It’s been a few weeks since Lily Bean joined our household. We’ve all learned a lot about each other. I went from being a grumpy control freak full of expectations (“She’s six months old; she SHOULD be able to X!” ::grinch, grinch, grinch::) to finally remembering, then taking the advice of my oft repeated mantra “Work with the dog that shows up.” The fact is, Lily Bean seems to have had very little guidance in her life until now and she’s doing the best she can. She’s also a puppy. Six months old is definitely a puppy, even though dogs don’t look very cute and baby like anymore. Her legs are long, her feet are big, her body is short, slabby and kind of funny looking and she still has puppy fuzz on her head and ears. She may look like something a six year old drew, but she’s still just a puppy.
Puppy behavior without baby puppy looks is hard for a lot of people to deal with. “We don’t have time for her/him” is often code for “the cute wore off, they’re annoying and we have no clue how or desire to fix this”. Sometimes, I forget this very important fact – even after having worked in behavior rehab and rescue. I’m still human and occasionally labor under the delusion that I will magically end up with a mild mannered and easy rescue doggo. Though older rescue pups are rarely broken, they’ve almost always received very little guidance, making them irritating adolescents. Lily Bean is no exception.
Lily’s a smart girl. She’s picked up a lot just from normal daily activities. I’ve been struggling with my energy levels and have done little formal training with her. Even so, she’s almost tolerable both on leash and at doors. She has a good idea of what “leave the cat alone” means and her potty habits have improved considerably; I’m no longer running outside every fifteen minutes or so around the clock in an attempt to avoid “stroll-by peeing”. She has a penchant for eating sticks (Seriously, Lily Bean? Sticks? SERIOUSLY?!?). As a result, she’s also gotten familiar with “drop it!” “leave that alone!” and “ah-ah!” Courtesy of Hobbit, she’s also got a basic understanding of “wait”.
My contemplative practices have suffered, but I was already struggling before Lily Bean came along. I can’t blame Lily Bean for my lack of regular sitting, but she certainly hasn’t helped matters much. Still, I find moments to open myself to the presence and action of the Divine throughout the day, especially on the trail. And I remind myself that my dogs are a gift – even when they’re annoying. Or maybe especially when they’re annoying. After all, I’m the one feeling annoyed and grinchy due to my own expectations, conscious or not. The dogs have nothing to do with that. There are moments of such profound beauty and connection I would never experience were it not for having to get out with the dogs, places and scenery I would never have seen were it not for my constant search for new and interesting explores I search out for the benefit of my dogs. We are a gift to each other, though I suspect I’m getting the better bargain.