Happy Dog Day!

If you have found us, you know that our house has a slight fondness for canine companions. My life revolves around four legged, frequently foul-smelling, but frighteningly friendly dogs. They don’t really let me do much else, which is my current excuse for being behind on my grading. Before the trio of terror, it was my kids. Now my kids are too busy for mom, but their neediness had nothing on my boys. Between training, watching for hot-spots, chasing Haas out of my bedroom, pulling inedibles out of Percy’s mouth, and trying to get Drake to stop slapping…everyone, they keep me hopping. They even make it hard to blog or grade online now that they have figured out that if they tap the touchscreen on the laptop, the offender immediately has Mom’s attention and big voice.

Regardless of the chaos, I wouldn’t trade them for all the cheese and bacon in the Midwest. Dogs (and cats, bunnies, hamsters, flying squirrels, or other pets, too) are so good for us. They make us better people by demonstrating how to be loving, affectionate, and that one should always be excited by the arrival of the one who feeds you. They help our blood pressure, keep us active, and are often our excuse to get out of events we would like to avoid. Dogs are good for us and we should be good to them.

This week, I got to see something heartwarming that made me smile for my entire 40 minute commute home. I suppose I should start at the beginning, which was the beginning of the school day. While running an errand to the office, I overheard another teacher telling the principal about a stray dog outside. This isn’t terribly unusual but I always perk up at the “d” word. Then, throughout the day, I heard from multiple kids about this poor, tick riddled dog who was following them around. I heard several different names for this dog and I assumed he would be gone by the time I left. I made a quick joke about adopting him to be our English department pet and then continued with my day.

As we were leaving, a faculty member who knows my appreciation for pooch pals checked to see if I had a leash and collar with me. I always have dog stuff, even when I don’t have dogs. I also have everything from sewing kits to pliers to toothpaste, but that’s another whole obsession I won’t get into. I went to get my leash and leftover lunch and noticed how many faculty and staff members were intent on rescuing this dog. In addition to those 6 or so adults, there were several students and kids as well. Two of them were former students who were intent on capturing the dog and taking him to the vet. There is no town animal control or shelter so I was concerned about what we would do with him once we had him. If I brought home another dog, I’d have to kick out a human so, it really couldn’t be me.

This boy was very skittish after having been chased around for who knows how long during the day so I was a bit afraid it wouldn’t work. Our school also butts up against a highway so there was also the fear we would see an unpleasant end to our new friend. Luckily, with a bit of cooperation, we were able to catch the sweet boy and transport him to a vet. He has been fed, bathed, vetted, and posted on social media with a back up home waiting. I love that the kids and adults were willing to stay at school after required hours to save a boy I suspect doesn’t have a loving home or people to share his picture on Facebook and Instagram for National Dog Day. It’s nice to know that one more boy is closer to a happy home. I’m so glad I got to be part of that rescue.

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Off to the vet and a good meal. I don’t know what this guy’s name is but he deserves a Dog Day shout-out.

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How many pets are too many?

I think I may have a new pet. I really didn’t want another one. Oldest Child has been begging for a rabbit, hamster, lizard, frog, or a turtle. Dad is allergic to the rodents and I am adverse to reptiles/amphibians so Mom says no every time it comes up. The extra pets are so much work! Don’t get me wrong — I love pets and think they are beneficial to our mental and emotional health. There’s nothing like caring for another creature and if it can care for you, even better.  I would be miserable without my boys. Sometimes, though, we have to set limits.

While this new pet could be incredibly beneficial to my physical health, I’m concerned about the drawbacks. First, the smell. We already have to be careful with what the dogs eat because their emissions are dangerous to our environment. Thanks to probiotic foods, that is mostly under control, so do I really want to add something else stinky to my house? Second, what if my children reject it? They aren’t always accepting of new experiences.

Microorganisms are not something I would have thought to cultivate.  You can’t really pet a sourdough starter and if you name it, then your family starts talking about “stress levels” and “cutting back on the caffeine”. However, I have a bit of an attachment to the stuff that is transforming regular old cabbage into sauerkraut on my counter. I have decided that it must be a “he” and I check on him constantly.  I have been careful to burp the jar multiple times a day and attempting to ascertain if it is mature yet. This is my first ever batch and I am like a fussy new mom. Is it okay? Have I done everything that I can? Will I like it? Will this help my gut? What else can I ferment that isn’t alcohol?

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This is my new friend. I am trying not to name him so it is easier to eat.

I may have a pet problem or a new obsession for the next few months.

I need pet insurance

My dog looks high and we have spent entirely too much time at the vet in the last month. We still have two more visits to go this month and it is a good thing I prefer to stay home instead of going to a nice beach and wiggling my toes in warm sand while sipping some umbrella’d drink. I’d have no money to tip the waiter/delivery dude.

