Meet Our New Dogs!

dog adoption tips

I’m so excited to finally be able to introduce you to our dogs, Alfie and Theo! If you’ve been following me on Instagram stories, you’ll know that we decided last December to get a dog, and began looking into options around Christmastime. Four months later, and here we are, perfectly matched with our forever furry friends. I wanted to share our dog adoption journey with you, and hopefully encourage those of you who are also looking for a dog to bring into your family.

I’ve had dog fever for the past ten years which had been briefly satiated during the two years I lived with my brother. We dog sat for a couple of months for a friend whose family was dealing with an extreme health emergency, when we were given the opportunity to just keep him. Archie, a Yorksire Terrier, hadn’t been our first choice of dog breed, but he quickly worked his way into our hearts as we acclimated to one another, becoming quite attached in no time. I was on cloud nine being Archie’s mama, until I moved out two years later and my brother kept the dog. That was eight years ago, and I had begun looking for another small breed my landlord would allow us to have, but the trick was talking Phil into it. At some point along the way we decided to try to get pregnant and put our dog plans on hold, uncertain we’d be able to handle both dog and newborn at the same time. 

Here we are, two kids in, discussing whether or not we’ll have another child, when I asked Phil if he was finally ready to get a dog. And he said yes! (Cue the rejoicing!) We liked the spunk and sass of the terrier breed, but we didn’t think we wanted a Yorkie again, because no Yorkie would be as awesome as Archie had been, but also because we wanted a dog a bit larger than a Yorkie. I was 90% sure I wanted a West Highland Terrier, because I had spent the past ten years longing for one and admiring friends’ and neighbors’ Westies. But the more we looked, the more we learned of the difficulties in adopting a Westie. I spent hours filling out application forms for a few Westie-specific rescue organizations in Ohio, along with very long and detailed applications for general dog rescue shelters in northeast and central Ohio. I followed organizations on Facebook and browsed Petfinder every day. I even considered flying a rescue dog all the way here from California, but that seemed excessive, and how would we know for sure if the dog would be a good fit for us and our girls?

We did find some Westies and Westie mixes in shelters, but either someone else got to them before we did, or they were not recommended for homes with children under the age of five. So I began to widen my search to other breeds. I looked at all kinds of breeds around the 10-20 pound range, but again, most of the dogs we found in shelters were not recommended for young children, or someone else got to the dogs first. It made me think that maybe we should consider puppies, because they would have no past trauma, and they could be raised around our respectful kids and know no other kind of life. We considered finding an ethical breeder and getting a puppy like a Cockapoo, or going the more affordable route of taking in a couple of my brothers’ dogs’ puppies (he has a Yorkie and a Morkie and plans to breed them once before spading and neutering them), though the small breed wasn’t our first choice. Lucy caught wind of this discussion and was dead set on having Morkie puppies just like Uncle Matt, so we kept that option in our back pocket as I continued the search.

In March a friend told me about a bunch of dogs that had been rescued from a dog hoarding situation in Mineral Ridge, Ohio. There were dozens of smaller dogs, and some pregnant ones too! Thanks to some connections she gave me, I was able to find out where the pregnant mothers were being taken care of, and applied to adopt them. I finally felt like our search would have a happy ending. We were so excited about taking in two rescued puppies, but also a bit terrified of all of the work and destruction that raising puppies entailed.

dog adoption tips

While I was waiting on the puppies, admittedly with cold feet, I began thinking about my childhood dog, JJ, who had been a cocker spaniel. I thought about how she had been such a good dog and how a dog like that would be perfect for our family. On a whim I began searching for spaniel breeds on Petfinder. One page in, I was immediately drawn to a photo of a beautiful, sad looking Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Lisbon, Ohio— only an hour from me! I immediately clicked on the image of the dog named “Ren.” My eyes searched the description, ready to see that he was not fit for small children, but the disclaimer wasn’t there! I read on to see that this dog is only three years old, has a sweet, calm demeanor and would be a good fit for homes with children. I was intrigued, and beginning to get excited.

As I continued reading about Ren, I learned that he had been picked up as a stray along with a dog friend he had become quite bonded with— a six-year-old spaniel mix the dog pound named Stimpy. Yep— Ren and Stimpy. (I didn’t let the names deter me.) Hmmm… two dogs. When we had talked about getting two dogs before, they were only about 10lb guys. Two medium-size dogs? I didn’t know… could I handle that? And Stimpy— he was quite obese. 48lbs on a frame fit for 25lbs. What if he had diabetes? What if they had some kind of trauma from the time they were strays? What if… Ah, what if we just head to the pound and see what they’re like in person?

