for the next few months.
Thanks for reading!

What I’ve Been Into The Last Two Months

Hey there! I’ve been MIA on my blog the past couple of months because of a combination of extreme busy-ness and a difficult pregnancy. I don’t know when I will be resuming my usual posting schedule, but I wanted to send out a life update since so much has happened. This is super duper long, because there has been a lot going on. :O

Since January, I’ve been busy with my life coach training, which I am now over halfway through. It’s coming along really well and I’m confident and excited to finish my training and become certified. If anybody reading this is interested in a few complimentary life coaching sessions, I would love to practice my skills while helping you move forward in life! So hit me up. 🙂

Anyway, the training course takes up about 5-6 hours of my time per week, so it’s been a big deal in my life. On the other hand, my Hypnobabies Instructor training hasn’t been taking up any of my time, since I completed almost all of the prerequisites before January. However, this coming week will be a big change because we are flying to New Mexico for the intensive almost-week-long in-person training portion. It’s going to be Cody’s first flight, and the first time I have to be away from him for about 9 hours a day while Cory takes care of him all day. It’s going to be a very interesting switch!

My pregnancy is going well in terms of baby’s health and my health. In terms of my comfort, it has not been a walk in the park. In fact, this pregnancy has changed my and Cory’s minds about any future pregnancies. While we still want to have more children through adoption, we are done with pregnancy. As a birth educator (in training), I deeply value and appreciate the wonder of pregnancy; it’s an amazing gift to be able to bring life into the world, and a truly miraculous process. That being said, my experience has not been very enjoyable. In fact, I find pregnancy to be months and months of discomfort, often to the point of being debilitating and limiting my ability to enjoy life. I certainly envy the many women who enjoy being pregnant, and I always thought I would be one of them! For me, being pregnant is something I will never regret, but it’s something I prefer not to repeat again. Especially now that we know we are having a girl! One boy and one girl biologically… Could it be any more perfect? I’m feeling good about that decision to pursue adoption from here on out.

As far as our baby girl’s development goes, she seems to be growing and thriving beautifully. At almost 19 weeks, I have a very noticeable baby bump and both Cory and I can feel her kicking and moving in my belly. She’s very active several times each day, and likes to give me little reminders that she’s in there. In just about 5 months, we’ll be meeting our precious daughter, Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp. We can’t wait!

Cody has been adjusting really well to the idea of being a big brother to a baby sister. He knows her name, and talks about her sometimes. In this way and so many others, he’s such a smart and sweet boy! He talks a ton now, understands concepts that surprise me, and shows random moments of sweetness very often. He’s also a two-year-old… and with that comes a BIG attitude, a seemingly unlimited capacity for whining and tantrums, a glaring lack of patience, and at times a thirst for mischief. He’s certainly a handful, just as he always has been, but this stage has also been a lot of fun and it’s been so incredible to watch him growing into a full-blown person with his own ideas, will, and complex emotions.

Because of my pregnancy, nursing became first uncomfortable and then excruciating. In early February, I had to finally wean Cody because nursing was unbearable. He’s accepted this change remarkably well, and was very understanding about how we couldn’t nurse because it hurt mommy. I’m so sad that we had to end our nursing relationship earlier than I had planned, and that we won’t be able to experience tandem nursing. It has been such a special part of our relationship and an intense way of bonding, and I do feel the loss now that he’s physically independent from me. Our relationship has changed, and I see him less as a baby and more as a kid. It’s sad as a mom, but it’s also wonderful to see him growing and becoming more independent.

In other news, we spent the last two months finding, buying, and moving into our very own house! It has been a complicated and stressful process, but everything went incredibly smoothly in the purchase process. Not only has God blessed us with the unexpected ability to buy a house in the first place, something which we hadn’t anticipated being able to do for many years, but he kept his hand of blessing on the entire process. We even closed escrow five days early! Truly, the most stressful part of the process has been the moving itself, as well as the many projects we had to complete before moving in and the many more we have to work on now that we’re here. Making the house what we want it to be is both fun and exhausting!

Unfortunately, in the chaos of move-day, we experienced a tragedy that has been heavy on our hearts for the past week. In our old home, our guinea pigs’ cage was upstairs, putting two baby gates between them and the dogs. In our new home, we had not installed the baby gates on the stairs yet and after a very long day of moving, we left the house to go back and get more leftover items from the old house. All it took was a moment of forgetting to close a door. When we got home, we didn’t immediately see the dogs. We realized they were upstairs. We realized the pigs were up there too, and their door wasn’t closed. We ran up, but it was too late. We found our dog Sky standing in their cage, and our three precious guinea pigs were dead.

