Friday, December 09, 2005

Our Blizzard Boy (s)

Baxter is our Blizzard Puppy. We got him just a couple weeks before Christmas in 2003.

I drove nearly 7 hours (one way) just ahead of a predicted December noreaster to get Baxter from his breeder a few days shy of his 7-week-old release date. Because Baxter was healthy and big for his age, and because the breeder's vet had cleared him, and because the breeder knew we were in for quite a storm, they let me pick him up early.

We arrived home just as the blizzard started.

And a blizzard it was.

Dear hubby was away on a business trip in sunny Puerto Rico that week. ;o) Just like he's away in sunny California this week while our first "big snow" (for PA) blew in. We had about 8" of snow fall overnight. Hubby always seems to be away for events like blizzards and Elsie heat cycles. Hmmmmmm....

Anyway, Baxter is still our Blizzard Boy (the photos below were taken at 7:30 a.m. this morning during the tail end of the storm).

He romps like a spring lamb in the snow.

And he loves playing with Elsie and Ridge, plowing through the white stuff no matter how deep.

Of course, he is the ripe old age of two now. So he does like to come in from the snow and warm himself by the fire.

Sweet, silly boy.

What's even sweeter is how he's rubbed off on our sweet silly son (the human kind).

Daniel (now 21) called this morning at 7:10 a.m. from college just to let me know he was as "giddy as a schoolboy" because of the snow. PBU had cancelled all classes because of the storm so, instead of sleeping in like most college kids, Dan had been out taking pictures since 6:30 a.m.

:o) Gotta love him.

Remember, this is my serious-minded, gentle, loving, mature-for-his-age son who also happens to have mild cerebral palsy (right-side involved) and a siezure disorder. He has almost no use of his right hand and limited use of his entire right side. Navigating in snow isn't easy for him. Life hasn't been easy for him (hence his maturity and serious-mindedness).

Yet he loves the snow.

But Daniel and Baxter are buds.

And Baxter has rubbed off on him.

That's our Blizzard Boy for ya. I suppose I have two Blizzard Boys now. Go figure.

'Til next time, and Happy Snow!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Human Canines, Part 2 (The Christmas Version)

Since the first installment of "Human Canines" came at Thanksgiving, I thought the next installment should come during this Christmas season.

With only 18 days left until Christmas, I thought now would be a good time to post more ways our canine kids reflect us and our behavior, and more lessons we can learn from them.

So here's "Human Canines, Part 2 (The Christmas Version)." Enjoy!

1. Labs know how to frolic.

2. They demonstrate patience.

3.When they itch, they scratch.

4. They're willing to dig for good things.

5.They know how to savor the moment. :o)

6. Snow isn't a nuisance; it's a great excuse for fun.

7.They understand and appreciate the value of rest.

8. They share.

9.They take time to look at things from a higher point of view.

10. They do what's necessary to gain better perspective.

11. They stop and smell the roses (or whatever scent is in the air).

12. They sleep when they need to.

13. They offer affection unsparingly.

14. They know how to be comfortable wherever they are.

15. The exercise more when they have someone to exercise with.

16. They understand the need for boundaries.

17. They smile easily and often.

18. They know how to stay focused, even when others attempt to distract them.

19. They hold on to what's important.

20. They stay by our sides.

And most of all, Labs are just Labs: faithful, attentive, affectionate, exuberant, and wonderful to be around.

Here's to loving, living with, and learning from them.

'Til next time,

Jingle Dogs

Well, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. :o)

For the first time in several years, I'm really decorating. Even the dogs are getting in on the act (we call them our "Jingle Dogs" with their fancy red and white jingle-bell collars).

The last three Decembers ('02, '03, '04) held major work deadlines for me, so I did only the bare minimum of Christmas traditions: a tree (put up Christmas Eve); an Advent calendar (barely used); a few candles; stockings on the fireplace mantel; presents Christmas morning, a few family gatherings, and that's about it.

But this year...ah, this year, we're doing Christmas the way we did for years and years: decorations, homemade goodies (cookies, fudge, peanute brittle, muddy buddies, hash), Christmas music, Christmas movies (my favorite: A Muppet Christmas Carol), Advent readings, worship services, and of course, the rest (tree, shopping, gifts, family time, etc.).

For the first time in years, it's fun. Truly fun -- not pressured. Wow. What a change.

I worked hard to create memories when the kids (the human kind) were small. I wanted Christmases to be perfect. I pressured myself to create a Normal Rockwell Christmas every year. But I always failed. Always--I couldn't get it right (perfect), no matter how hard I tried. And I always walked away from Christmas disappointed.

By the time my youngest son hit his mid-teens a few years ago, I was worn out. I'd burnt out on Christmas and its harriedness. Besides, Christmas (and all its traditions) didn't seem to matter so much anymore, especially since the kids were grown.

I was wrong.

