Sunday, March 18, 2018

Josie and Max

Josie, trying to get as far away from me as she can get.

I've been working with my neighbor's newly adopted dog, Josie. She's a fearful dog that has never been socialized, or at least, very little.

She is afraid of people, objects and other dogs. The first day I spent time with her, she kept her distance from me (in picture above), growling at me. This is normally how she handles stressful situations, as she has found that growling is pretty effective about keeping people away--until my recent visits, when I refused to leave the room. I sat on the couch some distance away but within her sight, and pretty soon, she stopped growling. I spent a lot of time throwing hot dogs at her, shortening the distance so that she would eventually come up to me. Pretty soon, she would come up to me asking for a hot dog, and then run back to her "safe spot." But it was progress!

It's very difficult getting her to go anywhere, as she thrashes against the end of the leash, trying to get away. But once she gets on pavement, she's fine, at least until we walk past a strange object, like a garbage can or a parked car. And then she thrashes all over again. It's pretty scary when she does that because I worry that the collar will slip off her head and I won't be able to get her to come back.

I've been coming over to come get Josie nearly every day and I bring her to my house for exposure to a different environment. The first day, she spent the time frozen in one spot, panting and shaking. I felt sorry for her but really don't know what else to do to help her. So I brought her back again the next time I was supposed to work with her, and this time, brought her bed along, and she laid down and took a little nap. Progress! :-)

That day, I took her for a car ride and brought her bed along. She promptly laid down in it. She seems to be ok with car rides, as long as she has her bed along. Otherwise, she just sits there and shakes. 

The last thing I did was I brought her to a park. While I can't say that she was super excited about going (she seemed confused, not sure if she's ever been to a park before), she did seem intrigued. I was super excited that there was no thrashing or trying to get away. In fact, she even led the way and left her mark there. :-) 

Oh so slowly, she is starting to wake up to the world. People would be very surprised to hear that Josie is only 9 months old--she acts like she's ten years old. Very low energy, likes to be left alone and take naps. 

She reminds me of Max, my own son, who has autism. Maybe that is why I feel so determined to get her socialized, or at least as socialized as I can get. I've been "exposing Max to the world" since Max was diagnosed at the age of three, and like Josie, he "thrashes against the leash" resisting and fighting anything that is new. It is discouraging, it is sad, and it breaks your heart. I always have my own fight going on inside when I see him pass up someone who offers friendship or kindness. It's really difficult to accept that this is just the way autism is. (Not to say that he can't make friends, but it's an extremely slow process and most people give up on him.)

And so Josie and Max are very much the same in this way. I use Josie as a "teaching tool" to Max what it looks like to always be afraid and not be willing to try new things. He does seem to understand how it's not good for Josie, but he has a hard time relating it to himself. Maybe one day he will see it too.

So, that is how I spend my time these days, and yes, I still love it. Every small step in progress that Josie takes towards feeling a little more comfortable with people invading her space, gives me a little more hope that one day, it will be the same for Max.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nothing to do

Today I was thinking to myself: I've gotten in the habit of being on Facebook too much, I really need to find a way to fill up my time. But what do I do? There's nothing to do...

Then I decided I could start with stripping the beds, I haven't washed the sheets in a while. That led to cleaning up that corner in my room that I never can get organized. And from there, it led to all of this:

