Dogs will be Dogs…

So Luna caught a mole yesterday evening… I’ve no idea where she found it, as there are no evident mole hills in the garden, but she was exceptionally pleased with herself.  She refused to relinquish her prize in the garden, and carried it triumphantly into the house, where she was eventually persuaded to part with it in exchange for three biscuits – a deal which she subsequently regretted, if her disappointed searching was anything to go by…

The mole was, sadly, deceased by this point and was decently interred under the hedgerow across the lane.  Cat families will often be distressingly familiar with this scenario, but with our dogs it is not so frequent (although certainly not unheard of!).

We somehow forget, when we are throwing the fluffy, squeaky toy in a fun game of chase, fetch and throw-in-the-air before chasing again, that in addition to the joyful interaction we are both having, we are also assisting our little hairy friends to hone their hunting skills…

Dogs are natural predators – it is their essential nature to hunt small, squeaky, furry or feathered things.  Why should we expect them to be less dog, and more human, just because we choose to share our lives, our homes and our sofas with them?

Luna’s Teachings:

  • Accept others for who they are, rather than expecting them to be whom you think they ought to be.
  • Everyone is entitled to perceive the world in their own, unique way.  Others will do whatever they will do – what you do with that is all yours.
  • When you’ve just caught your first mole, hold out for the fourth biscuit before handing it over.

 

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Eat, Play, Love… Part 2

Since the sudden loss of our beautiful Daisy at the end of May, we have been helped by a great many words of comfort and wisdom from friends and family, not least my niece who said that, “…somewhere out there is a little girl just waiting for you to go and pick her up…”, and she wasn’t wrong.  The Universe, as we know, abhors a vacuum – and our Lhasa Apso-shaped vacuum was way too deep to be ignored for very long.

It’s been said that the best way to honour the passing of a loved dog is to offer the love you gave them to another who is in need of it.  A particularly bad day last week led to a serendipitous meeting of souls…

So a measure of joy has returned to our household in the shape of little Luna – half-past puppyhood at just over a year old – and in need of a home just as much as we are in need of her.  She’s only been here a couple of days, and she seems to be a happy little soul – she’s settling in well with the Schnauzers and enjoying the opportunities that new walks and sofas have to offer…  They are still looking slightly askance at her attempts to play with them – they are not used to this kind of thing! – but I’m sure it won’t be long before Theo, at least, embraces his own inner puppy and decides to join in. 

The waves of sadness still come, but the raw grief is being tempered and I am beginning to find my thoughts and memories of Daisy moving away from the trauma of her final day and returning instead to her grace and elegance – her thousand sweetnesses – the way she used to stand out in the garden on a windy day; face into the breeze and her tail blowing out like a banner behind her… her ‘Daisy Leap’ from the lawn onto the path… her love of the fringes on the sofa throw in my office…  As I turn my face to the sun, the shadows are indeed beginning to fall behind me, as the proverb says.

As I was writing this blog, there was another meeting of souls – this time across the worlds… Who knows what passed between them?  I am certain something did.

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The Teachings of Dog – No 22: Why break the habit of a lifetime?

We had some old friends round for supper the other evening.  We hadn’t seen them for ages, and they were enchanted to meet the two new part-time canine members of staff, who were visiting us for the weekend.  Fortunately one of my friend’s favourite pastimes is to be submerged beneath a pile of tiny dogs, which is just as well…

Towards the end of supper, we let the dogs into the garden for a spot of milling about.  Shortly afterwards the sound of “ear applause” outside the door alerted us to their return and we opened the door… at which point a black and dripping form hurtled through the open doorway, into the kitchen – and through into the hallway, up the stairs, along the landing, into our bedroom, round the outside of the bed and onto the bed – with all of us in hot and hilarious pursuit.  Tizzie had fallen in the pond again…

It is interesting how we all become creatures of habit.  The very act of doing something over and over in the same way creates a neurological pathway in our brain, so that the behaviour becomes automatic and a habit (or ‘strategy’ in NLP terms) is born.

What if we want to create a new and useful habit, such as daily flossing, or exercise, or self-hypnosis…?  Sometimes the idea of making changes to our existing lifestyle can just seem too big.  Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – but we can reduce this dramatically through setting a positive, specific goal, and then attaching the new “habit” onto something that we already do.  “Daily flossing” for example can be made more specific by stating is as “flossing every night after cleaning my teeth” – so that it becomes an extension of an existing habit, and not a whole new habit in itself.  Small change is always easier than big change!

In the daylight of Sunday morning, I watched the dogs in the garden.  They all know to avoid the pond, and when returning to the back door from the lawn this necessitates quite a long detour.  Tizzie has evidently decided to create her own new pathway and cut out the loop – and the trackway made by her little feet was easy to see, once you knew it was there… as was the newly-formed (and doubtless inadvertent) slipway, created the night before due to a misplaced foot in the darkness.

Tizzie’s Teachings:

  • New behaviours sometimes take a while to get right every time; remember there is no failure, only feedback.
  • Always look before you leap – even if you think you know where the edge of the pond is.
  • Don’t leave mud to dry – if you take action straight away it will mostly come out in the wash.

