A Punxsutawney Miracle

Our crate training journey wasn’t graceful, but you know what? In less than three months, we got where we wanted to be.

When it comes to relationships, be it marriage, raising kids, or training dogs, I think compassion and the pursuit of mutual understanding will guide you to success.

Trainers’ guides to introducing a puppy to a crate go something like this: crate training should be a gradual and positive experience so that your puppy learns to accept the crate as her happy den of comfort. Start by leaving the door open and littering the floor of the crate with treats so your puppy willing enters…

Josie Junebug’s crate introduction at our house went more like this: Welcome home, adorable girl, here’s your crate, go in it.

I admit, it was abrupt. In our defense, we had not raised a puppy before and were told when we adopted her that she had been crate trained at her foster home. So, I guess we just assumed she would take to it with the grace we expected.

She spent the first night whining and barking at the top of her lungs for forty minutes, every hour. I cowered under my pillow thinking “oh, what have I done? Dogs are smelly, loud, and trouble.” I was convinced I had forfeited all domestic tranquility for the next decade and a half. (Note that this is the kind of thinking that stems from anxiety and exhaustion.) Though it was a long, frustrating, worrisome night, I felt it was important not cave to her whining.

The second night, we moved her crate into the kids’ room so she wouldn’t be all alone. She whined for twenty minutes, sans barking, after which she slept through the night without incident. From that rebound, she quickly adapted to keeping quiet and not eliminating in kennel.

When it was time to return to work (after Thanksgiving break), I was very anxious about leaving her in a crate all day. My husband was surprised: “I thought you were all pro-crate.” The funny thing was, professionally, I had no problems putting other people’s dogs in kennels all day. Turns out, as a [dog] mom, I’m a total sap. Still, though, she could not be trusted to hold her bladder or avoid the temptations of destroying all we possessed.

I knew from counseling clients that it was important from the beginning to avoid  nuisance barking and separation anxiety. So, we were consistent and no-nonsense about putting her in her crate at night and while out of the house. Though she accepted her fate with slumped shoulders and pleading big brown eyes, she had to be carried to the kennel every time. The optimist in me thought “thanks for the sixty pound deadlift, Junebug.”

I’m sure her crate would be more comfortable (and quieter) with a mat or blanket. We bought a cheap rug at Aldi (my husband pointed out that, at $8, it cost the same as every toy we tried on her). She left it alone the first night, but chewed it so thoroughly the second that I felt it was safer to trash it. So, until we save up enough for a chew-resistant pad, kennel time means cold, hard, nail-tapping drudgery on the plastic.

Then, on Groundhog’s day, I get a surprising text from my husband. Josie Junebug voluntarily crated herself! Recognizing the signs of their morning exit routine, she slinked in of her own volition! Now resigned to her lonely schedule, she “kennels” on her own.

I certainly would not claim she has embraced her kennel as a comforting wolf den. We could have handled the whole situation better by working systematically on crate acclimation. A few days, I fed her in her crate so she’d have positive, short duration exposure while the cats ate in peace, but I forgot to do this consistently. Working full time, managing a house, and caring for two kids and three pets keeps me busy. Though I’m quite organized, consistent training (of dogs and kids) is not one of my strong points.

 

Our crate training journey wasn’t graceful, but you know what? In less than three months, we got where we wanted to be.  What lesson did I ultimately glean from all this? Follow your own path. When it comes to relationships, be it marriage, raising kids, or training dogs, I think compassion and the pursuit of mutual understanding will guide you to success. After all, it’s not about me asserting my will over her, but about us all discovering how to live together. To that end, I have just as much learning to do as anyone else.

February 29, 2016: a reflective post

Leap boldly into your day.

Twenty four extra hours to live fully,  love deeply.

Strive for goals that seem further away than the day you determined to succeed.

Breathe and eat and rest through a day special and yet the same as all the others.

Argue,  protest,  scare yourself with your anger,  because there are those powerless and too weak to do so for themselves.

Create,  rend,  reinvent that which  you no longer wish to carry.

Honor and rebel against tradition and expectations–yours and others.’

Leap Day is a strange surprise in the calendar. Once every four years, a whole ‘nother day, and unless it’s your birthday, not a lot of direction on what to do with it. Aside from playing leap frog all day, the best suggestion I found to celebrate was to take a picture. So we did.

