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10/08/2009

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Are you SURE you don't want to re-home Chloe? Sounds like she'd make a great protector for somebody who only wants one dog in the house. (Not me, but somebody.)

Chloe's fourteen, and I wouldn't put her through the stress. Also, she's not remotely HUMAN aggressive, so she's not much of a protector. She just has a problem with other female dogs who won't bow down to her Alpha status. It's a very particular thing. And my vet actually suggested that I consider re-homing Daisy, the submissive dog-- who, really, is the problem, because she's decided not to be submissive anymore. Hopefully I can re-set the power dynamics and all will be well! Fingers crossed...

Sarah,
I was just thinking about this same issue this morning, though in a more basic, only-dog-child formula. We just adopted a puppy, and are figuring out the whole I-want-you-to-love-me, but I also don-t-want-you-to-eat-the-furniture equation. It's an interesting reminder that the thing we want so desperately, parenthood, will break our hearts.

Responding to the "are there parenting lessons in here" question, I would say absolutely yes. 1) Shit is going to go wrong sometimes, and you will just have to slog through it and try not to take it personally or as a reflection on you or your place in the universe. 2) When shit goes awry, it's important to manage your own response to the tsuris at hand -- e.g. when my former nanny was calling in sick, I realized that part of my stress in scrambling for alternate childcare on those mornings was my unreasonable expectation that I could call all my backup sitters/daycare facilities, get both kids dressed/fed/lunch-packed and ready for a day in a new location, drive them there, and somehow still get to work at the usual time. Once I gave myself permission to call the office and say, "I'm going to be a half-hour late today," I was able to handle the above hassle with a much larger measure of sanity. 3) When you're faced with a not-inconsequential issue, do what you need to do for you. In my case, I replaced my former nanny with a (knock wood) far more reliable and even more awesome one. Also in the category of "do what you need to do for you" is the necessity of mandating your own occasional time-outs from the day's hassles -- even if it's just putting the kids in their rooms and ignoring their demands for 45 minutes while you flip through a magazine. I guarantee you that when you take a little time to refill your own well, you will come back a better and more loving and more capable parent/dogcare provider.

First, I’m sure this dog situation will work out – maybe the layout of your new house will make it easier! And sometimes animals like Chloe become mild-mannered and submissive (and possibly a little out of it) as they get older, changing the power dynamics completely. At least, that’s what I’ve seen at my in-laws’ house, where they’ve had over 15 dogs and cats in just the last ten years (before I knew them, I hear there were birds, raccoons, and hamsters in the menagerie).

Second, I do think this sounds awfully close to parenting a toddler. Dr. Harvey Karp (author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” which I haven’t read, and “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” which I read and loved) talks about how kids sometimes have tantrums because they feel out of control. After all, they’re too short for the world (at 5 ft. 2, I can relate to that one), don’t speak the language, and often don’t know enough about how things work to predict what situation or locale they’ll be facing next. So, creating a structured and predictable environment can actually make kids feel calmer and more in control. And as the child of permissive parents (hiya, mom and dad!), I definitely know firsthand that not having a strong set of boundaries can be very anxiety-producing. If you’re a teenager, it may be good to feel like you have some control over your life, but for younger kids, it’s a huge burden to feel that things can go wrong based on your decisions. (What do you know, anyway? You’re just a kid!) If you can always outsmart your parents and get away with murder, you may feel guilty – because then you have to make the moral decision about whether or not to be good. If your parent sets strong boundaries, you may try to get into mischief, but you always know your parent will be there to pull you back from danger. And you’ll sleep well at night knowing there’s a limit to how much trouble you can get into.

I think the same things apply to being a leader outside of parenting: Make sure your team knows the “rules,” i.e., their overall objective as well as their individual assignments. People hate not having a mission or clear duties. Maybe Daisy would like to have some very time-consuming fetching and chasing duties to make her feel like she’s got a very full schedule—and keep her too busy to question her role in the universe.

I think you're exactly right that patience and leadership are both important lessons for parenthood (and I include your dogs in that). As an elementary teacher, I am constantly working on my leadership skills, and I think the hardest - and most crucial - ones for me are about making decisions. What decisions can they make on their own? How do I limit those decisions so they are not overwhelming to the kids AND whatever choice they make is one I can live with? Which decisions do I need to make? How much input do I gather before making it? What sort of buy-in do I need in order to get everyone to live with and participate in the decision?

It's not easy, and I wish I could boil it down for you into some clearly-stated guideline. What I will say, though, is that you've done just what I think a good leader does: you gathered information from an expert (the vet), you thought about what everyone needed (harmony) and how you could provide it, and now you're following through. Looks like you already are a great leader!

i can relate to what you are saying.i go 5 times a year to work in vegas, no matter what month i book the ticket via easy click travel. and like you, i cant drink and cant play.

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