Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

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I haven’t written in nearly 3 weeks, which is a long time for me. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just that we have been extremely busy. La Dolce Doggie has grown tremendously…and it has happened fast! At times last week, I forgot whether I was coming or going and where I was supposed to be next. This is a blessing and it has caused me to stretch myself mentally, physically and emotionally and this is all good..it just hasn’t left me with time for much else.
My last blog was about Hazel and us having adopted her. Since becoming a permanent part of the family, Hazel has really settled in…she has become a regular at the cat litter buffet, has a nap routine, a play routine and a naughty routine. Her day typically goes like this: get up (last one to wake), go potty and then paw at the gate to go back to bed, sleep a bit longer, wake up, chew on toys and then join us and attempt stealth attacks on the litter box (there is nothing stealth about it, BTW). After some snacks, she likes to lie by the front door, where Trixie tortures her in the special “I love you/ I hate you” way that she has. Then breakfast, maybe another nap, some toy chomping and then comes the naughty part of the day. This consists of Hazel looking at Paul or I with puppy eyes from underneath our desks. The goal is to get us to invite her onto our laps. It works. After a few minutes of what I call “schnuffling” (rolling her head around in our laps and generally being adorable), the nipping starts. Hazel is still young, and is still learning that play- nipping is not acceptable. I give her one warning and then time her out. I say “game over” and put her in the bedroom for a while (she follows right alongside me, no collar grabbing and she does not fight it at all)Β  It is working, she is much less nippy with me. Paul tends to wait a bit longer to time her out, so, they still have some work to do! This is called negative punishment, and, with good timing can be very effective at reducing and eliminating behaviors. In my case, she gets one cue: “Hazel, no nipping” ( I should really say something like “gentle” or “easy”, but, I admit to lots of bad habits that need breaking) and if it continues, I say game over and she receives the consequence: the loss of her playmate. Usually, she goes and lays on the bed and works on one of her toys and when I let her back out, she is much calmer. I say usually, because sometimes she chooses not to come back out. This is an interesting thing about Hazel: she is very independent and likes her alone time. Much more so than any other dog I have known, she is very content to hang in the sun or on the bed by herself when everyone else is in the living room.
In addition to adopting Hazel, there is lots of other stuff going on: we are preparing to move into a house with my brother, La Dolce Doggie grows and grows and we are selling my father’s vacation home…which is hard, but, will allow us to move forward in many ways. Every time I get sad about letting go of the house and the memories, I hear my dad say something like, “Lori, be smart, sell the house and keeping moving forward.” And, he would have probably put some expletives in there, too. *One of my top criteria in looking for a house is that it have a place for cat litter where dogs can’t get to it*Β  πŸ˜‰ One of my brother’s top criteria is that he is able to finally get a golden retriever and Paul’s top criteria is that the house be “flat” aka- a rancher. I aim lower…just want the cats to have some space πŸ™‚
Last weekend, I was able to squeeze in a quick trip to NYC to see some of my dog training friends. It was a great couple of hours and I was so glad I carved out the time to be with some brilliant, savvy and generally fantastic people! Thanks to Jean Donaldson and The Academy for Dog Trainers, I have gotten to know some of the coolest people I have ever met- including Jean herself, and I loved seeing her again. I finally got to meet The Great John Visconti, who through email and phone conversations, I felt like I knew forever and meeting him just made the feeling that much stronger. John reminds me so much of my dad and I am so happy to know him. I also got to spend time with Megan, who I had met in California, as well as meeting Matt, Amanda and Melani for the first time. It was fantastic and just increased my gratitude for Jean, not only for introducing me to a whole new way to look at dogs (science-based!Β  force-free! teaching the dog to do the right thing instead of correcting him for not knowing what that is!), but, for giving me the opportunity to get to know some wonderful, smart and lovely people.
So, that’s the quick and dirty rundown. Lots happening….and, though I dare not get too far ahead of myself…I think the dark days of last year are finally behind me and my sense of optimism has returned. And…there might be a bit of joy and hope in there, too. Feels good. πŸ™‚

Love this dog and so happy that we have made her part of our family.

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View from our balcony in Florida. I will miss opening the sliding glass door and seeing this…but, know that there is another door waiting to be opened!