 

The Teachings of Dog – No 18: Finding the Right Candidate

One of our part-time canine members of staff has recently left to pursue a new career with her original breeder.  Poppy does not seem to like being an “only dog” when she is at home; a reduced appetite and general air of ennui suggest that she misses her colleague (despite the occasional bullying that was the reason for Snippets’ departure), so Lou is now looking for a suitable candidate to fill the vacancy.

As anyone who has ever recruited staff will know, this is a time fraught with questions and decisions.  Before even beginning the search, it’s essential to consider the precise nature of the position and ask yourself what is important to you about the ideal candidate; what values and attributes should they possess in order that they will be the right one for the post?  Is the position one that involves any reception duties, for example, and if so does this include any requirements of an auditory or vocal nature?  Will they be expected to undertake any secretarial duties such as paper shredding or mail collection?  Is the role of personal trainer an important part of the job, or just someone to assist with the steeper hills?  Does existing training for the position matter, or are you happy to undertake their CPD (Continuing Puppy Development)?  Would an older candidate with more experience be more suitable?  Are you looking for the curious, innovative type, or someone who has a strong interest in sofa-based inner contemplation?

Would you prefer someone with a marked disinclination for going out in the wet and a deep and abiding fascination for researching how long they can stay in bed?  Are any gardening duties required, such as clearing fallen apples and plums, digging the borders or scratching moss from the lawn?  Is the occasional pilfering of supplies of, say, coal, going to be a problem? And, of course, there are the needs of any existing staff members to consider; what are they looking for in a colleague?  Are there any roles they would enjoy sharing, or perhaps passing on to a new member of staff?  Do you have someone who is already in a managerial position who might resent you employing someone of a higher grade, or are they the laid-back and gregarious type with little interest in heirarchy who just loves networking and making new friends?  Are you going to include them in the interview process?

Looking through the various recruitment (ie adoption) agency websites is a good place to start your actual search and, as with any CV, you have to read between the lines and match as many of your required values and attributes as possible…   Eventually, Lou has drawn up a shortlist of candidates for her vacancy and interviewing has begun…

Yesterday’s interviewee seemed very promising indeed on paper; we arranged an appointment at his foster home and took Poppy to meet him.  Unfortunately, however, Poppy’s values concerning, for example, the purpose of her tail, were in direct variance to our candidate’s sustained suggestions, so that a radical and, I might add, vociferous difference of opinion occurred.  Poppy said no – and we listened.

Poppy’s Teachings:

  • Don’t ignore your instincts, however attractive the candidate appears to be
  • Listen to input from your other staff members and be prepared to change your criteria for their benefit, and the benefit of the whole team, if necessary
  • Learn from each applicant, allowing the picture of your ideal candidate to evolve
  • When Poppy says no – Poppy means no.

The Teachings of Dog – No 9: Acceptance

After the sad loss of Hugo earlier this month, we’ve certainly noticed a feeling which I can only describe as “less dogness” in the house. Hugo had a big spirit, and although he was sleeping for 23½ hours out of every 24, he was still very much present. Even with the four other canine members of staff we were left with a space; a vacancy, if you will…

Of course, the laws of physics state that nature abhors a vacuum. We should not have been surprised, therefore, when a candidate obligingly appeared this weekend to audition for the Hugo-shaped space in our lives…

Snippets is a black and white poodle – at first glance resembling a small, rotund and anxious-to-please sheep, she has a perpetually wagging tail and a pair of dark, liquid eyes under a cascade of ringlets which serve to give her a distinctly rakish air. Lily and Poppy came with us to the kennels to collect her and hardly batted an eyelid at the sudden appearance of this woolly little being who was lifted into the back of their car without so much as a by-your-leave.

Within a few hours of her arrival, Snippets was becoming a part of the team. Despite being summarily removed from her old environment and placed somewhere with absolutely no familiar frames of reference, she seemed to take everything completely in her stride. Showing her round the house, she had no hesitation in trying out the sofas (and the beds!) for comfort and sat down by the Aga as if greeting an old friend.

It’s interesting how like Hugo she is in some ways… the shape of her face, the expression of sweetness in her eyes, certain little quirks of character which are starting to emerge as she relaxes into her new home, and even her size all serve to remind us of our absent friend.

Snippets is a very good fit for that Hugo-shaped space in our home and our hearts, and it seems as though, like all of us, she is exactly where she is supposed to be.

Snippets’s Teachings:

  • When outside your comfort zone, have curiosity instead of fear; curiosity engenders growth, whereas fear paralyzes.
  • Treat strangers as friends – they will always fulfil your expectations.
  • Wherever you are, know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Teachings of Dog – No.3

Theo the schnauzer has to be one of the most ebulliently joyful creatures with whom it has been my pleasure to share my life. His sheer boundless enthusiasm and wanton curiosity for just about anything in his universe is a lesson in itself. He’ll be gratefully appreciative of any gift you care to give him (even if you personally wouldn’t consider it a treat – raw potato or spinach accidentally dropped will be happily accepted) and gives in return his abundant happiness and pleasure in your company. He also knows everything there is to know about relaxation and makes the best relaxing noises I’ve ever heard… his favourite place to be is cuddled up on the sofa with as many of his friends (human and canine) as will fit.

Theo’s teachings:

  • Be grateful for everything you receive. Everything.
  • Show your friends how much you appreciate being with them.
  • Learn how to relax…
  • Joy is an attitude of mind – it comes from within.
  • Enthusiasm and curiosity make your world an amazing place to live.