Tag Archives: Accepting your dog

Defining Raising

If you were unaware, a couple weeks ago at the Huffington Post it was Huff Post Pit Bull Week. Basically, for the entire week advocates, trainers, behaviorists, and just plain Pit Bull lovers wrote and shared stories combating misconceptions about the breed. Many stories were beautiful, funny, and really moving. I enjoyed these authors sharing their wonderful pictures of their own dogs and such personal stories. As much as I loved and appreciated these authors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I agreed with everything they had to say (or write).

One of the main sticking points that many authors touched upon was the idea of “it’s all how they are raised.” Many authors brought up the example of the Michael Vick dogs. Stating that obviously those dogs were “raised” to be fighting dogs, authors argued against using the popular euphemism because it was clearly untrue. Those specific Pit Bulls have been able to go on to live wonderful, happy lives and many of them are good-natured and friendly. So, evidently it is not the way that Pit Bulls, and dogs in general, are “raised” that makes them good dogs or not because dogs have a greater capacity to be good, despite people’s past actions unto them.

I get it. I understand the point being made. Dogs are born good. It is what people do to them that has the potential to mold them into something not quite so great, and many times regardless of humans’ actions dogs are still good. Breed matters not here.

And still, I find myself having to say it. . .
I disagree.

I truly do believe that it is how a dog (Pit Bull, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, Yorkie, and any other breed that exists in this world) is raised that makes all the difference. Regardless of whether or not a dog is born good, “raising” him or her will always have a big impact on how that goodness shines through.

IMG_2025
One day he’ll teach us all his secrets.

You want to know why?

Because even when my dogs are ten years old, closing in on their twilight years, and slowing down just a little bit I will still be raising them.

IMG_1439
She thinks if she steals it then it might magically refill itself.

I do not believe that “raising” a dog ever really ends. I am firmly living in the camp that raising something, whether it be a dog, a child, or even a goldfish, never stops. The “thing” always has something to learn and be taught, as there are always new lessons to live by. To me “raising” is defined as the ways in which something, an animal or little human, is educated throughout its entire lifetime, not just during a very specific and narrow time frame.

Can you teach old dogs new tricks? It seems that these authors would have me believe that they can’t if they truly believe that “raising” a dog ends after year one. Throughout their stories many authors implied that they adopted their lovable pooches after they were a year old and so, the time for “raising” had obviously passed. However, I can tell you from my own experience that “raising” my two rascals has not ended with year one. Simon (who is working past year three) has just recently learned to consistently Drop It, and Rosee (who is just closing in on year three) is still working to curb her kleptomaniac ways. So, I am still effectively “raising” them and will continue to do so until they leave this earth. My job will not end just because they reach a certain age or because they have learned a specific number of commands. My job will end when there is no more Simon and Rosee, and I hope that that time does not happen upon me for many (many) more years.

IMG_2218
He’s going to let go any minute now. Any minute.

If someone were to say to me “It’s all how they are raised” I would say “Yes, it is.” Because if someone is saying this to me, they are saying it in regards to my dogs whom I have raised. And no, I was not a part of Simon or Rosee’s lives in the beginning, you know during that crucial first year. Honestly, my mother adopted Simon when I was going off to graduate school. While I was home for the summer, the rest of the year and the next I lived six hours away. Sure, I came home on holidays, but I was not raising Simon during this time. It’s a similar story for Rosee. My family adopted her during my second year of school, so again I missed the end of that first year for her (and she was initially raised by a shelter anyway). But I have raised my dogs because since I have been home, finished with school and moving on with my life, I have been one (of the ones) to train, care for, and love Simon and Rosee. I have raised my dogs, and when people tell me “It’s all how they are raised” I can agree because in that moment when it is said it is being said about my dogs as are they are in that specific point in time.

IMG_1157
Look! A trained potato.

People we pass daily on our walks have said similar things. In fact, one woman we pass by all the time has mentioned each time that the dogs keep getting better. (And she should know. We used to have to walk across the street from her. Now, we only need a foot in between.) Every time we are out in the world Simon and Rosee are a direct reflection of me as an owner. Their triumphs are my triumphs. Their failures are my failures. If someone is to judge their behavior out on a walk, they are judging my raising skills, not the ones of Simon and Rosee’s past. No one else knows that Rosee lived in a shelter for eight months, or that Simon was taken from his mother too early and lacked early socialization. All anybody else knows is that in that particular moment they look like (hopefully) good, trained dogs. Whereas the authors of these other stories use this reason as to why you can’t say “It’s all how they are raised,” I say this is why you can say it. By saying this people are judging the way the dog is now, and as of now said dog is not being “raised” in some terrible way. (Or else the raisers wouldn’t be advocates, trainers, behaviorists, or lovers would they?)

