Frizbee At 2 Months Old

I am currently in the midst of training up my not so new puppy Frizbee.  These first two years have pretty much been hell on earth.  The first year was full of medical problem after medical problem.  We became such regulars at the vet that they literally started to recognize my voice on the phone!  At one point they actually told us he was allergic to the sun because his nose started peeling, which made it so we had to apply sunscreen on his nose before going outside.  What, a dog allergic to the sun??!!

After the first year and way too many vet bills, then came the next saga, the naughty pup.  Frizbee decided he was in charge and although he knew all the rules by this point he decided he did not need to follow them.  So, we switched from vet bills to training bills.  His most fierce try at defiance was to claim the couch as his own.  Frizbee knew that he was not allowed on the couch so after he turned one he would actually try and bite you if you pushed him off the couch.  The problem for Frizbee is that this mama is not going to lose this battle so to this day we are still battling over the couch. I refuse to give up.

Through this second year of training the therapist in me has been psychoanalyzing this poor pup and myself as we have been battling our way to his two-year-old birthday.  Frizbee is a miniature Australian Shepherd, only he doesn’t realize he is mini.  One characteristic of Australian Shepherds is nervousness or anxiety.  Ironically one characteristic of myself is the same, so as you can imagine this does not always make for a good team!

Recently in our training trials I was working with a trainer at our house for many reasons, but one in particular is that Frizbee really wants to chase cars.  Obviously, this is a big problem for him, although he doesn’t think so (did I mention he doesn’t realize he is mini).  Apparently, Frizbee just wants to herd them, but I would like to be able to walk through my neighborhood without him spinning and barking his way into a frenzy every time a car passes.  As the trainer and I walked him through the neighborhood, Frizbee felt the need to stop and sniff everything along the way and especially liked to stop and smell any poop he found.  I, of course, instinctively pulled him away from the poop because that is just gross, but the trainer stopped me.  She patiently and sweetly explained how pleasurable it is for dogs to sniff poop and how it is really calming for them.  What?! 

Since this insightful and still gross lesson I have changed my ways of walking my pup.  When we are walking and he gets all riled up about a car passing, I slow our pace down and let him sniff anything he likes, especially a good pile of poo.  It is amazing how this has helped him be able to handle another car passing.  In the past I would walk and rarely allow him to smell things, because it felt like we were never getting anywhere, but now with the extra time sniffing we are making huge headway in his resistance to trying to chase a car.  He can actually think now and listen to my commands when a car is coming and resist his desire to wrangle up those pesky cars.  His anxiety around herding the cars is calmed by the last pile of poop.

As I have been observing this on our many training walks, I find myself reflecting on my own anxiety.  On my own need to slow down and calm down and find something soothing after I am stressed out.  Often I treat myself the way I was treating Frizbee.  I hurry through life from one thing to the next, accomplishing the many things on my to do list each day.  Many of the tasks will stir up anxiety in me, from insecurity about my performance on a task, or completely missing something and yet I just keep going.  All the while anxiety is building up in me and often I don’t realize it.  Just like Frizbee I have one “car” pass and then another and another until I have lost my mind, my ability to hear my kids, my ability to calm down, my ability to hear someone speak into my life, because I am consumed with anxiety of a failed chance to herd the cars.

Frizbee’s little lesson of slowing down to smell the poop, of me slowing down to let him soothe himself a natural way a dog soothes himself, is also just what I need, just what my kids need, just what we all need.  The fast pace society we live in does not reward, or see the importance of slowing down to soothe ourselves.  As a parent I can see how I often do the same thing to my kids, I rush them from activity to activity and don’t leave enough space to debrief, to breathe, to rest and talk so that we can process the things that are adding to stress and anxiety.  In this season I am working on not just letting Frizbee slow down to smell the poop, but allowing that for myself and my kids too.

-Kali Jensen


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