Posts Tagged ‘dog’

Lessons Learned from Rex


Rex is quite smart. When he wants to go out, he brings you a shoe. If you don’t respond quickly enough for him, he brings you the match. Subtle, no? He brings you what you need to help he take care of his need.

He teaches me compassion everyday when I think how fortunate we are to be his family.

He teaches me to be playful when he brings me the knotted socks for a game of tug-of-war.

He reminds me that a treat isn’t a bad thing if you deserve it.

He reminds me that beauty comes from within even when there are imperfections on the outside. When I scratch his neck scar for him, he looks at you with an expression that seems to say thank you for understanding.

He reminds me to lean on others when there is something (just about anything) that scares him and he needs comfort.

He reminds me that having others depend on you gives you strength and purpose each day.

He shares unconditional love everyday and happily receives it in return.

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On Sunday, after we got home from church, I told the boys they would be helping me around the house. I gave them options to choose from, like sweeping the floor, dusting, helping me in the laundry room. Nope…what they fought over was who gets to clean the toilet. I feared they would get to fisticuffs! Younger son claimed cleaning the entire bathroom and we avoided injury. Older son reluctantly took dusting and sweeping the rest of the upstairs. This left me free to work on the laundry room and reclaim parts of the family room for me.

The kittens now have their “rest room” in one location. Since they are huge six month old kittens, we don’t have to dedicate a room to their potty needs. I then moved their food to the top of a cabinet. They can work their need to jump on EVERYTHING and the dog can’t reach it. Another project I have to do soon is repair where the kittens tore the curtain rod out of the wall. That’s one way to get me to change the curtains.

In a very real sense, I have brought my work home with me. I am accomplishing all this fabulous housework by breaking the work in to small manageable tasks and completing all of it using the “tolerable ten”. Anyone can stand to do anything, even moving a litter box, for ten minutes.


(Note the baseball hat for size reference. Cujo is one big six month old kitten!)

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Our home is full of furry and not-so-furry creatures.  Rex joined us in June and he’s a  fantastic dog.  Three little kittens joined us in December and they are too adorable for words.  Then for Christmas, each son received a bearded dragon kit from Santa and the next day each son picked out his beardie.  Obviously this means there are crickets in the house as well.  Solid and steadfast through all of these changes has been Shemp, the 13 year old matriarch cat.

IMG_8041Rex got a new bed from Santa for Christmas.  He likes to rest his head on it as he adores pillows.  The bed was lovingly chosen by Santa to perfectly coordinate with our bedroom.  It doesn’t spend much time there because…





IMG_7988Shemp has decided she likes Rex’s bed and prefers it in the living room.






And the kittens…
TJ is the orange one, Cujo is the fluffy one on the right, and Loki, little fur ball of mischief, is toward the bottom of this photo just about winking at you.


Photos of the beardies will come soon enough.  At the moment, they are asleep with their night-light bulbs shining a purple glow on their habitats.

These little creatures do fill one’s heart with love.  Even the reptiles.

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Our dear, sweet, little Rex has settled in quite nicely.  Dare I say he is getting too comfortable?  He found the package of little rawhides on the counter and decided to help himself today.  Hubby thinks he found all of them.  He also has begun taking “lovees” from the boys’ rooms.  Rex has his own lovee-a little pig/frog toy.  Plus we bought him a toy chicken too.  But he loves to steal a lovee and run to the living room with it to see if anyone noticed.

Rex has also started snooping in corners, exploring all the nooks and crannies of his home.  He’s almost destroyed my beautiful comforter.  And he enjoys trying to chew on the decorative pillows that match the almost-destroyed comforter.  He doesn’t chew to tear, mind you, but as if it’s a chew toy.  I almost miss the scaredy dog that he was.  Not really, I am so happy he feels comfortable here.  He feels loved.

He makes the rounds if he hears people outside, day or night, and then barks if he feels there is a threat.  Scary bark, which I don’t mind.  Sounds way bigger than he is.  And when he is ready to go to sleep for the night, he jumps up on our bed and gets in his spot.  His spot is actually my spot.





When I go to bed I have to move him, which is easy enough.  I just slide him across the almost-destroyed comforter.  Once I’m in bed, he sneaks back over so he is right up against my legs.  Hubby says some nights he has to move Rex because he has slowly pushed me over to the edge of the bed.  Impressive considering I weigh quite a bit more than the 46 pounds Rex weighs.



