Divide and Conquer

I assumed the responsibility of principle dog walker even before Mr. Knitting Sarah and I were dating, way back beyond recorded history when we were just friends and it was his dog, not mine. I didn’t grow up with animals until I was a teenager and then it was cats. I didn’t know the first thing about dogs and because of this I had little trust for them and was pretty all-around wary of them. This all changed when at 21 years old I moved in as a roommate with two friends, one being the man who we now know as Mr. Knitting Sarah (it’s a long, winding story — I’ll leave it at that for now) who had a beautiful dog named Becket. Becket was an Akita/Shepherd mix who was as sweet as could be with family and friends, but notoriously did not like many people outside his inner circle and, well, let’s just say he was an excellent guard dog.

I will never forget the first day I got back to my new apartment when no one else was home and Becket greeted me at the front door. We stood for a moment watching each other, trying to decide what move the other would make. I figured it was even odds that he’d let me in or make sure I exited quickly. After a moment, I said, “Do you want to go for a walk?” and I reached for his leash. In that moment, he leaped in the air with joy and from that moment on we were always friends. He and I shared a walk or two daily for the rest of his life.

It’s something I really love, whether it’s on a trail out in a natural area or around the neighborhood, I love taking those walks with my canine friends. The fresh air, the bonding with the inimitable spirit of a dog, and just the sheer joy of that daily walk helps me to appreciate all those subtle changes that happen in the world around us every single day. I’ve carried on the daily walk routine with Moose throughout his entire life and now with Bear as well.

This week was marked a turning point at our house, though. With Bear hurtling toward giant status, I had to finally admit that walking both dogs at once (now weighing close to 150lbs between the two) was no longer good for anyone. Even with a kid along willing to help, it was just too much chaos with a lab who has so much love for everyone and a puppy who is still learning his manners. So this week I started adjusting the boys to a new schedule where each dog gets their own walk with me.

At first it was a little sad to leave one dog behind as the one not leashed up  stares at me heartbroken (I don’t know why, but if you ask them, I am an amazing walking companion), but all it took was one day to see the huge difference it made for all of us. My walks with Moose are dreamy.

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Oh wait, that’s just Moose dreaming!

In any case, he used to be a horrible tow truck of a dog just pulling like his life depended on it on walks, but now because of how much I had to revisit my training skills with Bear and maybe because Moose is happy to bond and get the 1-on-1 time, he is the picture of perfection when he walks. He listens, he rarely pulls, and we just really enjoy our time together outside so much. A couple days ago, we stopped to watch Bald Eagles courting over a nearby field. Yesterday we stopped to listen to the flock of a couple hundred robins a few streets over from our house.

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I wake up excited for my walk with Moose every single day. It is a breath of fresh air, a joy that I feel privileged to experience each day.

Bear’s walks, of course, are more work right now than play.

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This guy hasn’t quite figured out how to appropriately express how excited he is to meet new people and dogs. Unfortunately, it tends to come out in excited growls and barking which can be off-putting to potential new friends when you’re 50+lbs, with shaggy black fur, and puppy levels of energy. He’s figuring it out, but it’s a process and it just takes time and lots of practice. And while it’s a very different experience than walking Moose, I can’t help but feel lucky that I get to help guide this sweet pup as he learns about the world around him. Every time I practice recall on our walk and call him back to me I’m reminded of this as his giant paddles/paws, floppy ears, and toothy grin full of love and joy eventually flollop  back to me.

What I’m think about every day as I walk these boys is to be mindful that every person and every project and every task has a different starting point and different requirements and that it’s important to factor those points into my expectations, to meet each person, project, and task from its own unique starting point. It can be very easy to be frustrated when a spinning project takes a little longer than I expect, just like it can be hard to remember not to hold Bear up to the same standard we are used to with our 7-year-old been-there-done-that-mastered-my-manners Moose.

It can be frustrating, if you leave out the dog training and homeschooling and life living, to know that these two bobbins have been sitting for a few days, waiting to be skeined instead of drying and finished.

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Just like if you don’t take into account his breed and personality, it can be hard to accept that Bear is much more stubborn and is taking his own sweet time learning to really listen.

It can be hard to admit that even though the bobbins for this project are just under 1.5oz each I’m only getting one finished each night.

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Just like it can be hard to admit that I really can’t walk two giant dogs at once.

