Redemption

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If you read my “Derailed” post from last week, you’ll understand what I mean when I say the Universe pulls me in many ways to get my attention.  Being stubborn, the pulls are usually painful and sharp as that seems to be the only way to stir me.

I had a revelation last week and came to terms with certain things and people.  The week got better as it progressed and the weekend showed great promise.  I had no idea my stars were harmoniously lining up, but was pleasantly surprised from the moment I arrived.  I let go and just let the weekend unfold before me, ready to accept whatever it may hold.

Friday was an exhausting day of work.  I had planned on taking a 1/2 day but being end of quarter, I couldn’t break away.  I was able to cut out at 4:30 and I still needed to go to the store.  I was disheveled, hot, sweaty and tired; and I hadn’t even unpacked the truck yet.  Running on adrenaline and anticipation, Lizzie and I joined our friends in the middle of the lake.  I started to decompress immediately while Lizzie was all jacked up with the excitement of people, dogs, water and boats.  It was a wonderful night and a new beginning.

Saturday morning I received a second-hand invitation for dinner via cell phone.  Things were pulling together and I was pleased all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to be connecting.  Again, the universe, making it all happen.  I’d been invited, as part of the gang, for dinner at Camp Golden View.  I carried the feeling with me all day; I’d missed this, missed them.  I was looking forward to it, and it had nothing to do with eating dinner.  For me, learning the unique personalities of all my lake friends, and how to deal with them, has been a lesson; a lesson learned.

A fast-moving storm approached while we were boating on the lake in the late afternoon.  Keeping the storm behind us, we quickly made our way to the other end of the lake to Camp Eureka with the storm nipping at our heels.  Camp Eureka, at any given time, is a blast.  We were well received and safely sitting inside watching the storm over the lake.  Winds, rain, thunder, lightning, whitecaps and darkness.  Carlos, ever the host, starts serving up Marguerita’s while we watch the storm.  I looked around and saw all my favorite lake people.  The storm was symbolic to me.  It represented the turbulence in my life, some of which centered around the very people next to me.  Like the storm, the issues came up quickly, violently hovered around for a while, got my attention, and lingered a bit.  I watched everyone watching the storm and banding together.  I am lucky to be part of all this.

I decided to walk back to my friend’s house while the storm seemed to be subsiding.  Of course I was soaked when I got there, but I wanted to get my vehicle to get back to my house to get the dogs settled before we proceeded to dinner.  We boated over to dinner and the rain had just about stopped.  I was a little apprehensive as I’ve not been at this house for a while now.  This was huge for me and I was happy that I was bringing a brand new recipe for my friends to try. 

The storm had blown over and the sun was wrestling with the clouds to perform a spectacular sunset to end the day.  The clouds put up a good fight and as we docked the boat, I snapped a picture with my cell phone of the sunset.  It was gorgeous.  By the time we got in the house, it had gotten even more vibrant and colorful.  We all sat around trying to name the shapes of the clouds and ogle the sunset with awe and amazement.  I couldn’t help thinking the Universe was telling me something… showing me the way.  I’d been redeemed in more than one way over the weekend.  Redemption is bitter-sweet, you have to realize what you’ve done, learn your lesson and pay it forward.  The sunset was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, leaving me, once again, looking around and feeling so grateful to be part of this.

It’s good to be back…

Taken from the boat upon our arrival:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from inside the house through the window and screen:

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Derailed

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Because I am linear, I tend not to see, or pay attention to, warning signs in my peripheral vision, until it’s almost too late.  I have always felt the universe intervenes with some kind of extreme measure to get my attention.  When this happens, I suddenly realize, it’s time to pay attention.

