THE BLACKNESS OF THE NIGHT

“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never owned a dog.”

Stepping out into the blackness of the early morning,  I inhaled deeply before I took the first step of my run picking up speed and setting my pace.  I felt anxious that morning, the sky had an eerie sense to it and the light mist of fog strained my vision throwing off my senses leaving me with a feeling of vulnerability I couldn’t shake.  I was in my early twenties and I had a few years of running under my belt.  My motivation for running wasn’t for inspiring athletic aspirations, shaping my body or improving my cardio.  The motivation was far more sinister, I was running from an addiction and demons in my head.  The strategy of running to beat the addiction and demons worked; running became my salvation clearing my head, strengthening my soul and kicking the urge to smoke.

I hit the streets every morning between five and five-thirty.  My mother hated it because in the winter I was running in the dark and I could hear her words in my head warning me about the dangers of being a woman running through the dark streets.  My middle name is stubborn and I refused to let fear stop me from doing something that I loved.  However, that particular morning I felt uneasy as there had been two murders a few weeks back not far from where I lived.  One woman was going to work in the early morning and the other woman was out for a walk at first night fall.  Both dragged into remote areas, both raped and murdered.  Of course my mother reminded me of the incidents every day and wanted me to stop running, I told her I wouldn’t stop running as that would make me a victim of a rapist I didn’t know and I told her that “I refuse to live my life in fear.”

Unknown to my mother, I  changed a few things about my running routine.   I’m always very aware of my surroundings no matter what I’m doing and due to the blessing of my hearing impairment, I see things and feel things around me that most people wouldn’t notice.  I started packing a knife;  taping the knife to the inside of my wrist and I was prepared to use it should  someone try to drag me into a car, or pull me into the bushes.  I believed the knife gave me a fighting chance to get away from a perpetrator should I find myself in a position where I  was forced to defend myself.

This particular morning as I was running, I kept rubbing my hand over the knife on my wrist because I was feeling uneasy. My head was starting to clear and the uneasiness was starting to settle when I saw some movement in a bush.  My body went into defensive mode and I pushed all my weight forward ready for anything coming my way.  When I reached the bush, a man stepped out wearing dark clothing and what appeared to be a hoodie.  He stepped right into my space and before he had a chance to do anything, I hit him with two hands square in the chest and sent him flying backwards into the bush.  I kept running and when I felt I was at a safe distance, I looked back and to my horror  I saw a bus approaching the bus stop and the man trying to get up  to catch the bus.  When he stood, he was wearing a dark trench coat and some kind of hat and I realized he was just a guy trying to go to work.  That man is probably telling his grandchildren the story to this day of the psychotic woman who attacked him while he was waiting for the bus.  I felt terrible but I assessed the situation as danger and I acted in self-defense.  It is good to have fear and fear can protect you, but fear can put a lot of pressure on the brain causing you to over-react.

Now thirty years later, exercise is still very much a big part of my life.   Recently, I had to give up running because of some serious back issues, and I’ve replaced the running with walking.   My husband and I adopted a beautiful black shepherd named Kaos and I guess you can say he has become the knife that walks by my side.  I walk him for hours at a time and quite often I am walking him in the blackness of the night.  When I married my husband, he echoed my mother’s warnings as he was always telling me how much he did not like me running in the dark and like I told my mother, I told him the same “I won’t let fear stop me from doing what I love.”

Once I started running with Kaos, I noticed that my husband stopped warning me about the dangers.   When I mentioned this to him, he said “I don’t have to worry about you with Kaos, that dog loves you and he will go through a wall for you.”  Kaos is big and he is strong but I wasn’t convinced that in a physical attack he would do anything.  For all I knew he was a complete wimp and I was on my own.

