Percy is no longer the most obnoxious dog in the house.

If Drake was human, he’d be a 3 year old. I am not figuring “dog years.” I am judging this based on behavior. Lately he has been hitting a new high of obnoxiousness. I still love him, but oh, my!

Partially due to training and partially due to just age, my giant pain who is Percy is calming down. Drake, however, is ramping up the terrible. He is currently declaring his annoyance at not being allowed to go outside. It’s noisy in here.

Someone is accessing our backyard so Drake has to spend a whole hour not getting to do what he wants when he wants. It starts with soft, high-pitched whines that morph into a strange howl/bark at the door. This dog is never quiet. When Drake is left alone for a whole ten minutes without attention from man or beast, he climbs up on the couch, flops down with his head on the arm and sighs his distress. Then, he groans a long drawn out moan like someone told the boys cheese was no longer a thing. 

Drake doesn’t even sleep quietly. Unlike Percy, Drake enjoys his naps. Often we hear barks, yips, yelps, and something that rather resembles the eventual draining of a clogged bathtub.

Life is dark and meaningless when you can’t do what you want.

Then, there’s the slapping. I’ve never had a dog who slapped people and other canines when he was miffed. I’ve experienced that behavior with cats, but not dogs. I can’t even blame the evil Meri for that bad habit because she avoids the boys without fail. Earlier, Drake and I were having a discussion about appropriate behavior. He had his sweet face on and was draped upside down over my lap. (For some reason, he prefers to spend most of his downtime on his back.) I explained that slapping and hitting wasn’t okay and he needed to stop. Haas walked up to investigate and Drake whacked him across the face mid-lecture. Obviously, this dog listens well. When I threatened to ground him, he smacked my arm. Drake is currently in his crate to calm down.

This is a radical change from the independent, nonviolent, slightly stand-offish boy we brought home 10 months ago. I am telling myself he is just now comfortably settling in but I will be glad when this toddler phase passes.

Drake in nicer days.


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.

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.

Maybe I should learn to meditate.

Every job has benefits and drawbacks. April, for teachers, is one of those drawback times. The kids are done (mentally) and getting them through testing season requires super hero stamina. Add in the sudden realization that we have a large, year-long, project due and if kids don’t start turning in work they will get to spend not just 47 minutes each day with me but allllll day long for 2-4 weeks of summer school and people start to get irritable.

In my infinite wisdom/stupidity, I do the year-long project with my kids. This year, the project revolves around Percy. I have the rough draft of the paper done but I need to finish the project presentation. My original plan had been to have Percy all trained and ready to bring to school. That ain’t happenin’ so now I get to figure out how to make a video.

Percy has improved tremendously but he is still a wild man. He’s handsome, loving, and maybe 1/4 tamed. He also tends to be a bad influence on the other two. That happy face, according to online articles, should be lowering my blood pressure and making my stress vanish. I think the jury is still out on that one.  The study and article authors probably don’t have giant dogs who tore up a window screen, ate a crepe myrtle bush, uses a log for fetch, or left a paw print like this on a front door when someone knocked.

Did you know you can bulk buy magic erasers?

One of Haas’s favorite outside toys

Haas knocked on the back door and we didn’t get there fast enough.

Actually… the list of current things that drive me nuts about my trio of terror was a bit hard to come up with. Yes, prying a paint pen out of the shark-pig’s mouth can cause a jolt of fear (poison!) and going after the suspicious item you caught from the corner of your eye disappearing into Haas’s mouth is disgusting, the sweet moments outweigh the infuriating. I tell myself that it’s like exercise to emotionally swing back and forth in this manner.

Last night, it was about 10 minutes until bed time and my boys put themselves to bed. I could handle starting bedtime early, so I began the nightly routine.

First to bed, Haas gets a scratch on the head every night and praise for going into his crate. He was sitting quietly in the back corner and when I reached in, somehow I fell over, landed on my right knee and skidded to the back wall. There may have been some loud and not quite polite words.

As Haas tilted his head in concern or confusion about why mom was taking up half of his room, I heard the other two bolt from their crates and try to crowd into the still open kennel door.

Fortunately for me, Drake’s wiggly rear kept both him and Percy from being able to enter what they must have thought was one of Haas’s famous house parties. I was stuck since I couldn’t back out of the crate with Percy and Drake in the way. I ordered them “out” and Haas gave a doggy shrug and tried to do what I said. This meant he would have to walk on me to do what he thought he had been told. (The other two seemed to think I was just joshing them.)

After much confusion about who was to “stay” and who was to “go,” my skinned knee and I finally got everyone to bed and situated only to find that Youngest Child (the band-aid addict) had left me with only teeny bandages or some cut-off-a-digit-sized gauze.

Here is where I got some perspective. These three are friendly boys and are only doing what comes naturally. They get tired and fussy with each other just like my students do with each other and their teachers at this time of year. None of us want to do what we are supposed to do, but at the literal end of the day, some of my last thoughts are about my boys, my children, and my kids. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love them, terrible or not.  Here’s to the next six weeks of the blood pressure roller coaster.

Things I have learned from my dogs

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. There’s always room for treats and eating slippers. (Apparently, the more expensive the slipper, the better it tastes.)
  3. Flossing is great, especially when you use an iPhone charging cord.
  4. 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.
  5. The more you yowl and stir up the dogs, the faster someone will scoop out cat food.
  6. You are never too heavy, or have too bony of a butt, to be a lapdog.
  7. 100 pounds can sit on the back of my sofa without tipping it over. 120 pounds is too much.
  8. A closed dog mouth is a suspicious dog mouth.
  9. Anti-gas dog treats exist and are a nose-saver. I recommend them for daily use.
  10. (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.

