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Some Days are More Blessed than Others

Um, you should not be on the chair!!!

I arrived a little early and realized that I should have put the gentle leader on Lila before I left the house. I forgot how much she can pull me when she doesn’t have it on. Lila saw all the people and dogs standing up on the little knoll waiting for the priest to arrive. We jogged over to be among the crowd. (Jogging was Lila’s idea.) Lila greeted some of the other dogs, and calmed down for a little bit. It’s funny how she gravitates towards dogs that look just like her. An older set of black labs could not see what Lila was so excited about.

When Father arrived, Lila decided it would be a good time to make a wild dash towards the planter that decorates the side of the entrance to the church. I wasn’t prepared and got a little gash in my hand from trying to hold her back. If only she had her gentle leader. When we got to the planter, I didn’t see what the big attraction was.

“Come, Lila,” I said.

“Oh, she listens,” said Father. Everyone seemed to be pleased about that, and I heard a few of their chuckles.

We went back to our spot, and I noticed that our cousin, Laura, and her two dogs, Choco and Mortie, had arrived.

“Thank you for inviting us,” said Laura with a hug. I was happy to meet little Mortie. Laura and Paul adopted him the day before from the Animal Humane Society. Laura talked about how great their experience was there. They had been looking for a dog on the website for a couple of weeks, and found Mortie’s picture, went to take a look, and now they have an addition to their family!

“This is Choco’s first blessing too,” said Laura.

“I brought Music to be blessed a long time ago. I didn’t think Father had blessings for the animals any more, but then I heard about it at church this morning. I knew I had to bring Lila,” I said. Music, our first dog, was the type of dog that growled and snapped at other dogs. Music seemed calmer than usual at her blessing, and after she was splashed with the holy water, she relaxed even more. When I heard about the blessing that was coming up, I knew I had to bring Lila.

Father started the ceremony in honor of St. Francis, and Lila was more excited than calm. Lila stayed close by but wandered about to get a few more good sniffs here and there and jumped up randomly for no reason.

A young girl recited a reading, and Father talked about what a blessing it is to have pets in our lives and how God trusts us to take care of them. We prayed our pets would stay healthy, be protected from harm, and we said the “Our Father” together. Everyone spread out to make more of a circle, when Father got ready to bless the animals. I didn’t get splashed with the holy water, but I hoped Lila did.

After the blessings were over, Laura and I chatted a little while longer. It was nice to learn that Mortie and Choco are getting along pretty well, and Laura reported that Mortie appears to be house trained, which is a blessing too!

I was glad that Lila was excited to be blessed even though she hasn’t changed a bit. Going to the blessing was a good reminder of how I feel blessed to have Lila in our lives even though some days are more blessed than others!

That’s One Thing My Mother Taught Me

“I have to go to physical therapy,” I said to my Mom.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I have a herniated disc.”

“That dog is too much for you,” she said.

“Oh, no, that’s not it,” I said.

One day, after trying to get out of bed, I realized that I couldn’t bend.  There was a pain that went from my bum to the back of my knee.  I couldn’t figure out what it might be.  Since the pain came and went for quite a while, I decided to go seek medical attention.  The doctor prescribed physical therapy, and after about four sessions, I felt much better.  The physical therapist said that my problem could have been caused by a bunch of different things combined.

Mom’s words still echo in my head when Lila pulls me along on our walks.  Even though I am starting to feel much better, I still feel that nagging little pain in the rear when she pulls me along.  Other things can bring a dull ache too, but being pulled this way does not help me feel better.  I have been working with Lila and am trying to teach her not to pull me along so much.  We learned this skill at the class that we took at the Animal Humane Society.  The trick is to stop walking when the dog starts pulling.  The dog turns around and looks like you have some sort of problem.  Lila hasn’t quite figured out why I keep stopping on our walks.  My rear and I hope that someday soon she will walk with me instead of pull me along.

The other day Mom wasn’t feeling very well.  I told her that I thought she might have overdone it when she was working in the garden.

“Oh, no, that’s not it,” she said.  “I don’t think so.”

It’s funny how we stick up for the things that make us happy.  That’s one thing my Mother taught me!

Why My Dog is a Drop Out

When we first got Lila, we realized that she probably should have some type of dog training because she didn’t even know the command “sit.”  The Animal Humane Society (AHS) offered classes at a discount for people who adopted their pets there.  So, I signed us up. 

Before bringing Lila to training, there was a class for the humans to attend without the dog.  The instructor gave tips on how to train your dog not to pull when you walk with them.  We also learned about house training and what types of products to use in case puppy has an accident on the persian rug.  Instructions were also given on what to do if your dog bites or mouths people.   

The instructor then talked about clicker training.  When dogs get used to the clicker training method, all they have to do is hear the clicker, and they start salivating.  Yum!  The classes are set up in levels.  The levels are repeated over and over until you pass onto the next level.  The humans need to bring about 100 small treats to class, and she recommended not feeding your dog before training so that they are hungry and attentive.  Everyone would get a clicker when they got to class, and she informed us that there are special bags available for purchase to store the treats. 

