Tag Archives: dog

(nablopomo #12) be willing to be

graffiti of a pit bull terrier sitting in the midst of blue and green line drawingsGood morning, good morning –I’m feeling a little off-kilter this morning, not quite full. Maybe something in me is following the moon.

It’s one of those days when I don’t want to write, when I want to do anything but, when I feel overexposed in and to words, and so I want a break from them.

I’ve been up for a little while, wanted to get my blogging in early. I did a bit of journaling, jotted down a couple of dreams that I could remember, and then got distracted by looking up dog training info online.

The puppy and I need to go back to school. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a puppy update here. But nablopomo doesn’t give prompts for the weekends, and my freewriting at the moment is drawing me toward dog love and dog struggle and dog shame.

here we are at graduation from her first puppy class

As of the end of this month, Sophie will have been with us for six months. Six months! Next month she’ll be a year old. You might remember the panic and overwhelm I was in during that first month, how terrified I was, how I wasn’t sleeping enough, how being with her was bringing up feelings about my past dogs, especially the one I had as my sole unconditional companion during high school, during my stepfather’s abuse.

Sophie feels like part of family here, and a part of redefining family, at a time when the Mr and I are re-engaging with what family means. She’s a steady presence and still feels new — I find myself pressing my face into her warm brown puppy smell and thinking, Who are you? How did you get here? She is a part of our everyday-ness, a part of home, now. We’ve been through one dog-training class and now I think we’ve got the funds to do another. And it’s time.

Yesterday, at the end of a great walk in the hills not too far from our home, we were approached by a small pug and his mom. The pug may have been a puppy; he was a fraction of Sophie’s size. Sophie hunched down, like into a prowl, and came toward the dog from that stance. When they got close to each other, the other dog, wagging, bouncy, wanted to play, but Sophie was rough and aggressive. She was growly and wouldn’t leave off the dog when I called to her; finally I got her collar and got her out of the situation. She wanted to play, then, barked, wagged her tail, what’s the problem? The other mom picked up her dog, we exchanged a few words, I said Sophie was obviously still in training, we said that both our dogs were puppies. I knelt there on the ground with Sophie for a bit, wanting her to stay calm, while the other two walked away. I felt awful, sick, ashamed, frustrated and scared.

This is why we have to go to school, why I need more training — in those moments, sick and ashamed aren’t useful feelings. They’re triggers, or, really, reactions to feeling triggered. At times like that, I’m more worried about doing what someone else will think is right. How can I explain this? I’m back under my stepfather’s gaze, being watched and judged, and get reacty and panicked. I’m not thinking clearly any more than Sophie is.

The triggered feeling is so old, and I want to move with and past it. I want to trust the parts in me that invite me to do something different, but that I often ignore — trust, that is, the connection between me and my dog. I want to know how to interact with Sophie in those moments, before we get to the dog, to the situation that’s freaking her out. There were many different things I could have done in that moment, well before she got into a fight, but I ignored them, hoping that she’d be all right, even though she was showing me signs that she was in an odd mood with respect to that dog.

The shame that blossoms in me, it takes over everything, is a bright wash of red-orange, isn’t any help at all. It coats the inside of my mouth and all over my skin, tingles me unapproachable. We will go out again today and try something different (treats, leash, redirection, practice, practice, practice).

I have a note that reads be willing to be uncomfortable stuck to  my computer monitor. I have it there because I need reminding, encouragement, sometimes a push, to do the things that are important to me — and getting there often means moving through discomfort, often, deep, thick, bodily discomfort. I’m reminded of the thinking I do about safety, and about safe space — that I can be safe in the midst of change, in the midst of reaching beyond my comfort zones, in the midst of doing something that pushes all my buttons. Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong. Sometimes it does. I’m learning to listen differently, learning to tell the difference.

There’s more to this, but now it’s 12 hours since I began this post, and I need to get it out. The puppy and I had a good and uneventful walk today — I brought more treats, did more training practice, she got to chase the ball and eat hot dog treats. I’m scared, reaching, and grateful.

