Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hopes and Disappointments

Oh how Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge love to walk! When we're away at the cottage we have miles of barely traveled dirt roads on which we can stroll. In the picture on the left, Don is walking the canine kids on what we (at the cottage) call the "high road." It's quiet, picturesque, and isolated. And it's a perfect place to exercise the dogs.

On the roads near the cottage, we can even take Baxter off lead, and he'll romp no more than about 50 feet in front of us where he'll stop and wait for us to catch up, then romp another 50 feet ahead and then wait some more. If we call him or tell him to wait, he will.

Elsie and Ridge, for their protection, stay on lead. Ridge is just so alert to his surroundings he'll pick up the slightest rustle in the woods and will charge the direction in which he sees movement. He's a great field dog, but still learning to contain his enthusiasm.

Elsie stays on lead just because she's too stubborn and independent to be trusted off lead. :o) She's still reluctant to come on command. Silly girl. She'll get there. Eventually.

But how they enjoy their walks. And how disappointed they are when they can't go.

Today is my youngest son's marching band's home show (a big event in this neck of the woods). Dear hubby had to run out this morning, and gas prices being what they are, we're trying to consolodate trips into town. So while he was out he planned to deliver our shade canopy and baked goods to be used and sold later at the band competition.

On his way out the door, he had to move the leashes to pick up his baseball cap, and Baxter, God love him, thought it was time to go for a walk (Elsie and Ridge are crated for a "heat" break). So Baxter faithfully followed Don back and forth as Don loaded the car. Every trip in and out of the house found Baxter eagerly looking at Don, sticking close to Don's heels, and wiggling with barely contained excitement.

Poor Boos. Then Don had to tell him there'd be no walk today.

And Baxter's entire countenance slumped: his tail dropped; his head hung, and a worried, sad look replaced the gleam in his eyes.

Yet, you can be sure, if I touch the leashes again while Don is away, Baxter will rebound with endless enthusiasm at the hope of another walk.

That's the way of it with the canine kids. No matter how many times they're disappointed, they rebound with every bit as much enthusiasm and joy as if they'd never been disappointed. Their hope never dies.

Disappointment doesn't wear them out the way it does us. They don't quit. They don't give up. They don't become cynical or weary. They just meet the next opportunity with spunk and eagerness, as if they'd never been let down. And even when they do know disappointment, even when we treat them wrongly, they forgive quickly and love us all the same.

And then they're ready to greet the next leash rattling with gusto. They expect good things to come.

Would that I were so plucky and optimistic. Hope feeds the soul; optimism makes life a joy-filled adventure. Positive expectation energizes our spirits.

Maybe I should look at the world through Baxter's eyes: with unbridled, hope-filled expectation of the good to come.

Oh, and no matter how bad things seem, I've lived long enough to know good will come. Again. It always does.

Today's a good day to try on optimistic enthusiasm--to put it on like I put on my shoes in the morning. I'll see what it feels like to "wear" hope the way Baxter does.

And I'll let you know how it goes.

'Til next time,


Friday, September 23, 2005

Uh Oh!

Uh Oh!

Me thinketh the Elsie-eth might-eth be-eth moving-eth into a heat-eth cycle again-eth.

Yes, the thought of another heat cycle is enough to send me into Shakespearean dialect. ;o)


Ridge is showing all the signs: panting, barking when in his crate, humping Baxter (not Elsie, of course), hyperactivity--poor Ridge...and Elsie hasn't even started bleeding yet.

Double help!

The little squirt's vulva is enlarging again, so I suspect she's starting her second heat cycle, but again we have to protect her carefully since she's only 14 months old. We don't want to breed her until she's over two and has cleared all her screenings (hip and eye in particular). So we'll move back into keep-Elsie-and-Ridge-apart-at-all-costs mode. :o)

Just when life settles down with the human kids, it picks up with the canine kids.

"All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown..." (a Joni Mitchell interlude! How apropos!).

