Someone’s in big trouble.

Dear Santa,

Mom said I was in big trouble and I wasn’t getting any bones for Christmas. She said I was horrible and then said words she isn’t supposed to. I guess she was “extremely provocated” like it says in Mom’s book, but I would like to explain. (The book has to do with killing mockingbirds, which sounds tasty so I would take one of those instead of a bone.)

Mom says we have to go in our crate when no one is home so we don’t get into anything that could hurt us. I am a big boy with a big growl, big teeth, and a big bark. Nothing can hurt me. That’s why it’s my job to protect the house. I was only trying to help. I promise I’m a good boy, no matter what words Mom is still saying under her breath. (I also have big ears and I can hear her even when she is stress-cleaning her bathroom. She wouldn’t have to do that if she just went outside like we do.)

Anyway, Dad went to bed. Sometime after Andy Griffith, I heard something in my yard so I had to leave my crate and check. It’s not my fault if I needed to move the blinds. It’s hard to see with blinds and a curtain.

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It’s easier to see if these aren’t here.

Next, I tried the doorknob. I know how to open the front see-through door. The potty door doesn’t open the same way. I tried to use my teeth but that didn’t work, either.

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I was so happy to see mom and, at first, she was happy to see me at the door but then she saw what I did and that’s when the bad words started.

TL:DR — I guess I need new blinds and a curtain rod for Chrismas so Mom is chill again. She says the door still works so that is okay.

Love,

Haas

Tis the season for stress and tests.

It’s testing time! Finals begin tomorrow for the human teens in my district. Only a few days are left before celebrations begin. Kids start sleeping again while teachers can breathe and have normal-ish blood pressure. Percy is “chill,” though. No more tests or class for him. While he didn’t graduate from group obedience classes, I’d say he has the skills to be successful in the family. He is currently relaxing with his blanket on the floor. We should all be so calm.

I love learning and try to find something new every day. Sometimes it is a line from a beloved book that I understand just a little more. Sometimes it is a new recipe. Sometimes it is something as simple as learning what new shows have been added to Netflix. Today I will do a little research on de-stressing.

Here’s what I know:

  1. Dog snuggles are a great way to calm down, provided those dogs are on the proper food and haven’t broken into the kitchen and then into the ranch dip. Regular readers can probably guess who the culprit was and I am ready-ing the air freshener.
  2. Few dogs are allowed in the school so I can’t use that for my kids who believe semester finals are the key to a successful life.
  3. Semester finals are important but not at the expense of your health.
  4. I can’t afford enough chocolate to feed all of my kids for the duration of finals.
  5. I really like lists.
  6. I am easily distracted and I was intending to write about stress relief techniques.
  7. One of my co-workers gave me candy today, but I left it at school.
  8. I have candy for tomorrow!

Was there a purpose to this post? Oh! Now, I remember (reading back through helps). I have learned today that I need more stress management techniques and definitely some to share with my darlings.

Meri, Meri, Quite Contrary…Quit tormenting me.

Meri is one of our original terrible two on four feet. I don’t write about her much because I prefer the dogs. Before Meri, I was a cat person, but it is only 90% her fault that I’m not crazy about her.

When the husband I were still newly together a hundred and a half years ago, we adopted a cat, Bosco. He was my baby and spoiled rotten until I became pregnant with the Mayor of Angstville (Oldest Child). Then, Bosco spurned my company and remained annoyed with me for about three and a half years. When Youngest Child showed up, all was forgiven as she was his baby so I wasn’t quite so awful. Those two were thick as thieves until Bosco’s stroke and subsequent passing.

Between the husband’s cat allergies and my grieving heart, I didn’t want another cat, at least for a while. When we went fishing at a trout park that following summer, we came home not with fish but a cat. This is the 10% that isn’t her fault. Meri didn’t choose her timing.

The kids fell in love with the pretty beggar who deigned accept their offerings of cheese and lunchmeat. Despite my objections, she came home with us and now bears the name of the trout park. Meri loved Dad and tolerated the kids. She and I clashed immediately. Meri hated when I was on any form of technology and demonstrated her displeasure by sneaking up and biting the back of my head. It happened more than once, to the delight of the other humans.

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I imagine Meri is contemplating my destruction in this photo.

