Tagged: life lessons

The Snow Day and the Thugs

Now that the days are getting long and hot, and I search for anything to get me through to October when the days might cool off a bit if we’re lucky, I dream of snow. White, cold, fluffy snow.

And snow always makes me think of one of my students.

We have a rule in our school district that if the weather turns bad after a certain time in the morning, the buses will run and the schools will open. No matter how bad the weather gets, once the decision is made schools stay open for the entire day.

We rarely get snow in Dallas, but on this one day it started to snow after the cutoff time. By the time school opened at 8:00, the ground was covered in white and the snow was still falling.

Snow in Dallas

As you can imagine, trying to get a bunch of fifth graders to settle down when all they want to be doing is playing in the snow, is tough. School is the last place they want to be.

On days like this you usually have two kinds of kids who show up: the straight A students who never miss, and the ones you pray will stay home just this one day, please dear God.

Ramon (name changed to protect the innocent) was in that first group. He was a smart kid. He never got in trouble, always did his work, and was very well-liked by his classmates. He even had a few girls think he was cute. But there are times when even the good kids go bad.

Like on a snow day.

After picking up the students, walking them up the stairs and past the windows where they could all moan and groan about the fact that they were here and not there, and telling them for the fifteenth time that no, we can’t go outside and play in the snow, the students settled down and got to work on journal writing. The usual suspects stared off into space, not a clue as to what they should write about, and the others wrote furiously about the unfairness of being stuck at school while so-and-so got to stay home and play in the snow. Pencil leads were snapping, sighs and moans were expelled, and even I felt gipped that school wasn’t closed.

A few minutes into journal  writing, Ramon walked up to me with a worried look on his face and asked if he could go to the restroom, it was an emergency. I gave him the Disbelieving Teacher Look, saw the desperate look in his eyes, and decided he was legit. He grabbed the hall pass and escaped.

Class continued. I decided to read a chapter aloud from the book I had been reading to the students, knowing they would lord it over the kids who hadn’t come to school that day. It was a particularly good part of the book, and I was enjoying making the story as dramatic as possible. The class listened intently as I read.

After fifteen minutes or so, I looked up to see the assistant principal standing in my doorway. Mildly annoyed that she was interrupting our right at the good part, I also noticed she had someone with her. Someone who was hiding behind her.

Ramon.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Is this your student?”

Uh oh. I had forgotten about Ramon.

“Yes. He went to the restroom,” I meekly replied.

“Uh huh!” she said. “Do you have any idea where I found him?”

I looked at Ramon. He was looking at the floor. Ramon was in trouble and somehow it was my fault.

The AP called me into the hallway. The class was loving every minute of this. I walked out into the hallway, sweeping the room with my Evil Eye Teacher Look that said don’t even think about it.

Apparently the AP had been making the rounds downstairs after the bell rang, making sure everyone was in class and accounted for, when she heard someone yelling and knocking outside the door to the playground. The door was set to lock when it closed. When she opened the door who did she discover? Ramon.

For some completely innocent reason, Ramon had decided to go to the downstairs restroom. He couldn’t explain why. As he passed the door leading to the playground, he heard someone knocking to be let in. Being the good Samaritan that he is, of course, he opened the door–and was promptly thrown into the snow by some THUGS! They had really done a number on him, too, because his hair, shirt, and jeans were sopping wet.

“Who were these thugs?” I asked. “Just some guys who wanted to be mean” he sheepishly answered.

I said, “Wow, those were some really mean guys to throw you down in the snow like that! That’s awful, Ramon. It’s too bad you opened the door for them.”

He swore it was all true. He even cried.

We sent him into class, closed the door, and burst out laughing in the hallway.

Snow in Dallas

We teased him all year about the thugs. We warned him to watch out for the thugs at dismissal at the end of the day. We asked him if the thugs ate his homework when he didn’t have it in class. We made sure he had a buddy on field trips so the thugs wouldn’t force him to do fun things again.

We were so worried about him, we even had him explain it to his mom on Parent Conference night. After a long look at him, she rolled her eyes and shook her head.

