Category Archives: Pets

Saying Goodbye To A Beloved Fur Child


This is the picture that started it all — an online listing for a puppy who was the last one left in his litter.

I knew when I saw his picture that he was the one. Scruffy, mischievous and just something about his face. I had to have him. It didn’t matter that he was listed online by a sketchy breeder in a bad part of town. I was in love.

We met in a gas station parking lot. They brought out a purebred papillon that was not the dog in the picture. The mutt I’d fallen in love with was a Pomeranian/papillon mix. They went back and again, not the dog. Finally, I described him well enough for the old man to understand. Confused, he handed over the almost six-month-old puppy no one else seemed to want.

That was New Year’s Eve 2010 and I was a newlywed in search of a baby. We showed up to the party at my parent’s house with a surprise guest. He was sweet, he was playful, he was exactly right. Still, I had a panic attack that night about being in charge of someone else’s life. He helped break me in for parenting.  We took him on vacations to dog-friendly hotels and even dog-friendly restaurants. He was undeniably our fur child. He even had playdates with all our friends’ fur children.


He went everywhere with us, but was always happiest at the beach.

Then I was pregnant with my first human baby and he followed me around, concerned. When my daughter came home, however, he wanted nothing to do with me. He was more-or-less mad at me until she was about two. Then he decided her snacks and snuggles were worth sharing me.


By the time our second daughter came around, he knew the drill: Kids = Snacks

Fast forward three more years and at just a few months shy of his tenth birthday we had to say goodbye. I knew he was dying when he wouldn’t come in from the rain one night. I scooped him up and held his shivering body and cried. Nearly two weeks of tests and vet visits and no answers. He wasn’t eating, he was shaking, there was tarry black blood in his stool. I bathed him and held him for an hour. Normally he wasn’t one to linger on laps and I knew he was doing me a favor.

Last night we left him at the pet hospital and my soul hurt. He was done. He was limp like a rag doll when I carried him in. He refused to sit on my lap and instead chose the floor for our last moments together. I told him he needed to give me a sign. Either he needed to be better in the morning or he needed to just go on his own. I couldn’t stand having to decide to put him down. I lay awake in bed praying, hoping, wishing there’d be an obvious sign.

When the doctor called in the morning, I was shocked. She said he was doing better, that he might get to go home that night. I thought he was dying. This was a happy but confusing development. She said to bring food. As I put together a tupperware of what could very well be his last meal, a white flower floated across the pavement outside my window. It was delicate and came from nowhere, dancing with the breeze. I felt his spirit then, but didn’t know why.


His last morning at home, the sunrise held him in the most beautiful light. I had a feeling it was the last picture I’d take.

After we arrived at the pet hospital, they ushered us into a room. Eloise came with us because we thought we were visiting an improving friend. We expected to visit him there, to pet him and feed him and assess whether he really was getting better. Instead the doctor entered and told us he’d passed thirty minutes earlier. Blood from his nose and mouth, a probable blood clot in his brain. We were dumbfounded. We were grossly unprepared to explain what happened to a five-year-old.

In the parking lot we sat, my husband, my daughter, and I, side-by-side and cried. We talked about spirits and what comes next and we imagined him running to greet us. Eloise pet him, talked to him, I did too. The crying came in waves and still does. We brought our invisible dog home in the car and I carried in a leash and a collar without him. I lay on the grass under his favorite tree and felt the earth hold my body. The same patch of earth he’d refused to leave for the past week.

Losing a family pet is hard. Harder than I remembered. Watching a five-year-old grieve doesn’t help. We forget these animals are part of our homes. They are our family. I want to dress in mourning so everyone treats me a little more gently. I want to look outside and see him under that tree. It’s still not real.

So many people have warned us how hard it is to lose a pet, but I still think it was worth it. Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. Simon taught me a lot. He helped turn me into a mom. He reminded me the importance of regular health maintenance. He showed me a final act of love by going on his own.

If Eloise gets her way, there will be another pomeranian puppy in our future, but no one will ever take the place of Simon.


How I’ll always remember him best.


Month Four: Awake.

I am awake. It is 4:16 AM. She is asleep. I should be too but instead the hum of the fan is pounding a hole straight into my head. Insomnia is not fair when your sleep revolves around someone who is four months old. I take it back. Insomnia is never fair. The sleep gods must have a strange sense of humor.

