Small to Huge Overnight

Years ago we raised chicks and ducks in our basement bathroom. It was a large bathroom – laughingly so- it was large and ugly. Very outdated but warm and quiet- perfect for a couple of brooders (bird nursery). When we first decided to raise ducks we got three ducklings on a whim from tractor supply. They were so tiny and SO cute. They get you with their cuteness. These ducks were Pekin ducks. They get to be quite large. At the time I knew nothing about these ducks except I had seen them on the menu at most Chinese food restaurants!

I set up their brooder in the bathroom one February weekend. We oohed and ahh’ed at their cuteness and took lots of photos and videos. Three days in I could not believe how much they had already grown. Kevin- who at the time had an office in the basement- would go in to check on them (and maybe to use the facilities)and he swore they grew from hour to hour. And I think it was true. By the time I let them out to the real world I was done with ducks (not ducklings anymore) in the bathroom (though I did it again a few years after this! short memory!)

This growth is uncanny – it happens in real time – you feel like you can see it. The same has happened with my Golden Doodle Del. He is hardly the tiny puppy that he was when he came here. And we expect that right? But I hardly feel like he was a little pup at all. Like I cannot recall what he looked like – I look at photos and think he was never that small. But he was – but for like one day! He has grown so fast that I can honestly say that he would go in his crate one size at night and leap out of it the next morning – and he does leap out- as a bigger version of the dog who went in. That kind of growth has to hurt!

Del is now a huge, leggy, 6.5 month old joyful and boisterous puppy. He is 63 lbs. For reference Rudy – my golden- was probably less then 50 lbs at the same age. Del is not a giant breed. But his mix can get large. At his growth rate he could be over 90 pounds! I am hoping not. He is already a lot to handle.

We joke it was some type of gamma radiation that has caused this growth rate. When he came home he was as large as my mother’s Corgi mix who weighs in at 18 lbs. Within a week he was much bigger than she and now he towers over all my other dogs. All of whom are not small dogs. Del doesn’t weight more than the adult dogs yet but in height he towers over them by 2-3 inches! A couple of our dogs took their merry time in accepting the likes of this new puppy. I kept telling them that he was going to get big and then what? And now they look up to him maybe not in admiration but definitely in stature. They have also decided that he isn’t too bad. They are adjusting still. They do play together now but there is posturing and this will continue probably forever because they are male.

Del will need to be neutered. There are so many varying opinions on when to do this. Some say for males to wait at least a year – some even say 2 years. Rudy was neutered at age 2. I waited with him because he was not dominate – though he was mounting our lab a lot and never stopped after neutering- which is why I am not waiting two years again! So I am less inclined to wait two years. I know there is a chance if we do it before his growth plates seal that he could become taller. It can increase the issues for other health problems if done too soon and lower risks for others!

I think our vet will recommend to wait until he is a year but only if he doesn’t exhibit behavioral issues such as mounting humans, or aggressive behavior towards humans and dogs. I will be honest -I am leaning towards sooner. Like in May. I have many reasons for it. But my main one is that I don’t want him to become too high on his horse and try to rule all the dogs here because he is intact. If he is the leader of the pack eventually thats fine. I just don’t want a bully situation. I think neutering mellows them some. Thats also can’t hurt with training and maybe his ability to walk on the lead better.

Del can be a handful on lead. I have been working with him on many things. He can sit, lay down, shake, twirl, sit for getting his lead on, wait and not bolt out the door when we are going out with him, he can stay pretty well if I am carrying his food bowl around and inside if I have a treat. We are working on the stay- inside is better than outside. But he is terribly exuberant outside. So this has been a the challenge. I have begun to try to manage and train away some of the behavior issues. Pulling – I am using a head lead now which is the manage part of the issue. I was using a Gentle Leader type device but I found a very neat regular leash that makes into a head lead. I got it on Etsy and I haven’t tried it on a long walk yet because the weather has been hideous here. But on a short walk he did well with it. I will post videos of it on IG and FB. The head lead is an adjustment for dogs and they will try to get them off – not because they hurt but because they work! It is the same idea as with a horse with a halter on. I have not used it enough yet to have a full verdict on it. I feel like I have his attention more with leads like this and I can train him better.