He knew he had been caught red handed, and he laughed along with us. I told him he would never, ever forget the day he went bad. He said he would never, ever do something that stupid again.

So on these horribly hot days of summer, when I’m running in temperatures that are meant for an oven, I’ll think of Ramon and how much fun he must have had rolling in the snow. He said it was worth it, and I believe him.

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Every Good Deed Deserves A Bottle Of Champagne

“NICE JACKET!” I was bent over my travel bag in the Portland Airport, putting away my raincoat from the train ride, and realized the loud voice was talking to me.

I looked at my sleeve to see what I was wearing. My Boston Marathon jacket. The one I rarely wear because I don’t like to draw attention to myself.

An older woman and her husband stood just behind me. I noticed he was wearing the black version with green stripes. “I like yours better,” I told him.

“Really?” she said. “I love that blue color. What year did you run Boston? Actually, that’s my jacket. He wears it all the time, though.”

She was probably ten years older than me and didn’t seem like a runner, especially one who had run Boston. She asked me what other races I had run, which one was my favorite, how fast I was, how many miles I logged each week, on and on and on. She was like an avalanche of questions and words, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

She went on to say she hardly ran, she was slow, she wanted to run more, and did I live in Portland? I managed to tell her I had just run the Eugene half marathon and was flying home to Dallas.

“Oh! SO ARE WE!” Her husband grinned and remained silent. He hadn’t said a word the entire time.

I vowed not to sit next to them on the plane.

I didn’t see them again until we boarded. We flew Southwest Airlines, and I was in the last group to board. I grabbed a middle seat fairly close to the front of the plane, next to an elderly woman who looked confused when I asked if I could sit in the empty seat next to her. She made a feeble attempt to get up, decided against it, and gruffly said, “Slide across.”

I smiled at the talking woman and her husband as they passed on their way to the back of the plane.

I wasn’t being rude; I just wanted to read my Kindle and maybe sleep a little on the plane. I needed some time to think about the past week, the race in Eugene, and the time spent with my daughter. I wouldn’t see her again until her wedding in July.

There was a brief layover in Kansas City, and before we landed an announcement was made asking “the couple celebrating their thirty-seventh wedding anniversary” to please see one of the flight attendants before they left.

Thirty-seven years of marriage? Impressive.

When the plane landed, a flight attendant carried back a bottle of champagne to the couple celebrating their anniversary. Most of the people disembarked, and the passengers continuing on to Dallas moved up to the front of the plane. I slid over to the window seat and looked forward to stretching my legs and using the restroom before the plane reloaded.

The talking woman and her husband moved up and sat across the aisle from me. They were holding a bottle of champagne. They were the anniversary couple.

(source)

The elderly woman sitting next to me went to use the restroom. The talking woman and her husband asked if I would watch their things while they went to use the restroom as well. I said, sure, even though I needed to go myself. Surely there would be enough time before the next group of passengers boarded the plane.

I kept looking back at the restroom. Unfortunately for me it was a very quick turnover, and the first passengers made their way onto the plane before they returned.

The plane began filling up and the three travelers still weren’t back from the restroom. Person after person tried to sit in the aisle seat next to me, until I finally put the elderly woman’s travel bag in the seat. Over and over people asked who was sitting in the seats across the aisle. Again and again I had to explain that the seats were taken, the occupants were in the restroom.

It was stressful. I repeatedly got an irritated scowl when I told someone the seats were already taken. People looked at me as if I wasn’t telling the truth, as if I was somehow cheating or breaking the rules. The man behind me laughed and said, “You’ve got a tough job!” How did I get this job anyway???

Finally, the plane was full, and the three passengers came back to claim their seats, oblivious to the stir their empty seats caused. The woman next to me asked why her bag was in her seat, and I patiently explained that I put it there because people kept trying to sit in her seat. She smirked but didn’t thank me.

The talking woman and  her husband settled in and immediately started up a conversation with the young businessman next to them. He had earlier asked me who was sitting in their seats, and frowned when I told him they were taken, as if it was my fault his business partner couldn’t sit next to him.

