A good place to be

Once in a while I hit a point in time in which everything is just good. I’m in one of those times right now, and it is very nice. We have been stressed over infertility and adoption over the past six years; now we have a daughter, and she’s quite wonderful. Our sleep schedule has become predictable enough that I can start running again. I’m at work full-time now, after a couple of months of part time work, so I am catching up there. I do miss getting to be home with Katja in the afternoons, but we have weekends and evenings together as well as that odd, half-asleep time for her middle of the night feeding, so I feel like I’m still involved enough. For the moment, Xander is taking good care of her. Once he goes back to school, she will be with a very dear friend, her honorary grandma, half time for childcare. I think Katja will be very happy in that environment.

I took Nyx running yesterday morning. We only did a mile and I walked a bit of it, but it was very pleasant. She has a harness specifically for when she’s working. She is not allowed to mess around while wearing it. I use it when we’re running or going for walks with Katja. When we run, she just settles into her funny gait that adapts to my short legs and doesn’t pull or try to check out much of anything. I’m not sure how true that would be during the day with all the neighborhood dogs out, but at 5:30 in the morning she does beautifully.

The endorphins help me a lot, too. If I can’t exercise for whatever reason, it is difficult for me to not end up feeling a little unhappy. When I have the time and energy to exercise, the world seems like a much better place. After two and a half months of not running, getting back to that steady push is good for me both physically and mentally.

There are still things to worry about, mostly money, and things we need to figure out how to do. It isn’t that life has suddenly become perfect. I am just being constantly reminded that there are good things that considerably outweigh the worrisome bits of life, and I am trying to enjoy everything as much as possible.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am content, as I doubt I will ever manage that. I have several projects going, including learning Russian, working on a somewhat serious piece of writing, and reading a challenging (well, challenging for me, anyway) book about mathematics. I am enjoying re-learning Raffi songs and folk songs my mother used to sing to me so I can sing them to Katja. I don’t, however, feel unhappily driven. I don’t feel like there is any constant irritation in my life. I like what we have and I am happy.

It’s a good place to be.

A new breed

The Indie Ink Writing Challenge is back, and this week was rather pleasant for me to write. The stupendous Supermaren answered a challenge from me, and my challenge this week came from xtinabosco. The challenge is at the end.

We were going to get a rescue Great Dane, but my husband really wanted a puppy. I put the word out to all of the rescue groups I knew of, kept an eye on several websites, and figured it would be a long wait. I saw an ad for Great Dane puppies, no papers, for $700, which was ridiculous. It was a backyard breeder. I mostly avoid these like the plague, but I was pretty sure she would not be able to sell all of the puppies for that amount. I sent an email saying that if she couldn’t sell all of the puppies, we would be willing to buy one for $250, since that was about what we expected to spend on a rescue. A few weeks later I got an email saying “I’ll sell a puppy to you, but it has to be now and you have to promise to love it and take good care of it.”

We promised, of course. I’ve worked enough with dogs in my life and we’d done enough research that we figured we had a handle on taking good care of a puppy, even a giant breed, and love was not a question. I’m a sucker for puppies, and I was pretty sure I’d love it by the time we got it home.

When we got to the house, we saw the sire and dam in the backyard. They were both rescues (though I’m not sure from where, since most rescue agencies I’ve dealt with make sure the animals are fixed before finding new owners) and the dam was not very fond of people, especially since she had puppies to protect. Both parents looked very nice, possibly even show quality. The mother was blue and the father was harlequin, white with markings.

The puppies, at five weeks old, were already being fed dog food soaked in water. Not only that, the dog food was Purina. Giant breed dogs need low protein food to start with because otherwise their bones grow faster than their tendons can keep up with and they end up bowlegged, which can do serious damage. The first puppy we were drawn to was a merle male, the only male in the litter. He was white with grey markings and quite friendly, but he was already spoken for. We wandered around a bit, talking to the breeder and watching the puppies. We liked the look of one of them but it seemed very worried about people and not very comfortable, which, in a puppy that young, was a bit worrisome.

Our final decision had more to do with the puppy’s choice than ours. A little dark female with white markings started playing with Xander’s shoelaces and would not let go. She was having an absolute blast, and she had no fear of anything. She was outgoing, bounced on all of her littermates, and seemed comfortable and happy. We chose her partly because she was so friendly.

We took her home, switched her food, took her to the vet, and started training immediately. She did beautifully. She is now three and a half years old, a beautiful girl with a glossy coat, and we do love her. We named her Nyx after a goddess of the night because of her coloring. I wasn’t sure about working with a Great Dane, but she has been the easiest dog I have ever trained, and she lives up to the sobriquet of “Gentle Giant”. I am now hooked on the breed. My first love in dog terms will always be English Bull Terriers, but Great Danes are definitely in my future.

My challenge this week was “Write about a memory of something red. Or black or blue. But don’t use the name of the color in your piece.” Nyx is a black dog with white markings on her toes and chest.

New dog tricks

At three years old, Nyx is learning to play fetch. It isn’t something we taught her, exactly; she just figured out that if she dropped a toy in a lap it was more likely to get thrown than if she tried to get us to play with her and take the toy. The funniest thing about this development, though, is that since she was a puppy she has played fetch with herself. She’ll pick up a toy, shake it and run around with it, and then she flings it as hard as she can. As soon as she lets go, she’s chasing it. I have no idea where she learned that particular habit, but it amuses me no end. I don’t know why or when she decided that her version of solitary fetch just wasn’t enough anymore.

She also spent a lot of time emulating the cats while she was little, so she shares some habits with them. If I hold out my hand, my cat will walk under it and keep turning so I’m petting her without doing anything. She’s done that since we got her, and it’s something I’ve seen with other cats, too. Nyx picked up on that, and she’s tall enough that if I just hold my hand out at my side, parallel to the floor, Nyx will walk under it and then turn in circles so I’m petting her.

None of this has to do with the animals not getting enough attention. Most evenings my cat curls up either on my lap or behind my head, and Nyx gets attention pretty much constantly. When we’re settled in the evening, reading or watching television, she has her head on one lap and, often as not, her back end on another lap. She thinks she is a lap dog, but at 120 pounds she’s a little too big to manage it comfortably. We joke about who gets the head end, since the other end is sometimes not as pleasant.

We’ve been doing some clicker training with Nyx, and it’s really interesting to watch her try to figure out what we want. One of the fun things for me is to decide what I want her to do and then click the behaviour. I’m not luring her or trying to teach her, just catching what she does and seeing if she’ll do what I want. It’s a game, and she seems as amused by it as I am. When the clicker comes out, she’s at attention. That probably has a lot ot do with the fact that clicker=treats, but as long as we’re both having fun, that’s fine with me. Clicker training has been much more interesting than even basic treat-based training because I’m asking Nyx to use her brain, to figure things out, and she likes that. I really enjoy watching her figure out the pieces and work her way through things.

I like having animals around for the most part. Sometimes they drive me batty, but I like the companionship. On cold nights, the warmth is nice, too.