Wags n Words Healthy Dogs & Happy Tales

December 9, 2016

Karmic Duties

There was a time, back in the days when I was a dog dog walker and the only dog in the house, when my biggest responsibility was teaching other dogs how to behave. This might seem surprising to those who know me well, but my behavior has vastly improved. As a puppy and an adolescent, I struggled a bit. Gretchen can tell you stories (lots of them, I fear), but let’s just say that I had some challenges early on and it took a lot of time, effort, and patience on everyone’s parts for me to settle down and learn to behave.

Not that I’m perfect now, but I’m a lot more perfect than I was years ago.

Years ago I did things like tear up toys, bark incessantly, run away when my moms tried to put me on a leash, not come when I was called, refuse to eat, dig holes in the backyard…and on and on. True, I wasn’t as bad as some dogs I know (no names mentioned!). I didn’t counter surf, I didn’t bite anyone (ok once I was accused of it, but I didn’t do it…I was no where near that woman!), I never tore up anything expensive or irreplaceable, I never got into dog fights (though there were a few times when I would have liked to!), and I never peed or pooped in the house (okay once I did, but it truly wasn’t my fault).

Now that I’ve had so many other dogs in my life, I’ve seen all the bad behaviors that I could have done, but never tried or frankly, never even thought of. And now that I share my home with two brothers — Dezi and Oscar — I also see that there are a lot of dog-like things I could have done, but didn’t really know were options.

Take Dezi, for instance. He begs. Especially if rotisserie chicken is involved. He’ll give my moms a look that borders on pathetic, like he hasn’t had a decent meal his entire life, just to get on little piece of chicken. He’ll beg for other things, but if anyone is eating chicken, heck if a chicken walks into the room in a grocery sack, he’s all over it. Even now, with a tumor blocking the left side of his nasal passage, he can smell that chicken and he’ll follow the holder of said chicken until they give in and slice him off a morsel or two or 12.

I like chicken. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t beg. In fact, I don’t even eat it off the floor unless directed to do so. My moms can drop anything on the floor and the first thing I do is look at them to say, “Hey, you dropped something.” We’ve had dogs at our house — Big Albert for one — who would snatch that fallen food the split second it hits the floor. There is no hesitation, there is no, “Hey Albert, clean that up for me!” He just races in and grabs it.

Not me. I’ll only meander over to it if I’m invited and even then, I may or may not eat it.

Dezi never raced in to get things before either. In fact, Dezi never walked on the hardwood floors. They scared him. So if something dropped in the kitchen, he might have been tempted to race over and get it, but the rubicon of the hardwoods kept him from doing so.

Now Dezi is on medications for his tumor and those medications make him ravenous. We have to parcel out his food or he’d balloon into a St. Bernard if we let him. And because he thinks he is ravenous, he has conquered his fear of the hardwood floors. Now he’ll walk all around the kitchen and spend his afternoon snarfing up any fallen morsels he can find.

I try to be tolerant, but it upsets me a bit that he can break the rules for begging while I still feel obliged to follow them.

And then there’s Oscar. He doesn’t so much beg as give my moms the sad “I’m-a-rescued-street-dog-from-Costa-Rica” look. He is respectful…he doesn’t race over to dropped food and snatch it up, but still, he has his own way of begging and more importantly, of breaking the rules.

I suppose this is to be expected. I grew up in this house my whole entire life and those rules were put into place from Day One. I lived by those rules as faithfully as I could and now I see — with two brothers and many boarders — that those rules aren’t as fast and firm as I thought they were. Still, when I try to break them I hear, “Rubin, you know better!” and that’s when I think, “Wow, so why aren’t the other dogs getting in trouble?”

Gretchen has tried to explain it to me numerous times and her explanation goes something like this — Dezi is old — deaf, pretty much blind, and struggling with a tumor deep in his ear that makes him uncertain on his feet and unpredictably wobbly. At 15 years old, he kind of gets to do what he wants because his days, dare I say, are numbered.

Okay, I get that, but then there’s Oscar. The explanation is this: He’s lived on the street. He didn’t have rules — like no peeing indoors and no jumping on counters — so he has to learn those rules and sometimes, he forgets them so we have to be patient with him.

Oh, and he doesn’t speak English. Well, at least it’s not his first language.

I get this too, but I do notice there’s a lot more leniency when it comes to enforcing those rules than there was when I was learning them. Still, this is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that I am the one who supposed to teach him the rules BY EXAMPLE. Yes, I put that in capital letters because it has been drilled into me from the first day that little guy came to live with us — “Rubin, you need to help him learn to behave by being a good example.”