When my son was little I was replacing our 12′ above ground pool with a 15′ pool.  As I raked out the stone-dust on the circle where the 12′ pool used to be, my son asked me how much bigger the new pool would be.  I decided to show him and use the perfectly marked circle as a guide as I outlined, with my heel, a new 15′ circle around the 12′ circle.  My son had been practicing hitting a baseball by throwing it up over his head and swinging when it came down.  Every time he connected with the ball, he would throw the next one higher and swing with more momentum.  As I was walking head down outlining the new pool dimensions, I came up behind my son in the yard.  Anxious to show him the new pool circle, I was hurrying to finish the outline.  Up, up in the air went the ball and with all his might he swings, and misses.  The thrust was so great it spun him around clutching the bat almost losing his balance.  I looked up just as the crack of the bat made contact with the bridge of my nose.  Resisting unconsciousness, I dropped hard and fast to the ground, blood spewing everywhere.  Instead of passing out, I saw my son’s face go blank.  I knew he thought I was going to die as, by this time, there was a pool of blood that could have easily been misconstrued as a  massacre.  I grabbed a towel I found in the yard and tried to wrap my head while I called 911.  Within minutes, Fire, Police and EMT’s were at the house.  My son was starting to shake and turn blue.  In all his seven years, he’d never seen anything remotely close to this, let alone be the cause of it.  To make matters worse, it was his mom bleeding profusely all over the yard.  It was too much for him to take, he was going into shock.  As the EMT’s worked on me, I pulled the police officer close and pointed to my son who was in dire need of help.  In an instant the officer got behind my son and bent him over in a type of bear hug maneuver.  I didn’t know what was going on, but he looked like he knew what he was doing.  Arms wrapped around and bent over my son, the officer slowly came up releasing his grip. Before my eyes I could see the color in my son’s face return as he gasped for breath on the way up.  It was amazing.  At that point the officer said I needed to call a neighbor to watch my son while they took me to the ER.  I made it very clear that my son was coming with me.  No argument there.  We head to the ER.

It was such a freak accident.  I assured my son it was really my fault for walking up behind him with my head down, not paying attention.  I began to wonder why something like that happened.  Think about it, what are the odds that all of the variables would line up in a fashion causing the bat to crack perfectly on the bridge of my nose at that exact moment?  Then it hit me (literally); I had a serious issue forming on the side lines of my life that I hadn’t given any attention to, thinking it wasn’t really that bad.  It was then I realized something was trying to get my attention.  Mission accomplished.  I finally addressed the issue. 

Through out the years whenever something terrifying happens, I usually look inward to see if there is something I’m missing, not doing, ignoring or just defiantly choosing not to address.  Alas, there is always something there waiting for me.  When I finally figure it out, I look back and wonder why I never saw the signs before now.  Clearly they’re always there, getting bigger and bigger until they hit me hard, taking me down.

This week was no different.  The wake-up call was more heartbreaking than physical, but the assault was the same.  Sharp and painful.  Sleepless nights, dwelling on things I have no control over, even conjuring up scenarios in my head that made sense to me but were nowhere near the reality.  The wind was knocked out of me in a series of words.  Although I’d been feeling it for some time, it was the rise and fall of 24 hours that knocked me down.  I’d derailed, plain and simple.  I was plummeting fast, heading for a crash if I didn’t get my act together quickly.  For a smart girl, I’d said. and done, some stupid things.  I’d been waving my I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit-Because-I’m-Always-Right attitude flag only to find I really do care (a lot), and I’m not always right.  I think some would call that a gray area for this Black and White gal.  Once again, it was almost too late.

I tossed and turned all night not getting a wink of sleep.  I heard my son get up in the wee hours of the morning to use the bathroom.  I buoyantly said Hi from my room, I could hear him say Hi back but knew he was thinking to himself, “Crap, she’s awake and probably wants to talk”.  I chuckled to myself, I knew he was crazy tired and didn’t push to talk.  Instead I started petting the dog, who opened her eyes, stood up and moved to another part of the bed out of my reach.  Hmmph!  Left alone with my sleepless thoughts, I laid there and finally addressed the train wreck I’d been denying all along.  In the dark, I came up with a plan…

Today is a new day, a new start.  My personal life needs tweaking, even some changing.  I made a list and started with an email first thing this morning.  It’s amazing how good I feel letting go of the stuff that was holding me back.  My hopes hold a bright and happy future.  I’m sure the universe will let me know, one way or another if something needs attention.  For now, this derailed train is back on track.

It is better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret.

-Jackie Joyner-Kersee

 

 

“A Right Of Passage” Update

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On October 21, 2011 I posted “A Right Of Passage”.  This entry was about my son being encouraged to apply for an elite internal job at his current place of employment, which he ultimately didn’t get.  The build up had gotten him so jacked up for the job, there was no way anyone would have believed he wouldn’t get it.  He didn’t.

