This week I’ve been all “woe is me” about how hard it’s been to settle into my new life in Minneapolis. Everything has felt insurmountable, but I think I’m just about ready to stop feeling sorry for myself. (I say “just about” because I still have this blasted cold, and have already coughed five times since starting to write this entry. I feel it’s okay to be a little self-pitying when you’re sick.)
I took Claire back to her mom’s this morning, and now that she’s gone I can step back and realize that our first week together was pretty good. I took her to school every day, and we either chatted about secret notebooks and the nature of spying or sang along to Taylor Swift. Though I’ve never dropped a kid off at school before in my life, it didn’t feel foreign. Claire is very tactile, and spends a lot of time holding my hand, hanging onto my arm, or leaning into me. She likes to sit as close as possible on the couch, and even reaches out to touch me with her toes when we sit across each other at the table. When she does this, I sometimes feel a little twinge in my heart or stomach. This twinge makes me feel like stepmomhood will be okay.
Today I realized that maybe I’ll also end up being an okay dog mom.
This morning Cooper and I went to our first behavioural class with Robert. The class focuses on dog- and people-aggressive dogs, and surprisingly Cooper was the only pitbull. (For the record, Cooper is dog-aggressive, but loves all people except hulking men in hoodies.) The main focus for today was, quite simply, making sure nobody lost their shit. When you’re talking about dogs that don’t like other dogs and they’re all together in a small space, this is a tall order.
Cooper fell apart only twice: once when we first arrived, and once when Robert brought his own pitbull into the room. He got a little vocal a couple of other times, but after about 40 minutes he laid down right next to me and was almost perfectly relaxed. In contrast to a couple of the other dogs, Cooper was practically a saint! I couldn’t believe it. Other dog owners were talking about how great he was, which hasn’t happened since he was a puppy and wore a too-small sweater to the Humane Society puppy class and looked like an adorable pitbull sausage. The teacher of that class asked me to not bring him in the sweater again, because he was too distracting to the other dog owners.
Tonight after going out to our first kid-free dinner since the move, we were dreading coming home and feeding the pups. In our last private session, Robert gave us a homework assignment to sloooooooooow down the feeding process to take the spazziness out of it. Part of it is to make the whole situation easier for Claire. If they’re calm at food time, they’ll be able to be calm at other excitable times, like when a little girl is twirling in circles and giggle-screeching. When we practiced last night with Robert and Claire, it took 30 minutes to get to the food eating. This morning, at 6:30AM, it took 20 minutes.
Tonight we weren’t really excited to go through it all again.
Once again, the dogs surprised us. Within 15 minutes, Huck was in a relaxed down, with soft eyes and a big smile. He’s even eating slower, which is crazy. I’ve thought about getting one of those bowls with the rubber spikes in it to slow him down, because he’s a scarfer. The new process is good for more than just getting rid of spazziness, as it turns out.
Tomorrow is a day of nothing much. We might paint the stairs and the living room windows, and there may be a trip to the pet store to return a new leather collar that is too big for Cooper. We should probably go to the grocery store. But even if we don’t do any of these things, that’ll be fine. After everything else, we’ve deserved some down time.