Monthly Archives: June 2011

Of Blogs and Sharing

Sophie of the Court of Tails has generously shared our burgeoning blog with her followers by offering us an award! I’m pretty tickled, that’s a major vote of confidence. 😉 A big thank you!

 

 

 

Since I’m unsure who created the original image and concept for the award, I’ve linked it to Sophie’s post in which she shared it with me. My motivation for that is twofold, though. She’s got a list there of ten others with whom she has shared the award. I do believe that is customary for recipients of this lovely honor. What a great idea, a swell way to get to know more awesome bloggers, and share and encourage the work of your favorites! But I’m pretty new to this. The only blog I follow that she doesn’t already list will be my sole recipient. So for a proper list of 10, check out Sophie’s picks.

My sole recommendation: The Spotted Tongue, where you can view the lovely Dahlia, who lives with a stellar photographer quite dedicated to Dahlia both as an artistic subject and a best friend.

Thanks for enjoying our words as much as we enjoy yours!

 

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Things I am learning

I am re-learning what it is to have a puppy in the house.
I am learning what things I am and am not capable of as a trainer.
I am learning I am much more capable than I dared hope at raising and training a puppy.
I am learning that I still have limits, and what they are.
I am learning more about my commitments and priorities.
I am learning more about what Davy and I can do when we work together.
I am learning more about the dynamics of my own household.
I am learning about our needs and wants from a dog, about who would and would not fit into our lives here.
I am learning the reasons Eppy’s presence helped so much with my anxiety symptoms.
I am learning the effect on one’s mealtime experience when one has forgotten to wash one’s hands and they smell of rubber and kibble.
I am learning that everybody deals with life in general much better on a full stomach.
I am learning that perfection is less important in puppy-rearing than that little sigh before he settles down to sleep.

The journey continues.

zzz

Memories

So the first days of our experience fostering Baxter have come and gone. They’ve been entirely consumed with him, as happens with a new addition more often than not, especially a puppy (they need so much more maintenance). It is bringing up a lot of memories for me.

I’ve surprised myself because I never thought having this pup around would stir up so many painful feelings along with the nice ones. It makes me miss Eppy more instead of less, which I find interesting and also rather challenging. I had thought because this new little charge would be so different in breed and type from my girl, it would be easier not to compare them. Instead I find myself wistful for all the ways she is different from him, and then feeling rather like a jerk. I’m not sure how to deal with those emotions.

He’s his own little character but definitely a lot like Sparky, Maddy, and Emma, the JRTs I grew up with. I’d almost (not quite, but almost) forgotten what goes into puppy rearing, but he’s reminding me very quickly. A lot of fun, a lot of worry, a lot of work, and a world of new discovery and cute. He’s certainly a terrier through and through. Has that personality of being lovable, cheeky, opinionated, clever, and more or less demanding that you should admire him because to do otherwise, in his eyes, wouldn’t really make much sense. My parents would be going gaga over him, I think.

We’ve been teaching him a lot of different things. It’s all very baffling when you’re young and small and in a new strange place, and suddenly people expect you to walk a certain way, relieve yourself only in certain areas, curb your urge to bark at new sounds, hold different positions on command, and basically be in control of all the enthusiasm and zest that feels very uncontrollable for a baby full of vim and vigor. I feel that for a dog of his age and breed (and not even neutered so he’s got raging teen hormones to contend with too!) he shows remarkable control. He does require training but is shockingly well-behaved in some ways. And I really can’t fault his temperament thus far, which is a blessing. No aggression. Loves everyone. Fine with being handled anywhere, even his feet.

So I tell myself all these things. Remind myself how much he is great for a terrier (they’ve never been “my type”), and how much I looked forward to rearing him, and how much I wanted to be involved with dogs again.  And I still ache. Then feel guilty for aching.

