Manic Mondays: Love is Wearing a Fanny Pack for your Dog

MrHappyandErin_edited-1

Forced breeding in a tiny pen.

Kerosene baths.

Ignorant, abusive families.

This is how Mr. Happy spent the first two-and-a-half years of his life before we met him that October morning in 2010.  Despite being a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, Mr. Happy always shows so much affection toward people.

Mr. Happy’s problem is other dogs and his dislike of them.  This is known as dog-fear aggression. Our vet worked with us to determine that the likely cause of the fear-aggression was the lack of socialization with other dogs when Mr. Happy was a puppy. The Lhasa side of Mr. Happy requires early socialization our vet opined.

So where did we go from here?

Addressing dog-fear aggression should only be at the direction of an experienced dog trainer.  You can watch all the videos you want on Animal Planet or You Tube, but you are potentially making the situation worse by doing so.

Finding a trainer is a challenge.  A basic obedience course will not do the trick and putting your dog in that type of class can make them more fearful.  I called a variety of trainers, including one person who said, without even meeting my dog, that Mr. Happy was a lost cause.  That kind of blanket statement just pushed me to work harder.

We ended up enrolling Mr. Happy at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey. There were a few other programs in our area, but St. Hubert’s offered a more comprehensive and holistic approach in it’s three-level “Feisty Fidos” program.

On a snowy March Day in 2011, Mr. Happy and I waited in my car until we were summoned to the class (you don’t let nutty dogs just walk in all at once).  Mr. Happy looked annoyed because he had to wear a muzzle, martingale collar and snoot loop.  I rocked old sweats and a big blue fanny pack full of “high value treats” (a bag full of dog favorites — fresh meat).  All I was missing was a shirt that said “Crazy Dog Owner”.

Over the course of 8 weeks, I crawled around on the floor of a large training facility trying to get Mr. Happy to realize that the other dogs aren’t so bad.   We practiced leash handling, dog massage and distraction techniques.  The team of trainers made sure each of us got individual attention.  We were among our “peeps” — dogs who had challenges of being with other dogs, and their owners who would stop at nothing to help improve their dog’s behavior.

Slowly, Mr. Happy improved.  He became less reactive around other dogs.  He learned to listen to me.  He realized that this house wasn’t going to give up on him.

I improved too.  I learned to walk Mr. Happy with more authority.  I gained an understanding of how to read Mr. Happy’s body language for signs of stress.  I internalized that Mr. Happy’s past was behind us and I shouldn’t allow my sympathy for what happened to him cloud how I help him to improve.

At the end of the 8 weeks, Mr. Happy graduated.  In his red file folder of woe, the one that tells his life story before he moved in with us, proudly sits his dog school diploma.

A few weeks later we went on to Feisty Fidos Level 2, which is outdoors and requires your dog to handle other feisty dogs and stranger dogs walking around the St. Hubert’s complex.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t trade in that bright blue fanny pack and this time I had to wear it in public.  Mr. Happy did well.  Maybe it was the early pregnancy hormones, but it broke my heart when I actually saw him walk side-by-side next to another dog.  Yes all dogs deserve a second chance.

Believe it or not, Mr. Happy actually got an invite to Level 3 too.   You would have thought my dog landed a role in a major movie the way I bounced around with excitement.   Level 3 means that Mr. Happy would go once a week to a special dog park for other feisty dogs.   They  play off-leash and learn the rules of the dog world.  I’ll probably have to dust off my fanny pack so Mr. Happy can attend, but it will be worth it so Mr. Happy can keep on shaking off his previous life.  .

 

 

Overheard from the Baby Monitor: Brightest Kid at Day Care

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com

Like any parent, The Chief and I want the best for our dear Cuppy.   Well I guess one morning, The Chief didn’t want Cuppy to miss the watchful eyes of her teachers so she can get the most attention in day care.  Cuppy came downstairs, and let’s just say from the color and the mismatched prints, I didn’t need a coffee that day.

Warning you may need your sunglasses for this dizzying outfit.  

Brightest Kid at Day Care

Brightest Kid at Day Care

Once the burn leaves your eyes from this selection, keep in mind that this photo has the Instagram glow on it.  Speaking of Instagram, WoofTweetWaah is on that site.   I’m always looking for new folks to follow, especially those who are skilled enough to figure out how to make their Instagram photos look arty (it is like a mobile art museum).

For more Overheard from the Baby Monitor, click here.   Got a parenting blooper, e-mail wooftweetwaahATgmailDOTcom.  I’d love to feature you!

– Photo Credit for the Baby Monitor: iStockPhoto.com

 

 

 

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Princess Power! A “Letter” to the Royals

Photo Credit:  jessiexscott@flickr.com

Photo Credit: jessiexscott@flickr.com

 

Dear Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,

Many congratulations on the happy and healthy birth of Prince George.   Yes his name has the ring of a bad 80s cover band, but it is a lot better than the American tradition of picking something completely wackadoo.  Thank you for not naming him “HRH Prince London River Thames Downton Abbey Wham Crumpets”.    That said, I am a bit disappointed you didn’t pick Bond James Bond.  You gotta admit that would be a pretty kickass monarch’s name.   You still have time – the ink probably isn’t dry on the birth certificate yet.

So I have to say, you must have cashed in all your chips with the Big Guy when Prince George was born.  How else could you have the ability to leave the hospital with perfect hair only 24 hours after giving birth?   That is divine intervention!