It’s been a few years now and the hag and I have come to a bit of a truce. I let her out when the boys are free and she gives warning before trying to impersonate a zombie and eating my brain.

I have noticed that Meri’s relationship with the family is quite different from the boys and our previous feline. We all have full conversations with the cat and seldom are they happy. It’s not unusual to hear an argument from the other parts of the house. HOw a six-pound cat gets such volume is impressive. Most of them consist of something like this:

Human: You’ve already been fed twice today. NO. MORE.

Meri: No!

Human: Yes, you have!

Meri: NO, MROW!

Human: Too bad, Hag.

Meri: NO! (then sounds I am pretty sure are profanity)

Human: Do you want to go out? The boys are out back.

Meri: Merow, no, now, yowl

Cat heads out the front door and all is peaceful…until the boys come back in.

Meri is pretty, though, and has the softest fur I have ever petted. I admire her self-confidence. I don’t like her. She’s terrible, but she isn’t going anywhere.

The Great Escape or Why Metal is No Match for My Dogs

I think there is a natural law that says behavior must balance. For every good deed or achievement, there will be destruction or misbehavior. This seems to be true for both teenagers and the terrible canine trio, but I am focusing on the four legs this week.

The Good: Percy did an amazing job in class this week. He took the test he will have to complete to graduate (just to see where he was–no one thought he would actually pass) and it wasn’t too shabby. His off-leash work was good and the wild man was calm and mostly obedient.

Percy did try to take off after a punk poodle who decided to bolt during his own test. This poodle was embracing his new Mohawk and brightly colored additions to his grey head fur. I couldn’t blame Percy. That poodle seemed to know how to have a good time. Normally, this particular poodle has a pretty prance but not this week. This week it was all gallop and attitude.

The Bad: The boys escaped the backyard last week before Dad went to work and when he was the only one home. While rough-housing at the back gate, they bent the latch and went off for an adventure. The boys have put on a few pounds each so combined they are about 300 pounds. I suppose the fence did the best it could.

I am thinking of putting one of these inside the fence instead of outside.

The quiet gave them away. Dad has been a human and dog parent long enough to be suspicious of silence. The two big boys are between name tags at the moment (thanks, Drake the pig shark for chewing them off) so Dad was extra worried. He grabbed a handful of leashes and started for Grandma’s. The in-laws live three houses down and Haas adores Grandma. He will break out of his crate and open a baby gate to get to her when she pops by. Haas knows where Grandma lives and often tries to head that way when he is allowed out of the backyard. Fortunately, they were distracted by the captivating scents of the neighbor’s stuff so they hadn’t made it far. They did come running when called so…yay, training?

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Here’s hoping the padlock, para-cord, and shoelace contain the wild ones.

Now I am off to protect the big boys from Drake. He is a demon tonight. Even Percy is getting tired of his nonsense, which is saying a lot, and I have had to peel Drake off of Haas’s jaw. His toothy smile and wrinkled head would make a terrifying Halloween mask.

May your week be filled with love, laughter, and treats. Be kind to yourself.

Today’s list

This is the time of year that can be a challenge.

First: the weather.  Will it be 80 when I get out of school or do I need a parka? Will my backyard be a lake or… nope, the backyard will be a lake. I like to refer to this time of year as “carpet shampooer season.” It becomes my best friend and the only way to avoid growing a mud monster of my very own.

Second: Parent-teacher conferences. It’s not that I want to avoid parent contact. I get to tell parents how great their kids are. It’s the long days. At the 12 hour mark, I am feeling as if I have been away from home for forty years. I’m too introverted for that. The worst part of those long days is that I miss my trouble-making boys. For some reason, I am not allowed to pack up 250 pounds of dog and bring them to school. I know it isn’t a good idea, anyway. Drake is in a slapping phase. I hope it is a phase, anyway. I’ve never known a dog who got annoyed and hit whoever or whatever he was mad at. I caught him trying to smack Oldest Child the other day just because he didn’t want to go to bed. It’s better than biting, but why are my dogs so weird? Maybe a couple long days will be a good thing.

Third: Campaigning politicians. The television and Spotify ads are bad enough but now they are coming to my door. Normally a giant head that fills the window next to the door is enough to deter even the most persistent politician. The barking helps. Then, if they see all 3 of my boys through the storm door and still want to talk, I am impressed. Today’s visitor was smart. She complimented my boys and even remembered their names. Maybe I’ll remember hers in return.

