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Tag Archives: Australian shepherds

A Recovering Cat Person

This isn’t a cat-bashing edition. I was just thinking about how much I love and am loved by my dogs. In the last decade, I’ve grown into such a dog person that even when people come to our house, they are unaware that we actually have a cat. She just does her thing, and that doesn’t usually involve people. She likes it that way. She lets us know when she wants attention, and the rest of the time she is content to be a loner. I’m an introvert, so I totally respect that. It’s one of the best qualities of cats. They are so easy to take care of. And honestly, constantly tripping over my dogs who are clamoring for attention can be difficult.

I grew up as a cat person and thought that was all I needed. We had dogs, but they lived outside. My parents had grown up in rural farm areas and that’s how they did it. Plus, my mom said dogs smell.  We had a couple cats at a time in the house. They were funny and spunky, and my Siamese Suzie was even lovable and cuddly. Suzie started out as my sister’s cat, but I ended up adopting her and she was a huge part of my life. This time of year I remember her the most because she loved Christmas. We used to joke that any picture taken of the Christmas tree was sure to have Suzie in it. This is also the time of year when she died, at the ripe old age of seventeen.

I was a mess.

My husband surprised my by allowing a kitten to pick him out a couple weeks later. That’s how we got our current kitty, who is now sixteen. Truffles, our crazy tortie. I had told Robert I knew losing pets was hard, but I never wanted to be without one. They complete a home, and though one can never take the place of another, each can hold a new and special place in our hearts. Now that Truffles is older, I’m not as terrified of her attacking me out of nowhere anymore. She’s fairly mellow now and just purrs all the time.

Truufles and MJ

A few years after moving into our house, I conceded to fulfill the promise I had once given Robert that we would get a dog. I always thought dogs seemed so needy, and I did not think I would ever love a dog like I had loved my cats.

Now, this is not to discount the love I had for Suzie, or even for Truffles now. I do/did love my cats. But somehow that neediness of dogs, I have come to see, is really just because they love so deeply. Seriously, I know my husband loves me with as much capacity as one human can love another, but I still don’t think he loves me as much as Dylan and Mara Jade love me. I just walked down the driveway to get the mail a few minutes ago, and they were concerned for my safe arrival back into the house. Sometimes I sense one of them staring at me, and when I look at them, I can almost see hearts in their eyes. Their expressions are so doting and intense. Have you ever looked into the eyes of an Australian shepherd?

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Again, this time of year, I remember my Suzie and how devastated I was when I lost her. Dylan just had his twelfth birthday earlier this month. He still has plenty of moments when I completely forget about his age, but sometimes, even in little things, I notice him slowing down. I see the white fur filling in around his snout. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to get all the way up onto the bed without taking a break on the ottoman at the foot of the bed first. And then there’s MJ, Mara Jade, our puppy. Of course, she’s ten now, so even though we call her our puppy, she’s technically considered a senior now as well, though we haven’t really seen any signs of her aging, other than the dusting of single white furs spread out on her head.

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All of our pets are in their senior years, and I don’t think I’m ready for that. They’re more than just pets; they’re family. The kind of family that sheds all over, throws up at the most inconvenient times, and lays in every doorway you want to walk through, quickly getting up to move as soon as you begin to raise your foot to go over them. I wouldn’t trade that though, because their love is more unconditional than most people can give. Is it coincidence that dog backwards spells God? He seems to have made them with the ability to love nearly as much as He does. As they age, I commit to being there for them and always doing what is best for my fur-babies, as they have always been there for me.

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My Buddy (Kid Sister Sold Separately)

Our dogs follow us everywhere and are very much a part of our lives, so much so that I hardly even think about the awkward contortions I put my body through just to navigate the kitchen, walk down the hallway, or sleep.

better bed buddy

Any ’80s kids out there? Who remembers these lyrics? “My buddy. My buddy. Wherever I go he goes.” So that is why we started calling Sir Dylan buddy from time to time. And then we got him a little sister, and since she also sticks to us, and her older brother like velcro, she is Kid Sister.

Now for an ode to my dogs in pictures.

dogs holding hands

They are inseparable (Dylan left, MJ right)

My bed is not the only one they take over.