At first, after hearing this explanation, I was like, “Okay, I will do my best,” but Oscar has been with us almost 6 months now and you’d think he would have picked up on the example I’m setting by now. Yes, he gets some things — like sitting and waiting for his breakfast and dinner and only eating when instructed to do so — and he’s learned some basic commands — sit, down, wait, and sometimes, leave it — all of which I know he’s learned by watching me. But there are some days when I think that little bugger is milking it, faking the he doesn’t know something when actually he does.

I mean, I’ve been such a good example these past six months, I think his behavior should simply be a reflection of HIM and not at all of ME as his older brother or teacher, right?

I think the hardest part of all of this is that deep down inside, I want to be a one dog household. I LOVED it when it was just me and my moms, when I got to go on long walks with them by myself  or on road trips as the only dog in the car with plenty of space to stretch out or the only dog on the couch cuddled between them while we watched a movie or shared stories of the day.

It’s been an adjustment — first with Dezi coming to live with us 2 1/2 years ago and now with Oscar in June. Dezi took some adjusting too, but since we’d known each other for about 8 years previous to his  permanent arrival at our house, it wasn’t to hard to make the adjustment.

But once Oscar arrived, even having Dezi around now feels like a bit of work. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Dezi and I’m learning to love Oscar, but three dogs in the house means everything is in thirds — a third of the love, a third of the couch, a third of the car — someone is always accompanying me on my walks, someone is always elbowing me in the backseat of the car, someone is always fed before I am.

And through it all, I’ve been a trooper. Okay, occasionally I’ve spouted off and growled at Oscar or snapped at Dezi and my moms are none too pleased with me when I do it, but geez, how much does a guy have to adjust?

Sigh.

Gretchen says that learning to handle change, learning to share is part of my Karmic duty.

I wonder, what’s Dezi’s Karmic duty? Or Oscar’s for that matter?

Meanwhile, I am continuing to be as good a dog as I can be and trust me, that’s saying a lot. Here’s hoping that my brothers learn to appreciate it!

 

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September 10, 2016

World. Spin. Forward.

Hey Gretchen.IMG_4310

Yes.

Which direction does the earth spin?

Wow, that’s a big question and I’m afraid I don’t have an answer. And I’m not sure how you’d answer it because direction is all relative.

What does that mean?

Well, if I’m looking down from space onto the North Pole the earth is spinning in a different direction than if I look down from space onto the South Pole of the earth, right?

Huh?

Look. I have a basketball. From your position beneath the basketball, which direction is it spin — clockwise or counter clockwise?

IMG_4372Um, clockwise?

Yep, but now look from the top of the ball.

Counter-clockwise.

So my point is, what direction are we looking from when we ask the question, which direction does the earth spin?

Good Dog! I thought this would be a simple answer. Give me a minute…I’m going to look it up.

(Long Pause)

According to my sources on the internet, the earth spins west to east.

So just like my basketball example!

Technically, yes, but you never really answered the question. You just gave me more questions to answer.

But you figured it out, didn’t you?IMG_4397

Stop already!

Why were you asking?

Now I’m totally befuddled. I’ve lost my train of thought… Let me think a minute…

(Short Pause)

I guess I was pondering time and I started thinking about how time always moves forward. And then I started thinking about “forward” being an interesting term and what direction “forward” actually was and if that direction was determined by anything, like the spinning of the earth.

Wow, those are some deep and heavy contemplations, Rubin.

I know! And they weren’t made any easier by your “perspective” comments.

IMG_4409Sorry. I just didn’t know the answer and when I thought about it, all these other questions came into my head. But what spurred on your original thought — your thought about forward time?

I don’t know. I’m just been feeling a bit like time has run away from me or with me or past me or some such thing. So much has happened in the past few months and I can’t seem to catch up with it all.

Yes, there have been a lot of changes in our lives — good ones and bad ones…

And sad ones, too.

Yep. IMG_4344

Do you think it’s been more so these past few months than any time in our lives?

I don’t know. I do know that as I grow older, it feels like there’s a lot more happening all around me and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it all. And sometimes, I feel like, as I grow older, there are more sad things that happen. 

Like death.

Yes, like death…and frankly, it sucks.

IMG_4398It truly does. Sometimes I start thinking about all those friends who are no longer in my life and my heart gets really heavy. I will never see them again and sometimes I have a hard time catching my breath with the weight of those thoughts.

