Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stroller Time: Fantasy vs. Reality

When I was twenty-some weeks pregnant with Eliza, we bought a stroller.  I researched a lot of strollers, which included both googling and chatting up people pushing strollers at the farmer's market.  I knew I wanted a jogging stroller but I didn't know whether we'd want a BOB, a Mountain Buggy, or a Phil and Teds...  in the end, we went with Phil and Teds because you can add a second seat to the back without changing the space that the stroller takes up (planning on two kids already...  so optimistic!).  I posted about the night David put it together here.  (It's so weird to read that post and remember clearly how excited we were...  Now there seems something terribly ominous about the "funny" picture on the box.)

Anyway, when we lost Eliza, the stroller fantasy was one of the most heartbreaking should-have-beens for me.  I walk the dogs daily (perhaps I should say walked, as the poor dogs have not been regularly walked all summer since we had a baby the same day this heatwave began).  I thought when spring came I'd carry Eliza in a baby carrier, and once the weather warmed up, I imagined myself strolling through the neighborhood, kiddo in the stroller, bottle of water in the cupholder, waving at neighbors, my ponytail bouncing, my legs getting toned from regular exercise, dogs trotting alongside us.  Every time I walked the dogs while pregnant with her, I indulged in this little fantasy.  It won't be long before I'm pushing a stroller on these walks.  We'd walk up to the park nearby and we'd walk by the playground and I'd smile at my belly and think that it wouldn't be long before I was pushing her to the park so she could swing right along with the other kids.

I couldn't wait.

(I have taken the dogs on many a walk since Eliza died.  We have not once been back to that park.)

Of course, I knew that the dogs might be a bit of a challenge, but in my fantasies, they were always well behaved.

And that is the biggest indicator that this was a fantasy because my dogs are not good walkers.

Cooper is more of a sniffer and a pee-er than a walker.  He zig zags all over the place, gets his leash caught up under his legs (in part because he has to wear a special harness on walks that I call his hyper-hypo harness after that SNL sketch with Mike Meyers--it fits around his body and the leash attaches at the front of his chest so that if/when he lunges after things, it's easier to control him).  He often sniffs with such urgency that he will fling his entire body weight at the end of the leash, and thirty-five pounds of determined puggle can really yank your arm around.

Little Mac does not like to walk in front of the pack, partly because she doesn't see very well (unkempt bushes and children's toys have both scared the hell out of her when they crossed her path).  Cooper also has a habit of body-checking her out of his way as he zig-zags around, knocking her off the sidewalk.  So sometimes walking the two of them together means one arm is stretched forward, holding Cooper back, and one arm is stretched backwards, dragging Little Mac along.

Have I mentioned how awesome my dogs are?  I mean, I know they sound like total pains in the ass, and they are, but they are also our sweet little preshuses and we lurve them to pieces.  Photo evidence of preshusness:

We luv our baybee.
SO ANYWAY.  It's been so hot, I have not done much strolling at all, and when we've gone out in the evenings, it's been when my parents were here or David was home so there were always enough people to divide up dog and stroller duty.  But today Little Mac had a grooming appointment at a new dog grooming place that I decided to try out because it's right up on the corner--less than a block away.  Instead of loading up the baby and Little Mac in the car, and breaking Cooper's heart by going on a ride without him, we'd all just take a little stroll together!  Sounds like a perfect plan, right?  I mean, yeah.  It's a little warm today.  But it's only half a block!  This will be fun.


The reality was not quite what I imagined.  And it wasn't just because my ponytail isn't very bouncy.

So the first challenge was getting the leash on Little Mac.  (I know--doesn't sound like the most promising start to a dog walk, does it?).  The thing is, she doesn't like to walk unless there are the same number of people as dogs because of Cooper's poor leash etiquette.  So if David and I are both going, she'll happily join us.  If it's just one of us, she'd prefer to stay home.  And she'll growl if I come near her with the leash and she has decided to stay home.  Fortunately I commanded her to "SIT" before she got to her bed (which is like "base" for her and she only has to obey commands before she gets on base and GOD FORBID you approach her or talk to her or LOOK at her when she is on base).  So I got the leash on her with little problem, and thought we were off to a good start.