So the next morning, I loaded the kids into the car and did just what. Oh, did I mention Phil was away at a phone-free retreat that entire weekend? That’s right— no way to contact him until Sunday afternoon. It was Saturday morning, and the pound was full of visitors. I started feeling anxious, thinking about all of the other dogs that we missed out on. What if that happened again? My brother advised that I not get too swept up in my emotions, and to really consider if getting both of these dogs would be the right move for our family. “There are other dogs out there,” he assured me. So I walked into the pound without expectations or fears, with the intent only to see what these dogs were like.

dog adoption tips

Stimpy (above) ran right up to me, so excited, happy, and bursting with energy. I noted that if we took him home, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to get him down to a healthy weight, because he didn’t stop moving the entire hour of our visit! Ren, on the other hand, was very calm and snuggly. He was shy at first, but then cuddled right up to me— so meek and mild. You could tell immediately that the two were quite attached to one another, and it would have been devastating to Ren to separate the two. Stimpy was obviously dominant and led Red, who happily would give up his food and his space to please Stimpy. Their antics were amusing, and I liked them right away. Surprisingly, so did both of my girls! Lucy is dog obsessed and not deterred by very large dogs or dogs who bark. It would’ve been hard for her to say she didn’t like any dog. Juniper, on the other hand, is very timid around dogs and oftentimes cries if they get near her. But she warmed to Ren and Stimpy immediately, and the entire way home the girls campaigned for their cause of taking both of the dogs home.

“We’ll have to talk to your dad,” I said. “I don’t know how he’ll feel about taking two dogs home. And I don’t know if they’ll still be there when we go back! Don’t get your hope up.” That was a joke, because of course their hopes were up, as were mine! Just thinking about someone else adopting them made me feel panicky again. All someone would have to do is walk into the pound, say they want the dogs, and walk out with them. If they weren’t there when we went back, I would be crushed. So what should I do? Should I go back the next morning and offer to foster them? So then if Phil comes home and freaks out, I can say, “They’re only foster dogs, we can take them back!” But let’s be real, I would be putting him in a bad position, making him crush all of our hearts by saying no. I just couldn’t do that to him, and I wouldn’t appreciate him doing the same to me if I had been gone on a phone-free retreat. So… what to do, what to do?

I took the girls around town and gathered all of the supplies we’d need to take two dogs home, reminding them the entire time that we might have to take everything back to the store. We picked out kennels, leashes, dog food, treats, toys, beds, tie-outs, and even hair brushes. The plan was to go back to the pound the next day and hope that Phil would answer his phone in the half hour between when he was supposed to get his phone back and before the pound closed. During the hour drive out, I called him every ten minutes with both knots and butterflies in my stomach as I worried that the dogs wouldn’t be there, and envisioned what our life would be like if we were able to take them home.

Finally, with ten minutes to spare, he answered his phone, and the words I’d been waiting to say came tumbling out of my mouth. “We’re on our way to the pound to potentially get two dogs— they’re bonded, they’re so sweet, and I know that you’ll love them! What do you think?” “Seriously?! The dogs you sent me a picture of?” “Yeah! Those. What do you think?” “You guys met them yesterday and like them?” (So he’d seen my texts.) “Yes! They’re so great!” “Welll… okay! Let’s do it!” Lucy began shouting with excitement from the back of the van, and I realized I had forgotten to get cash from the bank, which the pound required as payment. After an unbearably long detour to an ATM (we were out in the country), I was at the pound fifteen minutes before it closed, cash in hand, ready to take the dogs home.

We decided to rename the dogs Alfie (who had been Ren) and Theo (who had been Stimpy), and it killed us that we had to ride for an hour with them in the car, facing the opposite direction, unable to pet and play with them. When we got home, we took them on a short walk, and then they ran about the house, excitedly exploring their new territory. We got the dogs bathed, brushed, fed, and the boys didn’t leave my side the entire day. I walked two feet away, they walked two feet away. We tried crating them that first night, but they were devastated every time they had to leave my side. So we settled on having them sleep in their beds beside my side of the bed, and they sat there staring at me for quite a bit until deciding it was safe to go to sleep. Honestly, it freaked me out a bit, as I really didn’t know them yet, and my face was right at their level. But after my nerves settled, I realized that I was their hero, and they already loved me to the ends of the world.