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We want something from a food delivery guy. Dad has food. He can deliver it to our faces!

Instead, we fretted over an abscess on Drake’s neck ($), treated it both internally (gross) and with oral medications, before we discovered Haas’s incessant licking near the wound caused a hotspot that needed more medication ($). While the first week was a challenge to get Drake to hake his meds, the second week was much easier due to the prednisone. Within a few days, Drake was out-eating even Percy and didn’t require a cheeseburger to wolf down pills. We did have to stop him from trying to rob Haas.

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Right after having Drake’s abscess drained.
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I know you say I’m all better, Mom, but snuggles will make it extra better!

As Drake recovered, we knew we needed to take Haas in to have his itchy ears checked and treated for infection ($$) Since we had to pay for a doggie exam anway, I thought it would be a good idea to check out a bump that had formed on his back end. His foster mom thought someone had shot him with rock salt so when we first noticed it a while back, we assumed it was something just under his skin. We were not so lucky and found it was a tumor that needed to be surgically removed ($$).

Today my biggest boy went in for booty bump removal. This isn’t the first time we have had to take a dog in for tumor removal but it was always something benign. The only thing I was worried about was his no-longer-fluffy butt getting sunburned or how the other dogs in class might giggle and point. However, this time the news was both good and bad. Haas did well in his surgery, didn’t have to be completely put under, and they got all of the tumor. The bad news was the tumor was malignant. There are no medications required but we will have to watch for the inevitable return. We hope that it won’t be any time soon. He is currently wandering the house on unsteady legs and hoping for a treat. I think he’ll be getting a few of those this evening.

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Mom! Let me have some dignity, please.

The positive is Percy is completely fine and eating everything in sight ($$$$$).  We are glad to be back to detailing doggie adventures and hope you are having a fabulous summer. Until next time, I am off to baby my poor pathetic puppies.

Making myself useful

This last week I got to do a few hours of volunteer work transferring a couple of dogs from a kill shelter to a different town’s no-kill shelter. This was organized by a local rescue organization that is woefully understaffed and underfunded but still does an amazing job. It was a wonderful experience and one I plan to repeat.

As the getaway driver, I was quite nervous for our hour drive. Would they cry all the way? Would I fall in love and want to end up with two more? Would they pee in my car? What if their gas was worse than Haas’s?

My heart started to break when I saw these beautiful pitty babies. Normally, I’m not a pit bull fan because I am drawn to scruffier dogs. However, these two, a male and female, melted my heart. I’m a sucker for animals with special needs and it was obvious these two needed some TLC. The female was terrified, appeared to have an abscess on her sad little face, but her buddy was a mess. He seemed to have chunks ripped out of the fur on his back and little nicks in various places. Their toenails were overgrown to the point it looked painful. The animal control officers said they had been covered with ticks and what I thought was some matting, on closer inspection, seemed to be a healing wound. They were in dire need of a bath. These were the worst smelling dogs I have ever encountered.

Their behavior on the trip was impeccable. The little female sat quietly with the saddest look on her face while her friend alternated trying to climb into the back glass and drooling on my console.

When we arrived at their new (temporary) home, their roles switched. The female willingly walked out of the car into the building while the male refused to leave the car or go through any  doors. Their sweetness doubled as we had to wait a bit for their intake papers and kennel to be set up. Meanwhile, a staff member and I fed these pretty pitties treats that they took delicately from our hands and stayed close for snuggles. As they had been dumped, neither dog had a name. The assisting staff member named the male Diesel and I was allowed to name the female Agatha. For some reason, I felt so much better about them after they had names, even if they may not stick.

It was so hard to leave them but it made me grateful for my own boys. I love my rescues, at least one of which was also dumped. I so hope those brindle beauties find a loving home soon. I keep an eye on the new rescue’s website for those sweet babies but I am betting they need some vetting still. They are going to make someone very happy one day and I’m glad to have met them.

Stranger Dogs, Stranger Days

There’s a new routine/obsession for my pack of terribles. It has become all consuming. As soon as the back door is opened, all 3 boys shove past the resident door person, hip checks the adjacent table, and fly down the steps.

This is where paths often diverge and the hunt begins. Percy barks orders (or fear, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) and heads to the south side of the shed. Drake races toward the north and Haas alternates west and east. The hunt for the shed monster begins anew–every couple of hours, loudly, over and over.

Drake’s concentration is fierce and he carefully, yet frantically, digs under the shed. Here, Percy takes command/paces nervously and lets the entire neighborhood in on the play by play. Meanwhile, Haas keeps trying to shove his giant, fuzzy head into a previously dug hole roughly the size of his paw. Granted, the paw is massive, but his head is bigger. The only thing Haas retrieves is another pound of dirt that he magically  transforms into a muddy hipster beard.