Lila and I were all set to go the first day.  We fed her a little bit because I didn’t want to look like a piece of prime rib to Lila.  I made sure that Lila had her gentle leader on because I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to the other dogs.  Luckily I was able to strap on my own blue fanny pack which carefully held the treats that were cut up into small bite sized pieces.

I was a little worried about bringing Lila back to the AHS because I thought she might be sensitive and maybe she would worry that I was dropping her off there for good.  I was wrong.  She was very excited to go back.  Hmm.  She knew which way to go and went up the stairs to meet the grouchy receptionist at the front desk. 

“That gentle leader is not on properly,” said the receptionist.

While the receptionist tugged and pulled the gentle leader and made sure that it was as tight as could be, she stomped back behind the desk.  It wasn’t too tight because the treats still got through to the proper receptacle. 

I barely got our names written on the name tag, and Lila pulled me into the gymnasium.  We were instructed to go back in the corner.  Treats and toys were up on a table at the opposite wall of the entrance.  Chairs lined the other three walls.  Thankfully, Lila and I were close to the watering bowl.

The trainer, Bill, came over to meet Lila.  Lila barked and panted.

“Panting is a sign of being anxious,” announced Bill.  Bill swaggered around the room with his special bag of doggie treats that obviously were better than the treats I brought because I noticed that suddenly Lila was very attuned to Bill.  Lila barked and barked at Bill.  It was if she was saying, “Come back, come back.”  It was very distracting to the class, and I was slightly embarrassed.

“Feed her treats, if she barks,” said the receptionist who was now the trainer’s helper.  I thought that might be bad to feed Lila treats just because she was barking. 

Bill came back to see Lila.  “Here are our newest members,” he said.  “I am going to pick on them,” he laughed.  Bill showed us the sign for sit.  While holding a treat in your hand, hold it slightly up from the top of the nose of the dog and slide it back toward its rear, and the dog will sit.  If the dog performs the trick properly, the owner is to click the clicker and give the dog one of the treats from the special bag.  Since food was involved, Lila caught on right away.  She sat just great.  I was so proud.

After the dogs and the people learned the sign for sit, we taught the dogs how to sit by voicing our commands.  If the dog did not listen to us, we were to use the sign.  We taught them how to sit by our side while being greeted by a “stranger” (i.e., Bill or the assistant).  The dog also needed to be able to eat treats from our hand without biting us.  Lila did this very well!  I, though, had a hard time holding onto the clicker, getting a treat out of the fanny pack before Lila forgot why she was getting a treat, and holding the leash down with my foot so my dog wouldn’t escape and tackle the treats on the table.

When the class was about halfway through, Lila decided that she had enough, and laid down to take a nap.  She must have been full, plus it was right around her bedtime.  She laid down, paws out front and yawned, her head resting on her legs, obviously bored.

The next Thursday night we did the same thing.  It was like that movie, “Ground Hog’s Day.”  Everything was repeated, except that the gentle leader did not have to get readjusted.  Lila and I stayed in the same level for about five weeks just hoping and dreaming to graduate onto the next level.  In order to pass the class, the dog has to do all these things without treats.  I knew we were doomed from the beginning. 

I helped Lila become a drop out because I rarely practiced with her.  The time of the class didn’t help either because Lila gets tired during that time of day.  I mean, how many treats are you suppose to give a dog?  All those treats upset the natural order of things, if you know what I mean.  Messy!

I guess the class was worth it because at least Lila knows how to sit on command now, and we do communicate a little better with each other.  There are still times when I think Lila could use some more training so I think I am going to go to the library and get a book.  Let me know if you have any good suggestions. 

This type of training is not all its clicked up to be.

Love is Blind

“Is that a new dog?” our neighbor asked as she was walking with her son’s dog by our house the other day.

“Yes, this is our dog, Lila,” I said, as I wearily smiled. 

“She is really different from your other dog.  This dog looks like she has more energy.  She has more energy, when you now have less,” she jokingly said.

“This is true,” was all I could say.

I know I fell in love with our new dog right away, but, seriously, what was I thinking? Actually, I wasn’t thinking. It was my heart that got in the way or maybe it was some sort of divine intervention.

To me, Lila is a big dog – 60 pounds, and she has more energy in one day than I ever had put all together in my whole life! Now that I am technically over-the-hill, what do I do when I am supposed to be wiser and catching up on my rest so that I can perform at my best and try to keep up with all the people who are not over-the-hill?  I go fall in love with a two-year-old puppy that pulls me along on walks, wants to play fetch, wants to play tug-of-war with a rope or a brand new garden hose, wakes me up before the sun rises, and chews on things like a library book and my shoes that I now have to pick up and hide somewhere! Plus, Lila has been blessed with a very powerful bark that can knock me out of my chair sometimes.  Thankfully, I did not fall over and die of a heart attack the first time I heard her woof.