Get Anna started writing out a few of her favorite Maxims, I haven't even started on that with her
and oh yeah, I should probably enter all those workshop dates that I need to be at
and oh, I have to email Kara some questions on that..
wow, Henry's room stinks, where is that smell coming from? Gonna pick up some of these clothes, 
what the heck is that under that pile, is it breathing??
why do these kids never clean their rooms, do they really think I can do it all??
That reminds me, Luke needs a bath for his birthday party today, but probably should 
do Henry first because he wet his bed last night. What is this spilled on the carpet? Juice??
Better blot that out, and oh, I forgot to make breakfast. The kids should know how to make their own 
breakfast, gotta walk them through it one of these days, oh wait, where's the Resolve for that stain on the carpet??
Stripping my bed, wow, my room has gotten really messy, it's almost as bad as the kids. Gotta clean up that bookcase...oh, there's my planner, I should probably add in the dates that the dogs are coming over for boarding before I forget...
Is Henry splashing water on the floor again? Gotta make him wipe it up this time or he won't learn. Gotta go wash his hair. Where are the kids? Are they doing their jobs??
Checking on Lucy, she is always reading the day away. Holy cow, her room is a mess! Tell her to start cleaning it up--might as well strip their beds too. 
Luke is vacuuming like I told him but telling me that the vacuum is broken..which reminds me I forgot
to rinse out the Resolve on the carpet. Great, now it's going to be dry and crunchy.
Have Lucy work on the picking up the foyer, and did Anna clean the dining room like I told her? 
Why are there boots lying all over the place when there is a closet nearby???
Doing the wash, can only do one load at a time. Man these sheets stink! Hope I remember to switch the wash this time. 
Get Henry out the tub and Luke into the tub. Why is Henry wearing those pants?? He probably doesn't have any clean clothes--again. Gotta remember to do the laundry today. 
Dogs are out of water--again. Why am I always the one filling their bowl?? Have Anna do this instead. 
Checking on the girls room and have Anna climb up and put fresh sheets on the bunkbed, I can never climb up there. Ask Lucy to please clean up behind her bed---I don't even want to KNOW why there is candy wrappers and pop cans in
that mess! 
Make sure Luke is actually washing his hair and not just sitting there. Ask Henry to please get Luke a dry towel..oh wait, don't have any clean towels. Using Henry's wet one to give to Luke, sorry about that....
Did Max clean up all the poop outside? The yard is disgusting. Max says it's too frozen to pick up, gotta remember to have him try again later this afternoon...
till gotta get back to those breakfast dishes...why are there still dirty dishes from last night supper on the table?!
Checking on the time, gotta get Luke out of the tub and remind him to dress in something nice for the party...get back to the dishes, I haven't even run the dishwasher yet and it's already 10:30?! Still didn't get to the bookcase, my room is always so messy but can never seem to get to it. 
Ok I've gotta take a break, I'm gonna lose it. Seems like nothing got done and yet I've been working all morning. Too much to do. 

And ironically, this started off with the thought that there is nothing to do in between Facebook time. Our ancestors would be cringing at the way we look (and handle) our chores.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Our Lady of Hope

Yesterday, while in the Atrium at our church, I saw a picture of Our Lady with a dark sky and blue dress with gold stars. As usual, when I saw this, I felt like I was revisiting something familiar (which I will explain more about later.) I've seen this picture before, in various forms, sometimes on Facebook. Everyone loves the picture but no one knows what the picture is about.

It is Our Lady of Hope and she has quite an interesting story behind her name. First, very quickly, I will explain why this picture resonates with me so much.

When I was in my coming out of my medically induced coma back when I had my heart attack, I relapsed for a short time because of some infections that I had (mainly pneumonia.) I couldn't wake up, although, when people would call my name and tell me to open my eyes (which I tried, but was not really able to do so) and so I would end up going into this dark place which I can only guess was deep in the recesses of my mind. It was not really a dream and yet it was not reality either. So to this day, I hesitate to call what I saw a "vision" since I still can't really explain where I was or if what I was seeing was truly real. I have to take into account that I was heavily medicated and I had many hallucinations (after I woke up.) Ask me someday about the monkey running around my hospital room.

But regardless of dream or reality, I would always wind up back in this dark, cold place. It had stars and a strange sound that I can't describe. The best I can do compare it to is like being in outer space. Except I wasn't floating.

I was sitting, always in a huddled fetal position, because I was scared. I couldn't wake up and I didn't know where I was. I didn't really understand that I was asleep, but I did know that I was somewhere where people couldn't go. And yet, I would hear their voices calling me all the time (my family, telling me to open my eyes.) Automatically, I would obey their calls, because I really wanted to get out of there, but as I said, I was never really able to fully wake up, and so exhausted, I would go back to sleep and wind up back in that dark, cold place.

And then, this woman began to appear to me, except, I could never see her face. She was very tall and filled up the whole sky. She had a dark blue robe with gold stars on it. She never spoke to me but somehow, I wound up inside of her cloak and this is where I stayed, by her feet.

A little bizarre, when I think of it now, and yet, it was very comforting to me at the time, and still is to this day. I didn't know who this woman was, my brain was not really able to form thoughts. I could only feel emotions and cold (I don't think I was covered very well in my bed. They only covered me with a top sheet.)

Anyway, this went on for a long time, where I go when the voices called me--although now, I didn't want to wake up--and then afterward, return to my safe haven. I was warm and comfortable in this place, hiding within her robe, and every so often, would peek out to see if the darkness was still dark (which is it was) and so after a while, I just stayed where I was, resting and comfortable.

It was only until much later that I learned my family was praying to Our Lady making many novenas. When I look at my CaringBridge journal, I see they jotted down their prayer request to everyone, asking our Lady to "cover me with her mantle." And she did!

