Tag Archives: conflict management

And Bartolo Makes Seven

A year ago I thought my life was pretty busy, taking care of my husband, our two kids, and our cat Smokey. Last August we adopted Maggie, my first dog ever, and it was an adjustment, but she’s pretty much a lapdog, and our life was still busy but manageable.

About a month ago, we adopted Bartolo, a German Shepherd mix that the rescue group Doggie Protective Services (DPS) claimed doesn’t need a lot of exercise. I’ve since realized their idea of “a lot of exercise” is much more than mine is.

The photo that first made me want to adopt Bartolo

The photo that first made me want to adopt Bartolo

Because Bartolo loves to run, I started taking the dogs to the dog park. I realized it was good for Maggie too since she barks and growls whenever she sees another dog. Overall, it’s been a good experience. Bartolo runs fastest and is happiest when he’s chasing another dog or being chased. I’ve taken him jogging, I’ve ridden a bike with him running alongside me, and he tolerates it, but he really lives for the chase.

Bartolo only gets tired from fetching these footballs

Bartolo only gets tired from fetching these footballs

There have been a few incidents at the dog park. One dog walker kept yelling at Bartolo to stop barking at her dog, to the point where I decided we might as well leave. Ironically, she said nothing to Maggie who barked incessantly at another of her dogs. Being at the dog park isn’t unlike being at a playground with your kids. Some people you’ll get along with, others not so much.

I describe my way of navigating the world as “learning by tripwire.” It’s trial-and-error, but much more filled with being oblivious then regretful. I brought a Duraplay squeaky football to the dog park. A guy was there with his dog, let’s call him Ethan and his dog Buster. Ethan usually walks around the dog park fence without ever coming inside. I asked him why, and he said Buster was a rescue dog and wasn’t well socialized. Buster knew the other two dogs who were in the dog park that morning with us though, so Ethan thought he’d try having Buster come inside.

Me, being my usual, optimistic, naive self, encouraged Ethan. For the most part Buster and Bartolo ignored each other or growled then backed off. The other two dogs left with their owner, and I started throwing Bartolo’s football. Buster would chase it but then let Bartolo take it. Until he wouldn’t. They started fighting, and Ethan stepped in to pull them apart. In the process he got bit. Of course both dogs were up-to-date on their rabies, so at least we didn’t have that to worry about. Ethan said he wouldn’t bring Buster back into the dog park again. He told me after the fight that Buster had already recently gotten into a couple of fights.

People say he should have known better, and he probably should, but I still feel responsible too. I don’t bring dog toys to the park anymore. In the future, if anyone brings in their dog and says it isn’t well-socialized, I’m going to take my dogs out before anything happens. We’ve gotten to know a few of the dogs already, and there’s plenty of dogs Bartolo does get along with that we can play with in the mornings. I won’t let this incident keep me from going to the dog park, but I can certainly be more careful.

Bartolo wishes we had a bigger pet door

Bartolo wishes we had a bigger pet door

I admit I had my doubts early on whether we should keep Bartolo. I thought that adding one dog after already having one wouldn’t be a big deal. Perhaps if we’d gotten another small dog, but it was really stressful trying to keep Bartolo from running out of the yard when we opened the door, from jumping up when trying to put his food bowl in his dog bed, and from lunging while on the leash. I actually had a talk with my husband that I was afraid that I wasn’t a “good enough” dog owner to be able to control and take care of Bartolo, and we might need to consider giving him back.

Thankfully, dog owners from the dog park and the neighborhood gave me great suggestions for how to train Bartolo. He has to sit and stay before we open the yard door, and he doesn’t try to dash out anymore. I bought a Gentle Leader headcollar that pulls his head towards me when he tries to lunge. I hook two loops (skipping one in between) on his SnapLeash, removing some of the slack, and wrapping it around my waist so that he has only enough leash to stay right beside me.

My husband is taking Bartolo to obedience training, and it seems to be going well. Bartolo was surrendered to the rescue organization by his former owner, who got ill and was no longer able to take care of him. He is an absolute sweetheart, and one day Maggie will stop growling at him. Probably.

Our lives are crazy busy now. I’m walking about 6-7 miles per day now between running errands, picking up and dropping off my kids, and giving the dogs lots of exercise. I’m also happier than ever. I promised my husband I wouldn’t ask for any more dogs. Now we joke that we should adopt an orange tabby cat. Thank God DPS never seems to have any.

Our whole family (minus Smokey the cat)

Our whole family (minus Smokey the cat)

Have you ever had two or more dogs? Was it a big transition adding each dog?

Getting Someone on Your Side Sometimes Means Meeting Them Halfway

Last night, I had an actual “good parenting” moment. They come so rarely, I simply had to document it in case it never happens again.

At dinner, my husband and I were trying to talk to each other about our days. He was trying to get Kaylee to eat her dinner, which she would only do while sitting in his lap. Zach was sitting next to them and kept distracting her. We repeatedly told him to stop and just sit facing the table. After a few warnings, we told him he had to sit next to me at the table. He kept being disruptive, and I yelled at him again to stop. He put his head on his arms on the table and started to cry so I sent him to his room.

Now, to be fair, I had nearly run myself into the ground all day doing errands and walking over 17,000 steps (Thank you Fitbit for being such a slave driver!). I was trying to eat my dinner, listen to my husband talk about his day, get credit for the dozens of things I got done, and get Kaylee to eat her dinner. And I absolutely can’t stand having to repeat myself. I realize that’s my issue, but it’s really true that if my kids did what I asked the first, second, or even third time, I wouldn’t have to lose my “shit.”

So, Zach went to his room and proceeded to scream about how angry he was, and how unfair I was being. I started cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the leftovers. I specifically waited a few minutes so that he could vent, and I could calm myself before I went to talk to him. I’m well aware that my usual reaction is to get defensive and angrier, which isn’t particularly effective, as you might expect.

I went to Zach’s room, sat down, and asked him to sit down so that we talk eye-to-eye. Once he sat down, I felt the urge to explain myself, when instead I had the idea to ask him, “So, how do you feel?” He said, “Mad,” of course. I looked him in the eye, and said, “Yeah, I see that you’re really mad.” He looked surprised that I was listening to him and acknowledging him instead of trying to control him. I asked him, “Could you please tell me more about that?”

Mom and son embrace

Sometimes getting someone on your side means meeting them halfway.

Instead of trying to “make him wrong,” I showed him that he did have a reason to be mad, and I empathized with him. I told him that I felt hurt that he was disrupting my conversation with my husband. He admitted it was fair that Daddy and I get to talk to each other sometimes. He said he was acting out because he wanted to tell his dad more about his day, but he couldn’t while we were talking. I told him I hadn’t known that and asked him to say, “Excuse me, may I please share something?” the next time. I promised to ask him next time whether there is something he wants to share, rather than just assume that he’s behaving badly.

I’ve come a long way since I wrote “You Gotta Know When to Walk Away.” It feels really good. I’m still not a great parent, but I’m getting more confident and skilled, mostly by watching my friends parent their kids and picking up their tips.

Do you have any success stories you’d like to share? We’re all so hard on ourselves, we deserve to toot our horns once in a while!