For me this head lead is like night and day walking him. I need to be safe walking him. I need to have control. Since I have nerve damage I can’t have him yanking my arms. I feel with this type of lead and consistent training there will be a time when he won’t need this. But he needs it now. I have tried a number of no-pull harnesses and he walks with one on so I can switch between then when we go on long walks. But the head lead seems to be the better one for me at the moment. We will see how we progress.

Barking! I think Del gets his barking gene from the poodle part of him! He is more wary of people and maybe because he hasn’t been as well socialized with humans because of covid – so on walks he will bark at approaching people and other dogs. So I began to use a product called Pet Corrector. It is a a can of air that makes an annoying hiss sound. It is annoying I will say that. So when we approach others we ask Del to sit and not to bark. If he does this he gets a treat but if he barks we use the spray. I hold it behind me so he doesn’t see it. But it does get his attention. He was barking at the door in the house along with our higher strung collie mix. I used this spray and it has curbed the worst of the barking. On walks it is going to take time and just having him become more socialized. He is never aggressive once a person wants to pet him. But he looks scary when he barks and carries on because he is so large. He has been good with new dogs as well on the few occasions he has met one.

I will admit I thought for some reason getting a puppy during COVID would be better for his socialization. I am not sure why. I mean everyone has to stay six feet away from us. I think I just got sucked into the COVID puppy vortex! I really have no regrets. Having five dogs again (my moms makes 6) in the house is a challenge especially because of his size but after Ridley died last January it seemed like we lost this big personality. And Del is a sassy and funny guy. He is not hyper and is really pretty calm for a puppy. I keep telling people we will get down to three dogs and not go back up to this many. But nobody believes me. It is true I have a thing about dogs but I know we aren’t getting younger and having less dogs will make sense in the not so distant future. So that is the plan. Who knows if we (I) will stick to it.

Having a puppy was challenging in the first month but it just went too fast! I can say that there have been moments where I have been down during the pandemic and Del has made me laugh – belly laugh- every single day since he has been with us. He is loving to all of us and already very dedicated to me. I know this because so often I turn around in the bathroom and I see that he has nosed his way in and is just sitting there watching me brush my teeth. Thats dedication! We will see where he ends up on the size chart only time will tell. And of course it doesn’t matter how big he gets. It is just fun speculating.

Having a puppy does make you feel joyful and hopeful – these are things I think the world needs now. Thats probably why there have been so many dog and cat adoptions during COVID. Animals give us a break from the human world. They can look into your eyes and make you feel loved – then they try to nip your nose or breath their foul breath in your face and you laugh. They are likely saving many lives during COVID just for the company they give. I have said before- a life for me would not be a life without a dog in it. I stand by that- and I am sure many others join me in that feeling (dog/cat/bird/horse etc) especially during COVID. I owe my pets a debt of thanks. Truly grateful for them.

input-data crunch-output

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

I have had dogs for many years and I am always amazed at how they learn. They are sponges the way they take in the world around them and form their behaviors as a result of that environment. 

Dogs learn from other dogs from the very start of their lives. Their mother teaches them about food and water and then that feeds their instinct to survive. She teaches them bite inhibition and they learn how to play by interacting with their littermates. 

Dogs learn from other dogs too if they have them in their homes and at the dog park. I am raising a puppy now and I am amazed at he mirrors the behaviors of our other dogs. Dogs of course form some of their behaviors because of instinct but they do learn from observation. He has learned proper etiquette in a pack of dogs by being corrected by them. My puppy has learned the art of calming down by watching my other dogs settle down for an afternoon snooze.  

He also has learned form watching humans and from training . He learns how to live as a dog in a human world. Dogs learn what is expected of them and because they for the most part like to please humans they modify there behavior to be able to live with us and I think they do so with happiness. 

Or if they don’t have positive modeling a dog can become what we would call a “bad dog”.  It is uncanny how what the dog sees and learns – the inputs- can create the type of dog he will be – output. 

I was a programmer and software engineer in my past. And I sometimes look at things in that logical vain. A program gives us information after we have given it input and it thinks about what it was given and then gives us output…its view of the info we sent it. 

