Friday, June 23, 2017

Dog Sitting #2: the case of the rowdy adolecent

I'm currently sitting my second dog (the first was for the Great Dane puppy that went horribly wrong), and this one is just as tough--if not tougher--as the first. At first, I thought it was mainly due to my lack of experience, but I've discovered, no, this dog has some issues.

The ironic thing is that this dog that I'm currently watching is exactly like the hypothetical dog that I'm supposed to study for my Phase 8 evaluation. He is the same age too, although a different breed.

For this eval, I will be graded on the advice that I give to my mentor for common problems that many dogs have. (Luckily, I'm told in advance what the problem behavior is so that I can prepare for it.) This case is titled "Rowdy Adolescent" which is exactly what I'm calling the dog I'm sitting for, with the same problem behaviors.

It's like they met our dog and made a case study after him.

What makes it even harder, is that unlike my hypothetical dog in my eval, my current dog is not neutered. I've discovered the hard way that this makes a huge difference in behavior! I didn't realize that he wasn't neutered and the owner never brought it up. And well, I'm not very good about noticing those things despite the fact that everyone keeps saying that I would know because it's "very obvious." (It's only obvious if you're looking!)

Not only that, but Ace doesn't like rowdy dogs, as we've already discovered with the Great Dane puppy we sat for (who also was not neutered.) We've prepared by training Ace to wear a muzzle if he's around the dog, but since I've discovered that the dog isn't neutered, we've kept them separate.It is possible for dogs to bite through a muzzle, and I don't want that to happen with this dog.

Sorry, Ace.

Even the kids are worn out by this poor dog, who acts like an engine is always going inside him and never gets a moments rest. His Gentle Leader, which the owner left with us, keeps falling off, and so this poor dog is always straining against his leash, choking and gagging. On walks, he's everywhere, hopping in this direction or that, lunging with no warning, or trying to catch his leash and pull it from your hands. Needless to say, I can't let the kids walk him.

And yes, even though he's eight month old and should have outgrown a lot of the play biting,  he still nips and does a lot of mouthing. This morning, he drew blood on Lucy's arm--he just walked up to her and grabbed her hand with his mouth. This poor dog is just crazy with energy, and doesn't know what to do with it all. The kids spend a lot of time throwing the ball for him (indoors, since we have no fence) and that does seem to help. But even when the dog is tired, he lays down for only a few seconds and then hops up again. He just can't seem to settle down, so we give him two breaks a day in his kennel so he can rest. And us too.

I have to keep Joey and Ace separated from him, now that I know he's not neutered. This is what they do at Countryside Vet, mainly because un-neautered dogs are so unpredictable in their behavior. And obviously, to discourage the humping (which can cause fights.) Keeping them separated for four days isn't easy. Where Ace and Joey are, this dog can't be in the same room. So if Ace and Joey are upstairs, the dog has to be downstairs (with someone watching him, since he seems to like to eat and chew on everything he sees.) Or if Ace and Joey are outside, the dog has to be inside. It's a constant juggle.

So yep, it's been a little difficult. I don't know how I keep getting these young un-neutered dogs. I'd like some older neutered dogs, please!

But I will say that it's been great for teaching me some dog training skills. I've also discovered that he only knows one command which is "sit" and maybe "come". (He seems to know what it means, and will come some of the time.) But he doesn't know "down" and I'm also teaching him "Watch", which is great when you want to get your dogs attention focused on you. He's definitely trainable and when he's tired, he's fun to be around. He has a great personality. If he could just get some consistent training and get neutered, he would be a perfect dog with both kids and dogs.

Not the best picture, but Anna was trying to hold him still long enough to get a picture.

I'm happy for this opportunity though. It really has forced me to put all of what I've learned into action. And that's what I need! I hope that this will lead to many more dog sitting jobs for the future.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Max's room (Mostly just pictures)

Max's room is a disaster. I don't even know where to start.

For one thing, there is clutter everywhere and no where to put it.

His bookcase collapsed under all the weight

I cleared a spot so you could see it's a desk.