I never made it to the restroom during the flight. I was too worn out from saving the three seats to squeeze past the two pairs of legs next to me. I was ready to be home.

Just before we landed I saw the young businessman looking at the label on the bottle of champagne, discussing it with the talking woman and her husband. I watched them from my seat, thinking what a nice thing it was that the flight attendants had given them a gift for their anniversary.

And then, incredulously, I watched as the young businessman stood up and walked off the plane with the bottle of champagne still in hand.

I hadn’t expected or wanted that bottle of champagne until it was given away. The young businessman had done nothing other than sit next to the talking woman and her husband–and he walked away with an unearned prize.

Which is exactly why I didn’t deserve the bottle of champagne.

Instant karma. If I couldn’t do a good deed without the expectation of getting something out of it, especially from someone I found irritating and a bit of a nuisance, then I certainly didn’t deserve to be rewarded.

Even if the reward was an expensive bottle of champagne.

(source)

Fighting Acceptance (Again)

Taped to the bottom edge of my computer is a small, green post-it note that says acceptance It was written by me in black permanent ink, a reminder to myself for weeks like this.

It wasn’t a particularly bad week, but it was a frustrating one. For some reason I didn’t sleep well all week, and and I woke up several times each night from bizarre, vivid dreams. It made me feel tired during the day, and I didn’t have any motivation. Everything seemed to take so much effort, and I questioned if anything was even worth it.

So I sat at my desk and watched the eagle cam on one monitor, and stared at the word acceptance on the other.

Those who know me have always commented on how cheerful and happy I am (though those who really know me know that isn’t always the case). I know how to put on a good face in public and muddle through without doing too much damage. But sometimes it’s hard to break through the wall of gloom.

Oftentimes when I struggle with a situation, I ask myself: what advice would I give someone else in the same predicament?

I would tell them to stop beating themselves up for feeling less than their usual selves, that this is just the way things are today. It’s not the end of the world, nothing bad has happened, and everyone gets a little down in the dumps.

Everything changes, even bad moods.

And it did. I did some yoga and worked in the garden, settled down with a good book and listened to music, spent time working in the garden, and remembered all the good things in my life (and, yes, there are many things to be thankful for). The fog lifted, I focused on other things, and I realized I felt better.

It’s so difficult to accept things without trying to change them. Certainly there are things in life that are unacceptable and need to be changed, but the more mundane things in my life–like a bad mood–can sometimes be the toughest to shake. I spend so much energy fighting stupid things like this, and it’s senseless.

It’s like beating your head against the wall–or fighting acceptance, once again.

Anger: Everyone’s Just a Thread Away from Snapping

We all know anger. It rears its ugly head when you least expect it, and it bites faster than a rattlesnake on a hot afternoon in Texas.

A few mornings ago my running group met before work for our long run. We ran on a Friday instead of our usual Saturday morning because one of our members had a memorial service to attend the next day and we didn’t want her to have to run 16 miles on her own. We’re a tight group and that’s how we roll.

We met at the impossibly early hour of 5:30, but the weather was perfect. 58 degrees, no wind, and clear skies. There were four of us and the run was surprisingly tough, but mostly uneventful. We ran down to our local lake, did an extra 3 miles out and back, then ran the full 9 mile loop and back up to where we had started from.  Since it was a work day there wasn’t the usual mob scene of runners and bikers vying for supremacy on the road and path. Everyone behaved themselves and the run was incident free.

Well, there was one small unintended incident, and it caused some anger.

Around mile 9 I realized I needed a bathroom break. At mile 10 I realized I had missed the port-a-potty. At mile 11.5 we suddenly spotted one and everyone came to a stop. We were tired, it was early, we had already run a long way, and we weren’t paying attention. Someone took a step over the dividing line on the path and almost got plowed down by a cyclist. I apologized for us, he started yelling, I mumbled under my breath thanks for letting us know you were there  (because he didn’t say on your left as he passed) and he yelled back WELL, THANKS FOR LOOKING! We were in the wrong, we didn’t do it on purpose, it all happened very quickly–as most accidents do–and we had apologized.