My bed is not the only one they take over.

They really don't even let me go to the bathroom alone.

They really don’t even let me go to the bathroom alone.

Dylan is my 55lb lap dog.

Dylan is my 55 lb lap dog.

Now if you have a dog, give him or her a big hug for the unconditional love you get. If you have an old My Buddy or Kid Sister…I don’t know, but that’s pretty cool.

A Dog is this Girl’s Best Friend

Why is it that “man’s best friend” is a dog and “a diamond is a girl’s best friend”? Sure, I like diamonds, but I’d rather have the unconditional warmth and love of a dog any day. Why do women come across sounding so shallow?  Perhaps a dog wearing diamonds would be a good compromise.

dog and diamond

Now that’s just ridiculous! I don’t do fru fru dogs, or any that could possibly be mistaken as a rodent.

Ok, so perhaps “man” in the man’s best friend phrase is actually meant in the more general sense of humanity.  Or maybe not.  Another stereotype is that old lonely women are crazy and have cats, multifarious cats, not dogs. Interestingly enough, though I often heard women tend to prefer cats, and men prefer dogs, that is not necessarily the case. I found a fun read with some silly dog versus cat people statistics. Click to read.

My husband and I are proud “parents” of two Australian shepherds, and to the surprise of many, a tortoise shell cat named Truffles.  We had her first, and I do love my kitty, but the problem is that she only loves me about five minutes at a time, while Dylan and MJ, my Aussies, cannot get enough love. EVER.

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I grew up as a cat person.  We had a few dogs throughout my childhood, but only the cats were allowed in the house, so I didn’t really bond with the dogs.  Then I moved from apartment to apartment, and keeping a cat was much easier.

My husband wanted a dog, so I told him once we had a house we could get a dog.  We wanted a frisbee dog, so I gifted Robert a frisbee one year for Christmas as a promise of the dog to come.  We were in our house for a few years before we finally decided on the breed we wanted and took the plunge and brought home Sir Dylan (we didn’t name him, and the only time he hears his first name is when he’s in trouble- “No, Sir!”).  A year later we got a baby sister for him, Mara Jade (we did name her, after Luke Skywalker’s wife). Now I can barely remember what it was like without them.  They seriously fill up my heart.  I spend a lot of time home alone while Robert is at work, except I’m not alone.  Truffles prefers to be alone, but Dylan and MJ are always as close to me as they can be. In fact, MJ’s head is on my foot as I type this, and Dylan is right behind me.  They know when I’m sad, when I’m happy, or if I don’t feel well, and they’re always there for me.

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#5 Those Crazy Aussie Dog People

I’ve spent a week attempting to entertain with stories about my two delightfully loving, yet headstrong Australian shepherds.  Yet, I’ve only scratched the surface.  I’m sure more dog blog posts will come, but I recommend you go out and get an Aussie or two of your own so you can experience the joy for yourself and you will not need to live vicariously through me…because that’s a scary thought.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the day we brought Dylan home forever changed my world.  It wasn’t instantaneous, but crept over me slowly, like my little ninja MJ tends to do while we’re watching TV or trying to sleep.  These dogs opened my eyes to an unconditional love not often seen in people, unfortunately.  They have inspired me.

The world is a complicated place, unless you’re a dog.  People commit cruel acts towards one another all the time, but not dogs.  People judge one another, even when they don’t know each other.  Dogs tend to be accepting.  We can learn from dogs.

Dylan’s sire is a therapy dog with Delta certification.  He visits the elderly in nursing homes, and helps kids who have difficulty doing so to read.  Their intelligence and their loving and accepting demeanor often make Aussies a good breed for such  endeavors.

We see it in our dogs too. During a trip to Petsmart, a boy with special needs saw our dogs and came, practically running, towards them and plopped himself down on the floor in front of them.  Now if Robert or I sit on the floor by the dogs, they tackle us.  If we run, period, Dylan will attempt to bring us down.  They tend to get excited beyond control.

An attack might look like this…

…or this. (again, ignore the dates from our confused camera)

Not this time.  Both dogs remained calm and let that boy pet them and put his face close to theirs without them licking him or pushing him down.  They knew.  The boy’s father told us his son loves dogs and thanked us for letting him spend some time with them.  It was our pleasure, and the dogs’ pleasure too.  We could tell they were loving it.  They understood their boundaries, but they still got some lovin’ out of the deal.