Sometimes it’s important to divide and conquer, to split things up and carve manageable pieces out of larger scale projects. In a world where multi-tasking is revered as king, there is still something important to be said for taking more time in order to give things the attention they deserve. To do a job well,  sometimes that means you will progress more slowly. If you want to be joyful in what you do, you have to allow your expectations to honestly jive with realty.

Maybe that means that with spring here, you busy tidying the yard and house and are just plugging away with a round of two of that latest sock WIP each day instead of logging inches upon inches each day…

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Maybe that means that instead of spinning, you’re taking this mutt on your second dog walk of the day…

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Maybe that means instead having all these letters circled and thus all these singles done for this project…

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You are just starting bobbin 3 out of 6 tonight.

Whatever the realty of the requirements of your next task, the place from which your next student needs to begin learning from, or how much of an uphill battle your upcoming round of puppy courses may be…

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May you be unafraid to divide and conquer where necessary and may you be inspired to allow your expectations to play nicely with reality.

The World Falls Away

It feels like I have barely stopped moving since Tuesday evening when we brought our little Bear home. All the things happening outside of my home have fallen away as I focus on trying to find the right balance and rhythm to everyday life again. The fact that holidays are approaching in mere days is inconceivable.

I’m woefully behind in all previous planning as I work on savoring these puppy days. On Wednesday Bear became aware of what a leash is and we learned that one of the best ways to teach him is to have Moose lead the way. Now being on a leash is almost entirely about keeping up with his big brother! On Thursday, he discovered pine cones and had his first bath. On Friday, he found out he could play with sticks. Today he learned how much fun a tennis ball can be and went for a walk on his first trail hike and I am still picking the little burs out of his long coat.

As I tried to explain to my mom on the phone, having a 7 week old puppy in the house is kind of like having a toddler and an infant rolled into one. The sweet trust and innocence makes your heart melt over and over again, but there is also that unstoppable curiosity. And it is so much fun to watch him learn about the world, especially how much he looks to Moose for guidance and how Moose tries to teach the little dude. This, you see, is how you help make dinner…

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And this is how you look super pathetic and tiny when Mom is making dinner…

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And this is  how you sleep in Mom & Dad’s bed…

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Yes, since we expect Bear to be over 100lbs and Moose is 90lbs, this will eventually be a space issue, but for now it brings Bear much security and us some much needed rest. We will cross the space issue bridge when the time comes.

Aside from all-things-dog, very little has been happening. We did our best to finish up some pre-holiday school goals. A friend came over and we decorated Christmas cookies. That was chaos one step from mayhem, but so much fun. I finished knitting a hat…

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This is a Rikke Hat (a free Ravelry download) and knit in my handspun yarn from Three Water’s Farm’s August installment of their Top of the Month Club.

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I am very happy with the yarn — it just knit up so nicely!

I was curious about how the brim would be in garter with a smaller needle, but without ribbing and I’m happy to report the fit is great.

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Obviously I made the slouchy version — I just find it’s easier with my longer hair knowing I get a messy bun in there if I need to. I have enough yarn on there to put a pom on, but I don’t think I’m going to bother. I like it as is.

With supervision, I also started another hat…

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I tried Judy Marples’ Knit Night Hat originally, but wasn’t a fan of how it was knitting up in the yarn, so I went searching and found Clare Devine’s Acai hat pattern. It’s a much better fit for the yarn!

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It has a 2 round repeat which is about as good as it gets when you are picking it up and setting it down constantly.

I also started a pair of socks in this Kickapoo Sock Yarn that was a gift from a good friend…

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The colorway is called Blue Heron and it’s one of the prettiest colorways and nicest sock yarns I’ve knit. Obviously I’m not super far, but it’s a start! And sharing the beginning here has reminded me that I finished a pair of socks a couple weeks ago! I’ve worn them a couple times, but I will try to snap some photographs after the holiday.

Speaking of which, if I don’t get a chance to log on and write before next week, I want to wish you all a very heartfelt Happy Holidays! Whatever holidays you celebrate, may they warm your heart, bring a smile to your face. When all is said and done, may you rest as soundly and contentedly as a 7 week old puppy after his first trail hike. And maybe even allow yourself let the rest of the world fall away for a little while to enjoy the simple, fleeting pleasures that make up this life.

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From all of mine, to you and yours — Happy Holidays!!!