Last week, Thursday, my son received a phone call saying they were opening interviews for the very same job with the hopes that he would apply, again.  This time he wasn’t so easily swayed, but decided to apply for it anyway.  All he did was fill out the internal application.  He never spoke to anyone, never went on an interview.  As I was walking Lizzie today at noon, my phone rang.  My son called to say he had been offered the job!  They really did open it back up with the hopes he would apply.  He is so excited and will learn the details in the days to come.

What a great way to start the week!  Well done and Congratulations!

 

Girls With Guns

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Back in the day my morning routine was jump-started by a trip to my local 24-hour department store where I would get lost in the fabric department planning my next project.  Over the years, I’ve become quite friendly with the Manager of that department.  I would always seek her advice on different fabrics for my projects.  I would bring my projects in to show her and get her opinion.  I even knew her schedule to be sure she’d be there when I got there.  When a certain pattern would come in, she’d put it aside for me knowing “I had to have it.” We would roll out the project on the cutting tables surrounded by handfuls of bolts.  If any other customer came up to ask for assistance, it would totally throw us off our game, and she’d have to help them.  Don’t they know she is my personal fabric consultant?  She’d hurry them along and get back to my project still laid out all over the table.   We shared many a laugh as I purchased thousands of dollars worth of fabric, for hundreds of projects.  When the store announced they were getting rid of the fabric department, I told her she could come work for me out of my basement, as that is where all the fabric from her department is being held hostage.  Luckily, the fabric department never went away; even if they did downsize.  Through all of our dealings, we learned a lot about each other, each other’s lives, families, likes and dislikes.  We both like moose and we both love dogs… a lot.  That alone seemed to morph us into a whole new level outside of fabric.  We became friends, and suddenly had so much more in common.  We both lost our beloved dogs since we’ve known each other.  She has become a grandmother while I have become the mother of a six-year old camouflaged as an 82-year-old.

Although my role has changed at work, causing a stir in my morning routine, I still remain friendly and in contact with her, even if I don’t see her on a regular basis any more.  Rarely do I get to the store these days and if I do, I don’t spend very long there as I need to get back to the office to make big things happen.  Long ago we exchanged phone numbers, email addresses, and once she even came by the lake to visit while her husband was fishing in a nearby derby.   

This morning I was up early, got all my chores done, including walking the dog in the pouring rain and off to the store before work I go.  Excited to see my friend (it’s been about six weeks since I saw her last)  I get all my shopping done before I see her as my hasty exit is usually a mad scene of me dashing to the register to cash out and get to work because I’ve spent way too much time talking.

Crossing a few items off my list, I make my way to the fabric department.  She usually doesn’t stray too far from her department, but I never know exactly where she’ll be so I just search within the aisles of her command.  Pushing a cart full of misfit stuff, she comes around the corner, almost hitting my carriage.  She looks up with a scowl on her face like ‘Aren’t you looking?’ until she sees it’s me.  Then she shakes her head, smiles and says “Where the hell have you been?”  I take a minute to ponder what to tell her first as there are always so many things to say.  She waits patiently as I drone through the fuzzy details of my most recent past.  Her turn… she tells me this and that and then someone from another department interrupts us and asks her for keys to the ammo locker in the gun department.  I stay behind to look at fabric while she assists.  Seconds later she comes back saying “Hey I forgot to tell you, I took a Girls on Target course.”  “Cool, what is that?”,  I say having no idea what she’s talking about.  She goes on to tell me she learned how to shoot a gun.  She has my full attention now and I ask her to explain why.  She says it was something she always wanted to learn and something she could do with her husband.  We started talking about different kinds of guns, again, a subject I know nothing about, and she lit up when she told me she didn’t want a girly gun, she wanted something that would “do the job” (what a bad-ass… love it!).  If she needed it for protection, she wanted something that wouldn’t give someone a second chance to get up if she shot him down in self-defense.  We talked a bit more and in true fashion, she said she wanted some practice hunting in the wild with her husband.  If she could bring herself to kill an animal, she’d have no problem protecting herself against a human.  I totally get it.  As she went on about different gun models and what they do, I just looked at her and pictured her in total self-defense control.  Of course, I don’t really think she’d ever be able to shoot an animal, unless it meant either it or her, but a person, no problem.  She looked so cool demonstrating with her hands the style and size of gun she wanted.  A real Pistol Annie.  As I drove back to work, I was reminded of the time my dad bought me a gun for protection.  I was newly divorced with a toddler and my dad thought I needed a gun.  So, without asking me, he showed up to visit and presented me with a ‘Saturday Night Special’ pink (yes, pink) woman’s gun.  I was a nervous wreck and made him take it back home with him.  I didn’t want it in the house with a toddler.  I never saw it again, we never talked about it again.  I will never forget what it looked like and how small it was.  It was designed to fit in your handbag, or in your bra.  I could envision me giving myself an accidental double mastectomy.