I get up and turn off the fan, worried I might wake my husband who sleeps restlessly in the Sacramento summer heat. I creep back to my spot, her small hand reaches out to make sure I am still there. During the fourth month she has shifted her preferences and now refuses to sleep in her bassinet. Instead she has to touch me. I don’t mind. I actually revel in the closeness. Her soft skin helps me sleep, her quiet breath a lullaby.

Often I feel attachment parenting is as much for me as it is for her. People like to warn us we will regret it later. We just smile. For now shared sleep buys us extra hours and strengthens our bond as a family. We know we are not alone. Many of our friends sleep with their babies. I don’t know why it is such a shameful secret. In other cultures it is normal. Separation after all those months in one body is what feels wrong, for me at least. We tried the other way. It only partially worked and was exhausting.

Without the fan I can now hear everything. My head no longer hurts but I am aware. The dog’s claws scrape the wall where he sleeps under the curtain, desperate for a little cool air from the open window. Birds chirp and then disappear. A large truck moves somewhere blocks away. My husband breathes rhythmically, the other dog snores. I listen as the dog beneath the window goes to the kitchen. He huffs. Shit. He needs water. I should get up.

The words of this post begin to sift through my brain, but I lie in bed, enjoying the feeling of her skin against my arm, listening. The other dog continues to snore as the first patters past the open window, outside. Shit. He is going to bark. I hear him huff a couple muffled yelps, his attempt at self-control. Then he lets loose. I jump out of bed and stumble into the door of his open crate. I make more noise than he does. My husband stirs, the baby is still.

I get the dog inside and give him water. He twirls in appreciation. His bowl was empty. I sit in front of the computer, 4:18 AM. The crinkle of my granola bar wrapper awakens the other dog. They both breathe rhythmically by my feet as I type, asleep again. I am the one still awake. Twelve minutes have passed. I no longer care.

I will pay tomorrow, but in this moment the price is worth it. The cycle of sleep, play, feed, repeat is the most beautiful gift life has given me, but it leaves little time for anything else. I know it is a season, a brief span of time where I am needed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I feel rebellious stealing these few minutes for myself. I am like the teenager on the phone in the middle of the night when the alarm clock looms just beyond the horizon and my parents have given up on telling me to go to bed. Tomorrow I will show up to life with black circles.

Oh right, tomorrow is already here.

She often sleeps through the night now, or for eight hours at a time. I seldom go to bed with her, so somehow it still does not feel like enough before I have to pull myself out of bed to feed her. If I am lucky, she will go back to sleep and I will somehow find eight hours myself. If I am not so lucky, she will open her eyes and smile and I will still be lucky anyway because she is mine and for the moment my only job in life is to take care of her.

On second thought, I better try to steal a few more minutes of sleep.

People like to warn us we'll regret sleeping with her later because we'll never get her out of our bed. We just smile. Some experiences are just to sweet to pass up, even if we might have to do a little extra work later.

Hard not to be happy sleeping next to this sweet being.

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What I’ve Learned From Daddy’s Kitty

The cat on my front porch looks like death. Often, my husband and I stop as we pass to make sure he is still alive. His bobble head sits atop a decaying body. We are certain he has picked our home to die.

A couple weeks ago, my husband stopped a few houses down from ours and pet him for a moment on our evening walk. Since then, the cat has not left our front porch for more than a couple hours, earning the name Daddy’s Kitty.

He stays for the thirty seconds of love he gets a few times a day. We found out an old lady down the street feeds him. However, he hasn’t gone away, day after day, and we have realized maybe he isn’t going to her for food anymore. Now two small plastic dishes sit on our porch, as well as an old dog bed where he keeps watch over our home at night.

We did not want a cat. We have two dogs who bark whenever they realize he is out front. We have a small baby who probably should not be exposed to whatever Daddy’s Kitty carries on his matted fur. At first I was afraid to even touch him. He cannot come inside our house. Still, somehow, he adopted us, not the other way around.

So, each time I step outside, I look death in the face. Daddy’s Kitty is hard to look at without contemplating suffering and mortality. No one seems to want him anymore, yet all he wants is love, his old purr box still sputters to a start at the slightest caress.

