Sunday, December 12, 2010

Life with Freya

After a long day of driving and excitement, we were finally home. I put the lead around Freya’s neck and got out of the Jeep with her. She was immediately excited by the new smells and sounds. We walked onto the lawn and she grew wild to explore the area in a full circle around our house, her new home. We did a full circle around the house, ending up back where we started and she did both sets of doggie business. We were now ready to go inside to meet our elder Statesman, Silver Shadow Wolf, and the cats and birds. I held my breath, said a prayer to the universe that all goes well and in we went.

Silver lifts his head from slumber and the look on his face changes in an instant. His face went from just being happy to see us home again to one of utter joy and excitement and happiness. He got up faster than I have seen him get up in a long time and went about the business of meeting his new canine friend. LOTS of behind sniffing and licking and…PLAYING! I didn’t realize how badly he had missed having another dog around with him until that very moment. It brought tears to my eyes. Freya, for her part was interested to meet him but a little leary after a while, because Silver DID NOT want to leave her alone. It was a combination for Silver of happiness to have her with us and the fact that she was still recovering from her spaying. Silver has always had a nose for injury and her healing spayed area drove him nuts. He just wanted to lick her until she was completely healed. She LOVED playing with him but got a little annoyed and freaked out after a while with the constant attention from him. Here was this huge stranger pestering her ALL the time! LOL!!!

The 1st few weeks, Silver played with Freya as much like a puppy as possible. The new has worn off now and Silver is back to being a tired, gimpy 15 year old proud dog. He is still happy to have her here but warns her when she is being too playful. His bones are old and tired and I don't blame him. I take up the slack in the play department. We run around outside and all over the house. We play games that involve alot of running and touching her nose to stuff and chasing balls. She is good at finding hidden stuff too.

I showed her the doggie toy box and she was over joyed. She couldn't believe for the longest time that they were all for her to play with. Freya couldn't decide which one she wanted to play with 1st. LOL!!!! The Kong or the Giggly Wiggly ball or the different textured tennis balls or the treat cubes or the Kong bar bell or the knotty rope toy. She LOVES to hide her rawhide bones and chew flips. I find them on chairs, behind sofa cushions, under the dog bed in the living room, in my flower pots, under chairs. EVERYWHERE! LOL!! Now it is like having a toddler in the house. Toys strung from one end of the house to the other. A Kong on the stairs, the knotted rope toy on the floor in the kitchen, bones on the couch, Giggly Wiggly ball in the living room. We go through every night and pick them up and put them back in the toy box and she always has to pick 2 back out. Funny girl!

Her face has changed in the 2 months she has been with us. Yes, she has gained weight and gotten more healthy but it goes deeper than that. When we 1st met her, I didn't know what her persoanl body language was saying. When she looked at me, it was with no special connection. No love or animosity, just curiosity and slight nervousness becasue we were strangers. I looked at her and saw a mystery. Now, after 2 months, her face has gained a little more trust, more openness toward me and her surroundings. She looks at me with something that is starting to be love.

The first 2 weeks, we had to keep Silver and Freya-Mari seperate. Silver just WOULD NOT leave her alone. They just couldn't and wouldn't settle down. It drove us nuts. Just like having a new born I guess. I was SOOO excited the 1st time they BOTH slept on the dog bed at the end of or bed together, rump to rump. Sleeping peacefully and QUIETLY. LOL!!!!

Now on to the cats and Freya. She is not as mellow with the cats as I had hoped she would be yet. She was in foster care with a large Chocolate Lab puppy that she played with and had fun with. I don't think she wants to eat the cats, she just wants to play. Our cats are 18 and 15 years old. They DO NOT want to play. Unless she is in an over stimulated mood, she will just chase one of the cats and then take her 2 front teeth and sort of nibble on their skin, like she is trying to pick him up to carry them around. That is really what it looks like to me. She brings her toys to the cat and puts them down by him sometimes as if to ask him to play. Of course the cat looks at her like she is nuts. LOL!!! That is what makes me think that Freya doensn't want to harm the cat, just play with the cat. PLUS there have been times that the cat AND Freya are both sleeping on the dog bed in our room. It is a weird relationship right now.

