Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sheltie Rituals

I started getting into this whole blogging thing when I got sick and was out of work for a while a few months ago. It's been a lot of fun discovering new blogs to read, and learning about so many different people (and dogs!) from all over the world. One blog that I got into and still check on is author Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm blog. Its so nice to live a little vicariously through his posts; I know I'll never be able to own and live on a farm myself, so it's a treat to feel like I'm just a little bit a part of one when I read his posts and see his pictures.

One of the things that he has posted entries and pictures about is his "daily egg" that he gets from his chickens. Various pictures sometimes accompanied by stories will be put up of the egg as it is photographed in different places around his farm. He then started posting a "daily bottle" scene, as he was having a hard time finding his chickens' eggs. The photographs are beautiful-even though their context is so simple.

So, his ideas bring me to this post. I know that his posts are about his photography and the beauty in simple, everyday things, but I think it is also about little rituals. I started thinking about my own every day ones and was quite surprised to realize how many the girls and I actually have.

For example, we have "our daily cheese." After I have whatever it is I usually have for breakfast (lately it's been a bowl of Cheerios!) I have a cheese stick. I figure it's good to have a bit more dairy and protein to start off the day, right? Well what started out as a trial of a healthy morning snack, has now become a daily ritual. It doesn't matter if I eat it early or late, it is always the same: I finish the cereal, and then reach for the stick (which is usually on the coffee table beside me). Immediately upon seeing my reach, both girls come over and give the notorious "Sheltie Stare". Shelby gets up on the other side of the love seat, and Heidi cranes her neck to rest her jaw awkwardly up on the cushion. I peel open the wrapper and feel their intensity and keenness increase; Shelby moves the slightest bit closer, and Heidi starts licking her lips and nose. I pull a small piece off the top and give it to Shelby (the faster I can give it to her, the sooner she stops drooling). I then repeat the process for Heidi. We all love this ritual, although for slightly different reasons. The girls love the food, and I love the closeness we share.

Another ritual we have is "attack the towel", which is one I have with Heidi. I usually walk around with my hair wrapped up in a towel-turban in the space between the shower and when I sit down to get my make-up on for work. As soon as it is time to get the hair down, Heidi knows. She comes running in full tilt, and attacks the towel as I bend over and shake/ruffle/pat my hair a little bit dryer. It didn't start out like this. But as our tug games increased with our agility training, so did Heidi's toy/play drive. Now, I was a trainer for a number of years. Trust me, if this was as obnoxious of a behavior as it may sound, I would have stopped it. (Like chasing the vacuum...I HATE that, and don't allow the girls to practice it.) But this is actually cute. She never tugs hard enough to make me drop the towel, or even stop drying my hair. She just thinks its a bit of fun we can share in the morning before I go to work. And I have to say, that after out "attack the towel" session, my day does start off a little brighter.

A ritual that I share with Shelby, is something that is very specific to her. And it is a ritual she does with EVERYONE; not just me and my mom, but our Vet and strangers when they ask to pet her. She is a HAIR SMELLER. She never ever chews, licks, or bites hair, but she NEEDS to smell it. She just very gently puts her nose right through the strands to the scalp, and proceeds to sniff around. She'll usually then move to other parts of someones head. She takes anywhere from 2-10 seconds to do her "job", and gets VERY upset if she is interrupted before she has finished. She will continue to attempt to get her nose back in the hair if she is not given enough time. My mom and I are of course used to it. To see strangers react is something funny. Most people are happy to oblige once I tell them that she does this to EVERYONE and will not lick or chew their hair. Some people get freaked out though, and as soon as they feel the little nose buried in their tresses, they panic and stand up. That's when Shelby gets most upset. It is very sad.

And one ritual that I share with both my girls, is our "snuggle" time in the morning, and our "say hello" time when I come home. I get up an extra half hour early every morning so that when I get out of the shower (and after I started thawing their food) I can get back into bed with them and snuggle. Usually Heidi will lay right up on my other pillow and sigh contentedly, and Shelby will crawl up in between us and snuggle close. I pet and stroke them, rub their bellies, and kiss their heads. This is also one thing that starts out day off on the right paw, er, foot. Then, when I get home, the ritual is much the same. When I come in the door, they are usually going pretty nuts. Shelby usually jumps on the glass, and then jumps like a jumping bean straight into the air until you tell her to settle down. Heidi usually doesn't jump, but she stands and barks: DEMANDING that you pay attention to the Queen as soon as possible. So, once I get my stuff settled (coat off, mail and lunch bag set on the table, etc) I tell them to "lets go say hello", where they proceed to run to the living room and jump on the couch. I sit down in the middle of them and proceed to give them lovin'. Shelby usually stands on my thigh (to smell my hair, and lick my face) and Heidi lays down with her head on my other leg (so I can scratch inside her ears, and stroke her head and muzzle). After about 10 minutes, they've usually settled down enough to where I can get up and get some other things done (like get their food ready, make dinner, thaw their food, iron, and feed them...which is VERY important).

Most people think I'm crazy for waking up early just to snuggle, putting off my own responsibilities to greet them when I get home or to take them for their daily walk/Chuck-it/Frisbee session, and sharing my own food with them, but the people who would think this are the people who also think "it's just a dog" (see my "It's just a dog" post). I'm happy that our little daily rituals have so much meaning and can make such a big impact on the day as a whole. I know that these rituals will probably even continue with my next generation of Shelties, years from now, and will always be looked back on fondly. They are, after all, just more golden memories that sparkle and shine through the haze and confusion that is sometimes life. It's nice to have little habits to stick to when so much in life is unpredictable and out of our control. It's especially nice when these habits can be shared with a fuzzy loving being that takes just as much joy in them as you do. What are some of your daily habits?


  1. I get up early to to spend time with my dogs before I go to work. The pay off is much greater than the loss of sleep.

    Jon Katz is the person who inspired me to blog. I was reading his everyday (still do), and thought, "I need a blog!" Been blogging ever since.

  2. We love cheese, too! Our Mama was born in Northern Germany close to the border with the Netherlands where they make the most fantastic cheeses and somehow she's passed her love for cheese down to us :) :)

  3. Mom always gets up early for me too on days that she has to work. She wants to spend time with me and take me on my morning walk and I really appreciate it!

  4. A good story

    GK Chesterton: “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

    Voila: This book is a poetic view of 30 of the best loved French cheeses with an additional two odes to cheese. Recipes, wine pairing, three short stories and an educational section complete the book.

    From a hectic life in New York City to the peace and glories of the French countryside lead me to be the co-founder of Ten years later with the words of Pierre Androuet hammering on my brain:

    “Cheese is the soul of the soil. It is the purest and most romantic link between humans and the earth.”

    I took pen and paper; many reams later with the midnight oil burning Tasting to Eternity was born and self published.

    I believe cheese and wine lovers should be told about this publication.