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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line

Do you remember the Cake song The Distance? Or have you ever even heard it? It was a favorite of mine back in the day.

I've got a couple weeks yet to pull this all together and get going. I guess I can't say I'm reluctantly crouched at the starting line, more like I'm expectantly crouched at the starting line, but that's just a small detail.

I'm trying to identify the categories of my happiness project. I know I want to start with a work focus, but what comes next?

I told Deb about the project and the book Sunday afternoon. We sat in the kitchen and chatted about it for a while - she was pretty enthusiastic for me. "But I don't know what I should focus on throughout the different months," I said. Without missing a beat, she said, "Oh! You should have a Sunny month!" I felt myself bristle. For some reason I'm very sensitive to criticism where my dog is concerned. Not that there isn't room for improvement, au contraire! It's just unpleasant to have my weak "parenting" skills brought to my attention, especially by my roommate who arguably has the most annoying cat on the face of this fine planet! But once I got over being offended, I realized that a Sunny month would actually be a brilliant idea.

Sunshine, my almost 10 year old lab/boxer/god-only-knows mix, is a very sweet old lady. I've had her since the summer before my senior year in high school. She's been everywhere with me since then. To Spokane after my high school graduation and back to Illinois again 9 months later, up to my first apartment in Chicago, on to my second apartment in Chicago, up to Michigan with me countless times, on extended backpacking trips, on day hikes, on runs, on to Portland after college graduation, up and down Mt. Tabor with me every morning for a year before she tore her ACL - she's been my constant companion for 9+ years. Some people have significant others or best friends, I have Sunshine. Some people have a FWB they snuggle up to on cold nights. I have a Smelly Sweet Potato.

Before I go on, I should mention Sunny has several names, all of which she responds to (as much as she responds to her real name, which is not that often/consistently): Sunshine, Sunny, Sunny-Bunny, Smelly Sweet Potato, Shitzky Britches, Stinks/Stinky/Stinky Beans, Miss Pretty, Lady, Monkey and Pierre. She has two bad hips and a very distinguished mustache these days. And a truckload of annoying habits.

1. She wakes me up whenever she feels like eating in the morning, usually before 5 a.m. I used to feed her in the evening, but I was home at such inconsistent times in the evenings that often my roommates would feed her because she would pester them when I couldn't be found at her usual feeding time. This confused her. She didn't quite know who she belonged to. It didn't help that she played musical beds and that my house was in a constant state of flux, with folks moving in and out every couple months. She began behaving badly. When I began insisting she sleep in my room and receive her food from me, exclusively, a lot of this behavior cleared up. But she's incrementally pushed up her feeding time over the months. At about 4 a.m. she begins nudging me. When I roll over she jumps out of bed and comes around the side to stick her cold nose in my face. When that doesn't work she begins to whine. And when that doesn't work, she gives a low, throaty bark. Right in my face. Yep. Not exactly desirable. I know it takes exactly 7 minutes for me to feed her, let her out to go to the bathroom, and be back in bed, so I usually cave. But by then the damage has been done, I'm awake. And I have a really hard time going back to sleep and, when I finally do, sometimes an entire hour or so later, I have an even harder time waking up.

desired behavior: Sunny gets up when my alarm clock goes off, at a more respectable hour, like seven o'clock.

2. She chases Puddle, and generally scares the crap out of her. I've excused this behavior because, I reason, at least she has no intention of hurting Puddle, she just wants to sniff her for a while, maybe lick her butt. But Deb doesn't like it and Puds certainly doesn't either.

desired behavior: She entirely ignores Puddle. Or at the very least responds to me telling her to stay when I'm letting Puddle in/out.

3. She sleeps in my bed and generally feels entitled to every soft surface in the house.

desired behavior: *She sleeps on her pillow.

*I should mention I don't really want this. I love snuggling with Sunny. But it seems like the adult thing to expect of her. Or, I know some dogs that only get in bed/on couches when invited, which would be best.

4. She sheds EVERYWHERE, in big tufts I refer to as Sunny Tumbleweeds. That and she has really itchy skin and scratches herself a lot. That and she doesn't smell great.

desired behavior: She learns some basic housekeeping/common decency/personal hygiene and begins sweeping up after herself, practicing self-control and bathing more frequently.

realistically: I get better about grooming her - a chore I loathe.

5. She annoys people by begging/nudging them. All the time. But especially when they're eating.

desired behavior: She responds to the command, "Go away" or "Pillow."

Okay, so there will be a Sunny month.

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