Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Training Tip - Off!

Most dogs like to jump up on people. This habit is hard to break, particularly when others don't enforce it regularly. I'm not sure if the visitors I get are just too polite or just love dogs, but when I try to get Tilly "off" them, they tend to say, "it's okay."

But really, it isn't okay. She's been living here for nearly two years and acts rather uncivilized STILL!

The first challenge to keeping your dog "off" someone is to choose the word. If you are going to use "down," then "down" is for not jumping, and not laying down. Using "down" for wanting the dog to lay "down" and also for not jumping is too confusing.

The next challenge is being consistent, in all situations. Anticipating when the dog is going to jump is important, and put the dog on a leash so you can reinforce the command.

Everyone on board - if you want to really break the habit, everyone needs to know the "rules" and even if they say it's okay, you will need to explain that you're trying to be consistent with the dog. Otherwise, you will end up with situations like this:

Look how happy Tilly is! And Jane (hi Jane!). How can you say no to that?!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leading the Way

Perhaps you remember Roxie from a previous post. She was a fun dog, and this picture is worth sharing.

Even though Roxie had not been to my house before, she wanted to walk ME around the neighborhood. This would not do. She didn't know the way, yet being young and energetic, she grabbed the leash to pull me where she wanted to go.

If I had allowed Roxie to continue in her chosen direction, she would have ended up in the middle of the road. Without a doubt, her life would be in danger if she continued on the path she wanted to pursue.

This has been true for me too. I'm stubborn and I like to be in control. While not so young and energetic anymore, I still wish to pursue the path I want. Yet, God knows better. He knows if I'm too close to the road. He gently pulls me back to safety. However, if I turned my heart from him, He'd allow me to play in the road, leaving me to endure the consequences.

No one wants to think about being on anyone else's leash. However, sometimes the one holding the other end has earned the right to lead.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby - Coming Home (fiction)

Once Nathan Alan Willoughby finished exploring Edie's apartment, he walked over to her. She patted his head, "You're a good cat. You seem to like the place." She walked into the kitchen and put a bowl on the floor. "Here's your water. Now, where did I put that cat food."

"Food" was a word Nathan Alan Willoughby knew well. It meant something delicious. At the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats, that word was followed up with tiny bowls of canned cat food or tuna, a daily treat to supplement the dry food that was always sitting around. Edie scooped out some food from a green bag, "one-third scoop, twice a day," she said as she put the kibble in front of him. Hmmm...this wasn't what he expected. He looked back at her. "Sorry, my little friend, but you need to lose some weight."

Nathan Alan Willoughby looked back at the food. Maybe it wasn't so important. He was away from those other bossy cats at the rescue and Edie paid more attention to him than the volunteers ever did.

Edie sat on the floor. He walked over to her and bumped his head against her outstretched hand, "We'll get along just fine, you and me. I sure need a friend now." She sighed and gathered his nearly twenty pound frame onto her lap. He began to purr. This is what he'd wanted. He didn't know it at the time that this is what it was that he wanted, he only knew he wanted more than what he had. Surely, there was something more, and now he was experiencing it.

He continued to purr and closed his eyes. He was so warm. He felt so safe. Edie breathed into the back of his neck, "I'm never letting you go. Not ever."

Nathan Alan Willoughby hoped this was true.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Please, No Gifts

This morning, a peculiar meow filled the kitchen. It was the sound of a meow with a full mouth. Of goldfinch. Yes, Dooley had brought a dead bird in the house, and wanted to alert me of his generous gift to me. He politely dropped it on the hardwood floor and looked at me. With deep, deep appreciation. I patted him on the head to let him know how grateful I was for his efforts. How thoughtful. Really, you shouldn't have. And here I'd just had breakfast.

Recently, I've been giving a lot of thought about gift giving. There's those gifts that you feel obligated to purchase. Shopping for them are not much fun. While the convenience of one-click, very little effort is made to buy something off a registry. And the recipient, while grateful, enjoys no element of surprise.

What about the gift you can't wait to give someone who has experienced either a great loss, a great joy, or just needs a lift? You race out to the store, pour through the merchandise, and find just the "right" thing for that person. It suits them perfectly. Joy. Pure joy to give this gift.

When we give a gift, we don't want someone to give one back. It diminishes the original gift. It's not a contest, it's something you want to do for another. Particularly when one gives a gift to another for no particular reason or event, the recipient doesn't know how to respond. Perhaps they think they need to keep up? But that's not what a gift is about.

God gives us grace - freely, unconditionally, unearned. If we choose to accept it, there's no way we can "keep up" or give a gift in kind. It's only love that prompts the giver, and the appropriate response is a loving reception of the gift.

