Today Silver was the chosen dog for our adventure. We went to one of favorite spots where I can let her run free. While on our stroll, I was thinking how both of our lives have changed. From simply being Alex, Silver and my husband and I, to Brut and their litter of puppies to the current complexity of living with two packs of dogs. How our lives have evolved and morphed into something I could have never dreamed of that started with Alex. I think about how easy the years have passed as I watch Silver bound ahead of me without a care that her muzzle and toes continue to whiten with time while she scampers after a chipmunk.
Funny how you measure time with your dog's life. This was Alex favorite spot too and I could almost see his big butt shooting down the hill, his long furry tail flipping this way and that. He was such a shaggy mutt that walked with fun pride and without a care in the world. He was just happy-go-lucky but with class. He had a low, full bark that came from the bellows and would scare the holy right out of you, but he always did so with a wagging tail. He was the one who got this ball rolling by coming into our lives. You have got to love a dog who changes everything about you, because he knew who you really were inside. I didn't know at the time when we got him if I was ready for a dog, but nothing prepared for the places he took me or heartache that still falls when I open my heart to the pain of losing him.
He is known as the Godfather to all his dog children. For if it wasn't for Alex, there wouldn't be 24 Paws of Love.
I had a very stressful week and today was particularly anxious. The day has finally come to a close and while everyone has gone to bed, I have come to my favorite hideaway, where I can kick up my feet, have a few smokes and visiting with all my wonderful doggy friends. I hadn't realize what a comfy spot this is and how much I have missed it the last few days. My little home away from home.
The dogs have been so great through this time period. I mean really who else would put up with only a minute here and there to get some attention? We have missed quite a few walks as time has been so tight, but they have been such troopers through it all. I have been tearing apart the house cleaning, so they have put up with many disruptions and the dreaded vacuum cleaner and they still love me. I know I shouldn't laugh, but Chance puts on one hell of a show when the vacuum is running, darting and dashing every which way. I can't help it, I think it's a bit comical. :)
So here I sit, sipping on my pop, enjoying the gentle quiet of the evening and the wonderful fact that this nightmare week is almost over. I feel like I can see the end of the tunnel. I wasn't sure for a while if it was ever going to end. Two more rooms to thoroughly clean and I'll be done. Does anyone know what dog hair is going for on the black market?? BOL! I think I have a fortune under every nook and cranny! Amazing where you can find it. Places that didn't seem possible. You'd never know I just did a deep cleaning a month ago-geez! Already Brut's tufts of fur are decorating the floor and couch. I swear he leaves a trail every where he goes. The job that never ends...SIGH...
Thank you for making this blogging space such a happy and wonderful place to call home. It really feels good to be part of such a wonderful community and around such doggie loving friends. I hope every one has a great weekend and for those of you in the US, Happy Memorial Weekend!
We read a great post by Hawkeye over at Brown Dog about National Dog Bite Prevention week that we think is a must read. Please stop over and check it out.
Here's our two cents on Dog Bite Prevention:
You have the right to say "NO." If you are like me it is hard to say NO to someone who may want to pet your dog. I know I have done it myself when meeting strangers with dogs and falling instantly in love with their dog and wanting to pet them. You as an owner have every right not to let someone else pet your dog. Even friends and family. If you are uncomfortable with a situation, you are allowed to deny someone from petting your dog. Forget about hurting feelings, our dogs are our responsibility which includes not letting others touch him or her if you do not warrant it.
I think we as dog lovers sometimes forget that we have that right even when we are around other dog lovers. Even the best behaved dogs still get stressed and overwhelmed at times and can snap sometimes out of fear or frustration. Biting is not limited to just aggressive dogs. All dogs have teeth and use them as a form of communication especially when their message isn't getting across.
Knowing how your dog responds under different circumstance can also help. Understanding their behaviors and body language are usually clear indicators how your dog may or may not be feeling. Different breeds react differently under different circumstances, such as guard dogs are more protective and may take time to become open and friendly. Dominant and aggressive dogs may act differently out in public then they do at home. Some dogs do not like to be touched, or will only tolerate being petted in certain areas and/or may have spots on their body that are completely off limits. Some dogs are shy and will snap or bite out of fear. Understanding your dog will help in prevention.
As much as I dislike the term, your dog is your property. Just because you own a dog, doesn't give everyone the freedom to touch him or her any way they please. By protecting your dog, you are protecting others of what could be a serious situation. Understand and respect your dog's rights just as you would a child or any other human. They are counting on you.
