A Zen Labrador

Having a puppy, like having a baby, places you firmly in the here and now. You can be nowhere else when it’s 5am and its time to go outside in your robe and slippers. When afterwards they fall asleep on you, again, and you don’t dare move for the next two hours, even to reach for your phone. A sleeping puppy is a happy pet parent. I remember now why I started drinking coffee when my son was born.

Unconditional love is the most remarkable kind. Like with a baby, how can you love something so much that robs you of your sleep, produces so much unpredictable poo, and sucks up every waking moment of your time? But you do. And every day you greet their wiggly little body, squirming and wagging, so glad you came back again, with such joy.

Fergus is being socialized, as much as I dare, until his third vaccination dose in three weeks time. Then, he can interact with other dogs. Especially, Camino dogs. Not the dogs of our neighbors, but dogs on the trail. Stranger’s dogs when we are on walks. Around here, we find people don’t care for their dogs the same way as in larger cities in Spain, or the US. Unless they are hunting dogs, farmers don’t seems to take their dogs to the vet. It’s more of a free-range deal. Hence, why it is so important our animals are protected.

I took Fergus to the vet today, for yet another treatment. He is thoroughly dewormed. Ask me how I know. 😳 And the vet gave me even more stuff for LuLu. Due to the fact that our dog and cat will come into contact with so many strangers they will need to be treated monthly for fleas, ticks, and worms. The vet said that ticks in Galicia have exploded in the last few years. She told me I don’t want a tick bite. I understand. Again, ask me how I know after the Great Camino Tick Bite of 2021.

Of course, I have done a ton of reading about how to socialize a dog. Before, I thought it was mostly about other people and dogs. Providing new experiences that help the dog gain confidence. But I have learned it goes much farther than that. Its more Zen than I realized.

The goal in life is inner peace. Not because everyone and everything around you is going perfectly. Quite the opposite. It’s that you can remain calm no matter what storm is raging around you. Shutting out the drama. That is true peace. Inoculating Fergus to outside, intrusive stimulation, no matter what is happening around him, Fergus will not startle. The startle reflex in a dog can spark aggression. Aggression in dogs, as in people, is usually triggered out of fear.

To facilitate this, we have to provide loud varied, strange noises when he is a puppy, to stimulate the reflex. Then, immediately provide comfort and treats. So Fergus learns to calm himself. So he can bypass the reflex and not lunge at perceived threats. Screaming children, barking dogs, a car backfiring, and on and on. So far, it seems to be working. The first time I took him into the tiny burg of Melide, Fergus freaked out. Our new stretch of the A-54 Autovia (Freeway) isn’t finished yet. The end of 2023 – so they say. So big semi trucks plow through the town all day carrying livestock, fuel, milk, and heavy equipment. The loud noises would intimidate anyone so small. But, today, Fergus was in the center of town, greeting the cluster of taxi drivers in the main square as trucks drove past, and he didn’t flinch for a second. I was impressed. My clicker is working. When he is distracted, I click. The sound refocuses him to the task and calms him down.

And Jeff is helping, as well. He’s been putting up some new cabinets in the kitchen. And yesterday, he hung the new custom blinds I ordered. It is looking better and is more functional. Our kitchen is an oven in the summer. Situated on the west side of the house, it gets the afternoon and evening sun. Our sunsets are very late in the summer. And with three kitchen windows, it can be unbearable in there in July and August. But, now, it will be cooler. And no one can see us in the kitchen at night from the gate. No more fishbowl.

Jeff was working all day in there. Drilling and pounding. And, generally, making an unholy racket. These days, getting any kind of remodeling done here is like winning the lottery. There are so few people to do the work. No amount of money will fix this problem. There are no available people in the trades. When I was growing up, you wanted to marry a Dr or a lawyer. Then, eventually in Seattle, it became a software engineer. But, now, I think you want to fall in love with a plumber or an electrician. Maybe, even a construction worker. Someone who can do things around your house. Put in a new bathroom.

I am lucky. Jeff is a software engineer. But he also took A LOT of shop classes in HS. Something considered thoroughly unsexy 40 years ago. I don’t even think high schools offer those classes in the US anymore. Budget cuts. But, as a result, Jeff can build things. Fix things. A renaissance man. Sadly, living in Spain, tiling isn’t one of his fortes. Or I would have two new bathrooms and new tile in the kitchen. Here, they tile everything. To the ceiling. When we moved to Spain I remarked upon it.

‘It’s got so much tile. Do they expect you to have to hose it out? What could they possibly be doing in here, other than cooking? Murdering someone?’

But, it’s actually very fire safe. And, easy to clean, if you like the tile. So there is that. And required if you are opening an Albergue/Food truck 😉. But, updating it right now is nearly impossible because tilers here are like diamonds. Hard to find one available. So our bathrooms are still VERY blue. We look like we are deathly ill in the bathroom mirror, between the tile and the fluorescent lights. Ick. Patience, Kelli. <heavy sigh>

Our kitchen tile is white-ish. But, the old cabinets are like plastic faded denim jeans. Seriously. Ick. So, Jeff, while he isn’t working his real job, will be fitting a new kitchen over the next several months – with the caveat that the old, as I call it, murder-tile, stays. I need to keep Diego and company focused on the cabins and bathrooms. The money makers. I can’t distract them over new tile for the kitchen.

So, Jeff is in our kitchen making ungodly noises. And Fergus is flinching. And I am providing moral support, reassurance and treats. Slowly, over the course of the day, our little pup flinches and whines less and less. Even when the grinding becomes a nerve-splitting screech as I try to cover both our ears. And, finally, he naps through it all. It seems, Fergus, the Zen Buddhist Labrador monk, is well on his way to inner peace. And teaching me a little something about it all along the way.

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