six months with the pup

six months ago today, we brought home rufus, a 75-pound, 2-year-old black lab. probably a mix of some sort because his body is a little shorter and wider than a thoroughbred lab would likely be.

we've learned a lot about each other, that dog and his humans. our biggest challenge is still his separation anxiety. it's gotten somewhat better, but we still have to put zip ties on his crate to keep him in when we're not home (otherwise he'll just tear the place apart – something he won't do if we are home). we can't leave him in the yard for a little while, and we can't leave him in the car while we run into the store for more than about the length of time it takes to pour a cup of coffee at a gas station.

we've yet to board him for a weekend; he's come with us on all our trips thus far. he copes ok if one of us is gone for the night; that happens very rarely, though, so it's not good practice for when both of us will be gone.

more than anything, we've learned patience, selflessness and to plan ahead (we have to make sure rufus has some time out of his crate if we're going to go out for the evening; not to mention bathroom time and food).

rufus has also grown accustomed to changing schedules, and he's picked up on various patterns (i take him for a walk in the morning, then we go to the office so that i can read and write, for example, or that we brush our teeth, go upstairs, take his collar off, and then he goes into his crate to go to sleep).

in addition, having a dog has given us a little more insight into what truly makes us happy: time with family, relaxing, reading, entertaining. if it comes down to 20 people, loud music and mediocre food and drink or time alone or with 2 or 3 friends at the house with a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of bricks of cheese and the occasional treat from www.pawlife.com for the furry one,  we'll definitely choose the latter.

what's helping you grow?

walk 34

tuesday, 4:25pm. 56°, partly sunny.

the weather widget on my phone says it's mostly cloudy out, but the clouds are positioned such that the sun can get through quite clearly.

i guess i'm an optimist. i've noticed rufus is, too.

in the wild, dogs (just like people in a hunter-gatherer society, by the way) have three categories of things, and they evaluate in this order. (1) things that will eat me; (2) things i can eat; (3) everything else. sure, you'd rather do the eating, but you won't do any more eating if you approach something that will eat you first.

in a suburban neighborhood, where we're walking together and not so worried about coyotes and man-and-dog-eating giants, we're pretty much looking at food and everything else. i'm guessing that's one reason for all the sniffing – especially if he's going to continue to accept his people as leaders of the pack (we're the ones responsible for "things that will eat me").

or perhaps the eternal optimist puppy always thinks there will be a chunk of steak in the tall grass.

rufus would rather be hanging out with jb and me than wandering around the house knocking down garbage cans and rooting through cupboards. win. but it means that every time we move from a spot, he springs up as though, i don't know, we're handing him food or something. this holds true whether we're lounging around watching tv and we get up to use the bathroom, or whether we're preparing dinner and we head to a cabinet. or we're sitting in the office blogging and i wheel my chair two inches in any direction.

spring is here for real, i think. time to enjoy it. tata.

walk 33

monday, 5:25am. 55°, cloudy & humid.

i think i've mentioned this before, but i grew up with cats.

our first cat, bluffy, was abandoned as a runt. she never weighed more than about 7.5 pounds. she was an indoor-outdoor cat who took two weeks' vacation every summer. we'd call her in one night, and she wouldn't come back. the next night, same thing. we'd do the grieving thing, then 2 weeks later, there she was. she was fixed, so we knew what it wasn't. we knew she didn't want the bath she'd inevitably get, but it never stopped her.

our friends in the yard adjacent (our "back door neighbors," if that doesn't sound creepy and adult movie-ish) had a dog named sammy. she was about 20 pounds of bird hound. bluffy used to bait her, and sammy would chase bluffy for five to ten minutes before bluffy would turn around and give sammy a swipe on the nose, sending the dog whining back home.

i never understood this baiting thing. while i'd always root for the cat (hell, she was our cat), she weighed in at a third of sammy's size.

and so it was this morning. you'd think a 10-pound cat that is maybe 9 inches tall with its back arched would just get out of the road when it saw us coming 20 yards away. maybe scooch under that van it was sitting in front of or something. it's not like rufus is a barely bigger than a cat beagle. he's 27 inches tall and weighs 75 pounds. if he ate that cat, he'd still need a meal to wash it down with.

i'm glad it was me on that walk, since i'm more than double rufus's weight and a little "i'm gonna get that stupid cat" momentum really just means rufus goes up on his hind legs before he realizes i'm walking the other direction. i've never actually heard rufus bark more than once at a time before.

but that's a fun way to start your day. i highly recommend it.

walk 32(ish)

so it's been a week since i last blogged. i've been taking the time for walks, but not for writing.

saturday, 2pm. 66°, cloudy, sunny, raining, and probably zebra-striped or something.