It looks like we're in for an adventure again over the next few weeks (okay...I can hear it..."no complaining, you signed up for this" echoes through the Internet). Nope, I won't complain. I'll just giggle my way through like I did last time--the laugh of a loon. ;o)

Poor Ridge. This is such a tough time for him. If he gets much worse, we may have to break out the Benedryl (like our vet advised last time). We'll see.

And so it goes. At least this heat thing only happens a couple of times a year (imagine if dogs were like humans--yikes!).

But we're responsible for Elsie's health and well-being (and Ridge's and Baxter's); so we'll do (gladly) everything possible to protect her again and to make Ridge comfortable, even if it means rotating crate time for her and Ridge. They won't understand the need to be crated, but it's for their good (I keep telling myself that).

Isn't it funny how limitations and boundaries are good things, how they can help and protect? Hmm... I wonder why we (humans) resist them so, especially when we see how boundaries are good for our pets and our kids.

A little perspective can go a long way toward fostering contentment even within boundaries. Now if only I could give Ridge and Elsie that perspective.

'Til next time,

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Loving Well

Our "kids" love people; it's a standard trait in Labradors and one for which I'm thankful. When we return home, whether we've been gone five minutes, five hours, or five days, they greet us with the same unbridled enthusiasm (check out the kangaroo effect, especially with Elsie, in photo on left).

But Baxter, Ridge, and Elsie don't just greet us well; they come alongside us well as faithful companions. Their intuition in this regard amazes me. They seem to know the difference between jumping-off-the-ground-over-the-top-boisterous affection and quiet-sit-by-your-side faithfulness. They "know" when we want to be bowled over with sloppy kisses or when we need them to just rest their heads upon our knees. Oh sure, they can work and train and play and romp and wrassle with the best of them, but they also know when to show restraint. I'm not sure how they know, but they do.

I wish people were more like Labs. I wish we were more intuitive and more willing to do what we're called upon to do for those around us. I wish we could better "read" each others' moods, to know when to play, when to work, and when to just sit quietly with each other. I wish I were more like a Lab: I think I'd be a better wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, and co-laborer for it.

But since I'm not a Lab, maybe I can learn from them. Like my canine kids, I can to learn to pay attention. I can make the effort to read others well, to take my eyes off my agenda, desires, and responsibilities long enough to sense another's need. And then I can learn to respond more appropriately: to play when it's time to play, to work when it's time to work, and come alongside and sit quietly when a loved needs companionship (not counsel or action).

I can learn to offer what another needs. It make take training and self-sacrifice, but I can learn.

I suppose it's something we all could do more of.

'Til next time,

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sleepy Days

Again, my apologies. I forgot to post that I'd be away at my LAST conference/speaking engagement this week. But I'm back now, and home for the next fourteen months. I've cleared my calendar for the rest of this year and all of 2006 so that I can be home for my youngest son's senior year of high school, so I can focus on writing (not speaking), and so I can take a rest from the travel and preparation involved in speaking. YAY!

I'm am SO looking forward to some normalcy (if there is such a thing) and routine. I feel like I lost a part of who I am over the last six years: too many books to write; too many deadlines; too many teaching/speaking engagements; too much travel.

But I HOME now. And DONE!!!!!!!!

I can't tell you what a relief it is to not have an engagment or a book deadline looming on my calendar.

And now I can enjoy the canine kids even more.

But today is a sleepy day at our house: an overcast, humid day that seems to have sucked the life and energy out of all of us, Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge included.

I know I'm in post-conference crash mode (typical after a demanding teaching schedule), but I think it's the humidity for everyone else. Yuk.

So all three "kids" are lounging around indoors (don't even want to be outdoors again), snoozing their day away. Oh, to have the life of a dog!

They do look angelic when they're sleeping, don't they? Just like kids. Ah, if only it were true (add another pair of brand new sneakers to Elsie's list of things she's chewed up when I wasn't looking)!

