Life, Love, and Puppy Training
As some of you might know, we welcomed a puppy into our family. Frisbee is a three month old Labradoodle with golden fur and the deepest brown eyes.
Getting a puppy wasn't my idea. I was happy with our cat Gracie. Life was getting into a rhythm (granted, with a six year old it is more like jazz filled with surprising notes). My husband and son however were desperate for a dog. Being an only child, my son wanted a playmate, someone to run around with in the back garden. My husband wanted a reason to jump out of bed everyday so that he could go for a walk or a run, although I think he wanted a pet who he could shower with affection and who would return the love unconditionally. So, long story short, Frisbee entered our lives.
To say we were unprepared for the hurricane of activity would be an understatement. From the moment we carried Frisbee into our car we were met with a little being that was basically a bundle of emotions. Having been born with siblings and having spent the first few weeks of his life surrounded by all that he has ever known, he was then expected to transition to a new life with strangers. What followed were sleepless nights, ruined furniture, running around after a being that is basically a newborn and toddler rolled into one.
Before Frisbee, I was finally feeling as though I was getting some of my time and space back. For the first five years after a woman has a baby it can feel all-consuming. Our life doesn't feel like ours. As a women, we feel it all--physically, as our body recovers from pregnancy and childbirth and all the hormones that go along with that; mentally, we're always worried about our child; and emotionally, it's basically a rollercoaster. So when we were considering life with a dog, our son was already at the stage in life where he was semi-independent and was able to do a lot of things on his own. Hence, I was feeling more myself again; the self that was starting to relax a bit more and I was very protective of that feeling.
When Frisbee arrived, that calm space that I had started to feel was flowing was now a torrent of waves. Our house that was starting to look normal and clean-ish was now the scene of chew toys, shoes that he has claimed for himself, and other unmentionable discoveries. Each morning is a flurry of activity with kisses and happiness, bites & nips at legs and ankles, ruined clothes because of long puppy nails, a run out to the garden, total excitement over breakfast, then games to keep him distracted enough so that we can get dressed and do the school drop off. There is joy, irritation, laughter, and yelling. Some days I can literally feel my blood pressure rising. And then I realised why: I was so desperate to hold on to some semblance of control and that feeling of my hard fought zen that the moment something threatened my flow I resisted. I resisted like those tightly-wound ropes Frisbee spends his time gnawing into.
Why do we do that? Why do we feel that life has to be a certain way in order to feel good? Whether it is a house, a ring, a car, a title, a job, a person, why do we have to hold on so tightly to our image of what it should all look like or even feel like for us to know that we are living a good life? I was so hell bent on maintaining my life as it was that I resisted opening myself up to what could be. For some of us, that feeling often comes when we get knocked out of our sense of security when we receive troubling news about ourselves or our loved ones be it health, financial, professional, or relationship-related.
It is when we are shaken out of our routine, our "normality" do we start to look at our life a little differently. It adds another layer to the complexities of our existence. It may not be a layer we want but, if we allow ourselves to truly understand it, it may be the layer we need. It's kind of like chaos theory (literally). The Fractal Foundation describes chaos theory this way:"Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insight, power, and wisdom...Order / Disorder Chaos is not simply disorder. Chaos explores the transitions between order and disorder, which often occur in surprising ways." For me this means being pushed out of my comfort zone and seeing how much of a control freak I actually can be. For me it means learning, albeit reluctantly, to let go a bit here and there even if it means letting go of a perspective or a picture in my mind of how things need to be. For me it basically means learning to roll with it which I have never been very good at or felt comfortable doing.
Steve Mann, the founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers talks about the "emotional investment" we make when taking on these four legged fur babies. He writes in his training book, and this is a line that really encapsulated for me everything about puppies and life, "...a puppy will dictate the clothes that you wear, the car that you drive, your next house, your holidays, your furniture. They're a massive, massive influence on your life." He's not wrong. He's frighteningly right.
It was only when I started to loosen the lead a little on my puppy training did I really see Frisbee for who he was and why he came into our life. I realised that Frisbee wasn't being disobedient by jumping on the couch, he was jumping on the couch to give me kisses and to show me how much he loved me. And that was when I fell in love with this being who has shaken up my world, who has torn to shreds (literally and figuratively) my quiet existence for one that is full of exuberance and energy (ok, not necessarily that much energy as the current sleep pattern is yet to settle down), and who shows me every day unconditional love. He has shown me that I needed to release my finely-tuned routine (and desire for a clean house) in order to let in some spontaneity. Most importantly, to recognise a gift that only change can provide. And he manages to get me outside to play frisbee (the game) with him every single day. A game that I forgot how much I loved to play as a kid.
The same however, can't be said for how Gracie feels about her new housemate no matter how soulful his eyes may be.