What's your experience with gift giving? What about receiving? More importantly, tell me your regifting story!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Training Tip

Many owners boast that their puppy stays close to them, never wandering away.

This is great.

While it lasts.

Once puppies hit seven to eight months of age, their owners aren't nearly as interesting as they used to be. They are maturing and want to explore the world. Suddenly, they aren't staying close. They are wandering away.

A leash wasn't needed before, but now it may be to keep the dog safe. Training needs to continue. The dog was designed to live not following, but living, with their owner in sight.

There have been times in my life that I needed to stick close to God as I went through a lot of pain. Eventually, I could walk further, but always with an eye over my shoulder, keeping God in sight. I've needed to learn God's better way of living, rather than wandering, following what seems more interesting.

What tempts you to wander?

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Bark Too Much

When dropping off their dog to the kennel, owners often say, "he may bark." I nod politely. Of course the dog will bark. Almost all of them do. It doesn't bother me at all. It's what dogs do to communicate. Sure, now and then, one dog will bark more than others. Rarely does a dog bark continuously. They bark when the other dogs go home, they bark for my attention, they bark when another dog passes their cage.

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing." James 3:9-10

Is this you? Does your tongue do this? It's me, and it's my tongue. It's embarrassing. I can sing a praise song and run someone down in the same day, sometimes the same hour. How does this happen?!

Dogs bark aggressively and they bark joyously. They seem to have the same problem we do.

What makes you bark at others? What's your strategy to stop? Or, at least, to reduce?!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby - the Jouney Home - Fiction

"Did you bring a carrier?" The volunteer asked the young woman after she completed her adoption screening form and written her check out to the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats.

After Edie explained she planned to only look at the cats today, the volunteers found some extra cardboard to reinforce the carriers they provided. With a cat the size of Nathan Alan Willoughby, they could only hold their breath it would make it to the girl's apartment without the cat dropping through the bottom.

The volunteers waived at the young woman as she walked out the door. While most times they'd be more diligent with adoption screenings, they were eager to be rid of the large cat. He ate a lot and most people passed by a twenty pound cat, despite his pleasant disposition.

The bus driver gave the young woman a funny look when she boarded and paid her fare. She tried to keep the box with little air holes out of his sight and quickly made her way to the back, in case there was some sort of policy against transporting newly adopted cats. She collapsed onto a seat by herself, happy to be relieved of twenty pounds of cat.

Unfortunately, the bus was unusually quiet on this dreary Saturday afternoon. As the bus pulled away from the stop and into traffic, Nathan Alan Willoughby began to make his presence known.


The young woman coughed as loud as she could. The lady in front of her turned to stare. "Maow?" The man across from her looked at the box. "I'm allergic to cats, you know," he said with disdain. Nathan Alan Willoughby heard the strange noises and felt the peculiar rumblings of the floor underneath him. He'd never been on a vibrating floor before. "Maow?" Why didn't the young woman answer him? Was she gone? He peeked out one of the holes. She looked back at him. She put a finger into one of the holes and stroked the side of his ear. Ah, there she was. She sure had a nice smile.

As long as the woman kept her finger next to the cat, he was quiet. Finally, her bus stop came into view and she pulled the cord to stop. She rose and left the bus. Nathan Alan Willoughby smelled fresh air. He had missed that fragrance. It was a long time since he'd experienced it. He saw the young woman's hand on the handle and poked a paw out to touch it. A sudden rending sound alarmed them both. The young woman grabbed the box from underneath before the bottom dropped out. "I've got you," she said. Nathan Alan Willoughby felt the warmth of the arms underneath him, even with the cardboard layers between them. He began to purr.

They entered a building and the young woman puffed as she climbed several flights of stairs. She had to stop often. He continued to purr. This made the young woman giggle. Somehow, he didn't seem so heavy with that much contentedness pouring out.

Soon, he was inside a room. She opened up the flaps of the cardboard carrier. Nathan Alan Willoughby looked at the young woman. "You can get out now." He jumped out. It was a much larger space than the Red Room of the rescue. It was too soon to explore. Instead, he stared at the young woman. "I'm Edie, by the way. Look around you, Nathan Alan Willoughby. You are home."

The purring wouldn't stop for a very long time. Maybe even years.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Making the Most of It

This is Dakota (hi Dakota!). She's a beauty, inside and out.

When her owners drop her off to the kennel, she comes bounding out of the back of their vehicle, and romps around. She goes to the door of the kennel and waits for ME to open the door for HER. This is a real change from the way some dogs 1) greet me and 2) go through the door.

