Friday, January 2, 2015

Lessons Learned from a Puppy Dog!!

(this blog is self-sufficient, but can be read as part 3 of the housesitting blog.  Here's part 1 and part 2)


When I was just about six, my family stopped for a ho-hum nothing-special trip into an eclectic sell-all store called Big Bird’s. I went off exploring with my pocket of savings (we were taught confidence very young), and when my family reconvened, I was giddily explaining that my purchase was only $5; I was holding a dog! Yup, a live dog! hahah!! I can just imagine my chubby cheeks and giant grin;  I named him Spot.  :).

I wish I could say I remember Spot.. but I don’t, nor making such a brazen purchase. Too bad, because i'd enjoy this boldly brilliant memory!  That story comes straight from my mom’s mouth, and truthfully I’m a bit surprised to hear that we did bring him home.  He lasted almost a year she says, until I came home from school one day and he was gone, given to a fellow parishioner (who tried to give him back a week later!).  No one in my family is a dog person ;) 

As long as I can remember, I feel like I’ve been saying, “I can’t wait to get a dog one day.”  But...not in college.. no way. Then after college, I was so busy. Then I was working so much, and the last three years of course I was traveling so much... I couldn’t have a dog. 

I’d began to debate if I really AM a dog person or not. Did I just get in the pattern of saying I want one? Let me actually think about this... I mean, surely I like the idea, but I’ve never actually had one and the responsibilities that come with it! (sorry Spot, I can’t count you if I can’t even remember you. No offense ;). Was being a dog-lover just something I’ve wanted to be? Thought I’d be? Got used to saying? There have been plenty of friend’s dogs I’ve liked... but also plenty I thought were just a plain nuisance. All those times people had to decline invitations, because they had to take care of the dog/couldn’t leave the dog/ didn’t have anyone to watch the dog.... I was far from jealous of that! Money on vets, food, dog hair, dog poo... hmmm?? 

What if I get a dog and I’m really not so into it??!?!  How do you know for sure??! 

AHHH, in comes housesitting-dogsitting!!!  This has been SUCHHHH an amazing chance to put that question to the real test! The four weeks I spent with Nelly was a complete and total education for me (as everything always is), and a firm confirmation: YES, I do want a dog (eventually)!!! 

Let me tell you about Nelly :). Sweet sweet crazy Nelly! She’s a yellow lab, 2 years old. In dog speak, that means she is a GIANT ball of chaotic energy!! That’s an amusing correlation between us; most people see me as a giant ball of chaotic energy. It’s all coming together now, that look of, “How are you so hyper?” Ha ;)

Spazo-fun :) 


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She is suchhhhhh a sweetheart. She’s been sleeping up on the bed with me since night #2, every evening getting closer and closer. At the end, she was usually half up on me! As soon as I moved an inch in the morning she’d come in for snuggles ;). She was there with me just about everywhere I moved, at the toilet, and most certainly there staring me down every time I ate!  When I left she jumped up and wimpered at the door, and without fail when I’d pull in the drive her head would pop up in the window :).   I’d come to both love and slightly loath opening the door when I’d been gone a while it was a jumping, licking, loving, spasmaticly wonderful welcome :).  Ahhhh, I think I understand why they call it ‘puppy love’ now :).  I also understand why people have dog hair everywhere. It’s nearly impossible to do so much laundry, and who has time to lint roll?! ;) 



Snuggle buddies :) 

Meditating w/ Nelly= laundry day :) 




Aside from being my sidekick, she’s also an amazing guard dog. She really did make it feel safe out there in the country.  Early on, we had a good bit of snow which showed some random car tracks down our long, not-a-chance-accidental driveway.  No note, no package... umm yeah, that was a bit odd. But, since Nelly perks up and protects at every sounds and movement that only she can notice, I didn’t give it much concern. She chased a fox (or a cat maybe) away from the chickens once and although somewhat terrorizes the turkeys, I saw one of them following her around the other day so I think they have an understanding :). She’s hilariously obsesso with the frisbee: she runs 4x as far as she needs to, and then insists on tug-o-war for like 5 minutes before giving it back to me ;).   I find myself laughing so much with her. She’s just too cute! 