I honestly only mumbled what I did because he started yelling at us, and I wasn’t mean about it. It was merely an observation.

This battle between cyclists and runners is an old one with no winners. Because he was dressed in a sweatshirt and plumber’s shorts (yes, it was gross) we knew he was probably just someone from the neighborhood and not a serious cyclist. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt because we should’ve paid more attention.

But my friend was so right when she made the comment as he rode away: People are SO ANGRY these days. It’s like everyone’s just a thread away from snapping.

I’ve been noticing the same thing a lot lately, too. All you have to do is look around wherever you go and you’ll see lots and lots of very angry people.

Now that I’m home during the day, I have much less stress in my life and my moods manage to stay fairly even keeled. (Usually. I’m not perfect, and I do live in Dallas.) But just driving a few miles up the road to the grocery store is like a violent video game come to life. People do the most ridiculous things from the anonymity of their cars, and most of it is just plain mean. And stupid. And sometimes dangerous.

The same friend who stepped in the path of the cyclist the other day has been telling us about the “psycho dads” she’s had to deal with this year (she works in a public elementary school). On three separate occasions in the past seven weeks of school she’s had fathers fly off the handle over small matters involving their children. In my last few years of teaching we all noticed that more and more often we were up against parents who liked to yell first, blame everyone else next, and ask questions later. It always involved something that didn’t warrant that level of anger–and they certainly weren’t setting a good example for their children, who usually stood by embarrassed because of the scene their parents were making.

Turn on the TV or internet these days and you’ll quickly see that this country has an anger problem. From politics to trashy talk shows to angry, rude comments on news websites, there’s a lot of anger out there.

What are we all so angry about?

There are all the usual reasons: work, stress, relationships, money, time, and so on. Those will never go away and anger will always exist. But can we really continue as a society if we don’t learn to keep our negative emotions in check? I don’t believe in pretending not to feel something that’s there, but I do think we must find better ways of dealing with our lives than indiscriminate  anger.

And lest you think I’m sitting up here on my high horse, I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I’ve been known to say a few choice words under my breath while driving the streets of Dallas, and nothing can set me off more than someone who is purposely rude and mean. I grew up in a family filled with anger and I’m quick to become defensive and indignant when provoked. But I also make an effort to be considerate of others–even strangers–and to not make a fool of myself if I can help it.

When someone does something that makes me angry, like cut me off in traffic, I try to remind myself, that could be me, I’ve done that before, too. Or when I hold the door open for someone and they walk through without even a glance, I try to remind myself that I don’t need their thanks.

The bottom line is, all I can do is be aware of my own reactions and my own feelings of anger when they arise. I can’t change anyone, I can’t make them do anything, and getting angry about things usually doesn’t change them.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know the change has to begin with me.

Glass Half Empty Kind of Person

My first thought when I got out of the car was, I failed miserably.  Again. 

I’m a glass half empty kind of person.  It seems to be my natural inclination.  I’m not sure why, and I read an article once that stated people are generally either more optimistic, by nature, or tend to be more pessimistic.  I seem to be the latter.  And I’m trying to change that.

 

This past summer was the hottest on record here in Texas.  I’m a runner, and every single run for three straight months was miserable.  I complained.  I whined.  I moaned.  I was negative.  And then I always felt guilty for not being more positive and upbeat around other people on our runs.

That was the kind of run I had today–again.  It finally cooled off a little, but it was extremely humid and we ran 16 miles.  It seemed like we were always running uphill.  And it seemed like all I could do was complain about it.

I tried to be positive and give a celebratory little yeah! when we ran down a small hill.  But then we ran right back up another hill and my mood grew sour.  I tried to keep it in as best I could, but I think I failed.  All summer I’ve been aware that I’m complaining so much, and that puts me in a bad mood.

I’m not always negative.  I was actually a very positive teacher, and was pretty good at motivating kids to learn (at least I hope I was).  I’m also usually very optimistic about life in general, and I’m happy most of the time.  It’s the little things that seem to cause my downfall.

Like the weather.  Or people who don’t know how to drive.  And stress always brings out my inner grouch.

