You are Your Mothers Daughter. . . or Son

Warning: Do not continue reading if you are uncomfortable with gross anthropomorphism.

I raise dogs that are like me. I don’t know how, well I sorta do, but I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons. Maybe I raise dogs to be introverts like I am.

I’m doing it again with Calvin and play. He doesn’t love puppy play. He’s okay there, not hiding or afraid, but he doesn’t love it. As a puppy momma I feel the same way. As a trainer I enjoy puppy play. I’m in charge and that must satisfy the control freak in me. As a puppy mom I hate it. I get uncomfortable and nervous. It’s called puppy social for a reason and the word social and I? We aren’t on good terms.

Introverts are most comfortable with just a few people, or even just one. We don’t need a crowd to satisfy our social needs. In fact crowds are overwhelming. To me crowds are like watching 10 TV’s at once, all on different channels, all with the volume full blast. It’s input overload. Put me in a room with 10 families and 10 puppies and my head is absorbing way too much. That’s why introverts like smaller groups. My brain absorbs so much as once, it’s exhausting.

“It’s okay mom, I can be your snuggle puppy!”

It’s not that I don’t like people, I do! I find people fascinating. I love the capacity for showing human compassion we were created with. I love teaching. I love learning. But put me in a group that big and I can only handle it for a short period of time before I want to just shut down. Put me in a group that big with a puppy to protect and I go into overload even faster. That’s where the problem comes in, that’s where I make dogs that are their mothers daughter or sons.

When Maizey was a puppy I was reactive, to say the least. It was a very anxious time of my life and I was having regular panic attacks. None of that equipped me to help her. I know her genetics and my genetics are not a good match. We have a conflictedly parasitic/symbiotic relationship. If there were such a thing. While I’m convinced there are few people equipped to handle her I also know she would be much better off with a calmer person, especially when she was a puppy. Sometimes we do trigger each others anxiety, but we also take care of each other and I think I understand her in a lot ways other don’t and couldn’t.

By the time Magnus came along I was not so reactive and more settled into my introversion. I think it shows, when it comes to dogs he’s a lot like I am with people. He likes dogs, he’s okay with dogs, but he prefers one or two and in small doses.

I can see it happening with Calvin too. I like kids, I don’t have kids, but I like kids. I especially like to interact with one or two kids at a time. I don’t really like the loudness of kids, it goes back to that input overload thing. I prefer adults. He’s already like that with puppies. He doesn’t really like puppy play, but he really loves to play with grown up dogs. Today at puppy play he interacted a little. He doesn’t hide and he would really like to play with the big dogs, but he doesn’t really dive in there and enjoy himself. Then this afternoon this sweet blenheim, Cheeto, came in with his dad. Calvin loved him! LOVED him! They played until Cheeto was pretty sick of Calvin, but Calvin would have just kept on chasing! All Calvin’s work Aunties were so surprised. I told them, he’s his mothers son. He doesn’t like crowds, it takes him a minute to adjust to new environments and he does best one on one with grown ups. I was very similar as a kid.

“It’s okay mom! We can just play with you!”

I worry about it a bit. I don’t care so much of they are doggy introverts as long as, like Magnus, they have the skills to deal with being around dogs peacefully. Calvin is nothing like Maizey was and I bear little resemblance to the mom I was to her, so I’m not worried about him being reactive. I just hate to think I affect them with my stress. It’s a pointless thing to worry about. What I should, and am, more concerned with is giving them the skills to deal with me being their mom and them being their mothers children. But isn’t it crazy how in tune dogs are to us?

It’s their ability for compassion that I love so much, but also makes me worry about them. Maizey especially. It is just crazy how she reads me. I can be totally quiet on the outside, but she knows the instant I reach a certain level of internal anxiety. She comes and taps me and if I don’t calm myself down she insistently smothers me. I love it, but I hate for her to take on that self appointed job.

It will be interesting to see how Calvin grows. He’s certainly more people oriented than either of my other two. We’re working already on when you can say hi and when you can’t. However he turns out I’m proud of who he is already. I can’t help but be who I am and if that makes them a bit more reserved I guess we can deal with it. I don’t believe dogs need to play with other dogs to live fulfilled lives, but I do want them to be comfortable around other dogs. We’ll keep working on puppy play and who knows, maybe I’ll let one of his trainer Aunties take Calvin to play next time!


It’s Never a Good Idea to Gorge Yourself on Gummy Bears and Cat Food

This week started in the ER on Monday night and proved itself complete tonight when I came home to gummy bear Cavalier ears.

