Expectations and Acting As If
A few weeks ago, my daughter asked if I could watch her dog while they went on vacation. Fine, I’ve done it before and my dog and hers have become true siblings: very excited to see each other initially, and then need their space after a few days. No problem.
Except, that it was now going to be dogs. Plural. She had just rescued a puppy and would be bringing her as well. Same breed – a Cavalier, which I’m very familiar with, having had one years ago. The difference is that our old dog, Trixie, was basically a lump that loved food and attention. Not a lot of drama. Tucker, my daughter’s current dog and also a Cav, was just leaving the puppy phase and entering the lump phase. I, of course, have my own dog – a 3.5-year-old Aussie, Ranger, who has mellowed considerably, but is still very protective of his home. How was a puppy on top of all that going to work? Not to mention there were a few “unique qualities” this new one, Poppy, was bringing: She wasn’t completely house-trained, she wasn’t much into eating her meal, she barked, she wanted to sleep near your head, and she needed to go out during the night or she’d bark or “leave her mark”.
And I’m supposed to work and take care of 3 dogs by myself? Fine.
To say I was a tad apprehensive was an understatement. I needed my sleep! I needed to work! How was my dog going to deal with another dog in the house?
I decided to do what I would do in any kind of unknown situation: Act As If.
The chameleon quality I have acquired over the years has both been a hindrance and a help to me. On the negative side, I would use that to be whomever I assumed you wanted me to be. A few years of self-reflection, therapy and learning to know who I am – and be proud of it – have helped me get over that aspect. But the other part of that quality is a good one: I am able to act my way into being. It’s the saying “yes” – and then figuring out how to do it. It’s walking into a crowd of strangers and acting like you belong there. It’s believing in what is possible, not what might go wrong.
So, without much thought, I shifted into “Mom mode”: my house, my rules. Sure, I’ll take the dogs, but they will live like Ranger and I do, not the other way around. For starters, nothing is sleeping near my head. Tucker had slept just fine in his crate and I just happened to have a crate big enough for the 2 little ones. They cuddle together – and sleep through the night.
Next, food. Actually, all you have to do is talk to my vet to see that dogs in my household have no issues with eating. Trixie, the lump, weighed 33 pounds. I swear I didn’t overfeed her. I once asked my vet to test her thyroid, to which the vet raised an eyebrow, but agreed to do the test. When she called me with the results, she said, “Janet, I have the results: You have a fat dog.” Yep, never have had a skinny one. I wasn’t worried about Poppy not eating.
The potty training was one I wasn’t terribly excited about, but here is where my bright idea 3 years ago has paid off: I now live in a house with a fenced-in yard. I let Poppy out and she just runs around outside all day. I can work, she can do her business.
And the 3 dogs together? Siblings. Ranger has taken on the older sibling role and the other fall in line. They share toys (mostly), run around the yard together, and I even can take all three on walks without too much problem.
Had I stayed in the problem, I would be a wreck by the end of the first day. But, acting as if, knowing and setting boundaries, and believing it is all possible, has proved to be the solution once again.
And my daughter owes me now, big time.