The Cost of Love (04/18/07)

Dear Zelda:

I'm writing to you because I like your no-nonsense answers. My wife is a shop-a-holic and I don't know what to do. She has maxed out our credit cards buying things she doesn't need or clothes she doesn't even wear. Last week she bought 5 pairs of shoes, all the same style, but in different colors.

We are young (in our twenties) and just starting out. We are (or at least I am) trying to save money for important things, like a down payment on a house. I'm working extra hours to help achieve our financial goals and she is sabotaging my efforts. Help me Zelda!

Shop-a-holic's Spouse

Dear Spouse,

I did some sole-searching and found 7 pairs of shoes in the same style in my closet. But, as my owner reminds me every time she steers me away from the ice cream bars, I'm a model. What's your wife's excuse?

Here's my guess: She's using shopping to fill a sad and empty place in her heart. Do you think perhaps she's feeling neglected by you?

You mentioned "our" financial goals. How much input did you ask from her when drawing up those goals? And was it her idea to have you working all the time during the exciting first years of your marriage?

As I tell Zoe and ZeeZee every time they try to hog the whole couch, sometimes you've just got to budge for somebody else. A little budging is in order for both of you. Your wife needs to budge by changing her shop-a-holic ways and being more considerate of financial goals that you establish TOGETHER. You need to budge by being more considerate of her need for your companionship and attention. Try the 'budge and budget plan'. And if you're looking for something to do that doesn't cost any money, why don't you cuddle up on your couch together and watch the Suze Orman Show? Suze gives great tips on how to get your financial house in order.

Zelda

Dear Zelda

Do you have any advice for soon-to-be first-time parents with a three-year-old, spoiled-rotten English Bulldog? Lexi is wonderful but can be very jealous, and we are not sure how to handle bringing the new baby home. Thank you!

Mommy-2-B

Dear Mommy-2-B,

Congratulations! My advice to you sounds deceptively simple: B-prepared and B-positive!!!

But let me elaborate. Being prepared for the arrival of your first-born in a household ruled by a “spoiled-rotten English Bulldog” is neither simple nor easy. It’s going to take time and positive planning on your part, so the earlier you start the better.

First, we dogs are very intuitive and we pick up sounds, smells, and subtle signals much better than you do. Lexi knows things are changing. You’re probably buying and receiving a lot of new items for the baby; as you do, let Lexi see and smell them. A new stroller or baby carriage? Take Lexi for a walk next to it. New crib? Allow Lexi to check it out. You can add a swaddled baby doll to the crib and carriage to get her used to routine baby activities. If the carriage means “Hey I get to go for a walk now,” Lexi will positively pant with pleasure whenever you produce the pram. Keep her involved and updated with changes in your household.

There will also be new sounds when you bring your baby home, and there’s a CD that the Humane Society recommends for dogs in Lexi’s situation.  It’s called Dog Meet Baby "http://www.dogmeetbaby.com", and comes complete with everything from “blood-curdling screams” to “the cooing of an angel.”  My tip? You might want to start with the sound on ‘low’ and offer a few treats when Lexi’s behavior is positive. Getting her used to baby noises on your own terms will save you from countless headaches in the middle of the night down the road.

You mentioned that Lexi can be “very jealous.”  Now here is where you need to take real action. Because you won’t  be able to devote as much time to  Lexi when your baby arrives, and as difficult as this may be, start reducing the amount of time you spend with her and get her used to being alone for short periods. On the positive side, enroll Lexi in a good obedience class and participate with her (time and pregnancy permitting). You and your husband need to be in charge and there is no room for misbehaving by Ms. Lexi.  Practice at home and train her not to jump on you and to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you release her from that position. “Sit” and “stay” are commands she must obey. If Lexi continues to show signs of jealously after attending the obedience class you MUST find an animal behaviorist to help address this problem. You may also need to set up a no-dog zone by using a pet gate or by crating Lexi.  It is extremely important to never leave your baby unsupervised with her. Lexi is not aware of her strength and could cause injury out of excitement, happiness, or just plain ‘ornery-ness.’

Once your beautiful baby is born and you’re still in the hospital, ask your husband to take some of your baby’s worn clothes or blankets home to Lexi.  Let her sniff and savor the new scents that the stork delivered. In addition, your husband should spend time bonding with Lexi, especially if she has been particularly attached to you, so she will still feel loved when you come home and are busy with the baby.

Now here’s some canine advice straight from a dog’s mouth…mine. We are territorial critters, so as you are leaving the hospital arrange for someone to exercise Lexi.  (A tired dog will ignore just about anything, including a new baby.) When you return home, have your husband hold your baby while you go inside to greet Lexi.  Let her sniff, lick and give you some of her unconditional love. Then bring Lexi outside on a leash. Let her ‘discover’ the new little critter and help bring it into your home. This is good advice for bringing any new member into your ‘pack,’ be it human or canine. Lexi will understand, and the transition will be much smoother for her.

Once inside, hold your baby again and reward Lexi with treats so she will view this as a positive experience. (Treats + Baby = Happy Dog.)  However, watch her carefully and err on the side of caution when determining when she is ready to approach your baby close enough to actually sniff it. By exposing Lexi and your baby gradually in a controlled and positive manner she will be more likely to welcome it with wags and wiggles. Then get on with normal activities. This is a big change for everyone, so take a deep breath, relax, smile and count your blessings.

Integration of a new baby to your household will be successful if you R-Prepared and you R-Positive. B-In-Charge! Congratulations again from all of us at Team Z!
 
Zelda


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