Since January 18, the day after we arrived back from Singapore, I have lost 31 pounds. 

This is no small feat given how much I travel, how much I like to eat, and how much stress is in my life right now.

I was losing fairly steadily there at 2-5lbs per week and being diligent about exercising and not eating out; however in the past two weeks, it's been very difficult to not eat out and easy to avoid exercising.  To be completely honest, I haven't felt like myself (whoever that is, whatever that feels like) in a few weeks.  I've just kind of been on autopilot.  Sometimes things amuse me, other times I feel very melancholy, and then other times I feel like I really don't care.  So, waking up early in the morning to workout is one of the furthest things from my mind right now.  It just sounds horrid.  But, I make a commitment to work with Trooper and Cosette everyday, so I am getting some exercise in.  Occasionally we'll go hike and we've been taking them water retrieving at least every other day. 

So, I lost 20 pounds very quickly by just reducing caloric intake and upping the exercise.  I lost another 11 pounds by keeping an exercise regiment going.  The past two weeks, I've stayed fairly stable, but I've also been very, very, very, very stressed about my dissertation.  Weight loss just seems difficult right now, and in my mind, if it happens, it happens; however, that's NOT the goal I started with or the set of mind I'd like to have.  I'm hoping returning the latest draft to my dissertation chair will help alleviate some of the stress of uncertainty and make forward progress. 

Weight loss is hard when it isn't our first priority.  I have a goal to lose six more pounds by April 8th, but I don't think I'm going to make it unless I hightail it into the gym.  That's two weeks, three pounds a week.  I could do that, right?

Hmm.  Writing this down has helped.  Today I am going to watch my portion sizes and try to be outside a little more.  It looks like it will be a beautiful day outside.  Thanks for reading.  Knowing that someone is reading and holding me accountable (in a way) helps. 
Here's Cosette at 5.5 months.  She'll be 3 years old on March 28!
Look at that MUCH calmer face!!  This is him in one of his "stays." 

This is a dog that listens, understands, and behaves very well now.

He is 1 year, 2 months old in this picture.
So, the past few months have been a little, uh, busy.


I'm going to back up and go back to the beginning.  Back in January, Trooper's tail started bleeding.  I thought it was a little sore on the end of his tail that would heal up.  Unfortunately, the bleeding kept going, and my walls became SPLATTERED with what seemed like gallons of blood.  I did weekly clean-up on the walls to try and keep everything clean, but I was getting tired of it.

I took Trooper (now 1 yr old) to my vet and she shaved the tail and diagnosed it as "happy tail."  This means that he becomes so excited that he quite literally bangs the shit out of the end of his tail, so much so that it has created a wound, and every time he hits it again it reopens.  So, we wrapped it up in a lot of bandaging material, with the instructions to keep his tail wrapped for up to 3 months.

We were warned that if it didn't heal, there wasn't really much else to be done except to (1) keep bandaging it, or (2) amputate it.

I didn't like either of those solutions.  I contacted a trainer that happens to be located near me.  She owns her own (large) business and trains police dogs to do various tasks (attacking, scent dogs, etc.).  She also takes on harder clients - aggression problems, red-zone dogs, and teaches private and group classes on basic obedience.

I had Trooper on a pinch collar when we first went, and he was nuts as usual.  He didn't jump up, which is what we had been working on, but he did bang his tail around in every direction - which is the reason why were there.  She realized that even when he was focused intently on something (e.g., another dog), he would still get distracted when someone - like his handler - pet him or gave him any sort of attention.  So much so that when she ran her hand down her back, he kind of reared back and bounced around.  She concluded that he had touch sensitivity, which was causing him to be quite reactive in his environment.

It explained a lot -- why I couldn't pet him without him going balls to the walls nuts.  Many other things as well.  So, she had us take him off his pinch collar and start again with a choke chain.

We met with her several times a week for four weeks straight.

I diligently led him through his daily activities, which usually equated to a full hour of just training (not to mention other sorts of play time).  So, every single day, we would go to an empty field, he and I, and we'd "walk squares" which is the activity we were focusing on the first week.  Squares allows the handler to keep the dog on a 15-ft leash and work with them one on one.  It also teaches the dog to be mindful of the handler, and to stay within a reasonable distance of the handler.  This went on for days as we slowly began to shorten the lead to 12, then 10, then 8, then 5 ft of lead. 

Then we started working on heeling, sitting, staying. 

Four weeks later, he is almost a different dog.  He still gets hyper (like most Labs) but he has learned to control himself and calm himself down. 

He listens, pays attention, and follows commands beautifully.

He is now up to a full two minutes of "stay" (probably longer, but I get impatient!) and can maintain his sit/stay even if I am wiggling around or crouching down in an inviting manner.  He waits at doors, looks us in the eye, and is generally calmer.

When he is calm, his tail is manageable and he slows it down.  When he is hyper, like when he hasn't been worked for a while, he grows antsy and starts reverting back to his old tricks.  So, I realize the importance of training him every day, consistently, without fail.  Every moment is a training opportunity for him (and me) and so far it's working out well.
Okay, wow.  Google images should come with a warning:  DO NOT GOOGLE THE FOLLOWING, and then list the horrible things that have pictures listed.  And then of course everyone would look at them out of sheer curiosity, which defeats the purpose.
Has it ever struck you, suddenly, or even gradually for that matter, that this isn’t how you imagined it?

Maybe it’s so much better.  Maybe it’s not at all what you expected with negative elements.

Maybe it’s everything, the good and the bad, all wrapped up in one exquisite package.

I didn’t picture myself at 26 in graduate school, though I came to realize that’s what I would be doing and where I’d be at.

I didn’t expect to have two Labradors, one the result of a burning desire to have a beautiful dog, a faithful companion, the other an almost-hasty decision to give my first dog someone to be with during the day and out on hikes.  No one told me that I’d look upon the other dog with almost complete regret but with such tenderness and love.  But then no one told me that our struggle for training said second dog would result in a connection that reflects the first.

I didn’t expect to be in a relationship with a man with a child.  The way in which I am racked with guilt sometimes takes my breath away, that I fall victim to the real or imagined judgments of others – and that’s the thing that is true – whether real or imagined, the person’s perception makes it real, and that’s good enough to talk about.  But then the little one will put his arms around my neck, or grab my hand at a random moment, and my heart swells with joy and I know that I belong to something stronger than any perceived judgment:  I belong to a family.  And we love each other.  We have good days.  We have bad days.  And we each support the other in various ways.  And all I know is that even though I breathe a sigh of relief about having a moment of calm, of thinking space all to myself, when he leaves for his other parental unit there is an ache in my chest that reminds me that I didn’t expect it, but just because I didn’t expect it doesn’t mean I don’t want it.  I want it.  And I have it.

I didn’t expect that.

"You popped my heart seams
All of my bubble dreams, bubble dreams
And I know that it's complicated
But I'm a loser in love, so baby
Raise a glass to mend
All the broken hearts
Of all my wrecked up friends"