 

 

In NYC last Sunday, with John, Melani, Amanda, Jean, Megan and Matt! What a great day πŸ™‚

β€œOptimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”- Helen Keller

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Breaking News.

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In the “Most Obvious Thing on Earth” category….Paul & I decided to adopt Hazel. No one who knows us is surprised by this news, but, I can tell you that it is not a decision we came to easily. First, a third dog is kind of the last thing we need. Second, she is considerably younger than Rocco and Savannah and third, our job was to foster her, not to adopt her.
For myself, that third statement was the one that made the decision a difficult one. We became foster parents to help dogs, not one dog. But, for more than a few small reasons, we decided that it was the right thing to do. And, as we are in a period of other big changes, I know that we soon will be able to help more dogs…and we will. But, just like Angie and Jenga before her, Hazel needs us…and it felt more and more to Paul and I that she needs us forever.
So, how did we come to that conclusion? Well, Hazel has some confidence issues and we have helped her feel more secure. I worried a lot about setbacks she might have if moved into another home, with another family or other dogs and what the impact might be on her. At this point, Rocco and Savannah have completely accepted her and she has a routine that she is comfortable with. I don’t ever want her to feel like she has to worry about anything ever again. And, truth be told, I don’t ever want to worry about it again either. I don’t blame her for her issues, and am hopeful that they are fully in the past now. We have worked hard on boosting her confidence through training and consistency and it has paid off in more ways than we could ever have hoped. She is loving and friendly with everyone she meets- this is a massive improvement over when she first arrived, when she barked at everything that moved. She has learned to follow Rocco and Savannah’s cues and they have not snarked off at each other once since she returned. She gives space and lets them into hers without issue. These massive improvements came about because we learned to trust them to let each other know what is acceptable and what is not. I let go of my hyper-vigilance and let dogs be dogs. But….as is my way, we did it slowly, and, at least in this case, I think it paid off.
Then there is the not-so-small issue of love. We love Hazel. Paul, especially, loves Hazel. I think one of the things that touches me the most is how Paul experiences so much joy being with her. It’s not that he doesn’t love Rocco or Savannah, or didn’t love Angie or Jenga- he does and he did…it’s just that he and Hazel have a special bond and I think that their relationship has been a big part of why she has come so far. For me, the thought of Hazel going to live with someone else was something I just couldn’t handle. There is only so much loss one heart can take. Though I have been able to get past feeling like adopting Jenga and Angie out was a loss for us, my heart just couldn’t make the leap with this one.
I know there will be people who will be disappointed in our making this choice. To be honest, I get a little disappointed when I see people adopt their fosters. I think about all the other dogs they could have helped and whine inside a little bit about how that is not how it is supposed to work. But, as I said…big changes are coming for us and we will help more dogs. It feels selfish, but, it also feels right.
I never wanted a pit bull. I wanted a beagle. But, as they say….

And…love is love…no matter what.

See that collar?? I may or may not have bought it for her months ago πŸ˜‰

A Good Run.

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Don’t worry…this post is not about physical fitness..this is me, after all πŸ˜‰
I just spent the past few days in Florida, at my dad’s beach house…aka “The Condo”…aka Heaven on Earth. The place that has hosted many a vacation for me and everyone else in my family. For the past 20 years, my dad very generously let us all use it for trips short and long, as often as we wanted…as long as we did a good clean-up on the way out. There were periods of time when I did not use it for years at a time, but, over the past few years, I have been there quite often…with my dad, before he died, with Paul, Jason and various other family members and friends. I feel not lucky…but, blessed to have had this place of beauty and nature and sun and sand in my life for so long.
But, like all good things…this, too, must come to an end. For us, anyway. It is time to move on. Deerfield Beach and the memories we all shared there will always be in my heart, though my feet may never touch the ground there again. When I turned 30, my dad and I took a trip there and then traveled down to the Keys, so I could swim with dolphins. We partied in Key West and got in the water with the dolphins hungover and happy. Then in 2010, we went down together again, for what would turn out to be his last trip there. On that trip, we stayed local, took care of some stuff in the house and visited some of his favorite restaurants. I worried about him a lot on that trip, but, we talked about a lot of things and bonded and it is a very special memory for me.
Yesterday, Lisa (my stepmother) and I listed the beach house for sale. My heart was in my throat the whole time and I wondered if we were doing the right thing. But, in the end, I know it’s the right thing- it’s expensive, none of us can get there all that often and he would not want us to hold on to it if we can’t use it. In fact, his specific recommendation was to sell it within 5 years of his death….always thinking, he was.
My uncle and his family had been there a week prior to my visit with Lisa. When we got there, we found an empty wine bottle on the counter, with some paper underneath. I admit, it took my too-full brain a bit to realize what the deal was. Lisa and I were to add our own notes to the ones they left and send it out to sea….and hope it didn’t wash ashore one town up in Boca Raton! I found this to be a very touching and fitting way to say goodbye.
I will probably be there only one more time- for closing. But, my heart will always be there.
We Schmid’s, Nanan’s, Demore’s, Law’s, Badal’s, Blake’s, Caputo’s and more had a very good run in Deerfield Beach, for sure.
This path has lead many feet and people I love right down to a crystal blue ocean. I hope it leads whoever lives there next to the same sense of joy, peace and happiness.
Thanks, daddy.

