Getting emotional on the eve of 40

Tomorrow is a big day. My kids start taking their state mandated End of Course Exams: a standardized test for my non-standardized kids. I dislike them tremendously. They disrupt our learning, frustrate the kids, and bore me to tears. Did I mention there are two days just for my subject? Some of my students will take a total of 3 tests that pull them out of class for 5 days total.

Contemplating those tests makes me think about what teaching teenagers and training dogs have in common. Besides using treats to get desired behavior, they are both discouraging at times. For both, this fades as I learn the individual quirks, motivations, and what we need to do to form 14a bond with one another. Then, it clicks and the positives outweigh the hard parts. I’ve been thinking about this since Haas’s training on Saturday and then today as I was reminded that I only have 5 weeks left with my kids. I’m not counting down the days and I am grabbing extra tissues.

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Some days I look at the lunch break chaos and get annoyed. Today I get weepy that it won’t be here for long.

The first weeks of training Percy were disheartening. I watched other handlers moving effortlessly around the room with a loose leash and stopping with an attentive pup immediately sitting and gazing at the handler in adoration. Percy didn’t do that. Check out this old post for more detail. Now we are a walking (or rather “heeling” heh) testimonial to our training classes. Percy is wonderful both on leash and off. Haas has his own challenges and eventually we will get it and life will be fine.

My kids are at the Percy’s-current-level-of-training phase. They don’t need me anymore and now I just have to show them. The majority have shown so much growth and development in the their reading and writing. I don’t care if someone else deems their progress acceptable; it is acceptable to me. They didn’t all grow at the same rate or even in the same amount as each other, but they grew!

Here’s where dog training and teen teaching differ. I get to keep my dogs for life. I have to let my kids go in 5 weeks. They’ll move up to the next level and I will see them in the halls laughing, crying, engaging in periodic impolite language and they will pass by without a thought and move forward with their lives. I’ll miss them but I will have to focus on my new set of kids. I will love them, too, and will let them go when it is time. I’ll keep watching those who connect on social media after they graduate and celebrate the births, mourn their heartaches, and adore their pet photos. Maybe I do get to keep them for life, in a way.

My kids –if you found this, I still love you and I don’t care or remember what you go on your MAP, ACT, or EOC. I remember YOU.

P.S. Tomorrow is my birthday and I have to give a standardized test. This is just added to my extensive list of why I hate standardized tests.

Same Song, Different Verse

I’m wrong a lot. The older I get, the easier it is to admit it. I thought I hated jalapeños. I don’t. I love them. I thought three dogs couldn’t be harder than two. I was wrong. I thought Haas would be easier to train than Percy and thus it would go faster. I was wrong.

Percy had boundless energy. He constantly wanted to run and play, chase toys, or leave a sit/stay to be attached to my leg. It didn’t matter what type of treats I used because Percy would wolf it all down.

Haas is pretty much the opposite. He is vaguely interested in playing. He’s not sure about getting up to practice heeling as we don’t go far enough for it to be worth his while. Haas won’t step up on anything and even without breakfast can’t be bothered with treats. So far, I have tried three types of store bought treats, popcorn, jerky, and hot dogs. None of these works as an incentive more than once. Next week, I am desperate enough to try cheese balls and peanut butter cookies. The only human food my boys get is limited to apples, carrots, and cheese. I would have thought any of these would have won Haas over on novelty alone. Nope.

The upside is I don’t feel my arm is going to be dislocated. That’s something, I suppose. Haas doesn’t pull, he doesn’t fight me, he doesn’t bark at other dogs. He also doesn’t obey. After 10 minutes of a 45 minute class, Haas heads for the door at every “free”.

This is a different type of stubborn and I will get it. I just need to come up with a different plan of attack. Haas may think he’s got this but I have been teaching teenagers for 18 years. If they haven’t chased me out of a classroom yet, Haas isn’t going to either. Now, where’s the Tom Petty I needed for Percy’s training? Or maybe I just need a new playlist.

Guest Author: Student Files

This blog started because my students and I participate in something called “Genius Hour” where we design our own projects and learn about one of our passions. My passion when this started was training Percy. I still love talking about him, so I am still posting.

