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.

Guest Author: Student Files

This blog started because my students and I participate in something called “Genius Hour” where we design our own projects and learn about one of our passions. My passion when this started was training Percy. I still love talking about him, so I am still posting.

This year, one of my sweet babies is working on building confidence in her writing. She is making a guest appearance today with a poem inspired by some of her photography. This is a big step for her in sharing her work and I hope you enjoy it! From here on out for this post, it is all Wonderful Student. If you have some love to share, drop WS a comment and I’ll make sure she sees it. See you next time!

 

Each day brings something new
A new outlook on life.
We all move closer to the end as we age,
But some things seem untouched by time.

The rising sun does not initially appear.
The sky lightens slowly.
A soft orange and yellow breaks out across the horizon and stretch onward,
Melting into a delicate, new blue everywhere it can reach.

The scattered light falls upon clouds,
Bathing them in oranges, baby pinks, and infant purples.
They stretch farther than life,
Taking displaying their hues.

The dawn allows itself to be captured,
In small ponds close and nearby,
To see its own reflection
Before it steadily breaks to day.

The rest of the world holds a breath,
Appearing black as night against the lit up heavens
To highlight their glory
And capture the moment.

We all change and grow older
So does the sky.
While it seems the same every day,
Each moment is unique and breathtaking.

Each day brings new hues.
New clothes pass and take their spot in the sky
Or leave open a wide, endless blue
That fades in and out.

The sun changes slightly
Scattering her beautiful rays in different ways
Reaching new and same spots
Creating art in the sky.

A picture can capture one in a million moments
As the earth spins on
As no moment will be the same
Just as we are all unique.

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.

New Year, Same Old Us

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I gave up my half-hearted attempts in about 5th grade when I failed, again, to keep my desk clean and organized. I’m good with goals, though. I dig the connotation that goes with “goals.” If I meet a goal, I get a reward or something.

This year I want to put my goals out there for a little accountability. It also provides an excuse to write another list, so, win! Add in the dogs and it is a double win!

  1. Have at least one dog pass the test to graduate group obedience classes. Drake and Haas are now the bad boy bunch with Percy causing minimal issues these days. I would love for Drake to stop hitting and for Haas to not eat my home from the foundation up. Obedience classes should be a great start.
  2. I am going to take each dog for a walk at least once per week. Hmmm. I think part of my brain may be trying to sneak in a fitness resolution. Fine. We’re not running and absolutely no burpees!
  3. Start my own YouTube channel with anti tutorials for quilting. It would be a “what not to do” so beginners feel better. On second thought, that might lead to profanity which is not a good example for my students. Maybe I will just settle for making dog beds for the demons.
  4. (I like odd numbers and wanted to stop at 3, but my most excellent mother hates them and I don’t want her to either throw things at me or to stop reading so…) I will untie my shoes before I take them off.

The dogs don’t seem to make any goals except to see how gassy they can be before we make them go outside. Do you have any goals for this bright and shiny new year? Let me know in the comments below! Like and subscribe today! (I’m practicing in case I ever start a weird YouTube channel but I would still love to read your goals or reasons not to have them)

Meri, Meri, Quite Contrary…Quit tormenting me.

Meri is one of our original terrible two on four feet. I don’t write about her much because I prefer the dogs. Before Meri, I was a cat person, but it is only 90% her fault that I’m not crazy about her.

When the husband I were still newly together a hundred and a half years ago, we adopted a cat, Bosco. He was my baby and spoiled rotten until I became pregnant with the Mayor of Angstville (Oldest Child). Then, Bosco spurned my company and remained annoyed with me for about three and a half years. When Youngest Child showed up, all was forgiven as she was his baby so I wasn’t quite so awful. Those two were thick as thieves until Bosco’s stroke and subsequent passing.

Between the husband’s cat allergies and my grieving heart, I didn’t want another cat, at least for a while. When we went fishing at a trout park that following summer, we came home not with fish but a cat. This is the 10% that isn’t her fault. Meri didn’t choose her timing.

The kids fell in love with the pretty beggar who deigned accept their offerings of cheese and lunchmeat. Despite my objections, she came home with us and now bears the name of the trout park. Meri loved Dad and tolerated the kids. She and I clashed immediately. Meri hated when I was on any form of technology and demonstrated her displeasure by sneaking up and biting the back of my head. It happened more than once, to the delight of the other humans.

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I imagine Meri is contemplating my destruction in this photo.

It’s been a few years now and the hag and I have come to a bit of a truce. I let her out when the boys are free and she gives warning before trying to impersonate a zombie and eating my brain.

I have noticed that Meri’s relationship with the family is quite different from the boys and our previous feline. We all have full conversations with the cat and seldom are they happy. It’s not unusual to hear an argument from the other parts of the house. HOw a six-pound cat gets such volume is impressive. Most of them consist of something like this:

Human: You’ve already been fed twice today. NO. MORE.

Meri: No!

Human: Yes, you have!

Meri: NO, MROW!

Human: Too bad, Hag.

Meri: NO! (then sounds I am pretty sure are profanity)

Human: Do you want to go out? The boys are out back.

Meri: Merow, no, now, yowl

Cat heads out the front door and all is peaceful…until the boys come back in.

Meri is pretty, though, and has the softest fur I have ever petted. I admire her self-confidence. I don’t like her. She’s terrible, but she isn’t going anywhere.