Hubby says Rex pretty much sleeps all day.  Then when I get home…puppy olympics!  The boys and I take him outside and Rex runs in circles at dizzying speeds around me.  The boys keep him moving until finally Rex collapses on my feet, the sign that he is done and ready to go back to the couch.  This sign usually happens 8-10 minutes after we start.  He is quite the couch potato, except for those 8-10 minutes.

With his gigantic ears, Rex could have been named Gizmo, Gremlin, or Dobby, for a more current reference.  I should get Rex a Dobby lovee!


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After a brief rough patch with a lot of accidents in the house, I used the beloved internet to search for tips on house-training a rescue dog.  Every article I read said to treat it as if he hadn’t been trained at all.  It truly helped me reset my brain.  I spent a day walking Rex every two hours and stuck by him in the house so I could look for signs or signals that he needed to go out.  You need to remember that this is the dog that rarely barks.  He certainly knows how to bark when he wants to, but not to indicate that he needs to do his business.  We discovered that he looks like he’s tracking a ghost and then does laps to one corner of the living room rug when he needs to go poop.

As there is no bark to go with the poop dance, it is critical to either watch Rex the whole time or listen for the clicky sound of his nails on the wood floor.  But the clicks of his nails could also be Rex chasing a cat.  Or his tail.  This morning he did all of his business outside as if he had been doing it for years.  He came in and even ate his breakfast.  Tonight, after a busy day of playing with a tennis ball and lots of love and attention from the boys, he even ate his dinner.  So when I heard his clicky toes on the floor, I thought he was chasing El Tigre.  I was wrong.  But that accident is on me.  I had a hunch he was almost ready, but he’s never gone poop twice in one day.  He also had never eaten both meals in one day.  Today he had.  I should have known.  I am sure that he is very excited that he won’t have to sleep in his crate tonight, since he pooped.

Not that you could tell that he’s excited by looking at him right now.  If there is one thing Rex is really good at, it’s sleeping.  When he is done for the day, he sleeps and there is no waking him up to do anything.  He makes little groaning noises as he falls into the deep sleep.  He also farts as he falls into the deep sleep.  Clearly, he is very relaxed and comfortable here.

Rex is settling in and so are we.  IMG_6860

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We had been talking about what kind of puppy we would want to get.  We all felt ready to start looking for the dog who would not replace Briggs, but fill the spot in our hearts the same way he did.  Lab or collie or lab-collie mix…back and forth we went.  Then a friend messaged me on facebook about a dog and Rex found us and filled that spot before we even met him.  I just couldn’t get him out of my head.  So when I got home that night I told Hubby that I found a dog.  We looked at his picture and description.  Hubby figured out why I couldn’t stop thinking about Rex.  He smiles just like Briggs.


He’s a shepherd mix, beautiful, sweet, knows how to sit and shake his paw.  He’s had a couple of accidents in the house, but he’s truly starting to figure it out.  We’re starting to figure it out too.  We’ve had to reshape our thinking because he’s not Briggs.  He’s not driven by food, he has complete control of his bowel, and he can go up and down the stairs.  He loves to cuddle, doesn’t like wind, but actually enjoys walking in the rain.  We did that last night for two hours (still trying to figure out the poopie schedule).  I have said so many euphemisms for poo this week in an attempt to figure out if he has a “trigger” word.  I’ve even tried merde.

The boys ADORE Rex.  Rex was even the perfect name for our dog.  The boys gave him a formal name…Canine-osaurus Rex.  And many hours have been spent cuddling with him on the couch.


Our hearts are filled again and we’re enjoying being a dog family again.  Even the cats have taken to him.  They are staking their territories, but generally it’s been friendly.  Tiger guards the door to our bedroom because that’s where he sleeps.  Rex just curls up on the couch, or the chaise, or on the floor in the corner of the couch and chaise. 

Lab or collie?  Nope, Rex.  IMG_6859

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“…but not Ferdinand.

He liked to sit just quietly

and smell the flowers.”

(from The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf)

Still missing that big yellow dog.

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The winds picked up this evening.  The nor’easter winds with their eerie, haunting howls.  The shrieks have been wrapping around the house all night.  The tempests have brought the ghosts in with them.  I’ve heard Mom’s door opening and closing.  Brigs snored at the bottom of the stairs.  A big one that even rattled his collar.  Creepiness is filling my home and I love every minute of it.

October is a magical month.  The leaves die and float to the ground revealing the skeletal arms of the trees.  Soon a walk around the block will echo with the crunch and crackle of the leaves under foot.  The night creeps in earlier and the moon always seems brighter.  Scarecrows adorn the lawns and the straw arms billow from the gales, stretching out to catch a person as he walks by their perch.

