Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Apprentice

I am in training. My mentor, and the expert, is Sarah Hodgson, professional dog trainer and author of, Puppies Raising & Training Diary for Dummies. Her expertise has made a tremendous difference in training our new Brittany puppy, Cooper (Coop). 

Puppies do not perceive the world as we do. Things natural to us encourage unsociable behavior in our pups. It’s been hard for my husband and I to retrain ourselves in order to train Coop. The first, and biggest, error for me was talking to him too much. My voice has a tendency to be higher than my husband’s, which excites Coop. An excited puppy equals a hyperactive puppy, which equals disaster. The ideal is to encourage enthusiasm, not hyper-excited behavior. I have labeled the latter, Psycho Puppy. It ain’t pretty, let me tell you that. 

The other behavior hard to break was using our hands too much in order to redirect his attention. To a puppy, hands are mouths. He equates this with rough and tumble play, which is not acceptable behavior. A puppy’s mouth should never be on human skin. Kisses z(licking) are encouraged, but no mouthing or nipping. 

Sarah suggests using a head collar, which Coop is proudly (if reluctantly at times) modeling for you from his safe place, the closest set of human legs. This collar gives the same correction as his mother, a gentle pressure on the nose and it is safe to use on pups as young as eight weeks. It is designed similar to a halter for a horse. Puppies can still eat, drink, and chew. 

It is amazing how well it curtails bad behavior such as nipping, mouthing, jumping, and general running amok. It requires only a little pull on his lead. No more buying Bitter Apple by the gallon to keep him from chewing on things like the couch, the carpet, or me. Puppies thrive in a home with rules, just like children. And Coop is much happier when not in the Psycho Puppy mode.
Following Sarah’s advice, I’ve shucked my usually reserved, lady-like demeanor for something a little less dignified. In order to introduce Coop to new things, we need to pretend we are his mom (Oddly, my husband has happily left this part of Coop’s training to me. Shrug.)

I have crawled on my hands and knees over to the scary new toy, sniffed, and pawed at it. Coop ran over and did the same, albeit from his safe place between my knees. But it worked. Now the toy is a favorite. 

Next was the little wading pool. I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and got in. I splashed, giggled, and swirled the water with my hands. Coop followed suit and now we have a water puppy, who loves his pool and is unafraid of water. Unhappily, he views mud puddles with the same enthusiasm. Oh well, he’s wash n wear. 

Another big hurdle was the dreaded water monsters, the automatic sprinklers. I ran through them, laughing, whooping, and giggling. Coop followed me in, ran circles, and nipped at the spray. We were both soaked, but with the ninety-degree temperature, neither of us suffered — and we had a lot of fun.  

I have to admit. I love playing with him and exploring new things, even if it means crawling on the floor and acting like a silly kid.

I figure I’ll be a full fledged Puppy Whisperer about the time Coop is fully grown. That’s okay. We will enjoy the result for years to come.

Then it will be time to start my apprenticeship as a Dog Whisperer. I wonder if Sarah has a book on that…

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Next Great Generation

During a recent conversation with my daughter, she asked, “What kind of world will my children live in?” My grandsons are eight and one. With the current explosion of domestic and foreign violence, her concern is valid. It seems at every turn some disaster, some hate-filled march, or massive act of violence is decimating lives. Is it the End Times as so many are proposing? I don’t know. Only God knows that. 

There have been other violent eras in man’s history. In fact, there have been many, many instances of massive violence and natural destruction. Our country has enjoyed a relative time of peace. Extreme violence, except for a few isolated acts, has not bloodied our soil since the Civil War, and we are in a state of shock. 

The recent events in France and Turkey, along with the March of Rage scheduled in so many cities across our country, it is easy to fall into worry and despair. For the first time in my life, I lost hope for the world, my country, and my family. 

However, God gave me an answer during my morning devotions. My grandsons, and those of their generation, are our future heroes, the Next Great Generation of men and women inspired by God to act with foresight and courage. 

We may yet pass through a period of darkness, but God once promised to save Sodom and Gomorrah if He found ten righteous men in those cities. Surely, our cities hold ten righteous souls.

With God, anything is possible.  

There lies my hope.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

According to Cooper....

A little Rain Ain’t Gonna Hurt You

The first thunderstorm after we brought Coop home was a challenge. We read the chapter on weather in our puppy guide book, Puppies for Dummies. (Yes, they really do have a book for every subject under the sun.)

Since puppies must go outside in all kinds of weather, encouraging him to go out is important. The book suggested we play in the rain with Coop. We senior cowards thought, “What? Run around in the rain like silly kids?” 

We had no choice. Coop really needed to go out, but refused. So, a touch of tough love and daring solved the problem. We donned jackets and shoes, grabbed one of his favorite outside toys, and ran out into the rain, giggling. 

We didn’t melt, didn’t go into any kind of seizure, and we actually had some fun. We old retired seniors played like little kids. 

Although, when I mentioned running through the sprinklers on a hot day, I got the I-can’t-believe-you-said-that look from my husband.  But I was serious. What if Coop needs to go out when the backyard sprinklers are running? 

When You Get Cranky, You need a Nap

When the Psycho Puppy emerges, he is over tired and needs a nap, just like a toddler. That’s when we also rest. We read, nap sometimes, or just sit and chat. We all rest and distress. After a bit, we do necessary chores, rest a bit more, and then are ready for the next round of activity.

Things Don’t Have to Be Perfect

The house isn’t as pristine as I normally keep it. I don’t always get my shower before noon. There’s water on the floor by the patio door where we all ran in after playing in the rain. We have a few smudges on the off-white carpet. We will eventually take care of those things, but we will only have this precious puppy for a little while longer. All too soon, he will be grown, and we won’t have the same exuberance, or cuteness. We must enjoy it while we can.

We seniors so often get bogged down in our little routine and become irritated when it is disturbed. Coop has made sure we remain flexible. 

Please Be Patient With Me

Coop doesn't understand everything and has taught me to respond with patience, not irritation to his mistake. This follows through to my husband as well. His hearing loss has become acute and I must repeat everything I say several times, or stop and write down a key word. I find I have more patience for about everything. Thanks, Cooper!

Your Attitude Makes All the Difference

The world is filled with wonders we seniors too often take for granted. As with our children and grandchildren, a puppy inspires us to see the world in a different way. There are scary things, but if you’re with someone you can trust, it’ll be okay. There are also marvelous things like cool green grass on a hot afternoon, a ball splashing in the wading pool, and all those interesting birds and insects. 

The rambunctious neighborhood kids are a delightful mix of movement and noise. Coop loves the attention and calmly allows pets sprinkled with lots of kisses. Scary things like lawn mowers, the garbage truck, and the mail lady are interesting because we approach them as something fun.  
Attitude really does make a huge difference. 

Be Happy, Worry Less

Coop is such a happy little guy, and it’s contagious. Yes, life can be scary and not always what we want, but we can accept those things, deal with them, and move on. Instead of worrying, let’s go out and play in the rain, chase that ball or butterfly, roll in the wet grass (well, I might skip that one), and give everyone hugs and kisses.

It's really that simple, most of the time, if we choose it to be.