Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Brief Career as a Dog Whisperer

My daughter recently visited us here in South Bend, bringing with her the newest member of the family: Killian, a Scotty-Yorkshire mix. He is such a little cutie, and a bundle of energy. They drove 13 hours to get here, so Killian was a speed demon as he dashed around our backyard. He had lots of new sensations and smells and sights to keep him busy. It was fun to see him explore and enjoy our house.

All was going well and Killian and our daughter were just about ready to get some rest when some nearby firecrackers erupted. Killian was not happy. By the time the short pops finished, the poor little fellow was trembling. I have never felt a dog vibrate in terror, but Killian did. He was so frightened. My daughter scooped him up and wrapped her arms around him, but he couldn't settle down. We wrapped him in a blanket but that didn't work either. Eventually they went upstairs to their bedroom and settled down. At some point, though, the after-game fireworks from the South Bend Cubs began and there were some distant rumblings to deal with, too.

Morning dawned and a very calm and happy pup came bounding down the stairs. The day went very well, and no firecrackers appeared. The next day, Killian also was quite happy and wasn't assaulted by unexpected explosions. But in the late afternoon, after I had run an errand and while my daughter and husband were playing golf, I was the only human around to amuse and care for the dog. Things were going so well, and then some firecrackers popped in the alley across the street.

Killian began to tremble. I felt so bad for him. I took him in my arms and petted him and tried to soothe him. Nothing was working. I tried to think about what soothed my grandchildren when they were infants, and remembered one technique. I began to make little "shooshing" noises, just little whispery sounds. That seemed fruitless for a few moments and then, suddenly, I felt a pause, a gap in Killian's trembling. Soon there were more pauses. I kept whispering and holding and petting him, and in just a few more minutes, he was calm. I couldn't believe it. I am not a notable dog 'caregiver', although I love dogs, so this was a wonderful surprise. By the time my daughter returned, Killian was calm and happy again. Success.

I had one more opportunity to be a dog whisperer before they left. The next day, as they were preparing to get on the road again, something upset Killian again. It might have been a truck backfiring or something. At any rate, he began to tremble while my daughter was packing things up on the bed. I just reached my arms around him and cuddled him and began to shoosh him again. Bingo! In a very few minutes, he settled down and the trembling ceased. Wow.

My career has finished, at least for this visit. But I am so pleased that I was able to calm down the wee doggie. And my daughter has learned yet another strategy to help him out in times of stress. I'm looking forward to his next visit!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's My Name

Many different things have occupied my thoughts over the past month, and I have not been inclined to post anything here on this blog.

Another of my mother's brothers died, leaving only one of the five remaining.

I spent time with my own siblings in Virginia, sorting through more of our parents' possessions and reliving all our years together.

Mother's Day this year was also our father's birthday, and the three of us were able to be together for a meal remembering our parents.

My sister and I took our first ocean-going cruise, sailing from Norfolk to the Bahamas and back.

The event which most affected me, though, was the sudden, unexpected death of my dear friend Dan. Reflecting on our long years of friendship has kept me in a place not conducive to blog posts. Dealing with his death has been difficult.

But celebrating my grandchildren's birthday yesterday has brought me the final few steps toward looking forward not backward, toward joy and not sorrow.

And so, I recommence my blog ponderings!

I grew up in southeastern Virginia, and my family's background is in North Carolina. Names in the South are beautiful and sometimes even mellifluous. At least where I come from, they frequently are double. (That is, relatives use one's first AND middle names all the time, not just in anger!)

This means that I never had a nickname. Never. Neither did my sister or brother. Nor did any of my cousins. In fact, when I am with my family members, I am still called Barbara Anne. None of the neighbors or friends with whom I grew up called me anything other than Barbara. None. No school nicknames, no goofy college labels. I have always been Barbara.

This all changed when I moved to Chicago with my husband and daughter. Almost from the very beginning, once I was introduced as Barbara, folks began shortening it to "Barb". I didn't understand. I always identified myself as Barbara. Never "Barb". In fact, I absolutely cannot stand "Barb". Absolutely. Things got worse when I began teaching at Guerin. There happened to be four other Barbaras teaching or on staff there at the time. And apparently everyone was going to be called "Barb", regardless.  No matter how often I referred to myself as Barbara, I was always tagged as "Barb Bess".

I ask you, doesn't "Barb Bess" just sound awful? I do not like it.

Most (but not all) of my closest friends have never, ever called me "Barb". Most casual friends do. I still don't understand the automatic shortening/nicknaming process out here in the Midwest. However, now I am not shy about correcting new acquaintances if they begin to use the detested "Barb".

I suppose it's too much to hope that this disagreeable Midwestern custom will disappear, but I just want to let everyone know I like my name the way it is. And I would dearly love not to be referred to as "Barb" ever again.

I am Barbara and I love my name.

Thanks! End of complaints!