Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Furry Little Ones

Bode woke me up relatively early this morning when all I wanted, perhaps needed, was to sleep in. He must think this motherhood thing is gonna happen soon because he is all kinds of enthusiastic about getting me ready. So this got me thinking about raising my little furry guys, everything I've learned, everything they've learned, everything Curtis and I have learned together...

Curtis and I adopted Shiloh while we were still dating just because we both are crazy about dogs. We learned a lot about what it means to care for and be responsible for another living thing. We had to teach him right from wrong, his name, words, potty train him. Shiloh is a high maintenance dog. As a puppy he'd chew his paws until they were swollen and bleeding. We discovered it was a mixture of anxiety and allergies. He has to eat hypoallergenic dog food (lamb & rice only!) and we try to make sure he's not over-stimulated in stressful situations.

When he was hit by a pick-up truck, only a year and a half old, I moved back from Cuyahoga Falls (where I was living before the wedding) to Bowling Green to take care of him. I slept on the floor for several months so he wouldn't be alone and in case he needed anything in the night. Shiloh can't talk, obviously, and even the ways dogs normally communicate were taken away from him. Because he couldn't walk and was heavily medicated, he had no way of telling me if he was in pain, hungry, thirsty, or needed to go out. I had to spoon feed him oatmeal and other warm people food, per the doctor's instructions. I learned to change his bandages so we could stop going to the vet literally every other day. Our vet would stock us up with wraps so we'd only have to come in once a week. Curtis and I had to decide when he was ready to start walking around the house, going up stairs, going down stairs (we carried him up & down stairs and outside for months), jumping into cars, jumping out of cars (we still pick him up and set him down in tall cars like our SUV), playing with us, playing with other dogs, going for walks. We have to watch him carefully to see that he's not over-using his paw, especially when his allergies flare up like they did this spring. Almost every month we have to get out his 'first aid kit' and doctor up at least one of his feet due to his allergies, or his 'bad paw' due to over-use.

Bode is just a puppy still and he has so much to learn. We adopted him from a rescue group that had him in a foster home. In his foster home there were several dogs but he wasn't allowed to play with them and he wasn't taught anything other than sit. He didn't even know his original name (Fritz). The people were very, very kind and loving--don't get me wrong--but he learned nothing with them. They found him wandering around, alone, at about four weeks old. He should've still been with his mother, learning how to be a dog from her. Bode needs to be socialized because he doesn't know how to be around dogs. He can't read their signals and that's not something we can teach him, being human. He should've learned it from his mama, but no one knows what happened to her or if he had brothers or sisters.

We're trying to teach him things, and he has come along way. Bode is extremely sensitive. We always thought Shiloh was because he'd get mad at us when he was punished. Literally. We'd put Shiloh outside after an accident and he would refuse to look at us because he was mad. Bode, on the other paw, is terrified when he gets in trouble. We learned quickly not to raise our voices or react with lots of emotions/gestures after an accident because it would only cause another accident. We've had to go about training him in an entirely different way than we did Shiloh. In many ways, we're still learning just like he is.

Bode is extremely affectionate and loving. He likes it when I hold him like a baby--either cradled in my arms or resting on my hip with his paws around my neck. He's content to just be cuddled. In many ways, Bode and I needed each other. He needed a home and a mama, and I needed something to nurture, love, and mother. When I hold him on my hips I often laugh and tell people, "well, we prayed for a baby, I guess we need to be more specific next time!"

I realize my dogs are nothing really like babies, and that parenting a dog is nothing like parenting a child. But they are my babies and they always will be. Babies grow up, go through new phases, become children, become teenagers, become adults. My dogs will always be dogs. Bode will mature some, but I don't expect him to ever be like Shiloh. The getting up early, cleaning up messes, breaking up doggy arguments, picking up toys, giving them baths will only stop when they're gone from this world. And then I will miss it terribly.

And I do believe that Curtis and I will be better parents someday because we've raised not one but two little furry guys. We learned how to divide our attention, when to separate them, when to let them play, who's story to believe (I'm not even kidding on that one), and more than anything how to nurture and care for another living thing completely dependent upon us for everything from food to affection. We've had to learn how to come to an agreement on what to do and how to do it with the dogs. Bode has been especially trying in that sense because he is so different from Shiloh. We've had to learn how to work as a team, using his strengths and my strengths, and learn to do new things together. This is all practice for parenthood. Or else opening some kind of dog orphanage. In which case, the new carpet was a total waste...

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