Oh, but (just like kids) I love 'em anyway.

And now I get to enjoy them even more. That's a good thing for them and me. :o)

'Til next time,

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ridge - the Pup - As Promised

As I promised yesterday, today's blog contains puppy pictures of Ridge. Again, thanks to Denise Barnes of Puppy Love Kennels, Ridges' former owner and Baxter's breeder, here's what Ridge looked like at about nine weeks old:

The black puppy with Ridge is his sister, Shannon (who still resides with the Barnes and is one of their breeding females).

Wasn't he cuuuuuute?

'Til next time,


Friday, September 09, 2005

One of Us, At Last

Ah, Ridge!

How eager to please he is! And how ready (always ready) he is to work and train.

Ridge quivers with excitement when he wears his training lead. His gorgeous, athletic, canine musculature twitches in anticipation of what he'll be called upon to do. He pants and paces and looks back and forth from Don to the retrieving dummy, knowing what's in store.

He just can't wait to do what Don asks of him.

Here he waits, after Don has already thrown the retrieving dummy, until Don gives him the "okay" to run.

In the picture to the right, Ridge holds a "sit" while paying attention to Don's every move.

In this picture (left), Ridge has retrieved the dummy and is returning it right to Don's feet (or hands).

Faithful Ridge. Teachable Ridge. Steady Ridge. He's a great swimmer, too. And on lead, he's a dream. He pays attention. He listens for commands. He heels without pulling. He sits immediates when told to do so. He's eager to please.

And he has a great temperament (with people and others of his kind).

Despite these terrific traits, you know what the best thing is about Ridge these days? He's finally come to love us as his own.

You may recall that four-year-old Ridge has only lived with us since April 2004--only the past 18 months. And, though we enjoyed him the first year, in the last six months we've seen some changes in him, for even better. He really loves us now. We're his family.

The Barnes' of Puppy Love Kennels (his previous owners) raised him from puppyhood through his first three years of life, and they did a fabulous job with him. Thanks to Denise Barnes (former owner), I'll post some puppy pictures of Ridge tomorrow.

But Ridge experienced fairly intense separation anxiety when he left the Barnes family to live with us. It wasn't that he was a problem (he's always been sweet and got along wonderfully with Baxter); he just didn't seem completely at home. It really took him a year to blossom into who he probably has been all along.

But now, he's home. He's comfortable here, finally. He can't seem to show his affection or faithfulness enough. Inside, he wants to be a lap dog, or he stands on his rear legs until we let him give us kisses, or he buries his head beneath our elbows and nudges us while we're eating or reading or talking, or he moans and groans with pleasure during belly rubs.

We love our Ridgers. And he loves us. He warms our hearts and makes us smile. And he's incredibly tolerant of the other two imps (Baxter and Elsie).

I can't wait to see the puppies that will come from a mating between him and Elsie--what a pairing that will be! We have only one more year to wait (Elsie's one year old now)!

In the meantime we'll just enjoy Ridge as he is--faithful, eager, and loving, and one of us at last.

Sometimes it just takes time.

'Til next time,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Getting Comfy

Baxter, our gentle giant, is also our cushiest canine.
He loves curling up on anything soft.

When we leave him out for the night (in the family room and kitchen), the Boos scrunches up the area rugs we have thrown on the floor to make himself a softer pillow on which to rest his head. Either that or he makes himself at home on the loveseat, pushing the throw pillows around until they suit his needs.

When outside, instead of spreading out, like Elsie does, on the wood-plank decking we have surfacing our deck, Baxter would much prefer to hang out on the deck furniture and its cozy cushions.

There's only one problem: the deck furniture doesn't have throw pillows.

So Baxter puts his head one way:

Then he tries it another way:

Then he tries again:

Until he finally gives up and listens to see if someone inside will open the door and let him in to where the real pillows are!

