When Love Equals Fear: The Truth About My Paralyzing Fear of Losing My Dog

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This is probably one of the hardest blog posts I have ever written, but there is a part of me that hopes putting this out there is going to feel somewhat therapeutic. Ever since I first got Bailey I’ve had this paranoid, debilitating fear that something bad is going to happen to her. At first I thought it was a normal and temporary thing … I was in a dark place when she came to me, she changed my life instantly and I thought that maybe I’m just afraid because I’m not sure if this love is here to stay. I really hoped that, as the time passes, I will become less afraid - I’ll get used to having her around, right? Well … Bailey is going to be with me 6 years this summer and the fear is still here. I have been pushing it away constantly, never daring to even speak about it, until I recently heard someone talk about this same paranoid fear in their podcast and it hit me right in the heart. I couldn’t really push it away anymore because I finally started to understand how much it has been affecting me for the past six years.

 

I have a lot of souls in my life that I love dearly, both human and canine. Obviously the thought of losing any of them is too much to bear, but it’s just one of those things I don’t really think about - probably like most people. I mean, we would all go insane if we constantly contemplated losing our most loved ones. But this is exactly what is happening to me with Bailey. I don’t know if there has been a week in our whole time together where I didn’t excessively worry about her dying. This thought is always in the back of my head. Sometimes I would overthink myself into crying because the anxiety is so heavy. I would hold her in my arms and think "Please don't die." The fear is overwhelming and it always has been. I’m not religious, but of course this goes out the door when we need a favor from the universe - so I would often just pray pray pray to the sky to keep her safe.

 

I don’t like leaving her anywhere without me because I’ve always feared she might die when I’m away and I won’t be able to be with her in her last moments. How messed up is that? I get that this is not a normal fear of loss. I just don’t always know where it comes from - or why it has centered around Bailey.

 

Maybe it’s the co-dependency. I love Chilly just as much, but somehow I can understand him as a completely separate entity from me. I can’t do that with Bailey. I swear she is somehow a part of me in a way I cannot explain. Looking at her is like looking into a mirror. We reflect each other all the time. When she is sick, my whole body physically hurts. I can’t even make this up! When she can’t sleep at night, I instinctively wake up too. Sometimes we’re out on a walk and I can feel her tense next to me without even looking at her and I know that she can sense/hear/smell a trigger that’s not yet in our visual field. We’ve always had incredibly strong non-verbal communication. Chilly needs a lot of verbal direction and instructions, he loves to follow cues and interact through the voice. But Bailey is pure intuition and most of the time we communicate without words. She has always been very co-dependent with me and while we’ve worked through a lot of that, at the end of the day I know there is nobody in the world she would feel more comfortable with than she does with me. We just “get” each other.

 

So maybe this fear is so big because I think losing her would be losing me?

 

I think if I lost her, I would lose this giant part of my soul. Like I couldn’t function without her because before she was in my life, I wasn’t actually functioning. I know this has nothing to do with her and I know that her mission in this lifetime was never to “fix” me; it was to wake me up. Her mission now is to keep me awake, keep me on my toes, keep me learning, keep me striving for more knowledge so that I can help more people. This blog, and all the knowledge I have, are a result of her being in my world. Adopting Bailey has changed the entire course of my life. Looking at how much I’ve built on this journey, how much has came into fruition since I’ve had her, because I have her … it’s almost as if I don’t know what life would look like without her in it.

 

If I was normal, I would say to myself that this is something I really don’t have to think about for the next 10 more years and I would relax into the fact that I have the most wonderful companion in the universe here with me. I would be thankful for this deep love - and I am, every day! But the love comes with fear and this fear … this fear is too much.

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"In order to have peace, we must first have trust."

- Insurgent 

In all these years, I have dreamt that she had passed away two times (and that’s still two times too many). Both of those dreams were incredibly intense. They weren’t normal dreams … you know, where the pictures feel a little hazy and you feel a bit detached and time passes differently, more quickly and in sequences? These dreams were not like that. They were REAL. As in, time was normal and it went on forever and I physically felt everything in my body. Think about your normal dreams … you don’t usually feel the physical sensations, it’s very rare. But in these dreams I physically felt everything. I was holding her and shaking her, I tried to scream and nothing came out, my legs were shaking … needless to say, I woke up completely traumatized. The first time I panically shook Bailey awake to see if she’s okay and the second time I was so exhausted from the dream I couldn’t even properly move, I was just lying there, thanking the universe for waking me up.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about this lately - more consciously now than before. I’ve been trying to analyze it, to pick this fear apart and pinpoint where it started or why it’s so intense. I’ve been surrounded by dogs my whole life, a lot of them have passed away, most of them have passed away suddenly … but I managed to process all of their deaths before I even got Bailey and even last year, when we lost Lady, this fear stayed the same. Not that it could get any more intense than it already is, but I know that Lady’s passing didn’t contribute to my paranoia. If anything, I was so consumed with Chilly at the time (because he took it a little hard at the beginning) that I barely had enough time for Bailey. So clearly, this fear couldn’t have been triggered by the loss of other dogs.

 

The more soul searching and digging I do about this issue, the more I realize it’s deeper than just this moment, these six years, this one soul.

 

I’ve spoken about my childhood a little bit up here before, even though it’s always hard for me to write about this because first, I’m very private and second, I’m trying to keep the attention on rescue dogs. But the fact of the matter is that if you are a human raising a dog, somebody else was raising you too. And that IS significant and it DOES play a role, whether you realize it or not.

 

I was raised in a house that was always full of fear and anxiety. The women in my life could never relax into love or even motherhood - there was always fear, fear, fear. I remember being a child, living a completely chaotic life but every now and then things got a liiiiitle bit better. I would relax, thinking that things are going to be okay now. Then, something major and bad happened again - and it was back to chaos. Rinse and repeat! I think I got the impression that good things don’t last. I got the impression that love equals intense fear. Maybe this is why I can’t relax into loving Bailey. Because it’s so intense and joyful and she was the first dog I ever adopted. I sort of expected something to go wrong.

 

I had never been taught how to love someone without reading them chapters from the book of anxiety.

 

I have to shoutout Chilly at this point, because he is the dog that taught me to relax. Loving him makes my heart lighter. Maybe that’s why this yearning to release this fear has come up now, after all this time. I still carry this fear with me every day but I am learning to shift my thought patterns and relax into this love.

