Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Shadow Has 4 legs and Barks at Everything

Being kept up at night by barking dogs was not an unusual thing in the apartment complex we were in. Most of the time, little yippy type dogs were all over the place and constantly barking up a storm. But when a dog barked from 7pm until 7am, with a bigger deeper bark than normal, I couldn't fall asleep. I posted statuses about how I was going to have to talk to someone about keeping their dog quiet at night, how some of us were trying to sleep. Little did I know those barks would change my future, forever.

I came home from work one night, around 10, to find the source of the barking, a medium sized black dog who had no collar that I could see, and was terrified of everything. I tried to coax it over to me, and failed, the dog ran into the night and wasn't seen that night - although it was heard.

The next night was the same thing. I even had peanut butter to offer this time. And again, I pushed too far and wound up scaring the dog into the night.

But I didn't hear barking that night. Or the next.

The first picture I have of her!
I started to get worried that maybe something had happened to the poor thing. Hoping it had just found its way home.

Then the dog showed up once more. Armed with a slip lead from work, 12 cans of Pedigree, a small bag of Ol Roy (I ran back out to Walmart when I heard the dog again), a squeaky toy, a small jar of peanut butter, and a whole lot of determination, I even managed to get Tristan involved in capturing the dog.

5 hours later, the sun is starting to come up, I've chased the poor thing all around the parking lots, people have asked me to shut my dog up and I've explained that it's actually been quiet for most of the night dealing with me, and it's not mine. I heard people threaten to shoot it if I ever let it out, or bark, again. I knew what I had to do. Even Tristan gave up, and decided to go to bed, leaving me with a dog to capture on my own.

Eventually, both of us exhausted, she rolled onto her side, and let me put the slip lead over her neck. She fought with me for a minute, before willingly following me back to the apartment. We immediately threw her in the spare bathroom for a scrub, and doused her with Dawn. There were no fleas (we have no idea how that happened), but several ticks that we spent the next few days trying to pick off of her.

Our plan was to wait until Monday (I caught her Saturday night), and call the rescue I worked with at Petsmart and release her to them.

 The dog hated Tristan, right from the start. She wouldn't go anywhere near him. But within minutes of coming inside was attached to me. I kept tripping over her. She wouldn't leave my side, we joked that she was my little shadow. Then he started calling her Shadow. Within hours, she was overly attached to me, and had a name.

I didn't work that weekend. Neither did he. We decided to keep her by Sunday, realizing she was housebroken, trainable, and not going to fare well in a shelter, especially after becoming so attached to me. To be honest, I had already gotten attached to her. We had been talking about getting a dog, and were discussing getting an adult dog from a shelter in the next few months, I was already on the hunt, and she just fell into our lap.

Monday she came to work with me, we asked the vets to look her over, explaining we still weren't 100% sure we would keep her. (He wasn't, I was.) and they offered a discount on the service because of it. It turned out, I had a 8ish month old, Black Lab mix, who, aside from being covered in ticks two days ago, nails that were just too long, and being scared out of her mind, seemed perfectly healthy.

Shadow was a big fighting point between Tristan and I, he constantly pushed me to get rid of her, especially as we realized she was more my dog. When he said he wanted a dog, he really wanted a dog that would be like his Aussie at home. One that had bonded completely to him, and listened to him without fail, and he could train, to outshine me.

But Shadow ran from him. Growled at him. Barked at him constantly, it took him 3-4 weeks of constant treating and babying for him to even pet her. Looking back, that should have been my first sign.

But my girl stayed with us. When Tristan and I fought, she'd wrap herself around my head, preventing him from cuddling with me. She'd let me cry to her when I needed to, and was taking easily to training. We just couldn't take her anywhere. We brought her to Petsmart, and she just barked. After a few weeks of doing this constantly, she was starting to get better, but only if I was around. She had made friends with the Vets, so when I was at work, if they were going to be open the whole time, she came with me. She'd get to play with other dogs, and with other people, and I got to know she was safe while I was at work. Shadow was already my baby.

I had no idea the impact this dog would have on my life. She came home with me, as Tristan couldn't have cared less about her, and adjusted almost immediately, with few incidences (the few we had were more annoying/funny than harmful). Her training has fallen back a little, as she sees other dogs get away with things she never would have in a million years if it were just the two of us, and I haven't had the time to really work with her. She still is socially very anxious, but I'm hoping to really hammer through a lot of that this summer.

