Tag Archives: THAT DOG

Bergie gets trained! (And I did, too)

photoWe had Bergie’s first training session last night!  It was great, and she was most delighted by the sudden proliferation of liver treats in our living room. The trainer, Nayiri, gave us language lessons to help us communicate with our sweet pup, tips for new behaviors to replace things that we don’t like, and detailed answers to our questions. Nayiri is fabulous, and I definitely recommend her if you’re looking for dog help.

Originally, I’d planned to enroll THIS DOG in group obedience classes, the way I did with THAT DOG back in the day.  I imagined Bergie socializing happily with Basset Hounds and Golden Retriever mixes.  But when I told this plan to the vet, he said, “Well,that’s one idea…But you might want to consider one-on-one training.”  Turns out he was right.

Like most rescues, Bergie has been through some stuff that has resulted in some issues.  And, more importantly, she has her own personality and individual reactions to things she likes and doesn’t like. Because she’s almost 90lbs, these reactions carry some weight, so to speak, and make it extra important for us to learn about her and help her know what to do when stressful things happen.

Fortunately, not much stresses her out. She’s a mellow girl. She loves people, sleep, and having her burly chest rubbed. (Looking through pictures to add to this post, I realized that 98% of them are of Bergie lying down. She is the most lying-down dog I’ve ever known.)

What she doesn’t like are other dogs. Thankfully, her reaction to her fellow canines is not a violent, “I want to eat you!” thing, but there’s a definite tone of, “I”m going to bark really loud until you realize YOU NEED TO GO AWAY.”  Which is awkward in a neighborhood where almost EVERY house has at least one dog. (Seriously, I’ve never lived in a place where there were so many dogs. Our streets looks like they could film a Cesar Milan video out there.)

The trainer’s advice surprised me: rather than teaching us how to socialize Bergie to desensitize her from this response, she suggested we focus on other things to help Bergie learn about her new life. Dog interaction? Not vital, at least not right now. We worked on techniques to change direction quickly, block her view of things that might set her off (she’s not terribly fond of cats or rabbits either), and get her to look at us right away when we say her name.   In a new neighborhood where we don’t know the dogs (and I’ve learned that the giant beast of a boxer might be gentle and sweet, while the little yorkie is vicious) this “lets avoid the stressors” approach seems so much more doable than trying to remain calm each time we see a dog, pretending I know things will go well when in fact I have no such certainty.

Which has me thinking…

Conflict avoidance gets a bad rap in our society. But it can be an effective strategy for leading a balanced life for people, too. Outside of financial or contract negotiations, I’ve rarely seen engaged conflict go well. Frankly, it takes way more trust than most relationships have. If really trust you, things rarely escalate to conflict, at least as I think of the term. We might disagree, or not understand each other, or be frustrated or hurt. But real trust keeps the level of agitation low. To put it in Bergie terms, trust means that I don’t want you to go away, I want to figure out how we can continue to occupy the same space happily.  But with conflict, honestly? I want you to go away.

You can’t fake trust. We try, all the time, especially in Christian circles where there is so much pressure to be nice and loving that we lose sight of how to be honest. Conflict is not resolved just because you have a long conversation, then smile and hug it out.  We don’t really know how conflict is resolved. I’m pretty sure it involves God, and His methods and timing rarely work the way ours do. The Bible talks about reconciliation like it’s both a gift and a miracle. We can desire it, and even pursue it. But only God can make it happen. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to handle relationships more honestly, particularly within my faith culture, and situations where I relied WAY to heavily on the power of nice and fake-cooperation when I should have crossed the street to get away. This post is a reminder to me that much of what I’m learning with Bergie might help me answer those questions.

Someday, I believe Bergie will happily play with Basset Hounds and Golden Retriever mixes. But it’s okay if today is not that day. In the meantime, there’s no shame in saying, “There are a lot of sidewalks here. Let’s walk on different ones.”


THAT DOG 1996-2014

IMG_1145We said goodbye to Kylie yesterday.