I will love you, forever; I will like you most of the time.

Drake and Haas come from a wonderful rescue. It is entirely foster based and they do a really good job making sure the dogs are healthy and go to the families where the dogs will be happiest. We actually drove an hour one way to meet Drake because I believe in this group so much.

All we knew about Drake was that he was about 8 months old and had survived parvo. I don’t know much else about Drake’s background, and I really don’t think I want to know, based on his behavior. I think it must have been pretty unpleasant.

When we feed Drake, he sometimes has to be escorted to the dish and told that it is okay for him to eat. If the other boys are nearby, he won’t go without an escort. We were feeding him before the others but now we can generally just tell him he has permission. Otherwise, he flinches any time someone comes near him.

For the first few months, any time the big boys would come to snuggle, Drake would find a spot on the other couch to watch and look sad.  He would sit in our spots when we got up, but it has only been recently that he would hop up to sit next to me for some love.

Recently, the Mayor of Angstville spent the night with friends in another town and needed a lift back home in time for that most exciting 6 month dental cleaning. Since it is about a 30 minute drive, I decided to take one of the boys for a car ride. Haas is Oldest Child’s favorite so I was tempted to take him. He loves car rides. Percy tends to be my baby so I thought about taking him. He loves car rides. But…Youngest Child (who is supposed to be Drake’s person) had been gone a lot so I thought I would take Drake. Drake doesn’t love car rides. I wanted him to see that car rides aren’t always to no fun places like the vet and the groomer.

Drake drooped as soon as we got in the car. He sat in the front seat but not restfully. Then, he put a paw on my shoulder. Drake whined a little and I gave him a scratch behind the ear.  For 20 miles, Drake kept his paw on my shoulder and I wondered if he thought he was going to be given away again.

Since Oldest Child and I tend to have our best conversations about life, musicals, school, and the future in the car, I figured maybe I should have a talk with Drake.

I told him:

“I love you, bud. We aren’t getting rid of you. You are ours now and you will be ours forever. We won’t let you go. We aren’t sending you away. We love you.”

I know he doesn’t really understand what I said to him. I think he got the tone of voice and somehow I think he got the meaning. On the way back, he sat in the backseat and settled into a resting position. He still looked out the windows but I don’t remember any whining.

In the last few days, Drake has been sitting with me more and more. Since he has put on some height, I sometimes have to check to see if it is Percy or Drake. Most of the time it is easy because Drake sits like a normal dog and Percy sits on his head with his butt up in the air.

As I was writing about my pig boy, Youngest Child came out of her bedroom because Drake flopped down on her head and broke the child’s glasses. I still love him and I even still like him.

My, what big teeth you have!

We love rescue dogs. Almost all of our dogs are or have been rescues and mutts are our favorites. Our first family dogs were a schnauzer/basset mix that we picked up at the local shelter. They were adorable little fluff balls who grew into rather homely (if not regularly groomed) dogs. They were awesome though. We loved their sweetness and personality.

Since we know where Percy comes from, we are pretty sure about his lineage. Percy is a Labrador Retriever and Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix. He has webbed toes.  It’s kinda cool. He is also a very handsome boy who is obsessed with playing in the rain. Percy adores all water that doesn’t come with dog shampoo.

I am sitting nicely and I am all dry. Can I please go back out in the rain?

Drake is a little different. When we adopted him, he was listed as a lab mix. I could believe part of it. From his build and bark, I imagine that he is also part hound of some sort. The other parts (I know are not scientifically possible but I teach lit so I can suspend disbelief) I think some science fiction mad scientist or fantasy magician created. He appears to be part pig and part shark.

Evidence (that wouldn’t stand up in court):

  1. Drake constantly makes a snorting/snuffling noise like a small pig. He has no known sinus issues.
  2. Drake roots around in the ground and constantly has a line of dirt on his nose that make it resemble a pig snout.
  3. Drake eats everything, animal, vegetable, mineral, and fabric.
  4. Drake has incredibly sharp teeth and they often show.
  5. Drake shreds every (stuffed) animal he comes across, especially if it is losing innards.

Drake smells something tasty!

I speculate that Haas is mixed with horse. I know his breeds are big (from appearance, we believe Irish Wolfhound and Bernese Mountain Dog), but he was as big or bigger than the miniature horses that lived next door to his foster family. He also likes to rear up on the hind legs and try to nuzzle our faces for affection.  His weird feature is extra toes. I have no idea where they come from.

Teenager is smaller than Haas. Their attitudes are about the same size, though.

In reality, it wouldn’t matter if those mixtures were actually true and not just Monday-and-I-don’t-feel-well musings. I love my boys. They drive me nuts and make a huge mess. They are stubborn and take forever to train and feed. They also give the best snuggles and the happiest greetings, even when Mom comes home in a bad/sickly mood.

I am sure purebred dogs are just as wonderful and have amazing traits that my boys would never have. I think everyone who can and wants to have a dog should have that perfect fit. For us, that perfect fit is the horse dog, the webbed toed rain dancer, and the pig dog.  They are all terrible and amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for even a luck dragon.