I've been working on and off with Chance and his leash training since he came to live with us two and half years ago. I was one who always got frustrated with myself, gave up and went back to our old way of walking, which was him pulling me anywhere he wanted. Not only is he a strong dog physically but mentally as well. Out of all my dogs he is my worker dog and when he sets his mind to something he goes after it. Now this is great if he's being given some direction, but without a solid command he figures he runs the show and I was letting him.
When I finally got serious about not having my arm come out of my socket, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I started in December 2010 with my first post of my decision and our first practice. Pain has a way of being a great motivator and was the only thing that kept me from not going back to the old ways. While I used the same basic techniques I'd used in the past, this time no matter what I was as consistent as possible. My biggest falter besides my habit of giving up and thinking I couldn't do it. Sometimes the walks were disasters, some were great successes, but the one thing they had was consistency and determination. It is the longest I have ever had either for leash training my dogs and Chance made it seem like piece of cake.
I never realized all the blessings that would come out of training Chance to walk on a leash. Leash walking has always been a huge weakness for me and I have always struggled to overcome that weakness. Our communication and connection was strong before we started, but what I didn't expect was the understanding of our communication and what it would mean on our walks. I have always been so impatient trying to get from point A to B, that I could never considered stopping for five minutes while I waited for him to calm or turning around and back for his attention, but now they are part of our walks. Mostly, I never considered the freedom that we would share on our walks and the joy of working as a team. That was proven most to me with our walk at the park. Now there was an ultimate respect that runs through the leash and a soaring in my heart because I am having the time of my life walking my boy, Chance.
Chance and I would also like to send out a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has encouraged us and stuck by our story along the way. Your support has meant a great deal to us and we couldn't have done it without you.
Thank you for helping my Mommy!
Cause there was no way she'd make it this far on her own!!
There's nothing like snuggling with a puppy. That warm, fuzzy feeling of cuddling with a new friend. Now imagine four-three week old puppies that were sleeping with Mommy and their siblings come crawling over to you when you lay in the whelping bed. It was the best feeling in the world. A beautiful moment in that I will always remember of being loved.
While we may look like we are having a lazy, rainy day afternoon nap, don't be fooled. We are still working dogs with a job to do.
Brut guards the toy box.
No one is touching my toys!
Fiona and Silver hold down the couch to contain the dust bunnies until Mommy gets to them.
Zappa protects the chair from another dreaded attack of the chair eating monster.
I'll get him this time!
Blaze and Chance do their best to cover up Mommy's messiness with their big bodies.
Are we stretched out far enough?
We do our best to help out Mommy and put our best working dog skills to the test, so we don't understand what she means when she says it doesn't help having six mongrels and two mouse chaster when she's trying to keep up the house.
We thought we were doing a pretty good job. Does anyone else get it?? BOL!
Join us for the Pet Blogger Hop, hosted by Life with Dogs, The Two Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume!
Chance amazed me again. I took him for a ride with me while I ran some errands and en route I thought, I'll take him to the park for a reward for being such a good boy. We haven't been to the park since I started leash training him and I wondered how contextual this experience would be for him. I was simply WOWed!
When I gave him the OK to get out of the car, he about pulled my arm off while I tried to shut the door. He was rather excited and it took me a couple of minutes getting him to sit/stay long enough so I could close and lock the doors. I walked him around the drive first, for a little reminder of loose leash walking. I decided to skip the trails as we walked around the baseball fields. I was stunned. He did fantastic! Then when we came to the back entrance of trails, I let him lead the way and again I was blown over. I decided to jog with him the rest of the way through the trails so he could pick up the pace as he was doing so well. Even with all the new smells and the intensity of them, he only pulled a couple of times that we had to stop and regroup, it was simply amazing!
I had really expected this experience to throw him off guard. I thought he would be overly excited and completely detached from me. I was so overwhelmed when he listened to me and we took our practice walks up and down the park driveway. I thought I would be lucky if I could get him to walk the park road without any problems. I thought for sure he would lunge and drag me everywhere with all the woodland creature smells. I thought there was no way possible to be in a completely different environment and have any good success. He has such a history of being in new places and literally dragging me all over the place. I had no doubt that he would give me a hard time about being trained at the park when there were more interesting things than me there. That's what I get for thinking! I was dead wrong and that was so cool! I love the lesson he taught me. I was prepare for the worst and he gave me his best, can't ask for anything better than that!!