My young adult children (18, 19, 21) seem to need Christmas traditions now more than ever, especially now that two of them live away from home. They ask for all those things I did when they were small; they look forward to them. And not because the things I did were perfect (far from it), but because those things made my kids feel loved and secure.

Well, duh.

What do you know! I finally get it.

It's only taken me nearly two decades to realize that Christmas isn't (and never was) about Norman Rockwell images of perfection (why do we do this to ourselves!).

Regardles of season of life, I'm learning that Christmas is a time of celebration: we celebrate God's gift to us in Jesus; we celebrate being part of a family (no matter what size or h0w scattered); we celebrate living in a land where we are free to observe Christ's birth; we celebrate countless graces (roofs over our heads, food on our tables, clean water to drink, sanitary living conditions, well-stocked stores, relative peace and safety, the beauty of nature, you name it...); we celebrate the gift of love and the Lord of Love Himself.

Our problem, at least in the United States, is that Christmas becomes so busy and so material, that we fail to take time to notice the heart and reason behind it all.

If only we'd take time to do so.

So this year, I started early. I started reading Advent reflections Thanksgiving weekend. I let my boss know that I'd be cutting back on my hours in December (as a freelancer, I have this luxury) so I could pace myself through the holidays; I've taken time to sit, be still, and reflect on the true meaning of the season. Instead of dealing with the stress of malls and traffic, I did most of my shopping on-line, and now my shopping is done (a first for me in early December); my house is decorated (inside and out!). I have Christmas music playing all day while I'm working in the house. And I may even send Christmas cards this year (something I haven't done in several years).

But most of all, this Christmas, for me, is about relationship: relationship with God and relationship with those I love.

Dr. Suess's How the Grinch Stole Christmas sums it up best:

"Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! It CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: 'How could it be so?'
'It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
'It came without packages, boxes or bags!'
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store.
'Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!'"

Here's to hoping your next few weeks (and mine) will be filled with the 'little bit more.'

'Til next time,

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ridge is Howling Again

Poor Ridge. Elsie's in the prime mating phase of her heat cycle, and Ridge's testosterone is in overdrive (as it should be). The poor boy only wants to do what his body chemistry is telling him to do.

But he can't. Not yet. And he's howling in protest.

We have one more heat cycle to get through (after this one) until Elsie will be old enough to have her hips and eyes screened. Once we have her screening results, then we'll know whether or not we can breed her. Until then, we need to keep her away from the boys while in heat. Besides, she's still too young (only 15 months old).

In the meantime Ridge must wait.

Mercifully, we have Benedryl. Our vet recommends using 75mg. (Ridge weighs 85 lbs.) of Benedryl as a sedative when Elsie is ripe. It really does calm him, and it doesn't have any lasting effects. Elsie is prime now (at least according to Ridge's behavior), so I broke out the pink and white capsules today.

Despite the Benedryl effect, we still have to crate Ridge and Elsie when she's in heat. We do this crate rotation thing to protect her. If Ridge is out, Elsie stays in her crate. If Elsie is out, Ridge must stay in his. And if I have to go out and can't supervise them, both go into their crates.

Baxter, sweet neutered male that he is, no longer needs a crate; he has a doggy bed in the family room. And he's oblivious to it all.

The howling problem occurs only when Ridge is crated. If Elsie is crated and Ridge is out, he's content to sniff and pace and sleep next to Elsie's crate.

When Elsie is out, however, and Ridge is crated, the howling begins. If both are crated, Ridge howls then, too.

The funny thing is, Elsie's heat cycle is the ONLY time Ridge seems to mind his crate. He really likes it most of the time, though he doesn't need it; he's so well behaved.

We leave Ridge's crate up for him all the time only because Ridge seems to prefer it. It's his den. When Elsie is not in heat, we leave Ridge' s crate door open all day, and he comes and goes as he pleases. When he naps during the day, he prefers to mosey into his crate for a snooze. When he wants a break from Elsie and Baxter, he goes there and lies down. He likes his crate.

Well, most of the time. Just not when it keeps him from in-the-prime-of-her-heat-cycle Elsie.

Elsie, little imp that she is, still needs hers (she's still chewing things she shouldn't chew if I'm not in the room). And her heat cycle is the ONLY time she LIKES her crate (she seems to prefer being there to being sniffed and mounted; I suppose I would, too, if I were her).

LOL. She and Ridge are polar opposites. At least during heat cycles.

Ahh, but this too shall pass. And it may even pass before Christmas! Yay!

I can't imagine dealing with Christmas and heat cycles at the same time! How thankful I am for small mercies (like Elsie's prime occurring right now and not two weeks from now).

Now if we can just get through the next week and stay sane...(thank you, Benedryl!).

'Til next time,

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Always Ready Yes; But Always Able?

One of the things I love about Labs is their eagerness. They're always ready to play or work or train or do whatever we ask them to do.

It doesn't matter what we have in mind.

