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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Too much to ask??

What do you do when your neighbors are driving you up the wall??? I live on the end of a dead end street (well, the last house on the left...the very end leads into a marsh) and really can't stand any of my neighbors! When we first moved here, I thought how wonderful it would be to live on a nice quiet road, with only about 6 or 7 houses on it between the two sides. And the house really is wonderful, just in itself. I love the house and the yard it sits on. I thought it would be a wonderful change from the side-by-side condo we were then living in. We have a two story, two car garage and an above ground pool with wrap around deck. I thought everything would be great...

But unfortunately, it soon came to pass that my neighbors are not the best people to live next to. I have a hard enough time with the screaming children who treat ours and others property with little respect (our fence that's broken in 3 places is testament to that), but the biggest problem is another neighbors dog. These people live across the street, one house down. They have a white husky/shepherd mix that they leave in a pen almost all day and night. From what my mom found out a year or two after we moved here, the dog is not very nice. The father said he has bitten him and other members of the family and escapes when he can. Every day they walk him from their front door to his prison-like pen. This dog barks almost non stop every day. I mean, seriously barks...NON STOP. Last night I timed over two straight hours. It is driving me C-R-A-Z-Y!!!

I mean, I live with Shelties; the most barky breed out there. Both of my girls do bark a lot...but it is indoors where no one else can hear them but my mom and I. Outside they bark when they play, but are not permitted to bark incessantly. And that is the greatest difference: they're not outside alone, without me, to be ALLOWED to bark incessantly! But this dog, this dog just barks because he has nothing else to do. And it's not even the barking that bothers me. It's the complete indifference of the owners. I mean, they can't NOT hear it. The dog is in their own yard for petes sake. They must just ignore it. And they expect everyone else around them to as well. They let it go on for hours and hours, and at the most inconvenient times. The dog was outside until 10:30 pm last night and was out at 7 am this morning...and today is SATURDAY! I mean, people have the day off, and (can you believe it?) expect to be able to sleep in! They are now essentially dictating when I can and can't sleep! I can't go to bed before 10:30, or get up after 7...are you kidding me??? Is a little consideration for your neighbors too much to ask??

And as I type this, and everytime the dog is out there barking, behind my irritation is a sadness. When I go to sleep and wake up every day, (what ever time that may be) the first and last thing I see are my girls, snuggled up next to me in bed. I go to work to make money that I spend on toys, food and treats for them. They get the best veterinary care, eat the best food, have memory foam beds and my vacation time is planned for their enjoyment as much as mine. But that dog...that dog that does all the barking across the street, gets none of that. That dog is locked out in his pen (which can't be more than 10x12) in the freezing cold and blistering heat, day in and day out. The only things he sees is the chain from the pen door and the tarps that cover the walls. His paws touch nothing but the dirty concrete that is his floor. The only walks he gets is the 15 foot tug of war he fights as the owners bring him to or from the house. He barks because he is bored, and probably neglected. Now, I don't know what his indoor life is like. I don't know whether he gets right up on a warm spot on the couch when he gets unleashed just beyond the door, or whether he is locked in the basement or a crate. I hope its the first option...

So as I sit, with my nerves rattled and my irritation escalating, I stop and realize that we are both asking ourselves the same thing: is allowing the dog inside too much to ask??

Sunday, January 10, 2010

7 groups

OK, I know this is a little late, but I wanted to play the game too!! After seeing this post on several of our favorite blogs, I decided to give it a go to. But before I post my "final line up" let me just warn you...I AM A DOG SNOB!!!

There are just some things that, I dunno, are a turn-off for me when it comes to dogs. Just like when we first start to date, there are some things that we are immediately attracted to or turned off by. For me, I love fluffy dogs. I am actually allergic to short, tight coats (think Boxers, Am. Staffs, etc) and don't really care for curly coats that need to be clipped like Poodles, Wheatens or Portuguese Waterdogs (when they're not clean, they can have a waxy, dirty texture). I also can't have my dogs drooly or with beards. All that slobbery wetness is just nasty; not to mention food usually gets trapped in there too. I like dogs with tails, dogs with long noses and dogs with legs. And I am definitely more of a small dog person rather than a large dog one. A lot of the reasons for this are practical-I need dogs that I myself am able to lift and/or carry in an emergency. But really, I just like the small size to cuddle and travel with!

