Sunday, April 26, 2015

16 Months And Loving Her!


Catching her "flyer" - April 2015
The journey of raising Cinder began in February 2014, when we took advantage of a break between some of the biggest snows and worst cold in 40 years to go pick Cinder up before things worsened again.  As we drove to my friend’s to pick her up, Brian and I were relatively quiet, both wondering what our little puppy was going to be like; and how different our lives were going to become.  Now, Cinder’s 16 months old and our lives are drastically different than we’d anticipated.

Shortly after bringing our little bundle of puppy love home, I was waylaid by another journey into an ugly abyss of pain and immobility caused by back and hip problems which finally resulted in a major back surgery and a steroid injection for my hip to stave off a hip replacement as long as possible so my back can heal.  But, the real story isn’t mine – it’s Cinder’s.

8 weeks - "sit"
8 weeks - sitting to go outside
 Cinder came to us at seven weeks old, in the middle of the worst winter of 40 years. Combined with my caring for a lame horse and followed by my increasing back pain and immobility, Cinder still managed to thrive. She's never known a time after her first two weeks with us that I haven't been disabled by my back issues. She was a very typical Border Collie puppy-ALWAYS on the go and ALWAYS busy. Luckily, our older dogs were good play pals and teachers during those long, cold, boring
Queen of the Hill on Uncle Gilley
months when we could do nothing outside.  I was able to do some early training with Cinder, so we worked on what we could, hoping and waiting for Spring so we could really ramp up her training.  When Spring arrived and we could get out again, it became my great frustration and sadness to find out that Cinder is a reactive dog.  Cinder is our last puppy and I’d wanted to be able to take her anywhere and everywhere with me as I’ve always been able to do with all my other dogs. Her reactivity creates challenges in taking her anywhere and doing anything. We truly have to calculate our activities almost like math problems, being sure we’ve considered how Cinder’s participation could be successful and the things that might derail us. Reactivity in Border Collies and other herding breeds is common, but I’d never had a dog that was reactive so it was, and still is, a whole new journey for both of us.                                                                                       

She's met and risen above the challenges of my limitations and her reactivity to succeed in an obedience class and a tricks class.  She was even made up for Halloween as, "the Red Queen," and again at Christmas as the "Peppermint Princess," wearing silly things without a fuss.

The Red Queen at Halloween - 2014

The Peppermint Princess - Christmas 2014

Cinder - Christmas 2014

Throughout the whole of Cinder’s life, she’s never known a time when I wasn't in pain and suffering limited mobility. Despite all things, she’s thrived!  We've become as close as possible actually - so close, it may be problematic at some point. She seemed to know I needed help and easily learned to assist me with small things like picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors and drawers; and lying beside me
Cinder & Gilley snuggled next to me in bed
quietly snuggling as I rest.  After I returned home from back surgery, she had to learn to give me hugs by gently standing on her back legs and putting her front paws on shoulders while I was sitting; and hop gently onto my lap unassisted because I couldn’t bend, lift, or twist.  She often snuggled with me in the recliner, sprawled atop me, covering me from neck to knees with her body, quietly sleeping and keeping watch over me – which she continues to do! And believe me, nothing gets by her unnoticed! She’s learned to hop on me in the recliner with an amazing ease, agility, and lightness of a cat.

Cinder & me in the recliner after back surgery
As my recovery has progressed, I still can’t bend, lift, or twist so walking is my sole exercise until my doctor deems my back healed enough to begin physical therapy for it. I've had physical therapy to help with learning to use my leg again, but now, it’s all about walking until I start PT for my back.  Sadly, I’m not allowed to be around my horse at all; and I’m not allowed to be the one to control the leash while walking the dogs – the risks of them pulling, jerking, and otherwise causing me to move quickly and inappropriately could easily damage all the work to restore my mobility.  I’m finally back to work at my desk job part-time until the doctors release me for more over the next couple months.  As it turns out, I’m finding that part-time really does tax me enough right now when combined with trying to walk as much as possible each day and the small house chores I can do. I FEEL like I could walk 10 miles, but reality sucks – I’m lucky to walk a couple of city blocks so far (or a couple laps around the ponds where we take the dogs swimming). I've been able to enjoy our Spring weather and go with Brian to take the dogs to the barn and/or the private dog park to play.  I've been able to walk around the pond and create games for the dogs to keep them running between Brian and I for added exercise and fun for them.  Cinder spends a lot of that time running laps around the pond to keep tabs on everyone and to show her aging uncles that SHE is faster than them.  I actually LOVE seeing her running full out around the pond-it’s pure power and speed combined with such a beauty that truly is specific to only a few breeds, Border Collies especially. It’s a sight to see!

Each evening, Brian goes to work and we’re home alone which means we have a lot of quiet time since I can’t do too much yet. I spend the first few hours icing my back (doctor’s orders) from being up and active. Amazingly, all three dogs are awesome about settling down.
They gather around me while I’m at the computer and lay quietly; we rally in the living room while I recline to ice my back while watching TV; or we snuggle in bed together.  Sometimes the three are so awesome and so quiet I forget they’re actually Border Collies – you know, HIGH ENERGY dogs with extremely demanding needs for exercise.  They seem amazingly resilient and totally content.  Most Border Collie people would probably find it absolutely amazing that they are so content to be my quiet companions. I find it hard to believe most about Cinder since she’s so young.  Yet, Border Collies are said to be the most intelligent breed and if one is inclined to believe that, then one may also be inclined to believe that they know I still have limits and they are trying to patiently adapt while secretly hoping the next trip to the barn or park will be soon.

Today was the first time I've taken a road trip in two years. It wasn’t far, but it maxed out my doctor-recommended time and distance in a car at one time.  We went to the barn and got “the Ebbie horse” in before going back to the house.  While Brian mowed the yard, I holed up with Cinder in the office and put her though her paces doing all the tricks she’s learned in the last year.  She didn’t miss a beat after more than three months off from all work.  In fact, we also started working on a couple new tricks too.  While we’re a long way from where I’d wanted us to be, we can still have fun and build more skills.

Raising Cinder hasn’t been the journey I’d hoped for with my last puppy, but, it’s been better than I’d anticipated given the circumstances.  Hopefully life will continue to improve for us and as it does, we’ll be doing more.  Even if Cinder never goes on to learn more obedience, agility or anything else, she’s already become one of the most wonderful, loyal and loving dogs ever. There is a certain amount of pride and contentment with knowing that Cinder’s become a great companion if she never does anything else.  It’s not what I’d hoped for her, but things could’ve gone far worse than they have and we could’ve had a dog we don’t like.  Instead, she’s become a true family member in every way; completely endeared herself with us both.  She’s been awesome and she’s not done yet!  Besides, she keeps Buzz and Gilley moving more too.  Despite the fact that she often dominates them, they enjoy playing with her daily. She's smart, a bit quirky and odd; somewhat pushy and willful at times; and she's always one of the most affectionate dogs I've ever had.  She's 16 months old and I'm loving her more every day.

"Love you dad" - April 2015
Brian & Cinder - April 2015

Cinder & Me - April 2015

Cinder’s made a difference in all our lives and we can’t imagine life without her.  The journey continues daily and there’s never a dull moment as we continue our endeavor of raising Cinder.

"I've got it! I've got it! I've got it!" - 4/ 2015
 Be well and be good to yourself, others, and your dog(s)!



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