We are a busy family with two boys playing sports and both my husband and I work full time, so one night I didn’t get Kaos out for a walk until ten o’clock.  Half way through our walk, I noticed a man about forty feet out and I felt a tingle down the back of my neck and the uneasy feeling of danger settled deep into my bones.  Again, I became very tense and my muscles tightened as I prepared my body for possible battle.  This time I had the Kaos man with me and I let him have full length of the leash so he could protect me from the front.  Kaos is as black as the night and I don’t think the man saw him.  The man’s gaze was on me and when he got to the side of me, he stepped directly into my space,  yelled in my face and put his arms out to grab me.  I was ready, my knee was already about to meet his crotch when Kaos stood up on his hind legs, growling  with his huge teeth protruding from his jaw.  There was a split second where all three of us were suspended in time and then Kaos leaned in for the attack.  The man jumped back so fast he fell back onto the ground and I made sure I gave Kaos enough lead so the man could smell Kaos’ breath.  He was screaming at me to get my dog off of him and I let Kaos linger in his space so the man knew who he was messing with and I told him I would let my dog go if he moved an inch.

Kaos had my back and when all was over my husband was not at all surprised.  He watched Kaos around me, noticing the bond between Kaos and I, and he knew Kaos would protect me at all cost.   Kaos makes me feel more secure than a knife taped to my wrist and affirms that the relationship between animal and human is instinctive and goes beyond what most people are willing to give these animals credit for. Now I have the blackness of the night beside me every day when I hit the streets and I feel protected in his love and dedication.

GAINING CONTROL OF THE KAOS

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red.

It’s been 8 months since I adopted a new member into our family. A big black shepherd named Kaos. It has been a long time since I’ve had a dog in my life, I put off adopting a dog because I was busy with my boys, work, home and a host of other reasons why I didn’t adopt a dog before now. The longer I went without a dog in my life, the more I had forgotten how much joy these beautiful beings bring to ones’ life.

I adopted Kaos from the SPCA and he had been neglected and abused. He was 25 pounds underweight and he suffered from extremely high anxieties. He is a big boy so I immediately started to work with him by feeding him well and getting his weight back to a healthy state, training him to walk properly on a leash and dealing with his anxieties. When we adopted Kaos I was home from work on holidays. Three weeks after I adopted him and the first day back to work, Kaos tried to stop me from leaving the house by grabbing my pant legs with his mouth and pulling me back into the house. When that didn’t work he tried blocking the front door to stop me from leaving. My husband phoned me at work to tell me that Kaos had been lying at the door for several hours howling and crying. He was so worried I wasn’t coming back,  so after that experience I worked with him by leaving for a short time, came back, leaving again for a short time came back, leaving a little longer, longer until he realized that “yes she’s leaving and yes she’s coming back.”

He is a smart cookie so he was somewhat easy to train but he had one problem that I could not deal with; leash aggression. Every time I took him for a walk and he saw another dog, he lost his mind. The leash aggression was so bad that he almost pulled me into on-coming traffic one night. After that close call I bought a pinch collar. I hated to do it but I needed more control because as his weight, health and anxiety issues improved , he got stronger and stronger. The pinch collars pinch into the dog’s neck and creates an uncomfortable pressure giving the handler more control. This seemed to work for a short while but as time went on, Kaos became more and more aggressive while on the leash. So aggressive, one night another brave soul walked his dog close to mine and Kaos tried to attack the gentleman’s dog. Took everything I had to hold him off. I was so exhausted that night when I finally got home with Kaos – exhausted and depleted – my thoughts were “I just can’t do this any more.”

Kaos baffled me, he was like the dog ambassador in the dog parks but on a leash he was a complete lunatic and there was no doubt in my mind, his aggression was getting out of control. When I was a younger woman I rode horses and I can remember one summer, this particular horse took a disliking to me and was always trying to find a way to get me off his back. One day during lessons as we were doing our exercises, my horse turned to the middle of the group and started running out of control and jumping like he was doing some kind of rodeo trick. I was thrown clear and landed on my ass. I remember feeling bruised and embarrassed as I lied on the ground staring up at the ceiling of the huge barn. I was furious, found my composure, lifted myself out of the dirt and walked over to the horse, furiously took the reigns and climbed right back on. The horse tried to throw me off again but I wouldn’t hear of it. I never had trouble with that horse again. That memory came back to me as I was dealing with Kaos and with that memory came this question “if I could get control over a 900 pound horse, why the hell could I not get control over a 90 pound dog?”

