Is your dog part of the family?

As a child, I always gravitated towards animals. I had a massive collection of stuffed cats, dogs, rabbits - you name it, I had it!

I don't know why I felt that gravitational pull towards animals, but I do know being around them made me feel calm, happy and loved. When I was 8, I finally convinced my mom to let me get my own kitten - after a little more work and a few more years practice of begging, my sister, Jennifer, and I had convinced my parents to add rabbits, a turtle, a dog, a baby chick and a horse to our family (I guess we were pretty cute and very persistent :)).

I encountered a lot of heartache during the trial and error process of finding the "perfect family dog". It was through this process that I was inspired to have my own dog one day, one that I would choose how to train, raise with love, allow it to become a part of our family, and most importantly, deal with whatever obstacles came our way - I was determined to never give up again on a dog. 

I sometimes sit and ponder why families, people, couples, decide to get a dog? Is it because they want to be more active, or perhaps they are trying to act as my parents did and appease the children - whatever the reason, I always wonder if they think about this "new dog" as a permanent addition to the family? Because that's what it is. A companion dog, one that is acquired for no other purpose than to bring joy to each other's lives, should be treated as a family member, right? 

I like to observe a lot of human - dog interactions and I can't help but shudder when I see the leash jerks, leash dragging, prong collars, stern/harsh yelling (okay once in a while it may happen, but you know what I'm talking about) and the like. It makes me wonder what happened to that feeling of love and companionship we were originally looking for as owners seeking a family addition? 

Frustration can easily form when we feel we can't communicate with our dogs, or pets, and I think that's where a lot of these harsh interactions develop from. I have been there, I've had my moments, wondering what else can I do to get the response I want from my dog, but here's the catch -- you have to take the time to invest in a healthy relationship. Just like with children, the connection, communication, trust and love are not instant. They're formed over time through positive interactions and exposures. 

If you find yourself frustrated and at a loss with your dog, it would be worth the investment to seek out a professional dog trainer who can help you understand and learn how to communicate with your dog (notice I didn't say "train" your dog, because the process requires both of you to learn, work, reward each other and repeat and build constantly).  

For those of you who already have invested in your relationship with your dog, if you would be so kind to share a story about an obstacle you and your dog were able to conquer together as a team I think that would be a wonderful way to demonstrate the power of love, patience and perseverance when working with our dogs and building a positive, healthy and lifelong relationship with them.

Thank you for reading and sharing your stories, it means a lot to me and hopefully to others who seek the change we have already been so lucky to experience.

"Our dogs are our bridge, our connection to who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be..." - Patricia McConnell, excerpt from 'For Love of the Dog'  


National Dog Day: What it means to me

After a long day caring for two babies (I also nanny for a 10 month old), I came home to my overjoyed #kanedog, anxiously awaiting our arrival. To be honest, I hadn't checked social media all day, so I really had no idea it was national dog day, regardless, I was just as excited to see him.

It used to bother me that he got so worked up when I came home and I even started avoiding greeting him entirely until his wiggle-butt, zoomies subsided but then I realized what fun is that? There's certain things that provide our hearts with bounds of love and gratitude from our pups and this greeting ritual is certainly one of them.

In addition to Kane's serenading process when I arrive home, I also love the way he lays next to me after I'm done all the things a mom has to do and gently rests his head on my leg. It's his way of thanking for me for finally sitting down to enjoy our company together and just appreciate each other's presence.

I also love when we go for a walk and he gives me that look of gratitude; I'm certain he appreciates each and every one of our walks, even if we run into numerous dogs, cats and screaming children (who are up way too late past any acceptable bed time). The time that we enjoy outside can sometimes be stressful, but we have our moments where all is right in the world -- Adelaide (our baby) kicks her legs in excitement while watching Kane sniff away while marking all the interesting areas with urine while I patiently wait for voluntary eye contact, a gentle nuzzle on my leg and that grin that he gives me when he's truly content.

Kane's a very modest pup who doesn't poop for just anybody and also doesn't like to (as my mother would say) pass gas in front of others, but on the rare occasion when one "slips out", I absolutely, positively love the way he immediately glares at his rear end in surprise and embarrassment.

In the early morning hours when my built in alarm clock, also known as Adelaide, wakes us between 5:30-6:00, I love when Kane dog starts to get excited downstairs when he hears my footsteps in the hallway and bathroom. It reminds me why it's so important to appreciate the unconditional love a dog provides us with. Just the sound of my foot steps makes this guy happy, if only our lives could be so simple and full of love, anticipation, trust, loyalty and fun!

Most of all, what I appreciate the most on National Dog Day and celebrating with my pup, Kane, is that every day is an adventure. Every day we learn from each other and every day he inspires me to be a better person. How could we not take the time to honor these amazing creatures?