When I saw this picture years later, it hit me with a jolt that I had seen her before. The dark sky is the same, the dark blue mantle and gold stars are the same. I wanted to know her name--did she have a title? No one seemed to know until finally someone did know--Our Lady of Hope, is her name. How fitting is that! Hope, when everything seemed so hopeless to my family. The doctors were preparing my family for "the worst" and everyone was losing hope. Little did they know that Our Lady of Hope was coming to spend time with me during this horrible time.

My experience has really changed my perspective on patients in comas.  I know now, that it's very possible that they are awake in some way, in a way that people and doctors don't yet understand. I was lucky to be able to remember my experience to tell people, but a lot of coma patients don't remember. For the rare times that I have known someone that has a loved one in a coma, I tell them to talk to them, and for Pete's sakes, cover them with more than just a sheet!

Seeing the picture of Our Lady of Hope compelled me to search deeper to learn the back round of the story. And for those of you who don't know it, here it is!

It happened in 1871, January 17th. A woman appeared in the sky, clothed in a dark blue veil with gold stars, with a gold crown on her head. Only six small children could see her, not the adults. One of the mothers of these children said they should call one of the religious Sisters that they knew to come see the vision, because she would be able to see it since she is "holier than the children." (I love that this didn't happen!)

After this, two small white crosses appeared on either side of her and she held in her hands a large red cross, with the inscription, Jesus Christ, which she looked at sadly.

The in gold lettering, messages began to appear in the sky, which the children read aloud for the adults:

"But pray my children!"

"God will hear you in a short time."

"My Son allows Himself to be moved with compassion."

It was the children that read these messages to the adults, who had all gathered around them. There was a large crowd gathered, with priests and religious included, praying litanies, the rosary and singing hymns.  One of the Sisters cried out, "Mother of Hope, name so sweet, pray for our country, pray for us!" And so the title of Our Lady of Hope stuck.

The red cross disappeared, and our Lady smiled at them. Then a white veil appeared which slowly covered her from head to toe, and she disappeared.

Was it our Lady of Hope that appeared to me and interceded for my family? I'm grateful for their prayers, and touched, to think that they and everyone would pray so hard for me. Even eight years later, I'm moved. This sort of thing doesn't just disappear in time, but maybe, grows fonder.

I apply those messages that she spoke to the crowd in my own situation, when things looked grim, when I was fading away, and doctors were telling my family to start to prepare themselves, that Our Lady of Hope was telling my own family, though they could not hear her:

"But pray my children. God will hear you in a short time. My Son allows Himself to be moved with compassion."

And little did they know, that she stayed with me during that time.

There are just so many bad things going on out there and sometimes it seems that God isn't listening. But my own story reminds me that He is. Sometimes my own lack of "holiness" and my sinfulness stops me from asking for His help but then I remember that He "allows Himself to be moved with compassion." So this gives me hope. I hope it gives you hope too--this is why I wanted to share!
In all situations, and especially with the world today, we have to keep up hope.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


When bad things happen in my kids lives, I encourage my kids to "get up" as soon as they can. The longer we stay down, the more prone we are to let self-pity take over. It's not just weakness, it's human weakness and we all struggle with it.

I had Bruno over for about...oh, an hour. Things were going well and then suddenly went horrible. Bruno bit Max on the face. I keep seeing it replay over and over in my head, I can't shake the image. I feel responsible both as a trainer and as a mom. What have I done wrong, where did it go bad?

And well meaning people keep reminding me to get insured. I know it's done out of love so I do not take personal offense, but it's like salt in the wound right now--reminding me how incompetent I feel. (Yes, I am getting insurance as soon as I get the money!)

I still stand by it. Bruno was not a bad dog. And the bite that happened was not because he was a Pit bull. It was because he was an under-socialized dog, kept hidden from the world. He was never allowed to experience life at all, for whatever reason that was. I try not to be judgmental of the family, simply because Joey was not socialized well either, and that was just simply from ignorance.

I do concede that the Pit Bull fighting gene probably played a part in this as well, but actually we can't say for sure. This sort of thing happens to all dogs, all sizes, all breeds. It's important to not develop a prejudice against a certain breed because all dogs deserve a chance. I also know people who have Pit Bulls--and they are good dogs. Do they go crazy eventually, like people say?? Well, it's now said that that is a myth. I still don't know what to think, personally.

After Max got bit, it was like the world just froze for a second.  I didn't even realize that he was bit at first, I thought it was just an air bite. I made Max leave the room because he became very angry with the dog, and I didn't want the dog to get scared and attack him. At least I did that much right.

