Puppy Love

I think Drake is cheating on me. He’s been kissing his groomer. I guess I’m not too devastated, though. I do have two other dogs who slobber all over me.

I suppose Percy is my main doggie squeeze (big surprise if you know me or have read a post or two, amirite?). He was here first of these three and was the only one who was supposed to be my dog. Drake was supposed to be Youngest Child’s. Apparently, I was sorely mistaken about YC being ready to take care of something capable of independent action. That kid can grow plants like nobody’s business.

Technically, Haas is Dad’s but that is really only a weekend and daylight gig. Haas’s affections are split between Mom, Dad, and Mima. He’s his own island.

Drake is different from the other two. He isn’t fond of people. He doesn’t seem to fear them or actively dislike people. He just isn’t interested in them unless they are touching his fence. Those dudes are worthy of his big boy barks.

Drake seems to love me, though. He and Percy take turns sprawling all over me when I am seated. It hasn’t always been that way. For the first six months after his adoption, Drake was quite stand-offish. I could pet him but only if I went to Drake. He didn’t come to us unless it was to go outside. He seemed quite bonded with the other two so it was fine.

Gradually, we noticed Drake spending more time with us and begging for belly rubs. Now he spends the majority of his time with his belly exposed and head hanging off the couch looking like a possessed hyena.

Mom! Stop playing catch with Percy and scratch my chin and tummy.

Imagine my surprise when I went to pick Drake up from his first solo trip to the groomer (he normally goes with Haas) and she told me he was very good and gave tons of kisses. I bet it was the tummy rubs during bath time that won him over. I’m glad he feels comfortable with another human.

So here’s my “deep thought” for the week. Percy is easy to love because he will love you first no matter what. He won’t even give you a choice. Drake is easily overlooked. You have to love him first and for a long time. Is one type of love worth more than the other? For a while, I thought the one I had to work for was more precious but I don’t think so now. They are just different. Both types teach me something. I will love those (human, teenager, and canine) who love me first and unconditionally. I will also remember to work at showing that same unconditional love so I can have more Drakes in my life.

The boys and I send you love and hope for a beautiful week. Come back soon!

Getting Personal…sort of

Monday’s notebook prompt for my students was “What can you do this week to improve your life?” I think about things like this occasionally. Sometimes I even act upon them. Will the kids? Who knows. I’ve started the week with good intentions but we know how those can turn out.

Honestly, Monday has been a struggle. I don’t know why. There is no reason. My students are great, my coworkers are great, my dogs have gone several days without eating concrete, and I got to have dinner with my grandfather for the first time in forever. Unfortunately for me, the itchy-fights showed up and tried to take over the day.

The itchy-fights isn’t a technical term. It’s just the best way I can describe the onset of anxiety. Sometimes that feeling has a trigger and sometimes they just come on in spite of all of the blessings around me. My skin feels itchy on the inside like it doesn’t fit and is made of cheap sweater and insulation. The fights come when I combat all of the physical stimuli and people. I love my kids and do everything in my power to not let them know I am struggling. They deserve a professional in the classroom. They are also good for keeping me from turning into a crazy dog lady hermit. However, 127 of them each day can make the itchies worse.

I have to fight the urge to run away and hide in my book closet and concentrate on meeting my kids’ needs. There are strategies I use when it gets bad and here is where my terrible trio earn their kibble. I rely on their love to get me through.

My sweet boy has been surprisingly patient through this. He has brought me toys but hasn’t been insistent on playing fetch or catch. In fact, this bull in a china shop has gently hovered at my side. I get little snuggles and he checks in but no headbutts or forcing his 85 pounds into my lap. Percy the Pain is Percy the Precious tonight.

The other boys are behaving nicely. I am thankful for them and fortunately, the itchy-fights are starting to subside enough that I can think again. Writing helps, as well, which is why I have taken a break from the four legs’ weekly misadventures. I hope you’ll indulge my wandering and come back next week for more fun and probably destruction in the future as we play more “What is in your mouth now?!”

Now I can think about what I can do this week to make my life better. I’m going to continue watching The Great British Baking Show and appreciating how nice the people are. I love how they help each other and are so supportive. I am going to take time to watch something positive like this every day this week. I try to help people have a better week every day and this week I am going to include myself.

The boys and I wish you an excellent week and help you do something kind for yourself. If you get your own version of the itchy-fights, remember to do what you need to do to be good to yourself. We believe in you!

Attitude is Everything

When I tell people I teach high school students, many people tell me they are sorry or give some unnecessary praise for dealing with teenagers. It seems that attitude is the main complaint for those people. It’s true that teenagers can have some overly negative attitudes but I often think it is the expectation of negativity that makes it more noticeable or maybe worse. Teenagers can actually be quite wonderful and full of hope and love and laziness and inspiration and punkishness. I have often written that I like my dogs because they remind me of my kids. It’s easier to train the dogs, though. When they want to refuse or be hateful, I can’t understand what the dogs are saying.

