Looking at the stars

Waxing Gibbous Moon from Helsinki, Photo by Kahvilokki, Wikimedia Commons

My dogs won’t sleep in my bed. How I wish they would. Leo will jump up on the bed on his own time, especially if the heatie blanket is turned on, but if I lie down next to him and bug him too much, he gets up and leaves.

A few nights recently, he has hopped up on the bed, and stayed there as I fell asleep. The trick is, I don’t touch him at all. He is not the snuggle puppy I ordered.

The other night, I slept fitfully. Mia wakes us up every night. It’s hard to tell what she wants. Sometimes she quiets after we give her water, or move her from the couch to one of her other beds. Sometimes she just seems to need to know we’re close by. Sometimes she doesn’t stop and she squeaks and squawks for what seems like all night.

It had taken me a long time to fall asleep the first time, but when Mia woke me, it was only two, so I should have been able to get plenty more sleep. But I lay awake worrying about my dogs, and then made the mistake of looking at Twitter (breaking a very sensible rule I set for myself), so then I was lying awake worrying about America, and feeling angry at people who don’t get angry at the same things I get angry about.

I heard Leo on the other side of the closed bedroom door. He does this thing where he scratches the door just once to get me to either let him in the room or out into the backyard. I had just started listening to a guided meditation and felt my body relaxing. It was working. I waited for his scratch. Instead I heard him sit down and felt him settle against the door. It was enormously comforting. If I couldn’t snuggle against his big wolfy body, at least I knew his big wolfy body was out there bracing between me and the world.

My guided meditation was asking me to imagine a white light. I was just about to drift off now. It was happening. I heard movement outside my door. Still no scratch, but I knew if I opened the door I would find him standing there looking at me. I did, and indeed he was.

I walked to the sliding glass door and let him out to do his middle-of-the-night business. But then he didn’t want to come in. Sometimes if you reach to grab him, he’ll do a crazy play bow, then race up the hill into the yard. He didn’t do that this time. He just calmly turned and walked back up the hill.

I stepped barefoot onto the cold concrete outside and looked up. The stars were brilliant in a clear black sky.

I stood there, appreciating the moment, thanking Leo for showing me the stars. Nothing is guaranteed and there’s so much to be anxious about. But right now Leo, and Mia, and Rob are safe in our home, and for that I am very very lucky. Little else matters.

I stepped back inside and shook a bag of treats quietly, because I didn’t want to wake Mia.

Leo walked almost to the door, but wouldn’t come in. I reached for him, and again he calmly turned and walked up the hill.

“Fine.” I slipped my feet into my Salmon Sisters rubber deck boots and followed him up the hill. When I turned, I saw a glowing moon above our house. The white light from my guided meditation was real.

Leo stood beside me. “Thank you for showing me the moon.” He let me hug him, pressing my forehead against his to kiss his nose. He walked back inside with me, followed me into the bedroom and lay down on his bed on the floor beside mine.

Our Christmas Tradition

xmas-family-2016-touched-up
Every year we take the dogs to a tree farm and pose in front of our tree before Rob cuts it down. Following on my earlier post this week, Leo continues to impress me. He sat down, even lay down, while I set up the tripod. People walked by, and I did reward him with cheese, but I don’t think I had to.

So so proud of my little bug. Mia’s no slouch either.

2016-xmas-fam-vert-touched

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Sibling Rivalry

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, although it doesn’t deserve to be. It contains a few examples of what not to do, but hey, maybe that’s what I’m known for.

It starts with a success story.

Last month, my mom was in town for a week, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’re past the stage where I’m terrified of what my dogs will do when we have visitors. A month or so after we got Mia, the dogs got into a couple of scary fights during my mom’s visit. Since then, I hadn’t let Leo loose in the room with her. I’m not worried about aggression, but I don’t trust him not to jump on her when she enters the room. He’s 94 pounds and she’s 5’2″, so you know, that felt risky.