While Dakota is at the kennel, she follows the routine, sniffs another dog if she feels like it, or completely ignores them. She does like herself some good treats, though (yet one more reason why I like her).

It doesn't seem to bother her that her owners are miles away and she's with all these barking dogs.

For the record, when I'm put off by circumstances and people, I can't say I choose to make the most of it. I complain. I whine. I am unhappy. Lesson to be learned here: think Dakota. Or maybe, "go to my Dakota place." She seems to have faith that her absence from her owners is temporary and she just enjoys where she is until they come back for her. Then, she gloriously bounds out the door, hops in the back of the owners vehicle, and wags her tail.

I'm pretty sure if she knew how, she'd wave goodbye.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dog Devotion

Meet Judy (hi Judy!). Isn't she cute? I love that little teardrop white marking under her eye. Judy is a 13 year old border collie who was here at Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel for the first time recently.

Her owner told me she was a good dog. This was immediately apparent by the dog's intent focus on her owner. Border Collie's are good at focus. This is an admirable trait. My own Cattle Dog, Foster, is extremely devoted to me. However, this devotion can be a difficult obstacle when the owner is away. Without their object of affection and devotion around, some dogs (like Foster), get extremely agitated and they don't eat or function well.

Fortunately for Judy (and me), she adjusted quickly. Proving the intelligence of the breed, once she figured out the routine of the kennel, there were no problems and she seemed to accept my attention and guidance well. Of course, once her owner returned to her, I was completely ignored.

Yesterday I had a crazy thought. Could I try a different faith system? The thought arose due to an article I read about a woman who went "undercover" to explore a different faith. She left unaffected, if not a little hostile, which she was to begin with. I wondered if I could do the same. I don't think I could turn my back on Jesus, even for the purpose of experimenting. As I've heard it said, "once you know the truth, you can't un-know it."

Yet while we're living our lives here "on earth," we are away from our one true Master. We need to figure out a way to function. We could live in despair. We could try to live with hope instead.

When Judy's owner returned, Judy jumped and wagged her tail, like most dogs do when they see the love of their lives. What a wonderful reunion it will be when our Master returns for us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Supper Time!

When I was a kid, I loved to read Charlie Brown comics. I just loved Snoopy (still do). My room even had a Snoopy motif (no, I don't still have that. Ok, maybe a few select items). My favorite Snoopy moments were when Charlie Brown would bring out Snoopy's dinner and Snoopy would dance, his feet all a'whirl, with the little balloon over his head screaming, "Supper Time!"

The above picture is of Ruby (hi Ruby!). Ruby LOVES to eat. When I let her out in the morning, she will not go to the bathroom, because she knows it's time to eat. I've learned I need to feed her first, then let her out to do her morning constitutional. She eats in a fast flurry of food consumption. She eats with both abandon and enthusiasm.

Sadly, I can totally relate to Ruby. Though I do tend to other matters before I get to the business of eating, I LOVE food and eat with both abandon and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it's all I can think about. Most of these times, I should be focused on something else, but instead I focus on food.

That's not good. My focus borders on gluttony. It distracts me from what's more important. Being a slave to my stomach is no way to be. I've also realized I can't do it alone.

God says that in our weaknesses, He becomes strong. Certainly, my willpower is not sufficient. Sometimes, we think God is only useful for the "big stuff" of salvation, or big ticket item prayer requests. But He cares about it all, even my concerns about food. What's a challenge for me, but easy for Him. I just need to remember to ask. He's just waiting to help in my weakness.

And, in case you were wondering, I did write this after breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day, you know!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Nathan Alan Willoughby will Miss Most at the Rescue

As the young woman filled out the questionnaire on the clipboard, Nathan Alan Willoughby knew he'd soon be leaving the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats. He placed one paw on the young lady's leg and purred. She patted his head. He had the feeling that his head would be getting lots of pats, which made him very happy.

The Westwood Rescue for Good Cats had provided him with protection and consistent food and shelter. Yet, he'd always longed for more and it looked like finally he'd experience whatever that was. There would be very little he'd miss. One face came to mind, and that was of his friend, Tau Tau. She had been so small when she arrived at the rescue, she fit in the palm of the volunteer's hand. She was fresh from a flea bath and was not in a good mood.

Nathan Alan Willoughby stood by her when the other cats sniffed and hissed. He didn't want to get so close to frighten her away, and think he also was an enemy. He quietly made his presence known, waiting for her to realize he was there to be her friend.

It took a while. Tau Tau's fur grew out to a beautiful glossy coat. She looked healthy and dainty, a far cry from how she looked when she arrived. Nathan Alan Willoughby was proud to have her as his friend, not because she was so lovely (though it was a definite perk), but because she relied on him just the right amount. She didn't cling to him, and she didn't ignore him.

