Interlude Behind a Krispy Kreme

Since Denim is not at all the dog I wanted, but is clearly the one we needed, sometimes I like to imagine that Daisy had a hand in sending Denim to us.  (This blog is getting maudlin, I know.  Bear with me.)

I can just see it:  “Hey, you.  The annoying one.  Behind the dumpster.  Eating the donuts.  Yes, you.”

“OH A NEW FRIEND!  HAI FRIEND!!!!”

“Nope. Not friend.  Back off.  I bite.”

“Okay, friend!”  (At this point, I imagine the nubbin is wagging so furiously, the whole back end is going.)

“Look, I need you to do something for me.  I’m offering you a great deal, but you have to go in that big white truck.”

“HAVE YOU SEEN THESE DONUTS!  LOOK FRIEND!”

“FOCUS ON ME.  NOT THE DONUTS.  THERE ARE PLENTY OF DONUTS WHERE YOU’RE GOING.  Get in the big white truck.  A lady and a man will come for you.  Then all you have to do is be sweet to the man.  He’s a softie.  He’ll make her keep you.”

“OKAY.”

“Don’t screw this up.  You’re clearly an idiot.”

“HI FRIEND!  Have you seen all the donuts?!”

“Get in the van.  I wash my hands of you.”

*****

As the terrible anniversary of losing Daisy quickly approaches (how has it been a year already without my Daisy Jane?), I find myself believing more and more that we needed Denim.  We needed her sweet goofball antics, the way that she hops through the grass like a Tigger, and the way she lays on my chest when my heart is racing.

She is all heart, which means that she was more than able to mend mine when it was broken.  I’m so glad she left the donuts and got in the van.

And I’m so grateful to Daisy for knowing exactly what we needed.  And actually giving it to us. You know, for once.

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Love.

What is love?

As my life and the lives of my friends change, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what love is.  As life changes, we experience love in so many more forms than we thought it could ever be.  It’s not just the warm feeling of safety that you experience as a child.

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It’s the ferocity you feel as a parent, protecting your own.

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It’s the pride of someone else’s accomplishment.

Graduation

It’s the fear of running out of good days.

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It’s the support for someone who fears running out of good days.

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It’s the champagne bubble feelings of romance.

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It’s the companionship of a sibling.

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It’s watching your friend go ahead of you to a place you can’t follow.

Road Beyond

It’s what moves you through fear, beyond anger, past jealousy, and away from pain.  It’s what you hold on to when everything else falls away.

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It may be the only thing that has gotten me through the past impossible year, kicked off by a terrible loss, because it’s a superpower.

Superpower

 

When you need to do the impossible thing and you know that somehow you’re going to make it happen at all costs, beyond all price?

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That’s the love.

A Win Is Still A Win

As you already know, Denim ended up at our house because she was emaciated.  She was skinny with mangy patches of missing fur that literally bled all over our floors when I tried to give her a bath.  (Blood spray everywhere!  It was a watery murder scene.)

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You can see every vertebrae in her back.

We couldn’t figure out why she was so skinny.  The girl LIVES to eat.  She wolfs down anything you put in front of her.  If you’re cooking, she stands between you and the counter just in case you want to give her a little bite of whatever you’re making.  And she was this way from MOMENT ONE.  It took us a couple weeks to realize that the reason she was so skinny was because of a bad case of intestinal worms and chicken made her poop in technicolor diarrhea.  (I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry I wrote that.  I really hope you’re not eating right now.)

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“I am only putting up with this for food.”

It’s taken us months to get her to stop rushing her food bowl.  Months.  To be clear, she’s not protective of her food.  She really doesn’t care if you take it away from an aggressive standpoint.  She mostly wonders why this terrible thing is happening to her that you would pick up her food bowl while she’s still eating.  From the perspective of a former stray, it’s basically a travesty that food only comes at predetermined times of day and only in measured quantities.

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“I’m still hungry, The Lady. Can I have FourthMeal?”

Not too long ago, I posted about getting her to sit.  Since then we’ve had major strides.  She knows “Sit” and “Down”, she knows, but hates “Drop It”, and she’s starting to get the hang of “Come Here” and “Leave It.”  (As it turns out, the trick to training Denim was not food, which is too distracting, but toys, which are the BEST.)

She has mastered “Wait.”  At least when it comes to her meals.  The dog still gets fed three times a day, and we got very sick of not being able to get the bowl down before she started eating, as it usually led to spilling food everywhere and making a huge mess.