Realizing that I had tried everything and given everything I had, I called a dog trainer. Her name is Shauna and interesting enough I found out about Shauna when I least expected it. I was in a dog store buying a bone for Kaos when I had a casual conversation with the girl at the cash. I told her about my Kaos having leash aggression and she gave me Shauna’s number. I called Shauna but we couldn’t seem to get our schedules together. Time went on and I just dealt with the Kaos and at times he got better but overall his aggression had become incredibly intense.   Another trip to a different dog store months after I first heard of Shauna’s name, I had another casual conversation with the store owner. After describing my Kaos, this woman said to me you must call this trainer, her name is Shauna. I said “Shauna Olson”, yeah “how did you know” said the shop owner. I believe in messages from the universe and losing her number only to run into someone else who spoke so highly of Shauna meant that it was Kaos’ destiny to meet Shauna.

Our first session was private and then I booked ten group sessions and the Kaos man and I have so far completed five group sessions. I now can walk past dogs and he may growl a little but no more losing his mind, I have complete control. Shauna confirmed what I already knew, I was the problem. Never having a dog with leash aggression and not having the tools or techniques to deal with it I was making my dog crazy. The pinch collar, even though the collar gave me control, was a mistake. Every walk I took with Kaos and I saw a dog coming, I tensed and as I tensed I was sending Kaos the message that I was not in control, and feeling out of control Kaos was doing only what he knows best, he was protecting me! Adding the pinch collar to that situation only created frustration and anger and that is why his aggression became so intense  instead of getting better. If I had been listening and connecting with Kaos properly, I would have been able to take control of the situation. His size and sheer aggression just added stress to our walks as I was very tense and concerned that he would attack and he did attack another dog.   Thankfully the pinch collar allowed me to gain some control over that situation.   Now I have control by giving Kaos direct instructions, letting him know what I expect from him when a dog comes our way by repeating the same command and when he doesn’t listen to my command I have discipline techniques I use to gain control.  All of this work is assuring Kaos that I’ve got it, I’ve got everything under control and he doesn’t need to protect me. The result is peaceful walks, and increased bonding with Kaos, just the way I envisioned our life together..

Free Will

“Life is a combination of destiny and free will.  Rain is destiny; whether you get wet or not is free will.”  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Lately I’ve been having many conversations with my boys about free will.  I  believe whole heartedly in free will and I live my life by free will.  This past summer we adopted a beautiful Belgian Shepherd from the SPCA.  He had been neglected and was at least 25 pounds underweight when we took him home.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that he had been abused as well.  The name on his chart said Chaos but the SPCA changed his name to Kenny to make him sound more attractive to potential adopters.

The boys loved the name Chaos but I wanted to change his name.  Finally after bouncing different names back and forth we decided to keep the name Chaos but I changed the spelling to Kaos.  From the moment I met Kaos it was apparent that he and I had a connection.  We spent time with Kaos in an enclosed room and he kept snuggling up to me and placing his body in my space the entire time.  When we finally got him home I spent the first week giving Kaos his space and letting him come to me when he wanted to.  I never forced him to come to me,  I gave him complete free will.  He willfully followed me around the house in those first few days.  Everything was new to him and he needed the space to get comfortable with his new environment.

My youngest son does not understand free will, he annoyingly gets in your space and if you don’t give him the response he wants he tries to force you  by being ultra annoying.  He does the same thing to Kaos and the dog does not like it.   Kaos lets Matt know that he is annoying him by ignoring him, growling  at him or hiding in the other room.  One day Matt says to me “how come Kaos doesn’t like me mom?”  “Because you are always in his space Matt and you don’t give him free will.”  “Free will he says, what do you mean?”  “Matt you force  Kaos all the time, if he doesn’t come to you, you use force,  if he is sitting by himself minding his own business, you get in his face, you pull at his ears while petting him even though he doesn’t like it  and you push him out of his chair and steal his space.”  “You have to give him the free will to come to you, you have to stay out of his personal space and you have to give him the time he needs to chill.”

At the beginning Kaos and I struggled with the furniture as I don’t want him on the furniture and he really liked the couch in the living room.  When he lies on that couch, I know he is taking time out because the living room is off the family room and away from the hustle and bustle.  Every day Kaos and I would struggle, he would go on the couch and I would ask him to get down and as soon as  I walked out of the room he would climb on the couch again.   It dawned on me that he needed that space to retreat to, so I covered the couch and let him have his space.   If Matt finds Kaos on that couch, he gets into Kaos’ space by practically lying on top of the dog.  Kaos usually warns him with a growl and then will abruptly leave the couch and hang out somewhere else.

