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It’s funny how walking along in silence with your dog can MAKE SPACE for contemplation and overall de- stressing from our hectic pace of life. Sure, I like hiking with friends sometimes, but there is no silence to be able to process life. Walking with my dog gives me that needed time. Sometimes I even discover things about myself during that quiet time, but this time my dog taught me a much needed lesson.

When we got Behr as a puppy, she was unbelievably energetic.  We’re not talking normal Dane puppy here; she was a ball of fiery energy that never stopped. She only had TWO speeds…full throttle zooming ahead and sound asleep. No in-between with her.

baby behr with stick

Everything Behr did as a puppy was with full gusto. Life was one big adventure to her. She never walked, she only ran and jumped. I’m NOT kidding.

behr running in oregon

Taking her for walks was seriously exhausting both mentally and physically.  One time as I was being dragged by a neighbor’s house, she yelled out, “Hey, do you get frequent flyer miles with that dog?” She was referring to the fact that I was almost airborne as I chased after my full speed ahead pup. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when she said that.

Behr had a mind of her own and was seriously stubborn. Ha! I had originally planned to show her in conformation and obedience, but she made it clear that she had other plans. Mind you, I was quite capable as a trainer and had a long history of training some top obedience dogs, horses, and even wild animals for film. Yet, I couldn’t get this puppy to do anything. I had signed up for puppy obedience classes, mainly for socialization, but she got kicked out. It was suggested by more than one nationally known trainer that I get a different dog because this one was incorrigible. Wow, that was humbling after my history of successfully training animals.

BUT, she was the PERFECT dog for me to hike with!  I was “conquer oriented” and aimed to cover as much ground with the most elevation gain possible. I have always kept logs of our distance, speed, and total elevation gain during our hikes. Depending on temperature and season, we averaged 40- 120 miles per MONTH for much of Behr’s life (with time off for my knee surgery and sometimes for work schedule) No matter how aggressively I hiked, I still had to turn Behr loose to run in fields and up hills just to burn off excess energy and make the hike pleasant for me.

Behr had an interesting fault, however. She simply never acknowledged pain. She could injure a paw and I would never know it. The only way I would figure it out was noticing she maybe wasn’t walking quite as fast as usual. She didn’t slow down if she was sick, injured, tired, hot, cold, or anything else. More than one emergency veterinarian pointed out that she was incredibly “stoic” (their word) Looking back, that probably explains why she acted a little dazed but fine after her fall over the cliff in Oregon.  After her neck injury was diagnosed (due to paralysis), I realized in retrospect that her only clue was that she would play hard and then stop suddenly and go lay down, probably due to pain.

Things have slowly changed in the last two years, though. She eventually got to the point of trusting me enough to let me know she had a problem and needed help. If she got a sticker in her paw, she would now STOP and wait for me to come help her. If she was too hot while hiking, she would plop down under a bush or tree until she cooled down.  When she got thirsty, she would pull me over to a large rock (kind of place I usually stopped to water and snacks) and wait for water. She stopped dragging me most of the time, and began to walk at a normal pace. Sometimes she even lags behind me. It feels really odd to walk in front of her for the first time in 11 years. The roles have changed. She loves to stop and sniff things thoroughly or to stand on mountain tops and stare at the view forever. She absolutely LOVES to do that, in fact. I have no idea what she’s even looking at, but she likes it.

Sometimes she decides she is done hiking, or doesn’t want to go the way I do. She puts her little brakes on and like a mule, won’t budge at ALL. OK, maybe with a bribe she’ll get going again. Maybe she wanted to go that way anyhow and got a snack out of it. I don’t know. 

Walking along thinking about all of these changes recently, I realized what an amazing lesson this was for me. I really needed to pay attention to what Behr was teaching me!!!

 I realized that when she began to change, I was kind of agitated inside, although I would never admit it. I think I was so used to her being my “land conquering companion” that I couldn’t believe she was changing. Sure, I knew she couldn’t keep up that pace forever, but was still bothered. My last dane was my training partner for my trip to Nepal and Tibet, and hiked 12 out of her 13 years before the dreaded bone cancer stopped her. Was I somehow hoping Behr would do the same?

behr in ss field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could looking at her graying face and feet and be visually reminded that it was time for her to slow down some. Not only that, but she has a spinal injury that I need to be careful with. I would think about these things and then feel like the bad “dog parent” for expecting more of her. What was wrong with me to expect her to never slow down?  As we walked more slowly, which I needed to do now anyhow (my spine and leg injury), I suddenly realized what was happening. What I realized was painful at the heart level. Deeply painful, in fact.

