And then there were five

Life in our household used to be a bit mad.  And by mad, I mean up and down like a yo-yo with an average noise level rated as extreme.  It was also mad as in one minute we’re all getting along swimmingly and the next minute it’s fisticuffs.  I think the madness level was pretty much on par, for a family with two young children.

And then, along came Billie.

Along came BillieBillie who has impulse control issues and a penchant for destruction.  Billie with her fetish for eating pencils, the children’s soft toys, and human food (straight off the table).  If she’s not supposed to have it, you can bet she wants it – with every fibre of her being.

Billie is what you might call a keen gardener.  In fact keen is an understatement – I’d venture she’s more of a fervid gardener.  She has a grand vision for our back yard, and in this vision, succulents just will not be tolerated.  The ones in pots are toppled, and those in the garden beds are enthusiastically chomped apon.   I like to think that her online dating profile might go something along the lines of:

‘Hi, I’m Billie.  I have a shoe fetish and a penchant for rigorous pruning and excavation work’.

Needless to say, we’ve given the winter veggie garden a miss this year.

Billie is also a keen collector.  She curates and covets the strangest things – such as the awful fluorescent green wig and the Hulk mask from the kids’ dress-up box.  These enigmatic items are so much more tasty and interesting than the dedicated dog chewy toys we bought for her. And her collection continues to grow – so that this week I had to buy her a toy box of her own.

She fills it by slowly appropriating more and more of the kids toys – each desperate dash into the playroom being carefully timed and orchestrated.  She has learnt, you see, that possession is 9/10ths of the law.  And persistence pays off.

naughty billie brady bunch.jpg

And then there’s the food thing.  The problem is that Billie just isn’t that fond of dog food – which is troubling for me as a mother, dietitian and general food enthusiast.  I simply can’t have a skinny dog.

I mix up puppy milk for her every morning (even though she’s technically too old for it now). Sometimes I squat next to her and coo words of encouragement while she eats.   And the other night I even added double cream to her doggy kibble, in an effort to bump up the calories and tempt her little tastebuds.

I know – she’s a Whippet, and they’re skinny right?  But I can’t seem to help it – I’m a feeder.

I can, however, confirm that she is growing, because last Friday when I tried to bath her in the laundry sink, she didn’t really fit anymore.  There was a lot of scrabbling, splashing, slipping around and sweary outbursts until we finally emerged  – both utterly flustered and dripping wet.   It was not unlike trying to bath a baby giraffe.

Another development of late is that my weekly purchases of paper towel and disinfectant wipes are slowing, and I can’t remember the last time I stepped in a puddle of urine.  In fact, Billie has recently taken to tapping at the back door to go out for a wee. Can I tell you how exciting that is?!  To me, it’s a bit like finding a forgotten fifty in my jeans pocket.

What - they do dog graduation certificates now?

What – they do dog graduation certificates now?

The main reason she’s learnt to do this, of course, is the treaties.  If we learnt nothing else from puppy pre-school, we learnt that treaties are the currency Billie works on.  Thanks to treaties she can also sit, and drop, and wait at the road.  Which is why my pockets are always full of liver treats these days (no forgotten fifties to be found).

It’s also the reason why the people at City Farmers LOVE me.

And when I add up all the food, the paraphernalia, puppy pre-school lessons, kennel make-over expenses, doggie parkers (plural, because she ate the first one), vet bills and registration ..

…well, the truth is that I don’t.  I think it would give me a small coronary to see the final figure.  And that wouldn’t achieve much now would it?

The cost of Billie

So what’s life like with a Billie in the family?  It’s a little bit more mad than before, but it’s good.

It’s good to see the kids race out to greet her when we get home, and to hear her skidding around the house at top speed first thing in the morning.  I secretly love it when she goes missing at night, and I find her quietly snuggled up and eyeing me sheepishly from one of the kids’ beds.  And she gets us out of the house and walking every day.  She reminds me that what really matters isn’t that the beds are made or that the floor is mopped. Housework will always be there tomorrow.

We’re just so in love with our kleptomaniac, hyperactive, little bony-assed dog, it’s insane.

Billie goes to the park






I can see clearly now

Man, how time flies.

This time last year, Cam and I had just returned from two decadent, amazing weeks in New York City.  If I remember rightly, I was on cloud nine – firstly to be reunited with the kids, and secondly due to my greatly enriched wardrobe.  And a year down the track, my New York dress and Freddies jeans are still on regular rotation.  They’re the souvenirs that keep on giving.

High pants on the highline

Wearing my high pants on the Highline

I started writing this post last week at the Royal Childrens’ Hospital, as Arlo and I waited for his annual opthalmology appointment.  And because it’s only once a year now that we make that trip, I always find myself taking stock of life.  Every year I cast my mind back to those horror few months when he was tiny, and we were told he may well be blind.

From about six weeks of age, I’d noticed that Arlo wasn’t responding to visual cues as did his eagle-eyed big sister.  I could walk by him, and he wouldn’t turn his head – nor would his eyes follow me around the room.  And at times I noticed his eyes would waver from side to side in a slow, rhythmic fashion.  It was unnerving, but he was so little.  I told myself that they all developed differently, and tried not to worry.

early days snuggles

early days snuggles

But by twelve weeks we were booked in to see our first paediatric ophthalmologist.  She assessed him, and was fairly blunt about the situation – we were given the various forms we needed for a battery of further tests, and wandered, shell shocked out to the car.  I bawled.  And for a month or so we lamented and agonized over the idea that our precious little guy might never see our faces.

If we skip forward almost five years, those of your who know Arlo will know that he is not blind – not even close.  He has a condition called congenital nystagmus – essentially a weakness in his eye muscles that makes focusing difficult, and causes a slight jiggling of his eyes (which you may notice if you’re up really close).

He does lose me easily in the playground (there have been more than one of those announcements over the loud speaker at school), and finds it hard to pick out tiny details in the distance.  But oh – how I wish I could show him to the heartbroken mother who bawled in the car that day.  I could save her a lot of anguish by telling her what we have since learnt: a twelve week old baby who smiles cannot be blind (and surely that is something that any paediatric ophthalmologist worth their salt should also know?).

barwon heads jetty jumps

We never saw that doctor again – we got a second, and a third opinion, and had an enormous amount of support from the wonderful people at Vision Australia.  We were overjoyed to see his sight improve – slowly but surely – to where he is now.

And what of this year’s appointment?  Arlo has improved one line on the vision test, and although he’s still technically below the driving level, we’re not worrying about that for a good eleven years or so. If it’s warranted in the future, there is the option of surgery – which can’t fix it, but should help a bit.  And we’ve been off choosing glasses frames this week, to see if correcting his slight astigmatism with lenses will also help.  He’s chosen the Country Road frames, as he felt they looked ‘sporty’.

And so, as I do every year around this time, I look around at how fortunate we are, and I thank my lucky stars that my little man can see.