 

It’s okay. All is well. Bailey is anchored in my heart - now and always. She is safe safe safe. I wake up every morning to her snout nuzzled into my neck. I don’t want to pollute those moments with anxiety anymore. I want to cherish them, live in the moment and give thanks to the universe every single day for bringing her to me. She is, and always will be, my life’s best part.❤️

 

Adopting a Second Dog: Will I Love Him the Same?

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Love; the most powerful force in the universe. We all experience and understand love in a very unique way, whether it be in romantic relationships, within family, friends or with animals. Everyone’s experience of loving a dog is different - and every experience is valid. I know a lot of you only have one dog who you love with all your being. I also know some of you are exploring the possibility for another dog, but always stopping at the same point: wondering if you could ever love a second dog the same as your first one. I know, because I used to feel the same.

 

Some people never think about this topic, never doubt their own capacity of love. That’s great and if that’s you, I hope you approach this article with open mind and compassion. For some of us this is a very real topic and I think it’s important that we talk about it.

 

Without further ado, here is my take and my personal experience on this question:

 

is it possible to love a second dog the same as you love your special first?

 

When I adopted Bailey 5 years ago, we instantly had a connection. I can honestly say I never had to work to build our bond, it was just there. I did hand feed her from day one, so this probably contributed a lot, but even before her first meal ever, while we were in the car driving from the shelter, the bond was there. It felt cosmic. Meant to be. I’ve known we are soulmates since the first second.

 

Growing up, I always imagined myself with a pack of dogs - two dogs minimum! Even on Bailey’s adoption day, I had a thought in the back of my mind that she is only my first dog and that more of them are going to come along. I was very unprepared for her issues, truthfully, but I was also unprepared for the amount of love I feel for her. It was life-changing and scary. What if something happens to her? What if I’m never going to love another dog like this again?

 

I couldn’t even imagine that a love like that could be matched - ever. So for a while, because of Bailey’s reactivity issues and my overwhelming love for her, I pushed my dreams for a second dog out of my head.

 

When she was about three years old, the wish for another dog arose again. I don’t really know what triggered it, but I just assumed Bailey would benefit from a canine companion and my daydreams of having a pack returned. It was always just Bailey and me. I wanted to add one more soul to create a dynamic trio, a team, a pack. Bailey’s training was progressing well and I was confident that we would do just fine with another dog. For the next two years, this wish would burn inside of me, but for situational and financial reasons it was “never the right time”. I felt like I was totally ready, Bailey was ready … but life was just a mess.

 

Enter December of 2015. My life has finally gotten a bit more stable. Things were flowing into the right direction and I made a decision: I’m going to adopt another dog in 2016. I knew I wanted a Border Collie, I knew I wanted a rescue. I started following shelters and rescue organizations on Facebook, checking for possible Border Collies. In the beginning of February, I found him. There was a post about a little pooch being found sick on the streets of Bosnia. At the beginning, I didn’t think he’s going to end up mine. I figured someone else will adopt him once he’s released from the vet. His photos kept popping up on my feed, so I was following his recovery closely. I fully believed he had so many possible adopters already lined up, I genuinely didn’t even consider him. Until one day, a picture was posted of him in his foster home - and the caption read he’s still looking for his forever home. He was looking so devilish, healthy and happy. I could not believe that he still hasn’t found a home! My brain went: what sane person would ever pass up on this baby? I wrote a message to the woman who rescued him in the middle of the night and the rest is history. We underwent a phone conversation and a home check. After the home check, it was official: we’re going to drive to Bosnia and pick up my baby number two, a boy I named Chilly.

 

The gravity of me adopting another dog didn’t hit me until the evening after the home check. I was cuddling in bed with Bailey, thinking of how much she means to me and all of a sudden, my heart stopped.

HOLY - FUCKING - SHIT. What the HELL am I getting myself into? Am I insane? I don’t think I could ever love another dog like I love Bailey! This is impossible! Why am I doing this? It’s going to be so unfair to the other dog! What if he won’t get enough attention because of Bailey’s special needs? What if he’s going to be super jealous? What if I completely mess this up????

 

All this and more. A million what-ifs and a self-doubt so big it could pass as a mountain. I quote my mom a lot, because she says the wisest things, and when I was really young I asked her how she can divide her love between four kids. She said: “Love does not divide - it multiplies.” Meaning, you don’t have a fixed storage of love that you have to divide between different people and animals. Love multiplies with each soul we grow to love. I decided to trust mom on this one. I also knew that Bailey is going to eventually love the new addition too, so it was worth the try. Besides, I couldn’t get Chilly out of my head. He was already my dog, even though he was so far away. He had yet to be neutered and I worried about that constantly. I worried about how he’s going to handle the journey from Bosnia and if he’s going to have a hard time adjusting to his new life. I bought him the cutest dog bed (that he chewed up on day 7) and the cutest leash and the cutest toys.

 

I loved him since the moment I saw his picture on Facebook, I just didn’t realize it - because it was the kind of love I wasn’t used to. It was full of worry and responsibility and having to overcome my own feelings of self-doubt. It was the kind of love that puts up a mirror and tells you “this is what we need to work on.”

 

Once we finally drove to Bosnia and Chilly was finally in my arms, I felt like my heart is going to burst. I missed Bailey the whole day so terribly, but I knew Chilly belonged to me the second I first held him. When we got back home later that evening and I saw him with Bailey, I knew I made the right choice. Sure, she was nervous around him and unsure. But he was patient, curious and loving - towards us both. The three of us clicked together like we were always meant to be a family.

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Having one reactive dog and one young Border Collie has made my life incredibly busy overnight. In the first weeks, I didn’t really walk around thinking about how much I love Chilly or how silly it was for me to ever doubt that. I tried my very best to set up a daily routine that would work for all three of us. It was a lot of work, especially because I was doing separate training sessions. Then one day, Chilly got really sick. He must have eaten something that upset his stomach. I was so terrified. He was throwing up all the time. I was worried he has brought a weird bug from Bosnia. I was worried he has an undiscovered disease. It happened in the evening and I was on the phone with the vet, almost sobbing into the phone, describing his symptoms. The vet reassured me it’s just an upset stomach and gave me further instructions. At 1am, Chilly finally stopped throwing up and I decided it’s time to go to sleep. I tucked Bailey under the covers, I moved Chilly’s (half-eaten) puppy bed out of his crate and spent the whole night sitting next to him. I couldn’t leave him alone for one second.

