Hi Everyone! Happy National Dog Day from my pack of loons to yours! What a wonderful day it is because my husband Rob and I are also celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary! Wow...20 years!
When we first said "I do" back home in Delaware, we had no idea where our lives would lead us. Just a few years into our married life, we decided to relocate to Arizona. It was absolutely the best decision we made. As time moved forward, we bought our first house and settled into making it our home. We found our routine of cooking, cleaning, tending to the pool (neither of us grew up with one), gardening in the desert (omg how hard was that to learn?) and realized that the garage isn't meant to hold everything under the sun....lol. No, I'm not sharing those photos!
Three years went by and our home was welcoming and inviting and cozy but it lacked energy. It was just too quiet for this Italian girl. We decided against having children from the start but knew we needed some form of life energy in our home. We decided to adopt our first dog Lola and three month later, we added Luigi to the pack. We had a beautiful pair of labs. After training them for a year through a host of small challenges, we got brave and figured "what's one more?" so we started fostering labs and maintained three at a time. People would drive by, point and laugh as we walked our pack through the hood tied around our waists. They thought we were amazing to be able to calmly walk three dogs at our left knee. Sometimes wrangling a new foster lab was necessary while my pack stood by and waited. I'm sure they were thinking "dude...let it go...you'll never win with alpha mommy"! lol We fostered a boatload of labs, taught them manners, potty-trained them all and ultimately found adopters for all of them through our local lab rescue.
Several years into the next phase of life brought us to elderly dogs and disabilities. It's like the universe knew we were ready to take the next step. As Lola and Luigi aged almost into their teens, we added two more seniors--Boomer the blind boy and Pork Chop, my gimpy little unicorn. Within two years, everyone was old and we became a hospice house of pee pads, diapers and pain medicine. Titty Tat Georgie was added to the mix during all of this elder care and loved the dogs the way you see in those cute videos. He's the best cat a dog-lover could ask for. My pack has taught me how to grieve in a healthy way and move forward to save the next dog in need.
Big Rosie came along from our local Saint Bernard rescue and we agreed to foster her until the end of her life. She arrived a senior and is still kicking two years later at the age of 10! During this period, I began volunteering at my local open intake shelter (the pound). I happened to be online one night when I heard about a dog who needed a foster for two weeks. "Honey....can I"? Those of you who know my husband know that "No" is not a word he uses when it comes to an animal in need. So off I went to collect Petunia after her eye surgery. She was a sick and skinny little girl with pneumonia. At the end of her two week stay, it was determined she needed to stay here longer to fully recover. Her placement fell through and there was no way I would take her back to the pound. While the pound is a wonderful place for all those dogs who have been found stray or turned in by their owners, the sooner we can move them out the better it is. Two weeks, six week, forever. What difference does it really make? So we adopted her, too!
Again, the universe was up to testing us in its sordid little way. It appeared that we transitioned from a boatload of pretty easygoing labs to two beasts. Big Rosie was insecure and ballistic on a leash and very reactive to people, dogs, leaves, grocery bags and anything else that came within 50 feet of us. I feel certain she was a fence fighting backyard dog the first eight years of her life. Have you ever held the leashed end of reactive Saint? Oy...
Petunia decided to let Rosie's anxiety rub off on her in the great outdoors and we added excitement to the mix. This is not a good combination for a dog and she was learning about dogs the wrong way. She started using her own methods to correct other dogs that was not acceptable. Yup. Read between the lines here folks. We had our hands full in a bad way.
So here we were in our 19th year of marriage and wondering where we went wrong after so many years of dog bliss. We knew so much about dogs and behaviors but weren't quite as evolved as we needed to be. Our attitude around here is "if it can be corrected, we're committed". We stepped up our game because, quite simply, we had to. These dogs were a potential liability and we were on a very slippery slope.
During these dark days, I found a friend and dog behaviorist mentor who listened to me and helped me. I could sit for hours and explain certain behaviors in detail while she helped me dissect it. I'm one of those people who needs to understand why a dog does what it does. I'm definitely not everyone's cup of tea in this regard as I ask a million questions.
I went through hours of training with other trainers and behaviorists that I hired to teach me and evaluate my work as well as my pack's behaviors. I studied for hours on end and became a human sponge. Everything I learned, I shared with Rob every night over dinner. It certainly wasn't sexy talk by any means! It was a very long and educational 19th year around here.
Today, as we celebrate our 20 years together, I can honestly say our pack lives in a balanced state of mind and life is easygoing. We have worked our asses off to be where we are with regard to Big Rosie and Petunia. Seeing them blossom into balance has been worth every tear we shed, heartache we felt and curse word we muttered under our breath.
As Rob and I enjoyed our morning cup of coffee before work (and my lovely bouquet of roses!), we agreed how easy married life has been for us as we often hear people say that marriage is hard work. We believe the secret ingredient is that we stand together as a team through the thick and thin of life while it throws us curveballs. You can give away your dogs, curl up and cry --OR-- you can start a business and teach other people who are struggling with their dogs. With my husband by my side, I can achieve anything.
Here's to you, my love, and the next 20! I wouldn't be where I am without you and this pack of loons we live with....xo