 Input- crunch data – output

I was thinking about this today as I watch my dogs interact. And I thought about this is terms of how humans learn from birth – it is different than dogs of course  – our minds are complex but the way we form as humans  – the information we get (the input) -from our very first breath- is coming at us and we begin to develop (crunch data in our immature brains) our worldview and sense of self(output). 

It is in this early time that we are given most of our input from our family. We had schools and friends and Tv and now there is social media as well. But what we saw at home mostly influenced what developed our worldview – our truth based mostly on our families inputs. Positive and negative.

As we become teens we begin to see the outer world in a more real way. We may then begin to question our parents worldview if we see things that stand in opposition to what we have been taught in our homes. -We begin to form our own worldview – our own truth. 

What is truth? If we each have our own idea of it is any of it real? Truth only exists in the mind. We can get input like – the sky is blue and we can decide if that is true or not. 

Some of the input we receive help us to develop our values and morals. 

It is amazing how two people can receive the same input and have a vastly different opinion or learning experience from It (output). And our worldview can change at any time based on more input. 

One person may see a racially unjust society while another thinks there is opportunity for everyone. 

We are fed so much information in this day and age from many sources. I have Apple News and Facebook and Twitter, Tv news, podcasts, and family. There is so much. So much to influence how we can see the world. How do we decide what is right? What we hear at any given minute can form or reform our truth. It kind of freaks me out. We each can see one thing in such a different way. Like the witnesses of a car accident or a robbery all giving conflicting stories. 

We are all living with differing version of reality. 

Wow-

How do we coexist with each other when we each have a version of truth that differs values that may conflict? 

Well we see recently that it can be very hard to do.  

I think we all need the willingness to step outside of ourselves. I try so hard to step back from my views and look at the big picture so I can be sure I am not  being sucked in by some false observation – or maybe I will have an input that I misread or decide that it means something else entirely than I first thought.  I need to be willing to take all the input and reprocess it and to see if my output changes. Many times discussion between humans can help change our perspective and view on a topic…maybe seeing something else through another persons eyes may not change your view but can invoke compassion and care for the other person.

New real life experience can change us too. I know cancer changed mine.

As I have matured I try to choose the truth that sides with compassion, love, giving, respect and tolerance. A view that doesn’t stew in anger and one that can be helpful.  It is easy to tear things down. Harder to build them back up. I have failed myself and rebooted many times. But I am glad I am open to do that. We will always be part of our past. If we shed beliefs they kind of follow us around…like they are still attached – and we can pick them back up again but we want to be sure they are worth taking back.

I am always working on my worldview. But great writers and seers and philosophers leaned on love as truth. So I try to process my inputs using that algorithm. I can’t say that it’s the absolute right way but it’s is the right way for me. My reality.  I am a work in progress and will always be. Ask me next week- I might have a different worldview. 

But we all have adapt to a world of people who live different truths.

It is hard to get along in this world with so many different truths lolling about. We all think we are right. But in order to get along we have to look outside ourselves and as my husband says “model the behaviors we want from others”.

Little signs 

I have been so sad about the flooding in Texas. My brother lives in Austin. He had lots of rain and wind but no flooding. He is safe. His family is safe. But so many others are not. It’s really so sad we can’t put words to it. 

I’ve wanted to write this week but I wanted it so be something that might bring joy or a smile or warmth. So many people are suffering and don’t we suffer just a little when we see our fellow man in such peril? So I have a little story that will maybe bring you some joy -or you might shake your head and laugh. 

Because I got a sign. Not a sign but a SIGN!

The other day I was talking to my mother in law. She’s in heaven -or the great beyond. Whatever you want to call it. To me it’s heaven. We lost her just over a month ago. My heart still hurts and it will for a while -she was my good good friend for almost 20 years. 

Anyway I talk to her. I feel her so near to me. I can’t explain it. But maybe it’s the way she felt her husband near her after he passed away in 2015. She felt him in bed on his side next to her every night.  Oh and he made visits to us too. I’ve written about the time he was sitting watching kevin build our chicken coop. Kevin saw him out of the corner of his eye -twice. Dad would have loved being part of building that coop!  

So she’s gone and the hours long conversations on the phone are gone too. Often I’d talk to her then hang up and dial my mother. Those days are gone. But my mom lives here so the chats can continue in person.  But there is a hole left where mom sweeney once was. I feel her close but it’s not the same. 