Everyone’s been telling me how I’m doing a great job with him. Between handfeeding him, working with the clicker, playing, walking, and just generally trying to keep him busy, I suppose I should feel something of a sense of accomplishment, and I do as I see him start to behave more calmly about the house and begin to respond to situations with behaviors I taught him. It’s neat to see him blossom into a nice dog to have around and know that Davy and I played a role in that. Even so, this is a dog who, rather than fitting into our lives, I have kind of had to arrange my life to accommodate him instead. Even though I was aware that would be the case, and thought it would make things much easier, because I wouldn’t be attached and letting him go to his new home would then, I reasoned, not break our hearts… I guess part of me feels guilty for not being in love with him. That’s supposed to be the main ingredient, according to a little voice in the back of my head.

I like him. I recognize that he’s a great little dog, and that to other people with lives and personalities unlike mine, he’ll be perfect, a canine paragon, eighth doggie wonder of the world. But… I won’t be sorry to see him go. That was the plan and that was the aim and it should be a good thing right? But then he looks at me with eyes begging to be adored and I feel like the world’s biggest heel because that’s the one thing I can’t really give him.

I’m learning a lot from this experience! I mean to write a post about that as well, but it’s going to have to wait. Effective time management is still eluding us a bit with all the puppy newness.  For now, I wanted to process some of the jumbled-up feelings as part of recording our journey. There’s plenty of rainbows and sunshine in fostering, but of course it’s never ALL that. 😉

Arrival!

The first foster. The first dog. The first night. It’s all new, all discovery, all butterflies and stars. It’s like a first date.

And certainly, Baxter lays on the charm rather like a first date. He’s already given both of us facefuls of kisses and slept on both our laps. Played with every toy twice and accepted treats with the gentleness and grace of a gentleman, even at his tender age. Was pretty easily tempted into a sit, and learned with quickness that mobbing the hand doesn’t earn any treats, but if he waits politely they soon are handed to him.

He pulls on the lead and needs to learn his basic commands but he’s an eager pupil, with a lot of people focus and motivated by both toys and treats. I don’t think he’s going to be even as much trouble as the average spaniel puppy, let alone as much trouble as many terrier pups! Which is not to say we aren’t anticipating challenges, but whether the uncertainty and the newness or he’s really just that angelic, he’s giving us a first date to remember.

That come-hither look

Anticipation the Remix

We were overjoyed to be approved as fosters with The Little Dog Rescue, so now  a new kind of more exciting (and familiar) anticipation has taken hold of the household at large. Furniture’s been rearranged, paperwork’s been sorted, and there’s little left to do but wait with bated breath. I think I’ll take this opportunity to introduce a little background story as a prequel to our upcoming foster adventures.

As a young-thirty-somethings couple and childless by choice, pets play a large part in filling the role of some entity to focus on nurturing together.  Work is part of that as well, because we have creative projects together in addition to our individual ones. As our ultimate dream is to support ourselves with our creative endeavors, Muse is a continual drive and process in our lives, which frequently sees us shut up in the study for days, with no one to remind us that a daily airing is important and that mealtimes should be observed with regularity. But all work and no play makes Jack axe people in an old hotel, or something to that effect (yes, I loved the Shining, both book and film). I don’t think every couple needs a child or child substitute, but I do think that part of creating a lasting relationship together with someone is actually creating something together. And I’m a big believer in breaking the monotony to avoid stagnation.

Our first joint project was our first hamster, Chimera, who was adopted from the local branch of the RSPCA at a tender age, having been part of an “oops” litter. We were looking forward to having a little face to come home to after class, but little did we know how much she would come to own our lives. It wasn’t very long before she had us wrapped firmly around her delicate, minuscule toes, demanding attention by scrabbling at the corner of her bin cage or climbing up the water bottle and trying to chew out of the lid, running up our arms when we put our hands in the cage, and diving headlong into every toy and puzzle we could present her with in an effort to give enough stimulation to her everlasting energy and curiosity. She ran about the flat in her ball, bashing merrily into the walls without a care, chewed through “pea puzzles” made from a handful of peas and a crunched up toilet paper tube to get to the hidden treasures, and broke our hearts to pieces the day she died.