It feels pretty good to be these dogs’ hero. We’ll see how their personalities develop as time goes on, but so far it’s been a week and a half and they’re such obedient, happy dogs who still think I’m the greatest thing to walk the earth. We’re pleased as punch and so grateful for our happy ending!

Daddy-Daughter Dates — A Guest Post by Phil!

Cybex car seat

Today I’m excited to share a little post from Phil about Daddy/Daughter dates! Everyone who meets Phil loves him, so you can imagine how much our two girls adore this man. He has a lot of kindness and wisdom to share with the world around him, so we thought it would be a great match for him to talk about taking care of his girls in a post sponsored by Cybex, the creator of the Sirona M, an inventive convertible carseat with advanced SensorSafe 2.0 technology. I’ll share more about it at the end of this post! But first, let’s hear from Phil!

Daddy-Daughter Dates

“Being a father is one of the greatest joys and blessings in my life. I am convinced that I have an awesome opportunity to raise up my daughters, teaching them right from wrong, and giving practical advice along the way. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to incorporate ‘Daddy-Daughter Dates’ with my girls. I will regularly take either one or both girls out for a short period of time and will focus solely on them. Most of the time, this includes a trip to Chick-fil-A and often, we will end up at a local park. The girls get so excited when they hear that there will be a date with Daddy soon. These dates have become one of the most joyful and meaningful times in my relationship with my girls.

daddy daughter dates

“During our Daddy-Daughter Dates, our conversations can range from ‘What are we doing tomorrow?’ to ‘What if there was a dinosaur that was bigger than our house?’ to ‘Why do people die?’ Yes, being the father of two young daughters is quite an experience.

One of the most important topics of conversation is centered around how to be adventurous and have fun, while still being safe. It’s always nerve-wracking when your child is climbing up the playground equipment for the first time and they say, “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” So I stand there, ready to catch her, as she climbs up. And I will tell you, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy on my daughter’s face when she exclaims, “I did it all by myself!” I won’t always be there to catch them, though, so part of my goal for our dates is to prepare them to make wise decisions for themselves.

daddy daughter dates

“I know that right now, my time with Lucy and Juniper is mostly fun— filled with chicken nuggets, fries, swings, and slides. But I also know that later in life, my girls will have more on their minds than playing tag with Daddy. They will have questions about what to do after high school, what they believe about life and faith, and how to decide if the guy they like is “the one.” By establishing a framework early on in their lives, my hope is that my daughters will feel like it is natural to share and ask questions about these and many other topics in life. Ultimately, my goal is not to tell them how to live their lives, but to be there for them, as someone they know will listen. This time is all about them. By asking leading questions and letting my girls come to their own conclusions, they will be able to make thoughtful decisions when I’m not there to talk things through with them.

“Through this process, I know that I probably won’t carry this out imperfectly and I know that there will be bumps and rough patches along the way. However, this one thing I know for certain: I will never give up on my daughters and will always be there for them, no matter what the future holds. Besides my wife, my daughters are my greatest treasures, and I will forever cherish these times.”

daddy daughter dates

I’m so thankful that my girls have a wonderful and involved man of God as their father. Not every family has that, but the premise of Daddy-Daughter dates can work well for moms, grandparents, and mentors too! Recently I realized that I need to be just as proactive as Phil in building the foundation for a strong relationship with my girls, outside of the day-to-day conversations over breakfast and frustrations with getting them dressed and asking them to clean up their messes. So sometimes Phil and I will split up the girls and go on individual dates with them at the same time, making that time all about them and what they want to do and talk about. We try to do this once a month, and Phil will often go out with the girls when it’s nice out and I have some work I’d like to catch up on. These dates with our girls have been such an enriching part of parenting!

The Cybex Sirona M with SensorSafe 2.0 Technology

Sometimes parenting can be nerve-wracking, so I’m glad to be equipped with tools to keep our kids extra safe, like our new Cybex Sirona M carseat. Besides the comfortable design and standard safety features like an adjustable linear side impact protection system and the 12-position heigh adjustable headrest, the Sirona M also has SensorSafe 2.0 technology that monitors the well-being of kiddos in the seat.

