Monday, June 30, 2008

Raising a puppy, a toddler and Cain

Last weekend, puppy and toddler came together in our house, creating a swirling vortex of electricity that made the adults’ hair stand on end and popped circuit breakers in the next county. You may have seen the trail of flames crisscrossing our yard like we’d been turfed by the Delorean from Back to the Future.

The tumult began when my wife’s cousin Richard and his wife Norma brought their daughter Ruby over for a family cookout. As soon as Ruby met our puppy Memphis, the two of them became inseparable, joined primarily by way of Memphis’ tongue. Children are naturally drawn to puppies, and puppies quickly understand that kids are highly likely to drop any food they may have. The pair of them tore about the house in a Tasmanian Devil-like tornado; occasionally, you could see a paw or a tiny pink Croc sticking out as the tornado sucked up everything in its path, including dog toys, remote controls and digital cameras.

Of course, the tornado didn’t actually destroy anything, and in truth, the magnitude of its cuteness was such that if you stared at it for too long, you turned into a Hello Kitty lunchbox.

My wife Kara and I were thrilled to have Richard and Norma’s family over for many reasons, the very least of which being that we finally had to give the house a good cleaning. Without impending visits from houseguests, entropy exacts a heavy toll on our immediate surroundings. Shortly before their arrival, our patio table had enough pollen caked onto it to fuel a Clarinex clinical trial. A visit from a local friend barely warrants removal of underwear from the living room floor, but family visits, especially first-time family visits, get the full treatment, including dusting off the credenza and the vacuum cleaner.

As we watched Memphis following Ruby from room to room, Richard said, “I think in some ways, raising a puppy could be harder than raising a baby.”

I’m pretty sure he was just trying to make us feel good, but raising a puppy has to be better practice for parenthood than those sacks of flour we carried around in health class in the sixth grade. For a week, each of us had to carry around a sack of flour as if it was our baby, and we failed the assignment if we got caught putting it in our locker, leaving it unattended or making pancakes out of it. I’d like to think I did a good job of raising my sack of flour, and that maybe it has since settled down, met a nice sack of sugar and is off raising its own little packets somewhere.

Ruby’s favorite discovery was Memphis’ crate, which she immediately made into her own fort, creating the photo op of the day with Ruby and Memphis inside the crate, like one of those Wild West prison photos.

The brand name of the crate was “Petmate,” but the scene got me to thinking: “Where’s the ‘Kidmate’ version?” Harried parents could enjoy a nice worry-free night out, knowing that their children were safely crated at home. It might sound unworkable, but a cage is really just a crib that’s been upgraded to have a roof.

By the end of the afternoon, the adults all watched intently to see whether the puppy or the toddler would run out of energy first. Toddlers and puppies both function like Rogue from the X-Men, gaining power by sapping it from others. Lucky for all of us, Ruby and Memphis were sapping it from each other that day. By mid-afternoon, with Memphis passed out on the kitchen floor and Ruby giggling after squeezing her Freezy Pop so hard that the flavored ice shot over her shoulder, we had our answer: toddlers rule and puppies drool, though they both do a bit of each.

You can let Mike Todd out of his crate at


  1. Well at least when we come over, you move the underwear from the floor to the banister. That's like a quarter of the way between "local friends" and "family", right?

  2. Serge-protector -- Banister underwear is the highest degree of friendship we're authorized to confer.

  3. Just think--someday you could have your OWN toddler and experience this energy/chaos/insanity every single DAY! Think of it this way: you will NEVER run out of writing material. And what better reason to bring a child into the world than a good career move?

  4. I sort of felt like I was in one of those crates with my kids over the weekend. That's when we spent five hours in the car on the way to Tennessee. While Thing 1 sat in the front with her bare feet making pretty, pretty footprints on the windshield, Thing 2 sat in the back, occasionally wrapping her arm around Thing 1's throat and screaming, "Bitch, I'll KILL YOU!" All the while, Li'l Wayne let someone lick his lollipop at a decibel level normally reserved for fighter jets....

    And a good time was had by all...

  5. I can handle puppy energy on it's own, but not toddler, and definatly not together. hahahaha

    Kitten energy is pretty dam funny too.

  6. PJmom -- I think if (when) that happens, we'll need giant spatulas to lift each other off the floor at bedtime, which I'm guessing would be at about 6:30.

    Miss Anne -- Dang, you got a crate with wheels? Sounds fancy. Glad you found the door to it eventually.

    Burf -- I think if you added a kitten to the mix, you'd be a long way towards making your own particle accelerator.