Now I am off to spend some extra cuddle time with the terrors so I can stockpile the love for the rest of the week.

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This is a rare picture. It features both Dad and all three dogs being calm! I checked to see but it isn’t snowing…

(I will ) Stand My Ground.

It’s been an educational few days. Between Percy’s class Saturday and Professional Development at school (read: teaching the teachers), my brain has had a lot of things to practice and process. It used to bug me when I needed time to think but one of the benefits of not being young is that now I just take the time to let the crud ferment in my brain. It’s too bad I didn’t have that attitude when I was younger. I think it comes down to two things: I don’t care and I am stubborn.

This isn’t nearly as negative as it sounds. I spend all day, every day, with teenagers (those who claim they don’t care what anyone thinks but actually do). I get it. Being a teenager stinks. It stinks like teenage boys’ sweat socks after outside PE in August. If you don’t know what that smells like, its almost as bad as dog, erm, flatulence. So, I’m glad I’m snuggling up to 40. It’s so much easier to learn when I am not just pretending not to care about what other people think and just don’t care.

Even if this is way rambly and gets preachy, I do have a feel-good type point. I couldn’t have trained Percy 10 years ago. I couldn’t have done it 5 years ago because I did care about looking stupid or inept. I would have given up on the first day when Percy pooped in class (mortifying). If that hadn’t done it, maybe I would have given up when we failed the test to get out of level 2 multiple times or when he was “that kid” in class.

A few weeks ago, the trainer was trying not to call out individuals for what they were doing wrong. I was actually bordering on frustrated before I caught why I was feeling that way. I didn’t care if anyone else knew what I was doing wrong. This was a massive growth for me. I just wanted to know how to fix what I needed to fix. I have been tempted to give up, especially when I had to accept that Percy and I wouldn’t graduate from our obedience class. I didn’t quit for two reasons. One is Percy. He deserves my all. The second is that I am just a trifle stubborn (You ok, Husband and Mom? I hope you didn’t choke too much on that statement.) I am okay with us failing but I won’t give up or give in.

I had this realization as we got to do our first off-leash work this week. Up until now, the trainer and I haven’t felt comfortable letting Percy loose with other dogs and people around. I put Percy in a sit and walked maybe 15 or 20 feet away. He stayed! Miracle! When I called him, though, was a tad frightening. Imagine 85 pounds of overly-enthusiastic muscle and teeth charging at you like a freight train. In a perfect world, he would slow down and sit directly in front of me. This isn’t a perfect world. Instead of sitting, my boy decided to launch himself through the air and collide with me at full speed. Fortunately, I am stout so I didn’t end up on my rear and was able to stand my ground. All in all, he didn’t do too badly for his first time off-leash.

Now my obstinance is going to show through with my school kids. My kids are amazing but now it is time to be persistent. They are a delight but there are too many holes in my grade book. If I can stick with Percy, I can stick with my kids. Time to crank the Tom Petty and make “I Won’t Back Down” this year’s theme song. I don’t care if they think I am the crazy teacher who dances in the halls, I am not giving up. Happy Monday!

Who are you?

I ask this question of my students multiple times through the year. We look at influences to our identity from society, childhood and family, gender, religion, political power and many others. We also try to see how our identity changes. How do we see ourselves? How do other people see us?

Since my grading pile is not yet taller than Oldest Child (thank you assignments submitted electronically for enabling my denial). I started wondering how the boys and cat would describe themselves. Hmmm…..

Meri: I am the queen. You only live to serve me. Serve me food, right now.

The dogs are a little different (yes, that is a euphemism for nuttier than a squirrel hideout).

Percy: I am the greatest! I’m also mom’s favorite. I know this because Mom brought me home first and I get to ride in the car and sometimes I get treats but not enough so maybe Mom doesn’t love me best. I should go check. Where’s Mom? Mom! Do you love me, Mom? Look, Mom! Here’s my blanket. You have a rope, Mom? Throw it! Yes! 

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Percy was really hoping Mom would put down the computer and play fetch.

I don’t think Percy would be able to focus long enough to examine his own identity since he doesn’t even stop to end his sentences. Haas might be able to, though.