Colorful mums sprout from the ground and grow fuller each day.  The color of the leaves on the grass blend with the mums.  Pumpkins and Jack ‘o lanterns burst with color in a graying world.  Ghosts stories float to children’s ears, scaring them a little bit more until they cry out for the storyteller to stop.

In a few weeks. children dressed as cowboys, princesses, and monsters get to willingly approach strangers and ask them for candy.  Witches will cackle flying on their brooms overhead.  Scary moans and laughter, rattling chains, and haunting  music will swirl around and fill the night with spooky noises.

I can remember walking Brigs during October and always being thankful that he was a large dog.  Even though I knew I was perfectly safe, the hairs would stand up on the back of my neck.  Sounds would echo down the street and seem to be surrounding us at the same time.  I could feel eyes watching us.  I was sure of it and so I stuck close to Brigs.  I knew he would protect me.  This is the first autumn without him here to bring me comfort as the nor’easter ghosts settle in for the winter again.

Oh, I love the autumn.  I love ghost stories.  I love the look of the fog and the sounds of the wind and the leaves.  I love the smell of the wood burning in fireplaces to warm the homes with glowing windows as we all settle in for the cold.  A lot of Uncle Stevie to read in the coming months.  Old tales that are good friends that help to keep one warm during the winter months.  And to help keep the ghosts at bay.  Even as the gales blow around the house.

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Well, I feel better.  I don’t know about you, but last night’s post really offered me release.  I know people read it (thank you!) yet even if it had only gone into the great big void of the internet, it helped me.  I think that’s one of the things I enjoy about writing a post.  It can offer a cathartic release for the soul.  Not knowing exactly who will read each post, if in fact anyone does, blogging is a very selfish project.  At least the way I look at it.

Throughout the day, I felt stress leaving my body.  I reflected over the course of the day about the post and felt warmth filling my spirit which worked quite like a hot water bottle for the soul.  I missed Brigs just as much today as I did yesterday, but the emotional baggage I had attached to him is fading.  This is a good thing because then I can begin to enjoy the memories of him and the happiness he brought more purely, without the crap.

I have been asked by several people if we have gotten a new dog yet.  Nope.  I have looked at the listings at our local shelter.  Little yippee dogs-not for us-or pit bulls-also not for us.  You can list it as an American Staffordshire terrier but still a pit bull.  I know that the dog is usually a sweetie and only becomes mean through the treatment it receives from an owner, but you have to wonder why the dog is in the shelter.  I’ve also looked at other pet adoption websites and there are some sweet dogs listed on it, but crying while reading the websites tells me I am not ready.

But at least I am ready to begin letting go of the remnants of hard memories.  Letting go is a lifelong process in my book.  There are always events in a life that cause strife and then you have to deal with them.  Sometimes the way I deal with them is to bury them deep down so I don’t have to work through them right away.  Maybe I’m not ready to, maybe I’m being lazy, maybe I’m scared to process it all.  So every now and then I work through some big chunk of stuff in my memory.  It’s sort of like purging the crap out of my house.  Time often helps process the hard stuff just like it makes the stuff in my house magically become crap that I can get rid of without regret.

Simplicity in life can be hard to achieve within my society.  It can be done but it means going against the mainstream and ignoring mass media and aspects of the consumer-based society.  I fall into the trap of “needing” things that are truly wants.  Then there is either buyer’s remorse or the need to purge items from our home.  It’s challenging to teach this to my sons when I still am struggling with it myself.  Happily, they help me get better at it.  As I try to teach them about wants and needs, it reinforces it for myself.

And so Brigs keeps helping me, teaching me, loving me unconditionally.  Isn’t that the heart of what Uncle Stevie reminded me of a few weeks ago?

“May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”
― Stephen King, Pet Sematary

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If you had asked me two weeks ago how much I would miss my dog, I would have said a lot.  Ask me today and I cannot express how much I miss Brigs, though I’m apparently going to try in this post.  This house feels so very empty without that big yellow dog.  I think I was trying to fool myself that it wouldn’t be that hard because he hadn’t been upstairs for a year.  But even being downstairs, his presence was felt everywhere.  I still see him sprawled out on the family room floor.  I still hear his his metal collar clanging with his dog tags.  I still hear him.  And I have wept like a big ol’ baby, huge wailing sobs.  Not around my sons since I think it would scare them, it’s startled me a few times.

