The New Normal

Sometimes (ok, often) when I write a post I have an axe to grind, but sometimes I just have observations to share. I tend to prefer those grindy posts because they feel more passionate and driven… but today instead of driving, I’m just a passenger looking around and musing about what I see.

After Lily’s death, I expected the pack to adjust. Adjustments can take a wide variety of forms, and quite honestly with this current bunch of striped marauders and miscreant fools, I’ve been braced for anything and everything.

 

The changes I perceive are subtle for the most part. Tom doesn’t notice them. For every example, there’s an exception. But I know my pack, and I know what I feel. Something has shifted.

Lily’s death has come at a time when Hawkitt has grown into the next level of adult for a high drive guy. He’s about 5 years old, and his maturity is palpable to me. I see it in photographs – that rakish youth and wicked glint in his eye is replaced by something else. Something steadier. Earlier this year, our vet suggested I increase Hawk’s weight and as I did I saw him not only fill out physically, but also fill out in an emotional-psychological way that is hard for me to articulate. He is less kinetic. More solid. Less flighty. And it’s all really subtle.

Cinder has changed the least, but the one change I see is mind-blowing: she initiates play with Hawkitt. She seems to want to hang out and communicate with him, through bitey face or just snuggling. She seeks him out and shows him affection. Pre-Peeka, Cinder and Hawk played bitey face, but it was always tense and careful. Could Cinder, at her ripe old age of almost 10, finally be relaxing? Did Hawkitt’s change engender this change in Cinder? Or did Lily’s death somehow allow Cinder to let go of something? Or was it always there, this limited and gentle seeking of contact, and I never noticed it before, but now that I am looking for newness I see it?

Brody … ok, maybe Brody has changed the least. Or he is changing the most, depending upon how you look at it. Despite having lived here 14 months, he is still arriving, still new and still adjusting to living with us. He tries hard, and has good moments and rough spots. He doesn’t yet manage to have good entire days, but we praise and celebrate the good moments, where he tolerates dogs and humans alike and we try to address the rough spots with firm, kind support.

Peeka has changed the most. I decreased her dose of Prozac earlier this summer but she has been on the same lower dose for months. Since Lily’s death, Peeka has become more independent and more adventurous on our walks, while at the same time more obedient. When I first starting hiking with Peeka, she was glued to me, much the way Brody is now. Hawk or Cinder were always out in front, leading and alerting us all to the wildlife or hikers in our midst. That has totally changed. Peeka is always the leader now.

Her prey drive is problematic, but her nose is uncanny. She tells me when I need to call all the dogs and change direction, long before Hawk’s or Cinder’s ears go up. She is fearless, flying off after a scent without a second look, often alone. In the past, she would only jet if Hawkitt went first. Now Hawkitt hangs back and watches, and willingly obeys my casual “let’s go!” even if Peeka is barreling down the mountain, yipping like a coyote.

Hawkitt is more connected to me, more affectionate, and more obedient too. He was always affectionate, but more interested in roughhousing and crazy play than just snuggling. These days he barely manages to walk around the pond without stopping for a lovefest with me.

Peeka is also more active, more restless, and more playful with me these days. I bear the scars of all this, as she has no idea how to play and her repertoire includes body slamming and biting. She turns herself inside out trying to seduce Cinder and Brody to play with her, and in addition to her body slamming and biting, she will playbow repeatedly and do the classic running-diving playbows. Both Cinder and Brody growl or ignore her. That hasn’t changed.

I’ve changed. I am more relaxed, and yet more attentive. I no longer have that distracted feeling of being torn — half of me here with the young dogs, and half of me indoors, worrying and feeling sad for Lily. I have more energy for working with them – for Hawk, this means training and tricks. For Cinder, more playtime and more snuggles. And for Peeka and Brody, more challenges and more opportunities to lose some bad habits, grow through some issues, and develop into even more resilient and stable beings. It’s a tall order, but for the first time in a long long while, I feel hopeful about both of them.

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Photo by Kristie Burnett

 

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