Behr, as a younger dog, had been just like me. Together we raced through life and ignored all pain and illness. Yes, I did it too. We were quite the pair. When I had major reconstructive surgery on my knee, the surgeon told me no more hiking on hills. Did I stop? No. As soon as I got out of my full leg brace, I started walking again. I just wear a smaller brace on my knee now. Hiking is a BIG part of my life. I had a job that was very demanding and for over 8 years straight I worked 90 hours per week with no vacation. I was sometimes so exhausted that I would be sick, but would keep going. I, like Behr, even have a serious spinal injury that caused damage to the nerves in my leg. I wear a brace that shocks my leg and helps my foot move. (It had become sluggish and I was tripping a lot) Behr has a spinal injury and slightly drags her back feet as well, wearing her nails down in the process. How odd of a coincidence is that?? We are more alike than imaginable.

Except in one way…

Behr learned to slow down and honor her body before I did. 

I think I subconsciously thought I could be super woman or something. My whole life has been spent trying to prove how capable and strong I am. I was the crazy one that would get up at 4 a.m. and run 10 miles, get the kids off to school, go to the gym, then to work, to their sporting events, and run a 10 acre ranch and keep a humongous house perfectly organized. Oh, and make it all look easy to anyone watching. The list goes on and on for my whole life. What I used to be proud of is now embarrassing to recount. What was I thinking? None of that matters in the end. Really.

So as we wandered through the hills that day, I realized that Behr had grown up and gained wisdom that I needed. She was modeling how life should be lived. Who would have ever guessed that the wild and crazy puppy would one day become my teacher? The lesson she was teaching me was hard to swallow, though. To slow down and admit my physical needs made me feel weak and vulnerable at first.

Since that day, I am trying to honor her requests to stop and enjoy the view from e.v.e.r.y mountain top. I even took a pad to sit on recently and when we got to the top of a mt. she loves, I sat down and let her stare as long as she wanted. I let go of my agenda to conquer miles. She seemed quite surprised, but enjoyed it.

behr looking at view

I’ve even bought a little compact ultralight chair that fits in my backpack to take when the weather is nicer, just so WE can stop and enjoy the mountain tops. I bring snacks and water and we just sit down and have a little picnic together. Honestly, I’m enjoying the view as well. There is so much beauty that I’ve missed in my years of race-walking through life. It’s amazing how powerful the stillness and calm of nature can be for healing our tired souls (see my recent post about forest bathing for more information..) The trick is to go for a walk and NOT spend the time thinking about what we need to do when we’re done. That totally cancels restorative benefit and stresses us out more (because we’re “wasting time”). I’ve taken off my backpack full of expectations (both self-imposed and real) and decided to admit I can’t do everything anymore.

So now what? Well, we’re both taking off our super hero capes and hanging them up. Neither of us need them anymore. Besides, we were never super heroes anyhow. We were only like little kids dressed up in costumes pretending we had super powers. The only ones we fooled were ourselves. And now we are free to run and play like we were meant to, without the heavy weight of the hero capes.

♥ Behr’s mom

 

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Digging through my puppy photos and had to laugh about this one. They thought chewing the branches off of trees was just a puppy phase….

Behr puppy chewing on tree framed

Nope! Still love to prune all of the branches within my reach.

Since our yard stays well pruned (thanks to me!), I’ve branched out to pruning trees in campgrounds and on hikes.

Behr chewing on stick grown framed 2

I’m pretty sure I’m the world’s first tree trimming Dane.

Behr chewing on tree grown framed

Need some help with trees in your neighborhood?

E-mail me and I’ll pack my trunk up and rush right over, ok?

Don’t let the fact that a big black dog is in your back yard tree trimming, scare you either. My bark is worse than my bite.

Of course, the only thing I ever bite is branches anyhow 🙂

♥ Behr Behr, the tree trimming Dane 🙂

Today was super boring for me.  Mom said it was waaaay too hot outside to take any long walkies.

Her favorite weather place said the mean temperature here should be 73-75 degrees (F) in May, but today it was over 100 degrees.

I didn’t even know temperatures could be mean before. It’s confusing to me, because the mean temperature would have been nicer. Hmmm.

I didn’t have anything to do but hang out on one of our decks observation platforms and keep an eye on the squirrels.