Haas: I’m Dad’s favorite and he left me in charge…at least when Mom says I can be in charge. Mom is stricter than Dad. It’s my job to make sure that the cat stays on her side of the house. I also protect the peoples. The only outside peoples allowed in the house are my favorite Mima (Dad’s Mom–he has one, too) and someone Mom calls Papaw (her grandpa whom she thinks is extra special). She doesn’t let me play with Papaw, so I bark a little from my crate so he knows I am keeping things safe. Mima and I walk, sometimes. We let Mom come along and hold the leash so I am legal. I wonder if Mima is here. I’ll go check. You stay right there.

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Haas was pretty sure he heard something in the front yard. That’s a scrap of Percy’s blanket and not a tongue defect.

Drake is the hardest but I think I have him.

Drake: This question is stupid. Whatever. I bet that mama’s boy, Percy, said he was Mom’s favorite. Let him think that. For now. I make sure the other two don’t get above themselves. The moment they do, I go for the back legs and take them down. If they are on the floor, Mom’s lap is empty and she’s all mine. I know what’s up.

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Drake doin his thing

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Today I started my first full week back with kids and the neediness (oh the neediness!) is going to drive me bonkers. The students are great. I have a wonderful group of students this year. I even get Oldest Child in class. It’s the boys who are worse than static cling in January.

Since I am not at their bark and call all day, I can’t seem to leave the dogs’ sight when I am home. If it isn’t Percy gnawing on a blanket while staring mournfully at me, it’s Haas hugs and snuggles on the couch. Drake tries for cuddle time with Mom but Haas just sits on Drake who then must vacate if he wants to breathe.

Mom says she has to work so I can eat but I’m not stupid. Food comes in boxes right to our door. She’s just mean.

As soon as I walk in the door, it sounds like a bison stampede. They are so wound up, I fear for my furniture. Even with repeated “No!”s and “Off!”s at full teacher volume, there’s still a better than average chance to see a dog soar through the air after launching himself from the back of the sofa.

If it isn’t furniture, then it’s a broken record of “Don’t chew on your brother!” Percy is actually the good boy lately with Drake taking over as King of Obnoxiousness. Haas currently has Drake pinned with Drake’s head firmly between Haas’s jaws. I guess he is tired of Drake’s crazy like the rest of us. It took both Percy and Haas working together to get that monster subdued. On the bright side, I am proud of them working together.

It’s all about optimism, today. My students are going to continue being wonderful, the boys are going to calm down within the next six months, and Percy will finally test into his next training level. While we are at it, Drake will keep making sure Haas gets his exercise and Haas will stop breaking into the kitchen to scare the cat. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. If I repeat it enough, it’ll be true, right? Even if it doesn’t, I have an amazing team of co-workers who will keep me sane when either kids or canines go crazy. Let’s get this year started!

There are upsides to crazy canines. Give me a minute and I’ll come up with something…

My dogs and cat are terrible. They drive me bonkers and eat more than any five teenage boys. I am seriously considering leaving out snacks and a cold drink for the FedEx person since Chewy shipments happen frequently and are roughly the weight of an adolescent elephant.

But…I sure do love these dogs. Yes, it is annoying when they get possessive and all want to sit on me at once to get pets. I’m a good sized person but I am no match for 225 pounds of canine. At the same time, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my boys love me.

As a major introvert, quiet time after a long day of meetings or students is cherished more than chocolate. My boys don’t let me take it to extremes. It doesn’t even bother me anymore that I know I will have to pry at least three items out of dog mouths. So far today, we have confiscated a rock, a shred of blanket and an ink pen I haven’t seen in two years. Where do they find these things? It’s like a lazy way to have a treasure hunt! These giant goofballs expect a certain amount of attention and they are big enough to demand it.

The truth is, I need that affection, too. They make me laugh and gross me out constantly. It’s wonderful to scratch behind dog ears and feel the weight of a dog leaning against your hip. It is a little less great when you absent-mindedly reach over to pet Drake and his head is soaked in Haas slobber.  I believe I have mentioned that Drake’s head fits in Haas’s mouth. It spends an excessive amount of time there.

When Percy’s classes end, I will miss him sticking his head under my arm for our lengthy drive each week. He absolutely loves his car drives and, weirdly enough, his training collars. I know they probably just signal that it is one-on-one time for him so having someone always happy to spend time with me is awesome.

