It’s official; I’ve crossed to the other side. Some of my friends are concerned; some just shake their head and wonder what has happened. It used to be easy to find common ground because it’s perfectly normal to have 2 kids, no matter their age. Now as I embrace the passing of time and each of the kids discovering their own exciting direction, it’s a little more difficult to find common ground since it is not very common to have two dogs the size of young adults.
For years, my primary source of preoccupation had been my kids. I drove carpools, volunteered in classrooms, organized team activities and celebrations and basically sacrificed the bulk of my free time to taking care of their needs. Those days are over! My children have both graduated high school and are well on their way of discovering the different paths of their future. It’s exciting, rewarding and a little bit sad to embrace the changes in our family dynamic but I can’t run away from the fact that my kids are out of the house for more months of the year than they are at home. Of course I still worry, a lot, but I can no longer fix their biggest concerns with a hug or kiss. I’m here for them when they need me, but they are now in charge of their own happiness. There has been a lot of stress and worry this year for each of them, but they have both managed it beautifully and I am so proud of them.
Last January, after Thomas returned to college we adopted Annie. She needed a lot of attention and it took a tremendous amount of time and patience to gain her trust. She had come from a terrible situation and before her rescue she didn’t have any reason to know that she could have a positive experience with her owner. I dedicated all of my extra time to her and I found patience that I never knew I had. Slowly, she began to trust me and we began to form the type of bond that I think she craved all of her life. The fact that she needed so much of my time easily allowed me to refocus my attention from my kids to her rehabilitation. Once again, I was able to fix a concern with a hug and kiss and she has changed so much. I have filled my need to nurture by helping this sweet dog. So that leads to the change in my priorities. Of course my kids are still the most important people in my life, but they aren’t here every day and it is appropriate for all of us to embrace the change in our relationship. So now, I focus a lot of my attention on my dogs and I love it!
Last week we went to our first Newfie party and had a wonderful time. I’ve connected with a group of Newfoundland owners in the Chicago area and they get together every now and then. On this day, a facility was reserved that had a pool for the dogs and a large play area. It was so fun to see all of these large dogs playing together and to be a part of a group of owners who don’t think I’m nuts for having these 2 huge dogs in my life. Everyone there loves the breed, isn’t fazed by flying drool or a smear on the leg after being nuzzled by a big head. I’m always so sensitive to the feelings of my friends when they come to my house and in this group there was no need to apologize for anything that some people might find to be a nuisance. It was such a relief to just enjoy the gorgeous dogs around me. I wasn’t worrying about anyone else and I had such a great time. I look forward to the next meet-up!
I’m starting with a bold statement: all Newfies love the kitchen. It’s probably safe to state that all dogs love the kitchen. For years I have depended on doing lunges over my dogs as a primary form of exercise, so when Annie showed no interest in joining us in the kitchen I was completely dumbfounded. On one hand, it was nice to only have to navigate around one dog in the kitchen, but it just didn’t seem right that she would rather choose the safety of her crate over being in the general vicinity of random tidbits raining down from above.
It was a very slow process, but after several months, she was realizing that rewards were frequent when she was near the kitchen. She was now wandering freely into the kitchen whenever one of us was in there and was actually becoming a little pushy when she felt it was time for me to share something with her. I think she liked bulldozing her way through whatever was in her way whether it is human, Maisie or the kitchen stool. She was ready for a bite of whatever we were preparing, and she’d like it now please! Since we are still abiding by the rule of Annie gets whatever Annie wants, I usually am persuaded by her sweet face looking up at me but I am learning to say no when I need to.
On July 5th, we were all getting back into our normal routines after the long holiday weekend. In our house we start celebrating on the 3rd because that is my husband’s birthday and then it just carries into the 4th with more things on the grill, more cake, more fireworks, ect, ect. This year it was truly a long weekend because the 4th was on a Monday, so on Tuesday I was staggering through the kitchen in a bit of a blur when I stopped myself mid-stride. I had just lunged over Maisie on my way to the refrigerator and was in the middle of another lunge when I looked down and I was standing over Annie!
It was such a normal thing, I’ve been doing this for years, but this was the first time Annie had parked herself in the middle of the floor and forced me into a second lunge! I shrieked and my husband and daughter looked at me like I was insane. There I was standing over Annie yelling “Newfie lunge, Newfie lunge”! I know it sounds mad, but I wanted to note the day because this is the most normal dog behavior I know and Annie had finally figured it out. This was the day I’ve been waiting for and there were many times that I doubted this would ever happen. I now have 2 kitchen dogs and things are back to normal with my double Newfie lunge workout. No more excuses, surely now I can drop the extra pounds I’ve put on over the last several months…
On Father’s Day the weather was beautiful and we took the dogs to the beach. We knew that Annie had gone swimming before when she was with her foster family but so far we had not seen her go in the water. She loved walking along the beach with me when we went, and she would stay right at my hip as we walked back and forth along the water line. Maisie loved charging into the water. She would chase other dogs, run through the waves, swim on her own and venture in when she needed a drink. Annie would never follow her, she never left my side but I had the feeling she would go in if we went in.
The amazing thing about Lake Michigan is that some days there might be huge waves and other days the lake is as smooth as glass. On this day the lake was calm and clear. We could walk a long way from shore and it was still very shallow. It was a perfect day to try to get Annie to follow us into the water. We had the beach to ourselves so there was no distraction with other dogs or owners. Chris went out pretty far, Maisie followed him and then I started wading out. I could see the indecision in Annie’s eyes as she stood and barked at me for a couple seconds before she started walking out. We took it slowly and even though she was still unsure, she started walking toward Chris when he called her. Maisie was overcome with excitement. Annie was finally coming in! She ran between Annie and Chris until the gap was closed and then she showed Annie when to start swimming. They both stayed close to Chris, swimming circles around him and then they would come toward me. I know it’s their rescue instinct kicking in when they both start circling and try to stay as close as possible. Annie went between Chris and I and when she was near me she would push up against me to make sure I was still safe. I wasn’t going out as far, I had my phone in my hand because of course I was trying to document this special event!
I’ve always said Annie walks with purpose. She has huge feet and she plants them firmly in front of her with each step. She stomps up and down the stairs and I can easily tell which dog is walking through the house because Annie is so much more heavy footed. Well, she swims with purpose as well. Each stroke she took was slow and powerful and she slid through the water like she had been doing it all of her life. Instinct is an amazing thing and it was incredible to see it come so naturally. It was such a wonderful way to start the day!