Daddy's Kitty

I wish I could get a better picture of him, but he is so desperate for love that he won't hold still long enough to snap one.

I wish I could get a better picture of him, but he is so desperate for love that he won’t hold still.

Daddy’s kitty is old, forgotten, and ugly. Yet he craves love and is not afraid to show it. Last night I lay awake and felt empathy for all the creatures on this planet, human and otherwise, who are like Daddy’s Kitty. Lonely and suffering. The thought was overwhelming.

Some neighbors regard him as a pest or parasite, a metaphor for how many see the dying in our culture. Death is uncomfortable to be around. It is easier to ignore or make it disappear. But Daddy’s Kitty is still here, still living, still wanting to be acknowledged, loved, and kept company.

And, who am I to end his suffering if it is part of his journey, part of the life we all live and the end we will eventually face? I was thinking about how there is suffering in birth yet how hard we fight the suffering that comes with death. I get it, but I also wonder if somehow we are trying to avoid an essential element of existence.

For now, Daddy’s Kitty is still purring and I do not feel it is my job to make him stop. I just wish I could ease his suffering by giving him a bit more love, but my hands are literally full. I am still fantasizing about some sweet old lady who will come and rescue him to a life of air conditioned Fancy Feast.

If nothing else, I am grateful to Daddy’s Kitty. He has reminded me of life’s duality and the importance of finding peace in the uncomfortable. He has shown me that even when we feel like we have nothing else to give, the smallest act of kindness does not go unnoticed. After all, Daddy’s Kitty is still sitting on my front porch because my husband stopped for thirty seconds to acknowledge him.

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You Know You are in Your Third Trimester When…

1. You awaken at 6:45 on Saturday morning to eat pupusas, cabbage salad, salsa, refried beans, and rice because you have just had two back-to-back dreams about eating at two different Mexican restaurants. These are the leftovers from the dinner your husband courageously picked up solo from the El Salvadoran place down the street that shuns gringos and is best visited with a Spanish-speaking wife, (and which was all done so you could sit on the couch in your jammies at 7PM on a Friday and watch reruns of Downton Abbey without moving).

2. Your idea of evening exercise after work sometimes includes eating organic peanut butter cups while rocking side to side on the balance ball because eating and moving somehow tie in the priority book.

3. You find yourself singing non-sensical songs and doing strange-looking dances while making dinner after a long day of work because this is the only way you can stop your shoulders and lower back from hurting and is still more comfortable than sitting on the couch. The bonus, you supply your husband with endless entertainment in your adaptation of familiar song lyrics, even if he has yet to catch the Elaine-style dance moves that accompany them.

4. You start counting yourself in the next week of pregnancy at half-way through the prior week, so that even if today is the first day of week 31, you’ve considered yourself 31 weeks pregnant since Wednesday so the number of remaining weeks left at work seems more manageable.

5. You find yourself the center of attention among small children who do not know you but are now brave enough to ask, “Is there a baby in your belly?” You respond, “What do you think?” because you forget that only older children find your smart-ass humor appealing.

6. You allow people you barely know to touch your belly because they seem so happy when you let them. You also endure countless remarks about how small you look for being (insert number) weeks pregnant, even though you do not feel small and are proud of how much your body has managed to adapt.

7. You catch most people, including the children in your classroom, looking at your belly before your face.

8. Your dogs suddenly think you are the messiah and accompany you wherever you move throughout the house. They also sniff, lick, and use your belly as a pillow.

9. You spend at least an hour a day staring at your belly in order to catch a glimpse of the Lock Ness Monster surfacing across your skin, (affectionately named, of course). You also force anyone in your vicinity on the couch to touch your belly and watch with you, (even close friends who typically avoid hugs).

10. The women in your life have finally started to tell you the truth about late pregnancy and those early post-partum days. Thanks ladies. No, really, I mean it. How else would I know that purchasing a supply of adult diapers is not some kind of cruel joke?

11. It is 7:32 AM, you ate 32 minutes ago, but you have been thinking about what to eat next since you ate that last mouthful of pupusas.