The same happens to me, buddy.

Is that why you were crying at the vet clinic the other day?

Yes, I really miss Dr. Cindy. She was such an amazing veterinarian, mentor, and friend to us and when I think about all those people and animals who miss her as much as we do, I get really sad.

Me too. And I get really sad when I think about her husband and IMG_4352her sweet old dog, Colima feeling that loss every day. They must really really miss her.

I think they do.

But it’s not just Dr. Cindy I miss. I miss my dog friends who have passed and sometimes, especially at night, I start counting off all the dogs I’ve known in my life and how many of them have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and my heart gets really heavy.

I’m sorry, Rubin. I know it’s hard. But there are good things too are there?

(pause and deep sigh)

IMG_4307Yes, there are good things, but I guess that’s why I was thinking about time and the idea of “forward”…I’m worried that I’ll forget all those dogs and people who have meant so much to me if I keep moving forward. Sometimes, I just want time to stop so I don’t lose anybody else or forget about all those who have passed.

I understand. I suppose it would be good to just stop and not have to face anymore sadness in our lives, but then we wouldn’t be able to welcome any new happiness in our lives. We’ve had some happy moments haven’t we?

You’re talking about Oscar aren’t you.

Well, yes Oscar, but Dezi too. They both came into our lives at times of great sadness, remember?

When Grandpaw and our friend Ann crossed the Rainbow Bridge…that’s when Dezi came, right?

Yep. He needed us right at a very dark time when Ann L. was really sick and Grandpaw IMG_4391was getting really sick and then Michael, Dezi’s dad, was getting sicker and sicker. That was a rough time and yet Dezi was a such an unexpected addition of love to our family.

I didn’t think so at first.

I know you didn’t. You wanted to be an only dog in an only dog family.

Yes, I did, but Dezi grew on me and he was polite and understood that I had rules. And he followed them. He still follows them and is very respectful.

Unlike Oscar.

IMG_4317Well, I don’t want to complain, but Oscar was a big surprise and on top of the fact that he couldn’t speak English…

…because he came from Costa Rica…

…and he was used to living on the street and fending for himself…it was hard to train him to behave.

Well, you have some pretty strict rules.

It’s not just me! You didn’t like it when he jumped on Grandma’s dining room table!

True, but I guess I’m talking about teaching him that you don’t like to share much…

…I’m trying.

I know you are, but still, it’s hard to share sometimes and sometimes he thinks it’s okay to bug you when really you’d just like to relax.IMG_4356

I have to admit he is getting better.

Which is my point…sometimes you really enjoy each other and if we didn’t move forward, we never would have had the chance to enjoy Oscar.

But now we’re a three dog family and while I know it’s okay, it reminds me that at some point in the near future, we’re going to be a two dog family again.

You mean when Dezi crosses the Rainbow Bridge…

Yes, and that’s going to really hurt, which I guess is surprising because I never thought I’d grow to love him and depend on him the way I do.

I know. I think about it too.

IMG_4304How do you make it through those thoughts?

I take a deep breath, cry a little bit, but then realize that Dezi is still here and he brings joy to my life every day and I need to soak that up so I feel full and not heavy-hearted.

It’s not easy.

No, it is not easy, but look at him. He’s doing really well and is living longer than we ever thought he would.

His birthday is coming up, isn’t it?

Yep, September 15! And he’s going to be 15!! 

His Golden Birthday!

See! Sometimes moving forward is cause for celebration!

Will you make pup-cakes?

You bet I will!IMG_4375

You know, they say dogs live in the NOW and most of the time I do, but as I get older, I notice I spend a bit more time reflecting on the past and dreaming about the future. Right now, in fact, I’m dreaming about those pup-cakes!

It’s important to do all three…to remember the past and all of those amazing people and animals who’ve touched our lives, to dream about the future, which will include new friends, new adventures, and yes, PUP-CAKES!, and it’s important to live in the NOW, to enjoy all the beauty of the world and all the gifts we have in our lives.

Still, it’s hard when things seem to be speeding up.

I know. Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? The older I get, the faster my life seems to go. I IMG_4413guess that’s why it’s important to appreciate every moment you have.

Even though we’re rapidly moving from West to East!

Ha! Yes! 1,042 miles per hour!!

Did you just look that up?

Yep! And now my head is really spinning!

And here comes Dezi because he knows it’s time for dinner!

And Oscar right behind him. You have taught them well, Rubin.

Well, I am pretty exceptional.

Yes…yes you are!

Until next time!

Rubin

 

 

 

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