The SensorSafe 2.0 technology is a sensor inside the chest clip of the carseat that, when activated, alerts you when there are unsafe conditions for the child in the seat. There is a small vehicle receiver that is installed in the vehicle OBD2 port which sounds the alert through your vehicle’s stereo system or through your cell phone, which can be a good option in the event that you are a passenger, or a preoccupied caregiver may forget about a sleeping child in the vehicle. The alerts range from letting you know if the child has been in the seat for too long, to if the temperature is too warm or too cold, or even if a child unbuckles themselves while the vehicle is in motion. The SensorSafe app has helpful how-to videos for utilizing the safety technology, and it also  provides guidance on installation, FAQ’s, and more.

Cybex car seat

Thank you to Cybex for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

Post Christmas Family Traditions

Cultured Coffee and Waffles- Canton, Ohio
This post is sponsored by Evenflo

This past Christmas was a little less than the magical experience I had been hoping for. Okay, it was a lot less than magical, and a huge reality check for me! Leading up to Christmas, I had been hand-making gifts, decorating the house, baking cookies, and spinning holiday records, all with the hopes for the ultimate joyful experience when my kiddos would unwrap presents and enjoy our family Christmas traditions, with sparkling eyes. But instead we got crusty-eyes, snotty noses, and kiddos who literally slept through the entire day of Christmas festivities with Phil’s family. I felt devastated. This was not what I had planned! Of course, my heart hurt for my kiddos who were miserable and also missing out on the joy of the holiday. But my heart also broke for myself, that I was missing out on the magic that Christmas is for parents of little kids. What a disappointment!

But as I snuggled my sick children, I realized that even if we weren’t making the memories I had been envisioning, we were still making memories, and I needed to adjust my attitude, just like I’m always telling me kids to do. So I made the most of our couch-time, introducing some family-friendly series movies and series to the girls, like Little Women and Little Men, starting every day off slowly and snuggling a lot in my bed, and just chilling out together each day for an entire week. Maybe it’s what we all needed, even though Phil and I thankfully didn’t get sick too. Rest, reconnecting, and bonding. I suppose it’s exactly what I had deeply wanted for our holiday week, even though I had envisioned it differently.

Evenflo Sibby Stroller

I had also planned to continue our annual tradition of heading out after Christmas to a favorite local Canton spot, Cultured Coffee and Waffles. But since the kiddos were sick, we postponed the outing for a few days. (And I satisfied my cravings by making waffles at home!) The week of snuggling brought lots of snowfall, and I was tempted once again to just cancel our plans and stay inside (forever). But we decided to bundle up and go out in the snow with our Evenflo Sibby stroller, and I’m so glad we did! Sometimes traditions can be a burden, but sometimes they just require a little effort (and lots of winter layers) to keep family traditions alive.

Evenflo Sibby Stroller

Lucy was still not feeling 100%, and I couldn’t get her to take any pictures, but I’m also learning that sometimes I can ruin my plans for family fun by making the kiddos be in photos! Choose your battles, they say!

Speaking of battles, it can be so hard to motivate myself to get out and about with the kids in the wintertime! There’s usually snow here in Ohio, and lots of germs out and about. But we’ve learned that for everyone’s sanity, we have to get out. When we do, we have so much fun and feel very refreshed!

I’m also learning to head into each season with less pressure and expectations for myself and for my children. Of course I’ll always want things to be special and magical for my children, but life’s always throwing curveballs, and learning to adjust and make the most of what we’re given is what makes each moment special!

Cultured Coffee and Waffles- Canton, Ohio

Cultured Coffee and Waffles- Canton, Ohio

When I posted photos from our snowy stroller outing a couple of weeks ago, I got a lot of questions about how well our Sibby stroller did in the snow. It was my first time taking it out with lots of snow on the ground (much more than there was this most recent time), and I was a little worried about how well we’d be able to navigate sidewalks that hadn’t been cleared yet. And I’m happy to say we fared well, and the stroller made it through! The Sibby does have a platform that clips onto the back of the stroller for a second child to stand on and ride along, but Lucy wanted to walk through the snow in her new snow boots (pictured here), so we opted not to use the platform, and I’m not so sure it would’ve done as well in the deeper snow anyway.

Thank you to Evenflo for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

Evenflo Sibby Stroller

Evenflo Sibby Stroller