Her successor, Yeti, is both adorable and charming, but he has a more stereotypical hamsterly approach to human affections, feeling that his wheel is more interesting than most things we could offer or do for him, and too shy to do much more than hide in our laps on excursions out of the cage. While it is endearing to know that it is us he runs to for safety, the fact that the wider world is such a source of suspicion and mistrust for him is somewhat tragic. Then again, he had a much rougher start than Chimera’s somewhat charmed life. We got him from a shop where he cowered in the corner of his tank in stricken terror of the endless commotion around him. Not a recipe for a brilliant future, but we are comforted that now his particular needs and wants are catered to and he lives in relative peace and quiet.

I have never been without a houseful of pets for any length of time, and having a single one who wasn’t as keen to interact is a far cry from never going to the bathroom alone, which was my wonted state of affairs prior to the transatlantic jump. The steadfast company of Eponine (Eppy to her friends) for ten years was a fact of my life, as much a part of me as breathing. She was my Most Best, dog of dogs, and the inspiration for the dog in the banner image. I had a strong interest in dogs for years before owning her, but it is for love of her that I love dogs as I do now. In her absence I find that my anxiety symptoms are more marked and harder to curb, and I was keenly interested in getting her across the border to me. To my dismay, I found that what that entailed was much too risky for a dog of her age and particular quirks, so suffice to say it was devastating to call a halt to the pet passport process, when I’d already got permission from the landlord and was downloading paperwork and looking at airlines.

But of course, my involvement in online dog forums hadn’t waned– if anything, it has increased since the separation. With so many of them fostering, I soon became interested in the process myself. It seemed the perfect solution for our lives. I needed a dog around, they needed a place to find themselves before they found a home, and thus it all came together into the idea that I’d really like to foster instead of adopt, if I could swing it. With our puppy on his way things feel as if they have come full circle, in preparation to starting a whole new rotation.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m looking forward to it.

Anticipation

The home checker from the rescue came over, and we had a lovely chat about our pets and Davy and I told her how we would take care of a pet here, and she was very kind. As I wait for the results I find myself seized with unexpected emotional upheaval. Are we doing the right thing? Will this be what we were missing since the death of our benevolently tyrannical hamster? Or will we end up with a string of lovable home-eating terrors and fail people and animals we’ve made promises to, when we felt so confident before?

Even though I have raised or helped to raise puppies, kittens, chickies, bunnies, baby mice, and all manner of delightful animals of various descriptions before, this feels different. I suppose it’s the question of judgment that somehow makes me question myself. Before, animals were either purchased, or adopted from places that weren’t very thorough, or rescued from the street or given to us by someone who no longer cared what happened after.  But now we are under the friendly scrutiny of people who have definite ideas about where they want their foster dogs to go. Before, it was all about picking out a name and a new bowl, or getting the fleas and inexplicable weird substances washed off. There wasn’t really any time to think about being a carer or about my ability to take on the task, just the moment of being there and taking the action because it needs to be done, or else of making the decision to add to the household and then going about the business of executing it.

And so now I am at leisure to let my imagination run wild. I’m no slouch as a pet owner but am a novice trainer. What if the dog has some personality or behavior I’ve never come across before that I somehow can’t fathom how to handle? What if he can’t adjust to the change in home? If they refuse us, will they tell us why? Or will be left forever wondering if we came off as terrible people?

Ultimately, of course, the shelter’s decision will certainly have good reasons either way and it doesn’t diminish my personal commitment. But I’ve never been so apprehensive about taking on a single dog (on a temporary basis, no less!) in all my life.  My tendency to be reflective and analytical can be very useful, but the way it can feed my various insecurities, I could do without, especially considering how difficult the task of quashing said insecurities is already. It’s something Eppy always helped me out with, but she isn’t here. It’s up to me now to remind myself what I’m made of.

The answer, mercifully, should be soon.