October 8

Unlike the craziness of yesterday (I blame the blood moon for all the strange behaviors, including crying and arguing students) today was a bit more mild. I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the DNA results from my puppy. He was described as a pit bull/lab mix at the shelter where I got him, apparently a very common mix. Given the bad rap of pit bulls, I was a bit hesitant to adopt him. So I did some research before I took him home, and found, not surprisingly, how much the traits of pit bulls are exploited by the crappy owners who train them for malicious purposes. Pit bull terriers are extremely loyal to their families and tend to dislike other dogs. Add that to their strength and hence the propensity to train them to fight. In fact, in many articles I read, some of the most common breeds to bite people are small dogs, like the Dachshund, Chihuahua and Jack Russell. I know my parents always warned people that their Chihuahua’s may bite them, so they never let people get too close. Granted, small dogs’ strength isn’t quite the same, but their aggression tends to be downplayed because of their small size. In addition to research, I also had some conversations with other owners and people who work with dogs on a regular basis, which helped alleviate my fears. After all, he’s not a full-on pit, especially given the fact that he has a curly tail, the one thing that’s been the question mark. Even my vet was puzzled by what that would mean for his mutt mix. So, the DNA results confirmed that one of his parents was American Staffordshire Terrier and Labrador Retriever, along with some mixed breeding and his other parent was Boxer along with some mixed breeding. The mixed breeding isn’t guaranteed in the test, but the breed most likely is Shiba Inu, which would account for his curly tail. I’m glad to have my curiosity appeased on that and to know the likelihood of traits Chance has as far as temperament and size. I’ve already begun to see his personality and am glad to see he actually gets along with other dogs as well as people. Maybe the lab is more dominant there. He’s also proven to be quite intelligent, although a bit stubborn. He’s quite a sweetheart though. And as with kids, training is key, regardless of his DNA.

September 22

As sore as my body is already and is going to be even more so tomorrow, I’m thankful I’ve started some actual exercising lately. Last week I discovered that my dog likes running with me. So I’ve taken him out a few times now on the bike path near where I live. Tonight we went again because even though I hoped to go to a class at the gym, I felt guilty leaving him immediately upon getting home. He’s not supposed to have a lot of strenuous exercise yet since he was neutered last Friday, so we did a walk/run for a while. Frankly, I’m not a runner, so my running is fairly close to a walk on a good day anyway. Tonight, Chance was a little amped up from not being able to play with his puppy friend for the last several days. He kept jumping at me, weaving back and forth in front of me or stopping suddenly so the run became more of an obstacle course. After taking him home, I went to the gym anyway to get some continuous cardio on a bike. It’s not the exercise routine I used to have, but at least it’s a start.

September 16

Things have been doggie dominated in my house since I brought Chance home a couple months ago. We are all getting more acclimated and into a routine, but there are still moments of extreme frustration. Like last night when I was on the phone with the cable guy who was walking me through a problem with a non-working tv, and I realized the house was too quiet. Once I was able to get away from the tv, I found the dog chewing the decorations off my daughter’s sandal. It was the first time he had actually destroyed a shoe and I couldn’t yell at him because I had a cable guy chatting in my ear. Instead I gave him my most “I’m disgusted with this” look and a shake of the fist while mouthing “bad dog!” None of which made an impact on his tail wagging as he sat waiting for what I could only guess was a treat. Or lunch time yesterday when my daughter sent me a picture of the bag of expensive orchard apples that had been scattered all over the kitchen floor and carried outside onto the porch. Now every apple is bruised or bitten. Apparently leaving things on the kitchen island is no longer safe, even though he usually never bothers stuff sitting there. And this evening, instead of heading out for a walk like normal, he unexpectedly darted out the door and took a quick left through the landscaping, pulling me almost directly though the butterfly bush laden with bees. What the heck, dog.

I’m trying to remember what I read last week about the phases of puppy growth. Apparently around his age is when the “teenage years” begin. When puppies start pushing boundaries and testing limits. Glad to see he’s on track. Part of me wishes he’d just jump ahead and past this. But I know now is the time to stick with the training and discipline because it will make a big difference once he’s full grown. I think if we don’t get off-track now, he’s going to be a great dog. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’m exceedingly grateful that he’s able to hang out and get worn out with my boyfriend’s puppy. After some time together tonight, Chance was asleep by 8:30 and I was able to get homework done in peace.

August 30

I took Chance down to play with my boyfriend’s dog, Barley. Some friends were over and the dogs kept each other company and stayed out of the way outside for a while. They are still young enough that they like to rough house for most Of their playtime. Chase and bite and chew on each other. We’re pretty used it and recognize that they’ve actually tamed a bit over the last couple of weeks. I think Chance, who is younger, is no longer teething so he’s not as anxious as he used to be. And Barley is a more laid back puppy to begin with. At any rate, they played pretty well outside, and as usual sat outside the sliding door looking worn out pathetically desperate to come in. Once again, we are used to this ruse. Once inside, a second wind hits and they begin a game of keep away. We can give them each an identical rawhide or bone or toy, and one will want the other’s, and so will begin a chase followed by barking and an occasional whelp when one gets particularly aggressive. It’s usually Chance who eventually won’t stop and thus, I end up simply taking him home. Tonight was no exception. I could see in his face that he was wound up, and no matter how I redirected him, he wouldn’t relax and just sit and chew on his bone. So we left. He fought me, tugging on his leash the entire way out the door. And I found myself rather irritated by when we finally got to the car. He sat next to me, panting, and I asked out loud, What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just behave when you’re here? People think you’re a crazy dog when you act like that. He simply looked at me, still a bit glassy eyed from adrenaline. And then I remembered how familiar that felt. My kids were sometimes the same way when they were toddlers. Acting up at other people’s houses, especially when there were other kids around. Throwing a fit when we had to leave. It usually embarrassed me, making me wonder why my normally sweet and usually well-behaved kids would turn into monsters. And always in front of others. Of course, I knew that wasn’t their normal behavior, and as a parent, I wanted others to know that too. I guess it’s no different as a pet parent. Chance is a sweetheart. A little rambunctious as a puppy, but not as undisciplined as he sometimes likes to act. So as we sat staring at each other in the car, I noticed that his amped up demeanor was hiding exhaustion. He’s hard to control because all kids throw fits when they’re tired. By the time we got home, he was his normal self. After a potty break, I had to carry him to his crate or he would have fallen immediately asleep on the sofa. I used to joke that babies were like puppies. Everything goes in their mouths, they drool, they crawl around through anything, they’ll go to the bathroom whenever or wherever. That was when my kids were babies. I’m thankful I remembered the connection tonight, for I didn’t stay irritated with him for too long. Puppies are like babies. And mine is still a bit in that phase. He’ll grow out of it soon enough.

August 21

I dream of the day I am able to deep clean my house. I realized today when I came home at lunchtime to get the allergy pill I meant to take this morning but left on the counter instead that my house smells like D.O.G. That’s something I never thought I’d say. Seriously. I actually have a very keen sense of smell myself, so I’m usually pretty aware of odors. It was a bit disconcerting to admit that I don’t notice it much when I’m home. That means either the rain storm we had last night and the accompanying humidity today are just making it seem worse than it is, or I’ve let my housekeeping go. Since I’m going for honesty here, I’m going with the latter. It’s time for proper scrubbing, vacuuming, and spraying of all surfaces.

Yet while I acknowledge that I need to do some heavier cleaning at home (this weekend!), I also have to admit that my lackadaisical attitude lately speaks to my growing tolerance and/or patience level. Puppy training has been hard. And kind of consuming. Items have been scooped off of floors and dumped on top of cabinets. Stairs have been blocked off with baby gates and become a dumping ground for shoes. Things get thrown down to the lower level and out of sight of Chance while he’s not looking and then stay there. Rugs got rolled up and set on tables. My free time at home is spent walking Chance or playing with him or watching him play with Barley, my boyfriend’s dog. We’re learning how to incorporate him into the family, so it’s necessary time spent. In the meantime, though, I still have piles of papers in my office to file. My basement is still a disaster. Clothes get washed and dried but piled in the laundry room. And dust is accumulating. There was a day when I would have been pretty bothered by getting so far off of my normal cleaning routine. But I know things will eventually get done, just at a slower pace. I need to remind myself of this sometimes in other areas of my life. Work or relationships. Be patient and plug along at what I can accomplish. Eventually it comes together.

I suspect my household will never again be quite as clean-smelling now that I’ve invited this little whirlwind of a dog into it. But when I see his little face peering out the front window when I leave or how excited he is to see me when I return, I figure it’s a good trade. Something new to be thankful for.

