Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 10 of 30DR & Envisioning Canine TriZenalon

By mid-day today I was a complete mess.

I hadn't heard from the trainer (she was going to call last week to "check in" on the dogs' progress but never did) so I called and left messages on her cell phone around 8 a.m. and on her office phone around 2 p.m., wanting to get her advice on re-introducing the dogs to one another while wearing their muzzles and also to see what she thought about my accepting a friend's invitation to immerse one of my dogs in their pack of three for a little while to see how he'd do just being a "regular dog" for a while.

The latter (a kind invitation, thoughtfully given) had been eating away at me for hours and hours for reasons I still can't quite articulate but much of it had to do with my feeling like I would be throwing B-dog to the wolves simply to prove to myself that he was still normal.

So I finally declined the invitation because my heart wasn't in it and my heart is way more trustworthy and stable than my brain right now.

As I listened to myself leaving the message on the trainer's machine I detested myself--I sounded whiney and helpless and pathetic and was trying to somehow guilt the trainer into returning my call. What I sounded like (I later realized) was my ex-husband in the final months of our separation, when he seemed to be trying to use helplessness as a weapon. I believe he did that partially unconsciously; he felt defeated and his only apparent way to communicate with me was as a wretched, weak person. Our interactions left me feeling pummeled by weakness--it was an awful feeling. (Sort of like the fish-slapping sketch in Monty Python, only not a bit funny.) And now I felt like I'd become that person.

Meanwhile, my kitchen's a mess; my whole house is a mess; I've been complaining to my friends for hours and days about the dog thing, wallowing in it further here on the dog-blog. I just couldn't bear myself anymore.

* * *

So I took a bike ride around the lake.

Within minutes I felt like a better person. By the 8th mile I was inventing a new sport--I called it a tri-Zen-a-thon: it would involve maximizing pleasure by bicycling, kayaking, and photographing a scenic route on a lovely day. Participants wouldn't "compete" so much as "share" the experience: waving at one another (as we do riding around the lake), helping one another port our kayaks, finding nice spots to observe nature.

Then I thought an even nicer version would be the Canine TriZenalon: a trio of dog-walking, kayaking (with the dog), and bicycling (still possible with smaller dogs in a basket or kiddie trailer or with any size dog on a leash but only on shorter rides in mild weather).

These are the thoughts I have on my rides.


* * *

And I made a decision during the ride: to stop sending negative energy into the universe about my dogs. They're such good dogs. And I am not the worst yuppie dog owner in the world, either. When I tell my story to strangers (yes, I know . . .), I often get lots of irrelevant advice that assumes I don't have any rules at all, that I've learned absolutely nothing from my (many, many) training classes, and that they are totally untrained and vicious to everyone. When in fact I have dogs that do most of the things I ask them to do 85% of the time, that get into their crates voluntarily when they see I'm dressing for work, that tenderly attach themselves to my quite tall but perpetually falling-down, elderly step-father, that never rush the door when my petite mother wanders in for a visit and almost never rush out the door when she neglects to close it behind her. They play gently with the one-eyed pug-doxie mix around the corner. These are fine dogs that have become confused as a result of living with someone who meant well but didn't get it right the first few times on the training train but even today, even in my pit of despair, I took them out separately for walks and did our "settle" exercises and obeyed the feeding rules. I'm so ready to condemn myself, especially to others. (is this masochism? why am I so ready to invite others to view me as ridiculous and inept? what's that about? don't want to get into the childhood stuff again.) But it's nuts. And it's unproductive. Damaging, even.

So I'm going to stop narrating this situation like it's American Beauty and shut up and deal with it. And be grateful for all the good I keep neglecting to think about.

I'll keep recording potentially pertinent details here. But no more whining.

* * *

Today's status:

We're going to bed early. We still haven't done the full-blown muzzle experience. I have misgivings about reintroducing the dogs right after putting them in muzzles because it seems like a way to negatively reinforce their time in the same space. I know both will hate their muzzles. So I need a way to have them wear the muzzle for a while in a fairly pleasant scenario, like with me reading nearby or giving them some positive attention. Playing ball with P, perhaps.

Today they each licked cream cheese and a cookie out of their muzzles. Tomorrow I'll do a little one-on-one time with the muzzles.

So far both dogs have been really good. P still isn't eating much, B is. B-dog seems to really miss P. He seemed really disappointed when I refused to let him outside with her and again when I put the gate between them. Of course I could be reading everything into that but what else is new?

P seemed a little more comfortable with B on the other side of the gate today.

We did a little clicker training. Back to the beginning: click and treat. Using the extra special turkey.

That was because my old trainer finally returned last week's phone message (said she was out of town) and suggested I read Click to Calm.

I like the idea of trying clickers. it's something to do, at any rate. My 30DR is compatible with clickers and I'm sick of negative stuff like spritzing P for growling. It doesn't feel right to me. I'll keep doing it but I need another long-term solution.

I guess that's it for today.

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