This year, one of my sweet babies is working on building confidence in her writing. She is making a guest appearance today with a poem inspired by some of her photography. This is a big step for her in sharing her work and I hope you enjoy it! From here on out for this post, it is all Wonderful Student. If you have some love to share, drop WS a comment and I’ll make sure she sees it. See you next time!

 

Each day brings something new
A new outlook on life.
We all move closer to the end as we age,
But some things seem untouched by time.

The rising sun does not initially appear.
The sky lightens slowly.
A soft orange and yellow breaks out across the horizon and stretch onward,
Melting into a delicate, new blue everywhere it can reach.

The scattered light falls upon clouds,
Bathing them in oranges, baby pinks, and infant purples.
They stretch farther than life,
Taking displaying their hues.

The dawn allows itself to be captured,
In small ponds close and nearby,
To see its own reflection
Before it steadily breaks to day.

The rest of the world holds a breath,
Appearing black as night against the lit up heavens
To highlight their glory
And capture the moment.

We all change and grow older
So does the sky.
While it seems the same every day,
Each moment is unique and breathtaking.

Each day brings new hues.
New clothes pass and take their spot in the sky
Or leave open a wide, endless blue
That fades in and out.

The sun changes slightly
Scattering her beautiful rays in different ways
Reaching new and same spots
Creating art in the sky.

A picture can capture one in a million moments
As the earth spins on
As no moment will be the same
Just as we are all unique.

Dogs in cars.

Now that oldest child is starting to drive, I get to pay more attention to the (canine) passengers of other cars instead of the drivers. I’m not much of a people watcher these days. I adore seeing dogs everywhere, even if it is just a head through, or hanging out of, a car window.

Years ago, when I lived in another town, I would regularly see an old truck with a man and a dog inside. I don’t remember the driver, except that he was a man and relatively tall. I remember the dog, though. This dog was huge. He often rode right next to the driver with one leg draped around the man’s neck, pointy ears brushing the headliner. The first time I saw him, I thought it was a human with a weird hat. Nope, it was a Great Dane. I saw them often. I suppose they just cruised around for fun. I see the value in that. I wouldn’t have been able to walk a dog whose legs were longer than mine.

Now I am in  my own situation with a dog whose legs are as long as mine. How must we look to other drivers and passers by? I’ve see the wide eyes of children when Haas managed to poke his giant head out of a window. Since Dad’s truck is having some challenges, I have had to transport Haas in my car. It’s a tight fit. Haas has figured out how to wiggle just right and get into the back seat. He can’t sit up straight like he can in the truck though. I discourage that as much as possible as the only thing I see in the rear view mirror is a fantastically fuzzy face, dripping with drool and taller than me. The general reaction when we hit a drive through is just “whoa.”

I hope some kid sees Haas or Percy when we are out and about for a spa day or going to class or having a special trip to the toy pet supply store. I hope they feel that sense of wonder and curiosity of how anyone could have a dog that is as long as the whole back seat. Maybe they wonder if I am growing my own Clifford. Maybe it is just a smile that kid can look back on when he or she is 40 and say “I don’t remember that crazy lady very well, but I remember her dogs taking up the whole rest of the car.” Maybe they’ll adopt their own giant dog and give those that are hard to adopt another look.

We’re back and the boys are still bad.

We’ve been away, both from the blog and from home, for a couple of weeks and we have missed you! Its been a crazy couple of weeks but they just reminded me how much I love my family, my dogs, and my school kids.

A few weeks ago a family member had a health emergency which meant I needed to drive across the state to be with that family. Since it is difficult to get the boys into boarding (no one wants to keep dogs who are the size of horses for some reason) when it is planned, it would have been impossible to get them in immediately. This meant that Percy would come with me so that our dog sitter/Grandpa could take care of Haas and Drake. They are enough of a challenge without the joys of the original terror on four feet.

Percy did beautifully on the trip back to his original home. He handled three hours in the car with minimal stinkage and was in labrador heaven at a whole new house and yard to sniff. He did have to hide from a couple of terrifying kittens who weren’t his biggest fans. I only laughed a little at hundred pound dog crying and trying to climb up my back when faced by three pounds of fluff. Percy’s second birthday happened while we were in St. Louis so instead of party he got a new hedgehog toy to destroy and a small bite of corned beef and potato. I’ll make it up to him soon and find some spray cheese.