6.5 miles at onondaga lake park (we're not ready to be off-leash at the dog park yet). we shared a glazed doughnut halfway through.

rufus typically sleeps through the night, primarily out of boredom. we turn out the light, he's got a couple of toys and he's in a crate with nowhere to go and no havoc to wreak.

saturday night, he was out like a light. no evening walk. 7am sunday came, he was still snoring on his pillow, even after jb and i walked by him three times.


sunday, 9am. 55°, cloudy.

i'm working hard on some weight loss (specifically, fat loss – if i don't lose a pound because i'm gaining muscle, i'm ok with that), and sunday is my rest day.

so we started off my rest day by walking 4 miles to and from the coffee shop. (and yes, we're giving rufus extra food on these big-exercise days.)

it's always an interesting walk heading there, because it requires a regular walk through the neighborhood, a walk through the woods, and then a walk through a strip mall, where people never expect to see a dog.

onward to a saner week. more blogging, for sure!

joy of the hike

i enjoy hiking. i didn't always know this. when i was younger i was a girl scout. selling girl scout cookies was fun and our troop went on a few overnight camping trips. camping is okay, but i prefer sleeping in my own bed over tenting it. thanks to rufus' need for exercise and the known fact that dogs need to relieve themselves outdoors, we strive to get in at least two or three walks a day or a nice long walk or hike in a park. this past winter, josh and rufus showed me a beautiful trail that starts in our development and leads to the local shopping centre. our destination was a local coffee shop for a much needed java jolt. the trail was beautiful as we trudged our way through the snow. we walked down a small hill taking in the blaring whiteness that coated the twigs, branches and ground. i took pictures along the way to remember that even in the winter, nature is still beautiful. josh and rufus jumped over a narrow babbling creek. i followed and embraced the beauty and joy of the hike that surrounded us.

today even though the sky is gray, the weather is mild. we decided this morning to take the neighborhood trail for our coffee. the greenery on the trail was lovely; a gorgeous purple flower vine twisted its way along the ground. the trail wasn't very muddy. rufus was so happy to sniff the ground, the trees, the brush, the everything that was only a month or two ago covered in snow. josh and i shared some laughs and interesting stories from the week. i took pictures of the greenery, the beauty of springtime nature. we neared the end of the trail ducking our heads under a curved branch. we parted the dangling branches of a weeping willow tree and headed for our coffee with rufus at our side.

walk 31

sunday, 7:25am. 35°, sunny.

don't worry, rufus hasn't been neglected. the great thing about having 2 humans in the house is that if i can't make a walk for four days, jb's got it covered (we did get a lot of outside yesterday in the back yard, though).

the early work we did with the focus exercises is sticking with our pup. he followed me closely through twists and turns, even when there was a squirrel straight ahead in the street.

supposedly, the honeymoon time with a dog is three months. that is, during the first three months, the dog will feel you out, and if at the end of that time he determines you're not cut out to be the leader, he'll just take over and you have to start from scratch with the leadership training. we're coming in on that time, about two weeks away.

crate time has been going well, although jb's been home a lot; there will be a lot more time in the crate beginning next week, given our new work schedules. if we can get through the first month like that, we'll be really happy with the progress.

in other news, we're excited for our first barkbox shipment to come in the next two weeks. not sure what will be in it, but i bet it will be fun!

walk 30

wednesday, 5:40am. 37°, clear.

i can't believe we didn't get a walk in yesterday (fortunately, rufus had plenty of jb time, some walks, some playing, some chores, you get the picture).

up at 4, out in the yard for a quick pee but back in the crate by 4:20. i had one of those days when i go into work at 4:30, coach, squeeze in a 20-minute workout, microwave some breakfast and then get to work. then i came home and started reading my class's food diaries, took a break for dinner, and finished about 8:45. we went out in the yard again for an evening pee; i was so tired i couldn't even see straight.

didn't i just write about work-life balance?

so, yeah. up for a walk today, and it felt like it's been forever. rufus stopped in places he doesn't usually stop, and didn't stop in places he usually does. spring is bringing something a little different in the smells department, i guess.

it's supposed to be nice this weekend. i'm thinking there will be a walk up to the coffee shop, even if the wooded path is a little on the wet side, which it might be with the cool nights lately.

who depends on you & who do you depend on?

we have a mouse in our house. no, this isn't an "ode to dr. seuss." and yes there's already a mouse trap set and ready for mr. mouse. i'm sure he'll be caught soon, no need to worry or be creeped out for us. after i discovered mr. mouse's trail, i wondered how dependent he's been on the house. i've been cleaning the house today and getting various chores done. when i work i try to stay focused on completing the project. sometimes i forget to eat or forget to take a break if i'm feeling tired. seeing the evidence of mr. mouse reminded me how dependent rufus is on me and josh. he depends on us for food, for exercise, for love, for play time, to forgive him and to reward him.