Our older cat, Taliesen Merlin Lemeuix, puts up with Freya. Taliesen is helping to train Freya all though the wacks on the nose don't seem to be much of a deterant to Freya some times. Taliesen holds his own though and then Freya just lays down by the cat, unable to understand why the cat doesn't want to play.
Here is the thing though. We have another cat, Pucksley. He holed up in my study a few days after Freya's arrival and won't come out except at night when the doggie gate is in place and Freya is locked on the 2nd floor with us. I take food and water into him and hang out with him and give him love and pets. He hangs out with my hubby when he is home because my study and hubbys are connected by french doors. Pucksley, while always loving, has not ever been a cat to e underfoot constantly. He prefers his own company as much as ours. Before Freya, he would hang out for soft food, laying on the kitchen or dining room floor and then upon occassion and when the mood would strike him, he would come up and hang out on our bed for a few minutes for lovies before going downstairs to patrol for mice. (Many which he brought me as presents in the middle of the night.) Now he just hangs out in my study unless he knows I am alone in my hubbys study and comes out at night.
To make matters worse, if Freya hears Pucksley in the study behind the closed doors, she goes ballistic, barking like crazy. (I'LL SAVE US MOM from the monster behind the door!) Of course Pucksley hisses and spits on the other side of the door. (I'LL SAVE US MOM from the monster on the other side of the door!)
Our next big thing is to figure out how to get the 2 together in the same room with out them both barking and hissing and going ballistic. I know it can be done, just got to figure out how to do it best for them both. Pucksely fundamentally likes dogs. Silver has been his dog for years. Freya doesn't seem to want to eat the cats. She just wants to play. Freya has gotten better about not chasing Taliesen at night now. She is learning.