 

Somewhere around 4am it hit me: I can’t believe I ever thought my heart isn’t capable of loving another dog. Here I am, terrified to bits and pieces for a dog that I have barely had a month. This feeling of my heart aching with fear - this is what love feels like.

 

Chilly was alright within a couple of days (thankfully!) and our life went back to normal. Since that day, I have often re-examined my love for him. I would think about how much he makes my heart sing. How he fills me with joy. I would think back on how I used to doubt my own capacity to love.

 

I did get one thing right though: I don’t love him like I love Bailey. But I also don’t love Bailey like I love him. I don’t love my mom the way I love my sisters and I don’t love them the way I love my mom. I have learned that every love is absolutely unique. They are all love, all equal … but all different.

 

There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

I know better know. I know that I will never love anyone like I love Bailey and Chilly, but that doesn’t mean my love ends with them. It only means I love each soul individually. Each soul has traits that I am in love with. Every relationship is completely different and one of a kind, every relationship teaches you different things and shows you newfound depths of love.

 

I am so thankful for both of my dogs. They are my greatest teachers and I know that I really needed this lesson on love, because I often think about it in other areas of life too.

 

If you want to have another dog and your only hesitation is the fear that you won’t love them the same as you do your first dog, let me tell you this: you will not the love them the same - you will love them differently, but equally. Give the second dog a chance to step into your life and teach you a lesson about how love always, always multiplies.  

 

How many dogs do you have? What have they taught you about love? Share your insights in the comments below!

 


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2017 Has Not Been Easy but My Dogs Have Taught Me These Important Lessons

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There is so much about this year that I don’t even know how to put into words. It has been one of the toughest years for me - and for many others, too. There has been a lot of loss, a lot of release, a lot of transformation. I already wrote about the process of losing Lady and how that has affected me. Naturally there have been other losses and changes too, all very personal. Changes in my business, changes on this blog, changes within family, changes within friends and most of all, changes within my soul. I am not the same person as I was a year ago, not even close. This year was all about letting go and moving forward. 

 

Throughout this year, I have held onto my love of dogs more than ever before. Dogs understand me far more than people do, I believe our souls vibrate on a more similar frequency. It has been like this since I was a child. My connection with Bailey and Chilly has always been very healing for me and this year has been no exception.

 

Every day my two furry children teach me about life, unconditional love, surrender and purpose. They are the two souls that love me at the end of the day no matter how shitty that day was. They are my anchors. My sweet duo. My family.

 

I have learned a lot this year and my two little munchkins played a role of being big teachers! Sometimes it might seem like I am teaching them, but it’s quite the opposite. I only raised them; they teach me. Here are some of the most powerful lessons that my dogs have taught me this year in the midst of troubling waters, heavy hearts and utter chaos:

 

1. THERE IS NO SHAME IN REST

Bailey is really big on resting. She can be curled up next to me sleeping for as long as I need her to. If I decided to sleep for 24 hours she would happily do it with me. Sometimes I am running around all day, trying to outrun my own emotions and when I finally collapse into bed at the end of the day and she curls up next to me … I can feel it in my bones that I should have done it sooner. We exhale the day together and I am reminded in that moment that rest equals self care. I’ve been practicing taking naps now. During the day, if I feel exhausted or upset, instead of pushing through or burying my head in a giant bowl of pasta just to cope, I’ll simply lie down on the bed and let Bailey snuggle with me.

 

It helps, sweet friends. 
Rest really does help - and the world does wait.

 

 

2. SLOWING DOWN MAKES YOU MORE MINDFUL 

My daily walks with Chilly are my favorite thing. Due to her reactivity, Bailey’s outings and exercises are a little more work for me and have more structure to them, which is absolutely okay, but with her I am always in “work mode.” It’s different with Chilly. I can put on my headphones, turn on the epic Game of Thrones soundtrack and just take a slow walk with my mind turned-off. Chilly loves to explore his surroundings and he is never in a rush. He has taught me how to be more mindful. How to explore every inch of a meadow, how to sit down in a park and just … be. This stillness is something I didn’t know before. Our mornings have now turned into that part of day when we just explore nearby parks and meadows, do some socialization work with him and proof behaviors or tricks. I am totally present in the moment, I forget about time, I remind myself to walk in a slower pace. Chilly loves it and so do I! I used to rush everything in my life, but since I have slowed down, my days have been a lot less stressful, my mind more clear. 

 

 

3. FIND YOUR BALANCE AND TURN IT INTO A HOME 

I know that some people don’t believe in balance, but I have found that finding balance within my days keeps me healthy and happy. Chilly and Bailey are polar opposites; they balance each other out. Bailey can sleep the rainy days away and Chilly could be in constant movement if I didn’t stop him. Bailey is fearful and Chilly is curious. Not only do they help balance each other, they also help balance me. I am a total introvert hermit and when I want to spend the day in bed watching TV shows, Bailey is always up for the job. But when the time comes to be more social, to go out and take a long walk throughout the neighborhood, Chilly can’t wait to tag along!

 

I have learned that it’s totally okay to mix down days with adventure days. To mix being careful with being brave. Our souls don’t have to be just one thing, you know?
 

I have also been implementing this balance philosophy into how I feed, exercise and train my dogs. I don’t strive for perfection anymore, like I used to. Some days we are more active than others. Some days I can prepare fresh food for them and some days it just doesn’t work out. Some weeks we are really good at proofing tricks, some weeks we forget about them altogether. Consistency is important, but it shouldn’t be an obsession. This new-found balance in our rhythm has helped us become more connected and excited about life. After I spend some days being lazy, I can’t wait to be more adventurous. After I spend a whole day working, I can’t wait to take a day off the next day. After we skip Frisbee for a couple of days, the dogs go bananas when they see it again! Thank you, balance.

