April Showers

Apparently my last entry was in January. Last I checked, there are couple of months in there that I missed. Shame on me. I’m supposed to be doing this monthly.

Well, Dear Journal, I have some excuses. I’ll relate them now, not to whine and, well, make excuses, but because this is a journal and you’re supposed to write about this sort of thing. The point is the mark the days, right? When last we spoke (though I do all the speaking), you suffered me waxing philosophical about life’s tragedies. Life apparently didn’t like my gossip, and decided to give me some real stuff to focus on.

First, we bought a house. Or, rather, we put a large deposit on a house that will be built throughout this year so that we can buy it all formal like in the fall. It’s just down the road, so we aren’t leaving the area we’ve come to love, but it is quite the upgrade from our current home. We hadn’t exactly planned on this, but found the perfect lot in a neighborhood we really liked with the option to build something in our price range… sort of a bit of a serendipity. With how quickly our area is being built up, it made sense to jump on the opportunity.

We heard a whole bunch of building horror stories when we began the process. It seemed like people came out of the woodwork with warnings and tips which, while much appreciated, left us a bit apprehensive. To this point, we’ve made a lot of decisions, and all that’s left really is to monitor as the build progresses, and I’m happy to say we found the process completely enjoyable. Granted, there is still a lot of time for things to go horribly wrong, so a small bit of apprehension remains, but we’re going to take a positive approach. Really, building a home plays to our combined strengths as a couple, and we find much better than getting a used house and then arguing about which projects to do for years to come. In this way, we’re getting what we want up front, and should have minimal DIY work to do… at least for the first handful of years. So, so far so good.

The second thing that happened to really eat up my attention was that our two fur babies have apparently decided they no longer like one another. That is to say, Chloe is behaving aggressively toward Chance. This is another instance where folks have come out of the woodwork with advice and reasoning. Apparently it’s pretty common for dogs not to get along, though the fact that our dogs were besties for 3 years is troubling. Why the change? Or, more importantly, how can we fix this?

After an initial confrontation that saw me as the only member of the family not with stitches, we’ve developed a segregated house while we work on the issue. We contacted a local “dog whisperer” and are working with him to rehabilitate our dogs. During the initial training session, one of the things he told us really struck me as truth: We will have to confront what most people forget: Dogs are animals.

Sometimes people comparing having a dog to having a child, which we are guilty of on occasion, though obviously there are stark differences between the two. Often we are chastised with how much more challenging having a child will be which, honestly, is kind of patronizing. I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to be a parent in order to be aware of the challenge that a child poses. While I agree that there are emotions unique to parenthood that are difficult to explain to those yet to experience it, I think one can get a reasonable idea of what having a child is like simply by listening to the experiences of parents and caring for children that aren’t yours. Small doses are easier to stomach, sure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t representative. It may not be a perfect understanding, but it is SOME understanding.

Anyway, it left me thinking that while having a child is surely more challenging in a lot of ways, there is one way that I believe it may be simpler: When your kids fight. You see, I would love to sit my “kids” down and give them stern talking to and explain why we do not bite. Maybe ground them for a few days, and not worry about the “animal” taking over. Yet in this way dogs may be more difficult. Not only do I not fully understand the cause of the conflict because, hey, different species. But I also have to find a clear way to communicate to the dogs that the behavior is not acceptable and that they need to follow the rules. Oh, and make sure my dog can actually listen and cope with stress because if she becomes overwhelmed… instinct takes over. And until we figure out all of that, the house is on lock down. That’s right, prison rules. We have procedures and dual lock doors with buzzers and scheduled time in the yard and… okay so maybe it’s not that crazy but we have had to severely alter our home life in order to limit the potential for violence.

I have confidence we’ll figure it out. We made a commitment to these dogs. It is not something easily discarded. I mean, not to again compare dogs to kids, but if you have a troubled child, wouldn’t you do everything within your power to help said child? They may just be dogs, but they’re our dogs and that means something to us.

So, needless to summarize, I’ve been a bit preoccupied Dear Journal. My writing has, indeed, taken a hit. Heck, staying dialed in at the day job has been pretty rough. Here’s hoping that April showers truly bring May flowers for us in the form of a more settled existence.

 

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4 thoughts on “April Showers

  1. Grats on the new house!!

    Any tips you can pass on from the dog person? My husband and I adopted two dogs almost a year ago that had been raised together and were a packaged deal. They don’t like each other. When I brought it up to the shelter we got them at, they stopped replying to my emails. Nice huh?

    Anyway, I am curious to what you have learned to see if it might help with our two fur babies, especially as I’m due with our first child in July.

    • Thanks! I would highly suggest clicking on that “dog whisperer” link and then reading his blog. Andrew Warner posts a whole bunch of tips and videos from his own training (there’s also one of my wife and I walking our two dogs recently). We also watched a whole bunch of Cesar Milan, but ultimately it boils down to Exercise, Discipline, Affection (in that order). We’re making sure to do regular walks and holding consistent training sessions with consistent house rules, plus playing a little hard-to-get since we tend to be overly affectionate toward our fur babies. We’re working on improving our leash handling (making them heel instead of pull) and trying to become masters at the “place” command (going to a prescribed place and staying until released… the young, unruly dog is terrible at this but we’re working!).

      Anyway, hope that helps and congrats on the baby! I’ll have to update after we have (hopefully) made some appreciable progress.

      • Thanks! We’re pretty stoked since we had been trying for almost 6 years. It has been a really uneventful pregnancy too, which I am told I need to be grateful for :-p.

        My dogs are 8 and 9 so that makes training a bit more difficult. Especially since I don’t think their previous owner trained them to do anything. I’ve been making progress with them, but my husband likes to counter anything I’ve tried to teach them. Not on purpose, he just never had animals and doesn’t know any better.

        I’ve looked into Cesar’s stuff and I will check out Andrew’s. Thanks so much!

  2. Yeah, a big thing for us is changing our mindset about what makes a dog happy. We want our dogs to be happy, but we always thought things like having free range of the house would make them happy. For the older dog (8) it does, but the younger dog (3) it may not. Some dogs thrive with relative autonomy, while some crave structure. So our younger dog may be happier with, say, being crated during the day and only out at night when we are home. We think she may be taking it upon herself to try to be “in charge” when we’re not around, and that’s not her strength. Similar to how it might be a relief when someone else steps up and takes responsibility for something… crating her relieves her of the responsibility of her “day job” and let’s her rest and just focus on enjoying the evenings. And it may end up being more of a hybrid approach, but we need to find the level of responsibility where she succeeds so she can feel comfortable in her role.

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