Cooper was, of course, THRILLED at the idea of a walk, so he did his happy dance all over the place and I managed to wrangle him into his hyper-hypo harness and leash.  I left Caro in her pack and play as I dashed outside to get the stroller out of the car and set up.  Fortunately I have mastered that skill, so it took no time at all.  I left the stroller on the porch and headed back inside.

She was fussing a little at this point (how dare I lie her down in a safe, soft place and IGNORE her!), so I bounced her around and sang a few lyrics from the score of Pippin until she settled down.  Then it was time to wrangle her into her infant seat, which would attach to the stroller.  (I know the infant carrier would be easier, but it was so hot I hated the idea of sweating all over her.)

Both dogs sat by the front door during this, and Cooper whined loudly the ENTIRE time I got the baby in her seat, refilled my ice water, located my purse, and went to the bathroom.  Just in case I might, like, FORGET he wanted to go on a walk.

Finally, it was time to walk out the door.  I was awkwardly lugging the infant seat, trying not to trip over the dogs or their leashes, as they conveniently blocked my path.  I told them sternly to SIT and WAIT--commands which Cooper promptly ignored, dashing outside in front of me.  However, I used my mad ninja skills to step on his leash and stop him in his tracks, at the same time I kept the front door from banging into the infant seat and managed not to spill my water.  Ninja!  Then I closed the door on his leash so he was stuck (Little Mac was still inside at this point) and got Caroline's seat securely attached to to the stroller, the water in the cupholder, and my purse in the basket underneath.

Deep breath.

I realized at this point that I'd neglected to grab poop bags, so I held Cooper's leash as I let myself back in the house, got the poop bags from the cabinet by the front door, grabbed hold of Little Mac's leash, and let myself and Little Mac outside.  It was such a short walk I was hoping we wouldn't need poop bags, but you always need them when you don't have them, right?

Right.  But in my case, you also need them when you DO have them.  We'd gotten maybe two yards down the block when Litttle Mac decided to take a dump.  So, I put the brakes on the stroller, drag Cooper back, pick up her poo.

But somehow in this process, I managed to get a VINE wrapped around my ankle.  If I didn't know better, I'd swear it grew suddenly simply to entrap me.  So I'm holding the bag of dog poop in one hand, I have two dog leashes with dogs pulling in opposite directions in the other hand, and I'm standing on ONE FOOT, kicking wildly with the other in order to disentangle myself from the vine.  It's a miracle that I stayed upright.  I nearly lost my flip flop in the kicking/thrashing process, but finally I was free.

I glanced around furtively to make sure no one had witnessed this scene, but the coast appeared to be clear.  So then I put the bag of poop in the basket of the stroller, as far away from my purse as possible.  Gross.

Then we were back in action.  Cooper did a pretty good job of staying on the left side of the stroller.  That was the main challenge.  As long as I could keep him on one side, we were good.

Mac, as usual, preferred to lag behind, which was actually fine since she wasn't getting tangled up in the stroller that way.

We turned the corner and were almost to the alley, where there's a dumpster for tossing the poop bag.  Before we got there, Cooper decided he needed to take a dump.  So we repeated the previous scene, except without the attacking vine.

I strolled into the alley with the baby, the two dogs, the two bags of poop, deposited the poop in the dumpster, and turned back around.  We were ALMOST there!  And it had only taken three times as long as I had imagined!

We hit the front door of the grooming place and I see that it has a huge step up and a door that pushes in.  I was a bit bewildered because I did not know how to navigate that kind of entrance with a big jogging stroller and two dogs.  There was a handicapped sign on the door that said "Ring bell for assistance."  So I rang the bell.  I mean, I was there to give them business!  They could at least make the place accessible for me!  And what if I were a customer in a wheelchair?  Ridiculous.  I mean, disabled people have pets, too.  Install a ramp already.

Anyway, no one responded to the bell.  Cooper started whining at the door, Little Mac was pulling in the opposite direction, and I was about to turn the stroller around and try to back my way (which meant that the lyrics to "Back That Ass Up" were immediately stuck in my head--Girl you look good, won't you back that ass up...) in when another customer came up and held open the door for me (thankfully she did not have a dog with her but was there to pick up her cat).

FYI:  Caroline was perfectly happy and content during this entire time.  She loves to stroll and of the three needy creatures in my home, she's the easiest!

