It’s the 30th and my challenge to myself of Skill A Day for a month is complete. Tomorrow we get to play agility!!! At a trial. And it will hopefully be super fun. Because what could ever be more fun than an agility trial on New Years? And playing with my dogs. And my hubby who could really care less about dog agility cares that I’m happy (plus let’s be honest, he likes winning stuff in the worker raffles, and he’s a darn good bar setter because no one complains when he’s bar setting while playing a video game on his tablet hence he is willing to work a lot of classes) and chauffeurs the dogs and I back and forth. Yay agility! So while I know there is technically one more day in December, today is the 30th and I’m calling it complete.
All in all I felt my challenge to myself was a success and I met my goal. Primarily to engage more with my dogs in fun, challenging,sometimes new and meaningful ways every single day. Sure some of those days were a wash when pain levels or SPD decided to give me more crap than average, but those days our meaningful connection was snuggled warm in our bed, or playing goofy games on the couch. Other days I was more active and we went outside to play or in the cellar. Once the ground froze, we got creative with ways to have fun both in the house and outside. And even on days when the small humans were over, I was able to find creative and safe ways to engage all of them and have fun. And also as desired, I did indeed watch a lot less mindless television this month.
The challenge enticed me to set aside time to really reorganize the basement, and shift it into a set up that better fit what suited my dogs and me, instead of for students or group classes or my art projects. And now the basement training room has nice antifatigue floor mats (thanks mum! Great birthday present!), and a nice open area for training. There is also a corner set up for grooming, and an area for practicing our Toto Fit Challenge which we also began this month.
The challenge also reminded me that I struggle with maintaining written logs. But that written logs are really very helpful for staying on task and meeting goal milestones. And the challenge showed me that I have a hard time motivating myself to get creative with training with Tom. With Zora that’s easy for me. Tom, he’s such a good quiet soul and he asks so little of me, especially compared to the corgi who if she doesn’t get enough mental and physical exercise oh boy we’ll all regret it, I often find myself prioritizing Zora’s energy needs over Tom’s emotional ones (like run Zora around the back yard or snuggle with Tom on his dog bed petting him and telling him he’s wonderful). This challenge, I still found that hard to balance the needs of both of them, but I felt aware of it and made a daily effort to do better. For example the dogs and I have a new routine in the yard where if I’m throwing or kicking the ball for Zora, Tom now stands between my legs and I pet him the entire time. If I move, he comes with and I keep petting him, all while throwing or kicking the ball for Z. That is working well and we are at the point that if I start to forget, Tom is confident enough to remind me “no, no lady, the deal is you pet me too!” And if he starts to forget, I remind him. And then he is happy and Zora is happy and that all equals me happier.
Now that this month is over, time to set a new goal for myself. January through Mid-March often ends up really sensory isolated for me (and the dogs for that matter). Winters in New England lead to what I used to term when I was teaching “Spring Wakeup” when the phone would start ringing off the hook with people panicked that their dog was suddenly barking and lunging at everyone and everything. Yea, the world woke up and your dog’s nervous system is freaking out because it was snowy and cold and he barely left the house for months! I get it. More than you will probably ever understand freaking out dog owner, I get it. As I can see the writing on the wall for myself, in an effort to keep the Spring Wake up as minimal as possible, my goal for January is to vary my sensory diet. And in turn the dog’s as well. Make myself turn on the radio or other music at least 3x a week in the house and at least once a week on a walk or in the car. Ugh, I’m cringing already at the idea of it. Walk on the treadmill at least once a week. Thud, Thud, Thud…Shudder. Use the brushy thing on my skin. And go into a store or other inside non-my-house-non-sensory-friendly building at least once a week. For the dogs, go some place out of the normal routine with them at least once a week (ie more than just the woods, our house, or walk on the street). Goal for January and February: Push Sensory Boundaries.