I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort not to be negative.  I don’t want to be phony about it and pretend things are other than they are, or gloss things over just to put a positive spin on them.  I merely want to try and see the positives first, and not dwell on the negatives so much.  There are times I can be cynical, or suspicious, and I always reserve the right to suspend belief when people tell me things.  Part of this is a protection device, and goes back to keeping my walls up so people don’t get too close.

I tried to read a book once about people who made a promise not to complain.  They wore a little rubber bracelet, and anytime they complained about something they had to move the bracelet to the other arm.  The goal was to not move the bracelet, which meant not complaining for an entire month, and then trying to extend the complaint-free time for longer and longer.  I never sent off for the bracelet because I knew I would fail.  It seems somewhat inauthentic, to hold in feelings just to remain positive all the time.  What if the complaints are valid?  What if they’re the truth!

Someone once told me I was the most honest person he knew.  I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, but I’d rather be called honest than dishonest, and sometimes I think glossing over the truth just to be positive is dishonest.  I do know I can be bluntly honest–which could come across as being negative sometimes–but I try not to hurt others with that honesty, though I’m sure there are times that I do.

I have to wonder if others struggle with being positive as much as I seem to.  Our modern life with all its pressures makes it tough for us to remain cheery.  For me, I think it goes back to my struggle to accept things as they are, and not as I want them to be (as I wrote about in an earlier post this summer).  Maybe it’s merely just another judgment I’m placing on whatever it is that bothers me.  Perhaps–no, probably–rather than complain and say anything at all, I just need to learn to keep my big mouth shut.

Even if I don’t truly accept the situation, or my negative feelings, or the disappointment, not saying anything at all doesn’t have to mean I’m lying to myself if I don’t voice my complaint.  It just means I can acknowledge it to myself, give it no value, then move on from it.  And if I look a little deeper, I think it all truly begins at my disappointment with whatever has happened, so maybe disappointment is the trigger.  Disappointment, and maybe not being able to control what is happening.

I think the key is to work on trying to see the positive first, acknowledging the negative thought, then moving on.  Let it go.  Adios, amigo.

Will I ever be a full glass kind of person?  Doubtful.  Can I at least work on half a glass full?  I think so.  What would that person look like, what would she sound like?  Ah, well, all I can do is keep plugging away, and not let things get to me so much.  Everything changes, including my bad moods, the weather, and half empty glasses.

And that’s what makes life interesting.

Life Lessons from Nevada

Nevada was named after a long road trip out West.  Her colors match the desert, hence her name.

She's an old soul

We adopted her two weeks after adopting our Ridgeback, Shasta, from the SPCA, thinking two dogs wouldn’t be any more difficult to take care of than one.  For the most part this has been true, but having two larger sized dogs, both of whom are sight hounds and love to chase anything that moves, has not always been easy.

Nevada’s ancestry is a mystery, other than the ubiquitous “shepherd mix.”  We think she must be some type of herding breed because of her extreme need to always have the pack together, especially on walks or runs.  Of our two dogs, she is the quieter, gentler one, though she is also the more neurotic.  She was eight months old when we rescued her.  She has taught us a lot of life lessons that are very different from Shasta’s.

NEVADA’S LIFE LESSONS:

1. Be subtle.  When Nevada wants something she will usually do one of two things:  she will very gently walk up and softly nudge you with her nose, or she will stand facing you about two feet away and stare you down.  Unlike her in-your-face sister, she knows that subtlety is just as effective, if not more so, than pushiness.

This is her stare down when she wants something

2. Give frequent gifts to the ones you love.  When we come home, when we get up in the mornings, and sometimes when she wakes up from a nap, Nevada will always present you with some small trinket of love.  Usually it’s one of her bones or dog toys, but it can be anything.  Once I lost my shopping list before I even made it to the store, but when I came home it was the small gift Nevada presented me with at the door.

3. Do things together.  In Nevada’s perfect world the pack would always be together, 24/7.  She is visibly unhappy when Michael goes to work each morning, and it’s like the end of the world if the dogs are ever separated from each other.  In her world, families stick together.  Always.