Watching the struggle between Matt and Kaos has been interesting because Kaos makes no bones about the fact that he is not impressed with Matt.  Matt is clearly frustrated by this situation and when I repeat to Matt about giving the dog free will, he says to me “I’m using my right to free will to bug the dog.”  “Well then Matt, Kaos is using his right to free will by growling and ignoring you.”

As much as Kaos likes his couch he remains on the floor at night, he doesn’t climb into our beds to sleep, he lies at the foot of our bed on the floor.  For some reason one night Kaos climbed into Matt ‘s bed and made it so difficult for Matt that Matt ended up sleeping on the floor.  The next morning Matt came down to breakfast complaining that the dog had kicked him out of his bed.  He told me “every time I tried to get Kaos off my bed he growled and when I asked him nicely, he ignored me.”  The dog then used all of his body weight and pushed Matt off the bed.   “Is that free will mom?”  “No Matt, that is called Karma.”

 

 

 

 

 

A DOG’S LIFE – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

dog's life

Now that I’m blessed with the gift of a dog, you can find me at the nearest dog park.  Kaos needs socialization as he was crated and neglected until I met him.  Every time I take him for a walk and he sees another dog, he loses his mind.  At first I thought his behaviour was aggression but it didn’t take me long to realize that he just wanted to play with every dog he saw.  There is a dog park close by that has acres of trails and woods to run through.  I take Kaos there as much as I can as he gets more exercise running amok with his dog friends than I can give him in a two hour walk.  The boys came with me last week and we met this gorgeous five month husky puppy.  He was a cutie and now my son wants another dog.  He swears if I buy him a husky pup, he’ll walk him daily with no complaints.  I remember hearing the exact same words a month ago when we met Kaos at the SPCA.  Listening to the same promises all over again, I laughed and I said “I didn’t adopt Kaos for you, I adopted him for me and the novelty of a new dog wears off fast when you have to walk him every day.”  It’s a dog’s life and I’m committed to Kaos and the return for my investment in time and money is unconditional love every single day.

THE BLACK STALLION – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR JULY 10, 2015

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“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything.”

It’s taken me quite a few years to commit to a dog again.  Three years ago I bought two guinea pigs so I could avoid the dog issue.  The plan backfired because the excitement lasted two days and I ended up being the caretaker of guinea pigs.  Guinea pigs that ended up sick and many nights I was up all night feeding water, medication and giving tender loving care to very sick animals.  Guinea’s are smart, cute and lovable but I can’t say I’m really a guinea pig person. I started to think about a dog a year ago and I knew I wanted a Shepherd.  Last Sunday we went for a drive to several SPCA’s in search of a dog not really expecting to find one.  We visited four animal shelters and the last shelter we visited, we met him.  I asked the staff if our family could spend time with him and after spending an hour with the dog, he felt like he was a part of our family.  The only problem – his name is Chaos.  I really don’t need chaos in my life so as I was writing up the application to adopt him, I told the boys we have to change his name. Adopting a dog named Chaos seems to be asking for trouble.  The boys love the name and Chaos responds very well to his name.  The lady at the SPCA told me that I might cause Chaos confusion by changing his name so I changed the spelling – I spelled it KAOS – makes me feel like I somehow have control over the Chaos entering our lives!

IN MEMORY OF JAG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m reposting this piece because today my sister contacted me to tell me that Jag has passed away.  He was a beautiful part of my sister’s family, my sister calls him “her third son.”  I’m a firm believer that when we own animals, they are not just animals – they are family.  Jag was so sweet to my boys when we visited my sister in 2010 – he was welcoming, warm and loving.  Jag let the boys throw him a stick or ball for hours and put up with constantly being petted and handled.  He took care of the boys too – slept with the boys on the floor and watched over them.  So long Jag  – you were a cherished and loving part of the family.  Click below for original post and more pictures..

https://momwhearingloss.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/boys-best-friend/