Thanks for your practice, for the ways you hold your own growth. Thanks for your patience and presence with others’ discomfort, how you allow others, sometimes, to be present with yours. And your words, too. Thanks for your words.

another chance

graffiti on a concrete, outdoor staircase: at the front of each step is painted the word Try, so it rises up as you climb: Try, Try, Try, Try, Try...This isn’t like that. This might have similar features as that, might look familiar, might hold its head about the same way, but it’s different. It’s right now. It’s new.

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Good morning — this is a new-schedule day. Up for morning pages, then short dog walk, now blog, then feed dog, then get ready for work: all by 7:15 am. I am ready and not ready to go.

This is supposed to be serious blog time: but there’s a puppy at my feet, pulling at a rope bone, cuddling it with both paws, serious, yes. She is learning about the sliding glass door. Sometimes it’s open, sometimes the glass is in her way, sometimes the screen door; she knows this because either she can move right through the doorway or something bonks her head. When you’re teaching a puppy about new things, it’s not good to laugh. Yesterday, when she wanted to go out on the deck with hew new Kong, she approached the door gingerly, stopped, waited, then put one paw out in front of her, scooping at the air, looking to make sure the way was clear. So smart.

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I am thinking a lot about second and third chances, about doing it over and over.

Do you know this book: Another Chance to Get It Right, by Andrew Vachss?

I’ve written a lot, mostly in my journals, and a little bit here on the blog, about my first dog, Katja. I got her as a young teenager, in jr high, I think, a puppy we rescued from outside the pound in Omaha; we were there to find a cat for my sister. The people outside the pound had their puppies in a box, didn’t want to take them inside and release them to the pound, which only gave the animals about a week to be adopted before they were put down. The people wanted their puppies to go home with someone. The dogs were small and black, lab-husky mixes. She lept up to me and I fell desperately in love with her. She was the dog I had hoped for for my whole life. We came home with both a kitten and puppy that day. I can’t write much about Katja right now — I cry too much. She was my closest companion during the years at the house in Omaha, with my mother’s second husband; he had to shut her out of the room a lot, because she was protective of me She died when I was a sophomore in college. I’ll write the story someday.

The second dog I lived with was my ex’s, Tor — he was still young when I moved in with her, just a few years after my own dog had died, and I was still aching and not ready to let a dog back into my heart yet. He and I had a very hard time, maybe a little jealous of each other, maybe a lot. He looked like my first dog, and then didn’t at all, too. But he was generous, like her, and loving, gentle, loud, and kept on wanting to be with me, coming to me, even when I was mean, frustrated, snappish, overwhelmed, impatient, not a good dog mom. We found our way, and loved each other.

That’s the most beautiful and sometimes the hardest thing for me about dogs: how they love me anyway, even when I am most certain that I don’t deserve it. Dogs don’t understand that I don’t deserve it. They understand differently. This is part of what aches about allowing a new pup into my life: she will love me anyway. And I get another chance to show up all the way into that love, to meet it and respect it and be kind and gentle and patient and strong. I am not the same person I was as a teenager, trying to train a dog with no skills or modeling. And yet, I am the same person: terribly in love with dogs, wanting to do right by this one. And maybe I can do right by this one.

And so I’m thinking about regrets, about feeling the guilt and moving forward anyway, about trying again as self care, about moving through the self-recrimination, the self-blame, -shame, and-guilt, and trying again. That’s resilience, I think.

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If you’re working with a character, do they have something that they feel regret about, and want to try and do over? What would that look like? If that’s true for you, and you want to take 10 or 20 minutes today, you might write a little bit of the old story, how it feels in your body now, where you hold it, and what the do-over might look like: not about going back in time, but doing something else now. What about giving yourself, your character giving themselves, that chance?

Thanks thanks thanks.

shaking off as much sand as we can before we get in

puppy graffitihttp://www.flickr.com/photos/44124436774@N01/82179210The alarm goes off and I wake up with the feeling like I’m on the edge of the world, like I’m in a void, like nothing’s happened or about to happen, just my heart is pounding.