So I talk. She’d want that.  The other day while I was talking to her I asked her to send me a sign she was ok. 

I said ” maybe you could put a white rose on my pink rose bush or put flowers where they wouldn’t really grow.”

I went on with my day and didn’t think about it again until a day or two later I saw this. 


This was a pot of weeds on my deck. I hadn’t planted in there in two or three years because my dogs would tear up the pot and eat the flowers. Last spring I pulled weeds out but weeds kept growing. This year a big stalk grew out of it and the boys removed that a month ago or more – and the pot was supposed to go into the big dumpster we have out front now as we clean things out from a basement flood and the junk that accumulates when three generations are living in a house. 

But now there are flowers in the pot! There weren’t any all summer. Just weeds. 

I take this as a sign. 

I’m not sure what others think but all I know is it brought me joy in a week with a lot of sad stuff going on. 

I’ll take it. 

Hope this made you smile or laugh – it’s all good. 

Thank you’s and angels. 

This past week I had my 53rd birthday.  I think back over the last three years and all my family has been through and along the way I am reminded of all the love that has been given. 

This past summer I ended up in bed in pain and I was in misery. I had days where I didn’t want to keep going. It seems on those days that Kevin would bring the mail in and there would be a card from someone that would encourage me     – Or I’d get a text or Facebook pm from someone checking on me just when I needed an encouraging and caring word. We received meals twice a week for a couple months. I don’t even know who many of the senders were as it was all coordinated by a close friend of mine. The meals were a lifesaver. I couldn’t cook at all and there are only so many things Kevin can cook though he got more creative under pressure:)

 It is said that God puts Angels on earth to help us and to encourage us. These notes , messages, texts and meals were my little gifts of love and encouragement from those angels.  

Love surpasses all things. We don’t have to agree on everything, not one of us is the same and none of us is right all the time or nice all the time. But acts of love and encouragement transcend all that is different about each of us. It’s what brings us together. We are all on this earth trying to survive and learn what the heck this place is all about. 

We can survive without love -I suppose -but it’s a lonely existence. We need eachother.  We humans should take the cue from other animals. Most species need to be around others of their species to survive. 

We humans have more things alike than we have different. Just when we might feel we’ve lost faith in the human race something will pop up on our Facebook feed that makes us change our minds. There is hope for us. 

The notes and texts and messages and meals and calls and little gifts I have received over the last three years -and especially in the last six months have meant the world to me.  They kept me going during some very low and sad times. There aren’t enough ways to say thank you. My words can’t convey what they’ve meant to me. 

I haven’t quite figured this human experience out yet. I have a strong faith in God and I suspect many of my questions will be answered when my time here is completed.  I have faith that God that knows what he’s doing even when I don’t understand it. In the meantime I want to live my life to the fullest that I can and I want make people feel loved and cared for especially when they are down. Just like what was done for me. 

Maybe the best way I can say thank you to all those who have reached out to me is to simply pay all the kindness and love forward.  We can all be angels on earth -it just takes a little effort to make this world a better place. And it feels pretty good to be an angel too. 

God Bless to all of my angels near and far. I won’t forget your love to me.  I love you all. 

photo credit : Realm of Kindness on Facebook

Just wake me when the ball starts dropping…..

celebration-horn-300x243I love the week between Christmas and New Years; the world just seems to slow down. I think I am going to spend the last few days of this year chilling out – maybe read some. Maybe sleep. One day we will visit family from out of town who came to see all of us after my father-in-law passed away last week at the age of 91. I am emotionally exhausted and I need to take a breather.

I want to wind the year down quietly. We were supposed to go skiing in Western Maryland this week and those plans have been put on hold. Not only because of my father-in-laws death – we still may have gone for a night or two- but also because there is only one slope open at the resort – and it is supposed to rain for the entire time we booked our place. If it happens to look more promising in the next couple days we can make the two-hour trek up to the resort and stay a night. I don’t ski anyway – I was hoping for snow tubing – which isn’t open. It is almost like the universe is saying, “just take a breather Anne”.

I have never been a big New Years Eve celebrator. That is not to say I haven’t tried to celebrate it but it always turned out flat- I never felt the elation when that clocked clicked into the New Year.