This year, I decided to usher in a new era. Mom was with me when we brought Leo home as a puppy, after all. They should be reunited! With my mom securely seated at the kitchen table, with treats in hand, I let Leo in from the backyard, and had her throw treats at him. Yes, of course that made him sniff around her more than she cared for, but only for a few seconds before he wandered off, and eventually, returning to lay down at her feet.

I cannot overstate how happy this made me. What a huge relief to not have to leave Leo outside. To have my family all together!

Everyone gets ice cream at my birthday party.

Everyone gets ice cream at my birthday party.

 

We had a hiccup a few days later. To celebrate my birthday, we had cake and ice cream. I served up two bowls of vanilla ice cream for the dogs, and wanted to take a picture to document the cuteness. Then I did something so stupid. I pushed the bowls closer together to get a better shot.

They got in a snarling fight about it. With Rob’s parents and my mom there to witness. Rob and I struggled to separate them and move Leo through two rooms to get him into the backyard (without him redirecting a bite on either of our mothers). Then I tried to reunite them too soon, and they got into it again, and in separating them on opposite sides of the chain link, I fell down, bumping and scraping my knee in the only injury of the whole kerfuffle.

I ran up the hill in the backyard and lay down on one of the mats outside Rob’s studio, hoping Leo would join me. He raced up, looked at me, ran back down the hill, then ran back up again. And down again. I lay there for a few minutes. I might have been a little drunk. We’d just come from kind of a weird dinner at a fancy restaurant where we’d had to wait 45 minutes to be seated despite having a reservation. They’d offered free prosecco while we waited, and I’d had a kir royale with my meal.

Not THE kir royale, but A kir royale.

Not THE kir royale, but a kir royale.

Everyone in the house assumed I’d run up there to cry. But I felt fine. This fight was not a big deal, and I totally knew what caused it. Me!

I walked back down to the chain link, got some dried lamb lung, gave it to each dog on either side of the fence, then opened the gate and let them reunite. All was right with the world again.

My mom asked, “Which one of them started it?” As if I could even tell. “Me! I started it.”

Rob was rattled, but if I know what started the fight, I know how to prevent it from happening again. No one got bitten. No one was bleeding. Not a big deal.

Think I learned my lesson?

A couple of weeks later, I was giving Leo his eye medicine near the back door. There’s something weird about this eye dropper, making it really hard to get the drops out. I was holding onto his face for longer than any dog should be expected to have his face held, with my face really close to his, and I could tell he was getting tired of it. Am I about to get bitten in the face? I wondered, just before he launched away from me onto Mia’s face.

Rob had just dozed off on the couch and was rudely awoken by the snarls and my shouting for him to come help me separate them.

Maybe I’m completely delusional, but again, not terribly troubled by this fight. Clear cut barrier frustration. I was holding Leo back, doing something unpleasant. Note to self: Do not administer Leo’s eye medicine when Mia is two feet away.

Again no one got hurt and a few minutes and a few pieces of lamb lung later, everything was back to normal.

I used to be really traumatized by this kind of thing, because it was a sign that I’m a terrible dog parent, and meant my dogs would never get along. But Leo and Mia have a five year history of mostly getting along, and most days, I’m an above-average dog mom. They have enough bite inhibition not to hurt each other, and Rob and I have figured out how to separate them without getting bitten ourselves.

Am I enlightened or just jaded? Do your dogs fight? How do you handle it?

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Celebrating 5 years of Mia, age 12

Birthdays are funny. It was a Big Deal when I turned 40 in October. But I didn’t feel any different.

We don’t know when Mia’s birthday is, and we don’t really know how old she is. So we celebrate the anniversary of the day we got her. Which was five years ago June 4. At the time, we thought she was 7, and I’m starting to think that was a pretty good estimate, since Leo is now 6, and he hasn’t started getting gray yet. If that means anything.

Surf’s Up with the Pups

Just kidding. They don’t swim. A better title would have something to do with the dead crabs littering the rocky beach.

We are so lucky to live in a place where we can regularly find safe places to play with our pups off leash, both in the snow, and on the beach! (But see Monday’s post about how even our Best Dog Park can be a recipe for disaster.)

Here’s Rob with the doggies at Cherry Point.

