There’s been a good amount of change in my life recently. Missy made her journey to the rainbow bridge 6 weeks ago, her brother Buzz is keeping his Daddy company at his new job in Texas, and I suddenly find myself dog-less in a big house. My first impulse consisted in feeling sorry for myself and boosting the sale of tissue boxes.
A few days into this reactive mode I realized that neither of the pups would have wanted to see me this way, and I decided to wear my big girl pants again.
I’ve managed to control my urge to cry non-stop (at least for the most part, I still cave every now & then), and started reflecting on the joy & happiness the pups brightened my days with instead, along with the many lessons we learned together.
Lesson # 1: Patience
Boy oh boy! Have the pups contributed to the increase in my level of patience, especially when they were just tiny puppies. I have never been the most patient person, and while I’m fairly sure that I’ll never loose my tendency of being impatient 100%, I have certainly made a ton of progress over the course of these last 7 years of puppyhood.
I can’t think of one particular trigger, so it’s not like a specific event made me more mellow. Instead, it was the repetitive nature of training & raising the pups that really forced me to take a step back and RELAX. Granted, the ridiculously cute puppy faces helped a lot, too 😉
I had never owned any dogs before Missy & Buzz came into my life, and so I read a ton of books on dog behavior and training before they moved in. I was secretly hoping to come across a super actionable piece of advice that would tell me how to potty & leash train the little ones in a matter of just a few days, or maybe weeks.
Guess what – that didn’t and still doesn’t exist. If you’re serious about raising a well mannered, confident pup, it’ll take time, consistency, and a lot of energy on your part. You’ll make it a lot easier on yourself if you take a deep breath and rejoice at small steps into the right direction.
That being said, it only took about 2-3 months until the pups were reliably potty trained. If you’re wondering how I managed that one, check out my blog post How To Combine House-And Crate Training Your Puppy.
Polite leash manners took a little longer, and I ended up using a head collar to help me with that task. There are a few different brands available, and I started with the Gentle Leader, but ended up preferring the Halti because of its padded nose band. The Halti in combination with several daily walks did wonders for teaching the puppies that pulling on leash is a big NoNo.
Missy & Buzz On A Walk With Their Haltis
Sideview Of Missy's Halti
Walking 2 Client Dogs On Gentle Leaders (With Custom Padded Nose Bands)
Polite behavior around food was something the pups picked up on very quickly and was a big part of our daily routine. I would always exercise them before breakfast and dinner, so they were already in a relaxed state of mind and didn’t have any pent-up energy that might have caused them to act up.
I’d wait for them to lie down out of their own free will (never took long because they were tired after our walks), then added the “stay” command and calmly went about preparing their meals. That’s all it took to emphasize calm behavior around food.
Missy & Buzz Practicing Polite Manners Around Food
Teaching certain tricks took considerably longer. I’m particularly reminded of the rolling around trick. Buzz had it down after a few weeks, but Missy only got it after 1 year! I was almost ready to give up and accept the fact that she just wouldn’t do that one, when she eventually DID roll over. Here’s how I taught it:
Lesson # 2: Using Socialization To Turn Into An Introverted Extrovert
One thing I learned very quickly once Missy & Buzz moved in with me at 8 weeks of age is that everyone goes crazy over puppies. It was impossible to walk the grounds of the apartment complex where we used to live and not have people coming over (some running!) to get their puppy fix.
Since I’ve always been more of an introvert, this type of behavior was something I had to get used to. I will say though that it was a wonderful means of checking off people with different ethnic backgrounds and age groups from my puppy socialization list.
It was also how I met Erica, one of my neighbors and owner of a pet sitting & dog walking business. She liked how involved I was with raising the pups and offered me a job in her business that I ended up taking. That’s how I got started in my current career in the pet service industry and I’m happy to report that I’m now the owner of my very own pet sitting business. To this day, Erica remains a dear friend.
Visiting my friend Erica, Owner of Pick Of The Litter Pet Care, in beautiful Sarasota, FL
It also helped me come out of my shell more and turned me into an introverted extrovert 😉 After all, I also found out that I loved talking about the pups, even to people who were from completely different walks of life than I was and who I probably wouldn’t have had a conversation with under “normal”, non-puppy related, circumstances.
