“T(w)eenie Looking for Twouble”

Carlie has left puppyhood. She is now a tweenie (about to be a full teenager), as my sister calls her. And in this next phase of development of energy, body and drive, Carlie is now ‘testing the answers’ as our trainers remind us. Well, maybe. But some days it feels as though I’m the one being tested. Please just wait until I get this email sent before you chew the phone cord. Just rest a bit more so I can get my paperwork and scheduling done. Really, can’t you wait a bit longer until you seek games to play, eat the cat food or chew on the crystals in my room? Just give me 20 more minutes!

I look around and notice all the highly attractive ways that could keep a tweenie Carlie engaged and stimulated while I work. However, these stimulants, left unchecked, would create a path of destruction I would need to clean up, repair or replace! No thanks. So I get up and put the cat food away, telling my cat I will return his food to its rightful spot when I finish working (sometimes I forget and then my cat firmly reminds me of my serious neglect!). I gather the chew toys Carlie can have and close any doors that lead to areas where Kleenex can be shredded, food eaten and kitty litter snooped through.

It reminds me of life. I have a plan. I have a purpose and it looks great on paper. Then living in relationships happens. People die. People have babies. People get sick. Events occur. People change their heart and I’m left with a gap between where I am and where I want to be. Now what?

Carlie is a tweenie seeking independence and exploring her creative problem-solving capability. It’s a given. No use fighting it. Human children become teenagers who test their parents’ responses, their answers, their values. It’s a given. No use fighting it. With Carlie we are accounting for her need to challenge her strength, her boundaries and her power of movement.

“Tweenie looking for twouble!” my sister calls out with a laugh as we sit down for dinner. Anticipate the obstacles. Anticipate the gaps and be proactive. “Carlie, I say, ‘let’s spray bitter apple on this wooden gate you like to chew on. Then let’s tether you to this chair and put you on your bed. Now you can relax while we eat.”

Simple act to do. Yet, we have to do it EVERY meal, a consistent action on our part until she learns this is the behaviour we want while we eat. That way, I’m not getting up in the middle of the meal and re-directing her creative activity of chewing at the wooden gate while we eat. I don’t like eating cold food. Even when I know this, I still have to make myself do the actions at times so I can eat in peace. Well, maybe even though she is teething, this meal she won’t go to that wooden gate and chew, I think to myself. And maybe the sun won’t come up tomorrow either, I remind myself. Preparing for the obstacle and having a plan saves me an enormous amount of frustration and anger. It has also increased my capacity to be kind to myself and others, and in this case, Carlie.

I have a strong vision of what kind of relationship and behaviours I want with Carlie. I keep that clear in my heart and in my decisions about where and how and how often I include ‘learning opportunities’ and classes in our time together. I know what I know about dogs. I know what I had learned with Marzie, my previous dog. And I know there is so much more I don’t know. So why do this ‘relationship growing’ alone? Why would I struggle in developing this relationship because of lack of support? Why wouldn’t I get the coaching, the mentoring, the skills and knowledge needed to manifest my vision of our life together? Why would I leave the gaps and the obstacles to chance that they ‘will somehow get dealt with’ and not prepare for the inevitable life challenges? And why wouldn’t I get the ‘right’ support that meets the totality of my vision?

‘Tweenie looking for twouble!’ my sister kindly calls out at breakfast as Carlie begins to step over the line with Taz our tortoiseshell cat. A herding and prey breed, Carlie thinks Taz is a great playmate. However, their games and communication cues are totally different. Carlie wants to play ‘chase’, the best game. Taz wants to wander around and say ‘good morning’ to everyone. It’s a busy morning. Lots to do and get out the door. If I ignore this behaviour this morning, Carlie learns that the answers can vary day to day. I sabotage my vision.

I see the gap. I am aware of the need in the moment and the creative learning opportunity I need to find and practise right here, right now, 8am! I sit down on the floor with my breakfast, ball hidden in my hand, and tell her ‘that’s enough’ (which means stop getting into Taz’ space). She looks at me. Today she listens. She re-directs and comes to me. I bring the small ball out of hiding and toss it in a new pattern of retrieve. Wooweee! A new game of chase begins. Her joy returns and her independence is strengthened through a positive choice in how to direct her creative intelligence. It’s a new way to eat in peace.

©Shirley Lynn Martin
May 19, 2012