I always feel as if I should present myself here as the perfect dog mom. Of course then I remember that anyone who’s read for any time at all would know the truth, I’m just a dog mom with Real Life on my hands too.

My dad ended up in the ER on Monday night. It was a very scary situation, the scariest my mom said she’d ever been in. After being awake with them all night in the ICU, I was exhausted when I finally got home on Tuesday afternoon. He’s stable now, though still in the hospital. Having family in the hospital tends to trump all else so other than work not much got done this week.

I’m always so grateful my dogs are so patient and can go without walks and training without going too crazy. Still the neglect showed itself in the typical way. Boredom struck them hard and they struck back. Of course it’s always the crazy weeks when things get neglected and this week was no different.

On Wednesday night the brand new bag of cat food got left on the bottom shelf. (The guilty party shall remain nameless, although in my defense I’ll say it wasn’t me. . . This time.) I can only imagine the glee Magnus felt when he pulled it down and gorged himself. To his utter delight, he ate about a third of the bag. At 4:00 AM he threw up and of course ate it before I could get awake enough to stop him. I’m pretty sure I dreamed telling him to leave it and he thoroughly laughed in my face. After he puked he started coughing. It sounded awful. Everything sounds awful at 4:00 AM, but this really sounded bad. The neighbor dog has a cough and I was sure he must have kennel cough on top of it all.

When I was in ICU on Monday night my dad was such a trooper until about 4:00 AM when the night started to seem as if it would never end. After absolutely no sleep we all started getting discouraged by then and the nurse said, “Just make it till morning. Everyone feels the worst this time of night. If you can just make it till morning I promise it will seem better.”

Those words came back to me at 4:00 AM on Thursday morning while I was laying on the floor next to Magnus, waiting for him to throw up again. Things look truly bleak at that time of morning and I certainly wasn’t amused. I finally decided I couldn’t let him be sick and eat it again and I couldn’t stand laying on the floor all night, so I did what any insane dog person would. I put a towel down and put him in bed next to me.

I’m sure in a google search of “What to do when your dog throws up in the middle of the night” One of the top answers would not be, “Take him to bed with you!” Yup, it’s official, I’ve totally lost it!

I must mention at this point that Mehusbandy is one of the most tolerant men alive to let the sick dog come to bed with us. (Let it also serve as a warning for anyone that leaves the cat food on the bottom shelf- you reap what you sow in the form of sick dog next to you in bed at 4:00 AM.)

So there I am with a sick boy puppy sleeping in the crook of my arm. Pretty soon he starts groooaaannning. There are not enough letters in the word groaning to describe the sound he was making. Need I mention I still wasn’t laughing? So I’m trying to sleep, even though I know it will be with one ear open, and Magnus is moaning and groaning. As my partner in crime at work later described it, “It’s that sound you make when you’ve eaten way to much ice-cream and ice-cream doesn’t agree with your body. And you’re thinking, “WHY? Oh WHY did I eat all that ice-cream?” I’ll never have a sick belly again without thinking of Magnus laying there, grooooaaaannning.

As if all of that wasn’t enough to prove to you I’m a normal, imperfect, although insane dog mom, today I was the guilty one. About three o’clock this afternoon I realized I left a package of red cinnamon gummy bears out on the side table. (Apparently this is the post where all my foibles are revealed. The more tired I am the more caffeine and sugar I consume. Isn’t that what all insane dog moms do when they’re stressed out and exhausted?) Well it didn’t do me any good to remember my bonehead move at three in the afternoon while I was at work. My dogs are good at not getting into things, but apparently gummy bears and cat food can not be resisted. Sure enough I got this text message on my way home from work tonight, “Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Maizy had 2 gummy bears stuck in her ear hairs. Ughh.” I was not amused at the thought.

Thus my week finished off with me bathing two sticky Cavaliers at 10:30 PM after a long day of work. They were not amused either.

The 4legged lesson in all of this? Perspective makes all the difference. Things often do seem bleak with not a funny side in sight, but later on you realize it’s laugh or cry. I choose laugh. It must be all my new found positivity that makes both of these things seem funny to me now. I wish I had video of Magnus diving head first into the cat food bag, I bet he was so happy. I just keep hearing him grroooaaaning and it makes me chuckle too. Of course maybe you had to be there. . .

The other 4legged lesson? You reap what you sow wether its with a bad case of indigestion or a really long bath- it never pays off to gorge yourself on cat food and gummy bears.


One Little Word

Life throws you curve balls sometimes and then it just seems to keep on throwing them. So in a completely vulnerable moment I’d like to digress from 4legged lessons to just a plain lesson.