As Girls With Guns surely kick ass, I think I’ll stick with squirt guns for now.

Good to see you, as always…

Longitude and Latitude

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As per my usual daily arrival home from work routine, I pull up, get the mail, enter the garage, then the house, get greeted by my excited dog and look around to see what the night holds before me.  Last night was much of the same except when I glanced over the mail quickly there was a large, hand written envelope addressed to me with no name on the return address.  Usually I give the mail a once-over, go about my routine of feeding the dog, then the cat, then walk the dog before I even consider doing anything for myself or opening the mail.  The envelope was calling my name and the intrigue was too much.  I tore it open…

It seems I have been chosen as part of an A list group of people invited to attend a weekend Bachelorette cruise out of Florida in August, all expenses paid.  A (wealthy) friend of mine is getting married in September (in Florida) and I haven’t even responded to the wedding invite yet.  She’s a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in years, but we do keep in touch.  Of course opening this piece of mail totally threw off my game and by now the dog is barking to eat, the cat is nudging me and I’m getting a barrage of questions that I’m trying desperately to tone out so I can focus on the paper in my hand.  I snap back into reality and get all the mouths fed, while still dodging questions.  While I’m walking the dog, I start thinking about the invite.  There were seven people invited, plus the bride and her two sisters.  Ten women, most of us have never met, from all over the country getting together on a single’s cruise ship for three days and two nights.  The brochure shows a promising time of food, drink and entertainment.  She was even including the airfare to Florida.  I’m so impressed, and honored.  Everything sounds fantastic except one tiny little thing…. I get seasick.  Real bad.  As tempting as this is, there’s no way in hell I’m getting on a cruise ship for three days.  Only recently, in my adult years, have I been able to master getting on a plane and only coming out with a headache. In my life I’ve tried everything to avoid getting sick.  Nothing worked, ever.  Lesson learned… almost.

Mom had once promised my young son a whale-watching day trip for the last day of summer vacation.  He was so excited and didn’t stop talking about it all summer long.  The day before the trip, my Uncle Joe got violently ill and was hospitalized.  Mom couldn’t leave his side and asked that I take my son in her place.  Under protest, I agreed, knowing this wasn’t going to end well.  I took all the necessary precautions the night before, ate a light breakfast, yada, yada, yada, off we go.  It’s a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky, we board the boat.  My son is yammering the whole time, non-stop.  The boat is full of girl-scouts and tourists.  The girl-scouts are passing out fresh, plump blueberries to everyone.  We indulge.  Big mistake.  An hour into the trip I’m paste-white sick lodged in the back corner of the boat with both arms overhanging the edge, sea water assaulting my face and upper body.  Trying to save face in front of my son, I give him permission to leave my side and hang with some of the other kids on the boat with the promise he will check in with me every 15 minutes.  He agrees and off he goes.  Fifteen minutes later he comes back to find me bent over the side of the boat, both arms over my head.  I’m way past sick now and I know all too well it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  I feel his tiny hand rub my back and he whispers “Are you Ok mommy?”  I can’t even open my eyes but I ask him to ask the Captain how long before we turn around.  He dashes off and comes back in an instant to share the news that we haven’t even reached our whale-watching destination yet, but should be there in about 45 minutes.  FORTY-FIVE MINUTES?  I’ll be dead by then.  I lift my body up and muster up enough energy to open my eyes to speak to my son.  In the pit of my stomach I could feel the race for blueberries come up was on.  At the last second I was able to turn my head and heave into the ocean.  A stream of purple goo endlessly erupting from my body seems to attract some kind of fish, which of course attracts everyone to the back of the boat.  The weight of the boat shifts from side to side as I continue to feed the fish with purple goo.  To the entertainment and disgust of the guests, I hurl again into the deep blue sea.  My son is horrified and scared.  I look white and just about dead with seasickness.  I tell my son to get the Captain, quick, and he’s off like lightning.  Within seconds I turn my head towards a calming voice and warm hand on my back.  “Young lady, it seems you are at odds with the sea.”  (ya think?)  I say nothing as I turn to look at this tall, handsome, tanned Adonis dressed in white standing before me.  All I could think was how bad I must look and how do I get the muscles in my mouth to utter a word.  I say nothing as another hurl revs up inside of me.  The Captain quickly sends everyone to the front of the boat to give me some privacy.  As I hurl overboard he gathers up my long flying hair and knots it behind my head.  He’s done this before, I thought.  He put some kind of smelling salts or something in front of me when I settled down and I started to feel better.  I thanked him and then begged him to turn the boat around.  He says he can’t do that, all these people paid for the trip, he has to continue onward.  I then tell him I will personally refunded every single person’s ticket on the boat.  He laughs at my generous gesture and says we’re almost at the whale-watching destination where we will sit idle for about an hour or so to watch the whales.  Sit idle?  In the boat?  Won’t it be rocking, I ask?  Slightly, he replies and says he will bring me below to ease my sickness.  I agree because I had no choice.  He set me up on the private bottom deck where the benches were cushioned and the floor was acrylic.  I laid down on my stomach and watched the ocean through the floor.  My son came down to check on me saying there were no whales to be seen above and he wanted to stay with me below.  I agreed and the two of us had a private viewing of different fish and ocean things as they swam by.  We didn’t see any whales below and apparently no one saw any whales above either.  As the boat docked, what seemed to be days later, we were the last ones to get off the boat.  Once on land, we sat on a wooden bench for a couple of hours until I felt well enough to drive.  I still had a two-hour drive home.  We were soaked and cold.  Luckily I had the good sense to bring a change of clothes and food for my son.  As for me, I was a mess, wet and cold.

