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.

We’re back and the boys are still bad.

We’ve been away, both from the blog and from home, for a couple of weeks and we have missed you! Its been a crazy couple of weeks but they just reminded me how much I love my family, my dogs, and my school kids.

A few weeks ago a family member had a health emergency which meant I needed to drive across the state to be with that family. Since it is difficult to get the boys into boarding (no one wants to keep dogs who are the size of horses for some reason) when it is planned, it would have been impossible to get them in immediately. This meant that Percy would come with me so that our dog sitter/Grandpa could take care of Haas and Drake. They are enough of a challenge without the joys of the original terror on four feet.

Percy did beautifully on the trip back to his original home. He handled three hours in the car with minimal stinkage and was in labrador heaven at a whole new house and yard to sniff. He did have to hide from a couple of terrifying kittens who weren’t his biggest fans. I only laughed a little at hundred pound dog crying and trying to climb up my back when faced by three pounds of fluff. Percy’s second birthday happened while we were in St. Louis so instead of party he got a new hedgehog toy to destroy and a small bite of corned beef and potato. I’ll make it up to him soon and find some spray cheese.

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Percy insisted this beauty was out to get us. This is Meeko.

While Percy was living the high life and pretending to be an only child, my normally good boys were causing some trouble at home. Haas, known for being just slightly stubborn, decided he wasn’t going to listen to Grandpa. He refused to eat and refused to leave his crate.  I’d like to think it was because Haas missed me but I suspect it is more that he was angry about not being able to roam the house. He loves his crate when the door is wide open. It’s when you tell Haas he can’t sleep on a king size bed that he gets snippy about the whole crate thing. He even managed to break out of three latches on the last day to greet us at the door. I also noticed new teeth marks on the lock of the back door. I’m extra glad I hadn’t replaced that door knob yet.

Now that we are back in the swing of things, Haas also has to go back to training. He is night and day different from Percy. Percy is incredibly food driven. With just the right amount of breakfast, Percy would do almost anything for a bit of any food or food-like item. Haas isn’t food driven. Sometimes he isn’t driven by anything at all. For two weeks, I had him skip breakfast and took several different treats. Haas wouldn’t take them. This week I got desperate. We trained with popcorn. Why do I end up adopting the weird dogs? Drake’s weirdness will have to wait for another day. I still love them.

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Oh, Mom. I know you ran out of popcorn so there is no way I am going heel.

Now I suppose I should get caught up on the mountain of grading that is waiting for me. It’s a bit a challenge since I have three dogs trying to fuse their bodies to my side and lap. We’ll make it. It’s almost time to start the end of year countdown when it will be all dog all the time. Have a wonderful week!

Haas started school

After a few months off, we are back at the training thing with a different dog. Haas is a much more well-behaved boy than Percy was on his first day. Haas didn’t bark, imitate an over stimulated and under supervised toddler, or defecate in the middle of class. I count it as a win!

Geez, Mom. This is lame.

It amazes me how different they are when it comes to training. For Percy, my food-driven fiend, skipping breakfast and new treats were key. Haas wasn’t so interested in treats. Instead, I’ll have to transform into super cheerleader mom and play up the attention. I may also try popcorn since I don’t think chunks of concrete are our best choice of snacks. Haas might disagree but I bet his teeth are firmly on my side.

We have already had a decent start with learning “heel” positioning but once Haas hauls his fluffy self up, it’s hard to get him to stop when I do. He seems to think it silly to get up for just two steps. He would sigh and give me the same look I give him when he gets mud on the sofa –it’s a good thing I love you.

It almost felt anticlimactic to leave without special instruction or having to stop class to get an unruly canine under control. I know Haas will have his own challenges as we start our obedience journey. It’s almost like getting a new group of students. I am sure we’ll do fine. It’s just time to differentiate that instruction! These boys aren’t so different from my classes of teenagers. They’re wild, stinky, loving, and predictably unpredictable.

May your week be pawsitively wonderful!

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!

Who I Need to Be

I’ve written before about how helpful the boys are when I am struggling with anxiety and depression. I don’t write publicly about it often but tonight I felt the need. My boys mean more to me than I could ever express through written word. Part of that is because I don’t share the less happy stuff. People have enough to deal with in their own lives. Most people would rather read about the happy, silly, guess-what-my-weird-dog-did-this-time ramblings.

Tonight, I need the dogs. To be truthful to myself, I have needed them quite often lately. I even tried to sneak a visit with one of our counselor’s handsome therapy dog. Unfortunately for me, he was out of the office. As always, I will make it. Self-doubt, irrational fears, feelings of inadequacy, and various personal demons are always there and I have enough tools to get by. I am blessed in that I can function and the horrendous days are rare. The dogs help me be who I need to be.

It still amazes me, even after all these years of having dogs, how loving and helpful they can be. I’m sure they are responding to unconscious body language and aren’t actually reading my mind. They are sticking even closer than normal lately. Percy keeps an eye on me and it is rare for me to be seated and not have physical contact with at least one of these furry friends. I love them even more for that.

They don’t expect me to be happy and energetic. Sure, a good game of fetch and catch is a highlight but they also seem happy to kiss my face and just sit for a chin scratch. As I sit and write tonight, I have either Drake or Percy right in my face and have received multiple kisses. I won’t even fight to keep Haas in his own bed tonight because I know I will rest better with him there and feel better tomorrow. They are here. They accept me as I am. To me, this is beautiful. This is worth cleaning up another puked up sock or a destroyed set of blinds. It’s worth holding a 95 pound dog down to apply eye drops or find a new way to trick picky eaters to take a heart worm pill. It’s worth the terrible because I have the terrific when I need it.

I hope you get to experience this same selfless affection from a dog, cat, or hyper-aware goldfish. If you are struggling, I hope you feel better soon. I appreciate you and I know you are a pretty swell person, whether you know it or not.

This picture of Haas sulking after being forced to come in out of the snow makes me smile.