Do you know who Brene Brown is? She’s a vulnerability and shame researcher. Feel like clicking off and not reading anymore already? I’ve found some people react to her that way, but I think she’s amazing.

Brene Brown introduced me to the necessity of vulnerability for connection, and now she’s introduced me to One Little Word of 2012. It’s taken me over 4 months of 2012 to accept my word and three weeks to write this blog post. I wanted my word to be fight, strength, brave. . . STRONG words. Words that say I won’t give up no matter what curve balls come at me, no matter how fast and hard they hit.

Those aren’t my word. My word is Positivity. There is a part of me that’s still fighting that word. It’s so trite. I mean I’m a positive reinforcement trainer doesn’t it seem redundant to take the word positivity for me for a whole year? Perhaps, but I can’t argue with it. It just keeps coming up. It keeps appearing. So I’m embracing it and you know what I’ve found?

I like myself better as positivity in life just as much as I like myself better as a positive reinforcement trainer. But you know what else I found? Positivity in life doesn’t make me any more popular with some people than being a positive reinforcement trainer makes me in some circles.

It embraces much more meaning than just the “think positive” affirmations that conquer the negative brouhaha. It’s not just all Guy Smiley and that guy on Saturday Night Live that believes, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”

Positivity is “composed of or possessing actual or specific qualities.” I think it’s the R+ quadrant that defines what we want our dogs TO do instead of just what we DON’T want them to do. It’s what lets us tell our friends thank you for the specific good they do while letting go of what we don’t like. It doesn’t ignore the reality, but identifies the good in the reality and acknowledges it.

This is another reason I can’t deny the word, it’s also defined as: “tending towards progress or improvement; moving in a beneficial direction.”

I had a client thank me for not judging her for previously using a choke chain on her dog. As soon as she said it I had to think, “What is there to judge? You are ‘moving in a beneficial direction.’” Isn’t that all we can ask of ourselves, our clients, our dogs? Positivity lets me see forward movement.

It lets me be, “constructive rather than skeptical” and see hope in the face of apparent hopelessness. At one time I thought Maizey’s progress was hopeless, positivity let me accept her where she is now and see the beneficial direction she’s going. We are so much happier together now. We are enjoying each other and she is making better process without all the pressure.

And my favorite part of my One Little Word? Positivity is, “tending to emphasize what is good or laudable; constructive.” I know everyone that knows me is laughing at this post. I’m not a “glass half full” type of girl. I’m a realist and I tend to see the hard part of the reality before ever acknowledging the positive parts. The truth is there is a lot of negative to almost every situation. You don’t have to look hard to find con’s to put on a pro’s and con’s list. It’s often much harder to find the pro’s, but they are there. And you know what? Usually there are more there than we tend to pay attention to.

This is my year to see the good, to emphasize what is possible, “good and laudable.” I can’t ever be that person who doesn’t see the reality, but this is my year to not only see the harsh realities.

You know what’s funny is that reading this back to myself it does sound sort of all Guy Smiley and positive affirmations, but I think I’m okay with that. I know this isn’t a word I sit in comfortably, it’s not a word I stay grounded in easily. It’s a word that I’m finding takes effort to remember to do, and each time I lose my grip on positivity (which is often) I have to find a way to get back to that perspective. In that way positivity is a strong word. It’s a word I’m putting out there for myself to learn from for this year and at the end of the year maybe I’ll give it up and go back to being my grumpy self, who knows?

All I know is I agree with what a friend told me last night, “I have to stop seeing only what I CAN’T do and start seeing what I CAN.” I agree. Seeing what’s possible and positive doesn’t change reality, but it does make it more enjoyable. So here’s to the journey!


My Dogs Are My Family

My dogs are my family. When you indicate I should find more “real” friends, you might as well say my mom, my sisters, my brothers and cousins, the kids I don’t have, my FAMILY are not good enough company and I need to find “real” friends to replace them. My dogs are my moms, sisters, brothers, kids and cousins. They are my family. They are my constant companions. They love me at 3am when I’m sick or sad. When you’re asleep in your bed, they’re asleep in mine, snuggling me. They lick away my tears and lay their soft warmth on my sore joints. Their antics are comic relief when I’m sad and giddy laughter when I’m not. They greet me with love and joy wether I’ve been gone two minutes or two weeks. They are happy to go wherever I go, whenever I go there. They are quiet with me when I’m quiet and raucous players when I want to be crazy. They exercise with me, eat with me, play with me and love me no matter what or when. Can you say that about your “real” friends? Can you say that about your family? If you widen your viewpoint and be open to finding love no matter how many legs it has you’ll be surprised how many “real” friends you’ll have.