Puppies truly are the best icebreakers!
Missy & Buzz Socializing With People & Neighbor Pup Dixie
Missy & Buzz Socializing With One Of The Maintenance Guys At Our Apartment Complex
Lesson # 3: Enjoying The Moment
Our pets’ lifespans are way too short as it is, so do yourselves a favor and enjoy each and every moment you have with them. Even the ones where they end up rolling in a mud puddle and leaving paw prints on your carpet and rugs… You’ll look back at that moment years later with a laughing and a crying eye either way, so why not enjoy it in the first place?!
I remember this one instance where Buzz and I played ball in the pouring rain and he ended up being covered in mud from head to toes. Too bad I don’t have any photos of that scenario!! I barely managed to pick him up (he weighs 75 lbs), but I did it and carried him all the way to the spare bathroom to hose him off.
He didn’t end up leaving muddy prints on the carpet, but there was a good amount of dirt that dripped off of him…I actually shrugged it off although I’m a neat freak and just enjoyed the fact that he had a blast outside! I think every now & then we need to remember to let our dogs be dogs and just have some fun doing doggie stuff.
In late 2015, I dedicated an entire blog post to the lesson of enjoying the moment, so I’ll share the link with you below. It still holds true today, almost 3 years later.
Lesson # 4: Healthier Lifestyle
You may already know that Missy’s first cancer diagnosis in 2014 caused me to re-evaluate our lifestyle choices and incorporate several changes for a healthier lifestyle:
1) I tossed the pups’ highly processed kibble and introduced fresh, raw meals (link to my ebook 20 Raw Meals For Dogs).
2) I stopped using harsh topical pest preventatives on the pups and started using gentle, non-chemical alternatives instead (Anicura & Dr. Harvey’s).
3) I drastically reduced the vaccines they were given.
4) I started using cleaning products around the house that didn’t contain harmful chemicals and were gentle on the environment.
(Not so) Fun Fact: Did you know that dryer sheets are loaded with chemicals?? Once I found out, I completely stopped using them and guess what, I don’t miss them one bit.
Missy & Buzz Anticipating Their Fresh, Healthy Meals
Anicura Dog Shampoo & Insect Repellent
Dr. Harvey's Herbal Dog Shampoo
Lesson # 5: Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told – Challenge The Status Quo
This lesson builds on the healthier lifestyle lesson. It wasn’t until Missy was diagnosed with cancer that I began to question our traditional vet’s health care protocol for the pups and started to grasp the severity of the big Pharma pet industry’s influence.
Keep in mind that Missy was only 3 years and 3 months of youth at the time of the diagnosis!! That’s insane, right? Thank goodness that I was left completely dumbfounded because it caused me to do some digging and challenge the doggie status quo.
I ended up realizing that the pet health care industry in this part of the world is largely geared towards treating illness, instead of preventing it in the first place, much like our human health care industry – simply because there’s more money to be made with this model. It’s so much more convenient to just pop pills that cover symptoms than treat the root of a given health problem, right? #InsertSarcasmHere Ugh. This approach infuriates me.
Thankfully I started learning about holistic & homeopathic veterinarians who take proactive approaches to boosting our pets’ immune systems by fueling their bodies with species appropriate food and exposing them to a clean way of life.
They understand that food is medicine and that we are what we eat, humans and animals alike. They’ve been able to observe this in their own pets and their countless furry patients over decades.
You can read a little more about him in my blog post K9 Cancer Supplements Suggested By Our Homeopathic Veterinarian Dr. Loops.
There is no doubt in my mind that the many lifestyle changes I implemented after Missy’s first cancer diagnosis contributed to her remission from cancer for 3 years. Unfortunately, cancer reared its ugly face again and took her from me after all, but at least I had another 3 years with my little girl. Her brother Buzz continues to thrive on the raw diet.
I’m immensely thankful for all these lessons the pups taught me over the years. I plan to incorporate them with future furries that will join me on this journey of life, particularly the healthier lifestyle and challenging of the status quo.
While I’m still struggling to process all the change I’ve been faced with, I realize that it’s necessary for personal growth, so I really don’t have a choice other than come out even stronger than I was before my loss.
Have your dogs taught you a lesson or two? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!