Watching Squirrels

Even THEY were bored and didn’t make noises at me or run today. See for yourself…

Squirrel 1 squirrel 2 squirrel 3 Squirrel 4

Squirrel 5

♥ Behr Behr, Chief Squirrel Patrol Officer 🙂

badgerblog3R

 

Can you imagine how scary it would be if big Great Danes like us dressed up like Ghost Dogs? Bwahahaha…

 

♥Behr Behrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…………

 

 

 

Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared. 🙂

Mom’s getting around on her four legs pretty well now, and can even hobble  a little bit on two!  She goes to a place called “physical therapy” for several hours a day.  I haven’t gotten to go there yet, but I don’t think I really want to.  She said they just make her do lots of exercises that hurt.  No thanks, I’ll just get my exercise with Dad instead!!  Besides, I’m a puppy princess, and I only do things that are fun.

Dad and I have become quite a team lately, going new places, exploring and playing.  He used to not have as much time with me, but since Mom got hurt and had her surgery, Dad’s been the one taking me exploring.  That’s one of the good things that have happened because Mom got hurt, I guess. I always did wish Dad could do more things with me, and now he does.  In fact, Dad does EVERYTHING with me because Mom can’t even take me for walks or anything.  I kinda feel sorry for Mom, tho.  Sometimes she goes for little walks with Dad and I, but she has to use her crutches, so it’s a lot slower than I usually walk.  Other times, she sits and watches us play and I think that’s kinda hard for her.  It’s ok, someday Mom and I will get to play together again. After all of this that she has gone through, I don’t think she’ll ever take me to a dog park again, though. She said that was a really, really expensive trip to the dog park that we had that day in June 🙂  It scares people when she goes places and they see her and find out her injuries happened in the dog park.  Obviously that kind of thing doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s good to be aware that it can happen, and to keep an eye on all of the doggies that are playing there.

Tonight Dad and I were out on a walk and playing when we heard a big splash in some water. Of course, I rushed right over to see who had jumped in the water 🙂  Boy was I surprised to see some kind of strange puppy named “Raccoon” looking up at me!! Dad wouldn’t let me chase him, tho.  We didn’t have a camera with me, so I found this photo on the internet to show you what he looked like.  Dad told me this “puppy” likes to wash his food in water before eating it.  Now that’s ridiculous!! I eat stuff off the ground all the time without washing it, and I’m just fine.

Besides, it would take me forever to eat if I had to wash all of my food.  That’s probably why the raccoon puppy was so small compared to me, ’cause he wastes too much time playing with his food in the water instead of gulping it down like me. Silly puppy.

Behr Behr , Dad’s hiking/exploring/raccoon chasing puppy:)

Good news about my cousin, Zeus!  Remember how I said that when we helped Zeus’s family move, he was really sad and was howling when he got to his new home? Well, not only did he get a big, new house with a park in his back yard, he also has fluffy white stuff that falls from the sky, just for him!

The whole time Zeus lived here in Cali. near me, he had this silly thick coat on. I think he kept it on because his fur parents gave it to him, and he figured that by leaving it on they might see him one day and recognize him or something.  I kept telling him to take it off and put on his short one, like I have, but he never did. We don’t need thick coats where we live.  Besides that, his coat was always falling out all over the place, as a subtle hint to him that it just wasn’t right to wear it all year.  He never got the hint, tho.

In his new home, about a 200 hour drive from my house (remember? roads and trees, roads and trees…), he is getting this cold white stuff pretty often now.  While his humans have to go out and buy all this special stuff to wear so that they’re not freezing, his built in coat is perfect. Suddenly, he has discovered what the thick fluffy coat was for!!! Oh my gosh, he is a totally different dog in the white stuff!! He zooms around like some kind of wild puppy in the  stuff (not that I would know what a wild puppy acts like or anything….)

Take a look….

♥ Behr Behr,  the sleek and shiny one 🙂

(not the red stuff you put on hamburgers, either) 🙂

I wanted to show you the photos of our last camping trip before mom’s surgery.  Unfortunately, it rained really really hard, so we didn’t get as many pictures.  Mom also didn’t take any pictures of the mushroom I ate right before she and Dad made me throw up a whole bunch. That’s what the v-e-t said to do when they called from the top of the mt. where we were.  (In case you didn’t know, hydrogen peroxide makes dogs throw up REALLY fast!) Mean ol’ v-e-t. I can’t believe she told Mom and Dad to do that to me!!  Well,I learned not to eat mushrooms anymore, that’s for sure!!!!

Here are my pictures, taken when it wasn’t raining 🙂

And one of my favorites….me and Dad on top of the world together 🙂  Well, it feels like it when I’m with him, anyhow.

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