IMG_1718
Her Beach Motto: Leave no stick un-turned.

My beliefs are also not breed specific. This does not only apply to Pit Bulls (and their owners), they just tend to be the ones held under the most intense scrutiny. When I see an unruly Chihuahua and an owner not paying it any mind I can safely assume that it was “raised” without boundaries or limitations. When I see a very excited Boxer with its owner firmly telling it to “Leave it” I can also safely assume that they’re working on it and I applaud their hard work and determination. Each dog is a firm reflection of their owner (sometimes quite literally) and each owner should take pride in that. I know I do.

IMG_2209
I like to think that he gets his “serious face” from me.

Feel free to disagree with me, or even think something completely different than either opinion shared here. Having an opinion is, in fact, one of the great aspects of the human condition. Just please don’t feel the need to ask me to stop happily accepting “It’s all how they are raised” because it means something deeply personal to me. For my dogs Simon and Rosee it is how they have been raised that makes them good dogs. It’s how I and my sister and mother and stepdad have been and will continue to raise them that make them good dogs. It is an acknowledgment of all of the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into making sure Simon and Rosee are happy, healthy, and content dogs, not just the undeniable fact that they were born good, but that they in fact are and will continue to be good. It’s a euphemism that recognizes both the canine’s inherent goodness and the human impact that builds upon such greatness. So. . .

IMG_1500
Happy girl!

Thanks for the compliment.

Pawndered Thought: June 23, 2015

I read an article the other day written by a woman who basically laid out her argument for why people thinking of or calling their pets babies is an insult to mothers everywhere, herself particularly included. We live in a world where everyone gets to state their opinion, so I guess I’d like to take a moment to pawnder my own thoughts on such an argument.

You see, I find myself having been and being two different people. I like to think that pre-dog I was a good person. I cared about the world, was considerate of other cultures, tried to reel in my judgmental nature, and I always deferred to those who I suspected knew better than me, such as older adults who liked to give me “advice” about my future, while still staying true to myself and my own nature.

Yet, post-adopting dogs, because of the trials and tribulations such events are known to cause, I find myself more compassionate, caring, and loving than ever before, not to mention more active and happy because of them too (see Living Life with a High-Energy Dog). Simon and Rosee have taught me that when you love something so much you are willing to put up with its highs, lows, and even eccentricities, and put in the effort, no matter how tiring, to ensure that that something stays content and happy for the rest of its life. And I think, perhaps that is where my opinion differs from the insulted author.

I would go to the end of the world for my dogs, put myself in between them and an attacker, examine their poop with my bare hands to check for certain illnesses, get sprayed with errant pee when Simon doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going, put out hundreds of dollars on toys, medicine, and treats, and so much more. In fact, I have done all of this, just like I’m sure so many other pet owners and lovers have done for their own bundles of joy.

Pets, like real human babies, do much more for people than simply take up space in their homes.

So you see, I was a good person.

photo(1)Dogs make me great.

Living Life with a High-Energy Dog

So, you may have read this once or twice throughout your time on this blog, but I have a dog. This dog is named Simon. Simon likes to play. If allowed, Simon would probably play up to twenty-three hours a day. You say, “No, that’s physically impossible! A dog couldn’t and wouldn’t stay awake for so long just to play.” And I would be fast to answer, “Clearly, you just haven’t met Simon.” Of course, I don’t mean this rudely or in an over-inflated kind of way. I honestly believe that if Simon had his way he would stay awake and play with his squeaky toys for twenty-three hours a day!

IMG_1688The truth of the matter is when Simon was little he always had a very difficult time giving himself boundaries. Simon would be tired because he had been awake all day long, yet he would fight any attempts his body made to actually fall asleep. As a puppy Simon would valiantly battle Sleep and Exhaustion, looking to put them in their place and rise above their glaring drowsy-inducing abilities as only Simon could. However, even the best knight could not win the battle or the war and snoozing was soon heard throughout the land.

That doesn’t mean that there were no battle wounds though.