So we started by making her sit before we would put her bowl down.  Making just THAT reliable was a week in the making, and she would still get to her bowl before it totally hit the ground.  Then we started telling her to “wait” and “take it”, never making her actually wait more than it took for the bowl to hit the ground.  Then the amount of time it took to let the bowl go.  Then the amount of time it took to straighten up from setting the bowl down.  Then one step backwards at a time, until now, I can just about walk all the way out of the kitchen while she stares at me, a long string of drool hanging from her mouth in anticipation of salmon and sweet potato kibble.  (This dog’s stomach is damned expensive, but thank God for Wellness Simple Diet.)

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“I’m going to watch this food bowl very carefully, just in case someone puts something in it that I want very much.” (And yes, that is a slow feeder bowl. A necessity in our house.)

She now runs from the bag of food we keep in the laundry room to the kitchen, and sits about three steps back from her bowl, waiting for her release to her beloved food.  I just noticed this behavior this morning, after working on it since early March.

The wins are tiny and hard fought.  But I’m still marking it in the “Win” column.  Try and stop me.

Denim Sleeps In A Box

In other ways to torture a dog, may I suggest crate training?

Daisy hated the crate.  She would scratch, cry, scream bloody murder, open the gates, manage to get the crate tray outside of the crate, etc etc etc.  But let it be known that while this could be inconvenient, her creativity was highly amusing and incredibly impressive.  One never knew what would happen next!  The day we got her, we returned from a Taco Bell run to find her waiting for us at the front door, crate be damned.

Denim is also not a fan of the crate.  Will she hang out in one?  Yes.  If she has a Kong and she can’t see a human being.  And even then, when her crate was in the living room at night?  Nothing doing.  She will be in the same room with the people when the lights are off.  (See, she can’t actually see us, so the crate whining is generally minimal and short, but she knows we’re there.  She’s made of Velcro, remember?)

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She does have a tendency to cuddle my shoes, which is weird.

She is a great bed sleeper under two conditions:

1) There is only one other person in the bed, and that person is me.  She pushes Grant out of the bed or attempts to sleep on his face.

2) She is so tired from playing with other dogs that she curls up between us in exhaustion.

If those qualifications are not met, Denim has to sleep in a box.  (Which, if you ask me, is a real shame, because Denim is a Champion Snuggler.  Like, Olympic Quality Snuggler.)  Luckily, she goes right in for a little bit of peanut butter or a couple treats and stays there until sunrise, when she wants her breakfast.  No dog is perfect.

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Denim’s preferred pillow is a human.  She falls asleep almost instantly.

But that’s the only time we crate her, unless we need to keep her contained for a few minutes during a situation that would be otherwise dangerous.  She doesn’t steal things, she doesn’t chew things she’s not supposed to, (for the most part, RIP Grant’s flip flops), and she mostly just sleeps on the giant beanbag in the living room.

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Or with me in the chair.  Those night time snuggles are a requirement.  I’ve warned her that if she doesn’t snuggle me daily, it’s back to the shelter she goes!

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“The Lady!  You wouldn’t!”

Where does your dog sleep?  In your bed?  In a box?  On their own orthopedic foam bed in the corner that you have to take with you or they’ll throw a drama queen hissy fit?  (coughcoughdaisy)

 

 

 

Sides of the Same Coin

It is a universal truth of animal lovers that anyone who says, “It’s just a dog,” has never actually owned a dog.  Or at least, has never actually had a relationship with a dog.  (I guess I know lots of people who have owned dogs that they rarely interacted with.)

Anybody who has had a relationship with a dog, and especially more than one dog, knows that dogs have personalities, just like people.  And okay, fine, it’s true that your dogs’ personalities will probably be some kind of reflection of your own, but I maintain that’s true for humans as well.  We’re all a product of our environment, no matter how many legs you walk on.

I say this because Daisy and Denim both light up my life, but they are fundamentally different dogs.  I’ve mentioned that their intelligence levels are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but it’s more than that.  They approach life in a completely different way.

Daisy didn’t care.  Or rather, she cared deeply about a lot of things, but she did not Give A F*ck what you thought about her.  She didn’t even really care what we thought about her.  Daisy did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted and only stopped when she got caught in the act.  And even then there was no remorse.  No other dog I’ve met has lived life with such total abandon and in-the-momentness.  Hedonism was her jam.

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“There is only now, and I only care about me.”

That’s not to say she didn’t love us, just that she had a very “me first and only” approach to life.  It was part of her charm.

Denim, on the other hand, has only two modes.  Those modes are:

  1.  I am worried the people don’t love me enough.
  2. I am asleep.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, what about

3.  I am in a crazy zoomie play mode.

But 3 is just an extension of 1, in a “QUICK MAKE THE PEOPLE NOTICE HOW FUN I AM SO THAT THEY LOVE ME” kind of way.