Silly Boos. Our exuberant, larger-than-life, 100-pound-completely-outgrew-the-breed-standard, adolescent male with a deep, resonating bark threatening enough to intimidate even the bravest prowler is really an old softie. :o)

He just likes to be comfortable. Just like me. Just like most of us.

Being comfortable isn't a bad thing, as long as it doesn't lead to complacency.

I'm thankful for the thousand ways each day I'm made to feel comfortable: from the smallest affirmations, to a "thank you" from a stranger, to having a soft, warm bed to climb into each night.

The word "comfort" has taken on a new meaning for me since the displacement of so many thousands from Katrina and her aftermath. And I'm far more thankful for the little things than I used to be. It's a good wake-up call, and a good reminder to be thankful.


Because, there but for the grace of God go I (and us all).

'Til next time,


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Frantic or Focused?

Yup, that's our Elsie on the right frolicking in the lily pads. My, how these Labs love the water!

During my month-long absence we made another trip to the cottage where the dogs swam and retrieved and walked and played until they exhausted themselves.

It's funny, though. Elsie seemed to have to relearn how to swim. She did the front-paws-splashing thing for a while again (just like 4th of July weekend) until she settled down and learned that she propelled herself more effectively by keeping her paws beneath the water's surface.

It's funny how our canine friends mimic us. When I'm excited (or scared or overwhelmed), my mind kicks into a flurry of activity (essentially splashing my paws on the surface, though no one can see my frantic thought process), and I get little accomplished. It's only when I settle down and focus that I become most productive.

Take last month, for example. Between teaching conference workshops, moving college-age kids from once place to another, dealing with a few health issues (including migraines and diabetes), handling the home front alone while hubby was in Ireland (including Elsie's ear and staff infections--another story for another time), completing my 60-hour-once-a-year-volunteer-project for my high-school-senior son's marching band, and working, too--well, it was just too many plates spinning on too many poles. And when I frantically splashed about--thinking about them all--I got little done.

You see, when Elsie paddles too hard and splashes, she can't see the dummy she's supposed to retrieve out in the water; she has nowhere to focus her attention so she looks everywhere at once. Her activity blocks her vision.

It's no less so for me. My racing mind doesn't look at one place; it looks everywhere and thus nowhere at the same time. But when I settle down, my mental vision clears--I can focus on the next task at hand, finish it well, and then move on. One task at a time.

It's a lesson I wish I only had to learn once. But like Elsie, it's one I seemed destined to relearn.

Well, at least now I'm no longer splashing. I've settled into smooth propulsion once again. And I'm getting things done. But for how long? Until the next disruption? The next crisis? The next overwhelming job?

Maybe Elsie knows. Until then I'll just keep paddling. :o)

'Til next time,

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We're all still here! Baxter is still the pillow king; Elsie is still our snuggler (though modesty, as you can see, is not her thing); and Ridge is still our wise, older sage. :o) Posted by Picasa

We're Back!

Hey all,I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack. :o)

And Elsie, Baxter, and Ridge are still as entertaining as ever. Boy, do I have the stories to tell you!

You have my sincerest apologies about my month-long absence. Suffice it to say, life has been nuts here since my return from teaching at a conference in early August and since our weekend at the cottage afterward (the canine kids got plenty of exercise!): getting kids to college; more kidney/UTI issues for me; more doctor appts.; my husband's travel schedule (ten weeks in Ireland this summer); work deadlines; the diabetes learning curve; an awful heat wave; boatloads of back-to-school stuff; moving college-age daughter from an apartment in MD to her dorm in DE; moving firstborn son to his dorms in PA; getting youngest son together for his senior year (and all the "senior" stuff that goes with it)(I thought it got easier after they trotted off to college--I was mistaken)...I could go on.

But I'm glad to be back and moving into a normal routine again. Starting this week I'll be blogging regularly again. Look for my usual posts to begin again tomorrow morning!

It's good to be back!

'Til the morning, then,

Joan (and Baxter, Ridge, and Elsie!)