12. You have not blogged in months because the effort required to work, socialize, sleep, eat, educate yourself about babies and childbirth, and exercise makes writing random posts seem trivial compared to researching which diaper pail you really ought to buy and debating whether the bulge on the left side of your stomach is the baby’s head or butt. However, you know you’ll return to the world of writing soon enough, that all these experiences are just adding to the texture of what you will share after this huge transformation unfolds.

Happy Saturday, time to eat my second breakfast.

While you may not get the scope of my belly, this is a typical evening on our couch, three hands on deck in anticipation of kicks: a dog's, mine, and my husband's.

While this picture does not do the size of my belly justice, this is a typical evening on our couch, three hands on deck in anticipation of kicks: a dog’s, mine, and my husband’s.

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A Wordless Week

Blog words aren’t jumping out of me this week, so instead I’ll leave you with my favorite moments from the past week caught in photographs. A new camera and Lightroom for my birthday have given me a new hobby, (as if I needed another).

Butterfly kisses

Butterfly kisses



Happy Rye

Happy Rye

Happy baby

Happy baby

Dog friends

Dog friends


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Mt Shasta: When Friends & Family Collide

I wrote this post from my laptop up at my mom’s. No Wi-Fi left time to reflect. However, when I got home, my original words were no longer enough. This time I went to Mount Shasta for five days, a record maybe. Usually I stay a couple nights, but during my visit in May I finally connected with nature, so this time I wanted to stay a little longer.

It's hard not to fall in love with such a glorious place.

It’s hard not to fall in love with this view.

This is more what Mt. Shasta usually looks like for me-- a space of solitude and hiking.

What Mt. Shasta usually looks like for me– a space of quiet hikes and happy dogs. As the picture proves, I still got these moments, but also a whole lot more.

This time, my mom invited a friend of mine from work, with her kids, to join us for the last couple days. This woman is incredible. She gives everything she has to children—her three biological, two adopted through foster care, and the hundreds who attend my K-12 school. She is magic. Sometimes she stands in the back of my room to lend an extra set of eyes, other times I send her kids for one of her special talks. They always come back respectful, ready to learn.

I told my mom about my friend, how she has believed in me even when I have not believed in myself, how she dreams of starting a house for foster kids graduating from high school, how she makes backpacks for the least-fortunate children at our school, filled with tooth brushes and other life supplies. Touched, my mom invited her to bring her kids to Mount Shasta to camp.

Part of the reason it has always been a space I have kept to myself is because Mt. Shasta is filled with a lot of lessons for me, some easier than others.

Mount Shasta has always been a space I have kept to myself because it is filled with a lot of lessons, some easier than others.

Before I extended the invitation, I was not sure what she would say. Mount Shasta has always been my secret place, a land of family only. I was not sure if anyone else would get it, but she did, without me even having to explain anything. She has a gift for understanding people’s thoughts. I should have known she would fall in love, too.

Our worlds are different, but our hearts are the same. Some days we talk and talk after school, leaving others wondering what we are up to—the secret, we laugh and cry and keep each other going. I decided what the heck. If my mom wanted her to visit, then I wanted my friend to decide for herself if she wanted to enter a different universe.

I was not sure what it was going to be like—whether my friend and her family would feel comfortable with strangers, whether she would even say yes. But, she did and I’m so grateful for her courage. We cooked hot dogs over a fire pit, shrieked at frogs (okay that part was just me), waded in the lake, and stared at the brightest moon I have ever seen. After I left, she and her kids stayed and played at the lake, my brother rowing the canoe with her youngest child singing the entire way. When it was all over, I got two phone calls, one from my brother and one from my friend, both full of happy stories of what I had missed.

Simon and I share a similar view of camping. Pretty, cushy chair in netted room required.

Simon and I share a similar view of camping. Pretty, cushy chairs make anything more appealing.

Preparation for our campfire.

Preparation for our campfire.

The lake has the coolest water playground for kids. I wish I could have stayed to watch my friend's family play.

I wish I could have stayed a little longer to watch my friend’s family play, but I’m also glad I left because their phone calls made me realize our connection is now a family one.

This weekend I am thankful for friends and family who encourage us to be brave and open our hearts to each other, for my newest sister and my wonderful nieces and nephew. Maybe we should let our worlds collide more often.

