Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dog Training Progress Report - Day 2

As I wrote about yesterday, me and the pups are back in basic training.  They aren't puppies anymore, and we aren't beginners at this- but we are loving going in with the "Mind of a Beginner" approach.
They still look and act like puppies a lot of the time! :)
I'm revisiting all the first things we learned about 6 years ago when I was first training them.  Little fun stuff like walk and sit beside me, "touch"- aka Bonk Your Nose on My Hand, and "go to your mat".  It's easy, they're successful, they're getting loads of treats and we're all feeling great about ourselves and each other.

I asked Fermin to join Ricky and I for a short walk today.  Ricky tends to get overly excited because it's usually a rare or special occasion that Fermin comes on a walk or anywhere else with us.  Ricky gets wild-eyed and pant-y.  If Fermin walks off- HIGH ALERT: Ricky gets extremely agitated. Howling and monkey business ensue.  It's quite a scene, and we all hate it.

So today, no big deal.  Just a short, slightly boring walk. With Fermin.

What was amazing to me is how focused Ricky was on me.  He's highly food motivated, and because we had been doing a lot of fun training sessions with treats, and he knew I had them with me for the walk, he definitely focused on me when I asked him to.  But he wasn't overly obsessed either- which can occasionally happen if I use treats that are too enticing.  So I just used his kibble.

I had Fermin walk off from us a few times.  The first time, Ricky watched closely at what was happening, seemed slightly agitated, and pulled on the leash a bit.  But I redirected him with the "touch" game.  He quickly refocused on ME.  We did this a few times, where Fermin would walk off and then rejoin us a few minutes later.  And by the 4th time, Ricky didn't seem to care at all.  In fact, he didn't even notice until I had him turn around in Fermin's direction and sit.  Then he patiently and calmly waited for Fermin to re-join us.

My dogs LOVE fun training sessions- They're really more like playing/snacking sessions, so what's not to like?  And I'm loving how easy it feels- Lucy and Ricky are so smart.  They remember things we haven't even practiced in years.  And they catch on quickly to new ideas too.  And more than anything, I know this focused attention time together builds our bond in a healthy way.
Taking a little break during our walk today. ❤️

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Back to Basics

Anyone who knows me at all, knows how much I love my dogs, Lucy and Ricky.
Ricky Ricardo
Lucy McGilicuddy
When I first got them, I worked really hard to train them good manners and funny little tricks.  For about the first year of their lives raising them to be sweet, well behaved dogs was my job. 

During our extended trip in Asheville this month, every day is a new and big adventure- Lucy and Ricky have gone on walks and hikes in wonderful new places, with all kinds of new scents, they've been staying in a different house, they even got to stay one night in a hotel, they've been to a farm, they've been to a lake, they've been to a few restaurants, and they've met lots of new people and dogs.  And that all sounds exciting and stimulating, right?

And it IS. But too much of a good thing, as we've heard before, is NOT a good thing. All this excitement hasn't brought Lucy and Ricky joy, but instead, anxiety.  Slightly bad habits they've slid into little by little over the past few years have become very apparent this month.

They do okay when it's just a one-on-one situation (as in ME, with ONE of them), but when Fermin and I take one of them, or even worse, when Fermin and I take both of them somewhere, all hell breaks loose and our world becomes an unrehearsed and very chaotic circus act.  Ricky has started doing this yodeling/howling thing when we take him to a spot where he sees other people or animals.  Lucy barks, and also starts nipping at Ricky, I think trying to discipline him.  Oh, it may sound cute, but it is NOT cute.

Last night was the final straw.  We tried taking them on a nice little stroll around the lake nearby our house after dinner.  They were barking, howling and pulling on their leashes so much that we had to skip the lake and instead just walk the streets, away from where other people were.  It was embarrassing because I know enough to realize that NONE of this is their fault.  It's all on me.  I've dropped the ball and something has gone very, very wrong in the dog behavior department around here.

I felt so ashamed, and also so desperate.  When we move here, I want to be able to take them out hiking with the whole family, not just one at a time.  I want them to get to go with us to dog friendly patios.  I want them to get to meet new people and make friends.  But for that to ever happen, I know I need some help.

So, I texted my friend Ashley late last night.  She's a talented dog trainer and I knew she'd have some good tips for me.

Not only did she have good tips, she had a lot of great articles and videos she shared with me.  And she suggested I work with a dog trainer she thought would be great for our specific problems.  I started looking at some of the stuff she sent me today and I feel so excited.  And hopeful.  I know how smart Lucy and Ricky are.  And I know they aim to please.

I've thrown so many knew things at them all at once during this month in Asheville.  I was expecting way too much from them. It wasn't fair.

So here we go.  Back to square one.  Puppy steps for them, baby steps for me.  We'll figure this out.