4. You might have to work at it, but don’t fear the small stuff.  Nevada was a very fearful dog when we brought her home from the shelter, and her biggest fear was drain ditches.  Yes, those gaping black holes in the sides of curbs where water rushes in on rainy days.  I discovered this the first time I took her for a run and she nearly yanked my arm off when she came to a screeching halt before a drain ditch.  This happened over and over, at every single drain.  We have since worked with her in getting over this fear, but every once in awhile it still inexplicably stops her in her tracks. 

5. Run for the sheer joy of it, and don’t stop till you drop!  Nevada is a sprinter.  She loves to run all out for about two or three miles, then she’s done.  We have to keep her leashed at all times because she loves the freedom of running as fast as she can and has been known to go on long joy rides with Shasta. 

6. Speak softly, and be humble.  Nevada has no desire to the be pack leader.  She is more than contented to stay in the background and let others make the major decisions.  She is a follower and is more than happy to be led.  She accepts her place within the hierarchy of the pack and is appreciative of everything that’s done for her.  She’s no pushover, but she allows others who are less sensitive to take the lead.


7. Pay attention to the signals, and give things a little time, before you let someone get too close.  Nevada has a cautious nature, and that extends to the way she greets humans.  In general, she tends to trust women much quicker than she trusts men, and she’s leery of small children and their high levels of energy.  She has to know you awhile before she’ll let you get too close to her, and it has to be on her terms.

8. Routines and schedules can be a good thing.  Nevada doesn’t take change well at all.  She doesn’t like having her routines messed with.  She is the queen of daily sameness.

9. Let the rest of the family know when someone strays too far.  Nevada wants everyone together.  She’s happiest when we all take a walk, but doesn’t like it when anyone gets too far ahead or too far behind everyone else.  If we run, we have to stay closely together, like a military contingent, and she’s happiest right up front.  If someone lags behind, she’ll whine and nervously look behind until they catch back up.  If you should decide to completely break away from the group, she’ll yelp and whine to call you back.

10. There’s no place like home.  She’s a total homebody.  It’s her favorite place to be.  While she likes her walks and the dog park, there’s nothing like the safety and comfort of her own house, dog crate, dog mat, dog toys, and cool, hardwood floors.  Because home is her castle, and because of her hyper-sensitivity, she’s a great watchdog, alerting us to the slightest noises outside.  Home is where the heart and her family are.

Shasta and Nevada couldn’t be more different, but they strangely complement each other.  With Shasta I’ve had to learn to be assertive and confident.  Nevada has taught me to stand up to fear.  I was never much of a “dog person” before we got the dogs two summers ago.  Now I can’t imagine life without them.

Trying to hard to be good for a possible treat

Life Lessons from Shasta

Two summers ago we got a dog.  Two weeks after that we got another dog.  This story is about our first dog, Shasta, and the life lessons she’s taught us.

I decided on a Rhodesian Ridgeback because of their ability to run long distances.  After many episodes of The Dog Whisperer and a return from a long road trip out West, the time was right.   I pulled up the SPCA website and saw a photo of a six month old female Ridgeback.  I talked Michael into going “just to check it out” and we came home an hour later with Pepsi, whose name we changed to Shasta– after the mountain, not the drink.

Six months old -- She still has her puppy ears

She was smart.  The first night in her new home I told her to sit, and she did.  I pointed to her new dog mat in the corner of the bedroom and told her to go to sleep, and she did.  We were amazed.  She learned things very quickly and was eager to please.

She was also a very high energy, confident, strong-willed dog.  We later learned that Ridgebacks are considered “power breeds,” right up there with Rottweilers and Dobermans.  Michael worked with her all summer and she came to respect him.  Within the pack, the pecking order quickly became: #1-Michael, #2-Shasta, #3-Me, #4-Nevada.  Eventually she gave in and decided to share the #2 spot with me.  After two years and another summer at home with the dogs, I think I may finally have won the #2 spot.  Sometimes.

