Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I will reread some of my posts from the last year. Sometimes, it’s a bit…dull. Sometimes, I wonder how I still have three dogs who are all in good health and we still haven’t had sock removal surgery. Go Percy!
Last time I checked the diary archives, I noticed that this time last year I was counting down the days and being frustrated by Percy’s lack of training success. This year is a little different. I have avoided finding out how many days are left but I am still frustrated with dog training. This time it’s outwardly Haas being uncooperative but actually it’s me falling back on old habits. I’m letting my stress over end-of-school-year stuff get to me. I’m on top of the paperwork. I’m behind on preparing to let my kids go and on being consistent with dog training.
I figure I am learning by at least recognizing what the problem is. That’s a start, right? I know that when Drake’s turn comes around to go to obedience school, I won’t be starting in the spring. Ideally, I will get my rear in gear and have Haas finished up by the early fall. Then, I can start Drake when I am still busy but less likely to get overly emotional anytime something doesn’t go my way. This sounds like a plan! I can do this!
I could start my super enthusiastic return to the training regimen tonight and turn over a new leaf. The weather is beautiful, though. Maybe one more night of denial won’t hurt. Surely, I can still get everything in order tomorrow, right? My kids won’t move on for almost a month, I have several days before going to training again, and I don’t really need to come in out of the sun.
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.
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.
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!
Percy shocked me this weekend. I didn’t think it was possible to shock me due to his weirdness or for him to do what he did.
We only have 4 or 5 weeks left in our 6 month obedience training package. With this package, there are six levels. Due to his rambunctious reactivity and intense prey-drive, I believe it was realistic to assume he would never make it to the off-leash levels (4, 5, 6).
But… It happened! Percy was promoted to level 4! I was rendered speechless as half the class cheered for him. To be fair, some of them may have been happy to not have to deal with this dog, but one lady (on the 3rd dog she was taking through the same group class since Percy started) diplomatically told me how she remembered when Percy first started and how much he improved. He’ll now get to join his Malinois buddies who aren’t scared to train next to my embodiment of chaos.
To celebrate this amazing surprise, Oldest Child and I took Percy for a hamburger. Normally we don’t do junk food for the boys but this was a special occasion. After both his tummy and ego were fed by those golden (arches) workers, we finally started the long drive home. I think the perpetual motion puppy had a good day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Percy and I had a rough week. I am certainly ready to start a new week and if he cared about time passing, I am sure Percy would be happy it is Monday and we are getting back to normal. Since this is Percy’s first spring with us, he doesn’t know the craziness/crabbiness of the end of the school year.
There are 10 days of school left and I am tired. No, not tired…exhausted, drained, frazzled, and bone-weary. It isn’t just that I am not sleeping enough (but that doesn’t help), it’s tired of fighting cell phones, missing work, and teenage hormones. I love all 127 of my kids BUT they are making my hair gray and I feel an eye twitch a-comin’. My boys don’t understand why I am perpetually annoyed and they have their own rough times.
On Thursday of last week, poor Percy experienced some gastric distress. This necessitated a bath, a kennel clean-up, and the permanent loss of his bedding. I was annoyed but not at my boy. He had to be feeling pretty rough to make a mess in his bed. I’m not sure why he thought rolling around in it would make it better. Percy didn’t get much comfort because of clean-up and clean-up of clean-up. (My tub looks awesome now, so there is that)
On Friday, I had to leave for 3 days and it is the longest we have been separated since Percy came to live with us. I am guessing it was harder on me than it was on Percy but I am pretty sure he missed me. My handsome boy stuck to my side for most of the evening I returned and shared his blanket scrap for 5 whole minutes! That’s a big step for the big baby.
I know in a few short weeks our training will get back on track, I will no longer look like Haas smacked me in the eyes, and there will be many leisurely walks and jogs in my canine companions’ future.
I can make it. Just a few more days and a few thousand reminders to turn in missing work. I will think paws-itively and have extra dog cuddles. I have made it through the last 16 years so #17 won’t be a loss. I promise to stop whining (about this school year) soon.
Our pack wishes yours a beautiful week and lots of carrots and happiness!
There are 23 1/2 days of school left for this year. Mentally and emotionally, the kids are done and I am done. We will power through and finish writing papers (and grading), presentations (and grading), final novel projects (and grading) and all of the clean-up that goes with this time of year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but it won’t be bright enough for another week or so for the kids to get their rears in gear.
The kids will make it. I will make it. Eventually, Percy and I will be full time training students.
We are going to spring for a private lesson or two, and go to every group class we can sneak into before the trainers catch on that we are repeats. I think we can wear disguises and use some of Percy’s nicknames.
On Tuesday nights, I will wear contacts and a ball cap. I’ll let Percy roll in the dirt so he looks part black lab and part dust bunny. I will refer to him as Linus.
For the Wednesday afternoon class, I will wear one of Oldest Child’s cosplay wigs and put Percy in an argyle sweater. He will be Perseus the dignified.
For our typical Saturday class, I can wear my glasses and Percy can get a bath before hand so he is going as himself. Maybe in his way our geriatric-sloth-like progress can become more middle-aged-turtle.
I did see some of this progress over the weekend. The boys shared a banana and I was lazy and put the peel on an end table. Drake decided he was still hungry and entered stealth mode to hide on the couch and enjoy his contrabanana contraband.
Since I have long conversations with/at the boys, I was explaining while I headed to the kitchen that they had consumed enough of a snack and didn’t need a banana peel. At “peel,” Percy ran to my left side and walked right next to me. He even sat when I stopped. It took the entire trip to the kitchen before I realized Percy wasn’t after the peel. Percy heard “heel” and was actually doing it!
This action, while a wonderful victory, confirmed my strong suspicion that I am the hold up on training, not my slobbery sweetheart. Those extra lessons are actually for me. Bring on doggy summer school where I don’t have to be the one grading!
I love lists. That is actually an understatement. I love them as much as my dogs. Lists rule my life. If there is a “listicle,” I will read it. It doesn’t matter if I know anything about the subject matter or not, I will probably read that list. If it can be put into a list, I am on it faster than Percy can gobble an unattended cake.
On any given day, I have four different lists on my work desk. They are short term lists, long term lists, things accomplished, and grocery lists that will never make it to the store. Some of my lists have sub-lists.
I like those “Things You Can Learn from a Dog” or “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten” type lists. They are almost always happy and good for a laugh or smile. The things I learn are seldom that fun, though. They often earn a sigh and occasional profanity.
Here’s what I have learned from my dogs (and demon cat). Your results may vary.
Flower pots can be shattered and then double as chewing gum when mom won’t let you have the real thing. (No backyard container garden for me this year.)
There’s always room for treats and eating slippers. (Apparently, the more expensive the slipper, the better it tastes.)
Flossing is great, especially when you use an iPhone charging cord.
Someone will fall for sad, puppy-dog eyes. You just have to find the person who wasn’t in the room when you got in trouble.
The more you yowl and stir up the dogs, the faster someone will scoop out cat food.
You are never too heavy, or have too bony of a butt, to be a lapdog.
100 pounds can sit on the back of my sofa without tipping it over. 120 pounds is too much.
A closed dog mouth is a suspicious dog mouth.
Anti-gas dog treats exist and are a nose-saver. I recommend them for daily use.
(My personal favorite) Dogs will love you and still want to snuggle when you come home sick from work on a Monday and look like a zombie.