His door fell off its hinges. That happened a long time ago. At night, Max would simply prop his door against the frame to block out light. (Dennis didn't want it thrown out because he said he could fix it.)

Then not long after that, the door frame fell off the wall. Just like that. While we were cleaning out his room, right on cue, the door frame gave up and died.

So I told Max to take the frame and the door to the fire pit. Things that die get burned around here.

The door before...

...and after
His desk is next if it keeps looking the way it does.

The frustrating thing is that there isn't much we can do with Max's room right now. Obviously a new door is next on the list, but for now, I offered to paint Max's room. I asked him what colors he would like and he said, "Green and purple!"

Really? Those are like the two hardest colors to work with.

He really wanted dark green and dark purple, because lavender is too "girly." But it would make for a very dark room, so I think I have a plan.

I'm going to make these two ^^^ walls green (plus the one with the desk and dresser) and the other two walls white. I'm going to put a green stripe running across the wall for a hopefully "cool" and "teenage boy" look. We'll see.

His closet door died too.

The green stripe

If this doesn't make any sense to you yet, that's ok. I like to surprise people.

This will be a (loooong) work in progress.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


I got a client from whose dog I'll be watching next week. We went for the "meet and greet" this morning and again, it didn't go well. I'm so disappointed about this! Every time I feel like I fail at something, my confidence--or the little bit I have of it--dwindles a little bit more.

The kids were very good--really, they were a charming distraction that paid lavish compliments to the owner about his dog. And Joey was good too, after he calmed down and his hackles went down. But not Ace! He just doesn't like puppies, I guess. They are a little too excited for him, and he doesn't like that. Twice, he lunged at this puppy. Thankfully, the puppy hid behind his owners legs after the second time. I say "thankfully" because, even though I felt sorry for the puppy, I hoped he learned whatever lesson Ace was trying to teach him and would stay away from him.

We went for a walk to try to diffuse the situation, and the owner was very kind and laid back about it all. I think if it was my dog, I wouldn't be quite so laid back but this guy must be desperate to find a sitter. Anyway, we got the job, so overall, it's good news.

Still, I went home feeling quite humbled. I don't feel like a trainer in these situations. I feel like I should have seen it coming with how Ace reacted. I'm trained to look for body behavior and somehow--again--I've missed the signs. Twice now--with two different dogs--Ace has lunged at puppies (one year and under.) I should have been more prepared for him to react that way, and I wasn't.  It feels horrible feeling like this.

It doesn't help that every time I talk about my dog experiences on Facebook--whether they are good experiences or bad--my dog trainer friend never comments on them. It's like she's chosen to stay out of the whole thing. Many times, she told me flat out that she thought it was a stupid idea to bring a dog into a big family and that I wasn't being fair to the dog because he would eventually bite one of the kids and wind up back in the shelter again.

Well, I'm happy to say we've proved her wrong on that, but I'll admit that I wish I could have more support from her. It's times like these that I just need a "thumbs up" or some encouraging comment because I feel scared to go on. Support from a trainer, someone that understands what it feels like when just starting out, means more than support from others. They know what it's like to be a rookie.

This morning, as I was preparing for the meet and greet, I thought about canceling. I was worried this would be a bad idea, a disaster, like last time. But then a strange thought popped into my head:

Why don't you give yourself a chance?
I don't know where this thought came from, but at any rate, it was a good question. Why don't I give myself a chance?? Why do I give up before I even try? How will I ever know if I'm good at something (or not), if I don't find out? Why don't I think I deserve a chance to learn as much as anyone else? Why do I limit myself so much? And on and on the questions went.
So I kept the appointment. And you know the rest.
I know it won't be the first time I doubt myself, or the last time I will feel humbled at my lack of knowledge and lack of experience. But I don't want to teach my kids to be afraid to try something just for the fear of failure, so this is what makes me keep trying more than anything. I know they are always watching me, recording every little thing I say (so they can remind me about it later!)
Confidence. I just need confidence in myself. A chance--and many of them--to learn and fail and learn again. I deserve this chance as much as anybody. I've worked hard to get this far and it would be stupid to give up now.
So I will bolster up my courage and try again with dog sitting. And whatever happens, I can at least chalk it up as some experience under my belt for my next time.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Kid's Best Friend

Lots of things going on around here.