What a difference being in the right frame of mind can make when training and how quickly your dog will pick up on that. The other day I'd been a funk all afternoon and thought, "Why not train Blaze?" Hoping it would make me feel better. Well, she didn't want to be my fix-it dog for my mood and madee sure I knew it. I took Blaze out for our second practice walk with the no-pull head halter and the halter didn't phase her a bit. She just keep pulling me. So needless to say our training walk was rather short and I felt worse than before.
So last night, I decided to work with Blaze again. I hadn't given up any hope and I was in a good frame of mind. The difference was night and day. She was willing and able. Didn't give me a hard time about anything and she did fantastic. We practice walking in and out of the gate and she was giving me eye contact after I made her sit in front of open gate!! I about fell over. It was so cool!! Blaze's mind is usually working over time, focused on everything but me, so I couldn't believe when I looked down there she was staring at me, waiting for my command. I was so caught off guard, I couldn't think what to do next. She sat there looking and smiling at me while my thoughts fumbled around with the next command as if to say, "I can do it too!"
We made it up and down the driveway a couple of times. There were a ton of distraction from the Back Dogs whooping and hollering that didn't seem to phase Blaze, but I was having one hell of time. So I guess their raucous was for me to work on my focus. Just what I needed, I bunch of smart ass dogs!
I learned a couple of things: One: Blaze needs to move quickly and swiftly, so once I picked my pace, things went smoothly. Two: Never underestimate the power of a dog or how keen they are on your mood swings. It can make the difference between a great learning session or feeling like you've done pooper scooper duty all day, and nobody needs that!!
Silver's newborns in whelping bed with bumper rails
We constructed the whelping box in our bedroom and even though it was the coolest room in the house, it was the safest and the quietest. It started out being about 4 feet by 4 1/2 feet and would undergo several additions as the puppies grew to accommodate their needs. We built a raised floor that was insulated underneath. We constructed it in the corner and added another wall to make it three sided in order to block off the draft from the hallway. We had a roof to contain heat and could also hang a heat lamp for added warmth. The open front was blocked off by a board, so that Mommy Dog Silver could get in and out, but would keep the puppies safe. As the puppies grew so would this wall, board by board to keep them in. There were also bumper rails all around the inside walls of the whelping bed that stopped Silver from laying on any of her puppies that may be up against the wall.
First addition where zebra towel is.
By the time the puppies were two weeks old, Silver needed to stretch out more to nurse as the puppies were getting bigger. So we added another foot to the front of the whelping bed giving Silver more room to expand.
Zappa leading the way to the new potty room!
At three weeks old I learned you could build a potty room and that the puppies would learn to use. So we added another foot and half on to the front of the whelping box and lined it with newspapers for the beginning stages of potty training.
The four white dogs showing off in the play/sleep area with the potty room now in back and the new dining room addition in front of them.
By the time they were four weeks old, we were able to take down the extra third wall and add another area on the side for feeding, playing and sleeping. They were beginning to have more play time outside of the whelping box now, so with the new addition of the "dining area," they had plenty of room. Shortly after that we switched the potty room and the sleeping/play area around for two reasons. One, we needed a bigger potty area and two, when they would run to greet us they were running through the potty room. Transition took a little while, but they soon caught on.
The last day of the growing whelping bed. :(
After all the puppies had found new homes, it took us a couple of weeks before we finally had the heart to tear down the whelping bed. It was a sad time, but one of a new beginning. Daddy built two crates for Zappa and Fiona where the whelping box was. It was only right that they should have their own special beds in the spot where we hold so many beautiful and fun memories of our litter of puppies, helping to keep those memories alive.
Chance is getting so good at loose leash training that I'm able to let my mind wander on our walks without being pulled. It is becoming more a natural experience for the two of us, walking together. It feels great. While we still have a ways to go on many things, I love having a foundation to fall back on.
I am working on solidifying his turn commands, Gee (right) and Haw (left). This will help when he starts pulling the bike again before sled season starts. I have been giving him the commands and then making the turns. Now I am letting him make the decision. I give the command and wait for him to turn his nose in the right direction, reward while turning in the direction. He did fantastic our last walk. He hesitates for a moment but has been spot on every time.