My son slept the whole way home.  I carried him from the truck to his bed and got him dressed and cleaned up while he drifted off to a deep sleep through the whole process.  I finally got in a long-awaited shower, took some aspirin and went to bed.  I didn’t think this day would ever end, but here it was, and I was happy to be in bed.

The next day mom called and asked my son how the trip was.  He summed it up quickly “We didn’t see any whales and mom got sick”  and then he passes the phone back to me.  Yeah, I say, exactly what he said.

Although I vowed never, ever to go out to sea again, there was one other time where I gave in for my son.  I had taken him to Hawaii on vacation and there was a whale watch offering that caught his eye.  Blah, blah, blah… much of the same thing and when it’s all said and done, he turns and looks at me and says “mom, I don’t think you should go on boats anymore.”  “Really?  What tipped you off?” I asked, as we both laughed all the way back to the hotel.

I’m not even sure I’ll make the wedding, but I am sure I won’t make the cruise.

Faces

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Weirdest thing happened this weekend, I really thought my mom could die.  She was very sick, beyond her “attention” type of sick.  I mean really sick.  I spent the entire weekend tending to her, changing her bed linen, getting her in and out of the shower, and settling her with meds, food, drink and stories.  I was sure this was the end. she was trembling so bad, the look on her face scared me.  I got her another blanket, more meds and a hot compress for her heat which seemed to work.  She was in and out of fever and it wasn’t until my aunt called that I learned mom had an infection she was being treated for. Why the eff didn’t she tell me that?  Two and half days she stayed in bed sick as I took on the role of nurse.  Last night before I went to bed I checked on her.  I just looked at her, trying to decide if she was breathing or not.  I kind of figured she was because I can’t imagine her checking out with some kind of tearful drama as her last performance, or at least I was hoping she wouldn’t check out without a fight and me by her side.   I detected her chest slightly heaving and was relieved to see she was alive, just sleeping.  Whew!  I stood over her looking down at her face.  Mom has many faces when she’s up and around.  There’s the happy-silly face that we catch a rare glimpse of every so often, then there’s the everything-is-my-business face that I see more often than I’d like.  The I-think-I-know-it-all face I see on a regular basis and of course the award-winning pissed-off face that rally’s for second place with the I’m-lying face and I’ll-tell-you-what-to-do face, I see every single day.  First place is the I’m-giving-you-the-silent-treatment face that is louder than anything she could ever vocalize.  But, when she’s sick, and all the faces are stripped away, that’s when I see the raw her.  That’s the person I miss the most.  The person with the ‘mom’ face.  She looks old and vulnerable to me when she’s sick and her guard is down.  I think that’s what scares me the most.  I’ve been putting up with faces for so long, I don’t really know how to interact with mom, raw.  She seems so frail and delicate that I don’t even know how to handle caring for her. I gave in to her fighting for handicap equality long ago.  When her handicap gets the best of her, and she gives in to it, I have a hard time looking at her as disabled.  Her handicap never got in the way of anything she ever wanted to do.  She would adapt and overcome and get whatever she had in mind done.  Because of that, I never saw her as disabled.  Does that make sense?  I think all the faces keep her alive, young at heart, and going.