And of course beyond just appealing looks, they have to have a great temperament. I (as I expect most people who have training as a passion) hate rude, obnoxious dogs. Of course, any breed left untrained and to their own devices can be rude and obnoxious. But some breeds are just more prone to being so. I hate to pick on them, but Boxers tend to be some of the rudest dogs out there. They just run on up to you and jump all over you and your dog. Bleeeech....I like my dogs well mannered and polite enough to look to me to ask whether or not it is OK to "say hello". I want my dogs to be needy enough to snuggle with me on couch or in bed, and who want to be with me more than any where else; but not to the point where they can't be alone. They need to travel well and not bay or bark when left alone. I also like dogs who were bred to do "a masters bidding"; I don't mean that with any dominance connotations. I mean that most dogs were bred to do a job, but some were bred for more independent work. Like hounds were bred to hunt in a pack away from the huntsman, but retrievers and setters were meant to work directly with the hunter. Terriers were bred to kill any and all vermin on the farm; herding dogs were bred to be in the pasture with the shepherd to direct the flock according to their direction. People may confuse this with intelligence; it is not that one breed is smart and one is dumb. You have to look at HOW the dog thinks, and WHAT is the motivation for him/her to do so.

I know, I know. Some of this stuff is ridiculous (like the tail, nose and legs). But again, everyone has their own likes and dislikes, which is why we end up with the breeds we do. But with all that being said, here are some other breeds (according to group) that I could not only see myself living with (some, only if forced) but some breeds that I could definitely see myself owning:

Group 1: Sporting
The Sporting group is an easy group for me to chose from. Members of this group tend to be fairly similar to the Herding dogs (of whom I am somewhat partial to ;0) Because they were bred to work so closely with humans, their temperaments are more biddable and willing to please than members of some of the other groups. Most have that long coat I love so much, and there are a lot of different sizes to chose from. I do like the American Cocker Spaniel very much, but aren't a big fan of the coat that needs a lot of tending to. Their popularity has lead to a lot of health problems, but that is true for a great many breeds spanning all the groups. So that consideration will be null, as it probably will apply to most of my choices. I really love English Setters too. But with them, its the size that is a bit of a deterrent. So I'd have to say that my choice here would be a Brittany. A nice sized dog with everything that I love; great, friendly temperament-friendly with people, but bonded with their owners, no neuroses. A great, easy to keep coat (easy compared to Shelties and Cockers anyways!) Athletic, smart...this is definitely a dog that I could not only live with but could easily own. They're beautiful and sweet. I haven't met a Brittany I haven't liked. And I think getting into Hunt tests would be a lot of fun! (Hmm...maybe I should see if there are any eligible bachelors who own them???)
Group 2: Hound
Another easy group to chose from. Not only easy because so many breeds are easily eliminated (oh doG, I could not stand baying!!!!!!) but because I have wanted one of these breeds since I was about 12 years old. I do like Afghans, but could never keep up with that coat. (Could you imagine the snow-balls tangled up in that hair during a New England winter?!?!?!) I do like Whippets very much too-very sweet, athletic and easy keepers, but I'm not sure I could handle the short coat. So my choice here is a Saluki-the best of all worlds. Beautifully elegant, sweet tempered and again, a nice size (the females tend to be especially petite). I mean, I love this breed so much I know what color I would get and what her name would be. I don't doubt that someday I will get one of these beauties. I know they're a little more aloof than I am used to, and wouldn't be safe off leash in all the places we go, but I think they are so delightful that a few sacrifices would be worth it!
Group 3: Working
OK, here's where it gets a bit tricky. This is the group I had the hardest time with because I honestly could not see myself owning any of these breeds; if for no other reason than their sheer sizes! I do love the temperaments (although all very different) of Newfies, Berners, Dobies and Rotties but really couldn't ever see myself with any of them. Newfies and Berners are a little slobbery and Dobies and Rotties don't have any coat. So I went with (although I don't know that many) a Samoyed. Their less independent than some of their northern cousins (like Huskies and Malamutes) and a bit smaller than any of the other available breeds in this group. I know they tend to be fairly friendly, albeit a bit stubborn. But I've heard they make great companions and bond well with their people. I think it would be fun to weight pull, and Dog-Scooter too!! Group 4: Terrier
Oh, doG, another toughie. Terriers just aren't my type of personality. Their just too independent; and I don't mean this as Herding or Sporting dogs cant function without their people, but Terriers just don't seem to care that you're even talking to them. They seem to be so busy with their environment and whats going on, you might as well just melt into a big puddle of invisible. Of course, we're picking by groups here, and although I'm somewhat forced to generalize, I know that there are of course, exceptions: to every group and every breed. A friend of mine has the most LOVELY Airedale right now. If they were all like her, everyone would own one! With that said, I think I would go with a Lakeland Terrier. They're not as bouncy or crazy as some of their other Terriers and seems to be fairly athletic looking. Again, I don't think I would ever chose to purchase or live with a terrier, but...there you go.
Group 5: Toy
Oh, another really easy group to chose from! I love so many breeds in this group! I fell in love with the Cavalier the year before they were admitted to the AKC. I actually went to a specialty show held here in Massachusetts years and years ago.(I still have the t-shirt!) It was the QUIETEST dog show I have ever been to! I met a lot of really nice people and great breeders. Although they are not my choice now, they will always have a special place in my heart, because they were so special to me as a girl. So my choice here is a tie. I love both Pomeranians and Papillons...although I think I would chose to own a Papillon. Poms can be a bit tougher to train and can be a bit feistier. Pap's seem to be very similar to Shelties in terms of temperament and habits (lets put it this way, I wouldn't mind a "Yappy Pappy"!) Again, a Pap is definitely a breed I could own one day. They're just fantastic, healthy little dogs that are bright and friendly. They tend to have less of a "arm-pit piranha" reputation than most other toy breeds; maybe because they know they don't have to go around shouting to get respect ;0)
Group 6: Non-Sporting
Hmmm....another toughie. You wouldn't think so because the group is so diverse, but alas. I do really like Dalmatians. I know they aren't the breed for everyone, and just like with so many other breeds you have to be careful with health and temperament, but their short coat rules them out. So although this may be a bit of a shocker, my choice is a Tibetan Terrier. The Tibetans are just fantastic! They look all glamorous like mini-Afghan Hounds, but they are totally clownish. I think they would be a JOY to live with. They come in so many colors, any ones taste could be satisfied, and they don't look weird if you clip them down (like an Afghan would). They're athletic and bright, albeit a little silly to take training so seriously ;0) Once again, I could totally see myself owning one! Group 7: Herding
Ahhhh, the best at last! Not that I'm biased. Now you all know which breed has my heart forever. But there are two other breeds here that I would share my life and love with in a heart-beat. The first is the Border Collie. This is a breed, that if I ever get my courage up, I will own one day. I was bitten by the herding bug, and would love to have a nice Border to be able to play at that with. Again, if you're careful and know what you're looking for and what you're doing, you can bypass the neurotic, crazy, OCD behaviors that can crop up with an ill-bred, ill-used BC. What you will have is a loving, sensitive, friendly best friend that has your heart forever. I see BC's as a slightly more open, less fluffy, slightly larger and a bit more intense version of the Sheltie. This is a dog I will own one day. The other breed I'm enamored with is the Belgian Sheepdog. I love their graceful, striking beauty. Again, not as intense (in terms of working) as BC's, but more aloof with strangers and more bonded to their people than some other herding dogs. These guys are like big, black Shelties in terms of temperament. But just like with Shelties, shyness can be a problem as can fear. Their size is a bit bigger than I would ever go, so I cant say that I would definitely own one, but if someone I lived with happened to own one, well...that would be OK =0)