Even though my husband agreed to the adoption of Lila sight unseen because he thought it would make our family happy, I try to calm his nerves when our dear new doggie dug up parts of the beautiful yard that he so meticulously cares for, chewed up his favorite baseball cap, and finds his boxers and hides them in the family room.  

I pray that all my parts function so that I can care for Lila the way that she needs to be cared for.  I look forward to all the walks we will be going on together, the times I will take her to and watch her run at the dog park, and when I throw a tennis ball to her so that she can bring it back to me – oh please bring it back so I don’t have to go chasing after it!

When people ask “Why did you get such a big dog, what was the attraction?” My only explanation is that love is blind.  I really feel like Lila was meant to be a part of our family.  She is bringing smiles to our faces that would not have been there without her. Even though Lila has a lot to learn and we are learning how to teach her, she is getting me up off the sofa more times than I thought possible.  Life is definitely not boring with Lila around!

Besides, the way I figure, we will both be the same age in a little over six years!

This is the Saturday morning blog hop.  Get your link and see who else is participating here.

Northern Minnesota Dog Moves to The Suburbs

All our family knows about Lila’s past life is that she came to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley from a coalition shelter up in northern Minnesota.  I was surprised that we couldn’t learn more about Lila’s background.  I didn’t really think there would be much difference in a dog that came from northern Minnesota.

As we were leaving the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society on the day of Lila’s adoption, Lila jumped back when see saw the large, bronze statue of St. Francis.  St. Francis welcomes visitors with one hand outstretched towards a bronze dog with a bronze bird perched on his shoulder.  Lila relaxed and the bounce returned to her step when she realized that the looming statue was not alive.  We decided that this was Lila’s first encounter with a large statue either in or outside of northern Minnesota.

When we opened the door to our mini-van, we expected Lila to hop right in and find a comfortable seat, but she would not budge.  We pushed her rear, we snapped our fingers in front of her face, we talked in very sweet voices, but she would not move one inch.  My daughter, Laura, lifted Lila up and placed all 60 pounds of dog behind the front passenger’s seat.  As we drove away, Lila stood on the floor of the van and looked out the side window occasionally.  Lila was not intrigued by the passing scenery but was mostly trying to concentrate on which leg to stand on so that she would not fall over in the moving vehicle.  We decided that Lila was not a dog that got to go for rides in northern Minnesota.

After arriving home, Lila christened our front yard with a big surprise that we were glad did not happen inside the house.   When we took her for a walk, she looked up at the airplanes that flew overhead as if she had never seen such a thing before.  She also watched each car as it drove by.  I like to watch her ears as they twitch at each different sound.  We decided that there were many new sounds for Lila to get used to now that she doesn’t live in northern Minnesota.

As we were getting ready for bed, we thought Lila would want to be with the rest of the family during the night and join us upstairs.  Some silly suburban dwellers let dogs sleep in their bedrooms.  When Laura went upstairs, Lila got confused and went to look down the basement steps to see if she could find Laura there.  We tried to get Lila to climb the steps, but we soon realized that stairs were something she never tackled before.  Again all our cajoling did not work, and Lila slept on the main floor that first night, and she still sleeps there today.  We decided that Lila is used to sleeping alone because that is what she must have done when she lived in northern Minnesota.

When there was a thunderstorm, Lila stood next to the house and appeared to have a knowing look on her face like she knew that thunderstorms are something that just happen and there is nothing that can be done to stop them.  She didn’t get scared and want to be in the house like some dogs do.  We decided that she was used to being outside during storms when she lived in northern Minnesota.

We were so excited to get to know our dog, and we were anxiously awaiting to become better friends.  Since Lila developed kennel cough a few days after she came home, she was very lethargic and rested for many days.  She did not want to play or go for long walks with us.  When we got her to stay outside for a little bit, we thought it was a little strange that she liked to sit on or hide under the bushes.  We decided that Lila took naps in bushes when she lived in northern Minnesota.

When we give her little milkbone treats, she happily eats some of them and then hides the others.  We can tell that she is going to bury a bone when she just holds the bone in her mouth with a very serious and intent look on her face.  After making it known that she needs to go outside, Lila very carefully digs a hole, places the bone inside, and covers up the hole with the top of her nose.  She is very neat with her method of burying bones.  So neat, that we have not seen her retrieve any of them.  We decided that Lila used this trick when she lived in northern Minnesota.

The first time Lila noticed her reflection in a mirror, she barked at what she thought was another dog.  It seems as if the television is a new invention to her also.  We decided that Lila spent most of her time outside when she lived in northern Minnesota.

I wonder does she miss where she used to live?  Did she get to be off her leash all the time and wander about northern Minnesota?  Did she have her own dog house to hang out in?  Were there other animals around her there?  Does she wonder why we put her on a leash and tie her up all the time?  Does she wonder why we go with her when she does her daily duties, and why we always carry around plastic bags?

We decided that Lila likes this new beginning, and all the love she is getting, even though she is no longer living in northern Minnesota.

This is part of the Saturday morning blog hop.  To link up to other blog posts, click here.