Just before I left for work, I checked on her, still asleep but I woke her up to see
if she needed anything. She looked 100% better and said she felt much better as
well.  She said today she will get up.  I was happy she was feeling better. 

I suspect it’s just a matter of time before we are back to ‘faces’ again, which I now
believe are just a distraction so the world, including herself, doesn’t see just
the raw her.  It’s her way of staying strong and vibrant and making sure the universe hears what she has to say… and she has a lot to say!

I wish she would embrace and enjoy her golden years.  It’s almost as if she feels if she fights it, it’ll go away and she’ll be young and happy again.  She hangs up pictures of her and my dad in their twenties.  I see her look at old photos and light up; then I see her look in the mirror and get angry.  It has to be tough when you don’t accept growing old.  I tell her she’s beautiful, still.  She tells me to go away.  I don’t know how to reach her, I don’t know if she wants to be reached.

Caring for an elderly parent is exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally.  It selfishly seems so unfair to me.  I’m the glue. Mom is a lot of work, 24/7.  She is demanding and stubborn.  Sometimes I’m the scapegoat, because I’m there.  What happens when the glue comes unglued?  It’s hard to talk to her about it, but the truth is, she needs more help than I can give.  She’s in denial and doesn’t want to hear the truth.  Sometimes the truth hurts and is hard to hear, but in the end the truth prevails and always come out.  It’s what you choose to do with the truth that makes all the difference. 

Maybe I should just borrow a face.

 

The Graduate

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After six weeks of intermediate puppy school, Lizzie graduated last night.  Last week, Jim the trainer, and I were talking about Lizzie’s advancement after graduation.  He suggested since she is headstrong and still a bit on the wild side, and since she never went to beginner classes, that I enroll her in another intermediate class before she moves up to the advance class.  I took this to be good advice since I see how well all the dogs respond to him and I’ve come to trust, and respect him over the past six weeks.

Last night before class I asked Jim if I could have a few minutes of his time at some point before the night ended.  He must have sensed the urgency in my voice as he pulled me in to talk before class.  I told him Lizzie did not display good obedience last weekend and I wanted to know the appropriate way to correct this behavior.  I did mention that there were a few times she actually came back when called, even though she clearly had to stop and think about it.  Then, there were other times where she just took off without even thinking about it.  I mentioned I kept her tied up most of the weekend and tried to work with her when she wasn’t tied.  Basically he said Lizzie isn’t convinced that I’m in charge (no kidding).  Until she learns to “respect” me, she will continue to do whatever she wants.  He also explained where she came from the wild, her instincts will pull her back there.  She wants the best of both worlds, to be roaming free and to have a warm home with food when she’s done roaming.  He explained using treats as a way to make her come back does not teach her obedience.  Using treats as a reward for obedience drives the message home.  He said it is unreasonable to expect anyone who hasn’t brought in a dog from the wild to understand the patterns or behaviors of a wild dog.  He then referred to the incident which left Lizzie banned from a neighbor’s yard at the lake.  She is high energy and spirited.  Where she roamed free from yards to woods for so long, it will take even longer for her to realize that is unacceptable behavior now.  And, of course it will be unacceptable to the very people who put food out for her and tried to capture her while she was roaming, now that she has a home.  It is on me, the master, to train her to obey.  She is strategically smart, street worthy, head strong and independent; a challenge to say the least.  She is a fighter, a survivor and a loner with a playful puppy heart.  Although she loves dogs and people, she will choose freedom and play over food and shelter until she is starving and cold.  When around me, her master, she is protective and vocal.  Her breed is high-strung and anxious and trying to domesticate her hasn’t been easy.  Jim agrees she has tremendous potential and with all the history behind her, she will train to be a stellar dog.  It just takes time.  He likes his students to come in as puppies.  Somewhere around 4 to 6 months old is the best time to train a dog, according to Jim.  It takes a while to get them settled down, but they learn better, faster and in the long run are easier to train than an older dog set in their ways.  Lizzie was over a year when we started training.