But I guess when you think about it, 2 is just an extension of 1 in a “snuggles or bust” kind of way.  So in reality, Denim is mostly concerned about whether the people love her enough or not.  And not just her people.  All the people.  And all the dogs.  And all the human puppies.  It’s like she spends her whole existence trying to ensure her belovedness.

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“Are you sure we’re going the right way, The Lady?  Why haven’t you looked at me in two hours?!  I am concerned about The Man’s current location!!!!”

And yet, Daisy was the one with the separation anxiety.

Denim is all, “I’d rather stay at day care forever and ever thank you Lady it’s fun here.”  (No, she literally turned around and walked back into day care when I tried to leave with her.)

Two polar opposite personalities but I love both of them wholeheartedly.  Probably because they represent two sides of my own and Grant’s personalities.  The ambitious, smart, go-getter, stay out of my way side, and the quiet, I love you, extroverted side.

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Denim and I are both chill extroverts.  We feel energized being with others, but that doesn’t mean we’re at a rave.  

The Lady Is The Most Tired, Though…

Last week, a coworker told me about the boxer mix he’s fostering.  Chloe is just like Denim.  Dog friendly, sweet, high energy boxer mix who can’t be tired out.  Since we’re looking into getting another dog, the coworker suggested we take Chloe for the weekend while he and his wife were going out of town.  I checked with Grant and he agreed.

Guys, I’m so tired.

They played for two days straight.  They played so much that I actually had to crate Chloe for an hour in the middle of the afternoon just so that Denim could get some much-needed rest.  (She was giving me the “I just want a snuggle, The Lady” look.)  By day two, they were taking a ten minute break once an hour or so.  (Except for the 45 minutes Denim literally hid under a blanket on my lap so that she could have some peace.)  Of course, the whole time they sounded like two velociraptors trying to murder each other and maybe some children in the Jurassic Park kitchen.  #90sreference #millennialsftw

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In the end, it was decided that Chloe will not be the newest member of our home for a few reasons.

  1. She has way more energy than Denim.  As of Tuesday, she’s back to normal.  Denim is still sleeping.
  2. I can’t teach impulse control basics to two adolescent dogs at the same time.  I just can’t.  My sanity can’t take it.
  3. Chloe peed on the new couch and Grant was the one who saw her doing it.  So by 90 minutes into our experiment, Chloe was a no-go, I was in trouble, and both dogs were banned from the furniture for the weekend.
  4. I think I want to foster again….

 

Also, on May fifth, Denim lost her bastard status.

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Update complete.

Denim Has Hired Staff

Over and over, I used to say, “My next dog is going to be so dumb.”  I usually said it right after Daisy had done something unbelievable, like escape the daycare kennel or steal things from the top of the fridge, or sleep on top of the kitchen table for maximum sun exposure.  (She also ate all the pies at Thanksgiving, literally climbed a tree, and we’re just scratching the surface here, friends.)

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She got this out of a closed box from a closed closet.   And it wasn’t even hers.

My next dog was going to be so dumb.

And somehow, I just know that Daisy is in doggy heaven (funny story, I don’t think I believe in heaven for people, just for dogs, which is a real ecclesiastical dilemma, but neither here nor there) looking down on me and going, “I found you a REAL dummy, Mama.  You’re welcome.  Bet you miss me now.”

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FYI:  I assume this is an accurate representation of doggy heaven.

And I do.  And I’m grateful — if sometimes frustrated — that she sent us a dog so dumb, she doesn’t know how to do anything but adore everyone and everything that crosses her path.  A dog so dumb, she has no idea when she’s annoyed another dog.  A dog who, for the life of her, does not understand why she cannot sleep on the peoples’ faces.

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Or why she can’t be the navigator on long car trips.

Who, when my brain goes to increasingly terrible places, is content to lay on my chest until I can breathe again.  Who knows that the surefire way to make The Lady smile is to “hambone” on the floor when I wake up in the morning.  (This is what we call it when she begs for belly rubs on the floor with a wild grin.)  Who snores.  SNORES.  AT TOP VOLUME.

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“Sunshine naps are part of a healthy daily regimen, people.”

We have signed on to be Denim’s hired staff.  The boss is demanding, but the pay is oh-so-good.

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“I require playtime, The Lady.  Right now.”

Welcome to the family, Denim Bayley.  We love you, too.

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In fairness, Loki and Thor remain skeptical of your value, but are willing to allow you on the couch with them.

“It’s Putting Your Butt on the Ground, Den. It’s Not That Hard.”