She is also mouthy at times. She is getting better about that too. When she gets too mouthy, we enclose her in the living room by herself with the doors closed. She REALLY doesn't like being away from every one and contained in a place where she can't have her nose into eveything. She is getting better on that too. I questioned before about who's dog she would be. I think she has attached herself mostly to me all though she really likes every one. My husband is gone for 48 hours once a week so I am the primary person home all the time plus I am the food and treat giver. She DOES do this Snoopy/Tigger running bounce thing when hubby comes home that is funny and crazy. She is SOOOO excited to see him. I think she just wants the whole "pack" to be together the way we should be. LOL!!!!! When we are all in the house, she keeps an eye on every one but mostly hangs out with me, sleeping by my feet or following me around "helping me" take laundry to the basement or do dishes or cook dinner. Don't know if she follows me primarily because I now have treats in my pocket all the time to reward good behavior, ie...NOT chasing Taliesen, NOT barking at my study door and sitting for me instead, or does she follow me because she is most attached to me. Doesn't really matter because she is a family dog but it is interesting to watch all of our relationships develop. I think she gets jelouse of the other pets and our other dog at times. She will sometimes nip at Silvers ears when I am petting him which causes Silver to tell her to back off, but she achieves her purpose in the fact that we have to stop petting Silver. Not all the time, but sometimes. I think part of her cat chasing is the same reason because the cat gets the ultimate human closeness becasue he can sleep on the bed with mom and dad. I have been giving her "time out's" when she gets that way with Silver and then go back and give Silver extra attention. The time out's seem to help with this. She is smart. She is starting to learn that when she gets rude with Silver, she gets seperated for a little bit from the rest of the house hold. I have begun working on not only rewarding the good behavior and energy but have been experimenting with non-verbal communications. The other day, she was getting over stimulated and mouthing my hand and leg and shoes. I as frustrated with her and I formed a mental image of how her behavior seemed to me. (Aggressive, attacking, scary) She IMMIEDIATELY stopped, licked my hand and sat down nicely. I was shocked and happy. I am going to work on these mental word pictures more. I have done it a few times now and it has seemed to work. I was upstairs and Freya was down stairs. I focused on the image of her face and thought that I wanted her upstairs, sitting by me. With in seconds, she came bounding up the stairs and sat by my feet as if I had verbally called her. I KNOW she is trying to assert herself but even more, I think she is just trying to be the "top" dog so that she won't have to leave. I tell her that she isn't going anywhere. I tell her that she will some day be the elder statesperson and that if we bring in a young dog, we will accord her the same respect that Silver has earned. She is SOOO bright and so smart and can be cute but not in that snuggly, lick your face sort of way. She brings her toys and drops them in my lap if she wants to play or if she wants to keep her bone or toy "safe". She lays on my feet and looks at me in such a way of total surrender and affection at times. It just melts my heart. Her occassional need to be close to me warms my heart. Her exhuberance and excitement really tickles me. She is starting to realize that there WILL be more chew flips and treats and food and toys. She is beginning to realize that Mom has enough love for everyone and that if she is polite, she gets alot more tummy rubs and behind the ear rubs and treats for being a good house mate. She is starting to realize that if she plays with us in a way we like with out mouthing, we play longer. It has only been about 2 months and we have made some good progress in the integration process. We have a long way to go though before our house is totally smooth running again. I really DO love the toys every where and the excitement she gets from playing with every single one of hers. She seems more of a seeker Shepherd where as my others seem more like herding dogs to me. I LOVE when we play the target training game. A few times a day I will make sure the cat is sleeping safely away and Silver is sleeping out of the way and get the game going. I choose one of her balls generally and start the game. I point to the top of the stairs and tell her "Go, Touch". She will run up the stairs and touch her nose to the top stair. She sits and waits for my next command. Then I tell her "Freya, Door, Touch" and she runs and jumps full speed down the stairs, into the great room, touches the door with nose, comes back to me and sits, waiting. We do this several times and then I add the ball to the mix. As she is running, I throw the ball and she will either catch it in her mouth or run after it, and then touch the target. We have even added her jumping and touching my open hand with her nose as she is running. We don't play the game for long at any one time but play it a few times a day. She and I sort of came up with it together and she seems to enjoy it. She always has a huge grin on her face as she is waiting for me to tell her to go again. She seems much more mellow with the cat and with Silver when we are done with our game. Any way, this has been a long blog but there is always so much going on when a new member joins an established family structure. My father in-law was right I think when he said that given a year of training and working with her, she will be a perfect family companion for a very long time. He just loves her energy and how bright and affectionate with out licking she is. So do I. I won't say there aren't moments that I wonder what I got myself into because there have been but more and more we are all getting to know each other better and all learning how to communicate in such a way that we are becoming a fully integrated family. Freya is slowly learning that she IS home and that even when she misbehaves by chasing the cat or getting Silver going, she might get time out but then she will get love and affection after that time out. I love her and she has challenged me to think outside of my own comfortable box to look at the sources of some of her behaviors from a fresh perspecitve for fresh ways of re-directing the energy, emotions and behaviors. She now looks at me not only with curiosity and affection but also something that looks like trust to me. Any thoughts, questions or suggestions are encouraged and might prove to be useful in continuing to build a healthy and happy relationship with our newest energetic and beautiful fur girl.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prelude to a New Canine Family Member

There is a flurry of activity as the travel dog bed is placed in the back of the jeep with a fresh clean cover lovingly tuck around it. The doggie travel bag is packed with leashes and harness, water bowl, a few toys, a stuffed animal, raw hide knots, doggie chicken treats, poo pick up bags and a brand new collar with brand new tags.

Sandwiches are made for the humans and bottles of water, both packed into the mini-cooler with ice. Chips, granola bars, cheese crackers placed in a cloth bag by the cooler. The trip will be 3 ½ hours one way and we don’t want to stop for food on the way there and we will have a frightened and excited new dog with us on the way back. No time them for leisurely dining either.

Everything ready and the house put to bed, I am tired yet I toss and turn, nervous, excited, wondering. Knowing that the wheel turns one more turn, the kaleidoscope shifts and the mosaic of our lives will be changed forever again. This time, this change, by a choice I made one late night when I should have been sleeping, a good change through a choice for life. Not a change or modification in life or routine due to the death of an animal companion or a hospital sick bed revelation promise, not an opportunity to confront my biggest fear, but a choice for a big, slobbery, lick your face, living, breathing, joyful life. A choice to honor the cycle of life, death and yes, re-birth. Am I ready, for this? I don’t know. We will see soon.

