When Everything Has Gone to the Dogs

I know that summer break is a time to slow down, break routine, relax the rules a bit. I have to admit that I am very good at this. I really know how to take it easy. In fact I am practically a professional at relaxing the rules and breaking routine.

I guess I hadn’t realized just how good I was at this until the summer break ended and I realized that everything had gone to the dogs.



Trio of dogs

Chester, Hattie and Charlotte

We have three dogs–two English springer spaniels (litter mates) and a chocolate lab mix–and as I’m sure you can imagine, things can get a bit wild around our house at times. It is particularly rough going letting them out into the backyard and at feeding time.

Let’s just say there is a reason they are called springer spaniels.

Hattie and Michael

Hattie–with her feline playmate, Curry–hoping that more food will magically appear on Michael’s plate.

The dynamics within this trio are quite interesting (actually it’s a quartet if you include the cat). The “twins” as we call them (Hattie and Chester) couldn’t be more different in temperament.

Chester and Charlotte

Chester and Charlotte hang out together

Chester is very cool. He clearly understands his place in the pack–“top dog” but is submissive to the human boss. He has great social skills, follows instructions, enjoys playing but also loves to chill out with a bone on the floor.



Chester and Cameron

Chester is the best snuggler

Hattie, on the other hand, is a very anxious dog. She is easily distracted, barks constantly, won’t follow commands unless food is involved and her only animal playmate is the cat.




Hattie. Enough said.

Charlotte, the chocolate lab mix, is a classic rescue dog–a little fearful at first but smart, protective, attentive and friendly.



We spent a good deal of time and money last year training them and they definitely became more manageable. But like any good habit, it is a slippery slope into bedlam.

At first it might just be a nudge of the hand with their nose. Come on. Pet me. You know I look cute. You give in without giving it a second thought.

twins again

Then they jump up “to greet you” at the front door. Oh look how excited they are to see me, you say to yourself.

The barking and circling as you put dog food in their bowls you simply chalk up to hunger. I shouldn’t have made them wait so long for dinner, the poor pups. They are starving!

The next thing you know you have three very large and smelly canines laying across you on the sofa. Isn’t this sweet. They just love me so much and they want to cuddle with their mama!

Dogs in control

Dogs in control

When left to their own devices, this pack is a mess.

Yep. This is where I was last week. I had hit bottom. I had ignored the warnings from my husband, the pleas from my daughter. I just couldn’t admit that I needed help.

Somehow I found the strength–no, the courage–to reach out for help.

I called the dog trainer. Help was on its way!

She paid us a visit yesterday and after a little more than an hour of time working with me, reminding me of the techniques and tools and encouraging me, I began to feel empowered again.

No more chaos around meal time. No more jumping six feet in the air to get outside. No more shoving me off of the sofa.

I am the top dog around here! Grrrrrr….

Top dog?

Top dog?