Monday, December 31, 2012

Before 2012 Leaves Me...

I want to thank you all for being part of the last year with me.  For reading about the love that sums up what caregiving requires for both human and animal.  Your comments have uplifted me throughout this time.  I thank you and appreciate the time you've invested in reading these blog posts.

Will I miss 2012?  It's a bittersweet question.  We miss my father terribly every day. We miss the medical support.  I don't miss the decision-making-on-a-dime.  I miss spending time with friends.  There are other things that I don't miss and other people that tear me to shreds because they're gone.

The moments I treasure most came from friends.  Friends who never forgot my birthday.  Friends who supported us with love unconditionally.  Friends who cried with me on the phone or in person.  Friends who listened even when I knew I was too tired to make sense even when the endless stream of consciousness kept flowing.  I love/treasure/cherish these wonderful souls who saw something in me that I can't see for myself.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I am so blessed and grateful to have you in my life. 

As for 2013, I'm looking forward to creating a livelihood.  My mother, my family, my friends, and yes, even a little dog named "Dickens" have encouraged me to pursue my passion.  It'll take time, planning, and a bunch of sweat equity, but I believe my dream of life as a caregiver & artist can fly (and as my banner says, "everything else in between").

So here's to the New Year!  Stay close.  There are more adventures to share.  Miracles happen right in front of us everyday.  I pray 2013 is no different in that respect.

Now raise a glass and let's get to it!  Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Cairn: First Christmas Eve

Dickens proves to be a complicated soul, but a tender one at times.  He's still battling his inner dog and the trainer doesn't want to move forward until we know what triggers him.  I drove home in tears yesterday because down deep this dog is NOT a bad dog.  He's a young dog who needs experience, security, and time to, well, be a dog.

The doggy park doesn't rate high on my list because, well, to revert to my neurotic ways, I don't trust that the owners have kept up with their dogs medically.  Unfortunately doggie daycare rates up there with doggy parks.  The risk of a sick dog and the added expense of treating a sick dog are not my idea of merry.

My research has led to one thing (and my friends agree) - the dog needs to run.  Run hard.  Get the bugs out!  So, replete with a 30-ft. lead, we headed out to a park close by that did not proclaim to be canine unfriendly (didn't claim to be friendly, either, but I digress).

Upon arrival we were alone in the park.  It contained everything Dickens loves.  Trees, sticks, pine cones, hills, asphalt (he loves dry ground) adorned the park.  Strangely, he didn't run around.  He walked cautiously.  He stood 30-ft away from me, but eyed me the entire time waiting for something to happen.

We walked, he explored, and then we found a staircase leading to someplace.  As we descended, a huge baseball field opened up before us.  Now, I thought this little creature would think he'd struck gold.  Nope.  He sniffed.  He walked.  He watched.  I encouraged him to trot a little, but he was too insecure, so he came running at me mouth wide open.  I barked for him to sit in that threatening Darth Vader tone I've cultivated.  He sat.

OK, let's see how he does chasing a stick.  Toss the stick.  Dickens grabs the stick and then presents the same behavior.  Runs right at me wanting to take a chunk out of your truly.  Could it be the over-stimulation of being in a new place sets him off his pins?  Does he want to play?   Could it be that he leans on me for security and the minute I introduce him to something new in a new place, he can't catch up fast enough and his aggression is his way of saying, "Slow down, lady.  I can't keep with this new stuff!"
Now, I realize I'm anthropomorphizing his behavior, but taking him to the park allowed me to observe him in a new environment.  To see what pushes his buttons.  What triggers him from 30 feet away. 

My Christmas wish for all of you is that you hold your animals close, your families closer, and be open to all the miracles that happen right before your very eyes.

Guess you know my Christmas wish.

Merry Christmas from Rocksalot Cottage!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rocksalot Cottage: A Time of Reflection

Thoughts of the last Friday invade my brain.  How?  Why?  Questions that everyone has voiced lately.  Shock.  Horror.  Grief.  All rolled into one.

One question surfaced,"What was I thinking when I attended school as first grader?  What were the promises of my generation?"  Pursue your passions.  Get good grades.  Try to be good.  Play.  Respect your elders.  Figure out where Jack and Jill lived and why didn't they turn on the faucet?  Life seemed simple.  Life seemed to be encouraging.  No where on the curriculum did the school offer a class on "duck and cover". 

Today's children have to be so much wiser at a much earlier age.  It's amazing how modern day parents survive parenthood.  Teachers cram as much knowledge into these minds as they can and when the day is done, parents need to round out with extracurricular studies, such as, music, sports, Scouts, and learn safety skills.  There's so much competition out there that at times life feels like a race to an education, rather than a right to an education.

Our safety  skills involved natural disaster drills.  The basic hurricane, tornado, lightning, and fire drills that have been in  place for a long time.  Now our children have added bomb scare drills and assault evacuations to the list.  In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined such.  We never thought of bomb scares and certainly couldn't pronounced, let alone understand, assault evacuations to the list.  Our big no-nos focused upon talking to strangers or being offered candy by a stranger.

Sitting at my little desk with my oversized #2 pencil from its shiny shoe box, the world offered a promise.  Study hard, get a good job.  The world will be a better place as you age.  Things would get better.

What do we have to do to make this happen all these years later?  How do we provide the safety and security a child needs to grow and thrive?  How will be address the evil stranger who no longer carries candy, but a few assault weapons.

