We could begin with my husband or my kids or any number of influential people in my life, but let’s start out with these two munchkins.  (Well, maybe “munchkins” isn’t the right endearment seeing as they’re about 78 and 65 pounds, respectively.)

Gracie and Phoebe, the furry kids in the house

Gracie’s the one on the left.  She’s our golden retriever that we’ve had since she was a puppy — and boy, was THAT an experience.  Having grown up with cats I had no idea what I was in for when I agreed to the innocent-sounding suggestion that it would be nice for the kids to grow up with a dog. She’s about three and a half years old now, which sounds like she should be coming out of the”terrible twos” stage but not so much.  Her terrifying frisky antics keep us on our feet around here.

Phoebe’s the lab-mix on the right.  We got her from a lab rescue group a year ago in January; the kids joke that she was my birthday present because I celebrated my Big Day by driving 4 hours round trip to bring home the new dog.  She has issues, but she’s made incredible progress in the last 14 months and is absolutely precious.  She would be the four-legged version of the “good” child — whenever Gracie’s getting into trouble, Phoebe frequently hovers nearby with a stricken look on her face as if she knows exactly how bad Gracie is being.

So adorable, right?  Scroll up and look at that pic again…don’t you just want to snuggle up to Gracie’s big, soft, fluffy face?  Angelic and precious and all things good…right?

Now take a look at THIS one:

Gracie — March 2015

This one shows Gracie the morning after what I like to refer to as The Great Grease Fiasco of 2015.  (If you’re a FB friend, bear with me.)

A couple of weeks ago I came into the kitchen one night to find her blissfully licking the floor as her tail wagged gently to and fro.  While I was tucking my daughter in, Gracie propped her paws up on the counter and lapped to her heart’s content from the skillet holding the fried chicken grease from dinner. (Although, to be fair, who doesn’t get drawn in by that fried chicken smell?)  It took a good ten seconds for my eyes and brain to reconcile what I was seeing.  It was like a freaking crime scene in there, grease dripping from every conceivable surface and crevice, with paw prints tracking through the mess pooled on the floor.  There are no pictures of this insanity because…well, because the sight of my kitchen rendered me temporarily incapable of speech, let alone grabbing my phone for a couple of quick shots.

So you’re thinking big deal, right?  Gracie’s a (big) dog, she made a mess, but dogs do that…Well, THIS dog has left a path of destruction in her wake over the years that rivals a tropical hurricane.  I’m going to fess up to some things here, even at the risk of sounding like a terrible dog owner.  Over the years Gracie has swallowed large pebbles, Q-tips, napkins & tissues, any food she’s fast enough to grab off counters/plates/tables, a bar of soap (a WHOLE bar of bath soap!), book bindings, pencils, pens, and half a Brillo pad.  And that’s just the things I remember!  My vet no longer has to look up her record when I call to check on the toxicity of the latest item she’s swallowed; Gracie is now a frequent flyer there, so to speak.  Also fun?  Learning how to induce vomiting in your dog.  Because there’s nothing quite like forcing peroxide down a dog’s throat repeatedly until vomiting begins, and then monitoring said vomiting.  Good. Times. Indeed.

“But!” you say, “There ARE good times and the cuddliness and the boundless joy at the end of the day!  The preciousness that often looks like a freakin’ LL Bean catalog shoot as they romp and play in the backyard!”  And when you put it like that it’s easy to remember how we keep forgiving her over and over again.  I imagine it’s a little like how a woman’s memory of the actual ordeal of labor dims, making it possible for the human species to survive.  (Apologies to any ladies who’ve endured labor and NOT had the benefit of a dimmed memory.  That’s gotta kind of suck.)

So THESE are the doggy kids that live in our house.  Sisters since the day Phoebe came home, playmates every day, nap buddies every afternoon, and positively unspeakably adorable.  The little stinkers.