 

 

4. ALL IS WELL - EVEN WHEN IT'S NOT

Like my darling Bailey, I am also prone to anxiety. I always consider everything that could possibly go wrong and have over the years accepted anxiety as my general state of mind. This year has really pushed me to my limits and put this to the test. Dogs are far more mindful creatures than humans. At the end of the day, when the whole day is behind them, my pups curl up on my bed and fall into sleep so peacefully. They surrender to life, they leave the day behind. They trust the morning is bringing new adventures. All is well - this is what I’ve been saying to myself lately. At the end of the day, when the lights are out, I can hear my two favorite souls on this planet breathe right next to me. No matter what has happened that day, all is well. I can leave the day behind. I can sleep soundly knowing I will wake up the next day to their cute little snouts nuzzling me awake. And whatever that day brings … at the end of it, I will still fall asleep to the sound of them breathing peacefully. All is well.

 


How has this year been for you? What trials have you experienced and most importantly, what have you learned throughout it all? What is the greatest lesson your dog has taught you? Leave a comment below and let’s support each other through this year of loss and transformation.

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The Attack of Fleas: How a Multi-Dog Household Conquered an Outbreak of Fleas

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Fleas are every dog owner’s worst nightmare but if you have more than one dog (let alone five) it’s absolute HELL. We recently had a really bad flea outbreak in our home and I wanted to share how we finally got rid of them after almost a month of trying to exterminate them; how our days and weeks had looked like while battling these annoying little bugs and how we are now making sure our prevention techniques are much more current, updated and various than before!

 

1. How it Began

The first flea outbreak we ever had was last year and I’ll admit it was Chilly who brought fleas into the house. The outbreak was rather short and the fleas died in about a week or two. We bathed the dogs twice, we combed them, we gave them preventative serums, Chilly got an anti-flea collar and that was the end of it.

 

As a result of that experience I realized that Chilly has an incredibly sensitive skin and is prone to itching and irritation. Within a couple of months I ditched all chemical products, including the collar, and decided to look into natural flea-prevention options. We bought a spray that is a natural repellent and it worked incredibly well. It was the first year when we didn’t get any ticks, on any of our dogs. Even the mosquitos didn’t touch them, so we figured we were safe for fleas too.

 

Until one day, last month, we woke up into a household swarming with fleas. Apparently a big enough amount of fleas won’t care about the spray repellent. Hard to tell which of the dogs brought fleas into the house this time around but it was such a big amount of them that it gave me nightmares.

 

It’s likely that Ruby was the main culprit because she had the most of them, they were literally crawling all over her. No matter how much we washed her, she kept getting new ones - and we couldn’t figure out how!
 

From her they must have jumped on Ursha and the rest of the house; that’s how my dogs got them too. Everybody was scratching all day long. It was one of those situations when you wish you could call it an annoyance but you basically feel your sanity slipping from your hands. We braced ourselves for two weeks of constant washing, bathing and vacuuming.

 

2. What we tried - what worked, what didn’t

First we tried a regular anti-flea shampoo on the adult three dogs. It didn’t do much, other than irritate Chilly’s skin. We figured we’re going to need a natural option because Chilly is too sensitive to chemicals and Ursha is a puppy. My mom found natural shampoos in one of the local pet stores and we decided to give them a try. Surprisingly, they worked super well! They managed to kill the majority of the fleas and we repeated the washing twice a week, on all four dogs. (Disclaimer: at the time we only had four dogs, but by the time I’m posting this we’ve been joined by another rescue named Ringo. <3 It just took me forever to write this, haha!).

 

We washed all of the dogs’ bedding every two or three days. The laundry machine is already going non-stop in this house, but this took it to a whole new level. Washing the bedding of four dogs plus the mats that are scattered around the house (in the kitchen or the hallway) for the dogs to lie down, plus our own bedding (because pups are allowed on the bed) was incredibly exhausting and time consuming. I hated getting out of the bed some days because I knew that the first thing I have to do is put everything into the washing machine. And I had to coordinate this with the other bedding being washed as well as everyone’s clothes. To say that it was insane is an understatement.

 

We also vacuumed the whole house literally every day and for what it’s worth I called my grandmother one day and told her: “I vacuum every day now. You’d be so proud of me.”
 

We still used the natural spray repellent that I mentioned before, as well as another homemade lavender spray for spraying the household; their mats, the floor, their beds, our beds, every single surface the dogs lie on - so, every single surface in our house. We also had a big carpet in our living room chemically cleaned. I don’t think we’ve ever done as much cleaning before. ;) 

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After two weeks of this process, you’d expect the fleas to be exterminated. But somehow after this entire ordeal they were still crawling all over our dogs! I was at the end of my wits and felt like I am going to lose my mind. This flea fight has caused us much time and even more money. 

 

After googling for the millionth time what else could we try, I came across an electronic flea comb. It sounded like a really good idea and I have never heard of it before, since most of the articles I read didn’t mention it at all. I bought it online and prayed that this was the solution we’ve been waiting for.

 

It turns out that the electronic flea comb was exactly the solution we needed!
 

Despite all of the bathing and washing, somehow the fleas either jumped right back on the dogs or stayed there in the first place and didn’t die from shampooing. The electronic flea comb managed to find and kill those sneaky fleas! We combed the dogs constantly with one flea comb for an extra week and finally finally finally the situation started looking manageable.

 

After the last bathe-wash-comb-spray cycle, the fleas seem to have left completely. Halle-freaking-lujah! I am so thankful to have found the flea comb because without it I honestly don’t know what we would have done. We couldn't possibly figure out where the fleas were coming from - could be from the vet or from bushes on our street or from any of the neighborhood’s dogs. Maybe even from the stray cats that live around here.

 

The way this comb works is that it electrocutes the fleas the second they make contact with the comb and also destroys all of their eggs. It’s safe for dogs and humans, even the most sensitive dog in the universe (Bailey) was totally fine with it. I highly recommend it if you have a flea outbreak because it will really make your work A LOT easier and much quicker!

 
Don’t get me wrong, the washing and bathing is still super important, but this comb will literally kill any flea still left on your dog. Works like a charm!

 

3. Prevention tips and tricks

I’m taking prevention a 1000 times more serious now than I did before. For years I just used anti-flea serums on Bailey but Chilly has brought a more chemical-free life with him and I don’t regret anything. I’ll still be using the natural spray because at the very least it worked super well against ticks and mosquitos. I was scratching myself all summer long because of so many mosquito bites and the dogs were fine - in the end I started spraying myself with the damn spray too, haha. We’ll continue using our homemade lavender spray (water + lavender essential oil) for spraying the surfaces every now and then. We found that it worked really well and even during the outbreak I couldn't find any fleas on the dogs’ beds when I started using this spray!