All we have to do is say their names, and they're there (reminiscent of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" or of the biblical prophet Samuel who heard his name called and immediately responded with "Here I am").

Unlike so many human types, our canine friends faithfully respond to our calls.

They show up.
With enthusiasm.
Eager to please.
Willing to do their best.

How many humans do the same when called upon to do something?

Okay, I'll admit there are exceptions (like when they're reluctant to stay behind when one of the other dogs is going out with Don to train). But overall our Labs are eager to please and will do what we ask.

That is, if they have the ability.

One of the parenting books I read when my human children were young talked about the difference between "willful definance" and "childish irresponsibility." A child who stomps her foot and says "no, I won't clean my room and you can't make me" is being willfully defiant. That's entirely different than the child who forgets to put her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper (she's not willful, just forgetful) or who falls asleep working on her room because she's so tired (again, not willful, just physically unable at that time).

Parents have to decide if their children's lack of compliance is a matter of attitude or inability.

My brother-in-law is a Director of Human Resources for an information techonology firm, and when dealing with employees who aren't doing what they've been asked to do, he has to decide if the issue is a matter of "will" (an "I won't" attitude) or "skill" (an "I can't" issue).

Bosses have to decide if their workers' lack of compliance is will or skill.

As parents or bosses, how we handle lack of compliance depends on the reason behind it.

I think the same goes with dogs. Is their non-compliance, when it occurs, attitude or inability, will or skill?

Our Labs are always ready to please us (it's characteristic of the breed), so when they don't comply we have to ask why?

Sometimes it's immaturity.
Sometimes it's puppy-ish irresponsibility.
Sometime it's ignorance (they truly didn't know any better).
Sometimes it's a need for more development or training.

And, yes, sometimes it's will.

Labs can be stubborn when they want to be. But usually there's a reason behind it. Sometimes the reason is clear (as in Elsie's current "I don't want to wear this stupid diaper" or "I don't want to be crated when Ridge is out," both of which she has to do while in heat, as she is again right now). Sometimes it's less so.

But good parents (of dogs or kids) take the time to find out why.

Our "kids" (whether two- or four-legged) will love us all the more for it. And, to boot, they'll respond better next time.

Here's to understanding our "kids," whoever they may be, and treating them as they have need.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Good Things - Part 1

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I thought today would be a good day to post photos of the "good" things our canine kids do, the things for which we're thankful.

And we truly are grateful for the richness our Labs add to our lives.

So here's to Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge, who give so much and ask so little in return!

They do everything with enthusiasm.

They take time for back scratches and belly rubs.

They illustrate flexibility. :o)

They express affection.

They pay attention.

They keep our laps (and hearts) warm.

They (well Ridge and Baxter, anyway) know what belongs to them and are content with what they have.

They greet us (and everyone) with gusto, making us feel loved when we return home.

They're generous with hugs.

And with kisses, too. :o)

They know how to befriend those who are different than they.

And they keep us smiling (note peanut butter on tongue.)

Yes, indeed, we're glad to share life with our canine kids. And we learn much from their ways.

I'm sure we'll learn more in the years to come, but for now we're thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

'Til next time,

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Impish Things They Do - Part I

Gotta love 'em. :o)

Here are a few impish things our beloved Labs do (or used to do as pups). Can you relate?

Baxter used to stand on the dishwasher door (some 80 pounds ago!). He gave this up long ago (good thing, or we'd have no dishwasher door by now!).

The Boos also used to stand on the coffee table. He doesn't do this anymore either (another good thing!). :o)

Instead, he gets his table-standing fixes by hanging out on the picnic table--all year 'round. Some things never change. I think he just likes looking in the window. :o)

Ridge still can't resist yummy things left out on the table or kitchen counters. At least he gives us motivation to keep things cleaned up. :o)

Elsie is still a chewer, although she's getting better about what she chews. She's not the shoe thief she used to be.

Although, if she's bored with Kongs and bones and ropes and balls and the countless dental toys we have laying around, she'll steal Ridge's bed to chew on. As a matter of fact, just last week she shredded her own bed. Just for fun. Aaaaaargh.

Oh, and lest I forget, here are a few more impish, but unphotographed, behaviors:
  • drooling (we've got three majorly-Pavlovian canines here)
  • tracking in mud (big paws = big mess)
  • digging (enough said)
  • completely shredding any stuffed toy or any toy that makes noise (no more Nelliphant, Mr. Hedgehog, Mr. Mallard, or Mr. Monkey)
  • resting their noses on the table right next to our dinner plates
  • snitching food off the counter
We have plenty more imp photos; these are just a few to start. To be fair, however, tomorrow I'll post photos documenting the good things Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge do, too.

And then later I'll post more imp shots (can't resist).

Hey, they're Labs. There will always be more than enough photos of them being imps and angels. :o)

It's just the nature of the breed we love.

'Til next time,