This was a fun game to play! I've never done it "publicly" before, sharing my answers with others, but I used to to it all the time as a kid. When I would dream big about getting a puppy of said breed and go on to not only win Westminster, but (as I grew up) the Invitational and National as well (in both breed, obedience and agility, of course). I still find myself day dreaming like that every so often. But then I look at my girls: they haven't ever competed in a breed ring; they've never been trained past the Open exercises for Obedience; and they haven't competed in agility in 2 years; and I realize we don't need any of that. Yes, of course it is nice to show all of your hard work in front of your friends and peers at a show. It is nice to pick up a ribbon or place at the end of a long day of competition. And although those are special memories that will be cherished beyond measure when your special friend has crossed over the bridge, those are NOT the moments you will be wishing to have more of when that day comes. You will be thinking about how soft their fur felt; how delicately their eyes fluttered and their nose twitched when they slept; how gentle they were when they nuzzled your arm and licked your face on your saddest day. No, you will not be longing to make more memories of competition. You will be longing to have more moments when you can just sit and be together. We all get the dogs we want: we ask for them, chose them and shape them. What ever breed, from what ever group, we end up with who we are meant to be with. Be thankful.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The passage of time...

I can't believe that 2009 is over. It seems like just yesterday I started to write on this blog in earnest. A way for me to let out my frustrations, fears, joys and victories while dealing with another bump in the road that is my life living with heart disease. So many things have changed in this short year, but at the same time, so many things have stayed the same. Things that I really can't let slide any more. Although yes, I did survive this particular issue with my heart, there will undoubtedly be more to come. And I am not helping the process by being so unhealthy. I swore all last year to get myself healthier-to eat better, exercise more and to lose weight. I did accomplish those...temporarily. Something always came up that derailed that self-improvement program. But I can't let those minor detours in life keep leading me down paths that I should not be on. You'd think that I would have taken last year and all its lessons to heart (no pun intended) but I didn't. Like so many of the other things in my life, I kept saying "tomorrow will be better; tomorrow I'LL be better". But "tomorrows" turned into "next week"s, and those turned into "next month"s. Now its "next year". But next year is here...you bet your Sheltie-bottoms that this year I mean it.

I'm missing out on so much; from little things like feeling out of place at family gatherings because I'm the only one who doesn't fit the "tiny" mold that everyone else does; to not taking certain trails on our walks because they might become "too long" or "too difficult". I have to change everything about the way I'm living. If I want to really enjoy my life and the lives of the amazing beings around me, I really have to get my act together...for all of our sakes.

I don't really want to make "resolutions", but set goals for myself for this year. I'd really like to keep on the right financial track that I am on now: slowly but surely paying off all of my debt so that I can start banking money. This goal, like the health one, will be a bit of a challenge for this year. The loss of our pet-discount at work will play a big part of that-not only because I'll be paying more upfront for their health care, but because I will also be putting my tax return (or most of it) towards the premium for pet insurance. (Again, more on this subject in a future post). But I am taking steps to lessen my monthly debt. Switching foods from pre-made raw to home-made will be a change, and I'm also looking into switching car insurances. They already boosted my hours at work from 35-40, so those extra 5 hours will be helpful too. I also plan on picking up as many extra shifts as I can; as I SAFELY can, I should say. Any extra money would be a big help. I plan on paying for everything I can in cash. I've already made a good head start by paying for my Christmas presents this way, so that was a big step. I just have to realize if there is something that I want, there is no rush to get it right then and there, the moment I decide I want it. I can put it on a "wish list: of sorts, and save for it. I don't know what this year will bring me health wise, so I better get my ducks in a row in case life deals me another hard hand. I already paid for my one big seminar I plan on going to this year: Patricia McConnell is coming to Worcester in July; when I found out I signed up right away. I wanted to make sure I had a spot, marked it on my calendar, and it was paid for. I love all of her books, and can hardly WAIT to see her in person! And the best part is some of my friends (the "dog ladies" as we call ourselves) have signed up too...so it will be a nice time for us to get together and see an AMAZING person give an AMAZING presentation!

I also want to work on myself for this year. I want to work on remembering everything I said I would while going through all of the rough patches last year. I want to try and not get stressed out so easily, and remember to be kind. I want to try to keep in mind that this moment spent with this being (person or animal) may be the last I ever get; no one knows what is going to happen from one minute to the next; I need to make my moments count.

