So for all my enthusiasm about classes and events presenting themselves this year, I’m a little topped out these days. Well, maybe more than a little. Recently, I’ve been as up and down emotionally as during any of Cutter’s bad spells (I miss him so, sometimes always), and it’s all of my own doing, mostly. There’s no law that says just because a cool class comes across your radar that you have to sign up for it, yet it seems I didn’t get the memo. Between extracurricular classes and the daily grind of chores – critters, housework, yardwork, etc., I’m in need of a vacation! There’s no question that this girl likes and needs her down time to recharge and refresh and reconnect, but lately it seems that if/when I do have that time it’s only tinged with guilt and shoulds. Yuck.
April has been busy, with two classes (one online where I haven’t started week one’s assignment and week four is coming right up…sigh) and coaching on Monday nights (and two weekends booked with classes as well). The class that isn’t online has left me in tears twice now (week two and week four), yet it’s probably the most important one of all. It’s my obedience class with Miss Daisy, who tries so hard but for whom self control is a major challenge. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s a girl with an agenda raised by bird dogs, or maybe (more likely) it’s the fact that of all the Rottweilers I’ve owned in the past nearly-thirty years, she’s the one I’ve probably been the most lax with, and she’s the one who really needed more from the get-go, with her history (shelter adoption/ spent her first 9 months in a kennel run with her dam and siblings) and temperament. She’s turning my crank, and mirroring back to me all my foibles and “too much” recently, and we’re quite the pair.
Let me stop right here and say she’s a sweet, sweet dog, who absolutely loves people, unlike my darling Wil, my beloved, my heart, who was barely civil to me, never mind people he didn’t know (and of course I loved him to distraction) but he was nothing if not obedient. And maybe that’s where I erred. Having seen what “total control” does to a dog with a soft heart (never cruel, but always “in control”), over two decades later I just let Daisy be Daisy, and she’s exactly the wrong dog with whom I should have had this lackadaisical approach. I could have sawed Wil’s leg off and he would barely have protested. Yet a “tip them” nail trim with Daisy has me wondering if I need to muzzle her next time. It’s crazy when I think of the dichotomy.
There is only one other dog in the obedience class, a galooping young Great Dane puppy of six or eight months, all legs and awkward angles. He easily outshines Daisy in every way, obedient and calm, responsive and smart (she’s extremely smart, too, but you can’t really tell in class). As I watched him the other night, after Daisy bashed me in the chin with her hard head for the second time (thought my jaw was dislocated for a moment), I felt more despair and frustration with my enthusiastic girl. I don’t even attempt half of the exercises in class, because she’s so barely under control as it is. About midway through the class I felt her control slipping, and the last 30 minutes was just a series of admonishments and jerking her no-pull harness with little result as she lunged and whined in excitement.
When the Dane puppy was distracted on a recall exercise (toys placed in his path to proof him) I laughed at his cute response. You could almost hear his “Gawrsh! A ball!” as he stopped to pick it up on his way back to his mistress. It was adorable, with his gangly legs and bar towel-sized ears flopping. I realized when I laughed that I’d “oopsed” and said aloud “that’s so cute” as his owner put him back in a stay for the next try. I received a mild admonishment from her “It’s not cute” and understood my faux pas. I realize that he’ll be a huge dog, and it’s important to get control early, but that gangly little guy (who’s taller than Daisy right now) will likely be dead in eight years, if one goes by breed life span statistics, and it just seems like that adorable essence of him is what makes living with dogs so pleasurable. For me. And I wonder now that maybe I’m not cut out for this–for a dog or breed of Daisy’s kind of determination–anymore. I’ve become so soft in my “old age,” knowing how little time we have with these bright beings, and how I want to enjoy them and let them enjoy life to the fullest (yes, it’s a contradiction at times, I know). So yeah, I had a sniffle in the parking lot as we left, for my own mistakes with Daisy (can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed at her adorable misbehavior, though I’ve tried to stifle it…) and for the long road ahead in trying to reel her in without crushing her.
Yes, Daisy is a handful and a half, and I’m kicking myself for not continuing with classes last fall, when we finished puppy class as one of the best pupils. The timing wasn’t right for me, or so I thought, and in the meantime she’s grown to a young teenager, sweet yet willful, and reactive with little self control (the bird dog influence?). I’m beyond thankful that I have such a nice temperament to work with (i.e., non-aggressive) but she’s not going to make it easy, either. She’s all “me me me” and her only dark side is her propensity to bully Farley (who’s nobody’s dog except mine, and that’s part of the problem).
And ah, my sweet Farley-foo. I am so utterly in love with this dog! We just celebrated our sixth anniversary together (it was April 14, 2006, that he came to live with me, a shelter rescue by my friend Asya) and I can hardly believe my free spirited little sprite is now the old man of the family (Pal is 2 ½ – so easy and sweet that I don’t write about him!, Daisy is 1 ½) at age…? Eight? I pray it’s not more than that, as I want him with me for as long as possible, but the longer I have him the more likely it is that he’s older than I thought at the beginning, when I estimated him at nine months to a year (and a part of me knowing I was kidding myself even then). He was probably at least two when I got him, so eight years old now is doable. His eyes are getting a little cloudy, and I think his muzzle has a bit of sugar dusting in the brown fur, but he’s still spunky and playful, and freaking adorable.
Alas, however, he did manage to develop a condition that has seemingly added to his age. I mentioned it a couple of months ago, when we were still in the diagnosis stage. After the visit to the veterinary dermatologist it was confirmed, he has symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy, or SLO (cause who can pronounce that last word?!). What that means is he has an autoimmune disease (likely) that causes his nails/claws to lift up and come off. It’s rather painful for him, and though there’s treatment (he’s on doxycycline and niacinimide, and pain meds as needed) there are no guarantees. His nails are growing back irregularly, brittle and gnarled looking, but the quicks are exposed and painful and his favorite game (ball or toy thrown) often leaves him limping. I’m hoping we get to some sort of remission with it, but it’s a lifelong thing ahead of us. Yes, it’s a cakewalk compared to Cutter’s epilepsy, but it still sucks big time. Sucks for him and, honestly, sucks for me, to have a special needs dog yet again. I was feeling sorry for myself when he was first diagnosed. I joined the Yahoo support group for people with SLO dogs and was going to whine, then corresponded with a woman with a Rottweiler with SLO (turns out it’s one of the more common breeds that get the condition…and I’d never heard of it in almost 30 years with Rottweilers!) and her other Rottweiler has epilepsy. Oh. I think if this had happened while Cutter was alive (and I was also dealing with Dinah’s urinary incontinence and extreme fears of loud noises) I would have run screaming…
So yeah, I’m a bit topped out these days. No more classes for me for a while (though there is that felting class in a couple of weeks….reeeally want to sign up). I’m going to concentrate on getting my website rebuilt, and getting my garden planted. We’re having a normal to dry April (hallelujah!) and I’m looking forward to more KALE!!! In the meantime, I pick up my new bees today – Earth Day, so fitting! I can now call it the beeyard!