Nathan Alan Willoughby wasn't surprised when a nice young couple visiting the Red Room spotted her and cooed over her. She was sleeping in between the cushions of the couch, one of her more endearing looks.

The couple filled out a clipboard, and then Tau Tau was gone. While the woman held her, Nathan Alan Willoughby noticed how Tau Tau stared at the woman's face and purred. His heart sunk, but just a little bit. As the couple turned to go out the door, Tau Tau glanced back for a short moment and gave him the slow blink that lifted his soul.

While he realized he'd likely never see Tau Tau again, he could not be sad. Afterall, he knew she was going somewhere better. Nathan Alan Willoughby stared at the closed door for a long time after it closed. He realized one more, very important thing. Tau Tau was gone, but his heart was still filled. Even though he couldn't see her any more, love had not disappeared. In his heart, love thrived.

And now he was going home too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trusting Your Dog with the Kennel Operator

Many kennels have a bad reputation. Some of them deserve it.

You should visit the kennel before you leave your dog, if at all possible. It's important to meet the person who'll be caring for your dog and it's important for your dog to meet that person (or people). The dogs in particular should be able to, as I say, "get a whiff of the place." Then, they get to go home with you before returning for a longer stay.

My kennel is not pretty. I describe it as "highly functional" and "clean-ish." However, taking care of the dogs and seeing to their welfare is my priority. Evidence of this is my very not clean house and my dogs, who I have forgotten to feed a couple of times because I've been so busy with the kennel (don't worry, they reminded me).

Now if you meet the person running the kennel and let's say they have their shirt on inside out, look really tired, having some food item on their face (like chocolate sauce), and smell like coffee, don't let those things rule out the kennel. Sure, maybe it looks like the person isn't careful, but maybe they are just off their game. I've done all of these things. This summer. I'm not being proud, I'm confessing.

We all have our weak areas, sometimes more obvious than others. It's wise to be discerning about who you can trust with your dog and with your friendships. But, if they look a little weird now and then, give them a break. And if it's me, feel free to tell me my shirt is on inside out. That was really embarrassing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Platytime Activities at the Kennel

This is not a dog fight!

This is Riley (hi Riley) and Charlie Bob (good to see you again!). They became fast friends and as soon as they got outside, they started wrestling and playing. When it was time to come back inside, their tongues were hanging out and their necks were gooey from slobbering on each other.

They were happy.

This is the best case scenario for dogs in my care. If the owners give their approval for their dogs to play with others, and there is one or more dogs that like to play, chances are good they will enjoy their time in the kennel. These dogs eat well and don't complain about going back in to their kennel runs. They sleep better too.

This reminded me of how much easier life can be when we get along well with others. Not every dog in the kennel likes to play, and I certainly don't like everyone I meet. However, there's a lot to be said for making an effort.

People, regardless of age, need to "play." We need an outlet for our "every dayness" of life. We have many choices. The most satisfying, though, are those that involve other people. I have a tendency to be a hermit. Sometimes I have to make myself go out and be social. God has made us to be in community with others, even when it's difficult to do so. And when I do make myself go out, I'm always happier, and I sleep better at night!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why Sharing is Hard

Left to right, meet Cricket and Charlie Bob (hi Cricket! hi Charlie Bob!). Being a Border Collie, Cricket enjoys order and minding her possessions. Charlie Bob, being a 4 month old Goldendoodle, enjoys playing, constantly and without any conditions or boundaries.

In other words, one dog knows all the rules and loves to enforce them, and the other is just learning rules and boundaries. Recipe for disaster? Not necessarily. With supervision (that'd be me), Cricket was able to happily play with her tennis ball while Charlie Bob found a more "age appropriate" activity. Both dogs are at different stages and have different personalities, not unlike children on a playground.

It's also not unlike how God wants us to be with each other. We all have different personalities and maturity levels, both socially and spiritually. God wants us to be patient and loving with each other, not just patronize or "bite back" at those who aren't following the same rules and don't understand boundaries.

Cricket was once a puppy, learning her boundaries. And someday Charlie Bob will grow up (really, he will!) and understand the rules. A little patience and understanding goes a long way toward peace and harmony, both in a dog's world and our own.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Safety in Numbers

Meet Maddie and Garin (hi Maddie! hi Garin!). A harlequin Great Dane and a Weimariner share a kennel run, as the owners instructed. Is there enough room? Why yes, there was. In fact, it was a good idea.

