welcome back to the blog, take two

So the puppies are just shy of 6 months old which means time with them is like the 10 year old coming of age: full of embracing curiosities, sealing ambition and confidence and – of course – having a ton of fun.

I see a dog’s mentality as a human one in the following regard: capable of loyalty and appreciating of nature, enjoys adventurous experiences and settling into long, slow, steady nights at home during the winter, rainy season and anything else requiring candles and blankets.

Comfort and companionship are common themes.

But before we can get to that 20 adult vibe of relaxed nights on the patio, under the stars after a good meal and a long walk and with live music to boot; you have to get through infanthood. You have to learn how to ride your bike and swim, maybe even shoot a bow and arrow or build a teepee before you can become a friendly, worldly adult. Insert my desire to raise the dogs I wanted from scratch.

With two puppies simultaneously, the “obedience together” thing is a focus I pay attention to the most. Even before I started doing my research on littermates or dual puppies, I wanted that level of respect for and in my household. Thus the entire foundation of the training I have provided these dogs (and hope for from my children) is based on one simple and consistent expectation: manners.

Show me manners, Patio Manners, Can I see Good Manners in the Kitchen all are interchangeable for one of three pleasing responses: a nice non eager seat, a sphinx like yoga pose or relaxed hips out to the side.

More on “Relax” and “Sphinx” some other time….

For those of you out there with a puppy, here’s a Puppy Hack with rice that you can use in your obedience training:

First, the recipe:

Boil rice in 3 parts water. (1 cup of rice to 3 cups of water) If you have two dogs, make it 2 cups rice to 6 cups of water…

Finish rice al dente – it should still be sitting in a shitload of water

Drain it overnight

In silicone baking sheet or cupcake trays (anything that molds in a small handful shape), press down mounds of the drained rice

Freeze for about 3 hours (a little frost bite is fine) then store in a gallon freezer bag for up to a month

I started doing this to keep them on hand so that a quick microwave of a frozen rice (2 palmfuls usually zaps to looseness in about 1 min 30 seconds) is a no mess solution to dogs for dogs whose dietary choices are causing a different kind of mess. <Making a mental list of foods I know they can’t have. i.e: high fat pig ears? no thank you>

When the month is nearing to an end and it’s time to use them up: use them for training or reinforcing “wait” in our obedience training. For this, put one palmful of frozen rice in a bowl and bring it to them, expecting a non eager “sit”.

Side note: I did not train wait to my baby puppies (3 – 4 month old) because I didn’t mind not having a release command if they were at least sitting for as long as it took me to come in from our morning potty run, me to clean up any overnight messes, switch a laundry load or otherwise do whatever I needed to first: grab coffee, grab supplements / meds for them, hang up leashes.

Now that we are officially nearing 6 months, it seems it’s time for them to wait till I release them. Especially because I use “wait” naturally when I just need a 15 second head start before they follow me to wherever I am going in the house. Or at door thresholds, I need “a minute”.

During obedience training at The Watering Bowl in The Grove, I learned that using their bowls is actually an easy, easy path to train; especially since, as malleable puppies, they are used to waiting non eagerly in a seat for their food.

Here is my basic command order:

“Wait” and their body language is completely still and seated.

Lower bowls and count in your mind, notice how long / how low the bowl goes and it takes for them to impulsively lean forward. (Normal – we all do this when it is time to eat!)

“Buzzkill” and I come back up with their bowls. No reward given but “Buzzkill” tells them the whole no reward thing was because of them and we try again. Patience is required.

“Wait please, I love your manners” and they sit – learned a little bit – and wait.

Using the timing I noticed the first time, I then give a release word. For now, “Okay” is our joint one and we are working on individuals for the sake of timing and autonomy. “Bambi Girl” and “God of Thunder” are the current working release commands for Caramel Colored Rey and Blonde Thor.

We get compliments on our pretty dogs and the fact that everybody is learning and growing and love and patience are getting reinforced, tells me adding two 9 week old puppies 3 months ago to our 3 cat, 5 kid situation was actually really well informed on an intuitive level.

And just like that, the scene here draws to a close. It’s time to take the dogs through the front garden (the one I retired to start and build) and lay them up in their pen (the laundry room) while I get to work on prose and poetry.

Life as a creative is a life well spent, and balance is required in everything.

Share if you like. Like if you do and please, keep reading, seeing you out there means a lot.

