sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist, an unschooler, and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Archive for October, 2010

Life with a dog, day two: waking up with a dog

October 29 we began our journey with Olive.  We survived our first outing to the park.  We enjoyed dinner as a family and Olive surprised me with how well-behaved she was.  She did not beg for food but sat calmly at our feet. She did fill the mission, one of the things I always thought would be good about having a dog, cleaning the floor. (note: see prior post, describing my relationship with house cleaning)

We carved pumpkins together.  Jason, 21 months old made hardly any mess with the pumpkins and was not interested in sticking his hands in the gooey mess, despite our anticipations and preparations with paper bags opened and spread on table and floor.  It was a fun family evening, a rare occurrence for us.  Only minor squabbles over the pumpkin scooping devices but no yelling or storming off.

I magically pulled cookie dough out of the freezer (made a few weeks ago and frozen, an amazing new trick I) and popped them in the oven for a treat.  We could have been on a Leave It to Beaver episode.  Maybe having a dog will be better than I expected, bring our family together.  This dog is so well-behaved. 

Did I say we have a cat?  And indoor only petite white cat.  Had we gotten the dog when the cat was a kitten, I think she would have enjoyed the dog, a playmate.  Our cat, Peanut, is 4 years old, and well, is a cat.  She is not so sure why there is this dog in our house and why is it staying?  Olive is eager to play with her but in her gentle way. 

Our biggest issue the first night was the Olive’s middle of the night mission to find the cat.  Olive is sleeping in Abby’s bed with her at Abby’s request and much to Abby’s delight but she slept right next to Abby not at the end of her bed where Abby set her Scooby Doo blanket for her.  And Olive jumping up and down off the bed was a bit disturbing to Abby’s sleep and my husband’s who is a light sleeper.  Somehow Olive even pushed Harrison’s door open ( note: our oldest son who is not excited about this dog experience; see first life with Dog Post, The dog who fell into our lap).  And Harrison got her out, went back to sleep and somehow told us the story later in the morning  in an amused rather than irate manner.

Olive is very interested in Peanut but only sniffs her and wags her tail intently.  She only chases Peanut if the cat runs past her and has shown no signs of wanting to hurt the cat.  We are hopeful but still cautious.  She is much larger than the cat, maybe 40 or 50 pounds (I don’t even know, is this something I should know, feels like it is) and the cat is about 6 pounds and well, dog instincts, it could happen by accident.  Her owners feel she would not hurt a fly, they have had her for 3 1/2 years  and got her as a small puppy.  Peanut does have her front claws and despite being a cat, she is very curious about this dog and will come out and sniff Olive and isn’t in hiding all the time like many cats would be.  Curiousity.  Who knows, they might even become friends.  Both desperately want a furry playmate.  (We got Peanut as a small kitten, our third cat, but our other two were elderly and not interested in playing with Peanut and have since left this lifetime.)

This was going much better than I expected.  I woke up that morning before everyone else and went to the computer to write as I do when this happens, not often but has been happening more lately.  Jason even slept in and even past my husband getting up, he sleeps with us and usually gets up when I do.   Life with a dog has been a pleasant surprise.  I began day two excited and energized by our new experience.


Life with a dog, day one: preparations, people issues and the park

October 29 Olive came to stay at our house. 

Abby decided she wanted to get her at 11:30.  I had said before lunch would be good so it was before Jason needed to nap.  Abby was excited but the change and excitement only flared her issues and compulsions.  She needed to  shower which means she is stressed and it brings her more stress.  Thins have to be exact with towel placement and soap and there is no way to accurately describe the experience.  (Her issues look very much like OCD and we have been working with professionals and with her but not labeling her.)

Our children mirror us.  Their issues mirror ours.  I become compulsive and rule oriented when I am stressed.  I even beginning cleaning when I am stressed (cleaning is  not my thing, I would sooner be writing or outside mowing the  yard or doing anything other than cleaning my house).  So when Abby’s issues flare up, I in turn, become more stressed.  It is a challenge and one that I have been working on as well.  There is much more background to all of this but I add it here to paint the picture as best I can without rambling on endlessly.