Once Max left, I disciplined Bruno the best I could--he was obviously scared by our reaction and I was still reeling by what just happened. So did Bruno learn anything? Nope. He learned that bites make people back off and leave him alone. So all I could do was put him in the kennel and went to check on Max.

He was in his room, still very upset and rocking. Autism makes things a little harder--when the unexpected happens, all hell breaks loose in your home for a little while. There is nothing you can really do to calm kids with autism down, you just have to ride it out.

But when I saw blood flowing down Max's face, I nearly lost it. "He bit you??" was all I could say. An air bite was bad enough, but he bit Max??

 I promised Max that Bruno would be gone within the hour. I hugged him and told him I was sorry. I brought him upstairs away from the dog because Max was still talking about wanting to hurt the dog "to get him back." Once he had an ice pack on his nose and I put a call out to his owners to come get the dog, he calmed down a little.  I promised my family that if Bruno showed a hint of aggression (I was thinking more like a growl, not a bite) that I would have his family pick him up. I can't even begin to describe how I was feeling in that moment. Worst mother in the world. Incompetent trainer. Humiliation to it's highest. And the lowest I have felt in a really long time.

His owners felt terrible, of course. They had told me in the beginning that if training didn't work, they were going to give him away but they had a hard time figuring out how to do that with Bruno's fearful aggression. I recommended them another trainer who is extremely good at what he does, or else that they surrender the dog to a pit bull rescue, where they have experience with the breed. Honestly, I am not sure they take pits that have shown aggression. Most likely, Bruno will need to be put down. It is hard not to take all of this personally, to feel so responsible. I had a hard time saying, "Oh well, these things will happen!"

Last night I had nightmares, it's hard to explain what they were about because they were so jumbled up. But they were all about me being a criminal and everyone was out looking for me. Not self pity. Just honestly a horribly traumatizing moment of seeing your kid get bit over and over (in my head) and feeling like a failure who put him in that position.

That was yesterday. But today is a new day. Today I can forgive myself and accept that I'm not the best mother in the world, not the best trainer either. I am still new and learning. Perhaps a more experienced trainer would have been able to catch it before Max got bit. Or maybe he wouldn't. Because dogs are animals and they bite. I am thankful that if the bite had to happen at all, that it happened as soon as it did. Had I gotten comfortable with Bruno and let the kids see him later on, my guard would have been let down and things would have been much, much, worse.

God is merciful. He protected us and let Max only get a small gash on his nose (even though it's still hard for me to look at.) Bruno could have gotten Max more in the face if he wanted to. He's not a killer dog though--not yet, but he's well on his way.

Where did I go wrong? I didn't ask enough questions. I actually had an aggression packet in my hand to give to the owners to fill out before Bruno got here but I put it off, thinking I would have offended them because I wasn't sure that Bruno was aggressive since they never described him that way.

Other places I went wrong: I should have read between the lines on the intake form. I even told the owners that there were many "red flags". I saw it, but wanted to give him a chance. Lesson learned.

What I tell my kids in these low moments is that we just have get back up again and try to remember what we learned. It's ok to be humbled. It's fine to even feel low. I crawl to God in my knees in these moments and He lifts me back up again. It's good to let Him be God.

Will I ever take a Pitbull again? I don't know. I still believe there are good ones out there that need rehabilitation. But I do not yet have enough experience. I never really wanted to work with aggressive dogs in the first place, but sometimes aggression comes along with a host of other problems and people don't even notice it until the first bite.

What I can say is that I'm still going to keep trying. I'm still going to be a trainer, even if it means failing sometimes. You can't always learn just by success alone, sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes.

I emailed my trainer-friend about what happened, hoping he would have the words to somehow make me want to try again, because at that moment, I wanted to just quit. And he didn't disappoint:

Anytime ignorance or inexperience put others at risk or cause serious harm, it is healthy to feel really hard feelings. These feelings are your north star guiding you to see anything and everything that can help you continue to be strong and brave and have an impact without being arrogant or Reckless or dangerous. The sense of responsibility and the heavy burden you feel are why the world needs people like you to keep moving forward on that Journey.

And so, I will move on. I know I won't be able to fix every dog, there will be some that will be beyond my experience. I will try to remember to be humble and refer them to another more experienced trainer.
And I will always remember to, that fearful dogs can bite. Remember to socialize your dog. It is the utmost most important thing to do in order to keep things safe.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bruno and Buddy

I don't want to celebrate too early but things are picking up a bit in business, so that helps. It's coming at a steady pace, which is what I would prefer, rather than too many dogs at once.