I know that when I am having a particularly rough day with students, I get better results if I let my kids know that I lack patience and am not doing well. I try my absolute best to have as few of those days as possible but I am only human, just like the kids. They can hear and understand that it isn’t that particular class’s fault that I have used up all of my patience and I hope they see that I struggle sometimes, just like they do. I want them to see that even when I struggle, I have to push through.

When I am working with training the boys, though, I can’t make them understand that I am frustrated or impatient and it probably isn’t all them. I know better than to try to work with them when they have broken into the kitchen and eaten half a package of sweet rolls or ripped another blanket to shreds and spread it all over the back yard. It’s the little bits of impatience that I can’t explain to them and have to remind myself that this isn’t the time to work on our homework. Our trainer regularly reminds the class that we have to be in the right frame of mind to be effective when working with our dogs.  I get so caught up in “I have to do this right now” that I sometimes cause us to go backwards.

Today was good though. I set a time to work with Percy and did something relaxing for about 15 minutes before. It took a minute for us to work together but instead of getting frustrated, I was able to laugh when Percy started his “heel” position in the wrong spot. Normally when that happens, I guide him in a teardrop shape to the right spot. I cocked my head to the side (a weird habit I have before I correct him) and just as I was about to correct him, he maneuvered himself in that same teardrop pattern with a little extra hop at the end so he actually jumped into place. I don’t know if I should fix that or not, but it made me laugh and remember that training can be fun when I let it. I’ll ask the trainer Saturday about his weirdness but the rest of the homework went beautifully. He still had his challenges but that’s okay. There were more successes than challenges so I am calling it a day.

Since I wasn’t annoyed or impatient, I added a little time to work on training Drake. It lets me see how far Percy has come because I have forgotten what to do in order to get Drake started. He doesn’t know those basics that Percy does. It doesn’t matter though. Drake always has a good attitude. I thought doggie grins weren’t a thing until I met Drake. I have never seen a dog look so happy. The only time he doesn’t look happy is when Haas gets tired of Drake’s nonsense and sits on him.

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Can we train now, mom? I am so happy! Are you happy?

Drake picks things up much faster than Percy does. Maybe he isn’t as hard headed as Percy. Maybe it’s Drake’s better attitude than both Percy and I have on most days that makes the difference. He can be my inspiration as I try to get half a million things done this week.

I would love to be able to bring my happy boy to see my teenagers in the fall and especially when attitudes all around get a bit rough in October and April. You can’t be unhappy when you look at that grin and I don’t know how anyone ever let Drake go. I am happy to have been lucky enough to snap him up.

We studied all week for this test! (Ok, maybe not as much as we should have)

I heard something from another teacher that made me stop and think. Other Teacher said they thought that a student was afraid to pass, afraid to succeed. Teachers actually see a few of those students every year. Most students won’t admit it. The countdown–anticipated by some, dreaded by others–continues. There are 4 1/2 days left with the kids. Six days remain until my boys get Mom almost to themselves. (Those pesky kids and Dad try to claim her but the fuzz faces will tolerate that.)

So–here’s my question. Am I afraid to succeed with Percy in his training? Is it my worry about the next level and working on off-leash obedience holding us back? Am I the kid who deliberately fails because they don’t know that the next class will actually be okay? Insert dramatic sigh and the back of my hand to my forehead.

I am pretty sure Percy won’t ever be my therapy dog. Maybe I am trying to subconsciously sabotage the obedience training so I have that to blame. I know that I will love him no matter what. He is my sweetheart. Why am I putting this on us? Percy was so close to passing his test for this level of training but broke on the last part. Maybe he will pass soon. Looks like we are headed to summer school.

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I failed again? Bummer.

Once Percy graduates, or six months pass from the start of training, I will move on to training my other boys. Haas will probably only need a few private lessons but Drake may go all the way through.  I think he is a little insecure so the extra attention will be good for him.

In general, I believe my boys, like my students, mean well. It’s so easy to believe the worst of teenagers, both human and canine, especially when they won’t listen and eat things they aren’t supposed to (you get to guess which does what). Here’s how I know they are both pretty awesome. Last week was teacher appreciation week. I had some extra blank cards that I offered to some of my classes with time on their hands. It was completely optional, but I told them they could write to one of their teachers to tell them something nice. I would be willing to deliver the cards. I figured that two or three kids would write to a teacher or so but not only did I have over half of the kids take me up on it, most of them asked to write to multiple people, including people who just might have needed their day brightened. It was worth losing my planning time to deliver those many cards. And this morning, when I had the not-so-nice-feels, Percy shared a blanket and Drake has been extra attentive.

We’re going to succeed and it may take a while. We all learn at different rates and in different ways, even Percy and me. We’ll move on like the human students and conquer our fears. If we can’t make others feel better, then at least we can keep moving forward.

