I mentioned to my therapist at the last session that I seem to have a very short fuse of late. My patience is wafer thin. Little things make me explode. And I realized I had a discernable problem when
1) Bella told me it made her "sad" when I "yelled at the dogs," and
2) I caught Bella roaming around the kitchen saying "Fuck" over and over.
Yeah. That would be MY cheery (sea-faring) disposition she's channeling, thank you very much. Please spell my name correctly when you submit that mother-of-the-year award.
Ostensibly, this has zero to do with grief and everything to do with my life as it is currently. Except for the fact that I was never a short-tempered person. I was told by many that I had the patience of a saint, sometimes to my detriment ("Why on EARTH did you wait around that long?! Don't you realize we're going to be LATE now? I would've said something!")
I once wrote that the deadbaby thing had caused me to undergo the following change: Big things slide off my back like water off a whale. Little things freak me the fuck out.
We're renovating the kitchen. Which is a short way of staying, altering four staircases, blowing through a wall, moving a fire-box, and getting some new appliances and flooring while we're at it. And our architect and contractor have gone out of their way to tell us that we're by far the easiest people they've worked with in a while. We make decisions quickly. We're clear-headed and grasp changes. We put up with a lot of hassle (strange guys running through my house, a big smelly dumpster parked outside my back door, noise a go-go, using a wee kitchen on the third floor until Halloween at the least) with aplomb.
And then my dog eats a block of Manchengo, and I dissolve into tears cleaning up shit-sour-cheese barf off my floor, while I call him all sorts of things I think I heard in a Sopranos episode.
Gaping holes with 10-foot drops under my staircase? Whatever, we'll work around it. Dog puke on my rug? Madly scramble for my therapist's email.
We never trained Buddy properly when he got here seeing as I was in a state of shock, and Buddy was hardly able to right himself -- what with the two metal plates in his leg and the umpteen screws holding them in and the hip that never went back in the socket. But we decided a few months ago it would behoove us all if Buddy knew some basic commands, most especially "leave it" (he lives to chase and bark at neighbors down the fenceline) and staying off the counters. Mr. ABF called a dog trainer who had successfully turned a couple of high-wired dogs we knew into docile, obedient pups, and one morning we were all introduced to The Dog Whisperer.
This trainer is into the whole pack mentality thang, where you -- owner -- are the Alpha. There was a lot of chatter about wolves which I found somewhat fascinating, but honestly was fairly distracted by considering whether to blog about the dream-catcher I saw affixed to her auto's rear-view mirror. She lay down some rules and scenarios, I tried my best not to giggle. And Buddy actually responded. For 2-3 days there, I thought she was onto something.
The real plus to this method of training is that she doesn't want any negative reinforcement. In fact, she wants no speaking whatsoever. She wants all of the initial alpha-induction to be done with body language -- posture, eye movements, heavy sighing. And so I suddenly found myself not yelling at my dog. Which was nice for everyone. It was actually a significant blood pressure reducer to know that when I caught Buddy on the counter gulping down the cat food, that I didn't need to dream up some other combination of "fucking asshole," that I could simply grab him by the collar and give him a time-out for a few before letting him back in the room and ignoring him. That's pretty much how I try and treat my husband when I'm mad at him anyway, so I thought I'd be pretty good at it. I began to worry less about catching Bella chastising a poor stuffed Clifford in her room: "You Motherfucker!"
But I think we all missed a critical component here: As it turns out, I cannot be an Alpha. I dare Runs-with-Dogs-Woman to find a pack of wolves where the Alpha is interrupted from food allocation to tend to finding a roll of toilet paper for a whining pup two caves over. I'm willing to bet I can find a National Geographic episode that clearly demonstrates some strong yet complaint female wolf off the side, exhale deeply and mutter "Don't worry, I'LL get it," while stalking off. If anything, the counter-surfing problem has become worse since we instituted this program. Buddy now hangs around while I cook dinner, knowing full well that somewhere in there a scream will emanate from Bella's room or the bathroom -- "MOM! HELP! NOW!" -- that I must tend to immediately, and in the 12 seconds I'm around the corner making sure I don't need police assistance, Buddy eats dinner. And now knows all he's getting in return is silent, solitary confinement. He actually snarls a tad when I go for his collar now. According to Dances-with-Canines, Alphas are to enter the room with authority, and not look at their underlings until peace is assured. Well! She shoulda seen me enter the room after finding out Jamie Lynn Spears named her daughter "Maddie." Shoulders drooping, in search of coffee, needing 30 minutes to steel myself with space gazing before moving onto something else constructive, Buddy read the signs and aimed for the stale pastry I had left sitting next to my mug. I didn't even bother.
And I knew I was in trouble at my aunt's when I went to correct him and he gave me what can only be described as a "HaHa, you think you can handle THIS?" look. I turned to my husband and said:
"I am his bitch."
Buddy has figured this all out. He was never Alpha to begin with -- that was Max ("Like HELL it was," snots Tucker Cat, chortling over my keyboard) -- but I really think this whole programme has elevated his status. Our little den experiment here has shattered any authority I may have had over my dog, and clarified for me that I really don't give a shit about the process, I want the end result. I'm devoid of patience, and lack the time. I no longer yell, which is good, but now when he eats the loaf of bread through the wrapper while I'm inconveniently poking my head around the corner to tell Bella to please leave the clothes dryer alone, I mutter not-so-much under my breath: "g'damn it, shithead." He smiles. Bella takes note. This has not been good for the reduction in bad language. Not so very much.
I have made it rather clear that while I see how this method can work, that it is probably not for us. I would much prefer getting the electric fence guys to come into my new kitchen and mining the counter so that Buddy gets a rude awakening the next time he goes to see if Bella left any cereal in her bowl. I figure one or two of those and he'll get the message. I may not be Alpha, but mama is no fool.
There's a lot more to the patience-thinning-swearing-uptick in my life that has to do with my overwhelming "To-Do" lists and the fact that I can't seem to break out of the fire drill status that takes over my day beginning with "Mom! My clock says it's 7:00! Yours does too!" I'm also not so vapid to understand that there is most likely some subconscious reason for not straying too far in advance of the present, and not prioritizing things like "Call RE" and "Make mammogram appointment" and "Fix Up Bella's playroom" on the list because they are psychologically fraught. They all involve discussions, ghosts, disturbing locations, medical technology I now find deeply suspect and rather pointless, future appointments, decisions, moving forward. Much easier to fill the days with insurmountable tasks like ordering goody-bag favors.
I told Mr. ABF when he announced he had an appointment set up with She-Who-Communicates-by-Barking (on a rare Bella-free morning near the onset of summer) that I didn't consider this a priority. Sure, Buddy was a bit of a headache, but a nothing a good loud stream of profanity couldn't fix (at least in my psyche). I poke fun, but really I believe her methods are valid and work. I've seen her with Buddy, and he is an entirely different animal around her. But not around me. I'm not an Alpha. I have never wanted to lead, I have never wanted to shoulder the responsibility for the entire pack. I like sharing and getting welcomed immediately at the door. I just like my dinner where I left it 10 seconds ago. And so, we may revert to methods that cause the DogHealer to shudder through her dream-catcher and pick up the phone to the ASPCA. I'd like to use shock-treatment to get us quickly to the end-game. In more ways than one.