general, life

Confessions of a reluctant “dog mom”…

Pets are family.

If you had said those words to me ten years ago, I would have acknowledged the idea, but I would not have given it much thought. The idea simply would not have carried any considerable weight for me.

Then we met Ava.

I’ve had pets before and loved them. I grew up with horses and dogs. Truth be told, I have never had a dog entangle my whole heart. If you have ever had a pet like this, you know exactly what I am talking about in this post.

She is family.

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She is also aging and THIS. IS. HARD.

Ava is a Bernese Mountain Dog. I can’t count how many times I have been asked if she’s “the dog that carries the barrel around her neck and rescues people?” Let’s get that question out of the way now.

She is not. That’s a St. Bernard.

The Bernese Mountain Dog (German: Berner Sennenhund) is a large-sized breed of dog, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. The name Sennenhund is derived from the German Senne (“alpine pasture”) and Hund (“dog”), as they accompanied the alpine herders and dairymen called SennBerner (or Bernese in English) refers to the area of the breed’s origin, in the canton of Bern. This mountain dog was originally kept as a general farm dog. Large Sennenhunde in the past were also used as draft animals, pulling carts. The breed was officially established in 1907. In 1937, the American Kennel Club recognized it; today, the club classifies it as a member of the Working Group.

Before you scroll down and see all of the other photos, I must relay one very significant piece of information. On average, these dogs are short lived. When we brought her home the average was 8 – 10 years. Sadly, it is now 6 – 8 years according to the AKC Berner page and I will tell you this…IT’S NOT LONG ENOUGH.

It had been four years since our Boston passed away (he was almost 15) when I began to toss around the idea of another dog. Yogi was my husband’s dog before he was our dog and he was a lot of work. It turns out, he came from a puppy mill and sometimes you just can’t take the puppy mill out of the puppy. After Yogi, I had been very reluctant to consider another dog. Instead we got a cat and at the time, he was just the right amount of commitment for our family.

We met two families in the same year who had Bernese Mountain Dogs. Before then, the only time I had ever seen a Berner was on the universal dog breed poster. If you have pets, you know which one I’m referring to. It’s on the wall in every veterinary office you have ever visited.  After meeting their dogs and talking with the families, I did a lot of reading about these gentle souls.

I was sold and I began researching breeders. I found a gal who seemed like the right fit. She didn’t work out and I found myself disappointed. Then a friend mentioned a local litter she had heard about.

Ava was two weeks old when Laura invited us to meet the litter of eight beautiful puppies. They were so tiny! Their eyes weren’t even open yet and they had round little milk bellies. They were like snuggly little sausages.

It was love at first sight.

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2 weeks old

We learned that the placement process was very in depth and that Laura would choose which puppy we would be offered. Placement would be based on multiple criteria. We were one of MANY interested families, so if we chose to move forward, we were not guaranteed a puppy. On our second visit, we filled out a puppy questionnaire. It asked about our household, lifestyle, what we were looking for in a dog, and various other dog related concerns. Laura spent time during our visits observing the girls with the puppies and with their mom, Sadie.

I spent the next few weeks reminding the girls (they were 9 and 13 at the time) that we did not know for sure if we would be offered a puppy. I knew that even with preparation, the girls were going to be really disappointed if we did not make the list. We crossed our fingers and I hoped for the best.

When Laura called a few weeks later, we were lucky enough to have our choice of the “blue” or “peach” puppies. Breeders use different colored collars, or yarn, to tell them apart. I was leaning toward the peach puppy, but on our next visit, we chose baby blue. She was the smallest and there was something very special about her.

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8 weeks old!

Ava came home at just about 9 weeks old. From the beginning we were smitten. She melted right into our family and it was as though she had always been there. We took her everywhere. She loved to go to pick up the girls from school. Everyone wanted to stop and scratch her and Ava would eat up all of the attention.

She was easy to train (housebroken in ten days!) and with the exception of rolls of paper towels, she has never chewed anything she wasn’t supposed to. I have no idea why, but to this day, she loves to shred rolls of paper towels. ava2She never eats them. She just shreds them into a big pile. I can leave a bag of leftover vacation or soccer snacks on the floor, open bag of beef jerky and all, (I have done it more times than I can count!) and head out to run errands. She wouldn’t dream of raiding the bag. Well, she’s a dog, so maybe she dreams of it, but she would never touch it. A roll of paper towels is a different story. Oh well, if that’s her at her worst, I’ll take it.

As a family, Lake Tahoe has always been our happy place. We used to make a lot of winter day trips to snowboard when our girls were young (off season for soccer).

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7 months

On those days, we would load Ava up and she would quietly hang out in the back of our suburban with her toys while we were out on the mountain. Every two hours we would come down to let her out so she could run around and play in the snow. She is truly in her element when we visit Tahoe.ava5

 

Ava will be 9 in a few weeks and we will celebrate with some dog bakery treats from our local pet boutique. Over the last several years, we have nursed her through several physical ailments, including two torn ACL’s. Through it all, she continues to be her smiley, happy self.

According to many breeders, we are already on borrowed time and truthfully, I have begun to notice her slowing down. Laura has always said “Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, three years an old dog. Anything beyond that is a gift.”

I know some people would probably consider me a borderline “crazy dog mom”. I’m not, but that’s OK. I can own it.