Brigadoon carried a lot of weight.  And I don’t just mean on his body.  I had a lot of emotional history attached to him.  I got Brigs while married to my ex-husband.  It was toward the end of the marriage, I just didn’t know how close to the end when we went to pick him out.  The puppy was next in a series of steps-married? Check.  House?  Check.  Yellow lab?  Check.  My ex even had the name Brigs picked out before we found a breeder.  Had to be a yellow lab and had to be a male.  I had no choice in the type of dog.  This had all been decided by my ex before we were even married, before dating for that matter.  He had set a goal at some point of having a male yellow lab when he was married and had a house.  I did get to participate in selecting the dog and we picked Brigs.

Brigs was positively adorable as a puppy.  Very sweet, very even-tempered.  I got a bunch of books and worked with him every day to train him.  This was not supported and I had an uphill battle ahead of me.  There were a lot of things that happened after we got the dog that shined a light on the major problems we were having.  Until it was more than just us, I hadn’t seen them.  The breaking point happened when I came home one day to find Brigs soaking wet in his crate and my ex watching television with a scowl on his face.  It seems that Brigs played in some puddles in the backyard (water dog) and got muddy.  My ex tried to rinse him off with the hose which the puppy interpreted as play.  My ex lost his temper with Brigs, hit him with the hose, and eventually stuck him in the crate.  The look on Brigs’ face when I had gotten home was so sad.   An argument between the ex and I then happened.

On so many levels I owed this dog so much.  My ex and I had been discussing children by this point and seeing the reaction about a muddy dog made me wonder what type of reaction would happen about a muddy kid, which even then I knew was bound to be a regular occurrence.  The inability of us to calmly discuss matters about the dog made me wonder how we would ever come to mutual decisions about children.  It couldn’t always be his way.  My voice, my opinion, didn’t matter.  While he may have intended some things to seem like compromises, it felt more like ultimatums.

The experiences with this little puppy made me re-examine my marriage and where we were and if we were actually trying to travel a path together.  The reflection brought forth the answer that we were not sharing similar visions except on a superficial level.  There were other factors, but they don’t need to be explored in such a format as this.  The point is that this dear sweet dog gave me the courage to accept that this marriage was not healthy and that changes had to be made.  The changes I suggested were refused so I accepted that it was over.

As we began the messy, ugly chore of separating our belongings, several items became bones of contention.  My Highlander sword.  That practice of ultimatums came out again.  I could have my Highlander sword OR the rest of the weapons I had collected.  I couldn’t afford to start over in my collection and so the crowning jewel of it was sacrificed.  It went this way for many items.  I let many things go by keeping my eye on the big picture.  But when it came to the pets, they all came with me.  The cats and hamster were mine in the sense that I brought them to the marriage.  The dog was technically ours, but I stated I was taking Brigs.  As he challenged me on this, I simply reminded him of the rainy day episode and said the dog comes with me.  My ex agreed.

I walked out of the marriage with basically what I walked into it with, but with a lot of debt added in because of stupid choices I agreed to over the two and a half years we were married.  I walked out without some of my optimism and that took a long time to reacquire.  Brigs helped with that because he was always just so damn happy.  His tail was always wagging and he seemed to smile when I came home to our tiny apartment.  It was a bear to find an apartment in my teeny budget that allowed dogs his size.  I only got into the place I did because I had the crate.

Brigs loved his crate!  He would go into his crate when he wanted a nap and close the gate behind him.  It was his way of saying “do not disturb”.  When he was done having his “me time”, out of the crate he’d come, tail wagging.  During those behind-closed-gate naps he would snore like nothing you’ve heard before.  Lips flapping, whole body wiggling at times, chasing bunnies with his feet running in air.  Brigadoon’s happiness and optimism helped me as I moved forward.

I also lost a lot of trust as that marriage ended.  I questioned motives, I looked for the “catch” from what people offered.  Brigs loved unconditionally and with total trust.  He helped me relearn trust.  He taught me so much about unconditional love.

But, being a human, I still had emotional memories attached to Brigs.  He represented so much about changing my life.  His existence in my life made my marriage today possible.  He helped make being a mommy possible.  And then to top it all off, even though he was four when our first son was born, he adapted to a baby so quickly.  Brigs loved having brothers!  He would position himself in front of the nursery door when I put one of the boys in for a nap.  He would guard the door!  He was protecting them.

He protected me.  Always being happy to see me protected me from becoming cynical.

As he got older, and I started thinking about the fact that he would not actually live forever, I wondered how I would feel when Brigs was gone.  I had no idea how many memories would wake up.  I had no idea how much release would come-a feeling that that marriage was really over.  Done.  Dead and buried.  Brigs was supposed to mark the beginning of that family and instead he marked the end.  And he went on to add so much to this family-to my hubby’s life, our sons’ lives, my life.

Oh, I miss that big yellow dog.

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