We managed to get inside as the groomer was coming out of the back to answer the bell.  She stared at me like I was a crazy person so then I explained that only one dog was being groomed and Cooper was just along for the walk, and yes, Little Mac is a girl even though her name sounds like a boy's name.  Then I filled out the forms and warned the groomer about Little Mac's attitude (which I'd already mentioned when I made the appointment), and then it was time to go home.

I was already exhausted.  And I could feel my boobs sweating.  Gross.

So we headed back outside into the broiling heat!  And we'd walked about twenty yards when Cooper took ANOTHER dump. And guess who was out of doggie bags??  Evidently he did not read about the One Dump Per Walk Rule that I have.

There was more furtive glancing around, and since it appeared no one had seen us and the yard was pretty untidy anyway, and he'd done it near the street and not up in the main yard, we just walked quickly away.

I know, I know.  Irresponsible pet owner.  What can I say?  It's not like I was going to pick it up with my HANDS.  (Although I have rung a doorbell and asked for a plastic bag on a couple of previous occasions when Cooper broke the one dump rule and I could tell the owner was home and the yard was meticulously cared for.)

We made it home without further adventure, but it seriously took us almost forty minutes to walk around the block (which is maybe a ten minute walk on a normal day).  And did I mention my boobs were sweating?

Now I get to look forward to picking up Little Mac after her hair cut...

So, yeah.  The walk was not quite the fantasy I imagined.  But at least there's a happy baby in the stroller, you know?

Photo evidence of happy baby.  Not in stroller, but you get the idea.


  1. Those baby posts from our previous lives haunt me, too. Maybe I should nix the 3 suggested reads at the bottom of my posts, but instead I choose daily depression.

    Your stories are enough to entertain me more than a sitcom. I would much prefer read your blog posts than watch television.

  2. That door, OMG the door! I was totally feeling for you at the door. One of those moments (I've had many) where you wish you could just succumb to the despair because COME ON! Way to handle it!

    And I laughed out loud at "back that ass up." You are hysterical.

  3. You deserve halos for your dog treatment.
    This made me laugh so much!

  4. "and it wasn't just because my ponytail isn't very bouncy" ha! classic Brooke!

    Even though I don't have a baby, and yes, it's very sad that my baby died, and yes it could be very painful to continue to look at strollers for our... dare I say.. future. But I cant help it. I could own all the top line strollers. D thought I was crazy to want more than one. "But I need a jogger!" "You don't even jog though!!" "But I still hustle when I'm walking!!"

    Oh, I just loved this post. The dogs just don't get any better than this, I tell ya.
    Next time, take along a camera... I've got to see those 2 (and you!) in action!

  5. Hm..might need to check that stroller out. I am still deciding what I want, definitely not a side by side. I've been eyeing the new Britax B-ready especially b/c I love my Britax Blink umbrella husband is against paying that much for a stroller though. Boo hiss.

    And yes, our dogs haven't been on a walk since Luke was born, and I don't feel too bad about it. No way am I trying to manage a husky and german shepherd mix with a stroller (neither of them have good leash manners, either.) So I give you major kudos for even trying!

  6. OMG, she is adorable! What a happy face!

    Also, way to persevere!

  7. Hahah the attacking vine. sounds like something that would happen to me!

  8. OMG too funny. I can definitely relate--our chihuahua gets away with things he shouldn't because he was our first baby. I had a sort of similar experience yesterday when I went out for a walk with baby in MOby wrap. The dog started freaking out at another dog and I had to bend down and pick him up, which is harder than it sounds with an infant strapped to my front and a mom who is still unsure of herself. I am not even going to attempt to walk the dog and the stroller at the same time, so good for you for doing two dogs plus stroller!!

  9. Hi Brooke,

    After reading this post (and many other posts in your blog) I was relieved. I still have this same fantasy of the stroller thing and I am happy I am not the only person in this world. You and I have many similarities it kinda freaks me out. We are the same age and the horrible event went down almost at the same time in our pregnancies, we took the same childbirth classes, we had the same amazon registries and had so many of the same thoughts and feelings, we even both teach for a living!

    I have been reading your blog since my Baby Oliver was born an angel which was 6 months ago. You have helped me not feel like an absolute outcast and crazy person. I know you are very busy with your precious healthy baby Caroline but if you ever want to chat, please contact me! You continue to give me hope everyday!

    ~Lauren Doyle