This 4-legged Shadow of mine has been just what I needed more often than not. She hasn't been away from my side for more than a few days in 3 years now. She's saved my life more times than I can count, as she's defended me against dogs, and people. She's my little guard dog, who'd sooner run behind me if someone were to really break in, and my loud obnoxious barky butt. I can't imagine a life without her, and I really hope I never have to for long. She is indeed one of the best things that has ever happened to me. She's got her quirks, but so does her mom, so we make quite the pair in my opinion.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When the Passion burns so bright, eventually, you're gonna get burned

I've heard this so much in the last few months, from all friends - in school and post graduating:

"I'm losing my love, and motivation to dance, and I don't know how to fix it."

So I wanted to make this post (while I procrastinate things I could be getting ahead on), about my journey through burnout.

Staring in about August, I was dealing with a lack of satisfaction in my dancing skills, running low on energy, and money - due to some medical conditions - my car was slowly dying, and I didn't have the time or money to take it to be looked at, much less fixed. I was losing my love of the dance, although I loved to see friends, and I thought I was just not progressing fast enough for my own tastes, and needed to go to more and do more and take more lessons. Turns out, that's what killed me.

By October, I HATED dancing. The drives, the cost, the drama. The dances were mediocre anymore, and while the friends were great, even the music wasn't inspiring, I was doing the same moves, just to zombie through dances. I felt bad that my friends weren't having the same dance experience with me, because I was frustrated with myself, which just drove me to want to continue to improve, by doing more. "Just work through it" was the attitude and that just didn't work.

I decided I needed some time off. I went to one last event, and had such a bad time, I was willing to bet I'd never dance again. For November, December, and January, I didn't dance, I didn't listen to the music, I didn't watch dance videos.

At first I was so mad. I wanted to blame the way dancers held workshops and things. The costs of them, the fact that they were built around sleep deprivation. The fact that they were not conducive to helping someone with burn out, but instead, exaggerated it. I wanted to blame everyone and everything I could, so I didn't have to admit, that it wasn't a lifestyle I could handle at that moment, and I needed to help me help myself.

So I focused on other things. I worked, I  painted again, I drew, I worked on other craft projects that had been waiting on me to find time to finish them. I played more games, and just rebuilt myself in an absence of dancing. I missed my dance friends terribly, but knew pushing it would just make matters so much worse for me in the end.

By mid January I was feeling like I missed everyone too much, and actually mildly wanted to dance. I didn't have the opportunity, so I never took it and was started to get frustrated again. Finally, early February, I had an opportunity to dance for one night, and I took it. I went out, more nervous than I had been in ages. I walked in the door and a friend greeted me and started my dancing off fairly well. I didn't feel super confident in my skills, knowing I'd be rusty for while.

I was turned down for dances for "rest songs" and "this song is just to fast for me" and then I'd turn around and they had either accepted another's dance offer and I saw them on the dance floor that song with another follow. I was suddenly super frustrated, and having a panic attack about getting back into dancing. I spent the next 3 songs freaking out to friends about how much I shouldn't be there, and I was now an outcast of the swing community. Eventually, a dancer I very much look up to asked me to dance, and spent the entire song talking to me about where I was, and just getting to know me. My next few Lindy Hop dances went pretty well, and I was feeling better. Blues came around, and while I didn't dance a lot, I did dance, and it was they were the easiest dances I'd ever had (not because of their style, but because I felt so comfortable), and I finally felt at peace with where I had chosen to be.

I now listen to Blues music and feel myself moving in my seat again, something that hasn't happened in probably 6 months. I tap my feet to swing music. I watch videos and wanna do what they're doing again, I've stopped seeing it as tedium and see it, instead, as something I still love to do.

Dance burn out happens. To everyone. Sometimes for no reason. Find another hobby to focus on. Invite dance friends over, not to dance, but to play games and have fun in other ways. Take the time to learn something new. When you're ready, you'll know and you can go out, not for an event, but for a night, and see if its something you're ready for.

Dancers, especially dancers who travel, have such a passion for dancing. It's beautiful to watch, but when the passion for an activity burns that bright and burns so high, it doesn't matter how much you wanna fight it, you're going to wind up burned, and if you don't treat it immediately, you'll burn completely out and have to start over. It's possible to do, but you have to go through and do it.

Don't worry when it happens. That's I think the big thing. It's worrisome to watch something slip out of your life, and not know if it's ever going to find its way back in. And maybe you'll never be ready to come back, and it was a great hobby for a while, but you found something that peaks your interests more. Interests and lives change. Don't fight adapting to it, even temporarily. You'll kill yourself trying, and that's so much worse than admitting that you're burned out and need time off.