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.

Same Song, Different Verse

I’m wrong a lot. The older I get, the easier it is to admit it. I thought I hated jalapeños. I don’t. I love them. I thought three dogs couldn’t be harder than two. I was wrong. I thought Haas would be easier to train than Percy and thus it would go faster. I was wrong.

Percy had boundless energy. He constantly wanted to run and play, chase toys, or leave a sit/stay to be attached to my leg. It didn’t matter what type of treats I used because Percy would wolf it all down.

Haas is pretty much the opposite. He is vaguely interested in playing. He’s not sure about getting up to practice heeling as we don’t go far enough for it to be worth his while. Haas won’t step up on anything and even without breakfast can’t be bothered with treats. So far, I have tried three types of store bought treats, popcorn, jerky, and hot dogs. None of these works as an incentive more than once. Next week, I am desperate enough to try cheese balls and peanut butter cookies. The only human food my boys get is limited to apples, carrots, and cheese. I would have thought any of these would have won Haas over on novelty alone. Nope.

The upside is I don’t feel my arm is going to be dislocated. That’s something, I suppose. Haas doesn’t pull, he doesn’t fight me, he doesn’t bark at other dogs. He also doesn’t obey. After 10 minutes of a 45 minute class, Haas heads for the door at every “free”.

This is a different type of stubborn and I will get it. I just need to come up with a different plan of attack. Haas may think he’s got this but I have been teaching teenagers for 18 years. If they haven’t chased me out of a classroom yet, Haas isn’t going to either. Now, where’s the Tom Petty I needed for Percy’s training? Or maybe I just need a new playlist.

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!

The Great Escape or Why Metal is No Match for My Dogs

I think there is a natural law that says behavior must balance. For every good deed or achievement, there will be destruction or misbehavior. This seems to be true for both teenagers and the terrible canine trio, but I am focusing on the four legs this week.

The Good: Percy did an amazing job in class this week. He took the test he will have to complete to graduate (just to see where he was–no one thought he would actually pass) and it wasn’t too shabby. His off-leash work was good and the wild man was calm and mostly obedient.

Percy did try to take off after a punk poodle who decided to bolt during his own test. This poodle was embracing his new Mohawk and brightly colored additions to his grey head fur. I couldn’t blame Percy. That poodle seemed to know how to have a good time. Normally, this particular poodle has a pretty prance but not this week. This week it was all gallop and attitude.

The Bad: The boys escaped the backyard last week before Dad went to work and when he was the only one home. While rough-housing at the back gate, they bent the latch and went off for an adventure. The boys have put on a few pounds each so combined they are about 300 pounds. I suppose the fence did the best it could.

I am thinking of putting one of these inside the fence instead of outside.

The quiet gave them away. Dad has been a human and dog parent long enough to be suspicious of silence. The two big boys are between name tags at the moment (thanks, Drake the pig shark for chewing them off) so Dad was extra worried. He grabbed a handful of leashes and started for Grandma’s. The in-laws live three houses down and Haas adores Grandma. He will break out of his crate and open a baby gate to get to her when she pops by. Haas knows where Grandma lives and often tries to head that way when he is allowed out of the backyard. Fortunately, they were distracted by the captivating scents of the neighbor’s stuff so they hadn’t made it far. They did come running when called so…yay, training?

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Here’s hoping the padlock, para-cord, and shoelace contain the wild ones.

Now I am off to protect the big boys from Drake. He is a demon tonight. Even Percy is getting tired of his nonsense, which is saying a lot, and I have had to peel Drake off of Haas’s jaw. His toothy smile and wrinkled head would make a terrifying Halloween mask.

May your week be filled with love, laughter, and treats. Be kind to yourself.

(I will ) Stand My Ground.

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!