Graduation night was a compilation of review and tests.  Reviews went well and then Jim had our dogs sit next to us.  We were to walk behind them and make them stay in the sitting position in front of us.  All the while we are telling them “good sit, stay”.  Jim excuses himself for a minute and comes back into the arena with the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen.  This massive gentle giant was extraordinarily calm, but very intimidating.  This is Jim’s 10-year-old pride and joy who is brought out for every graduation class.  No one was scared, we all knew this dog had to be perfectly trained if he was Jim’s.  Jim is going to walk this beast in front of all the dogs, one by one.  Using only words, we are to command our dogs to stay in the sitting position while the German Shepherd approaches.  Right.  Jim and Shepherd approach the first dog, who did very well until the Shepherd was right in front of him.  The dog stood up, and failed.  Second dog did better, stayed sitting until the Shepherd moved on and then the dog jumped up to sniff the Shepherd’s butt.  Fail.  Third dog is next (we are after that), the little Fawn (this thing looks just like a tiny baby deer) was a bit frightened of the Shepherd and starting barking and jumping.  That was all Lizzie needed to see and hear as she bolts out of her spot and goes right up to the Shepherd nervously wagging her tail, ears back, inviting the Shepherd in.  Fail and fail.  The last two dogs much of the same, fail and fail.  All the dogs failed the German Shepherd test.  Crap!  Shepherd goes away, all dogs take their place and the master’s are now beside the dogs (not behind them).  Enter four kids riding a bike, skateboard, scooter and one bouncing a ball.  We are to command our dogs to stay in the sitting position next to us while the kids ride in, run around and create distractions and commotion.  Every single dog passed with flying colors.  Not one of them moved, not even Lizzie.

The Grand Finale – each kid ditched their toys and came back with stuffed squirrels on retractable lines.  The kids were to throw the squirrels in front of the dogs and retract them back repeatedly.  We were to command the dogs to stay.  The room was still and every master was nervous, especially me.  I kept thinking this was a lot of temptation for Lizzie so I kept talking to her under my breath.  Her eyes never left the squirrel in front of her.  Back and forth, she was doing great.  I could feel her apprehension; I knew she wanted to pounce… but she didn’t.  In fact, none of the dogs did.  They all passed!  Just when we thought we were in the clear, Jim had the kids retract the squirrels back and squeeze them continuously.  The squirrels all squeaked!  It was too much for the dogs to bear, the noise, the temptation, the anxiety, they all went wild and went after the squirrels!  Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, and fail.  Ugh.  After the disappointment of the squeaky squirrel test, Jim explained the difference between being obedient and just doing something for a treat.  Point taken.  It was a tremendous lesson to the master’s.  In a real life situation, if your dog goes after a squirrel (or something), they are likely to cause commotion through a yard, get hit by a car or get lost or in harm’s way through the woods, all the while getting more and more aggressive while chasing.  Got it.  Wow.  Then he told us, only advanced or military dogs have ever passed that test, but it ‘s a good way to get the message across to the master’s. Well done,  and point taken.

A small ceremony with treats and certificates, all the dogs passed the course and are graced on to the advanced class in July.  Jim pulled me aside and said he would like Lizzie to join the advanced class, even though he had previously recommended she take the intermediate class over.  He said he’d been thinking about it, watching the videos over again and decided that Lizzie should advance with the dogs she’s bonded with in this class.  As well as commands, dogs learn from each other.  She’s learned all the commands, it’s her spirit that needs curbing.  He also suggested, along with advanced class, I bring her in for a couple of private lessons with his highly acclaimed Shepherd and I move her from a choke collar to a prong collar.  I never liked the idea of the prong collars, but I know they work.  I’ve noticed every dog Jim brings into class for a cameo appearance is not only perfectly trained, they are also wearing prong collars.  I hesitate, but agree.  He sees great potential in Lizzie.  With proper training he believes Lizzie could be a dog rescuer or tracking dog.  With that, I agree, and Lizzie advances forward.  I’d be happy if she just stayed in the yard and stopped barking in the house.