It takes  a little bit of being up before I can remember my dreams, some big performance I’m supposed to be mc-ing, with or at the CSC, it’s supposed to be like one we’ve done there before but now Robert wants it to be different, only now I can’t remember exactly how.  The first one had had a couple hundred attendees, and now we have maybe 20 or so. It was only 18 minutes past when the show was about to start — more people were probably on their way.  I was trying to get us all to move outside from this big room we were in, so that the show could start — earlier in the dream, I think it was earlier, I was taking an exam, an english test, like reading comprehension, only I started the test late because I was looking for something, like I didn’t have the right exam booklet or something else.  I was cocky about the test, I didn’t really think I needed that much time for it because it would be so easy for me, but then I ran out of time and was going to have to start making educated guesses.  it was a multiple choice exam, and I was trying to remember the rules about educated guessing, like you have to do on the SAT sometimes.

This whole year has seemed like fall, like we moved from winter-rainy season (finally, in May, we moved out of it), into this thick warmish early fall, where the chill’s always just around the corner. Does it seem that way to you?  We’re starting to cook fall things — I’m ready for apple dishes, soup.

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t want to tell you about the dread or the nausea anymore, I wanted to tell you about something else.  About maybe the dog I don’t have yet.  About the shiny black or brown or mottled fur. About the round-pointed snout,. about the Labrador-mixed-with-who-knows-what-else body, barrel chested maybe, round and full. As a puppy, ze would have those paws too big for hir to know exactly what to do with — a sign that ze’s going to grow and grow. Floppy ears that are so soft when you put your face to them.

Now that I think about it, there were dogs in my dream — three of them, lanky, undernourished, coming up on the bed. I don’t have a name yet for this pup — I think the name comes with the animal itself — but I do have a sense of hir, sleeping in a bed of blankets and toys there in the corner of our bedroom, and maybe padding out to the kitchen with me when I get up early for writing time.  Ze gets more excited as ze wakes up, it’s kind of cute, just like Tor used to, sort of zombified and clunking into walls or your knees and then all of a sudden, ze reaches forward into a long morning stretch, the tail starts going hard, there’s a quiet, sharp little whine, like ze just realized you were there again in front of hir. And so I reach down, I squat or fold over, we do our morning love scritches and I let hir out into the back yard and then ze comes with me into the writing room and curls up next to the chair and we write together and maybe my writing is influenced as I listen to hir dreams, the biting-yelps ze makes as ze’s running or playing or chasing on that other plane of existence. After that time, then we walk — we go around the neighborhood, we talk to each other, me with words, hir with wags and hops and sniffs and tugs.

Some days all of us go to the beach, me and the pup and F, and we throw the ball or the stick or the frisbee or whatever it is that ze likes to chase, and maybe ze’s the kind of pup who likes to fetch into the water, and maybe ze just likes an excuse to run into the ocean, to get wet, like hir human, me. I’ll have to chase hir down the beach, reminding hir not to chew on the crab-bodies, on jellyfish. Ze’ll walk proud, curious, head up, maybe run sometimes to catch up with other dogs. We’ll all wander around for awhile, getting dry, before heading back to the car, shaking off as much sand as we can before we get in.

What would it be like to have that dog-presence in my life again? I’m talking to the dogs from before, asking them to help me be ready. What does it mean to be ready? There’s bank-account ready, sure, but then there’s something else — whether it’s time again to open the cage of my heart a crack and let this animal shove hir snout in, sniffing and happy, then wag hir whole self all the way into the room of me.

Is there a big change you’re ready for in your life?  Here’s a sort-of prompt: let yourself write about it as though it’s already happened, with as much detail as you can. Give yourself 10 minutes… or as much as you want!

Thank you for being there and doing all that you do.  I know it’s a lot. Be easy with yourself today, ok?

You know about animal love, don’t you?