The alarm clock sounds and I jump from bed, more excited and nervous to great the day than I have been for a long time, except for last weekends Smack Fest, an all day heavy Metal event we got to go and cover for the radio station we volunteer at. I go about in a rush of excitement getting the birds their breakfast, comb my hair, do my make up, get dressed, grab coffee and an everything bagel, load the sandwiches, snacks, water, doggie bag, and my book bag complete with phone numbers and directions and away we go.

Last stop before we leave town is for gas. Gas pumped, last minute snacks purchased and seat belts buckled, my excitement and nervousness is off the charts. I fiddle in my seat and take a deep breath and realize I have a 3½-hour car ride ahead of me. No quick 20-minute jaunt of excitement, no area to pace in for all that time. I breathe in deeply once, twice, three times trying to calm and center myself. I start the trip chattering away about inconsequential things but realize it does not calm me. I grow quiet as I contemplate the changes that are now occurring in our household and our life and hope that I have made the right decision for our household, for our Senior citizen, Silver, for our life. I know I the right thing is being done by Freya. She will come to a home full of love and understanding and patience and experience. I breathe in and out and feel the beauty of the universe flowing through me, as I feel suspended between my past and my future. Freya, we are coming to get you. We are coming to take you home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Well, WE DID IT!!!!!!

Well, we did it. Actually I did it and my husband agreed it was a good idea. I was looking through ads on Pet Finders and came across the sweetest faced 2-year-old female White German Shepherd. I couldn’t help asking some questions. Long story short, she will be coming to our house this weekend. I am excited and nervous and impatient.

I still have the same questions in the back of my mind in regard to Silver. How will he act and interact? I hope that she will make him happy, having another dog companion in the house. She seems so sweet and gentle and I think she will be good for Silver.

I had really been thinking that we might just let Silver live out the rest of his life as an only dog. Give our selves time to grieve and heal when he passed and then maybe look for another canine companion down the road. I really did.

One late night, when I should have been sleeping, I found myself on Pet Finders, just looking at German Shepherds available for adoption. Don’t know why, but I do that some times. I, of course, found many that I loved and that might possibly fit into our particular household. Knowing how my husband is feeling in regard to Silver’s aging, I didn’t entertain the idea of adoption right now, UNTIL I clicked on her link.

There was just SOMETHING about her face, her stance, and her eyes that wormed its way into my heart like she had been there all along. I was HOOKED! I couldn’t NOT adopt her into our home, our lives and hearts. HAD to forward the pictures to my husband. He agreed that she had SUCH A CUTE FACE! I think he suspected what was next.

After a few days of discussion regarding Silver and finances and responsibility to our new adoptee and our own hearts and emotions, we agreed that she would be a PERFECT match to our home and our life so I began the adoption process through NE GSD rescue and All Paws. We will drive down to NH, 3 ½ hours from our home, on Saturday, to meet the pet transport coming up from down south.

Why now? Why THIS dog? I see hundreds weekly on cross posts on FB and my occasional late night foray on the Pet Finders site. I don’t know: Her face, her eyes the description about her sweetness. She was found wandering, starved and alone, on the streets of some town in Alabama. When her owners were located and contacted, they said, “Just keep her”. UNBELIEVABLE! In some of the pictures forwarded to me you can still see her ribs. Despite all that, her foster mom says she hasn’t met a person she doesn’t like. She loves and plays well with other dogs and is curious about cats and jumps when they hiss. I just can’t imagine letting your dog wander the streets for so long that her ribs are showing when animal control picks her up.