First of all, I completed Phase 10 and am done with school! I announced this on Facebook but no one really seemed to care too much. One person, that's it. I was a little surprised but not disappointed. That is how Facebook is.

But inside, I am celebrating! I've never done well in school and I did well in this.

I haven't finished my tests yet, I have two more to go and then the big one that will give me my certification. But I am done with the learning part--the reading and studying. I can now start making plans with what I will do with my business.

So what to do? There is so many ways I can go about this.

I can work for a shelter and become an evaluator. This probably would be a little boring and to become an evaluator, I would need two years of experience, plus take another test. But it's something for the resume.

I could work for a dog daycare, which, personally, is last on my list. I have a hard time with the whole "dog pampering" thing. And as much as I love dogs, I'm not sure I could just stand there watching them play all day.

Or I could go on my own and do private training. Out of all three options, this is the one that appeals to me the most. It's the most flexible with time and makes the most money. There is so much to do though. You have to make all your own marketing stuff, like brochures and flyers and business cards, which means you need to have information about your business: a business name, logo, and website. I didn't have any of these things, not even a business name.

Anyway, long story short, I now have a name, theme and logo. Website will be slow in coming but there's no rush. Then the hard part will be in advertising and making connections, but I'm nowhere near ready for that.
Do you like it?? I thought up the design but had a Graphic Designer from Etsy make it for me.
I decided I want to focus on training with families. I will do basic training for starters (most beginner trainers do), but families will be my specialty. Because of what I went through with Joey, I can appreciate why parents buy dogs for their kids--because they love them! But it can be a big undertaking and I hope to give them more support with their dog and keep things safe for the kids too.

Anyway, that's as far as I've gotten. It's exciting and fun but scary too. I'm ok with taking things slow.

Other than that, nothing else exciting has happened. Unless you want to count that our trampoline nearly blew away. After a very exciting (stressful) storm this morning (with the tornado sirens going off) our trampoline blew into the swing set and literally broke in half.

Difficult to see with the wind and rain

I really don't get sentimental over "stuff". I can put baby clothes away with pretty much no emotion and I never had any sadness over leaving our first house.

But this one hurts. We've had the trampoline for three years and the kids really enjoyed it. I begged Dennis to try to weld it back together. He said he would try but he said no promises. That usually means he will fix it to appease me, but already knows that it's too broken to fix. I guess that will have to do for now. It's kind of tough thinking of buying a new trampoline when your kids bedroom has no carpeting or no door because it fell off.

That's it for now. I'm hopefully going to bed but pretty sure I will be awake tonight. I've been killing mosquitoes that somehow got in the bedroom, and Luke is still awake. He's been having a hard time sleeping in this insane heat....

Friday, June 2, 2017

Last Day of School and Valley Fair

Last day of school! It comes with mixed emotions. Lucy has been feeling sad lately, because now she has a small group of friends and is worried she'll lose touch with them. I feel sad too, both for her and all the kids. We will miss the school. But at the same time, I still feel we're making the right choice and feel much peace in our decision.

Max decided to go to school for a field trip to Valley Fair! I hope that the fact that he made that decision to be "social" and join his classmates for a day was noticed by his teachers (who were very doubtful that he should give up his social skills class.) Ok, I will admit, he didn't join his classmates just to be with them, he joined them because they were going to Valley Fair.

Still, he had fun! His teacher was nice enough to send me some pictures of him. He decided not to go on any roller coasters but he had fun on the spinning rides. And he was very excited that he got to drive the old automobiles. (They had those when I was a kid!)

Max with his Para, and two friends
Max with his para. We will miss her! She was very good with him.

They couldn't have gone on a nicer day! Sunny and seventy's!