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She’s my little buddy, and I also like that she she motivates me.  When it’s super cold or I’m not feeling well, it’s easy to forgo the playtime... but then she gives those puppy dog eyes and wimpers at the door, it’s like okkkaaayyyy, okay, lets go. Put on the boots and the rain jacket and let’s go! :). 



The few times I’d yelled at her in the first 3 weeks, I’d instantly seen those puppy eyes, felt bad and realized she wasn’t really doing anything wrong or that she knew to be bad, in fact I’d even set her up for failure but putting food in her reach or allowing her to jump on me most of the time (but not wanting her to in that outfit).   I started paying attention to how often I said ‘No’ to Nelly... and it was too often! As a follower of Osho,  it’s interesting to see how easy that word comes out of my mouth. (He emphasizes that the word ‘no’ need not be used very often, if at all. He believes mostly it’s said to conform to a societal rule or trying to look like a perfect parent/partner, but it's rarely necessary). Ahhh...wow, this is parenting practice for sure!! A dog is an absolute stepping stone to children (and I am sooo not ready for that yet)!  I’ve always winced a little bit when people called themselves “mom” or “dad” when referring to their animal. But I get it now...  the comparison is real! And sooooo intriguing to me. Props for another example of how experiencing the other side makes all the difference :). 


Then, I made the extremely asinine choice to take her on a run. An organized, city streets Christmas run in Portland (A hash for those of you in the know). I thought, ‘She loves to run, what a great Idea’.  MISTAKE!!! Well not, because gosh I learned a lot, but it was NOT a fun class!!! With only a boat strap for a leash, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that Nelly, run-full-sprint-4x-the-distance-to-fetch-a-frisbee Nelly, would be pulling me.  

The problem was, i WAS surprised. I didn’t even ponder that she wouldn’t just run next to me. Doh! That's evidence of no experience with dogs right there. She was draggggging me. I tried to sprint along with her the first few minutes. I tried to keep her back by stopping and walking. I tried pleading begging and looking in her eyes to convey my pain. And eventually, I just resorted to jerking her back, thinking the unpleasantry of that would stop her, but really it just resulted in me feeling horrible, and getting more cranky by the minute.

Dogs, or at least this young one, don’t have the capacity for reason. For the next 60+ minutes of that run I jerked her back until I was in tears and just wanting to find the end of the run (it was supposed to be a scavenger hunt run). I didn’t want to be jerking her. I wanted her to understand how much easier and pleasant it would be for both of us if we could just run together. I actually even had that eye to eye conversation with her a few times out of desperation. She didn’t listen ;).  A few other runner’s took her for a bit, only to return her a few mins later. Towards the end, one guy wrapped the leash around her hind legs to help restrain her... it helped but she still powered on. By the end not only were my eyes puffy, my arms tired, and my hands raw from the strap wrap, but my feet were sore and tender from digging into the pavement so hard trying to keep some leverage.  That, plus full-on mental exhaustion.

It’s my pattern to tirelessly try to explain and communicate my way thru things. I write, i call, i talk talk talk, and I think think think...sometimes in that order ;). Hence my inability to write a short blog ;). Either I get my point across or we need to communication until I understand yours. But this scenario? Hellllooooooo, no conversation to be had: she’s a dog :). She’s just doing her thing and I’m pissed off about it. 

So then we were finally home and I was wanting to still be angry with Nelly and she’s just happy-go-lucky like nothing’s wrong. WTF... is wrong with me!?!  It’s like I’m wanting her to apologize... when clearly, we know that’s not going to happen. 

Did she actually do something wrong?? Or is it becoming quite clear that she was just being her wonderful self and I’m the one with the problem? Whoa, deep




Early on, I’d already learned there was no explaining to Nelly how we’d be better off if she would just give me a few seconds to change my black pants before she attacked me, or if she would stay on the bedspread and not touch the sheets while I’m trying to get in. Or if she would please let me clean her paws with some cooperation! ( Of course i realize a dog can be trained, but that's besides the point here, and out of our 4 week timeframe).  There’s no changing that she sheds and drools and licks her own butt (which so grosses me out).  But these things are menial, and her endearing qualities were easily able to average out above all the imperfectly perfect things about her that I just simply wasn’t used to.  

