Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I am thankful.

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, and it was also the Labracollie twin's 3rd birthday... so insert long, sappy blog entry here.

Come on, you knew it was coming.

Crasher Trasher has been with me since April now. He came to me on easter day as a 'foster' dog, and of course, that didn't go as I'd planned for. I'd have been better off naming him Temporary. In the short time he's been with me, Crash has quickly grown from a crazy, spinning stressy mess to a real dog. On his three year birthday, he attended his first obedience class, and he rocked it, for lack of better words. I went into the class expecting Crash to bark, spin, chase flies and over all just not pay attention at all. I had low expectations, warned the instructor that he'd be a challenge, and warned the rest of my class that he's a loud boy who loves to hear himself bark. We went into class 30 minutes early. I wanted to be there before everyone else so that we could slowly adjust to more and more dogs. He barked once. Before class, and it was a "hey, Shay, play with me!" bark. We were being foolish and he looked at me and barked. No big deal, a quick, "shh" and he was done, standing watching me and wagging his tail. 6 dogs came in after that, most dogs with 2 handlers, plus the instructor and her helper, as well as the instructors dogs who were in runs into the room. He only flicked an ear when the last dog came in. I was so proud. And by the end of class he was just laying down at my feet, relaxing, while everyone else was working, because Crash was steps ahead of where I thought he'd be and had a good knowledge of everything we tried. He even had an obnoxious lab come into his face at one point and still, he only backed up because I was stepping into him, trying to keep him from the lab because I didn't trust that dog. I trusted him, but I didn't want my boy set back because of an out of control dog.

I'll be the first to admit I didn't think I was ready for Crash when I brought him home. In my mind he would be a foster dog because I just couldn't fathom another dog after losing Bella. I think I thought I would only have a GSD after because half of me though a GSD would relink me to Bella. I knew that was wrong the day I looked down at Crash and swore Bella was staring back at me. I knew then he was here to stay.

Now Psyche has been with me for much longer. Going on 3 years in March. (Does that math sound right?) And she has been a special part of my life since then. When I lost Bella she was the only thing that kept me going. I'd entered her in a trial the day after Bella's death and mom forced me to take her, even though I really didn't want to. I'm glad I did.
I think that first day of the trial was the day I realized that if I stick by her, she'll stick by me. Psyche is truly an amazing dog. Sometimes I think she understands every word I say to her, and somedays I think she knows me better then I know myself. She's loyal and devoted and the human race could learn a thing or two from her.
When I look back on the day I brought her home, in March 2009, I look back and see a timid, scared little puppy. Exactly what I wouldn't want if I were looking for a puppy now. And yet, somehow, Psyche, who's not exactly the dog I thought I wanted, is exactly the dog I needed. I guess that's what's most important, right? Things worked out so that Psyche and I found each other. Even though I'd been looking at litters of pups, dogs in the shelters, breeders hours away... everywhere but where I found her, somehow, someway I still found her... or she found me. I'm not really quite sure how that worked. But it worked. And thank god for that. Although a lot of people would call me crazy (yeah, I know right now all of you are nodding going, "yeah, she is pretty crazy."), Psyche keeps me as sane as I am. Being around her makes me feel better. I look forward to time with her like I do with my human family and friends. She's a very special dog.

My twins sure are something special. From Crash's insane eye contact to Psyche's neurotic teeth chattering, they're each a little different, and a little the same. Even if a year down the road I find out they're of no relation at all, these two are siblings. They love each other the way all families should. When I think of Crash and Psyche I think of play sessions where one gets a little too obnoxious but backs off when the other says stop, I think of them chasing the chuck it, one throwing him/herself into the air, missing, and the other doing the same, and missing again, I think of them swimming in the pond, Psyche waiting for Crash to drop whatever he has in his mouth before he does his swamp monster impersonation.

To end it all on a really simple note, I'm thankful for Psyche and Crash, now while celebrating their 3rd birthday, and everyday for everything they do for me, without even knowing they do it at all.

Happy birthday, Labracollies!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harder than I thought it would be.

Last night I returned to the trainer and training facility I spent so much time in with Bella. I'm starting Crash in an obedience course and went last night for the intro without the dogs there.

Walking up the drive way was strange. It's been probably two years at least since I was there, but I didn't think too much about the tightening in my chest walking up. Then I went inside and without even realizing my eyes were drawn to our spot. We had a spot in the room where Bella and I stayed, because there we could say far enough away from the other dogs to sometimes get a bit of work done. Then I looked around and realized the trainers dogs were out, and there was Maxi, a saluki Bella once hit with her teeth who screamed and screamed afterwards, and I was gone. Back into the basement of my trainer's house where we'd been working with Bella, me sitting away from her, trying to get her to be calm around Maxi. I wasn't there at the facility getting ready to start training Crash, I was back 3 years, to when I had Bella at her house for a summer of day long privates three times a week.

Brought back to the present I listened and absorbed as much as I could about the training program, even though I knew all of it already, but my eyes kept going to her spot. When I pictured myself in this room, I pictured myself with Bella at my side. I remembered the spot we were in the first day she went to class, when her issues first really showed their face. I remembered getting her fitted for her gentle leader... going over to a easy walk... working private sessions with my trainer and her dogs... and the day we worked on greeting new strangers and I walked away from her, and Bella was tied to the wall, crying, literally crying, and throwing herself at the wall, devastated I'd left her.

It was way harder then I thought it would be. Hard for me to smile when the trainer introduced me to the owner of a GSD puppy as the "girl with Shepherd experience -- she owned the GSD from hell." Hard to smile when her assistant looked at me and said, "I remember hearing about you, but never got the chance to meet Bella."

It was just hard.

But I'm excited to go back--to face those memories, embrace them, and make new ones with Crash. I know that he'll help me through each night there, and that when memories resurface he'll help me cope, and help me build new memories that will go side by side to my memories of Bella.

I think I'm probably a little scared too. Scared that Crash will have the same issues Bella did, even though he's shown NO signs at all. Scared that somehow, someway, I'll be that same girl, coming in with the 'bad dog' and leaving with bruises on my ribs, tears on my face.

But here's hoping Bella's there in spirit, giving Crash a quick tuning when he's getting just a bit out of hand, and keeping us straight on the path we're supposed to be on.

And as a side note, my trainer lost her 15 year old Golden Retriever last week, and I hope he and Bella have found each other, where ever they are, and maybe on Monday nights they'll somehow know their owners are working together again, after several years they weren't.