 

I’ll also be using coconut oil on their skin and fur more often now; not only does it have a great many benefits, it’s also a natural flea-repellent recommended by our vet.
 

I’m looking into which foods are a great supplement to prevent fleas too; I already heard of garlic and am collecting ideas on how to sneak it into the pup’s meals. If you have an idea please share it in the comments!

 

Winter is coming (shameless Game of Thrones reference), so I think I’ll be able to sleep easily during the cold months as fleas aren’t common in the winter. But once hot and humid season comes along again we’ll be looking into some natural sprays and repellents for our backyard and the grassy surfaces the dogs like to lie or play on.

 

It’s not always easy having a whole pack of dogs but I can promise you it’s NEVER boring! ;)

Tell me, have you ever faced a flea outbreak? How did you fight it? What helped and what didn’t? And most importantly, did you buy yourself a giant chocolate after the whole thing was over or was that just me?
 
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Love after Loss: Coping with an Open Heart after Experiencing Loss

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lady bug. little donut. Knödel. <3 

Before I jump into this post with a heart that feels as heavy as a brick and as light as a feather at the same time, I’d like to give you a little update on the past 9 months of our life.
 

In January, our sweet angel Lady started showing symptoms of apathy and weight loss. She was rejecting food and movement. After a long month spent driving her from one vet to another, she was finally diagnosed with a tumor. It was big, aggressive and incurable. We said goodbye to her 5 days after getting the diagnosis, on February 6th and her soul joined the stars and galaxies roaming above us.

 

In April, my mom started looking into Red and White Irish Setter puppies because we talked about the possibility of adding a new dog to the family in 2018. Mom just wanted to do some research but as fate would have it, she had fallen in love with a baby puppy with a heart-shaped mark on her head. It felt like a sign. She contacted the breeder and long story short, an Irish Setter puppy joined the family on my birthday, June 25th!

 

The year was going to continue without other major changes, but since life is hardly ever still we have welcomed another dog into our family this week. My sister has adopted a sweet 2-year-old boy; we named him Ringo. He is of Bosnian nationality, just like Chilly. He has the most magical eyes, ones that I can faintly recall from a past lifetime. We met him on a Thursday and by Monday he was ours. It happened so fast I’ve barely had the time to process.

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baby ringo. 

I’m a hyper-sensitive introvert empath INFJ person (let me wait while you google all of those), which means I feel things very deeply. You couldn’t possibly guess if you met me, but my insides are as turbulent as my outsides are calm. Changes affect me very much. Adjusting to souls departing and arriving shakes me to my core.

 

I am trying to find the balance between grieving and loving. Being sad and being happy. Dwelling on the past and gazing towards the future.
 

My heart doesn’t always know what to make of all of these changes; how to adjust emotionally and fall asleep with a mind that is at ease. Usually it resorts to feeling everything at once. I don’t know that there is any right or wrong way to grieve. I am no stranger to loss at this point in my life and this is the lesson I keep learning over and over again: surrender.

 
Surrender to time, life, emotions and changes. Let go of trying to control things. Some days I think I’m doing it wrong and other days I know there is no such thing. Life has it’s own course and pain is in resistance. Allowing what is, letting go of what isn’t. That’s the lesson.
 

Ursha is the most energetic puppy this world has ever seen and Ringo is the sweetest, calmest boy. She is curious and hyperactive and so attentive. He is wary and focused and so gentle. They are both so new to us, but in some moments it feels as if they have always been here. I seek for little bits of Lady in such moments, just to assure myself that everything she has brought into our universe is here to stay and will forever manifest itself in the canine souls we bravely love.

 

I used to call her Lady bug and since she’s passed I’ve randomly encountered lady bugs indoors two or three times. I would call it a coincidence except I don’t believe in those. I believe she would love both Ursha and Ringo so very much.

 

It’s funny how her departure is the cause of their arrival. I was very young when someone told me that the universe doesn’t like emptiness - as soon as it finds an empty space it seeks to fill it. I have since found that to be true. Maybe life is just a series of losses and gains; arrivals and departures. Having just three dogs in the house was odd. Too empty. Too quiet. Now we have five and it’ll probably never be quiet again. ;)

Sweet angel lady. she was such a cuddle bug. &lt;3&nbsp;

Sweet angel lady. she was such a cuddle bug. <3 

We are so blessed to have been able to welcome not one but two magical souls into the family this year. There is strength in having healed to the point where we dare to love, despite the loss. I know of people who have lost a dog and vowed to never own another one again. I know of people who have lost a dog and got another one the very next day. I know of people who have lost a dog and it took them years to adopt again. All of that is okay.

 

We grieve and process in different ways. Sometimes in solitude, sometimes in companionship of humans, sometimes in companionship of other dogs.
 

What I meant to say with this blog post full of incohesive rambling is this: I miss Lady. I miss her dearly. I miss her paws. Her smell. Her gentle gaze. And I get so unbearably sad some days. But then I look at Bailey, my soulmate. And Chilly, my whole heart. I look at our Ruby, who has been with us since I was 14. And Ursha, the baby of the pack. And Ringo, of course. Ringo with his promise of new adventures and even more healing. Looking at them swells my heart with love. So much love. And I know that all is well. I used to think people can either be happy or sad - when really, we can be so much of both, always at the same time.

 

Dare to love, my friends. Dare to love despite the loss. Dare to weep even when you are happy; to laugh even when you are sad. I know many of my readers have lost dogs in the past too. I know you are no strangers to this grief.
 

I want to end on an uplifting note, with a quote from one of my favorite books, Tiger Lily.

“I knew I’d miss you. But the surprising thing is, you never leave me. I never forget a thing. Every kind of love, it seems, is the only one. It doesn’t happen twice. And I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn’t seem broken at all.”  

 


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Bailey's Early Graying

It’s so hard for me to write this post, but it’s only been a recent thing that Bailey’s graying has become so apparent. I know most dogs start to gray between the ages of 5 and 7, but my dog is five years old now and I believe she looks much, much older. It is possible that she is just getting older like normal dogs and it’s more noticeable due to her black coat, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s happening a little too sudden. I’ve been growing very concerned because of this and I’ve read online that early graying is closely linked to anxiety and fear. This doesn’t strike me as anything new, since Bailey has always been fearful, but the graying has been a surprise that has really become apparent in the last two years.