And then the horrid run,  which felt like I’d been abused. Physically, mentally... and she didnt even care! haha! I'm being facetious here, but the lesson was real: 

STOP waiting for an apology that isn’t coming, that isn’t necessary, and is really nothing more than an illusion in my head. The deed is done. She was being her wonderful, exciting, energetic, curious self. For all I know she'd never been on a leash before! I can stay cranky or move on. 








All of this correlates to my human relationships. I realized how much emphasis I’ve put on apologies over the years.  Have you read “The Five Languages of Apology”?? (it’s fantasitic, same author as “Five Love Language”... I recommend both for relationship peacemaking!).  I learned a lot from that book, and as I think back, I’ve waited for apologies that (in this same manner) were really groundless, ego-driven and self-serving. No one (almost) hurts you on purpose. There are definitely times for apologies, and authentic ones will stay important to me, but obviously I’ve got some work to do with blame and forgiveness considering here I was withholding it from a dog ;). 





So I forgave her, just like that, and we were besties again :). YAY! 

Nelly and I... it really was like the formation of any relationship!  It’s honeymoon in the beginning, you‘re learning each other’s quirks, annoying things are cute, but you start to really care for each other.  You have your first little tift and get through it and it’s so exciting! The selfishness starts to subside! Early on there were a number of times I was down in town and time got away from me. The easiest thing would have been to just couch-crash down there (it’s an hour drive), accept the dinner invite, finish my errands or what-not.... but I had to suck it up and go back up. The first few times it was it felt like a thorn in my side... and then, every day as we spent more time together I felt like I actually cared more.. we were bonding, we were buds, and I didn’t want her to be there all alone and getting hungry! Awwww,  I was starting to love Nelly!!!   

Dogs are the epitome of 'unconditional love'.  Thanks Nelly :) 
So, the question was: I am a dog-person?  Yes! Confirmed! It was a wonderfully brief but impactful experience. My long-time excuses were legit, and still are. I'm a bit too busy, too unsettled, and too selfish for a dog still... those responsibilities are real!!! And as much as I was adoring Nelly, I wouldn’t want such a loyal side-kick for life.  It's too much attachment for me. When I really had a lot to do and she just followed me around with those sad eyes alllll day, it was like ‘STOP already, you’re making me feel guilty!'  I like to be wanted, but not needed. She actually reminded me of one particularly fabulous (yet extraordinarily complicated) ex-boyfriend of mine who treated me like a princess, but in the end smothered me and I couldn’t stay with him.  It’s nice to be doted on, but at least in my case it can be overwhelming. Solitude is my fountainhead of energy/ideas/peace everything really.  With huge plans on the horizon,  I find myself avoiding relationships for that exact scenario: when you start to care for someone, you automatically and happily give up some autonomy... but this girl is on a mission and I don’t want to share my invaluable time just yet :).

In the same way I’ve always said I am a dog person, I’ve equally as much said I wasn’t  a cat person.  Ahhh, the cat, I have grown so much respect for the cat! So wonderfully independent, so smart. She has her own life, she comes for what she wants, she gives when she’s needed. I’ve had boyfriends with love like a cat’s... always doing their own thing. At those points in my life my ego was bruised and I wondered how they could be 'so insensitive to my feelings.'  My then inclination was like a puppies: I just wanted to be together every second! But as I mature, I actually see a lot more merit in the cat-type love. Ahhh how I love getting older and wiser :). Relationship-wise, the cat-dog mix sounds wonderful: Excitement and snuggles and cheesy stuff along with maturity and self-sufficiency. Balance is always the key :).

In conclusion, after my wonderful foray into being a dog-owner, I see that I do want a dog and maybe even a cat! I can hardly believe I’m saying that!  Oh oh oh, I'm making plans to get settled in... AND IT'S SO EXCITINGGGG!! 


...and of course there's still plans for one of these adorable little things!!!! 






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