The end of this year signifies so much for me. I don't know a single person who has had a really good 2009. A lot of us will not be sad to see this year go...but on the same note, this is also the end of a decade. A decade that has been really important and influential on us all. For me, this is the decade that I really "grew up" in. I graduated high school AND college. I fell in love, and then out of it. I lost dearly loved ones, including my Dad and my first Sheltie, Missy. I had 2 major health scares that almost took my life. I bought 2 cars. I moved 2 times, and lived in 3 different towns. I acquired the two dog-loves of my life that share it with now. I've had 6 different jobs (some were at the same time). I've lost friends I had when I was younger, but gained friends who share the same interests. I've changed in a lot of ways, but in so many, I have stayed the same. I've embraced my inner "geek" by being a home-body, attending dog shows, and getting excited about things like "Lord of the Rings", "Harry Potter" and "Avatar". I started in agility, was pretty successful at it, and then had to bow out because of health concerns for all involved. It's been a decade that has really covered so much of my life. Looking back, I can't believe that all that can happen in 10 years, that when looked back upon, merely seems like a blink of an eye.
So what does the next 10 years hold in store? Can anyone be completely sure? Of course not. But some things seem certain. It is certain that there will be more hard times: with everything in my life. I hope to be able to buy my own house. I'm sure that I will once again change jobs, maybe several times. I hope to be able to get back into agility (NADAC) and allow my girls to really enjoy themselves and have some fun. I'm sure there will be many more great movies I will get into, and obsess about. I'd really like to attend the 2012 Sheltie National in Florida, and someday make it to "Camp Gone to the Dogs" in Vermont. I'll attend my 10 year high school reunion. I know there will be more loss...my Grandparents continue to age, and so do my "babies". I don't think any of my friends or family with kids are planning for the day in the next decade that they will have to say goodbye to their children. They will be looking forward to seeing their kids grow up into their tweens and teens. But not us "dog parents". We will come to that inevitable day that we must say goodbye; and we might even be placed in the position of deciding when exactly that day comes. It is an awful prospect, and something I do not wish to really think about or dwell on. But when you chose to spend your life with these amazing beings, you enter into the relationship knowing that their life spans a much shorter time than yours. So we must make every day count. Real parents have their whole life time to get it right; to make sure their kids grow up successfully and with love every day. Pet-parents only have 1/4 of that time, if that. We must watch our kids change and grow up in merely a heart-beat of time; before the golden years of their seniority sets in, knowing that after this last warmth of life's autumn, winter must come.

My girls are going to be 7 and 8 this year. I plan on having a big birthday bash for them when they turn 10, and then again when they turn 15. They do not seem older to me; more mature, maybe, but not "old". I pray with every fiber of my being that they continue to stay strong and healthy for the whole next decade to come.

Other than those things, the more specific questions in life remain unanswered. I'm unsure about what I really want to do in life. I have "jobs" but don't have a "career". I desperately want to own my own business some day, but will my health permit it? I don't know if that's the wisest move. What am I to do with an associates degree in animal care, when I am not physically able to really "care" for the animals? I do really love my job now, but the company I'm working for is making it increasingly difficult for me to want to stay. The changes in policies and benefits really make working there a constant battle of worry and nerves. I would be happy to have the same job somewhere else, but how long will I need to wait before another "golden opportunity" opens? And what if it is not right next door? Will I be willing to move and relocate completely for the right job? After all, things can change...what will happen if I am far from "home" and the same bad decisions are made by that company? It's things like this that keep me awake at night. But it's also things like this that make me want to improve and not be so afraid any more. Although life hasn't worked out completely like the way I thought, everything that I did think about when I was younger has happened. It's funny when I think about it. I am exactly where I thought I would be at this age; it's just that I've had to take different paths to get here. Or maybe I was on the right path the whole time, but as I could not see where it lead in front of me, I did not know it. Whatever comes, I know it is meant to be. I must have faith. It hasn't let me down so far...

So we hope that this new year bring nothing but happiness, good times, good health, and unbelievable love for you, and your family-human and animal. 2009 is not a year that many people will be sad to see go. Hopefully the lessons that we have all learned in this tough year stick with us for the next; remember to keep things simple, as it is the small things in life that really stick with you and make the most difference. May you enjoy every moment of every day-including when you are cleaning "messes" up from the floor, brushing and blow drying for hours, vacuuming up "tumble-weeds" hidden in the corners, and being herded around your house. Remember that those times are always followed by warm snuggle sessions in bed, the peace and tranquility of a walk on your favorite path through the woods, the joy of playing with a favorite toy, and the laughter the canine-clown always bring about.
"And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer."