Friday, November 13, 2009

What is Now, Won't Always Be

I struggle to see shades of gray. It is a long held and detrimental flaw of mine.

I think the world should follow a certain set of rules. I think that good in should equal good out. I think that everyone has the same moral compass as I do.

Thinking this way causes a lot of disappointment.

It also makes it hard for me to see beyond my current circumstances. I forget that things do change or maybe I am just convinced that things change for other people but not for me.

Thinking this way causes a lot of bad expectations.

Finnegan was not a pleasant puppy. We do not have pictures of him conked out on the living room floor or curled up in one of our laps. We do, however, have lots of pictures of him biting things. He was a vicious little vampire puppy.

He was also not what I would call affectionate. He took love on his terms. He was not a puppy who asked to be pet. He was not interested in snuggling up next to you and watching television, which was disappointing considering part of the reason we chose to get an Australian Shepherd was because they have a reputation as velcro dogs.

We had come to accept these things about Finn and to embrace the great characteristics he did have. He's always wildly happy to see you and greets you with a waggling rear. He's extraordinarily friendly with strangers and patient and kind to toddlers. These things were more than enough for us and even though we were a little sad that Finn would only hang out with us on the couch if we bribed him with a rawhide, we were also very appreciative of all the good things about him.

Then one day he decided that he liked us after all. Suddenly he was nudging against us. Squirting his head through the crook of our elbows when we knelt down. Smacking us with his paw when we stopped petting him. Walking up to us and giving us sweet eyes when both of us are on the couch together and he's not (I'd really like to know how he senses two butts on the couch, it's uncanny) .

Lately, Finn has reminded me that things do change. That the seemingly impossible can happen. Lately, Finn has been snuggling up against me on the couch, flopping his head on my feet and falling asleep.

Ryan and I look at each other and say, Can you believe this is happening? Do you see this? Our hearts grow and our eyes get misty and our heads nearly explode with the cuteness of it.

It makes me believe; it forces me to acknowledge that life moves on. It's easy to wallow in the belief that nothing changes and nothing gets better. It's really damn hard to believe good things will happen; that your wildest dreams come true. It's hard and it's scary to believe these things because what if it's not true? What if you put yourself out there and made yourself vulnerable and everything is still bad?

I guess at that point you have to believe you haven't reached the end. That you're still in the middle of your journey to get to some other place. You have to hold on to the belief that even the most vicious, blood thirsty puppies one day grow up to be cuddly, sweet feet warmers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Puppy: Uncrated

Finn is one year old now. One of the ways we are celebrating his first steps out of puppyhood is by starting the uncrate training process. Crate training him was a piece of cake. He loves his crate. He’s never really complained about being in there. When he’s tired, even mentioning the word “bed” out of context sends him galloping up the stairs to his room.

The problem was we felt that he was spending way too much time in his crate. He would come out, have some breakfast and then lead the way back to his bed. Later he would come out again, take a walk or go to the dog park, have some dinner and then be ready to have us put him back in again. After a nap, he’d come out again to sit on the couch and chew on a bone while we watched evening tv.

This wasn’t really working for us for a couple of reasons. First, we felt guilty. Second, he was rambunctious and annoying every time he got out of his crate because, I guess, he wanted to make the most of his freedom. Third, one of the big reason we got Finn in the first place was to have a velcro dog; a dog who would, amiable and companionably, trot along after us and accept loving pets whenever he passed us by.

So, if everyone wanted the same thing, then why couldn’t we just make it happen? We had a pretty major problem: Finn couldn’t sleep outside his crate. He rarely even put his head down. When he did, he would pop it back up, refusing to admit that he might have been even the slightest bit tired. We began to suspect that he was being disobedient just to be sent to his bed (crate) so he could get some sleep.

One day, I just decided to break the cycle. I made up my mind that no matter how annoying or aggravating or infuriating Finn was, he would spend the entire day out of his crate.

We took a nice, long, three-mile walk on the greenway (for some Aussies three miles wouldn’t be considered long, but it is for Finn) and then we came home and he roamed around in the backyard while I read a book. He probably also played some soccer with Ryan. We basically gave him no choice but to have to put his little head down and nap.

And he did. Very briefly. By the end of the day he was red-eyed and exhausted and thrilled to eat his Milkbone and collapse in his crate. The next day, we did the same thing. And every day after that.

Now, when he’s tired, he just lies down. He’s even fallen asleep on the couch a few times. He’s fantastic to be around and far more mellow than when he was only out in shorter bursts.

Of course, new problems have cropped up. He’s in a horrific counter-surfing stage at the moment. However, for every major issue we’ve resolved with him I become more confident that we can handle the new problems that will inevitably arise.

For now, all I have to say is, Yay, to tired puppies!