Pandemic Bride sits on Pandemic Groom’s lap on a bench in Fairhaven, WA where the couple got engaged in late July 2019. Couple wears jeans, has grown out hair styles and low key jewelry and a shared ballcap from a local Bellingham brewery. (Coming Soon: Link to site photography bios. This one: Stephanie Freels)

this saturday morning: welcome back to my blog

it’s still before noon here in the central time zone. one of the almost 6 month old puppies is giving off a “please cuddle i am so so sweet also this is different than what i am used to happening right now” whine and the most interesting thing about it is that i don’t actually know if it is the boy dog or the girl dog, the caramel colored one or the blonde.

i told my husband to expect that in 4 – 5 years i would likely want another puppy: a gray one that i can master train to be a gentle giant, loving big fat amazing dog. like the kind built for mountains, treks and carrying supplies – providing warmth and emotional support.

a long, long time ago – like right when the crate and barrel on brentwood blvd went up, that plaza had a couple of shops that were for design minded people. one of the shops; it’s shop owner had two bouvier des flandres. i felt completely enamored with these gray, tall gentle wandering souls who glided behind the shop keeper’s case and looked at me only to say hello.

the baby dogs in my house now have fallen silent. the only sound in my house is some appliance hum (no laundry), the birds outside and the faint dispelling of radiohead coming from our bedroom where my husband naps. likely not dreaming of that same gray puppy.

having two puppies is – for both of us – colliding worlds of independence and order with chaos and random events. part of the reason for the two puppies at this junction is because it is all mixed up anyhow.

we are both exploring and operating.

on a personal level, i am the boss of my creative life which requires settling into ideas that are new to me:

i set my schedule completely

i take baby steps towards my dreams.

i express myself freely through music, words and song as an emotional gift to the world.

ideas i have known and always known (my husband is brilliant, his talent unending, my kids? glorious (and all on vacation) etc etc etc) are the roots of this whole new machine: my titanic, my life force, my creative energy.

gratitude, at some point, evolves from appreciating what you see to honoring what you know (about yourself and others).

trust is that gratitude’s inevitable fruit.

said another way: thoughtfulness is spacing out and forgetting’s best friend in that one needs the other to hurt in order to heal.

Trust is spacing out and forgetting’s best friend.

Me, 7.17.21

an opposites attract sort of thing.

welcome (back) to my blog. please consider sharing my writing.

for those new, hey how are ya – you usually find me on family stuff. if you got here because of the word “puppies”, let me know in the comments and let’s start sharing ideas on how to raise littermates, siblings, and establish independence.

ok. that’s all for now.

A married woman with her children lays on a theatre bench in Bellingham, Washington’s Boulevard Park July 3, 2020. #PandemicBride

Who is the patron saint of puppies?

We are winding down with tea and the US soccer game and I allowed myself one Google search parameter and only two articles to decide on my next step for tomorrow. No. Rabbit. Holes. Erin.

It is proving to be difficult (as I start on my fourth attempt at this paragraph) to use this outlet to help myself out without going into the complete nitty gritty of everything in the top of my mental funnel.

Two months ago, I was browsing soy sauces online for 45 minutes, researching braises and comparing blueberry bushes. Tonight? I am actively processing guilt for not crate training the puppies immediately, thinking about how I am going to explain to David that this is about to become a super pain in the ass, and praying The Watering Hole is a miracle God sent angel gift that helps me have two dogs that are good to other dogs.

I did not know that you are supposed to keep littermates separate at night, people. Also, thank you internet for being horrifying with all your information.

It is starting to make more sense every day. The goal of littermates is for the dogs to be “obedient together” and “confident separate”. With this in mind, I feel pretty good about how we are managing the dogs. (They get a ton of attention and individual time.) But…. they are coming of age and rough housing and it’s like a drunk driver teaching another person how to drive blindfolded. I did not realize that littermates will not teach the universal dog language inherently. Every time I see Rey play bite Thor on the leg I cringe, use the Say Uncle command (which makes them stop and sit at my feet for a treat), and pray all this work pays off.

I feel like a theme in my life is that I make things harder for myself right when I get to a clearing. If I achieve a plateau, I add a layer. I wondered tonight if it was a super hero complex or my saboteur archetype. Paging Caroline Myss.

I was all in on Rey and Thor (my 17 week old shepherd mixes) for good reason. I wanted family dogs to help spread the love. I wanted to walk good dogs and take them to beer gardens and sunsets. I miss my old dog and how he would lay in the sun while I gardened. If I was to get dogs, now seems to be a good time. There is just always so much you don’t know until you get into something.

As I near forty (my birthday is at the end of June), I realize all these Google searches I am doing now about the dogs; trying to get enough information to synthesize into one strategic dog culture, is a lot like the conversation David and I had after we got home from Home Depot with armfuls of supplies to strip, clean, condition and paint our 100+ year old porch.

It did not take long after getting into the project for us to change our plan. We felt like we wasted the morning but both agreed it was time well spent – we needed to get into it to know how we wanted to do it.

So, here I am. I am into it figuring out how I want to do it. And I am wondering if this is a 40 year old maturation thing. I wonder if now I will have a treasured habit of contemplating everything I may want to know prior to jumping in. It doesn’t seem like me, but I think it is becoming me. I think this is a big shift where I combine bravery and experience.

When I was painting the porch, I had a little bit of clarity where this thought came, “the dogs will be what you make them”. And I felt relief. They love my kids. They love me. I LOVE THEM. I bury myself in them sometimes. I hold them like babies and they calm us all. My mom said today “they are really special, Erin”. And they are.

I just don’t know what I’m doing. lol. Ok. Good night. Mind if I talk about puppies more on this thing? This felt good. erin

this photo is titled “help me jesus”