The fun thing about Leap Day is that it occurs just seldom enough to be special but often enough to a repeated occurrence in our lives (Lord willing, as we say in the South). Four years from now, my son will be in school. My daughter will count her age in the double digits. Josie Junebug, of course, will no longer be a puppy.

And what about me? Hopefully, I’ll be on  book tour for my latest best-selling novel. Perhaps I’ll be waking to the sounds of waves crashing outside the window. (Awesome vacation waves, not end of the world tsunami waves.)

far better

In four years, who will be our President? Will we have made any progress in race relations or peace in the Middle East? Will our oceans be any cleaner or the bees have made a come back? What planets will mankind have traveled to?

Aside from the promise of entertaining the world with my literature, what else will I have accomplished? What strangers will I have fed? How many children will I have comforted? How invasive will my footprint be on the Earth?

In the comments, share any unique Leap Day traditions you have and what you hope the picture of your life will look like at the next Leap Year.

The Gift of a Renewed Habit

Reclaiming a healthy routine seemed impossible to do for myself, but when a beautiful brown-eyed girl entered our lives, it became effortless.

Before my daughter was born, I woke up 45 minutes earlier than I needed to every morning for the sake of self-development. I would be sure each day started with a positive thought of intention, read something spiritual or personally progressive, and end with a set of simple calisthenics. Every self-improvement guru will advise you to do this. So will this anal-retentive blog author.

Unfortunately, once the sleepless nights of motherdom hit seven and a half years ago, I fell out of this habit and never managed to restart it. As a matter of fact, the stresses of long-term joblessness in my household and the addition of a scrappy son have, for years, dunked me continuously under the waters of chaos. I can honestly say that the loss of this one clarifying habit has, for me, been the main contributor to a chronic sense of “not having a handle on things.”

predawn
Stepping into the predawn, starting the day with a breath of fresh air. (Thankfully, she doesn’t poop until later.)

This habit gently resurfaced in my life a couple of months ago, and it should be no surprise to the reader that I owe it to the adoption of Josie Junebug (Greatest dog in the world). You see, I felt guilty that, after spending all night in her crate (to insure she didn’t chew up the entire downstairs whilst we slept), she got only a short reprieve before returning to her crate while we were at work and school.

The Monday after Thanksgiving break, my alarm rang half an hour earlier than usual. What had seemed insurmountable for years suddenly just happened. Since that day, and every work day since, after showering and dressing, I liberate her from the evil crate (her sentiments, not mine) and am rewarded with grateful adoration displayed via entire rear-body wags.

Friedrich Nietzsche picture quotes - He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. - Inspirational quotes
Reclaiming a healthy routine seemed impossible to do for myself, but when a beautiful brown-eyed girl entered our lives, it became effortless.

I drink my coffee while it’s hot, not having to set it aside to pour chocolate milk, or cut up an apple. In 15 minutes, I am able to read more of C.S. Lewis’s  Mere Christianity than I could accomplish in hours while wearing the Mommy Hat. I put away the clean dishes, accomplishing something before I even leave the house.

In the stillness of predawn, my dog and I peacefully step into the day together.

 

Leave a comment: What good habit has your pet (or loved one) inspired?

 

 

Bedtime Routine

Bedtime for Junebug

This dog has her routine, and she thrives on it. Like Peter Pan’s Nana, our girl makes sure the kids are tucked into bed with love. Of course, the lights don’t go out until each young one has his or her favorite toy and a cuddly blanket. My son is the most trouble, getting out of bed to fetch a truck, or talking to his sister. However, Josie is also known to stir up some mischief, the usual conflict being that she considers her half of the bed to be the middle half.

nana
Disney’s Peter Pan, 1953

Please tell me we’re not the only ones whose bedtime resembles cat herding. If you’ve just successfully tucked away your progeny and pets, pour a tall glass of wine and enjoy this awesome oldie but goodie:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8

 

Jedi and Junebugs

Josie Junebug has yet to be exposed to any Star Wars. Still, she’s not going to be a natural fan. “Why,” you ask? “Blasphemy” you declare! “But she’s otherwise the world’s best dog,” you lament. Let me explain; if Miss JJ knew about the impending Episode Seven release, she would not be amused because it means her family will abandon her for several hours in order to go sit in the dark and remark about how wonderful something else is. Though it gives her no reprieve from kennel time, I dedicate this Star Wars themed post, in which I analyze what characters our family would be, to her.