My newest dog is a high energy Pit Bull named Bruno. When Anna heard this she gulped and said, "His name is Bruno?? Creepy!" Lol!

Bruno was supposed to start today but due to the weather, we canceled and will start tomorrow. That actually works out just fine, because for one thing, the door fell out of the basement (long story) and so that means we would have had to block the door with totes which doesn't make me feel too safe with having a high energy Pit Bull in the house. Dennis thinks he can get the door fixed by tomorrow, so that's good!

Also, with the weather, the kids have no school today and I didn't want to start my first day with Bruno with kids in the house. We are all a little nervous about working with our first Pit Bull and just trying to keep things safe by being cautious.

Buddy went home last week a mostly changed dog. He is still crazy possessive over anything that he considers to be "high value" but he is no longer dominant over them--his owner is. That's how we want it!

I forgot to show off my latest video of Buddy--so here it is! It's a little different from Cooper's.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I hope this means I've raised her up right...

This is Lucy's honest reaction to an interview between a feminist and a MAN (you will understand that in a moment.)  I was curious what her reaction would be when listening to the feminists' side of the argument. I didn't prepare her for it, explain anything about it, or try to get her to be against it. I was truly curious what her HONEST reaction would be, and I got it.

(Watch all the way to the end.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Happy Stories

As I type this, I am waiting for my laptop to shut off for about the hundredth time--something it has been doing for the past month or so that has been testing my patience, and that's putting it mildly. It will shut off without any warning, so that means many emails or videos that I'm uploading get lost. Yes, it's infuriating. Faulty cord? Yes, at first, but now it's happening somewhere deep inside the computer. I can hear something "pop" and then it shuts off.

I was wondering how and when I could get a new laptop but that didn't seem to be happening any time soon, as school loans and other commitments always come first. But then Jerry sent me a royalty check! It's never very much, but, it was just enough for a small and basic laptop! So that is my happy story #1.

Happy story #2 is that thanks to our tax returns, we were able to pay off the new diamond that's going to replace the one I lost in my wedding ring! I've been without my ring for about 4 months now, and even though I have a cheap $40 wedding band so my hand doesn't feel so naked, I've been missing my ring! I'm so excited to get it back!

Happy story #3 is that I might have a couple more clients in store for the future! One of them contacted me a while ago, and even though she said she was interested, I've not heard from her since, so I'm assuming she's waiting on training....but the other just contacted me yesterday and she heard about me through another client, so that is great! Word of mouth seems to be working the best for me so far with marketing.

Happy story #4 is that we are going to put in a fenced in area in our yard to act as a "run through" for training dogs on their recalls. Of course, we'd prefer to have the entire yard but it's too expensive right now, so for now, it will just be a small area in the back yard. Better than nothing! I'm happy!

Happy story #5 is that this summer, we're going to go on a family retreat at Schoenstatt in Sleepy Eye! Honestly, I can't say that I know much about Shoenstatt except that it's played a big part in my parents marriage and it's carried over to my sister (who's house just happens to have a big Shoenstatt retreat center in her backyard.) It's a Marian movement led by Fr.Kentinech (sp?) and his cause is up for canonization. I am hoping that doing this will help all of us grow a little closer to each other and grow stronger in our faith. I emailed the Sister in charge of the family retreats so hopefully she'll get back to me soon. Mother Mary, you will have to arrange all of this for me if you want us to get out there!

Happy Story #6 is that I made a big breakthrough with Buddy the dog, and his owner! He now walks without a leash, which is what his owner really wanted. I was so excited, because this is the first dog that I have been able to do this with, other than my own. His owner was really excited about this and I finally earned her respect (not that she has been disrespectful or anything, but was questioning everything I was saying.)

AND, we made a breakthrough with Buddy's territorial aggression towards Joey. Though I wouldn't say things are much improved yet, his owner agreed to keep Buddy coming for one more week (it was originally supposed to be only one week) so that we can make some progress. I was able to correct him and get him to submit to the situation (be ok with Joey being in the room and around his owner) and that was the first time his owner saw him like this. Usually she has to drag him out of the room, while he is lunging and barking. Now she wants to learn how to handle him as more of a leader. So prayers appreciated for safety of dogs and people, Buddy will resist this probably a few more times until he respects his owner as leader!

That is it for happy stories for now. I'm sure there are more coming, as well as the trials that must come too. Reminds that "just as the sun rise on the bad and the good, so must the rain also fall on the just and the unjust." Matthew 5:45