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!
From the time Maisie was a puppy she has always loved her toys. Plush squeakers are the first choice, but balls and rope toys also are among the chosen. Every night after dinner she loves to tear around the house, running as fast as she can, squeaking her favorite toy of the week and making as much noise as possible. She will skid out as she rounds the corners and then change direction midway through. Then, as fast as it started, she will plop down, out of breath, and fall asleep.
Often times I will join her, playing run and chase, her version of keep away. She loves this and really loves when I catch her. When she was little I would grab her toy and give it a toss, expecting her to run after it and bring it back. This was a game that all of our dogs loved but Maisie would stop and look at me like I’d just ruined everything. Why on earth would I throw her toy when we were having so much fun? When Maisie was about 2 I finally gave up on the idea that she would ever retrieve. She had absolutely no interest in chasing down a ball or toy and I was tired of the confused look she would give me when I would toss one of her toys.
We have been taking Maisie to the dog beach since she was a puppy. The number one game down there is retrieve the ball from the water and at any given time there are multiple dogs tearing through the water in pursuit of far flung balls. Maisie loves tearing through the water, and her favorite game is chase the dog that is chasing the ball. It’s no surprise that many of the dogs don’t think this is a very good game so we spend a lot of time redirecting Maisie and trying to find her a dog that she can run with. She is incredibly fast for a Newfie, and is actually one of the fastest dogs on the beach, so when she finds a runner, or a dog that doesn’t think she is trying to steal their ball she has a really good beach day.
On the 4th of July, we took the dogs to the beach first thing in the morning. We like to go early because there aren’t as many dogs down there and it’s easier to keep Maisie in check with her love of chasing other dogs. The collies really don’t like the way she plays but she has a couple of boxer and doodle friends that think her game is a lot of fun. Unfortunately on this morning she wasn’t finding anyone that she wanted to play with. Chris and I were talking to another owner that we hadn’t seen in a while and he was tossing a ball for one of his dogs. The ball was floating in the water and for some reason Chris tossed it so that it landed close to Maisie. We call her a tracker because she will chase a toy, give it a couple swats to show us she found it and then return without picking it up, but on this morning, for the very first time, she picked up the ball and brought it back! Chris gave her huge praise, then tossed it again and she went out and brought it back again! The game continued, each time Chris would throw it a little further and each time she would chase it down and bring it back.
I never thought she would retrieve and laughed about my water rescue dog that wouldn’t bring anything in. Newfoundlands are working dogs and love to be stimulated with a job. Bailey’s job was to bring in the paper every morning. She also loved to bring small items in from the car. She would let me know every morning if she hadn’t yet done her job and would be completely upset if someone else brought in the paper. Maisie hasn’t shown any interest in the jobs I’ve tried to introduce and water training seemed out of the question. I could just picture her chasing other Newfies while they were on their mission and the disruption she would cause. I don’t think we will ever do water rescue training, but at least now we can bring a ball to the beach and entertain her when she can’t find a friend who doesn’t mind her water chasing game that she thinks is so fantastic.