She had been struggling for weeks, with more tough days than good ones. Last Friday, I called and made the appointment I’ve dreaded ever since she turned 10 (somewhere I’d gotten the idea that dogs don’t live long after they reach double digits? So glad that was wrong!)

Over the past few days, Steve and I loved on her extra, spoiled her, and thanked her for being such a marvelous, miraculous part of our lives. Wednesday night I fed her human food off of my plate for the first time ever.  Scraps of chicken alfredo pizza. I looked at Steve and said, “She might already think she’s in heaven!”

When the time came yesterday to say goodbye, our vet was wonderful. It could not have been a more peaceful and loving; a fitting end to a beautiful life.  And he had lots of tissues on hand. We needed them.

Today I’m weepy, as I learn what it’s like to live without her. It’s been 18 years of morning 180099_488422016329_3437635_nwalks and daytime play and her sleeping next to me while I type. Of figuring out how to keep her feet safe in icy snow (see right for what I came up with – she was mortified) and how to keep her Afghan-Cocker Spaniel fur from tangling. So much mundane joy, every day. On a practical level, I can’t imagine how long it will be before I drop a scrap of food and remember that I need to pick it up myself.

As hard as this is, it’s the good kind of sad.  We had time to prepare, and time to say goodbye. We had 18 amazing years.  Kylie lived with me in 7 states and 2 different countries (border patrol in Canada thought she was so strange looking, they made me promise with each crossing not to let her reproduce  in their country)  She was there on my first date with Steve, waiting patiently on the front porch for her walk as he and I had the longest first kiss in history.  She became THAT DOG when she tipped over the trash can and made a huge mess the week I began my first blog. And so you all got to love her a bit too.

IMG_1078It hurts, missing her.  And yet I’m so grateful.  18 years ago this month,  I went out with a friend who was looking for a fish, and came home with a 4 pound puppy who would be with me through adventures I couldn’t imagine.

Last year, when Princess Peach lived with us, she’d often exclaim, “Wow, Kylie sure is going to have fun playing with all those dogs up in heaven!” She envisioned a time when Kylie wouldn’t be old anymore, and could jump and play and run again.

Steve and I were so blessed by that picture yesterday as we said goodbye.  We believe she’s right.

Rest in peace, THAT DOG. Thank you for taking such loving, diligent care of us for so many years, and for being such an unique and wonderful you. We love you.

Guest Blog & THAT DOG

I’m posting over at Christi Craig’s writing blog today, sharing the story of how I moved from dreaming about writing a book to actually doing it. Stop by and say hello!

I also wanted to share some good news about THAT DOG:

Kylie will be 18 years old in early December.  I’ll admit, I’ve been trying to prepare for the end ever since she hit double digits.  But she just keeps on keeping on, in her enthusiastic, stub-tail wagging way, slowing down a bit but never really stopping.  Until two weeks ago, when everything went haywire in her body: her back legs weren’t working right, she couldn’t figure out how to lie down or stand up, she kept walking into walls.  She shook all over, and I was pretty sure she’d had a stroke, that this was it. I decided to wait until the next day and if she wasn’t better, I’d call the vet and make the appointment I’ve been trying to prepare for for the last eight years.

The next morning she was still disoriented, only now she kept tilting her head to the side and spinning. She’s not a spin-y dog unless you’re petting her, so this was strange. I googled it. And there online I found the best news ever.

She had not had a stroke, it turns out. She had all the signs of this vertigo-esque thing that happens to older dogs, making it impossible for them to get their bearings. But it’s temporary. Give it a week or two, the websites advised. In the meantime, just keep your dog safe and try hand feeding her if she won’t eat on her own. 

That’s what we did. And now, two weeks later, she’s back to herself! She’s been fine for several days. And I am SO VERY GRATEFUL.

I know the day will come when she’s not with me anymore. It’s been huge blessing to have had her for almost 18 years…I never would have guessed that back on that afternoon when I walked out of the store with a puppy instead of a fish (as spontaneous as I can be, that’s really not my style). She’s by far the best of all my crazy decisions, and I’m so glad she’ll be with us a while longer :)