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Here’s a picture from July 2015

 

 

(age 3)

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Now let’s look at a picture from a year later, August 2016 (age 4)

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And at last, a picture from this month, August 2017 (age 5)

 

Her early graying is causing me great distress, mostly because I believe I can pinpoint the cause of it and I feel so powerless. We’ve always lived in an urban area and for a reactive dog that’s really hard, but we’ve managed. Bailey has had so much progress and while it took us some time, I believe we have succeeded in finding a balance that works for the both of us. However, we’ve had a major construction site open right in our backyard. It’s loud, it’s shaky, it bothers me and I can’t even imagine how Bailey must be feeling. Loud noises are so uncomfortable for her and her noise sensitivity is the one thing I know we still struggle with. But the construction site is something I have no control over and I’m worried about the effects it may have on her.

I’ve been wanting to move to the countryside for a while. Somewhere out of the city, more peaceful, with a lot of nature. I think both of us would love that. Moving out of the family home on a freelancer’s budget, alone and with two dogs (one of whom has somewhat special needs) is a challenge - one that I don’t expect to mount anytime soon. I’m not writing this to complain about my situation, because I know I have been blessed in my life many times over.

I’m just saying: my reactive dog is under constant stress because of loud noises and it’s starting to make me inconsolably sad.  

We’re trying a few different things. Music helps her a lot. Providing her with much crate time during the day helps even more. We’ve changed her exercise routine to games where she is not so impulsive. We’ve started using essential oils and I’ll be happy to write a separate blog post on them soon, because they have changed our life! I am optimistic, because she and I have already been through so much together, I know this is just a stepping stone in our story.

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I read conflicting reports on early graying affecting a dog’s life-span but I’m trying not to think about this.

All we have is now. All we ever have is now. All I can do as a mother is in this moment and in this particular moment I can only look for ways to lessen her anxiety.

When I was reading the articles I couldn’t help myself but cry, because there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to make Bailey happy, make her calm. And yet, it often seems that every single success we have is eventually undermined by something out of my control. An off leash dog, a neighbor's random fireworks, a construction site.

Perhaps such is life with a reactive dog; learning to let go of control and loving them through troubled waters, holding onto them with grace and believing that everything will work out.

If you have any experience with early graying in fearful dogs, or even just graying in general, please comment below. I really need to hear some fresh perspectives on this topic as it’s something that has caught me a bit off guard!


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The Role of Purebred Dogs in a Rescue Dog Household

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This blog is called Mother of Rescues and that’s exactly who I am; a mother of two precious rescues. Rescuing dogs and raising them with love and positive reinforcement is my mission in life. In that I am absolutely certain. My two rescues have taught me everything I know about force-free dog training, canine body language, resocialization, patience and overcoming challenges. Without them, this blog would not exist.

But what about purebred dogs? My household currently holds two purebred Irish Setters, in addition to my two rescues. I sometimes get asked what is my opinion on people buying dogs. Am I against it? Our second Setter (Ursha) has joined the family just a month ago and some were surprised that she isn’t a rescue. I’ve had this topic on my mind for a while, so today I wanted to share my thoughts on the role of purebred dogs in a household that frequently opens its doors to rescue dogs!

The importance of a happy childhood

I want to start with the most important topic that easily defines all living beings: childhood. Our childhood has a big impact on how we grow up, how we act in relationships, the choices we make in our lives. It’s same with our dogs. Their early childhoods determine them a lot! My two rescues, Bailey and Chilly, both had pretty shitty childhoods. One was crammed into a box with 4 other puppies and left in the woods to die. The other had to survive on the streets of Bosnia. Our precious angel Lady was owned by hunters until they disposed of her and she nearly starved to death.

Welcoming these dogs into our home and hearts has been the most rewarding experience but it has also been challenging at times. Creating a stable environment for them is my top priority. This is where our purebred dogs play a big role - especially Ruby.

She’s been in the family for 10 years, longer than any of the other dogs. We got her from the Trawricka breeders and she has always shown incredible mental stability. The past 10 years have been full of changes and she adapted to all of them without problems. Our home is always welcoming new animals and she has been so accepting of all of them. She has welcomed without a fuss a giant pet rabbit, Bailey, a guinea pig, another rabbit, a bird, Lady, three chickens, Chilly, another guinea pig and Ursha. That’s without even mentioning several friends, boyfriends, pet friends and other people or animals who have briefly crossed our home in different periods of life. Ruby is a total champ. 

Her stability has always influenced our rescues. When we bring a rescue into the home, Ruby is the first one to meet them. I believe she immediately makes them feel welcome.

Lady and Bailey, for example, had some anxiety around each other in their first weeks together. My sister and I needed to work on their relationship. But Lady and Ruby instantly became friends, because Ruby is so relaxed and couldn’t care less who we bring into the home. She accepts everyone!

Buying another Irish Setter was a no-brainer for my mom and so Ursha from IRWS Kennel Of The Ronnerfields has joined the family a month ago! It’s safe to say that she has had the best childhood in the world and watching her first 10 weeks of life over social media has been an absolute blessing.

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Training vs. Resocialization

Watching Ursha grow is sometimes a strange experience for me. She’s so normal! She’s a perfectly normal jolly little puppy who would happily bite your hair, nose, arms, legs and shoes if you let her. (She’s a little teething shark!). I remember Bailey at her age; she was a tiny ball of anxiety, showing so many phobias and reacting to everything with extreme fear. I didn’t even know where to start fixing her. Chilly and Lady came to us at later points in life, which sometimes left us wondering what horrors must have happened to them when they flinched in completely normal situations. After spending 5 years resocializing these precious pups and also the loss that we have experienced when Lady passed away in February … it feels like a breath of fresh air, raising Ursha. There is no heaviness or concern surrounding it. My mom gets to train her as a normal puppy, one that has always been happy and loved. There is no damage there that we would have to fix. She’s absolutely perfect. I’m emphasizing this so much precisely because we don’t intend to stop rescuing dogs - ever. They are our lifestyle now. Ursha already has two rescues in the same household and over the course of her life she will meet and love many more. It’s safe to say Ursha’s stability and jolly character will be a great asset in the next decade of our life.