I'm glad I'm not in first grade any more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Daily Dickens: An Honest Dog

As I researched a breed to invite into my home, I offered a prayer asking whatever four-paws graced our doorstep that that little someone be a willing dog.  The thought of dealing with a sneaky dog did not appeal to me.  Cairn terriers, while living with the moniker "Cairn Terrors", have their issues.  With all the poking around AKC information, speaking with people, breeders, websites, and books ad infinitum finished, this breed appealed to me.  Cairns rose to the top for their longivity.  The breed worked hard back in the day.  They are smart dogs.  The attributes that might be the best kept secrets in the canine world is that the Cairn terrier is a sensitive and honest dog.

Whether the root cause of Dickens's recent behavior problems stemmed from being neutered too soon, the result of undergoing anesethia, entering adolescence or a matter of genetics, he has been honest with his struggles. 

This past Sunday Dickens and I resumed training sessions.  Dickens was Dickens in his truest form.  Despite the fact he had been walked and played with before we entered the training ring.  Despite the fact the session opened with some play as part of his assessment, he showed the trainer that he shared his anxiety freely with everyone.  He didn't reserve the nips for me.  He shared them willingly and honestly.  Despite his anxiety he did well.   He obeyed every command.  Throughout the session his body told me how he felt, especially his eyes. 

When he couldn't fathom what the trainer wanted he give a confused, whites of his eyes look.  Something didn't connect and he knew it.  Once he understood, his whole body relaxed.  At one point his teenage insolence rose as I told him not to jump at which point he stomped back to floor and went into the down position as if to say, "OK.  Fine.  [paw stomping]  I know you're going to tell me lay down next, so let's just get it over with now."  Canine teenage behavior at its best.

I'm lucky in that I have an honest dog.  His issues are treatable and trainable.  He loves and is loveable.  He attracts people because of his innocence and amazes people when he gets wound up because of the intensity of his anxiety.  He'll do what's asked and punish you later for putting him through his paces.  His anxiety level can be monitored.  He's changing all the time. 

And time is what we'll give him.  He needs room to grow from the inside.  Time to adjust.  Time to absorb the outside learning stuff with the inside growing stuff.  He requires the security of structure to keep him balanced. 

Prayers are answered throughout every moment in time.  Tonight I'm grateful that my prayer had been heard - I got an honest dog. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Daily Dickens: Attitude Adjustment

So, here's the story  now that I have the energy to tell it.

Mr. Dickens has developed a problem after his surgery.  He's developed an anxiety problem.  One that I can attribute to his being too immature to have the surgery or it had been lying beneath the surface only to manifest itself after the surgery.  The problem may also be a dominance-aggression issue or something to do with his adolescence that crop up in dogs.  It's a chicken-egg quandry that I'm facing head-on.

He's not an aggressive dog in the true curled lip, teeth baring ilk one sees on TV.  Most of the time he's a gentleman, but something disconnects.  I've noticed it and his trainer validated my observations last Sunday.  So, off to the vet we go.

Now usually Dickens turns on the charm when he hits the waiting room.  One of those "I don't know why she brought me here, I'm just a puppy" smiles.  Not this time.  This time he decided to dump a load in the middle of the waiting room (after having just gone) and launched into a fit of barking, et al.  We were immediately invited into a secluded room.  He paced, whined, and made nail-biting look like a leisure sport.

The vet tech entered, took the information, and didn't need to be convinced that Dickens indeed had a problem.  The vet, who witnessed his fit in the waiting room, didn't waste any time taking blood work and accepting the morning's "deposit" for parasitic testing.  She gave me lots of information, including a phone number for Tufts Small Animal Hospital.  Tufts has a great reputation for animal care and Dr. Nicholas Dodman has written many books on canine behavior.

Yesterday, the vet called with the test results.  All A-OK.  Now we work on behavior with a little help from a calmer-downer.  I balked at the notion of medicating Dickens.  I believed he could be "trained" out of it, but as I thought long and hard leaving this unchecked could result in internal damage as his blood pressure red-lines when he gets anxious.  He can get anxious quite a bit.

My mother has been a rock for me through this situation.  She speaks to Dickens each evening (separated by a baby gate).  She says "this too shall pass." We believe Dickens can grow out of this anxious state.  She longs for the day when she can hold him.  I think these two have a future together. 

So, we'll continue to train, continue to exercise, continue to grow and continue the medication, but I'm beginning to think that Mom's chats with him might be the best medicine of all.   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Back from the Abyss

I've been away from this blog for awhile.  Unintentionally.  Thanksgiving hit me like a ton of bricks.  Emotionally I went somewhere else.  Deep inside.  Way deep.  The holiday known for the gathering of family cut me to the quick as our family, as we knew it, is no longer with the passing of my father.

Thankfully, my wonderful friends came by with turkey, ham, and all the fixins'.  Mom and I were so glad to see them, but once they left the sorrow that the day brought lingered with me for weeks.  Compound that with the fact that Dickens has developed some issues and I have a recipe for the blues.  It has been a learning experience.

It is clear that I don't roll as some folks do.  I don't react immediately to my feelings.  I stuff them somewhere like a emotional suitcase.  Eventually my baggage springs open unleashing its contents forcing me to deal with what's going on inside.  I'd rather not even bother with it all until I come up with a game plan.  It's imperative  to sort things out and determine what "stuff" bears repacking and what to leave behind. 

As Dickens enters his "teenage" years, his aggression has grown.  At the risk of anthropomorphizing the situation perhaps this world overwhelms or overstimulates this little guy to the point where he feels the only way to get through it is to become his own Alpha.  I know that can happen.  Perhaps he's just a little bully.  That can be turned around.  I'm sure of it.  In the meantime, he needs to learn who runs this cottage.  I need to help him repack his suitcase.  Help him get rid of those dark emotions that he cannot take with him.

In a way we are both in the same place.