More moments like THIS, coming soon.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Perfect Balance

Every time and I mean every time anyone asks my dad, "How are you today?" his answer is:
"Everyday's a great day... as long as you're alive."  I love that he says this and I feel that he truly feels that way. He's a very "glass-half full" kind of man.

But my philosophy is slightly different.

Every day is not a good day. Some days- or at least parts of some days- suck.  And other days are off-the-charts-fantastic! And still, others are right there in the middle.  It's those middle ones, the days that seem neither significantly good or bad, that I like to apply Dad's philosophy to.  If it's just an okay day, I want to remember to look closer and see greatness in all the little things.

Now... about those days that feel far from great, the ones that actually feel pretty shitty--- that's what I'd like to comment on now.

I'll use the weather as my way of analogy here.  If every single day was sunny, that sunny blue sky might start to feel redundant.  I could easily start to take it for granted, and maybe not even notice it. It's the overcast days, especially those stormy days-- that help me notice the sunny ones all the more.  And remember to really appreciate and soak them in, whenever they come my way.

This weekend, our friends came to visit us while we're in Asheville.  Due to bad weather, their original flight got delayed, cancelled, and eventually rerouted.  They ended up flying into a different city, getting in well after 1am.  From there, they had to rent a hotel room without their luggage, because the airline sent that somewhere else, and at that point, their bags and pretty much all of their belongings, were M.I.A.

The next morning, they had to wait until noon for a rent car to become available.  Then, they had a 2 hour commute to get to us.  They ended up getting to the house about a day late, wearing their clothes from the day before.

So that part was not a great day.  But you know what was?  All those moments over the next two days that we did get to be with them.  The airlines finally located their bags so we all drove the 3 hour round trip to that airport to get their luggage. They were so happy to finally get a change of clothes. And although it was not on the fun agenda of plans Fermin and I had concocted for us, that drive back and forth to the airport was still fun.  We were all together, driving in a beautiful area, on our way to pick up their bags!  Woo hoo!!!

That's what I mean.  I don't think every day is a great day.  But I think having some good, and some not-so-good, can make for great moments, and really...a great life.  

I dug around on YouTube to find this song I wrote over 10 years ago about this very topic.  I'm accompanied by my friend, Cornell Kinderknecht on flute.  Performing with him was definitely a great day.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Catawba Falls

This morning, Lucy and I headed off for a hike to Catawba Falls.  It's a waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest, and Lucy and I both love waterfalls!

It was about a 25 minute drive from where we are staying.  And like all the drives we take, every day here in North Carolina, it was beautiful.  Trees, trees, and more trees.

I love that I don't have to deal with traffic here like we do in Dallas.  For now, we just have the Jeep here, which is Fermin's car, not mine.  I'm sort of a granny driver anyway, and in an unfamiliar car- even more so.  But no one's honking at me, or flipping me off for going slow, like they probably would in Dallas.  The soundtrack for most of this trip has been James Taylor... It started because of his song, "In My Mind I'm Going to Carolina", and it just went on from there.  He sings about Carolina quite a bit! Anyway, we definitely take it easy on the road-- there's no need for rushing around here.

We arrived safely and were on our way to see the Falls!
Lucy can't wait!
When we first got out of the car, we saw a few people in the parking lot. Lucy barked and acted a little sassy.  But soon after, she pulled over to some grass for a potty break.  I'm pretty sure that explained her slightly bitchy attitude she had when she first arrived.  She was trying to let everyone know, "Please, get out of my way!  Don't talk to me!  I gotta poo!"  We've all been there.  It's understandable.

Once that was out of the way, we had a nice little hike. 
My Little Wigglebutt

And after a mile or two, we came to the top where you could see the waterfall... It was much better in real life, as most all things are, but here's a little snap of it.
quite a few people had the same idea as Lucy and I today... because who doesn't love a waterfall?
At the end of our hike, we were rewarded by getting to meet Ivy, a little Ricky Ricardo look alike.  She was 13 weeks old.  Lucy immediately took to her, perhaps thinking she was Little Ricky!
Little Ivy
Great fun today with my happy girl!
A happy hike, means a happy life!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

No More Wasted Days

I've lived in Dallas forever.  And that's a mighty long time. 

So now, there's talk that we may be moving- to one of the dreamiest spots I could imagine- the Asheville area of North Carolina.  My husband and I decided that it made sense to come visit here for the month, get familiar with the area, see how it works for him travel-wise, etc

We split our drive into two days- because the drive was long.  Even longer than the GPS estimated.  Due to traffic, construction, frequent bathroom breaks (damn you, small bladder!), and meals... it was two full days of driving.