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Why hello, Summer.

One more day of work, but yesterday felt like summer’s return. Sure the temperature dropped a startling (and welcomed) thirty-plus degrees, more reminiscent of early fall than early summer, but we still gathered around the big outdoor table to celebrate my stepsister’s 25th birthday with our beloved oak tree and retreating sun to awe us with their nightly slow dance.

Specialty cocktails a la Pinterest, a communal canvas, and happy dogs helped to set the mood for summer, my nephew inviting each of us to take a turn alongside him in the hammock.

Sweet, sweet summer, you always leave us too fast. I know you’ve just arrived, but we’re going to hold on extra tight this year…

Black Berry & Meyer Lemon Gin & Tonic w/ a splash of mermaid

Black Berry & Meyer Lemon Gin & Tonic w/ a splash of mermaid = Perfection.

Blackberry & Meyer Lemon Gin & Tonic recipe, in case you need some inspiration for a summer beverage...

Blackberry & Meyer Lemon Gin & Tonic recipe, in case you need some inspiration for a summer beverage…

Fun party idea-- everyone has to add to the painting... Everyone.

Everyone had to add to the painting… Everyone.

Joey & Odin

Joey & Odin

I <3 summer sunsets.


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The Infamous Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

I know I recently wrote about myself at 66, but this week I have been thinking about myself at 34 (cough::: err, almost 35). It’s that time of year when you sit down with your boss and discuss your 2 to 5 year plan, or at least it is if you’re a teacher. Thinking about my answer, I could not help but trace back 5 years.

Five years ago today I was in Lake Tahoe with my boyfriend. It was Sunday, the day after our first set of friends got married. We had stayed at Harvey’s and ended up in an outdated two queen room so that I could see the lake instead of the parking lot in our first assignment. Looking out over the glory of Lake Tahoe, I wanted the future to be mine. I wanted Alex to propose.

In that odd state of wedding fever, we ended up with a dog. Maybe I thought a dog would make us feel more like a little family. We had visited the pet shop the day before and fallen in love with a toy poodle. He was boisterous and tiny, a baby. As soon as we left the pet shop, I was sick to my stomach. We sat in the parking lot beside the lake and I felt like I was going to throw up. I called the pet store and asked if we could return him. They told me no.

Achilles turned Preston represented a lot more than just a dog. He meant grown-up responsibility, the kind that lasts more than a decade.

Achilles turned Preston represented a lot more than just a dog. He meant grown-up responsibility, the kind I wanted but didn’t know how to handle.

It was my first recognizable panic attack. Before I did not realize my emotions sometimes made me sick. I did not know if I could manage the decade plus responsibility I had just signed up for. I feared our noisy inward-opening apartment on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley would kick us out. We weren’t allowed to have pets. I don’t know what I was thinking. Alex sat patiently as I lost my cool, my whole body trembling with anxiety.

We drove home slowly, the dog, then named Achilles, peed on me more than once. We stopped at my parents’ house and let him play in the backyard, my brother and sisters and best friend sitting in a circle in the grass as he ran between us, stopping at each person for kisses and playful bites. I simultaneously loved and feared him.

We made it back to Berkeley at nightfall and discovered sneaking him up and down the stairwell to be a daunting feat, neighbors passing, looking quizzically, the apartment manager potentially lurking around any corner. That night, neither the dog nor I slept. He bounced around the apartment and cried, helpless. I turned in fits of nausea constantly concerned he was pooping or peeing or alerting the neighbors with his yap.

The next day I went to work a mess and sat in my cube searching for an answer instead of performing my duties as an economic analyst. Animal rights activists pulled down my posts on Craig’s List and PetFinder instantaneously. The Bay Area is good for shaming people into keeping their ill-acquired pets. By some stroke of luck, one of my best friends and her mom had been looking for a toy poodle. That evening, Achilles became Preston as I passed him into my friend’s loving arms somewhere off the road between Sacramento and Berkeley, tears in my eyes, guilt in my irresponsibility.

Everything turned out okay. The shame disappeared, Preston became the prized dog of a family with an actual dog door and backyard. I came to grips with the fact that I had an anxiety problem. I read books and saw doctors. I refused medication, but tried countless natural remedies. It has been three years since my last anxiety attack, the day I quit my job with less than two days notice to begin my teacher residency program. Since then, I have been fine.