One more important thing. I recently updated my Reactive Dog Resources page with a new book called The Midnight Dog Walkers. If your dog barks and lunges, or if you’ve ever found yourself timing your walks to avoid seeing other dogs or people (like, say, at midnight?), you must read this book!!

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6 ways to beat the winter blues

Last week I started experiencing some pretty textbook symptoms of the winter blues. After cheering myself up by buying not one but two new winter coats, I shared

Mental Health Tip #1: Retail Therapy.

The next day, I decided that watching Making a Murderer is doing nothing to help anyone’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, so that became

Mental Health Tip #2: Stop watching Making a Murderer.

Turns out, I was just getting started.

Mental Health Tip #3: Float.

Full disclosure: We tried this the first time Saturday. I didn’t care for it. The water felt cold and I got bored, but Rob liked it.

Mental Health Tip #4: Color.

Put a bird on it

My advice to a FB friend (Hi, Cinthia!) interested in getting started: Adult coloring books are awesome because it completely does not matter how it turns out. I had an art teacher when I was little who said “There’s no such thing as a mistake,” which is bullshit in real life and real art. But grownup coloring books? No one’s going to judge. Or even see it unless you Instagram it. You can go outside the lines, use the wrong color… it does not matter. And if you get a book you like, it’ll look cool no matter what you do.

Mental Health Tip #5: Sing Along.

I like showtunes, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I’ve been listening to Hamilton, Broadway’s hottest show. Find your jam.

 

Mental Health Tip #6: Walk in the Rain, or the Snow, and if possible, on a Beach with Dogs.

How do you stay sane during the dark months, friends?

BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog HopOnce again, a few extra words this Wordless Wednesday.

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Top 6 Dog Books for Veterans Day

I was reminded how much respect and gratitude people in this country have for veterans when I went to Disney World last month with Rob’s dad, a career Navy man. When he wore his Retired Navy hat, total strangers thanked him for his service all day long, sometimes bringing a tear to his eye.

Today, as I’m seeing all kinds of social media messages thanking veterans, or lamenting that we don’t do enough for our veterans, I have the answer: Give every veteran a dog.

Here’s my supporting evidence:

Until-Tuesday-Book-CoverUntil Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalván

This book captures the heartbreaking challenges veterans face when they return from war. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes back from war without serious psychological damage, and in Montalván’s case, he struggled with physical injuries as well. The healing power of his relationship with his service dog Tuesday is nothing short of miraculous.

I didn’t warm up to this book right away, I think because it begins with a description of Tuesday’s training, before the author knew him. Tuesday didn’t come alive as a character to me until later in the book, when Montalván describes their strengthening relationship. I loved reading about their illicit games of fetch after dark in a closed Brooklyn park, and my heart broke reading about the bus driver who humiliated Montalván by insisting Tuesday isn’t a real service dog.

51YYFNfdHaL._SX462_BO1,204,203,200_Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs by Tracy J. Libby

I received an advance copy of this book, which was officially released yesterday. It’s a hardcover coffee table book, and makes an excellent follow-up to Until Tuesday. It tells the story of 15 veterans and the service dogs who rescued them. You’ll appreciate this book if, like me, you think every nonfiction book about dogs should include dozens of color photos.

In addition to poignant stories of veterans and their dogs, Libby describes (and photographs) prison puppy programs, the history of therapy dogs, and rescue and breeding programs that provide dogs to veterans.

18740From Baghdad, With Love by Jay Kopelman

Sometimes dogs and soldiers rescue each other before they even come home from war. Lava is a puppy found by a unit in an abandoned city in Iraq. It’s been a while since I read this one, so I’m quoting the publisher: “Despite military law that forbids the keeping of pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat. Thus begins the dramatic rescue attempt of a dog named Lava and Lava’s rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman, from the emotional ravages of war.

“From hardened Marines to war-time journalists to endangered Iraqi citizens, From Baghdad, With Love tells an unforgettable true story of an unlikely band of heroes who learn unexpected lessons about life, death, and war from a mangy little flea-ridden refugee.”