We were able to bring the dogs with us to Christmas at my sister’s the year of my grand nephew’s first Christmas. He was at the age where he was using anything and everything to pull himself up, including Dylan’s long fur, which apparently was easy to grip onto.   As far as we knew, Dylan had never been around a small child like this before, and it was clear he was taken aback by the assault, but he somehow knew this child meant him no harm and he was not to retaliate in any way.  He suffered silently and bravely.

A few months ago I had a horrible day at work.  Honestly, I do not remember the details, but it was one of those emotionally draining days when one thing after another piles on (I’d probably been cussed out by a parent who was mad I gave her kid a zero for work she didn’t turn in or something equally unjustified in her eyes).  This was a day when I left as soon as my time was up for the day (I tend to stick around for at least an hour or so) and I fought back the tears during the drive home.

My homecoming routine is to set down all the work I have to bring home, let the dogs out of their crates, and take the dogs out back to potty.  Their routine is to attack me with love and music (they both sing), which means they jump up and rub on me. On this day, I let them out but denied them each their “welcome home, we love you Mommy” time.  I’d been holding those tears in and wanted to let them out quickly so I wouldn’t have a breakdown in the backyard.  Once back inside, I collapsed in a chair, placed my face into my hands and sobbed- we’re talking audible, body-shaking sobs- like I hadn’t in years.

At first the dogs stood back, tilting their heads as they watched.  MJ even seemed a bit scared at first.  Slowly each dog came to my side and nuzzled me until I looked up at them.  In that moment, MJ did her snarl which means she wants to make sure it’s ok to approach you, and both dogs placed their upper bodies in my lap, all at once.  It was a lot of dog to have in my lap.  They were sneezing their laughter sneezes and nuzzling me, and all the while their eyes expressed concern.  They weren’t sure what was wrong, but they wanted to fix it and let me know they loved me.  They do these actions often anyway, but there was something different about their approach and delicacy in the matter.

I recently read about an organization called the Heartland Alliance which uses therapy dogs to comfort victims in court when they need to testify.  For example, a young girl had to testify against her father who had sexually abused her.  A golden retriever had spent time with her getting her comfortable with what would come and was even able to be in the courtroom as she gave her testimony, apparently nuzzling the little girl when she paused for too long, to give her support.  With that dog’s help, the girl got through it and her father was locked away.  What an amazing story!

My husband and I have felt a pull to DO SOMETHING to help fight human trafficking, or to help the survivors.  One idea that keeps knocking around in my mind is the idea of therapy dogs.  We would love to have land, dogs, and a sort of “retreat” for survivors to come as part of their recovery.  I have no idea how to make that happen, but we’re believing that God does. Also, neither of us are counselors, but we believe if it’s meant to happen, everything and everyone we need will come together.

None of this would even seem an option today had we not adopted Dylan back in March of 2007.  His love, and MJ’s love inspire me.  They have all the qualities these survivors would need.  Acceptance, unconditional love, and hope.  These dogs display hope every moment of the day.

Those Crazy Aussie Dog People the 3rd

Yesterday was Dylan’s day.  Today is for our little one-Baby Girl as I often call her- MJ, which stands for Mara Jade.  In the trilogy of Star Wars books telling the tale of life immediately following Ewoks, Luke Skywalker is hunted by, and eventually falls in love with and marries a sassy redhead named Mara Jade.  Being the nerds we are, Robert and I named our little red-tri puppy after her.

The happiness we had with Dylan for our first year led us to thinking we might want to add to our family unit, and it just so happened that Dylan’s birth mother had recently given birth to another litter of puppies.  In fact, there had been another bitch (it’s ok to say it in this case because that’s what the word was intended for anyway, so calm down) who had a litter around the same time and there were many puppies to unload.  Three of them were still available much past the usual time, so they were again “discount dogs.”  We took Dylan back with us and he picked one of the two little girls because she didn’t annoy him as much as the other.  She immediately attached herself to her big brother (remember that they really do have the same mom), but he wasn’t so sure.  The lack of personal space sort of freaked him out for a while.

