Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 3 P’s (and 1 B) of Loving Our Dogs

While I have always had good intentions, I have not really been the best at helping my pets get the exercise they needed to be healthy. So when I moved to Florida, I made it a goal to do at least one walk through the neighborhood every day. With Yogi, it was really easy; adding Rangler has made things a bit more interesting.

Rangler is twice Yogi’s size and a little over a quarter of his age, so to say that they often want to go at different paces is an understatement. They are also both determined to sniff out and follow every new scent that comes their way, not to mention the instant reaction if a squirrel or cat happen to run by. I usually walk them by myself after Matt goes to work, so it has taken some training (for both them and me!) to begin to find the balance that allows each of us to get what we need out of the walk without me coming back completely exhausted and frustrated by the whole experience.

Along the way, I have found a few things that are essential to get through these walks, not to mention all the other fun experiences that our dogs have been blessing us with recently - like Rangler getting an ulcer on the eye from getting too excited and running headfirst into a plastic tote or Yogi getting an irritated spot on his leg and licking the fur and top layer of skin right off of it… both within a couple of weeks of us going out of town for a week.

1. Patience:

When you have a fifty pound dog pulling you forward and a thirty pound dog who refuses to budge from the shady spot he’s found, it can be hard to hold your temper and your tongue. It’s in moments like these that patience has become so necessary for me. I love the definition of patience as given on “quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence” – I love that the focus is on the attitude of the person and not on the annoyance or trial that they are facing. Patience is both moment-specific and an enduring characteristic.

So when I’m with the dogs, I must learn to have patience in the immediate situation, now allowing myself to get frustrated but to stay positive and encouraging. (More on that in a minute!) I must also learn that each moment instills training for the next, and thus I must have patience in allowing Yogi, Rangler, and myself to learn and get better on the very things that are frustrating me now. The bonus is that this new perspective has opened my eyes to see that things are getting better with each walk!

2. Positivity:

I debated with myself for a while on which must come first – patience or positivity. In the end, I realized that the only way I could possibly stay consistent in a positive attitude was to commit myself to have patience. Otherwise, I would quickly get frustrated and more negative with the dogs, and anyone who is a pet owner knows that our animals don’t tend to respond as well to training and direction that is overly harsh. Once I was able to build up my patience, though, I found it much easier to use softer tones in disciplining and myself much more likely to laugh off the minor annoyances that used to drive me crazy.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the benefits of this attitude in the dog’s behavior as well. In the time since I have committed myself to positivity around them, I have started to see a calming of some of those negative habits which they were exhibiting before. It’s like my stress and anxiety translated to them and only drove them to more destructive behaviors. And in the end, dogs are going to be dogs, and I and my family have a long history of finding some of the quirkiest among the lot. So why not take the approach of setting appropriate limits and learning to laugh about the rest, right? :)

3. Prayer:

To be honest, this was the “P” that I neglected for far longer than I should have. I guess my thought was that prayer should be reserved for more serious concerns, not venting my aggravations about my animals. Two things, though, went a long way in showing me the error of my thinking: (1) I needed God’s help in controlling my attitude, especially if I didn’t want my frustrations to spill out into other areas of my life, and (2) God cares for every area of my life and He cares for those two dogs He has given me too.

When I started praying about my interactions with and approach to caring for Yogi and Rangler, I felt such an encouragement in knowing that even the things with them that feel so much out of my control had now been passed up to the throne of my loving Father. I felt closer to Him in knowing that He hears and cares about even my most mundane worries, and I felt more dedicated and empowered to make the changes that I knew I needed to make in myself.

4. The “B” – A Break!

Matt and I were in Boston all of last week for his work conference. We had a wonderful dog-sitter who took such good care of them that I could enjoy Matt and my trip without having to worry about how things were going at home. Having that week to relax and refresh did wonders for me and my interactions with the dogs! In the days since we’ve been back, I have seen a marked improvement both in my attitude and in the dogs’ behavior. Our walks have gone back to being the daily blessing that they once were for me, just at a time when I so needed them to.

While I unfortunately cannot justify a weeklong vacation every time the dogs’ start to act out, I have learned an important lesson to step back and seek out some sort of rejuvenation in the midst of frustrations, whatever they might be.

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I love these two and am so blessed to be given responsibility over them. I pray that I can do them justice and do my part in giving them a happy and peaceful life in our family. :)

Thanks for stopping by!
~ Erin ~

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