Just weeks before, Garin had come for a stay at the kennel by himself. He barked and barked. But with the company of Maddie, he didn't bark (maybe a little). There was a familiar face by his side.

Going through stressful times is made easier when we have a little company. It doesn't make the problem go away, but at least there's someone by our side.

Even if you live alone, there is always the company of God. We just need to look in his direction. "Draw near to me and I will draw near to you."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Westwood Rescue for Good Cats Minus One (fiction)

The young lady sat on the bed, a clipboard on her lap. Nathan Alan Willoughby sat as close to her as he could. Her pen flew over the paper, filling in the many questions.

"Is he the biggest cat here?" the young lady asked the rescue volunteer.

"Oh yes, all twenty pounds of him," the volunteer replied.

She looked at the huge cat. Nathan Alan Willoughby looked back. Only a few times had he seen this process of the clipboard and non-volunteer person in the Red Room of the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats. But, he remembered what the result was. The cat disappeared. While he didn't know where they went, he was so tired of this non-people filled room he didn't care what happened to him. Anything would be an improvement.

Besides, this young lady seemed nice. She smiled at him a lot - that had to be good. Nathan Alan Willoughby began to purr. The young lady looked around the room, then back at him. She turned her head to the volunteer, "Is he supposed to make that noise?"

"He's a very damaged cat. We believe his lungs are compromised, resulting in that rather alarming purr." The volunteer discreetly picked up a hair ball one of the other cats had hacked up.

The young lady scratched Nathan Alan Willoughby behind the ears, "Did you hear that? You're a very damaged cat." She leaned in and whispered in his ear, "It's okay. I'm damaged too. I know of a nice warm home where you will be loved."

Nathan Alan Willoughby stared straight in her eyes. He didn't know the definition of the words she used, but he knew the intensity of the emotion. A strange sensation overtook him. He was quivering. Home. He was going home.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Elvis is in the Kennel

This is Elvis (hi Elvis!). Sure, he's not covered in sequins, and he's a border collie, not a hound dog, but he's still a great dog with a great name.

One of my favorite things about Elvis is that when he comes to the kennel, he does something he does not do at home. He herds. Something about the way the other dogs come and go just triggers that instinct to stare the other dogs down, willing them to behave. His instinct demands he create order out of chaos. I love to watch Elvis work. It was what he was born to do. Look at him - that's focus!

Many times I struggle with what I'm "supposed" to do. Should I be doing more? Less? Changing jobs? Moving? There's just too many possibilities. Some people believe that they were born to do a certain career or responsibility in their lives. More power to them. I'm not going to argue that is not true. I just don't think it's true for everyone. Some of us bump and blunder through life, doing what is put in front of us. Certainly that can be just as legitimate as "the one thing."

Regardless, focus is important for all we do? What takes your eyes off your work? What could you be doing better if you improved your focus? It's not all about productivity. Maybe if I focus better, I can love better. Love makes order from chaos.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"That's a Puppy?"

While novelty t-shirts aren't really my thing, if I were to get one, it would read, "I heart Tug" or "Vote for Tug" with this face under it:

Isn't that one adorable face?

That's Tug (hi Tug!) and he's a 6 month old Mastiff PUPPY. That's right, he's still growing. That's my foot (size 7) next to Tug's paw. Wow.

Sometimes what you see is not what it really is. We may think we see a huge dog, while in reality, it's a huge puppy, who lopes around and is clumsy like a toddler. He was super cautious while taking a drink from the pond.

How many times have I made an assumption based on what I saw, only to find out (usually the hard way) that I was wrong. There are also lots of things I've believed about God that I later realized were wrong too.

Things just aren't as they seem. Relying on our experience alone can be a dangerous thing. Asking questions and wanting to learn the truth isn't easy, but it's satisfying and honest. However, it comes with that difficult reality that every now and then, we may be wrong. Then, there's the admitting we're wrong...then acting on what's true. It's not easy. Wouldn't it be nice if we all were a bit more courageous?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friends at the Kennel

Meet Buckeye and Simon (hi Buckeye! hi Simon!). Both of them were here at the kennel for the first time recently. At first, Simon was anxious. After a couple of days, I spent some time alone with him outside to try to get him to settle down. He responded by picking up a tennis ball and looking at me. I responded by bringing out Buckeye. The two became instant friends.

From then on out, Simon was no longer anxious. He enthusiastically went inside to his kennel run and bounded out when it was time to play and be outside. Buckeye had that effect on more than a couple of dogs. His easy going nature seemed to relax them as if to say, "Hey, we're here, might as well have fun."

Isn't that what a good friendship does, whether our lives are difficult or gliding along more easily? "We're here, might as well have fun."