Replaying these horrendous moments has been my brain’s way of processing. I remember the thoughts racing through my mind. My shout of, “the pigs!” as soon as I realized what was going on and we raced upstairs. My knowledge before I even walked in the room of what I was about to find. My husband’s cries of horror and his emotional meltdown, which I now believe was a panic attack. My shock and panic and I tried to process and stay calm for Cody’s sake and the baby’s sake. Trying to stop my body from shaking all over. Holding the pigs one at a time, calling them by name, crying softly and telling them how sorry I was. Placing them side by side in their carrier for the night and shutting their door tightly. Thinking, “if only we hadn’t forgotten.” My childish prayer as I lay in bed that we would wake up and it would be the same day and we could do it over. The anxiety that overwhelmed me and kept me up half the night, a terrible fear that something worse could happen, particularly that I could lose Cory or my children.

The next day, we chose a spot in our backyard to lay our piggies to rest. One by one, we wrapped them in a cloth, held them one last time, and laid them in the ground. We said goodbye to each, and gave them one last serving of veggies, their very favorite thing in the whole world. We placed a stone over their grave, a spot we can visit when we miss them. In the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time grieving. It comes over me randomly, but less and less with each day. And I know some people won’t understand this. They’re guinea pigs, not dogs, and certainly not people. But they were precious to us. They were so full of personality. In honor of that, I want to take a moment to write about each one, and what we will miss about them all.

Penelope, our Penny. She was the oldest, but only by a couple of months. She was the one we had the longest. We adopted her has a tiny baby, just over a year ago, along with our piggy Charlotte who passed away from a long illness in December. After Char passed, we adopted Amelia and Clementine, and Pen became the alpha. She was a beautiful piggy with a smooth brown and white coat. She was the one who purred and popcorned the most. (Guinea pigs sometimes purr when you pet them, and “popcorn,” or spasmodically hop around, when they are happy or excited). I have a small amount of comfort from the thought that Penny and Charlotte are together again; they were a bonded pair, so that means a lot.

Amelia, our skunk baby. She was black and white with long, unruly fur. She even had a tuft on her lower back that stood up and reminded me of a skunk’s tail. We adopted her as a tiny baby as well, just over three months ago. She was only four months old. Even at her age, she was already nearly the size of the other two, who were fully grown. Amelia was going to be huge, the biggest piggy by far. Between her size and her spunk, I suspect she might have given Penny a run for her money as alpha. She never really liked to be held, but she was the most outgoing of all three. She had a hilarious habit of burying herself in the hay pile where she could hide, sleep, and of course eat.

Clementine, my Clem. Of course Cory loved her too, very much, but Clem was special to me. Penny was the one Cory picked out to begin with, and Amelia stole his heart when we adopted her; but Clem was the one I thought of as mine, after Charlotte passed. She was mostly orange, with some white, and one very small patch of black in the middle of her back. She had one brown ear, and one pink. She was the sweetest and mellowest pig I’ve ever seen. She was the easiest to pick up and would sit calmly and contentedly in your lap. We adopted her three months ago, and she was about to turn one year old this month.

I will miss their excited “wheeking” when they heard us preparing their veggies every night. I will miss seeing them popcorn around their cage when they were really happy about something. I will miss their soft fur and their quiet purrs when we pet them–they each had their special spot they loved to be pet the most. I will miss walking by their cage and seeing them sprawled out, each in their favorite spots, relaxing and enjoying the pig-life. I will miss watching them devour their veggies each night with such enthusiasm. I will even miss laughing at the incredible mess they were capable of making out of their cage in such little time–pigs indeed.

Our loss has been painful and hard to accept, but it’s more than that. Because we were their caregivers, we were the ones who were supposed to keep them safe. We failed them, and they paid with their lives. They died in fear and pain. I can only hope it was fast. We will always have to live with that regret, knowing that such a small and simple mistake cost everything from these creatures we loved. We will have to go on living with our two dogs who we know were only following instinct, but who nonetheless took something precious from us in a way that we can only see as savage. (Marley and Sky were the ones who killed them; Lila was in her crate.) It’s a depressing and horrible situation all around, and as you may tell from the length of this writing, it’s been heavy for me. The only thing we can do now is to never repeat this mistake. As long as we have dogs, we will never again own guinea pigs, or any small animals who could be killed by our dogs. It was irresponsible of us to do in the first place, no matter how careful we were. It only took one moment and one mistake. This is something I will always regret.

So, sorry to leave this post on such a sad ending, but I really needed to write about this and share my pain.

Even though this has been very tough, life is good otherwise. God has blessed us in so many ways. I am thankful. Although losing pets is nothing like losing humans we love, it has been a sharp reminder that life can end very suddenly and without warning. We must treasure it, every moment we can. I certainly have much to treasure today.


In loving memory of Penelope, Clementine, and Amelia.

What I’m Into in December

december-char

December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