It’s been 31 days since Whizbee joined our family. She is such an amazing dog, and I’m loving her sweet disposition more and more every day. To commemorate her first month, I want to write a short list of things I have learned from Whizbee so far.
- Every dog is different. My brain always knew this. But I don’t think I realized just how different two dogs could be. Severus and Whizbee have polar opposite strengths. The contrast is pretty hilarious. Both are teaching me a lot about how to work with their extreme “deficiencies”. Isn’t the saying, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need”?
- It’s not outrageous to postpone traditional obedience training. I teach pet dog training classes as a side job, and I used to be pretty appalled when dog owners would come to orientation and say they adopted their dog six months ago. SIX MONTHS?! You’ve had this dog for six months and you haven’t started training him??? Well, I eat my unspoken words because we’ve had Whizbee for one month and, honestly, she doesn’t even know her name. Nothing is on cue (not even “sit”)! Of course, we are working on her separation anxiety, but her behavioral repertoire is nonexistent. I’ve prioritized keeping the peace between Severus and Whizbee over her training. I believe it was the smart thing to do. For those clickerly folk who are curious, she has been conditioned to the clicker BUT the first time I tried to work with her, Severus would not stop baring his teeth at her through the ex-pen. Not exactly the emotional response I was aiming to foster. So I stopped. I was able to revisit the clicker when my husband was home to watch Severus in another room with our invaluable Pet Tutor. Now I can clicker train them in the same room with a barrier.
- It’s healthy to take a break from a hectic class / trial schedule. When it was just Severus, my weekdays and weekends revolved around classes and trials. And don’t get me wrong, I love being a part of group classes, chatting with my dog training friends, and learning new skills regularly. Severus is such a motivated training partner; working with him is always a thrill. However, since Whizbee joined us, I’ve been forced to break from all classes and trials due to her separation anxiety. And you know what?! It’s actually been really nice! My only regular weeknight commitment is teaching on Thursday nights. My weekends are entirely free. I get to rest! I get to make real dinners instead of just heating up Trader Joe’s vegan tikka masala frozen dinners (which I still love, but there was a point where I was downing two a night)! The truth is: I didn’t know how much I needed a break until I got it. We will definitely be back in class eventually, but, for now, I’m loving my little vacation.
- Humble “dates” can still be fun. My husband and I have never been glamorous people, but we do enjoy dining out every once in a while. Well, when your dog has separation anxiety, the nicest dinner option is walking to a local cafe, standing outside in February in New England for fifteen minutes with your two dogs while your spouse goes inside to order and wait for the food. Then walking back home and enjoying your lukewarm sandwiches together at your dining table. It’s either that or delivery. The situation is not ideal, but, if you have good company, it’s still a great time. I also really love patio dining so Whizbee will definitely join us for some outdoor dates in the coming months!
- Collective goals build strong partnerships. Not to get all sappy on you guys, but I have such a renewed appreciation for my husband and all that he is doing to support me in my quest to treat Whizbee’s separation anxiety. Together, we brainstorm ways to make things easier for Whizbee and keep her overall stress level as low as possible. We communicate more than ever: what behaviors we are seeing, what do we think they mean, what is working, what is not. My husband has always been a great partner in the dog-raising department, but, at this point, Severus doesn’t demand much collective effort from us. We had a routine. We didn’t need to problem solve. We didn’t have a “project”. In general, it was just: Celine trains Severus to do all these unnecessary things and Pierre takes him for walks in the morning and late at night. Now it’s coordinating schedules, updates on progress, and the occasional expression of frustration. But it’s ALSO spending more time together, celebrating small improvements, and frequent encouragement.
- Skip the elevator. This one is short. Whizbee is scared of the elevator. See, unlike Severus, she wasn’t raised in a concrete jungle. It’s not something I want to deal with right now so I’m avoiding my problems by taking the stairs. We live on the fourth floor of our building, and the parking lot is basement level. Not to brag, but my legs are in great shape these days!
I’m sure Whizbee has many more lessons to share with me. I just hope I’m smart enough to keep up!