You guys may have noticed that I didn't participate in the blogger challenge. This year it just didn't feel right to me. I've been feeling down more than I'd really like to admit and I wasn't sure I had much advice to offer.
I'm happy that you guys are all here with me on this journey. 2015 was a pretty good year for the blog, even if I personally didn't have the best year (more on that in a bit). I feel like I have the best followers anyone could have. You guys are always so kind to me. The blogging community has been a second family to me and it's been wonderful. I've hardly ever received a bad comment and I've never received a nasty email. I really appreciate it. We also acquired some amazing sponsors which was also awesome and very fun. The dogs love trying new stuff and I'm always excited to share things with everyone.
That being said, we all make mistakes and I wanted to say that if anyone felt like I was trying to say I was perfect or my dogs were perfect or if you felt that my post about "It's Not About Being Alpha" was condescending, then I'm sorry. That was not my intention and we are far from perfect. I've screwed up a lot and my dogs are definitely not perfect. They are great house dogs for the most part but they both have their quirks. The point of the post was that the training I do isn't because I think I need to be alpha, it's just about keeping everyone safe. I never meant to put anyone down if they've had an accident with their dogs. Dogs are dogs and sometimes they do really dumb things. People are forgetful sometimes. Family members who are not dog savvy visit. Stuff happens. If I can help you manage your dogs better and show you what I do to keep mine from getting into stuff then that's what I want to try to do but I didn't mean to make anyone feel bad.
One of the things that's always bothered me about the online world is that some people have "personas" that they put out there. They have a whole fake online world and when you meet them or get to know them better and you are totally blown away by how different they are from what you thought. I don't ever want anyone to think that about me. I want this blog to be as real as possible. When you come here you know that I'm not screwing with you and this is life, real life. That is why I never write about things that I don't have first hand experience with. So for the blogger challenge my one huge piece of advice is to just be real with people, be yourself and write about whatever you love.
So this is me being real. I'm a crossover trainer and I used to rely on punishment. For a very long time, my first instinct was to immediately punish anything an animal did that I didn't like. It didn't matter if that animal had the tools to know what they should be doing or should not be doing. It was just do whatever to make that animal stop doing whatever "bad" behavior they were displaying. I've learned a lot since those days and I think I've come along way. I still have more to learn, though and I never plan on stopping. I regularly read books and watch seminars on training and behavior. One of the major differences between back then and now is that I really care about giving my dogs the tools they need to know what they are supposed to be doing, which was what I was trying to convey in my other post. I'm human and sometimes I still make mistakes, especially when I don't feel well.
When my dogs pull on the leash, it hurts me and my first instinct is to jerk the leash. When I'm have a Ménière's attack and the world is spinning around, normal every day activities are very hard to accomplish. Between the balance issues, the nausea and pain in my ears things can get bad really fast. I have to actively make sure that I don't jerk leashes or use any other sort of aversive. I'm working really hard to remain patient, even when I don't feel well. I'm not perfect at all but I keep trying to get better. I work with my dogs and I work on myself. I try to make training as fun as possible for my dogs. Things aren't always rainbows and butterflies but we make it work. I love troubleshooting behavior and trying new things. I'm always thinking about what I can do to make something better or what I wish I had done differently and what I'm going to do differently next time. Nobody is perfect and I hope you never think I'm trying to say that I am because I'm really not.
Now let's talk about the major elephant in the room. It's the only thing that I have not shared with you. It wasn't meant to be a secret or anything and I always planned on writing about it. I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet. It's the one thing that I've had the hardest time with last year and it's the one thing that keeps me up at night. Let's talk about my cat, Hurley.
|This is my absolutely favorite photo of Hurley.|
I got a ton of comments on Pandora's "Gotcha Day" post about how no one ever knew I had any cats. I used to write about them more regularly. In fact, I was thinking about starting a second blog just for the cats. In March of last year, I removed all of the cat profiles from the blog when we made the agonizing decision to rehome Hurley. Let me tell you how much rehoming him absolutely sucked. The day he left, I could not stop crying and I have cried pretty much the whole year on and off. I feel like I completely failed him. I hate that we had to rehome him and still to this day, I'm having a really hard time with it. When I adopted Hurley, I had every intention of keeping him for the rest of his life and it makes me so sad that we couldn't do it. Every time I see one of those "I'm a Forever Pet" memes on facebook, I cry some more.
We have always had problems with Hurley. He is a big boy of around 15lbs and we noticed right away that he had issues when we first got him. We figured everything would get worked out eventually. He just needed more time to settle in. We waited several years for him to settle in and "calm down". Things progressively went downhill with him. He would randomly attack my other cats and he started attacking the dogs. The attacks became more frequent as time went on. I tried to work with him, I even trained him to do some tricks. I own all the cat behavior books by Pam Johnson-Bennett and several other authors. I read them religiously and implemented a lot of Pam's ideas and strategies for dealing with a problem cat. I could probably do Jackson Galaxy's job with everything I learned about cats in the time of having them. Things never got better and when I tell you we tried everything, I mean it. We even had him on RX anti-depressants to help with his stress and anxiety.
Hurley was putting holes into Pandora. He was twice her weight and he would hold her down and bite her. At one point right before we ended up rehoming him, he ripped out a lot of the fur on her belly and she also had abscesses from him getting a hold of her. Like I mentioned above, he also went after Lilly and the dogs, to the point where the dogs were too scared to walk past him. Zoe started lashing out at him because he would just walk right up to her and bite her, even when she was sleeping. We were never sure why he would do this and it was always out of the blue. One minute he was okay and the next someone was screaming. He was always fine with people, though.
You start to look at things a lot differently when one of your pets is putting holes in your other pets. When the stress level is so high and all of your furkids are on edge. I was on edge. I never knew when he was going to attack someone. I never wanted any of this to happen and I definitely did not want to rehome my cat. It was also effecting my marriage.
I always said that I would never live the crate and rotate lifestyle. It's just not something I ever wanted to have to deal with. I was so careful when I selected Phoenix because I wanted to make sure I would never have to segregate anyone. "That lifestyle is just not for me", I would tell anyone and everyone who asked. That's a pretty laughable thing, since we were pretty much doing that with our cats. Things got harder when we moved into the one bedroom apartment. It became more and more difficult to keep everyone out of each others space and keep the peace. After their last altercation, another abscess for Pandora, the decision was made for me. We just could not deal with it anymore.
I truly believe that Hurley was not a happy boy with us. The happiest I've ever seen him was when we lived with my inlaw's and he had the whole downstairs section of the house to himself. I knew after seeing him like that he would be happier being the only pet. I really wish it could of gone differently and I am so incredibly sad that we had to find him a new home. I think we did the best thing for him and our other pets, even though it was hard. I miss him every day and he was very loved. I'm thankful he was in my life for the time he was. I learned so much from him.
|Lilly and Pandora|
The stress level in our house has gotten a lot better than it was. The other two cats have completely calmed down. It was actually amazing to see how quiet the house was and how chill everyone has become. Lilly does have behavioral issues, too. She bites us and I plan to talk more about what I'm doing about it. I'm going to work on including Pandora and Lilly more in the blog. They are a big part of our adventures, even though the main theme is revolving around my dogs.
So that's about it and as real as it gets. We all make mistakes and we all screw up. Things are not always perfect. I haven't had an easy past year (not only with Hurley but some other family drama, too), I'm really hopeful this year will be better.
If there's anything you'd like to see more of from me on the blog let me know! I'm hoping to get better with filming videos and I would really like to make some training tutorials. I hope everyone has a great weekend and thanks for sticking with us!