Maybe going from 1999-2000 was kind of exciting as my mom, my husband, and I sat up waiting for the some catastrophic event to happen because someone forgot to re-program the clock in some important computer somewhere. Nothing happened- which was reason to celebrate- I suppose.

I can recall yet another New Years Eve memory – one of me puking out the passenger side window of my boyfriends car… it was one of the rare times my parents allowed me to go out on New Years Eve in high school. That didn’t end well.

New years Eve is too forced a night for me – and there are too many nuts out drinking and getting behind the wheel. These days, Kevin and I don’t go out – the entire family falls asleep watching TV -after eating some yummy but not good for us food and I normally wake to the countdown of the new year and then wake whoever is piled on the couch and we sleepily cheer and hug and then we head to our respective beds and sleep away the first hours of the new year. It is lovely.

A couple years ago I awoke at 12:02 am and jumped up. I missed the turn of the new year! I always wake up. And as I woke from my haze of dismay I looked over to see my son, Luke, staring at the TV.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I asked.

“Oh sorry.” He said “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I told you to wake me before the ball dropped!”

“Oh – but your were really asleep…”

Gah! You can’t win with teens. I woke Kevin up and we went to bed – maybe just a little off kilter – amazing how our night of not celebrating still had a small iota of celebration in it such that if we missed that ball drop it was still a bit disappointing.

I hope someone wakes me this year if I am asleep. Wake me when the ball drops peeps!

As for resolutions, I stopped making them a long while ago. They never stick with me. I have resolved to quit cussing many times – well that didn’t work at all – my world loses a little color if I cant use salty language from time to time- ok it is more often than time to time but I like a lot of color in my world.

One year we had a cussing jar. We set it in our family room if Kevin(who rarely cusses) or I cussed we would have to put fifty cents in the jar. I think we collected a few dollars – not because I didn’t cuss- I just got plain irritated at the jar and the kids telling me I cussed- so they stopped telling me. Cuss jar forgotten – resolution forgotten.

Then there is the eating better resolution. I already eat pretty well and the things I eat that aren’t great for me I really enjoy eating. Like bagels.. I love them. I eat gluten free bagels most of the time and usually I only eat a half at breakfast. So on the days I want to eat one really super-good gluten filled bagel I am going to do it – and I am going to like it- ok maybe I have a bit of guilt but it’s short-lived. This same thing applies to cookies, ice cream and chocolate.

Do not deny me chocolate when I need it (I am feeling the urge now as I write…I think there is a piece of Ghirardelli in my freezer- Kevin is checking – God love that man. Yes – score – a hidden treat has been found.).

In the past I have resolved to pray more, read the Bible more, meditate more, better serve my fellowman, love more. More, more, better, better – those words just cause too much pressure and undo stress I think. So now I don’t make resolutions.

Eating better or praying more or being more loving aren’t bad things in themselves. They are all good things but there is something about these things when they come as a resolution in the new year that makes it seem required and for me that is too much pressure – what if I eat badly, what if I don’t pray for a few days, what if I am in a really crummy mood and not very loving for a day or two? Have I failed because I didn’t live up to my resolution?

Face it – most of folks who don’t make a resolution don’t live up to them. We are only human after all. I have realized that there are areas where I could strive to improve but if I don’t -I haven’t failed…I have just been human.

So this week I am going to be thankful for the year I am leaving behind. It was a tough year in many ways but it was also a year I learned much, and it was a year where I had much joy and many blessings.

I will look toward the next year with hope. Hope for a good year financially, and a good year for my teens -that they face their own challenges with strength and fortitude because being a teen these days is really hard.

I will pray for health and safety for my family. I will pray for my friends and for this world that seems riddled with anger and hate. I will hope that-though quieter- that love will win over loud nasty hate. I will always hope for peace…maybe it is lofty and a pie in the sky dream but I hope for it anyway.

In 2016, I hope I have more joy than hardship. I hope that when I am faced with the tough times I have the strength to get through them in one piece – and I pray that I will have my eyes wide open enough to see and cherish the many joys that will surely be part of my days. I hope that I will end the year a bit wiser then when it began. For that I will be grateful.

And I will always be grateful for chocolate.

Happy New Year!