who depends on you? who do you depend on? dependence has different meanings to different people. dependence can mean needing a substance, relying on a person or thing to do something you need. some people see dependence as something negative. people want to be self sufficient and independent. they'd rather do things for themselves than rely on others. we've had rufus for about 2.5 months. prior to rufus i'd do my chores and probably not break for a walk outside or i wouldn't eat until i was starving. as i do my chores i hear rufus follow me to do laundry, he brings me a toy to play fetch with him and he reminds me how much he depends on me.

we depend on each other for different reasons. i depend on josh and rufus. josh is my amazing partner. he listens, he comforts, he cares, he is supportive, he's fun and funny, loving and understanding. he learned a while ago that i'm interested in hearing about his day and that i care about what time he'll be home. i depend on rufus for a love that is unconditional. for laughter that doesn't have to make sense, for a sense of loving concern that family members show each other.

josh has a great reminder on his blog. progress, one progression at a time. we are all a work in progress and we all depend on each other in some way. don't forget who depends on you and who you depend on too.

walk 29

monday, 5:35am. 34°, cloudy.

let's see if i can make these strands connect in your head the way i make them connect in my head.

i have trouble controlling my weight and keeping my body fat in check. i've done a pretty good job stabilizing my weight within a 10-pound range over the past 18 months, but that 10-pound range is slightly higher than i'd like it.

actually, to be more accurate, the amount of fat i carry around is too high (if i added 10 pounds but i was solid muscle, what would i care about my weight?). when i get near 160 pounds, i know how to take quick action to get back to 153 or so pounds. i can do it in a couple of weeks and i can maintain it until i decide i'd rather be sitting on the couch eating like crap.

the problem isn't that i don't know what i'm doing. it's impulse control.

sure, twinkies and beer have contributed to expanding waistlines in the u.s. and, to a lesser extent, around the world, but the biggest problem is lifestyle.

you may have heard of the paleo (or paleolithic) diet. it's a low-carb diet that essentially says only eat what our ancestors had access to – meats, fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts. our bodies haven't changed very much since we domesticated grains, and with the exception of not knowing which mushrooms and berries were poisonous, most of the food-related illnesses we've encountered (diabetes and the like) have sprung up since we started growing food in our back yards instead of chasing it down. while some of the criticism of paleo is a saturated fat argument, the biggest one is a get off the couch and change your lifestyle argument.

we have an abundance of food available to us, so it's really easy to over-eat and not move enough. and that's some of the stuff i have the biggest problem with. [if you've ever watched me consume food, you know i don't mess around, particularly if there's meat involved.]

yesterday, while i was cleaning out the fridge of week-old leftovers (a sunday ritual; trash day is monday in my 'hood), i had rufus in a sit-stay while he watched. [i never give him week-old food, but he holds out hope every time.] and then i dropped a piece of chicken. and rufus really wanted it.

the problem was, i had him in a stay. so if he went after it, he'd be breaking my command (a no-no). i quickly stepped on his leash so he couldn't get anywhere, and then he went after the chicken. three times. finally, he realized he wasn't getting it and just looked at me. typically, i'd have let him have it, but i'd specifically told him to stay where he was, so the chicken, well, it wasn't consumed.

today, as we walked down the street, someone let a cat out as we went by. i know rufus saw it, because i saw it, and i'm always a couple of steps behind at that hour. and he didn't go after it. i even stopped to give him the opportunity, instigator that i am.

he knew i was in charge and he's supposed to follow me.

and so i'm starting to work with a trainer this week on the moving part of it, and if a dog can work on his impulse control and not chase after a cat, i can certainly work on mine and keep it to 2200 calories or so a day. [i was supposed to start with my trainer this morning, but she wound up in the hospital getting a spinal tap last night; i know she's doing her first figure show next week, and her diet's been giving her headaches the past couple of weeks.]

i'm looking to get my body fat to about 15%. that's not unreasonable for a guy; it's going to put me at about 140 pounds if i maintain my current muscle mass, and you probably won't be able to see my abs yet at that point. so i know it's doable, and i know it's doable with softball-and-beer if i keep my workouts up and i pay attention to my impulse control.

what is your dog helping you change?

walk 28

sunday, 8:35am. 39°, cloudy.

these wide open spaces, with their high-speed traffic noises and winds that would be barely noticeable if there were trees around are panic-inducing for our pup.

we're really grateful we got to bring rufus with us to the wedding hotel this weekend. but our pup didn't have a great time. i'm sure if he knew what the alternative was and was capable of making the decision by himself, he would have chosen to come with us, but he spent a fair bit of time in the room with us not particularly enjoying himself (he did play some, but spend a lot of time with his head on the carpet). We even heard him whining/howling a couple of times when we got back after leaving him alone in the room, even with some food and toys in his crate.


when we got home and stepped out into the back yard, rufus charged right for his favorite peeing and sniffing spots. he checked to see what had changed since he last sniffed around (probably some squirrel poop or something), and got some running in.

it's good to see happy again.