I think you should ride this wave of power from above and address some of the problems in the world.  As royalty, I am sure you receive plenty of correspondence asking you to address real terrible issues in our world (like women’s safety, health and empowerment matters), and those should certainly be your top priority.  But just in case you have a free afternoon during the First Sunday in the middle of the week, I wanted to bring the Top 10 first world parent “problems” to your attention:

  1. Downton Dilemma.   Pretty sure I thought the US and UK were allies.  I’m starting to question that “friendship.”  Why?  Well, “friends” wouldn’t permit Downton Abbey to show in the UK, while the US viewers have to wait months for a new season.  Quick history recap, unequal treatment really doesn’t make Americans happy.  For example, that taxation without representation bit didn’t work out so well. Sad but true, we take our TV viewing about as serious as our desire not to pay extra taxes.   There is an international crises brewing here.
  2. Happy Hour Blues.   Peas go with carrots.  Cookies go with milk. What about playgrounds with a beer garden.  Fun for all.  Parents are happy.  Kids are happy. And no one needs to use an iPad to reach this goal.  Wins for all.
  3. Overzealous Opinions.  From the supermarket to family gatherings, parents can’t escape unwanted opinions.   How about a gadget that allows you to just shut down all that noise?   I think it’s called a clapper.
  4. Target Overspending.  There is something about those red circles at Target that keep parents spending, spending, spending.   Intervention is needed!
  5. MIA Sleep.  Let’s face it, those pre-dawn wake up calls really do not help any of us win parent of the year.  How about a baby snooze button to sleep in until after 8:00AM?
  6. Bathroom Invasion.   You are safe from this for the next 8 months, but be afraid.  Very afraid.  It caught me off-guard.  The telltale signs are: The hand under the door.  The bang.  The barge in.  All just as you are trying to have 2 minutes of quiet to empty your bladder.  Millions of homes face this challenge.   Orkin does not have a solution.  Some sort child restraint for bathroom doors are needed. 
  7. Uncomfortable Attire.  I get that you are always well-dressed.  But you have to admit, sweatpants are much more comfortable than a skirt?   They do make fancy sweats. People wear them in the NJ malls all the time, complete with UGGs in the winter and flip-flops in the summer. Now that’s classy with a “K”.
  8. Overachieving parents.  You must have a random closet in your third vacation home where these Pinterest-addicted parents can “add value”.  Think of it as opening a rehab facility – maybe there is a tax deduction.
  9. Doctor offices waits.  If the pizza company can get a pie to me in less than 30 minutes, why do I have to wait in a germ infested doctor office to get an ear infection checked out?  You have to understand that those toddler apps really drain the battery on your phone.  I need that battery to update my FB status to complain about how annoyed I am that I am stuck at the doctor office.
  10. Lack of stylish spit-up repellent clothing.  I am sure your McQueen designed team friends can whip something up, right?

Again, congratulations on Prince George.  May you enjoy every second of motherhood.  Thank you for your consideration of these “important” requests.

Kindest Regards,

Erin

Photo Credit Link:  http://flic.kr/p/eaCieA

 

 

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Lost & Found: My Writing Space

Did I win the lottery?  I wish – about 6 numbers off.

Did I move into a cave?  Ha, I won’t even stay at a hotel that charges for internet.

Did the baby (now a toddler), the dog and the bird take me hostage and lock me in our roller skate of an SUV?  Almost, thank God they can’t drive!  Who knows where I would be right now.

WriterSpace_edited-1

The reality.  For a period, I lost all focus on my writing.  Maybe it was self-doubt that my writing is actually interesting in this endless sea of writers.  Likely it was allowing life take over my free time.  Mostly certainly, it was the evil person who introduced me to Words with Friends, Dice with Buddies and Candy Crush.

In early 2013, The Chief gave me the best gift.   A gift only your best friend can give you.   He came to the rescue when he spotted some free writing events in my area.  Now if only he gave me a new handbag too, he’d hit saint level.

One of these programs was the swift kick in the rear that I needed.  It was a local author, who offered honest feedback on overcoming the pitfalls of writing.   “You need to find your writing space,” she said to a zany group of local novice writers at our library.  “No joke Sherlock – want to find a spot of free space in my too small apartment piled high with moving boxes – good luck, I barely have enough space to bubble wrap another wine glass,” I thought.  The speaker clarified that we each needed to find physical, mental and emotional space to write.

Oh, so this is a philosophical/social-psych question.  Guess I missed the plate of special brownies.   The author worked with us to help us find this “space” in our lives.

From this session, my writing picked up again.   By the stroke of luck of what came off the pen during a free writing session, my children’s book series started to take shape.   Characters who I dreamed of on long drives with The Chief came to life on the pages in front of me.   My children’s book series and my (surprise) picture book are not quite ready for a publisher’s eye, but I made significant progress and continue to do so.

As much as I love my book writing – the character development, the balance of building a descriptive plot with the comprehension skills of children, you name it – I missed the fun blog writing offered.  I missed commenting on current events, engaging with other bloggers and offering parenting snark.  I am happy to be back and engaged in online writing.  Now better organized (what, what schedules keep you organized, say what!),  I return to blogging committed to my goal of offering an insider look into managing my wild and crazy bunch.

Grab your ear plugs, my life is louder than it has ever been before.

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