So despite all my questions in one of my previous blogs, or maybe because of them, we are bringing 2-year-old Freya home on Saturday. Of course I will blog about her 1st days, how she acclimates not only to a Northern climate but also to our home. I bet she will LOVE snow when she sees it and I bet she blows her coat like CRAZY when gets her to get ready for winter. I wonder, will she sleep on the futon at the end of the bed with Silver or will she sleep on the futon next to my side of the bed? Will she like to run around and around our dining room, bird room, and my study loop? What will her favorite ball shape be? Will she be more my dog or my hubby’s dog? I KNOW she will love us all but I have found over the years that dogs pick one person in a household to be special friends with. Will she let the cats snuggle up with her after she gets use to them? Will Pucksley adopt her the way he has Silver? Silver is Pucksley’s dog as far as Pucksley is concerned. LOL!!! Will she like to nap on the doggie couch or prefer the floor or the doggie bed in the living room? Will she like to swim next summer? If she does, will she prefer the lake or the kiddie wading pool? What will her favorite toys be? What will her favorite treats be? Will she try to get in bed with us? How badly will she kick my butt on our daily runs? What will her favorite games be? Will she like hide-and-seek? Will she like to try agility training? Would she be good at search and rescue?

Can you tell I am excited and nervous and impatient? LOL!!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Hand Made Bench

I take my laptop off of the light brown, hand made bench that my Great Grandfather made for me when I was a very young child. I am struck with a sense gratitude for this humble little bench. My Great Grandfather, my Poppy, made this bench for me when I could barely walk. He made it so I could sit up to things better, reach things easier, have a place to sit for tea parties and when flipped over, have a place to put my dolls and their blankets. My initials painted boldly on the bottom in his strong carpenter’s hand. This Bench went with me to private school and then back home again. During a time of personal upheaval and physical displacement, when so many possessions were lost, this little bench some how made it with me. Over the years it has masqueraded as a nightstand, an end table, a lamp stand and now a laptop stand beside my bed for those nights I want to work late in to the night and still want to be with hubby while he sleeps. The little bench reminds of that book by Shel Silverstein, “The Giving Tree”. Even though my Poppy has been passed since I was in High School, his gift lives on, a message of love in the form of the little bench that keeps on giving to me in so many forms. I still see his craftsmanship and love as he used his scroll saw to lovingly carve out the simple scroll pattern. I see his look of pure joy as he puts my initials on my bench and then puts my sisters on hers. They look identical but we each got our own. I remember with bittersweet pleasure the tea parties with food from his very own refrigerator and cupboards. I think of the delight we had playing in the “kitchen” he created for us from plywood, nails and paint. He made a stove with wooden knobs that actually turned, a refrigerator with a big door for the refrigerator and a smaller one for the “freezer”, a little table, with our benches, and small cupboards for our plastic dishes and china tea set.
Every time I look at the little bench, I am reminded of his great love for my sister and me, his willingness to give of his time, his creativity, his unending love and encouragement. He thought the sun rose and set on us. It showed through in absolutely everything he did for us.

As September turns into October and Halloween/Samhain approaches, the day that the spirits walk among us, I realize that because of the gift of the little bench, my Great Grandfather’s spirit always walks with me. I watch the leaves change color and fall to the ground. The seasons change but the love of my Poppy for me will never change, no matter which side of death he is on. I love you Poppy and even though you have walked in spirit for the last 27 years, I still miss you every time I look at me priceless little bench. The little bench isn’t just a little bench, it is a warm hug and smile from across time, living on to show me what love and compassion and caring for another living creature really looks and feels like. THANK YOU for that beautiful lesson Poppy. THANK YOUR for your life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Man's" Best Friend