We got in late Thursday, and then settled in over the weekend... and now, here we are, nearly a week after leaving Dallas.  It's gorgeous, and I love everything I've seen so far.
this is the street, right in front of the house we're staying in

I had this epiphany today while walking Ricky at this little lake very near the house we are staying in.  Stick with me here, I'll get to it, but let me do it in a slightly rambling way...
this is Ricky, during my epiphany at the lake!
Fermin is working each day.  Just like he normally would if we were in Dallas.  He works from home when he isn't traveling.  So far, he hasn't wanted or had time for morning hikes before work.  But for instance, today he said we could all go hike after lunch.  I waited around and he came downstairs around 1pm to eat lunch.  I asked him when we were going out for our hike and he said his day got way too busy.

Which is why I then got in the car and drove to the lake just 5 minutes from here. Not exactly a hike, but nice and easy to get to. 

While I was at the lake area, I saw a bulletin board that posted local events going on this week.  A beginners class to woodworking for only $5, line dancing one night, etc.  Not that those things necessarily appealed to me, but seeing that did make me wonder what the f am I doing here?  We came out here to explore, get familiar, answer the questions we have about NC.  Although Fermin has work to do, my only job while here is to immerse myself in the area and get familiar with it. 

But I've been waiting until Fermin can do it with me.

I drove his car to an area about half and hour away yesterday and it felt like a big adventure on my own.  But all it was was checking out one of the many towns I'm curious about, and doing drive-bys on a handful of homes I saw on in that area.  It doesn't sound like a big deal but I have been being such a weenie on adventure lately, I'm just very rusty.

That all ends NOW.

For the rest of our time in North Carolina, it's total immersion for me.  Every day, I'm doing something that is at least slightly out of my comfort zone.  If there's something I'm curious about, I'm going to go check it out.  If there's a house I want to see, or an area I want to learn about, I'm not only going to drive there, I'm actually going to talk to people there!  I'm going to get some realtors to meet me and actually show me the INSIDES of some of these houses!  I'm not going to just go on the nearby easy walks each day: I'm taking hikes in new places!

Because that's why I'm here.  It's not Fermin's job to hold my hand through all of this.  He has his job (and I'm so thankful that he brings home the bacon!) but I should take this exploration of North Carolina on as MY job.  When he can join me on it, I know he will.

I have been ridiculous so far.  But I figured it all out today. No more wasted days.  Not one.

Friday, June 2, 2017


I've always "known" I could probably never write a book.

But I love to write.  It's been the most consistent creative outlet throughout my life, beginning with my first diary my dad gave me in 1976 when I was pretty new to the printed word.
Dad's "dedication page" in my first diary! ❤️
I kept diaries throughout my childhood, and as I grew a little older, at some point, I started calling them journals. I still write in a journal somewhat regularly, even now.  I also have a few blogs and I publish posts for those each week.  And, I've written lots of songs.

All of those writing endeavors feel pretty natural to me.  I can plop down and write something complete in one sitting. And then move on. Because I don't ever have any sort of expectation that it's suppose to be something great or hugely important.

And although I've always told myself I could never write a book, I've always wanted to.  Probably most people who write have that as a goal somewhere in their soul.

Lately, I've started to think, maybe I can write a book. It's recently become very clear to me what I want to write my first book about.  And that certainly feels like progress. I plan to write a series of essays based on sentimental artifacts I've come across lately.  This idea shouldn't seem too overwhelming.  After all, it's just essays. On real life topics.  Sounds very much like my blog posts.

Except that it isn't.  It somehow seems so much more important.  I don't even know exactly why. It feels like such a big task before me to figure out how to tell these stories in the best way.  What to include, what to leave out, and how to weave them all together so they feel cohesive.  I want to honor these sentimental valuables and write down the stories that they stir up for me so I will have them forever.

I have been writing most days for the past month, but I still don't feel like I have anything to show for it.  I've started on several essays but haven't even completed writing a first draft for a single one.

But I like it.  I like that this feels like a new endeavor that's going to be very challenging and meaningful to me. I like it that my head sort of hurts after I spend time looking for the right words, and the best paths to tell these stories.

I never said I had to show these essays, this potential book, to anyone.  It's just for me.  Yet, I still find it intimidating. Unlike a blog post, or a song, I can't just write these essays in a day or two and then move on.  I've got to sit with them.  And let things marinate.  And just keep pecking away. And eventually, and hopefully, I'll be happy with the way I tell these stories that are so meaningful to me.

I will soon be on an extended vacation, and I plan to spend a lot of time completing 3 of these essays.  Just three.  And then I can go on from there. I'm not quite sure exactly how many there will be in all, but three rough drafts this month feels like a reasonable goal.

I'm hoping to prove to myself that I've been wrong all this time. Because I'm starting to think that maybe I can write a book.