When Drake yelps and the hound howls come out, the big boss calls off the hunt. The pack gives Mom sad eyes and all 3 attempt to crowd into her lap. She doesn’t give in and take care of the shed monster for the boys. Mom is wise and knows it is probably a garden snake, a mother bunny just trying to care for her babies, or even a shared canine hallucination (these boys will eat anything, good idea or no, so maybe it’s doggy drugs). It definitely isn’t a scaly beast who will come through the walls and devour us in our sleep, no matter what these boys think.

Mom isn’t scared of the shed monster; but even still, she’s not checking out the situation. She’ll just snuggle big, brave, muddy puppies and keep watching Netflix.

Love or whatever

Previously I have written about trying to learn how to show love as freely as my dogs do. This was central to my classroom strategy this year. Since the school year is officially over, now I get to reflect on how well it worked. There was definitely a change.

When I had my very first classroom 18 years ago, I accidentally slammed my door on the first day and scared the freshmen. When you combine that with my natural RBF (resting um…butthead…face), 30 kids were terrified. They soon realized was all bluff and gruff. However, my kids thought it was hilarious to tell incoming students how scary I was. For the first 14 years of teaching, I just went with the unfounded fear turned to continuing upper class prank. It worked well with my inclination to avoid sappiness.

Then it became time for me to go home and change some things in my life.

I had a new opportunity to start the year with love rather than fear. It was tougher than I expected. Before, I had very few discipline issues because by the time kids were no longer afraid, our procedures were established and I could form relationships. I also needed to break my ingrained habits.

I didn’t want to be the scary teacher. Instead of kids laughing at their long running joke (excepting those who thought I was legitimately terrifying and never moved past it), I wanted to be the kid of teacher my kids loved and remembered fondly.

The first two years in my current district, I just tried to be the kind of teacher, and person, I wanted to be. I made some improvements but they weren’t enough and I didn’t feel successful in any way. Then came Percy who would never have been a dog I picked out for myself.

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This was Percy’s first visit with us. At the time, he seemed so big but now I realize how little he actually was.

Percy is the most loving dog I have ever met. I started using him as my model for some of my behavior. I try to show my kids every day how much I love them so the students don’t have to guess or hope their teacher cares. Obviously, I don’t show my affection in the same way Percy does. I have no desire to slobber on anyone or follow them around every moment of the day. I still need my space and quiet time.

I just started telling the students how I felt. I worried that teenagers would think it weird or that they were too old for getting read to and fed snacks. I gave it a go. Then I told them again.

I reminded my kids that I would love them no matter what their standardized test scores were. And in their very last class, I reminded each section that I loved them dearly and I would miss them.

The best part of actually verbalizing how I felt felt instead of just hoping they knew was their response. One group even responded immediately with a “love you” as they left. While I searched for the tissue box that seems to roam the classroom, I thought about how happy I was this year. I had no behavioral discipline referrals. I signed more yearbooks than all other years combined and I have a great start for my new memories book.

I know it isn’t just saying “I love you” aloud to my kids. I actually worked to improve our classroom environment and atmosphere in other ways, as well. Those three words were the scariest part and I will keep working to make my classroom not just a room of learning but also of love.

I don’t regret taking the risk of stating my feelings just like I don’t regret getting a giant, slobbering, blanket-carrying, bottomless pit of a dog who thinks he must be in constant physical contact. Percy and I encourage you to show the love yourself this week. We need more love in the world.

I’m a rule follower.

When owning pets, it’s very important to set and enforce certain ground rules. These are mandatory when owning dogs that are bigger than you. Being a gal of exceptional willpower, I like to make sure everyone in the house adheres to “the rules.”

  •  Save your furniture and keep animals off!
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    Don’t bother me, Mom. I need a nap.

    definitely don’t them hang out on top of the couch

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    I can watch the door better this way.
  • no dogs on the bed

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    I know I take up half a king size bed, but you really need to clean your room, Mom. Don’t change the subject!
  • No playing ball in the house.

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    Throw it, Mom! I want to play catch!
  • No people food–especially snack foods

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    This is what Haas used as training treats for class this week. The rye chips are Mom’s, though.
  • No bones–they stink!

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    What? It’s tasty, Mom.

Oh, who am I kidding? The rules don’t apply to me.

History Repeats Itself

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.

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Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll keep an eye out for papers that need to be graded. We’ve got this!

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!

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We don’t need to train, Mom. Let’s enjoy the deck and my dirt wall art.

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.

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Drake was just awfully cute and minimally dirty so I had to get a picture while I could.

Happy Monday evening to all.

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.

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.