6260262One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

Did Lava’s story hit you in the feels? Do you wish more could be done to help the homeless dogs in war zones? Pen Farthing is a British Royal Marine who orchestrated a stray dog rescue effort in Afghanistan.

From Publisher’s Weekly, “Already burdened with the responsibility of overseeing and protecting his 20-man crew of Marines, Farthing becomes consumed with the suffering of the strays and risks his own life to rescue them … Soon he finds himself developing plans to save strays from dogfighting, a centuries-old local tradition that usually requires the removal of ears and tails without anesthetic, and adopts a former fighting dog he names Nowzad. Today, Nowzad happily resides in the Farthing household as his owners continue their quest to save thousands of suffering strays.”

cover-suspect-1Suspect by Robert Crais

This has made my list of top books before, and is officially my favorite Robert Crais book. Obviously, I’m biased because it’s about a German shepherd. But I have pretty high standards for dog books. Way higher than my standards for suspense novels.

The main doggie character isn’t a service dog, but a retired bomb dog who lost her handler to an explosion in Afghanistan, and her new partner, who lost his partner in a shootout.

Some of the chapters are written from the dog’s point of view, but not in a cutesy way. Crais nails the way German shepherds feel about their people. He also depicts accurately what it is like to live with a German shepherd, what it’s like to drive with one sitting astride the console between the seats, scanning the view out the front windshield.

The Promise by Robert Craiscover-promise

So… I haven’t actually read this one yet because it just came out yesterday. But it’s a sequel to Suspect and features Crais’s flagship character, Elvis Cole, World’s Greatest Detective, and his partner Joe Pike (a veteran).

Here’s the blurb: “When Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find a missing grief-stricken mother, his first stop on that rainy night is an ordinary house in Echo Park. Only the house is not ordinary, and neither are the people hiding inside: A wanted killer on the run from police and a vicious career criminal with dangerous secrets of his own.

“As helicopters swirl overhead, LAPD K9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, track the fugitive to this same Echo Park house … ”

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Eight moments of Zen

Thanks, Forest Poodles, for inviting me to share eight photos of happiness. Here they are, my eight moments of Zen.

Reading with my pups

This is pretty much my perfect day. Reading on the beach with my dogs. I have it as the cover photo on my Facebook page, on a sticker on the back of my iPhone case, and printed on my business cards. No one’s asked me what book I’m reading. It’s Poser by Claire Dederer.

Isis, Summer 2010

My sunshiney Isis in the summer of 2010. She loved her pool, and her soccer ball.

Selfie with my sidekick

I take more dog selfies than I do solo selfies. Here’s one with Mia during a lunch break on a day when I took her to work. Rob had been taking her to his work more often than I was at that point, so this is me reclaiming her as my sidekick.

Snuggle Bug

This is a selfie too, although I’m pretending to be asleep. Most mornings, the dogs wait to jump on the bed until I’m in the shower. Sometimes I have to get back in bed and snuggle with them before getting on with my day. Leo is my snuggle bug.

Christmas Mia

When I was in grad school in 2001, the internet was still pretty new. The girl with the computer next to mine discovered a hilarious picture of a kitten online. Whenever things got slow or stressful, she’d bring the picture up and we’d laugh our asses off. That’s sort of how I feel about the above picture of Mia. Rob took it at his work while I was in Los Angeles for Christmas. Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.

10516636_10152645654830809_8182548283337470893_n

This is Abe. I made a video of him at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley and almost cried when it resulted in his getting adopted. And almost cried again when he got sent back for barking too much. He did finally get adopted again for real.

leo

Eight-week-old Leo, the day we brought him home, June 2010.

Isis under the dogwood

I took this photo of Isis on an October afternoon with perfect light. It was one of several awesome photos that day and I never did anything with it until my book cover designer picked it for the cover image of Bark and Lunge. She cropped it perfectly, and I’m still not tired of it, even after staring at it on the book cover, T-shirts, postcards, and banners.

fitDogFriday

Please enjoy the FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggyTo Dog with Love and My GBGV Life. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!  

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