A Good Dog | My Heart Dog

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I didn’t want to leave this blog on such a sad note. Of course losing Rufus has been one of the hardest times in my life and not a second goes by that I don’t wish he was still here with me. My heart is broken right now and anger is still winning. Luckily (or not so luckily at all) I’m kind of a veteran when it comes to grief, so I know that time really does heal just about everything and one day I will remember all of the good times over those last few weeks of pure confusion and pain.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have changed my handle over there. As of right now, that is the only place I’m currently writing but if that changes, I’ll be sure to keep you updated via that account so stay tuned. I wrote a post explaining why I made the change and what the future holds for me as a crazy dog lady that just needs to share her passion for all things canine.

Here is the post:

I’ve been thinking of ways to honor my heart dog during this time of mourning and this phrase keeps coming up again and again. Rufus had behavioral issues which included fear reactivity, defensiveness, and he even nipped a few times when he was extra stressed. However, through training and recognizing his triggers, our relationship never weakened. Of course there were times in which I was extremely frustrated with him, but I knew all of these moments were teachable ones. Rufus was a good dog regardless of these moments. He adored me and others he let in his circle, learned from his mistakes, and was always willing to try my way…even when he really didn’t want to. ūüėČ He was a good dog because he was meant for me. He made me a behavior nerd, nutrition obsessed, and taught me a whole new level of empathy for those going through their own struggles. He taught me so much in such a short period of time and I will be forever grateful for that…even when grief just wants me to be angry and bitter. Rufus was a good dog because he was exactly the dog I needed during our time together and he taught me so much about myself and what makes me light up in life. And there’s nothing bad about any of that.

 

Loving Rufus came so easily to me…even when he made it really, really difficult. I had fostered many dogs before him, worked with hundreds of dogs in just about every animal-related field, and then fostered pups after his adoption was finalized. And do you know that I never connected with any of those dogs the way that I did with Ru? Sure there were/are my favorites and there are dogs that absolutely make/made my day brighter whenever I got to work with them, but Rufus was the dog for me. Fostering and then adopting him changed me in a million ways. Our connection was so deep that even those that witnessed it would comment on how we communicated effortlessly without a word being said. He was my litmus test on how I was feeling at any given moment. He was my heart dog and it’s been incredibly hard to even consider loving another dog that way again. And who knows? Maybe I won’t.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. I was put on this planet to work with dogs, to nurture those that have been broken or let down by other humans. This kind of connection brings me so much joy and I’d be a fool to let go of all of that. And having my own dog to nurture fully? Well that has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in this life. And I know that I will give my heart to another dog one day and that Rufus would have wanted me to move on and share that love again. It seems close to impossible at this moment but I know this moment will be gone in an instant and I look forward to the moment I lock eyes with a pup who needs me….and who I need just as much.

I’ve felt it before and I will feel it again. It’ll just take time. Because boy oh boy, did I hit the jackpot when I found him.¬†

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Help! I want a second dog but I don’t want to mess up.

(…just so this blog doesn’t get too wordy, I’ve thrown in some photos of Mr. Ru for good measure.)

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It’s true. I struggle with these conflicting feelings on a pretty consistent basis. The dog lover in me longs for a second companion, especially as I see Rufus grow older and slow down a little bit. We just moved to Colorado, so hiking is back in full swing. And while Rufus can still hike with the best of them, I know he’s going to require more TLC as the weather heats up. If I don’t have a dog to hike with, it’s a whole lot less exciting. The dog is like 80% of the fun!

But as soon as I get in full second dog mode, the doubts start creeping in.

What if she has separation anxiety or other behavioral issues? Even if we go through a foster-based rescue, those traits can sneak in very easily. I should know. I had many fosters with severe separation anxiety. And now that we live in a full-blown complex, the idea of a screeching pup stresses me the heck out! And let’s not even get into the idea of having another reactive dog to manage…

What if she’s too high energy? You know. The kind of dog who can’t settle. The pup who needs a job to do 24/7. I’m all for training and tricks and excitement, but we are a super chill family. Like…we need a pup who knows how to Netflix hard on Sundays just as much as they need to love the outdoors.

-What if Rufus feels betrayed? Ok, this isn’t a real fear. Despite his grumpy nature, Rufus is pretty easy to match up with the right dog. His type: mostly females (or submissive but confident males), a little feisty but not hyperactive, under 70 lbs, and not too fluffy. Yes that’s right. My dog hates super fluffy dogs. He’s the worst/best. So as much as I’d love to pick out our second dog, I know Rufus will get the last word.

-What if we don’t connect? I have had fosters that were perfectly fine pups but I never really connected with them. And while I didn’t hate my time with them, I was very happy to see them go to their forever homes. It turns out I’m just as picky as my dude, which is fine but also a little scary when going into finding a second dog.

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So…I guess what I’m realizing is that I should probably foster for a little while before diving into the “forever dog” territory just to see how it feels. I think that’s the best solution, right?

I would love to hear from those of you who have had similar struggles when adding a second (or third or fourth) dog into your home. What doubts did you have? How did you overcome detachment feelings if you had them? Am I just being an over-dramatic weirdo?  Seriously, guys. I want to hear it all!

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Help!

The Many Faces of Ru

Maybe this isn’t the most popular thing to say, but having a reactive dog often feels like a burden. With behavioral issues that even I don’t fully grasp sometimes and often seem like they come out of nowhere, Rufus is complex to say the least. Despite all of this , I love him with my whole heart.

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I think that those of us who have fallen hard for reactive dogs are drawn to the “virtual platform” of sharing because it’s our way of showcasing our complex pups in all of their glory. We get to share those moments of pure bliss when our dogs are 100% themselves. Nothing is making them tense. Nothing is making them unsure. They are just dogs. Wonderful, uncomplicated canines.

