Until you rediscover something, you don’t realize it’s lost. For the past decade I commuted into Manhattan five days a week. Two hours each way. Four hours a day I was locked on a train, away from home, away from my family and away from my dogs. Add to those 20 hours per week, another eight-hour stressful work day and maybe eight hours of sleep. During the weekdays, I was left with four hours per day to eat, keep up with personal hygiene and be with my husband Ray. Those were mandatory items. After that, came the dogs. Or course, there were the weekends, but frankly after a typical week, all I wanted to do was sleep, despite the nagging errands to be done.
Time spent with my dogs was fleeting. A pat on the head, a quick snuggle on the couch while being debriefed on their day from Ray. Despite all this, I added a puppy to our pack, which literally forced me to devote all my free time to socialization, training, grooming, and traveling to classes and events to make sure we had a well-adjusted companion. Now, I was really exhausted!
At this time last year, I decided I’d had enough with my job, my crappy commute and being disconnected from my dogs, I’d so loving bred myself. All of a sudden, a few minutes at home each morning and evening turned into 24/7 with three Norwegian Elkhounds, ages 11, 8 and 8 months. Each day a pack of high energy, barking, furry friends invaded my coffee time wanting attention, attention and more attention! The household needed, “A return to normalcy” to quote Warren Harding’s 1920 presidential election campaign promise.
But what was normalcy for my dogs and myself? We both needed time to heal and heel! As I sat like a zombie on the couch, my dogs would gather, jockey for position, move in for the snuggle attack. Jinx would bat me with her paw to pet her. Stroking her soft coat felt calming. Linx would rest his handsome head on my thigh and look up at me with those big brown cow-like eyes. His gaze soothed me, as I took a deep breath. Adele would run around and play with toys, which made me smile.
This simple morning routine grew into playtime in the yard, walks around town, long grooming sessions and eventually back to training classes to meet new competitive goals. Adele barely managed to calm her puppy self enough to pass her Canine Good Citizen test. Jinx stepped into the dog show ring as a veteran.
But it was Linx and I who worked the hardest with conditioning, training, grooming and showing to become my first champion in 30 years to have earned all his championship points from the Bred-By Exhibitor class (meaning I was the owner, handler and breeder of the dog). AKC sent us a special medallion.
A new routine at home had lifted a veil of canine hierarchy where Linx had played second fiddle to our older male, Obie, who had passed away two years earlier. I could see him enjoying each successive dog show with more self-confidence, more tail wagging and more enjoyment as he met each new judge and a slew of new fans. Linx had finally emerged into his own sparkling personality and overdue recognition.
A New Routine
Beyond these competitive goals, we all gained something even more special. Our connection through daily routine has not only revitalized us, but grounded us in love. For them they now have an ever present outlet to share their unconditional love. Now, after Ray feeds an early morning breakfast before heading out to work, we have our morning coffee hour, completely with the bitches playing in the living room and Linx eating a bone. We have our ball retrieving in the yard followed by morning nap time (theirs, not mine).
This peaceful downtime from barking out the front bay window let’s them get some sleep and let’s me get some writing done. After lunch, we may take a walk or attend to grooming. After dinner, they hang with both of us while reading or watching TV unless I have them signed up for an evening class.
But the biggest achievement this year, was a gift from my dogs. Their constant need for attention, physical activity and mental stimulation reconnected me to them. Sticking to our daily routine brings health and harmony to the household. While I’m eagerly mapping out our competitive goals for 2016, I’m also making sure our daily routine does not diminish having found that lost connection with my dogs. As we all make plans for the New Year, remember to connect — or reconnect — with your dogs on daily basis. They will thrive and love you for it. Happy New Year.