Guys!  Denim can sit now!  Of course, she finally figured it out on the day after I had given up, remarking to Grant, “Maybe we’ll just go straight to a ‘down.’ Maybe she’s just one of those dogs for whom sitting is really uncomfortable and she doesn’t want to do it.”

Grant agreed, but did not hesitate to point out that she was just fine sitting when she wanted.  I ignored him.  Denim is not the smartest dog, we don’t need to dwell on it, GRANT.

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“I have what you call “emotional intelligences.”  No, you just like to snuggle.  “Yes, I do.”

I tried everything.  I tried luring her.  I tried luring her while kneeling and hunching over.  I tried rewarding her for every motion that got her closer to a sit.  I tried capturing a sit with a clicker, but was never ready.  I tried just rewarding her whenever she was sitting.  I tried pushing her butt down and hoping she would get the message, but mostly she just looked betrayed when I did that.

It all yielded sitting one time and then her being like, “Yeah, I’m not doing this anymore. Let’s nap.”

And then it happened.  It happened.  I had a pocket full of treats and she was trying to eat my pocket to get to them.  (She’s not smart, okay.  She’s just not.)  I ignored her, because having given up on “sit,” I was trying to teach her to drop things.  Instead, she sat.

I took a step backward, and she took a step with me and sat again.  I praised her and gave her a treat.  I took two steps back, she did it again.  The next time, I held my hand in the lure position right over her nose and she did it again.  More treats, fantastic puppy party.

Then we sat all over the house.  We sat for food, we sat at the door, we sat for fetch, we sat for no reason at all.

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“What?  Like it’s hard?”

I was thrilled.  This moment is why I love training with dogs.  Because suddenly, you’re not just amiable roommates living in comfortable symbiosis.  You’re partners.  You’ve found out that you can, in fact, speak the same language.  The barrier is over.  You can communicate.

Now the world is open.  Down, Leave it, Wait, Stay, Go, Come—I hardly know where to start.  But I know Denim can sit when she’s told, so now it’s all choices instead of frustration.

 

Some Measure of Grace

Yesterday, anxiety reintroduced itself to me.  Not in the usual way, where I can’t fall asleep, or I’m consumed by my own thoughts, but in the way I thought I had escaped.  The manic, can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t cope, can’t BE, two Xanax before lunch kind of way.

I left work for the day.

Today I’m feeling embarrassed and small and cleaning my office.  I tend to clean when my brain gets manic like this.  If I can’t impose order on my own body, I can certainly impose it on my work/living/sleeping space.  As I was cleaning off my bulletin board of all the outdated items, I found a piece of writing I did almost a year ago, when I was frustrated with Grant, but refused to be angry with him—he was angry at me, and I chose immediately to forgive him his anger, rather than engage.

“If I’ve learned anything in the past five years, it’s that we’re all entitled to some measure of grace.  Grace is not something you ever earn, or something you can stockpile for a rainy day.  Grace is freely given.  In that spirit, we should all be willing to give people’s mistakes and accidents a strong measure of grace, if only because we know we will need it one day ourselves.  Freeing the people we live and work closely with every day to ‘make mistakes and get messy’ in an atmosphere free of judgment or recrimination can only increase a team’s creative output and give you a soft place to land when it’s your turn to fall.

“Let ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I was wrong’ be enough to be going on with.  Humility takes courage. Reward courage with the help it takes to make the world better.”

Grace is a gift.  Whether it’s from others or from yourself.  Grant yourself the forgiveness and space you need to get through today and tomorrow.  Keep breathing.

Nothing will be perfect, but everything will be okay.  Broken things are never beyond repair.

Making Space

“You should blog about Denim,” said my mother.  But in my head was, “how do I write about someone else in a space that was always meant for Daisy?”

Probably in the same way I’ve put out her beds, some of her toys, and her bowls.  By letting someone else occupy the space she used to take up in the world.  I don’t overthink it.  It’s too hard to think, “It’s hers,” because then my next thought is, “Don’t touch it!”  But toys were meant to be played with, bowls were meant to be eaten out of, and crates were made to be used grudgingly when you know the couch is RIGHT THERE AND YOU COULD BE SLEEPING ON IT WITH THE HUMANS.
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“But at least The Lady put a kong in there.  Have you tried kongs?  They come with peanut butter and yogurt!”
The fact is, Daisy is still driving.  Without her, I wouldn’t know how to do this.  I wouldn’t be prepared for a sick dog, who still smells like animal shelter and is skin and bones.  She prepared me to do the impossible–foster an unknown quantity and bring out her best qualities.
So hello, Denim.  We’re going to put some meat on those bones and make you the perfect dog for your forever family.  Until then, Blue Jean Baby, you can stay in this space.
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