These boys are sweethearts and I am blessed to have them. The cat, though. Oh, the cat. She is another story. Currently, I am convinced Meri is plotting my demise. I used to be a cat person. Other cats are great, but Meri hates technology users. Since I use mine more than is healthy for work and hobbies, that means she bites my head. She also hates the dogs so there is safety when the boys want a snuggle. It works for me.

I hope your pets are as terrible and wonderful, just like mine.

My dog makes the other dogs look good. You’re welcome, classmates.

What a weekend capped off by a trying Monday with the terrible trio. I’m now ready to go back to school. Thanks, boys.

Friday, Drake stopped jingling. We may be slackers here and left on some extra tags from Drake’s rescue days. It’s the same idea as a bell on a cat’s collar. The big boys really should get some warning before a Drake attack. Dad looked at Drake and discovered he was naked. Where was his collar? No one knew. My theory was that Haas was dragging Captain Wigglebutt around the yard by his collar again and managed to hit the clasp juuuuuust right. Fortunately, Dad retrieved the collar so we don’t have to replace his Smart Tag, name tag, and rabies tag.

Saturday was going to be much better. This was Percy’s group obedience class. I hooked up Percy’s training collar and we had a nice, well-behaved, walk to the car. He even sat nicely in the car for the entire trip without trying to wedge his head in my armpit.

We picked up Oldest Child from a sleepover and sat through the entry-level class with no problems.  My dog was being good! He did what he was supposed to and sat quietly, even when being fussed at by an adorable German Shepherd puppy. He was even calm when two Malinois came through and the owners addressed Percy by name.

You see, Percy is a bit notorious. Everyone knows Percy. This is not because he is the only lab in class, but because he gets called out in class. Like, a lot. Lately, it has been much better and he even got praise last week for doing really well with a new concept.  Way to go, Percy! We are getting this! Or, so I thought.

Class began well. Percy heeled like a champ, sat when he was supposed to, and responded to my cues. Then, we started on distractions. Just like we have been practising (with no trouble) for weeks, I put my leash on the ground, stood on it, and clapped. Percy took off, barking and having a complete freak-out. Ugh.  I could handle this, but still.  And he kept going….and going… and finally, the owner stepped in, couldn’t get Percy to calm down. He was sent outside for a timeout.  After a few minutes to calm down (and have an unscheduled potty break, ew), we went in and Percy did well for the rest of class. I apologized to the Mal owner next to me who keeps getting stuck with Percy and she said “It’s okay. We love Percy!”  It’s easy to love a dog who makes yours look like a dream.  I am choosing to look on the bright side and claim this as a service to other’s handler’s self-esteem.

Today, the trials continued with preventative pill day. We give our boys a combo chewable that is supposed to prevent heartworms, fleas, and other random worms and parasites that I would rather not witness. This can be a chore as it is the one thing Haas and Percy won’t eat without much strife. I decided to be tricky today. I buried it in the boys’ food bowls and locked them in their crates so they couldn’t steal each other’s pills.

I watched closely without looking like I was watching.  Haas gets shy and stops eating. Drake snarfed his food and pill and was released from his crate.  I checked the bottomless pit Percy and he managed to overlook his giant pill in the grooves of the slow-down bowl. I handed it to him and he dropped it and looked away. Apparently, there is a limit to what this stinker will eat.  Haas, in the meantime, had picked his pill out of his bowl and moved it quite far from his food bowl. There was no way he was eating it. Hmmm… what to do next.

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Haas doesn’t like these hard pills. Apparently, concrete is softer and tastier.

Oldest Child had a plan.  Just peanut butter wouldn’t work so maybe a treat of a peanut butter sandwich on unhealthy white bread would do it.  The big boys would get 1/4 of a pb sandwich with the pill in the middle. Drake, not to be left out, would get 1/4 of a sandwich with a treat in the middle. Percy’s disappeared in one gulp.  Haas bit into his, split the pill in half, and spit out half a pill while eating the sandwich.  Good thing we had another 1/4 sandwich.  Finally, it went down and the big boys could be free.

Fortunately, all is forgiven, and my faithful friends are by my side again. I’m so glad Percy’s classes are almost over and I don’t have to do pill time again for a month.

Hope your weekend and Monday was much more fun!  Have a wonderful week and we hope you stop by again next time.