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Percy insisted this beauty was out to get us. This is Meeko.

While Percy was living the high life and pretending to be an only child, my normally good boys were causing some trouble at home. Haas, known for being just slightly stubborn, decided he wasn’t going to listen to Grandpa. He refused to eat and refused to leave his crate.  I’d like to think it was because Haas missed me but I suspect it is more that he was angry about not being able to roam the house. He loves his crate when the door is wide open. It’s when you tell Haas he can’t sleep on a king size bed that he gets snippy about the whole crate thing. He even managed to break out of three latches on the last day to greet us at the door. I also noticed new teeth marks on the lock of the back door. I’m extra glad I hadn’t replaced that door knob yet.

Now that we are back in the swing of things, Haas also has to go back to training. He is night and day different from Percy. Percy is incredibly food driven. With just the right amount of breakfast, Percy would do almost anything for a bit of any food or food-like item. Haas isn’t food driven. Sometimes he isn’t driven by anything at all. For two weeks, I had him skip breakfast and took several different treats. Haas wouldn’t take them. This week I got desperate. We trained with popcorn. Why do I end up adopting the weird dogs? Drake’s weirdness will have to wait for another day. I still love them.

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Oh, Mom. I know you ran out of popcorn so there is no way I am going heel.

Now I suppose I should get caught up on the mountain of grading that is waiting for me. It’s a bit a challenge since I have three dogs trying to fuse their bodies to my side and lap. We’ll make it. It’s almost time to start the end of year countdown when it will be all dog all the time. Have a wonderful week!

Haas started school

After a few months off, we are back at the training thing with a different dog. Haas is a much more well-behaved boy than Percy was on his first day. Haas didn’t bark, imitate an over stimulated and under supervised toddler, or defecate in the middle of class. I count it as a win!

Geez, Mom. This is lame.

It amazes me how different they are when it comes to training. For Percy, my food-driven fiend, skipping breakfast and new treats were key. Haas wasn’t so interested in treats. Instead, I’ll have to transform into super cheerleader mom and play up the attention. I may also try popcorn since I don’t think chunks of concrete are our best choice of snacks. Haas might disagree but I bet his teeth are firmly on my side.

We have already had a decent start with learning “heel” positioning but once Haas hauls his fluffy self up, it’s hard to get him to stop when I do. He seems to think it silly to get up for just two steps. He would sigh and give me the same look I give him when he gets mud on the sofa –it’s a good thing I love you.

It almost felt anticlimactic to leave without special instruction or having to stop class to get an unruly canine under control. I know Haas will have his own challenges as we start our obedience journey. It’s almost like getting a new group of students. I am sure we’ll do fine. It’s just time to differentiate that instruction! These boys aren’t so different from my classes of teenagers. They’re wild, stinky, loving, and predictably unpredictable.

May your week be pawsitively wonderful!

Valentine’s Day love at our house

There is so much love in our house. I love dogs. Percy loves carrots. Drake loves sighing dramatically. Haas loves to snuggle. I thought about writing a sappy love letter about the dogs and my school and home kids but it has been a weird week, so I’ll just tell you about something that made me laugh. I love laughing so I am counting this as a love letter.

Oldest Child is smaller than Haas. That didn’t stop him from plopping his big ole butt on the kid’s lap. I could see the dog with one knee sticking out below and a teenaged elbow to one side. Before OC ran out of oxygen, Haas slid off the kid’s lap but trapped underneath him was the jacket holding the elbow along with the rest of the kid. It turns out that my kid can’t lift something that is of equal body weight.

Naturally, as any experienced and responsible parent would do, I laughed. “Help! Get off! I can’t move!” I heard. I laughed some more and, as the kid attempted to slide away, the giant Haas paw held the kid in place for the other two to slurp all over the kid’s face.

Oldest Child made it out with only a little dog slobber and none the worse for wear. I don’t think OC will admit to such a mushy emotion but that kid definitely felt loved.

If we can’t chew on humans, we’ll just chew on each other!