Starting in no particular order, my son would be R2D2, and not just because he’s the smallest. He has a good heart but is notoriously spunky and stubborn. For a long while, what he said could only be interpreted by his sister. As with most toddlers, communications relied heavily on gestures, using Force empathy, and attempting random solutions.

Master of human/cyborg (toddler) relations, my daughter probably wouldn’t be flattered by the comparison but she would be C-3PO. She constantly has to corral her brother, who antagonizes her endlessly but comes off adorable to the audience. 3PO’s physical build reflects her figurative heart of gold. Being a first born protocol droid, she is always anxious to do the right thing.

My husband is Obi-Wan. He is the oldest of us all (though not white-headed yet), a good negotiator, and the most emotionally stable one of the bunch. His serene wisdom guides us through the chaotic energies the rest of us unleash as we slide the warp drive accelerator into uncharted systems, expressing our zeal for life.

I was surprised to discover that my Star Wars alter-ego is Han Solo. We’re both cocky wisecrackers with adventurous spirits  who aren’t afraid to shoot first. Also, both of us think the best place to do business is a trendy local pub

Josie Junebug would be Chewbacca. Obviously,  they’re both covered in fur and roughly the same color. Their big size intimidates people, though they’re just teddy bears. Communicating with humans can be a challenge, but they’re loyal and always seem able to intuit what we need.

The cats are jawas. They have glowing eyes, no one understands them, and when they grace us with their presence, its for no apparent reason other than to be mysteriously adorable.

Knock knock

Who’s There?

Art

Art who?

R2D2, May the Force be With you

* Fun fact, one of the names we considered for our new dog was Jedi!

Leave a comment about what Star Wars character you would be and why.

Introducing Josie Junebug, World’s Best Dog

Plans for adding a dog to our family tentatively began when we bought our first home about a year ago. We’d always talked about having a dog eventually, and of course the kids wanted one. That big fenced in back yard almost should have come with a dog.

I figured it was only a matter of time, though I still dragged my feet. I already work full time, have two small children, my husband works weekends, and whatever “free” time I can seize is spent trying to accomplish anything that will allow me to legitimately stamp “author” on my tombstone. I had no illusions that anyone other than me would order dog food, put heart worm prevention reminders on the calendar, give baths, trim nails, scoop poop out of the yard, and so on.

I think what really fueled our timing was that my daughter had to switch schools this year, and it was incredibly tough on her. Her old school was too far for us to commute now, and though she qualified to attend their school for the gifted, it turns out, they were not that gifted at helping a struggling pre-reader with dyslexia. Leaving the only non-kin social group you have ever known is not easy; it was less so that her new school was a bit…rough around the edges. I thought that it might be curative for her to have a dog to come home to every day.

I spent a few months investigating various local breed rescues. There are certain breeds I am quite fond of (Greyhounds, Golden Retrievers, Shiba Inu, Doodles), and yet, I knew there was no way I was going to pay a breeder for a purebred puppy. I ran into some surprising dead ends.

“Will not place a dog in a home with a child under the age of 6.”

“We cannot adopt…where there is a child under the age of 5 in the house.”

Ok then…So, I took an online personality quiz at PawsLikeMe.com and matched with two local dogs. I emailed them to my husband, and he took the same quiz. We shared a match! We drove across town in the season’s first snow to meet her at Misty Eyes Rescue, and our application was approved.

On one hand, as a veterinary technician, I have been thinking of all the things that can go wrong: separation anxiety, aggression, expensive medical conditions. My reservations have kept us from having a dog for years.

Though still a tiny bit nervous, I’m now excited to bring her home. I have always pictured a dog in my “ideal life,” and part of me can’t believe I’ve waited so long. Time to follow this year’s intention and “Be brave enough to be the woman Good created me to be.”

Next, I need to really commit to finishing my first novel. So close to done, but an incomplete draft is useless. Rejections for other projects and stories continue to roll in.

tomorrow

 

Leave a comment about one of your “someday” brain pictures. Are you ready to take a step towards that life you always wanted for yourself?