August 19

Well, I have to admit something. Lately I’ve been so tired by the time I get around to writing at night that I struggle to even get through a post. I usually end up typing up something quickly on my iPad or my phone app while sitting in bed before I fall asleep. I’m sure it’s been noticeable; I feel I should apologize to everyone who’s actually reading this regularly. I for one, really dislike bad writing, so it’s been disappointing for me too. But when I started this blog, I did it with the intent of finding at least one thing a day to be grateful for and write about, so I’ve at least kept that commitment to myself. It may not have been exciting lately, but the process still gets me to think about my day. Sometimes it really is the mundane or even repetitive things that I realize I appreciate the most. Or something random. For instance, tonight my kids and I had dinner outside. I grilled chicken and made corn on the cob and mashed potatoes from a box. (Don’t judge me. It’s good if I measure things correctly.) It was a nice evening since the humidity went down and a breeze came through. My puppy had been a nuisance during meal preparation; he acts as if he’s never been fed. Ever. Even though I give him a teeny bit more than his weight/age suggestion, he seems to want more. He had eaten his dinner, yet still did the constant jumping up on the counter with one of us with responding with the automatic Down, Chance. So just before we sat down to eat, I filled his Kong toy with peanut butter hoping to keep him occupied. That lasted only a few minutes until he realized that it may be easier to sneak food off the table. And so ensued the puppy jumping and the responding Down, Chance, once again. Eventually he quit, we finished dinner, and as we got up to leave, Chance used his ninja skills to grab the remains of an ear of corn off a plate and take off with it. My kids began to chase. He darted and zigzagged through the yard. Just as Emma almost reached him, he half swallowed the ear, slowed down enough to gag it back up and took off running again. At this point, I was just enjoying the show. As was my neighbor from his back yard. It was just like a Three Stooges episode where Emma would grab, miss, and Chance would change direction. I finally yelled out to encourage my daughter, You were on the track team; catch him! She wasn’t amused, but Bree and I and the neighbor were. The neighbor dogs were barking; Bree and I were laughing. Chance finally stopped in an effort to simply chomp the corn cob as quickly as he could, and she got it away from him as it broke into pieces. The entire episode was unexpected dinner entertainment, and I was thankful to be there as a witness.

August 5

So when I moved into my house last summer I put in all new carpet. I picked out a nice, neutral frieze that I thought looked nice and would wear well. I liked the texture. It’s reminiscent of the old “shag” type (now called “twist”) which I thought looked a little modern, yet casual. Well, it turns out that frieze is just another word for grass. At least to a puppy. Apparently I have filled my house with a very neutral indoor bathroom for dogs. On so many fronts, my puppy has acclimated very well to his new home. He doesn’t bark at the neighbors. He gets along with the cat (ignores him). He has learned his name, how to sit, sleeps through the night, goes out his doggie door, and doesn’t jump on the furniture. He doesn’t have accidents on the kitchen tile where he’s usually confined. But expand his area to include that beautiful frieze and it’s like he has lost all sense. And I thought my kids being home would speed the potty training process along since there are more of us to keep an eye on him. But I forgot how their eyes get glued to electronics, which makes it easy for the little puppy butt to get into trouble. I’m not sure why I thought potty training would be easier. My oldest kid was three years old before she was trained, which I reminded her of last night when she was complaining about the dog. So that’s a problem that still needs to be solved. Crate training has been Googled. Again. The other is teething. I was prepared for the chewing and the many stuffed animals and bones and random items in his toy bucket can attest to it. What I forgot about was the addition of puppy playing. The proper formula goes something like Teething x Energy + Moving Objects/morning,evening = Painful Puppy Bites. He’s not aggressive, just eager to play. He usually doesn’t actually bite so much as try to nip in an effort to get someone to wrestle with him. At 6 am or pm mostly, which happens to be my least favorite time to play. I’ve Googled this as well. One article I read encouraged playing along until the puppy bites too hard, at which point one is supposed to simply stop and “be a tree.” Um…I’m pretty sure if a tree could move or swat at whatever was gnawing at it, it would. Trees would become Ents pretty dang quickly if they could feel dog teeth. Instinct is, of course, to jerk the hand (or foot or leg) away from his eager puppy mouth, and I have ninja skills when it comes to that. He’s not broken skin, but he’s pinched me pretty good a few times. I have the bruises to prove it. I imagine the neighbors are amused in the morning when I start dancing around the deck in my bathrobe trying to avoid his teeth. Usually he stops pretty quickly with the distraction method. Therefore, I try to keep toys nearby to thrust between his jaws and a few minutes of tug of war helps. I’m grateful he’ll eventually grow out of some of that. I know we’ll also, eventually, get the potty training done. He’s a pretty smart dog and I’m not 100% exhausted yet. And thankfully for him he’s got his cuteness going for him. It’s hard to stay mad for too long.