And sure – progress happens and there are even times when he just plain surprises me with his intuitiveness in certain situations, but I’m just being real about the bigger picture. Rufus is a tough cookie and he makes me reexamine our training techniques over and over again. For years now, guys! Years! Ugh…

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But then there are the moments when it’s just the two (or three) of us. And I remember why I adore this guy so much and why I’m so happy he came into my life. Screwball behavior and all.

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Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

Since arriving in Colorado in early February, the weather has been all over the place. One week it’s in the 70s and the next it’s back down in the 30s. But no matter what temp it is, it’s almost always sunny! This has been a very welcome change from the Pacific Northwest.

Little known fact? I absolutely adore the snow and (moderate) cold. Give me a sunny winter day and we can have a whole lotta fun!

A few weeks ago, we had our first snowfall since arriving and took Ru on an epic mini hike. Since he’s kind of an older guy now, I try to keep our hikes around the 4-6 mile range when it’s mild outside. And in the summer? Well he’s not a fan of the heat…so I’m guessing 2-3 miles will be his max. I will make sure to take it slowly and see how altitude affects him in the warmer weather. My poor old man.

Just a few photos from said hike two weeks ago:

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Ugh. I’ll never get over the view.

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And then he snoozed his happy little face off.

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That one time we disappeared.

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Listen up.
Ok guys. This blog is not obsolete…not yet anyway.
Here’s the long and short of where we’ve been:
-Left Oregon on September 29th and traveled to Colorado. Stayed about 8 days with friends and in various Airbnb’s. Decided we absolutely wanted to move there.
-Traveled the rest of the way to Illinois to spend what we thought would be just a few weeks with friends and family.
-Life happened. Jobs fell through. Holidays kept coming! At one point, one of us (the dude) even started a job in the Chicago suburbs hoping that we could make it work. He hated it. We looked briefly at apartments in said ‘burbs and decided we just didn’t want this path for ourselves. Dude quits job.
-Plan B is set in motion.
-After lining up a few interviews, dude travels to Colorado by himself and lands a job. SCORE!
-Since we were on a pretty tight deadline, he¬†had to making a very quick decision on an apartment. It’s not ideal by any means, but we can make it work for awhile. More on that later…
-We are officially Colorado residents! Hooray!
…and it only took us less than 5 months! Ugh.
So yeah. That’s where we’ve been. And while it was a really tough 5 months for me, I still wanted to blog and write and create. I really did…but we were kind of on borrowed wi-fi and it all became a pain in the butt. And yes, I was a little blue. It happens. All apologies, guys. I didn’t mean to abandon you.
So consider this a formal invitation to come back to the blog. Please come back! We’ve missed this little space.

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And Rufus is so thrilled to finally ¬†be home. ‚̧¬†

24-Hour Foster Dog |Farewell, Rosa

This is Rosa.

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Rosa was actually in my home for less than 24 hours before she met her now forever family and swept them off their feet.

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Now I don’t usually recommend doing introductions so quickly after a new pup comes into your home, but Rosa is of the happy-go-lucky velcro dog variety. She just wanted her people and I could see that immediately.

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The adopters had a stellar application and an amazing setup for a dog like Rosa – a community of friends, a momma who stays at home with her two little kids, and a beautiful backyard. It was a no-brainer.

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We had a great night getting to know this sweet girl and she became attached to me within the hour. Of course, now she can channel that passion into her forever family.

Even though it was short lived, I’m so happy I got to hang out with this beautiful soul. Happy trails, Miss Rosa. ‚̧

A Good Dog | When a Fearful Dog Succeeds

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What makes a dog good?

I’ve written a lot about Ru’s behavioral quirks and obstacles and I’ve been really honest about how I try my hardest to work through and around them so that he can have as many enriching experiences as possible while also always being mindful of his boundaries.

We had a visitor this weekend. This person is someone that Rufus hasn’t been around in almost four years and even when he was around her back in Illinois, they met less than a handful of times. And even though I was super excited to spend time with her for a long weekend, I was a bit nervous about how Ru would take to a stranger (one that isn’t necessarily a “dog person”) staying in his house for several days. But! I didn’t let nerves deter me. I took the steps needed to make him comfortable and to set him up for success.

So what’d we do?

1.We met our guest outside. We took a mini walk in which no one interacted with each other. We just walked and talked and let Rufus sniff and get into his happy zone.

2.Then we walked inside and kept the mood neutral. She said “hello” to him but did not reach down to pet him. We put her stuff away, handed her some treats, and sat down to visit.

3.She fed Rufus treats as we praised him in our highest “dog mom” voices for being neutral. He licked her hand. Success!!

The rest of the visit was perfect. He would go up to her for a good neck scratch and then come back to me. He followed me around a lot more than usual, but he wasn’t fearful….just a little unsure.

Nothing happened. He didn’t “bond” with her but he also didn’t dislike her in the slightest. It went as perfectly as I could’ve hoped for.

A lot of people (especially those that aren’t completely nerdy over canines) expect a dog to WANT the attention. They expect to meet a dog that is incredibly¬†friendly, excited to meet every single person ever, and that you can easily reach down to pet no matter who you are or where you are. That’s not Rufus. And honestly…that’s not a lot of dogs, now, is it?

Rufus will never be happy-go-lucky in the traditional sense, but I’m more than ok with that. I just want him to be comfortable and content when life hands him a curveball. Through tiny baby steps, he’s shown me that he is willing to do the work and I love that about him.

Rufus is a good dog because he’s mine. I take responsibility for him and I do my best to push him through those rough moments without forcing anything. Our bond is stronger because of these moments and I’m so happy to have him by my side.

My heart dog. 

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