 

The Ride.

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I am going to try not to complain too much about my life here. Forgive me if it sounds that way, but, I have a lot on my mind, my plate is full…..and my cup runneth over, with good stuff, so I will get to that, too.
A couple of days ago, I was headed to meet a client in Lambertville and I happened to pass my mother, who was walking her dog down the street. Though we do not speak, for lots of reasons, and I have a lot of anger towards her, all I felt when I saw her familiar gait was intense sadness and longing. It was disconcerting and though I am not looking to make any changes to our relationship status, it made me think…and feel a feeling towards her that I have not felt in a long time…love.
But, that is only part of the picture and only a very small part of what is on my mind…it got me thinking about what love really means and how much I am willing to do for someone I say that I love. I am currently in the process of doing a few things on behalf of my brother…things that I hope will improve his life (and mine) and things that I have to fix….mainly because of issues, if not directly created by my mother, then definitely impacted by her approach to life. So, in addition to the sadness, the anger and the love, there is plenty of resentment. But, I love my brother and will do whatever I can to ensure his well-being. So, in this case, love is an action word….and, not just a feeling. Which it should be. *I just hope he knows that*
All of these thoughts inevitably bring me back to my father and how much I miss him. My father provided a safe haven, an even keel and a fair voice in the midst of lots of chaos….always, even when he was sick. Love in action. After a difficult, but, reinforcing appointment with my brother this morning, I decided to drive past this property that I have had my eye on for a few years. As I approached, I turned on the radio, knowing I would hear The Rolling Stones. I knew they would be on, because every time I drive past that property there is a Stones song playing. They were not on the station the radio was tuned to, but, I switched to 98.1 and there they were….like he was telling me that he was there…like he always does. I have also been thinking a lot about my dad, because, well, I just do, and because we have decided to sell his vacation house, something I don’t really want to do, but, know needs to be done. Though it kills me to do this, I know it’s what he would want us to do…and, at least have one last good time there before we say goodbye.
Last night, Paul and I went to dinner and I looked across the table at him and felt an incredible surge of love for him…this man who has been by my side through all of this, has taken it upon himself to make sure that Rocco eats something, that the cats always have treats, that we always have food in our house (and toilet paper and tooth paste) and just felt love. For a minute, all of our baggage fell away, and things felt easy. I remembered that 5 years ago this week, we had our first date and we argued about who kissed who first. It was fun. We don’t often have moments like that, because life is so filled with stuff and dogs and business and….well, life. It was a nice moment of free and easy enjoyment of each others company. I could use more of those.
This afternoon, I was laying on the couch with Rocco, Savannah and Zooby while Paul napped with Hazel and Trixie. I was thinking about how complicated things can be…and how simple. I was thinking that the love I feel for Zooby is the purest and most uncomplicated love I have…this cat who snuggled up next to me and purred like a machine is never nasty, he is never moody…he is simply happy and loving. ALL. THE. TIME. Zooby is a lesson for me to learn, of that I am sure.
I can’t offer you a moment of Zen….but, I can offer you a moment of Zooby πŸ˜‰