As a little guy my sister Theresa and I basically had to force Simon to rest. This meant pushing him into a nice quiet room by himself, with his bed set up so that he would have no choice but to sleep. And he slept, after about an hour or so of whining first. We tried other methods as well, putting him in his kennel with a sheet over it to make him feel a little more content and willing to sleep, except not so much. We tethered him to his bed in the front room, thinking that with nowhere to go he would eventually submit. He did. . . .eventually. We would ignore him, take away all of his toys, be quiet and still, and yet he would sit there staring and whining at us. His little puppy eyes would be begging to close every three seconds and still his dogged spirit to remain awake would persist.

And man, he is so grouchy when he’s tired, but won’t sleep. He snarls and snaps a little more than usual. He runs slower. He jumps up a little bit more. He’s much more talkative about everything, crying just because he can. In fact, I think he cries because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself. He knows he’s tired, I know he’s tired and yet he still persists in acting like “How dare you insinuate I am anything other than perfectly wide awake!”

Hiding under the swing
Hiding under the swing

Why does he do this? I only know that Simon, since the time my family adopted him at six weeks old to now (currently at three and a half years old) has always had an almost insurmountable amount of energy constantly bottled up inside his little 75lb body. He’s the type of dog that needs to go on a walk at least once a day, no if, ands, or buts. If Simon doesn’t get his daily walk he is truly a monster. He will be awake from six in the morning to ten at night. He will jump on every counter, look constantly for food, rush into the garage through the cat door any chance he gets, pick wrestling matches with Rosee all afternoon, want to play with his squeaky toy outside regardless of the weather, and constantly bark at whoever is around him. He’s just got so much energy coursing through his veins that he needs some type of outlet, and walks are a good start. Our daily walks consist of forty-five minutes to an hour of fast-paced walking, taking rights and lefts, relentless in our pursuit of new corners to explore in our neighborhoods. And I don’t write this to brag. I write this for awareness.

I’m sure Simon is not the only dog who has insatiable levels of energy. Truth is I just never knew dogs like him existed until I got one of my own. All the dogs I had met in my past had been the usual suspects, maintaining more balanced levels of energy, and I guess being more “normal” in that when they were tired they actually laid down and rested. Simon, still to this day has a difficult time doing this. Even before his daily walks, he usually needs to play with his squeaky toys for about thirty minutes, and then after his walks he walks around the house not really laying down until about a half hour after we first got back. You could say this is just his time to calm and cool down, and this may be true. However, he doesn’t just cool off, he jumps up on the couches, barks at strange noises, and goes in and out the back door about five times, then he finally, finally lays down.

IMG_1606Rosee, while maybe not being his polar opposite, has shown me over time that most dogs see sense in listening to their inner voices when it comes to being tired and needing rest. The only inner voice Simon seems to listen to is “Food!” The point is, Rosee may also be an energetic and upbeat dog, but even she pales in comparison to the ball of vigor that is her brother. So, while Rosee appreciates her daily walks as much as Simon, when we drag her outside in the afternoon on at least two separate occasions she usually fails to grasp the necessity of such hefty endeavors. She hardly appreciates being forced outside to watch Simon run after some silly ball, even if it squeaks!

The fact remains that before Simon, and Rosee too, I was what could potentially be called a couch potato. I enjoyed watching television, reading books, and surfing the web. Not many of my extra-curricular activities included doing much of anything too active. Yet, the moment my mom came home with a ten pound bundle that became known as Simon (he went through many names his first few days) life would cease to be laid back or God-forbid boring ever again.

A hard fought victory for some down time
A hard fought victory for some down time

Getting a dog, especially one with such a high energy level like Simon was certainly an adjustment, one that even three years later I still am getting used to. It’s the daily walks, the multiple daily sessions of playing fetch, the weekend trips to the lake or the beach, and the hour-long hikes at local reserves. Life has become so much more involved and exciting since getting dogs and practically being forced to turn my potato-lifestyle into one more reminiscent of the Energizer Bunny.

Dogs are a commitment. High-energy dogs feel like a commitment and a half. There are some days where I would give anything just to put Simon in the backyard and leave him there because he just won’t leave me alone. Other days he is still bouncing off the walls, but I appreciate his ability to make me move throughout the day. Most days though, all the looks of endless love he throws my way in between his whines for attention make me love him even more than the day before.

So, don’t be daunted by a pup that has a seemingly endless love for life and all it has to offer. Instead take a lesson from that pup. Throw yourself into life and whatever makes you happy with wild abandon, you might just be glad you did.

Even the girl gets in on the action every once in a while
Even the girl gets in on the action every once in a while