If you are one of my old kids, I still believe in you so don’t be scared of the future and I won’t be either. I can’t speak for Percy, though. In the future, he may have to face his worst fear, a carrot and/or blanket shortage.

Sometimes the hard thing is the right thing.

Today, I keep thinking about something I have regularly seen on social media and I may have miscommunicated myself in my post about Drake. I don’t believe that all people who give up their pets are horrible people. Sometimes, giving up your pet is the best thing for both the pet and the family. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it isn’t.

I have known people who had to give up a pet because of illness, financial struggles, aggression issues, or just because it isn’t a good fit for the family and the animal. In no way am I advocating just dumping an animal or disposing of it like trash. Most of those people I have known who have had to rehome an animal made sure that it went somewhere that it was a better fit and the animal would be well cared for and loved.

Sometimes a shelter or rescue is the right move. It allows the animal to be safe and cared for and the opportunity to experience love and kindness. This decision is never one that should be made lightly. There are certainly reasons that I tend to judge as frivolous for getting rid of a pet. Of course, my judgement doesn’t mean anything in the long run. How I feel really doesn’t matter. What I do, I hope, does matter.

I will support shelters and rescues as much as I can. I can donate a bag of food regularly, support fundraisers, and volunteer when I am not in school. I can listen before I make someone feel bad when they believe that they have done all they can and need to find someone else to love and care for their furry friend.

My pets help me love more (even the cat who is probably a demon in disguise). I have a lot more to learn from them and I will try to always do what is best for them. I hope when people are at the right point in their lives, they get to experience the same wonderful feelings I have felt from my pets. In the past, I haven’t always been the best pet parent I could be and I am still not there but I am more conscious about trying to be better. Now that I am older, and I hope a little wiser, I want to keep improving and trying to be better than I was the day before.

Breathe. Be kind. Repeat.

Teenagers are frustrating, whether canine or human. Neither want to listen and both require more patience than I have today.

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Here is Drake, ready for a nap. It is hard to remember they are still technically puppies until I see this face.

The lack of patience is my own failing. I knew what I was getting into both with the profession as well as the dogs. Neither group is “bad” and both act according to their natures. Not being naturally patient, or kind, I have to struggle sometimes with my nature to be who I need to be for both groups.

Weighing on my mind today is a piece of advice one of my favorite high school teachers gave me when I was student teaching. She told me that it was better to be kind than to be right. I really (like obnoxiously so) like to be right. I need to be kind.

My frequently misbehaving furry friends need kindness. They need me to forgive them them for trying to eat the half filled out scoring guide I was using to grade an essay. They need me to gently repeat, over and over and over, the lesson that humans don’t play by biting and nipping. They need kindness in redirecting their long-contained energy away from rowdy play on the couch. It is a kindness to teach them boundaries and proper behaviors and to do this in the most compassionate way possible. They also need me to remember that they are puppies, even if they are in big bodies.

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They know they aren’t supposed to play on the couch. It is strictly for napping and nice boy time. Here, Percy is determined to get Haas in trouble.

Several years ago, I started looking at other teachers in a different way. Before, I watched for teaching techniques, content delivery methods, and behavior management “best practices”. Those things are certainly important, but maybe that wasn’t where I should have focused. I thought that there must be a “right” way to do everything in the classroom and that this would be best for my kids. Then, I started  looking at the teachers the kids loved and were willing to work for. Some kids will learn, behave, and succeed no matter what or who is teaching. Some need structure and routine and for the teacher and classroom to be predictable. Some need variety and constant stimulation. They need me to remember that they are still kids, even if they are in grown-up sized bodies. All of them need kindness.

I decided, then, that if someone were to describe me, the words I would want them to use (and didn’t) was that their teacher was kind, calm, and capable. I want my kids to feel peace and safety. I know that life isn’t peaceful, safe, or often kind. But. (Isn’t there always a but?) I can be kind, as much as possible.

I’m not there, yet. It is likely that I will never get there, but I will keep trying. I still get frustrated when kids argue or refuse to use time and resources given to them. I get loud when a 90 pound dog uses me as a trampoline or smacks me upside the head while trying to play. Then, I have to remind myself to be kind.

Today the phrase is written in large, clear lettering on an index card on my desk. (I am struggling to be kind and not insistent on “right”)

So, in the interest of accountability, today, tonight, and tomorrow, I will be kind in the following ways.

I will be kind to my students by remembering that Caesar can be hard and giving them some down time, even if it is just a few minutes.

I will be kind to my boys by taking one for a walk and giving the other two a special treat. They all get extra play time.

I will be kind to my department and bring muffins for breakfast tomorrow.

I will be kind to myself and remember that although I wasn’t always who I wanted to be today, no one is perfect and I can try again tomorrow to be calm, capable, and kind.