Somehow we got past the “getting ready” part and over the fact that it was past 11:30 when we went to get Olive.  Somehow, I had added the stress of going to the park with Olive after we got her and ate some lunch.  Sounds insane but Jason needed play time outside as did Abby and Olive.  My friend had contacted me about meeting at a park and was willing to drive to a park 5 minutes from my house.  I tend to function well on spontaneuity.  I needed to get out and be around adult friends.  My son would get to see his friend even though he was stressed over the time because Dad, (my husband, Don) was coming home at 2:30 to take him out selling popcorn for  Boy Scouts.  The last week to sell and my son was coming close to his goal of selling $2500 in popcorn which was the amount needed to qualify for a scholarship account. 

Don’s the salesman, and like father like son.  They both enjoy it and the time together.  Power to them.  Selling is not my thing.  I would rather be cleaning my house than out selling popcorn.  Scheduled, punctual, orderly….these are words that describe my husband, not me.  My son thrives on “scheduled” and has always been time conscious.  My lack of sense of time, how much time it takes to do things, is one of my biggest challenges. 

I agree to go to the park about 1pm, letting my friend know clearly that we could be late or a no-show.  (I have learned to live in the moment from this experience with my daughter and have been a maybe to most events to avoid the pressure of feeling like “we have to get there on time”.)  I figure we can stay until 2:30 and get home so the boys can go out selling popcorn.  Sounded reasonable. 

I talk to my friend just before 1pm, she is just leaving, one other friend will join us at the park.  I need to feed everyone and then go.  I have Harrison call her back 10 minutes later to have her pick him up so he can go hang with his friend and I have no pressure of when we leave.  We eat and about 20 munutes later, they pick him up and I wonder, why did I just send my biggest help out of the  house?  I don’t make the best decisions when I am stressed.

Somehow, we make it out of the house about 10 minutes later, dog crated in the back of the car,  kids buckled, water bottles and even some snacks. 

We are homeschoolers who have come to enjoy the freedom and luxury of going to the park on a weekday and having the park almost to ourselves.  When we got to the park it was apparent that either large amounts of homeschoolers had all come out at once or school was out.  More people at the park and more dogs.

I am comfortable with Olive around other people, other dogs,  not so sure.  My friend had her dog, they even looked a lot a like, but he got too personal with her and she let him know she didn’t like it.  Might be all normal dog behavior but a growling dog on a leash held by an 8-year-old who is not quite strong enough to handle her when she pulls really hard and me needing to watch the busy always in motion 21 month old who was too close to the growling dog for my comfort….  Was I crazy?

Crazy for taking on this dog and going to the park our first day?  But my friends were there and boy did I need to talk.  I like to get out of the house when I am stressed and getting out with my friends has not been easy lately.  I was so glad to be there.  Talking to my friends, while keeping an eye on Jason who decided to walk around on the  6 inch wide concrete blocks that form a wall around some playground equipment.  It is built into a hill and so in some areas the concrete blocks are maybe 6 inches from the ground on the opposite side but at the highest point it is about a 3 foot drop.  Did I say I have an issue with heights and Jason has no fear of heights?  Not that this is about heights, just the thought of him falling on the concrete blocks a distance of 3 feet brings to mind head injury. Did I mention I used to work at a rehabilitation hospital with head injury patients?  I worked with adults not on the pediatric unit but when I see rocks, there is neural connection in my brain to head injury.

I was enjoying myself and at first Abby walked around with the dog and even talked with one of the girls of my friend, someone she knows but is new to us, and new people are not Abby’s thing unlike me who loves meeting new people.  But then, Abby was ready to go and nervous to walk around with the other dogs present and being crowded with people.  And I was finally enjoying talking with my friends in between chasing Jason who would suddenly dart off into the woods where there is  a small creek area, dry but there are rocks!

And then it was 2:15 and Harrison approached insisting I call Don and it was time to go home.  I was not ready to go home.  I was finally out of the house and with two friends who I really enjoyed talking to and Jason was reasonably content.  I talk to my husband who is a bit upset because I knew they had plans to go out and sell.  He had planned this a week ago, it was on the calendar. Ugh…I knew all of this of course, but I needed to be out with my friends.  I needed it for my sanity.  My sanity is essential to the sanity of my family. 