I just finished watching the movie "Marley & Me" for the 1st time. It was a good movie and being an animal lover, of course it stirred up strong emotions from start to finish. The good, the sad, the amused. I am reminded all over again that the best place to soak up tears of sadness is in the fur coat of a big dog. No better way to have tear traces erased from your face is by that same dog removing the evidence with a big sloppy, slobbery kiss. Those big, soulful doggy eyes, the youthful exuberance shown by even an elderly dog upon your arrival home. The ending, as inevitable as it was, of course, choked me up and made me me think of the many wonderful 4-legged companions that have shared my life. I remember my dear, sweet Luna-Mari, that passed away the day before Valentines day. Her excitement even the day before with rolling in the grass on her back, all legs up in the air, tongue flopping to one side in a goofy doggy grin. Following me up and down the stairs and in an out side with curiosity and patience. I think about her canine partner since she was a year old. Our very Senior statesman that is still with us though he is gimpy, takes a few minutes to get up and down, and is almost completely deaf. I look at him and know that his time with us is now short and relish every day, every moment, every hug and pet and kiss on the nose and brushing and short walk. I realize that it has been over 20 years since I have not had a White German Shepherd in my life and can not imagine it. I can not imagine coming home from an evening out or from the grocery store and NOT see a big white nose and big brown eyes looking happy to see me, ready for a walk and some "alone" time together. Our elder statesman, Silver, is more my husbands dog, though he loves me and comes to me when he is in pain or wants food. He follows my husband around every where. Despite the gimpy back end, he will go up and down the stairs, following his Alpha, inside, outside, to the moon if hubby went and beckoned Silver to follow. I morn the thought of Silver not being in our lives and I morn the thought of how hard my hubby will take loosing one of his best friends. I morn the thought of not stepping over dog speed bumps on my way to the bathroom or in the kitchen. I have gotten use to the early morning walk in the yard, waiting for the coffee to brew and the dogs to do their 1st thing in the morning business. Just me and the dog or dogs in my robe, slippers and sun glasses or a winter coat and boots thrown over the heavy winter robe. REAL fashion statement we are. LOL!!!! I struggle with the thought of getting a puppy. I would LOVE to have another canine companion to be here, to soak up my tears of loss of a 14 year faithful, loving, protector and companion. Last winter was hard on Silver. I don't know how he will do with another one. The other side of the coin is Silver. I want his last days to be relaxed, happy and dignified. The loss of hearing and the loss of the power in his back end was a blow to his dignity enough all though you would never know it by him as he takes a while to get up from laying down or he sits and smiles as the cats clean his ears or he sees his dad come in from the radio station and hurries as much as he can, down the stairs to greet him, big grin on his face and happy look in his eyes. He LOVES puppies. he always has. They make him smile. The question is, will a puppy make him feel like he is being "replaced"? Will a puppy challenge him in ways that I don't want him be challenged? I am not talking physical battle or anything, I am just talking about how fast he goes up and down the stairs and how fast he feels he should get up and down. I was surprised at how well he adapted when his life mate, Luna passed away. I never thought he would do well at all with out her since she was with him from the 1st minute he came to live with us. He adapted well, became a little more socially needy, but he adapted and ate and drank water and chose to live. Will he be happy to have a puppy in his life? Will a puppy here make it easier for him to leave us, to leave Brian, when the time comes? Will a puppy just torture him because of the time and energy a new puppy would take and the energy a puppy has? Of course the last part of puppy consideration is US, the humans. LOL!!!! We have been use to mature dogs for a long time. It has been well over a decade since we have had a baby White Germans Shepherd in our lives. They are so energetic and smart and creative about getting your attention. LOL!!!! Puppies need to go out to do their potty business MUCH more often and need hours of energy burning exercise and activity. We have had 2 dogs for most of our canine companions lives. They had each other to play chase with as well as long walks and jogs and ball throwing with us. They had each other for company when we were out so not as much worry about separation anxiety house damage. LOL!!!! I am home full time right now and have a flexible schedule. I am ready for a jogging partner again. I am ready, I think. LOL!!! Of course some puppy proofing will have to be done to electrical cords in the house but I think that is the only physical adjustment we would have to make. OH, and maybe keeping our shoes put away. I recently read an old article in "cry WOLF" from multiple sources that suggested WE did not domesticate wolves into dogs but that by watching the way wolves worked together, THEY domesticated US. I believe that. Go to to request further information and scientific data on this. I know that my animal companions make me a better person. When I have been so depressed I did not want to get out of bed, my animal companions got my back side moving, not only out of bed but for the obligatory walks that helped lift the bad mood. These are my delima's today dear readers, as I ponder the movie and the role dogs have played in my life and as I think about the continued staring role I want them to have in it. I am reminded of a quote from Mark Twain and I paraphrase here " It isn't that dogs FORGET the wrongs that have been done to them in the past, it is that they forgive." I only hope that I can be even HALF the human that my dog thinks I am.