My new puppy (he’s almost 4 months old now), has been helping me with so many lessons since he came into our lives, some big & some little. But I am continually amazed at how these animals know to “get to work” with us almost immediately - and hopefully we are listening!
The pup, Odin, is a Leonberger - a giant rare breed that is I found out is called a rare breed for a reason. Leo puppies aren’t readily available, it took quite a bit of searching and waiting to find one, and even when I did, there was more waiting and some uncertainty as to whether I would be able to get a puppy. I love the breed - I have a friend who has Leo’s, and they are just wonderful dogs. The other reason I chose this breed for my latest dog was that before we had our two cavaliers, we have always had German Shepherds. Angus, my heart dog, passed away a few years ago, and when he passed I decided that I was done with shepherds. Aside from the health issues that plague the breed, I knew that no future shepherd would ever live up to the expectations I would have of it after having had Angus in my life, and I didn’t want to be constantly comparing a new dog to him. No dog would ever be able to fill the shoes (or paws) of Angus. About a year ago, my husband and I decided we wanted a big dog again - the cav’s are wonderful, but there is just something about a big dog that we both love and were missing. So I decided that a Leo would be a great alternative for us - a great breed with a temperament that I am looking for in a dog, and they aren’t shepherds, so no worries about my expectations on what the dog should be like. Yeah, right. I knew, too, that my little dogs were missing Angus — Fenway, especially, loved Angus and pretty much loves all other dogs, so I was excited to bring Odin home and I just knew that he and Fenway would be fast friends. Wrong again. Not only did Fenway not seem to like the puppy when we first brought him home - he started out acting disinterested and put off by the new addition to the house, he quickly started growling at him whenever Odin came into proximity of both Fenway’s space and toys. As if that was bad enough, my usually perpetually happy Fenway became mopey and sad. Because I get to help people practice the animal communication skills, I also get to be have my dogs read fairly often, and about 4 days after we brought home, one of the students in the Danielle MacKinnon School of Animal Communication where I am a TA, did a reading of Fenway. What she said was completely surprising to me at first, and then made total sense. She said that Fenway was mirroring my behavior in his own to help me to learn my lesson (this is something that often animals will do - especially when it’s a particularly hard lesson or they know that we aren’t completely ready to learn it in a harder way). I was all about discounting what the woman was saying that she was getting from Fenway - after all, I’ve been doing this animal communication thing for a while now, and I know dogs really well, and I definitely know my own dog. I think I’m up to number 3 for: wrong again. Once she explained to me what she was seeing and hearing from Fenway, it clicked. I was mopey and sad and put off that this new puppy was being, well, a puppy. Like Fenway (as much as I was saying the opposite), I wanted Angus - or at least a dog that acted just like Angus. Obviously, a 9-week old puppy who has just been taken from his mom and litter mates is not going to behave in the way that our 12 year old shepherd did as we last remember him. But that was my expectation, unreasonable as it was. The puppy was being a puppy, and doing what puppies do. Fenway was just trying to get me to see what my reaction was doing and trying to wake me up.
That reading was so eye opening for me, and I really did some work on myself around managing my expectations and wanting to control the things (and beings) around me. Since then, Odin has blossomed into a really lovely puppy. At almost 16 weeks old, he amazes me at how well behaved and tempered he is. I am just enjoying the puppy that he is, and he is rising to the occasion. And for a dog all my trouble in getting a different breed so I wouldn’t make comparisons to Angus, my husband and I are continually noticing quirky little things he does that Angus used to do, things that none of my other dogs do or have ever done.
And now Odin himself is working on my lesson of letting go of expectations with much more dog-like examples. Because he is so young, Odin never goes outside to do his business with out a human escort, so we are very in touch with his bodily function schedule. The other night, I took him outside knowing that he was due for bowel movement, and he walked out of the house with what we jokingly refer to as his “poop tail” — a particular way he holds his tail that he does only when he is about to poop. Obviously, my expectation was set that he would be pooping imminently, so I grabbed the poop scoop in anticipation. I never usually grab it until after, but it was almost dark out and I really didn’t feel like being outside, so I figured while he was in the yard searching for the perfect spot to do his business, I would get it and be ready to clean it up and get back inside. You can probably guess what I’m going to say…. Yup, wrong again. Twenty minutes later, and no action from Odin, we headed back inside. One of these days I’ll learn, but I’m not setting any expectations on exactly when.