Always ready to play ball

Michael and I have certainly learned a lot about ourselves through training Shasta.  Michael has learned to be much more assertive.  All he has to do is snap his fingers and Shasta straightens right up.  I’ve also had to learn to be more self-confident and take the leader position, especially on our walks.  I’ve had to learn to assert that I’m in charge and she doesn’t call the shots.  She’s walking with me, not the other way around.

We’ve also learned a lot about life through both of our dogs.  Even though she’s a dog, Shasta has a certain joy-of-life way of living that translates well into the human world.  Our other dog, Nevada, is very different from Shasta and has her own life lessons to teach (those will be in my next post).  Here are the top ten life lessons Shasta has to teach us humans.

SHASTA’S RULES TO LIVE BY:

1. Welcome each new day with joy and excitement, and always be ready for an adventure.  From the moment she wakes up, Shasta is “on.”  She comes over to each side of our bed to give us our good morning licks, wags her tail excitedly, and lets us know that’s she awake and ready to start the day.  If we want to walk her, she’s ready.  If we want to feed her first, she’s ready for that, too.  If a cat or squirrel wants to be chased, she’s more than ready for that!

2. Make your own fun wherever you can.  Anytime we let Shasta outside in the backyard she has a little routine she follows:  first she has to check to make sure everything is still where it was the last time she was there, then she lets out a few barks just to let the world know hey, I’m here!  If there are no squirrels to taunt her and be barked at, she usually throws herself on the ground and rolls around on her back with all four legs in the air, like a wallowing buffalo.  Sometimes she pulls a log or a long stick from the woodpile and drags it around, or sometimes she’ll dig a hole, but if we’re not around to play with her Shasta definitely knows how to make her own fun.

3. Enter a new area as if you own the place.  Dog park, strange house, Home Depot, wherever.  Shasta, Queen of the World, teaches us to always enter strange surroundings with confidence, no fear, and the knowledge that you’re where you need to be.

4. Don’t fear the big stuff.  Even though she is generally fearless, she does have a tendency to fear silly things that don’t matter, such as blue pipes, frisbees, toys with bells inside, certain small dogs, and walking through a concrete tube that’s twice your size.

5. Treat everyone as a friend, unless they give you reason not to.  Shasta goes out of her way to greet everyone who comes within a half mile radius of her presence.  If she likes you, get ready for a Shasta Tongue Bath (and yes, it’s as gross as it sounds).  If you have nefarious reasons for getting too close, she will let you know that you’re not welcome and to back off.

6. Be calm, even if you have to fake it.  Shasta’s energy level can go from 0 to 100 in seconds.  We’ve worked very hard these past two years to train her that there are no rewards for excitability and out of control high energy.  If she wants something, she needs to be calm and not pushy.  She fakes it–a lot–but that’s okay.

7. No problem or disappointment is so large that a nice long nap won’t fix. Shasta’s had to learn she doesn’t always get her way.  That’s life, even in the dog world.  She’s learned that long naps are a lovely thing and can facilitate fresh perspectives upon awakening.

8. Get your needs met.  Even though we’ve taught her to be calm, Shasta is very good at getting her needs met.  She lets us know when she wants to go out, when she wants to go for a walk, when she’s bored, and when she’s hungry, but she’s learned to do so with calm assertiveness that isn’t pushy or too irritating.

9. Never chew on the stuff you’re not supposed to chew on.  In other words, don’t worry about things that aren’t worth your time.  Shasta pretty much keeps to Nylabones and sticks outside when she wants to chew and has learned that chewing on the wrong things has bad consequences and just isn’t worth it.

10. Love unconditionally.  Shasta’s a very loyal dog.  Now that I’m home all day she is my constant, daily shadow.  At my desk, in the bathroom, watching TV, or in the backyard, she’s always right next to me.  She doesn’t ask for anything in return, really, just a little food, a walk around the block, and an occasional belly rub. Over and over, day in, day out, Shasta is happy to be with us.

In Wyoming

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Shasta?  Slow down and just be.  There’s nowhere else you need to be, nothing else you need to do, than just be here, now, loving life and the people around you.  It really is that simple.