We have a tradition of going out for ice cream on the last day of school, and out for pizza for the first day of school. We like to celebrate both the beginning and end of school, because school is good and important, but summer is a welcome break!

Patio Project, Anniversary Present and Max's Poor Room

There is a lot going on this summer with projects. A lot of it is just wrapping up last year's projects--for instance, the bathroom.

Then, there is the ongoing patio project. Every summer I predict that we will be "finished" but we always run out of time (and money.)

So, this year, we're going to finally add a sliding door like we had planned with this big open space.

We're also going to be replacing all the screens, as they have all fallen off during the winter. This time, we're going to use wire screen instead of the plastic stuff.

I'm going to finally finish paving the walkway as well. I'm just five pavestones away to be done.

I'm so glad to get rid of this stuff. Half of it covered in mildew or mold, I'm not sure which.

Now for my Anniversary present!

Dennis gets wood for free at his work (scrap wood) and he often uses it for his projects (like in the Bunker) so I asked him to make me a buffet table for the patio space. It's not finished yet, just the frame is up, but you can already see it coming to life.

This is going to be used as a bookshelf/snack table. I'm going to have some fruits (in a tightly sealed container of course) and a big jug of juice for snack time when the kids are out playing. And the bookshelf will be underneath with a few spiritual books for reading.


I can't wait until it's done.

And now Max's room. Poor, poor Max's room.

So just like the girls room, Max's room is a mess. We can't get to every room at once, but still, you can't help feeling guilty.

This room just basically gave up and died. I mean it. If there was a picture of a dying room, this would be it.

It has no carpet, because there was a huge leak in the bathroom, and soaked his carpet, making it moldy so it had to ripped out.

He doesn't even have a decent bed, but we're still working on that.

His door is falling off its hinges.

That pile of laundry is a door stop, since the door won't stay closed and there's no doorknob

Literally falling off its hinges.

Max came up to me today and said, "Mom, can I have a new door? Mine is falling down." Good grief.

Even his closet doors gave up and died. Sometime during the night, they just fell off it's hinges and fell right on top of him. While he was sleeping. Rude awakening, right?

So yes, Max needs a new room. Or a room make-over. But like everything else, I can only get one thing at a time. But I promised him a door. I can at least do that much--for now.

Later this summer, we're going to paint it his favorite colors: green and purple.
That's going to take some creative design on my part.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The High Cost of Keeping Friendships

So lately, Lucy has been doing great with her friends at school and is having seconds thoughts about switching schools. Of course, right? I knew this would happen.

She's still going to the new school and she knows it. She says she still wants to go to the new school but I think that's to appease me more than anything.

There is a new girl that she befriended through her friendship group at school. (The friendship group has really helped, by the way!) It distracted her from the group of girls that turned their backs on her and she was welcomed in by a new group of friends. In the meantime, some of her old friends have come back (but not all.) So we have a happy ending.

But now she'll be leaving all those friends and starting off on her own which hurts my heart. I can't help praying, "Is this really the right decision, Lord???" and in my heart I feel that it is. It just doesn't feel right to stay at Cologne Academy. I'm not sure why but it just doesn't.

So we will keep in touch with her old friends. But in order to do that, I need to get a new iPad since kids these days stay in touch by SnapChat and Skype. (The old one broke.) I used to swear that I would keep this house technology free for as long as I could, but all it seems this is the only way to keep in touch. And if you can't reach your friends, you eventually are out of the group.

I think this is what happened to Lucy. Last year, we broke the iPad. I found it to be a blessing in disguise because it seemed she was always chatting with her friends on Skype or on that iPad for some reason. But, eventually, her friends weren't talking to her so much anymore...maybe talking about her to each other...and then eventually, she was left out more and more to the point where she no longer fit in.

So I promised we would get a new one so she can keep in touch with her friends and get together with them over the summer. I never make promises by the way--that way, you can't be accused of breaking them--but this time, I promised. I didn't realize how much work it was to keep in touch with people (or how expensive it can be) these days. It's sad but that's just the way it is.