Diversity in Friendship

It seems that in recent years it has became important again where somebody is coming from, what is their background and what history they’re bringing with them. My dogs have taught me so many lessons on acceptance and diversity. I look at them bonding together and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where they come from. As a complete coincidence, all of our dogs are from a different country. Ruby is from Belgium, Bailey from Slovenia (where we live), Lady was from Croatia, Chilly is from Bosnia and Ursha is from the Netherlands. To them, none of this matters. To them it also doesn’t matter that Chilly was a dirty street dog but Ursha is a high-born princess. It doesn’t matter that Bailey is reactive but Ruby doesn’t even notice fireworks. They only see each other’s souls.

They don’t concern themselves with each other’s origin and I think that is one of the most beautiful lessons they could ever teach us. Deep down, at our core, we are all one.

I am thankful for our two purebred Irish Setters. I am thankful for all our rescues. I am thankful for the balance we have in our home. I know I will eventually move out of the family home and I am not ashamed to say that I will buy a dog when that happens. But I will also foster dogs and continue to rescue them. To me, rescuing dogs is about balance - also within the soul. It’s not always easy and at the end of the day you need to rely on somebody.

I can see my future as the mother of rescues and I can also see one or two purebred dogs as the anchor in that pack. I reject all criticism on this front and invite everyone who reads this article, but especially the rescue community, to approach this matter with love and understanding.

I know plenty of people who just rescue.

I know plenty of people who just buy.

I love that I get to live my life somewhere in between.


What is the structure of your canine household? Do you have rescues, purebred pups or both? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

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How to Help a Dog Stung by Nettle

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When I was a kid, I fell into nettles many, many times. It always happened when I was on vacation at my grandparents’ house. They have a farm and plenty of meadows to run on. I would play with their dogs and somehow ended up in nettles every single time. I remember the burning sensation on my legs and the little itchy bumps that appeared afterwards. I never considered that dogs could get affected by this too, I just assumed it’s something that stings only humans. I learned my lesson when Bailey chased a ball right into a big bush of nettles and for the next couple of hours all hell broke loose.

Bailey has a crazy prey drive. We keep on working on self-control and I can honestly say she’s come so far. But the fact of the matter is, when that ball is in the air, she’ll chase it into a bottomless pit if she has to. It’s always my responsibility to make sure the ball doesn’t fall anywhere dangerous. She is no stranger to searching for the ball in the bushes so I didn’t think much of it when I saw the ball land in some big bushes in our back yard. She went into them head-first and then stopped abruptly and jumped out. She started running around like crazy and I could tell she was in pain - but nonetheless that crazy turkey had a ball in her mouth! That’s how crazy her instinct is!

I called her to me and it took two or three calls for her to even hear me. When she finally ran towards me she dropped to the floor, dropped the ball and started rubbing her nose with her paws, rubbing it against the grass and whimpering. I took her in my arms and went to check the bushes. We have some hedgehogs living in the yard and a frog. I also thought it might have been a bee. But as soon as I saw nettle it clicked in my head.

I took her inside and had to set her on the floor to do what any sensible dog mom would do in a crisis: google the symptoms and diagnose my dog based on what the online forums have to say.

Lucky for me, this time the prognosis wasn’t too bad. A lot of people have had this happen to their dogs and most of them just said it’s about soothing the pain that will last a couple of hours.

If the pain doesn’t go away or the dog has any additional symptoms you should go to the vet!
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Bailey still being pretty hysterical, I washed her snout and ears with a cloth drenched in cold water, then somehow managed to get her to her crate where she feels safe. As soon as she was inside she stopped freaking out and was just whimpering. The hardest thing is when you lock eyes with your furry little soulmate and you can tell they’re hurting but you don’t truly know what to do. I took some coconut oil and put it all over her snout and ears (the ears were red but had no bumps). Since little B is an avid lover of coconut oil she spent the next 15 minutes trying to lick it all off. Needless to say, she was successful and it made the situation worse because she was scratching herself really hard. Chilly has had some skin irritation issues and I use 100% aloe gel to help him - so I immediately thought of that. I put the aloe gel on the affected areas, closed the crate and after about 30 minutes of whimpering she finally fell asleep. I think she was super tired not only from the game in the yard but also from the pain and the hysterical running because of it. I monitored her closely (read: I obsessively checked on her every five minutes making sure she is still breathing) and when she woke up some hours later she was just fine!


I wanted to share this experience because I honestly had no idea that nettle could sting dogs and after reading some more information online, it seems that it mostly affects dogs with short hair (or no hair) and the areas where the skin is really thin (ears, snout, legs, stomach).

Hopefully this raises some awareness and you can make sure that your pooch doesn’t have the same painful experience - or of they do, it’s good to have aloe gel on hand! It would mean so much to me if you shared this article with your fellow dog moms because prevention is always key!

Have you ever had any experience with your dog being stung by nettle? How did you help them deal with the pain? Comment below so we can all learn from each other!

Things I Am Afraid to Tell You: Rescue Dog Mom Edition

The internet is full of people pretending their lives are perfect. Social media will have you believe that every day starts with a pink frappuccino and ends with a perfectly lit selfie. The blogging world is perhaps even worse. The talk about followers, subscribers, Instagram algorithms and “shadowbans” is neverending. Everyone seems to have a social media strategy in place, a narrow niche, a carefully curated online personality.

To say that I do not fit into that would be an understatement.

I can’t take my dogs to a coffee shop for that damn pink frappuccino because one is reactive and one hates crowded spaces (working on it!). I don’t like taking selfies and when I do, they have a really shitty lighting. I don’t have a social media strategy other than “spill your heart out on Instagram to contrast all of the strategic captions and hashtags.” I don’t abide the rules of having a narrow niche (anymore) and my online personality is very transparent.

I was recently inspired by Jenna Kutcher’s podcast where she talked about her fears. It felt so refreshing. She runs such a successful online business but she wasn’t afraid to bare her soul and tell us how it really is. She inspired me to write this post and I quietly hope this trend continues on. If anyone feels encouraged to write about the things that scare them, please feel free to do so and make sure to send me the link! Let’s create a transparent community where, despite our social media followers and number of subscribers, we admit to each other that we are all just people.

Here are my very own 5 things I am afraid to tell you: rescue dog mom edition. Writing this was therapeutic but posting it feels scary, too.