Dylan had a toy Green and a Blue

Eventually he learned to more than just accept her, and to actually love her.  We knew this had happened when he actually brought her his favorite toy and best friend, Green.  Green is to Dylan what that blue blanket is to Linus, so at that moment we knew he loved his baby sister.

MJ using Green for a sleep buddy, with Dylan’s permission

Even now, the two are inseparable, and Dylan puts up with quite a bit of abuse from MJ.

MJ can be a pain in the neck

You could say MJ  had a troubled youth.  I’m not sure if it’s because she knew she was a “discount dog,” or what, but when I took her out on the town for people socialization, she was always mostly interested in discarded cigarette butts.  At home, she was always trying to drink Mommy and Daddy’s beer or wine.  She tended to sprawl out on the floor in the most unladylike positions.  She even resorted once to chewing a plugged in electrical extension cord (also two remote controls, a Blackberry, and a pair of glasses, though those did not electrocute her and cause her Mommy to panic).

It was clear she needed reform, so we enrolled her into Puppy Kindergarten, and she became the star pupil.  With her troubles behind her, she has taken on new interests and hobbies, like chasing and catching the “flippy,” leaning against everything, and warning us when anything moves in our front or back yards.  She has learned her left from her right, and has even attempted to take up singing, though she is not nearly as controlled and on key as her brother (though he does get “stuck” and stutter sometimes).  She has also mastered the head tilt of curiosity and waking us up in the morning.

I think she fears she is still missing out on something…like having a tail, but she’s found a way around that, also making parts that fall off Dylan’s Green useful. She really likes “Green leg” because it has a squeaker at the end.

MJ is nothing if not resourceful

Yes, our little girl is all grown up now into a beautiful lady, but just as I as the youngest will always be my mom’s “baby,” MJ will always be my little puppy.

Those Crazy Aussie Dog People: My Dog Days of Summer

How many of you know some of those crazy dog people?

What you cannot see right now is that I am raising my hand and pointing frantically at myself because I AM one of those crazy dog people.  Yep- we have no kids, so our dogs have taken over that part of our lives.  We send the traditional family photo Christmas card, with our dogs in the pic in place of kids.  I even considered getting those tacky little family stick figure window stickers for my car, using a man, a woman, and two dogs (maybe we’d even stick the cat on there, but she prefers to be left out of everything).  We pretend we know what the dogs would say if they could speak and speak for them, and we call each other Mommy and Daddy when the dogs refer to us.  “Aw, MJ just loves her daddy!”

I didn’t start out as a crazy dog person.  In fact, I grew up as a cat lover and was a bit scared of dogs over 30 lbs, but my husband wanted to be able to get a dog once we had a house, and I was ready to give it a try.  We researched breeds and kept coming back to Australian shepherds, which are not Australian, by the way.  This is an active breed, an intelligent breed, and a fluffy breed (our Dyson has been a great investment).  They were primarily bred in America for the purpose of herding cattle, instincts that apparently carry over to girl scouts (it’s ok- nobody was hurt). Because tails could get in the way, causing injury or infection, the breed standard is also to have their tails docked when they are puppies, for which my belongings and I are ever grateful.

This seems to have led to various degrees of “the wiggle.”  The wiggle encompasses everything from a slight movement of the “nub,” to a full on body-bent-in-half-at-the-waist wiggle, to “the Shakira” in which MJ’s hips move so quickly you can feel a breeze if you’re standing close.  With the last two types there are also often happy snarls and sneezes (we read somewhere that these sneezes are a sort of dog laughter).

In Dylan’s case, the docked tail has also lead to what we call the “Donald Rump.” I’m sure you can see why.

If it’s true that pets can add years to one’s life, I am certain Robert and I will live at least till 100, and so to return the favor, I am dedicating a blog post each day this week to my Awesome Aussies, Sir Dylan (we never call him Sir, as we’re afraid it will go to his head- he’s already quite the alpha dog) and Mara Jade (she’s named after Luke Skywalker’s redheaded wife).

If you stay tuned, you’ll get the girl scout story.

For today, I’ll leave you with this thought:

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am.” ~Author Unknown