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4 months

After several discussions with our vet, acknowledging that we are slowly entering our final stages with her has been far more difficult than I would have imagined. Maybe it’s how gentle she has always been. All the evenings we have spent together when my other half was traveling. The way she always rolls over for a belly rub and her way of accepting new friends is to sit on their feet (as long as you’re not wearing a hat). Or the long walks we would take together after the summer sun went down. ava11

Maybe it’s the way she needs to be laying right near whichever family member is in the room. That she always sleeps on my husband’s side of the bed. How tightly she hugs your arm, with her front paws, when you rub her head and ears. That she lays in between my husband and I at the kitchen table every morning, presumably so we can scratch her equally. That she will look over the arm of the sofa when we watch TV to make sure you know she’s still there. Or that she still believes, even at 100 lbs., she’s a lap dog.

Or maybe it’s simply that she has always just been such a “good dog” – the best dog – and when she looks at you, you can see the love in her eyes.

I can only tell you that she is embedded in my heart in a way I cannot completely put into words. I never expected to be this attached to, or emotional about a pet.

Like I said, if you have ever had a pet like this, you can relate. If you haven’t, I hope someday you do.

-Kim

 

 

 

 

 

general, life

A bit of open-minded thinking never hurt anyone

Today it might seem I am rambling more than usual.

Can I be honest for a minute?

I know everyone is “entitled” to it, but truthfully; very few things in life aggravate me more than another person’s one sided, the world owes me, my way or the highway, black and white opinions. Particularly when it feels personally directed.

You DON’T know me.

You know the pieces I have shared, the parts I have allowed you to see, and the opinions you have derived from those. We all curate parts of ourselves for public viewing. You don’t know about the events that I have dealt with, the choices that shaped me into the person I am today, or how I got here.

You don’t know that if I had taken the easy road and followed that chapter in the psychology textbook, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.j_murphyquote

I chose the opposite path. The harder path. The road less traveled. It wasn’t always easy, but I did it. I am a relatively private person and I have never really been one to be railroaded. I was often referred to as headstrong, independent, obstinate, strong willed, or stubborn.

I spent my teens, twenties and most of my thirties dodging opinions and criticism, feeling the need to prove myself…Proving I could fit in and choosing a lot of the wrong people to befriend when I was young. (Do you ever really fit in as a tween or teenager anyway?) Protecting myself in the only ways I knew how, because there was nobody to protect me. Proving that I didn’t need anyone and letting go of several good people that I should have valued more. Proving that I could make peace with my childhood. Refusing to self-destruct. Proving I was worthy of love. Proving that being independent doesn’t mean I’m a bitch. Proving I wasn’t “just another pretty face”. Proving I wouldn’t live my life angry. Proving that I could be a young mom, a wife, and do them both well. Proving I would not allow alcohol or drugs to consume me, the way they had consumed several people in my life. (Honest and very humble horn toot: I have bad genetics with regard to drugs and alcohol, so I never took the risk. I have never tried drugs and with the exception of a margarita on my 21st birthday, and a few sips of champagne at our wedding, I stopped drinking at 18.) Proving that I could learn how not to repeat past mistakes.

Proving I am a good person with good intentions.

I do not expect anyone to abandon their personal convictions, but I value open-minded thinking and empathy. So while I respect the idea that we are all entitled to an opinion, if you are only interested in your own, I ask that you kindly stop talking. Listen. Listen and try to hear.

Bill Bullard said, “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”

That passage speaks to me in a way no other has. Ever.

What you discuss within your personal space is your prerogative. Outside of those walls, the world isn’t black and white. There are circumstances you know nothing about, things that have happened and are still happening to the people around you. e_rooseveltquoteShaping those people. Your own circumstances and choices have shaped you. Shape has a different meaning than define.

You might consider looking it up.

Who are we to make another person feel as though they aren’t enough, based on opinions derived from what we see on the outside.

We need to understand that our opinions are the product of our personal experiences. There is no personal growth when we hold on to our opinions and believe them to be the only possible truth.

There will be times when our personal experiences are the truth, but we must make the conscious choice to try to understand this world from other people’s perspectives. To be open to knowledge and growth. If we do not open ourselves to knowledge and #empathy, we risk ignorance, and sadly ignorance just breeds more ignorance.

Forward movement is one of my personal themes for 2017. Part of my forward movement is continuing to acknowledge that I no longer allow space for anyone who makes me feel as though I am not enough. I love to see people succeed. When I give, I don’t keep score. I am a fan of quiet contemplation. If I say that I envy you, stop and take a moment to listen. I promise you it’s not in the way you might think.

Envy:  verb (used with object), envied, envying. To regard (a person or thing without malice) with envy: He envies you for your hard-earned success. I envy your writing ability.

Do not make the mistake of thinking I envy who YOU are, or your material possessions. I envy the ease in which you make decisions, or your ability to consistently live with a carefree nature. I will not purposely place myself in anybody’s crosshairs, but I will advocate for myself loudly when forced. I have learned to speak my personal truths gently, because I know what it’s like to be misunderstood, or not to be heard at all. If my attempts to be genuine aren’t taken at face value, I’m not malevolent or angry, I just change the amount of space I allow that person to occupy in my life.

I know who I am. I have worked long and hard to become the person I am today and today is what matters. Happily, I am still evolving.

-Kim

general, Uncategorized

Shameless self promotion…

Did you see my YouTube videos yet? Did you want to? As I mentioned in my previous post, public speaking is not my thing. In fact, it scares the hell out of me! I am taking a great social media class this semester. We’re learning about every aspect of social media possible, including (GASP!) using YouTube. If you want to see the videos, you can check them out here and here. It really is ironic that the post I had planned for this week was about overcoming fear. Lol.

I’m more the kind of gal who would rather promote myself via Pinterest boards. If you’re interested, you can see those here. I recently added some great dessert recipe pins and there will be a board for my new Friday post series.

Thanks for following along! I’m so glad you’re all here! Have a great week!

-Kim