My husband gave in as he has learned to do and agreed to get Harrison’s scout shirt from the house and meet us at the park and then take the popcorn out of the van and move it to the Corolla and loose about 20 minutes of selling time.

Relieved?  No, I felt guilty.  I am working on that.  I need to take care of me.  I can’t forget about my sanity and my needs.  We all know what that looks like.  So they come and go and Abby is standing there ready to leave.  She doesn’t want to take the dog to the car, or walk her or… In a huff, I bring the dog to the car.  Why do we have a dog?

I want to talk without my daughter standing over my shoulder.  I give her missions to check on the dog, I offer to stand so I can watch her.  The car is parked facing the park entrance and very close by.  I mange to get a few minutes or so without her standing over me.  I tell her 15 minutes, 3:00, but forget to make it clear that I want 15 minutes without her glued to my side.

We leave about 3:15.  I am calmer.   I had time out and go to talk more than I usually do.  Jason falls asleep in the car on the way home.

The dog who fell into our lap

October 29 a dog came to stay at our house.  It all happened so fast.  It was about a week before that our neighbors told us they were moving and were looking for a home for one of their dogs because they could not find a rental place that allowed 3 dogs.   Their dog, Olive, had become our daughter’s best friend.  Our daughter, who lives in a house of cat people has been begging us for a dog.  She loves dogs, all animals.  We remember when our neighbors got Olive as a puppy, a small cute dog, who grew to a medium size dog who is at least half soft wheaten terrier.  At some point, we watched our neighbors dogs when they went away.  My daughter, Abby,  wanted to take them for a walk.  These dogs had a huge fenced in back yard, they did not know how to go for a walk.  We took Olive for a walk and then tried to take the other bigger dogs for a walk.  We only attempted walking Olive after that.  And even when our neighbors were home, Abby got to walk Olive with us.  “Anytime you want to come and get her is fine with us”  our neighbor told us.  Abby would ask to bring Olive over and would walk around with her in the yard.  One day she told her best friend, “I think I like Olive better than you.”  Her best friend replied, “I understand.  She’s a dog.”

In the spring of this year, 2010, my daughter began having serious emotional and behavior issues.  Olive to the rescue.  Bringing the dog over to her, could change her from full rage to calm and centered.  At least centered enough to move on and out of the difficult place she was in.  We even brought her into Abby’s bedroom on occasion when Abby was really stuck. 

Abby’s pleas for a dog grew.  “Someday” I would tell her.  Abby’s aunt, my sister, is a dog person.  She has had as many as 6 at one time and dogs are her livelihood.  She grew a business with agility and dog training that has become her full-time career and passion.  And so for the past 6 months my daughter has been begging for a dog and my sister has been trying to convince us we need to get a dog for Abby.  She even started a Facebook campaign with reasons to have a dog. 

I have always  liked Olive.  I have said she is the perfect dog.  Although my husband and I felt that we would like a smaller dog than Olive.  We live in an 1800 square foot split level and have 3 kids.  Our youngest is only 21 months.  Olive tolerates Jason’s enthusiastic, physical toddler behavior with calm composure.

This dog fell into our lap.  How could we say no?  The universe must be telling us it is time to get a dog.  But so little time to make this decision.   I came up with the plan to tell our kids that they need us to watch the dog while they move, to buy us time and to have a trial period.  It would be more difficult to tell them that keeping the dog is an option.  Abby would be begging and pleading and her older brother would put his heels in the ground.  I forgot to mention that Harrison, almost 13, is not a fan of dogs.  He likes them enough when they are my sisters dogs and when they are not in our house.  Harrison had been saving up for an iPod touch and had earned enough money for one.  He had ordered it and had just gotten it prior to this dog opportunity.  Timing is everything.

We had a family talk.  We explained that the neighbors needed someone to watch Olive while they moved and got settled.  Harrison agreed to the dog staying for 3 weeks and Abby was ecstatic.  Although she was sad knowing our neighbors ,who she had grown to love along with their dogs, would be moving.  Change is not easy for her.