Five years changes a lot. I went from a cube to a classroom, dating to married, a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley to a house in Sacramento, anxious to often complimented for my calm. I don’t know what changed exactly. Maybe it was making the conscious decision to stop being scared and live more in line with who I was meant to be. Maybe it was the decision to take one day at a time, instead of freaking out over next week, next month, next year. Perhaps it was all the reading, or the change in diet, or the exercise, or the yoga. I really don’t know. It wasn’t an instant process and it’s still not complete.

So, when I am asked where I see myself in five years, I have no idea. Mother or childless, teacher or writer, or still both. Low-income school or private where I can be myself more often. Teaching yoga to high-risk youth, or part of some organization that fights the fight I want to champion. Living in Sacramento or on acreage in the foothills or on the other side of the world. I have no idea. All I know is that the last five years have taught me to follow my heart and keep working hard toward what matters. The results may not be perfect, but they will be better than I could ever imagine.

Which leaves me with my usual question, what about you?

My favorite picture from 2008, Carmel, beach, friends, Alex. Some things don't change so much.

My favorite picture from 2008, Carmel, beach, friends, Alex. Some things don’t change so much.

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Happy Easter From a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

I know, I know, I promised no more dogs. I kept my word for a few days. Could not pass up the opportunity to put a wolf in sheep’s clothing, (especially when said wolf found the costume on his own… dug it out of a long-lost bag and carried it around in his mouth).

Happy Easter, whether you’re Christian, culturally Christian, or none of the above.


Happy Easter, happy dog.


Simon is wondering what Odin is so happy about. He thinks dog costumes are stupid.

Waiting for the Easter Bunny.

I like to think Oats is waiting for the Easter Bunny in his sly costume. He likes to think we’re going on a walk.

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Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

Good news, I’m done blogging about dogs. I realized I was a little obsessed there for a moment. Just imagine what I’ll be like when I have children. Save yourselves.

To make amends, I offer you my favorite song of the week. Here’s the challenge. Go about your business with the song playing in the background but stop every time you hear the words Barbra Streisand and have a mini dance party. If that doesn’t make your Monday happier, I’m not really sure what will. And, chances are, you won’t be able to control yourself and will have to keep dancing.

You’re welcome.

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And the winner is…

I know, I know, you’re sitting on the edge of your seat. You just can’t wait to find out what we named our dog. Nothing more exciting has ever occurred in the universe.


Wait, I’m sure the picture in your reader already gave it away.

We kept his name as Odin, *but* with a catch. Oats came in first in the polls, (70 votes, wow!). So, he will be Odin with the nickname of Oats, which works great, because, like I said, the long O sound catches his ears every time, (must have been destined to be Olivia O’Bryon’s dog, right? Enough long O’s for you?). Okay, really he’s more of my husband’s dog, but that’s beside the point.

And, in the spirit of any good marriage, it definitely checked the compromise box. Alex liked the Norse mythology behind the name Odin, so he keeps it, and I don’t have to call him the prefix odi- (aka hate). So, welcome Oats/Odin to the family. Everyone needs a nickname or two, right?

I know what you're thinking, wait, his name was already Odin-- but, his tag said Odi before, so he did officially receive a name change.

I know what you’re thinking, wait, his name was already Odin– but, his tag said Odi before, so he did officially receive a name change.

Looks pretty comfortable with his new identity, the Norse god of magic and also the father of Thor, (thanks for that suggestion Elizabeth!).

Looks pretty comfortable with his new identity, the Norse god of magic and also the father of Thor, (fitting, seeing how one of the suggestions was Thor). But, he’ll be Oats to me. Which reminds me, thanks for all the great name ideas! We had fun reading them here and on Facebook.


Sunday Fun: Help Us Name Our Dog!


Yes, I’m serious. As soon as I realized the root Odi means hate, I was over his name, (the curse of being a fifth grade teacher)… But, we’ve spent all weekend trying to find the right one and, well, it’s hard work. I swear our kid will have four names someday before we find the perfect fit.

Cast a vote or make a suggestion, we’re all ears!