1. I still see my dogs as “broken” sometimes

They tell you not to do that. Hell, I’ll tell you not to do that! “Don’t treat them like they’re broken. Don’t think of their past too much. Don’t feel sorry for them, it will affect your training. Give them a chance to be normal.” We’ve all heard it. And I try my best, but sometimes I look at Chilly and all I can think of is how he was alone on the street in the first months of his life. He still flinches if you move your arms too fast and is still wary of strangers. It takes everything in me not to worry about what must have happened to him. I know my dogs are loved beyond compare and are being raised with love, but sometimes their lack of early socialization is still an issue - on those days, it’s hard to see them as whole.

2. I'm not always confident in my training

I am good at dog training - I know I am. At this point I have a lot of experience with dogs but even so, I don’t always know how to approach an issue. Since I’ve mentioned Chilly’s fear of crowded places - it took me a long time to come up with a training plan that requires gradual exposure without overwhelming him. We went out and tested what works for us, made some mistakes along the way and continue to learn as we go. At first I felt like I have no idea where to begin helping him and how to plan the training sessions. All of my knowledge and all of my experience and sometimes I still feel so very uncertain. 

3. People’s negative comments really affect me

I know you’re not supposed to take people’s opinions to heart, but I do. Luckily, so far I haven’t gotten any hate online except once, but I do get a lot of snarky comments regarding my training methods in my private life. These comments affect me so much. I am often seen as an obsessive dog mom who is way too strict. “Why won’t you let them off the lead? Why aren’t they allowed to get food from the table? Why are they crate trained? I didn’t crate train any of my dogs and I’ve had dogs for 20 years. Why did you leave your dog at home today? How will they socialize if you don’t take them with you? Once I have a dog of my own I’m not going to be as obsessive about training as you are. This is too much.” These are actual sentences said to me by actual people in my life. And on and on it goes.

You’d think I’m a monster who keeps my dogs on a lockdown! But here’s the reality: I rescue dogs with heavy stories. I speak dog body language fluently. I have a (force-free) system when training my dogs that turns them into happy, confident dogs. I understand they are animals with strong instincts and I strive to satisfy those instincts. We spend a lot of quality time together, but they also know how to rest. I understand the responsibility of owning a dog, I understand I must ensure their safety and the safety of those they come in contact with - which is why I require their recall to be 100% and until it is, they are not let off the lead. I don’t “socialize” them with unstable dogs who don’t respond to their owners. We go on adventures together and I always make sure they feel safe. I understand that resocialization takes time. I do all this work and we have immense progress and I am so proud of us. But people still misunderstand. And it does hurt.

4. Bailey often triggers my anxiety

When Bailey is having a hard time, it triggers my anxiety. I can relate to her a lot because I am also a hypersensitive anxious soul, so I understand why the world feels scary for her sometimes. I understand why she loves quiet places. I understand why socializing wears her out. And yet, sometimes I still wish for her to just be normal. I don’t always know where Bailey’s anxiety ends and mine begins. A part of me knows that the best way to help her is to be calm. Another part of me breaks when she is having a hard time. I love my sweet girl with the whole of my heart but when she is in pain, scared, or upset, my world stops spinning for a bit. I want to put everything else on hold just to help her and make sure she is okay. My heart is racing, my breath escapes me. In those moments, I know I need to trust us. Trust myself, that I have trained her well enough to be able to cope with a situation. Trust her, that she has it in her. I also need to learn that it’s okay if she feels discomfort sometimes; she has to work through it and my job is to be there for her, to stay calm and offer stability. The more I work on myself, the better she is too! 

5. Balancing two dogs has been a challenge

One is one, two is twenty and I don’t know what three will one day be. I love having two dogs. They have been one of the biggest blessings in my life. They have this amazing yin and yang dynamic going on. They’re 3 years apart in age but I swear they could be twins. Though in some aspects of their personalities, they are day and night. Chilly is calm, sociable, independent and always up for shenanigans. Bailey is hyperactive, has a huge prey drive, doesn’t like socializing but loves the physical presence of her human (me!). On the days that I know I’ve fulfilled all of Chilly’s border collie needs I find myself wondering if I’ve done the same for Bailey - and the other way around. When I’m focusing on Bailey my mind wonders if I’m doing right by Chilly too. They spend much of their day together, but they also have a lot of separate training sessions and activities. Chilly’s into frisbee and Bailey’s into chasing balls. Chilly loves taking walks around our neighborhood and for Bailey they are often overwhelming. It’s not always easy to balance the both of them, but it’s worth it - even on the days when I wonder if one of them is feeling left out.


These were mine unspoken secrets that are now forever a part of this blog and shared with this community. Being a dog mom is my favorite thing in the world and definitely my purpose on planet Earth. I know I’m good at it, because my entire heart is in it. But I also know that I am not perfect - thankfully, nobody is! ;)

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4 Years of Adventures

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4 years ago, my life changed upside down. I rescued my first puppy and she changed me as a soul. The amount of love and happiness she has brought into my life goes beyond words. She taught me everything I know about dogs, positive reinforcement, patience and love. My darling Bailey, happy adoptaversary!

My mother has 4 children and I am the oldest one. She said to me once: "I love all of my children equally, but it was you who made me a mother." Back then, I didn't fully understand what she meant, but I do now. Because it wasn't until I adopted Chilly that I fully grasped the power of a first (furry) child.

They make you a parent. They shape you as a parent. When I adopted Bailey 4 years ago, I was so insecure and in over my head. I was not ready for her fears and traumas. I was not ready to set boundaries. As it turns out, she was exactly what I needed.

She taught me everything I know about dogs. About the power of patience and communication. About the healing power of love.

When Chilly came to me 3 months ago, I noticed how confident I am. How consistent, patient, assertive. It was Bailey who made me this way. She made me a good dog parent, she gave me the opportunity to grow through her, not only as her human parent, but also as a soul.

She's always had a way of mirroring me. She shows me my weaknesses and my strengths. She brings out the best in me, but also makes me aware of my own anxiety. She makes me want to work for things in life - because if she worked so hard on her fears, so can I. She makes me gentle and soft. Life has a tendency to make you cold sometimes, but she makes all of that disappear. With her, there is always just warmth.

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My sweet girl.

My very first baby.

My ultimate soulmate and partner in crime.

Happy 4th anniversary, little B.

You are my life's best part.

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