My next challenge with Chance is to have Daddy walk with us. In order to do that I've started working with Chance on our pace speeds. I am a quick walker and have learned to minimize pulling by speed walking with a dog, while Daddy is a more relaxed walker. So I've started training him on following the different paces I set. So far, so good. Once I have to a point I am comfortable with Chance, I will have Daddy walk with us, which will probably test Chance at many levels because of our walk being in a completely different context because Daddy is there. Daddy lets Chance walk and pull anyway he wants, so it ought to be interesting to say the least. :)
Have you ever been waiting for someone to leave so you can have the house to yourself and do what want without getting yelled at? That's what it is like for the Back Dogs when Brut goes for a ride with Daddy or is even outside for a long period. Silver, Fiona, Zappa and I party down!! Everyone needs a break from Brut's dictatorship every now and again and we tend to live it up. The treats come out, the forbidden toys come out and we turn the music up loud! It sounds horrible I know, I am such a mean mom, but Lord knows that boy deserve to be left out of the party sometimes and the rest of the Back Dogs need the reprieve.
If you haven't heard, Brut can be like the Drill Sargent keeping everyone in line and on time. He is always keeping the other three Back Dogs in check and at attention. So when he's out of the picture you can imagine the wild time we have when we become unleashed.
I'm sure it isn't fair to make a special occasion when Brut is away from his command post but it feels so good to breathe and loosen up for a few minutes without him harping down everyone's neck that I can't help myself. It may only be for a few minutes or it might be for a few hours, whatever the time is, it is precious.
Zappa especially likes razzing his mom, Silver and usually can't get close enough for any length of time to actually have a good round of bitey face. So when he gets the opportunity, he takes it. They can all roll on the floor and cause as much commotion as they want without being sent back to the barracks.
It is so nice to drop my guard for a little while and really enjoy the time with Silver, Zappa and Fiona. We ALL need a break from Brut sometimes, because we know when he comes back home, rank is pulled and the Brut-miester is back in charge barking out the orders.
What a little hot dog and a head halter can do!! I had a great start with Blaze on practicing her leash training. I almost want to pinch myself! This couldn't be the same crazy, wild dog I tried this before?? Blaze was so great! Once she grasp what we were doing, it was almost like she couldn't get enough of it. Like she's just been waiting for the opportunity to learn. I was so proud of her, I felt like I was going to burst!
I started Blaze by putting on her no-pull head halter (like a Gentle Leader) and we walked around the yard several times in the heel position. Once she settled into that, I worked with her going out the gate. Which is usually our breaking point. She thinks she's at the Kentucky Derby when the bells sound, but with a little discipline and the wonderful head halter we were eventually able to go in and out the gate and into the driveway. This really couldn't be the same dog that was pulling my arm off, could it? Another thing I was surprised at was that she wasn't fighting the head halter, at all. That was a huge plus. This was the first I had a leash hooked to it so that she was getting the correction and it didn't seem to phase her a bit.
I was very happy with our results and almost didn't want to stop, but I didn't want to overdo it either. It was so much fun and very exciting. As I have stated before, I have tried this with Blaze before, it isn't a completely new concept for either of us. I have always just struggled with doing those baby steps and usually bypass them by jumping in head first. I think time and maturity have done wonders for both of us. I am very impressed with Blaze and myself and ALL of the baby steps we have taken in the last three years to get to this point and I am excited at what all is waiting for us to discover together.
Silver and Brut both came from litters where there wasn't a lot of human handling. Both are very loving dogs, but neither are much for cuddling or showing grave amounts of affection.
We were handling the puppies from the minute they were born. Mostly out of necessity, but let's face it we couldn't keep our hands off of them! :) One of my goals in raising the puppies was for as much handling as possible, as I wanted to bypass what had happened to Brut as a young pup. I wanted the pups to be born and be with their mother until they were at least nine weeks old and I wanted them to grow up having the social skills that they receive from living with their siblings. Two things that were taken away from Brut in his early puppy days.
New born: "Grumpy"
Not that that was very difficult to do! We were also keeping our hands all over those puppies and we were constantly rewarded with sweet, loving puppies. Yes, they could be little terrors sometimes, get ten puppies in one room and it is bound to happen, but they were equally loved and emotionally well balanced. It was such a blessing.
When we visited some of the puppies from our litter, we are still rewarded with this love. Both my husband and I are almost knocked down with the kisses from "our" pups. They still remember us and are never afraid to share their love for us. I don't know how many times I've heard the owners say that we are the only ones that their dog will greet like that. What an impact we were able to make on their lives, but it no where near the impact they made on ours. What a wonderful feeling to be loved.
We have just learned there has been a tragic accident that you may want to gather the children until you are ready to break the news to them. Barney, that lovable children dinosaur is dead. We are getting a live report from the scene at the 24 Paws of Love and from what we understand involves a certain pair known as the Front Dogs.
Jean, are you there?
Tom, I'm here with the Front Dogs from the 24 Paws of Love where it looks as if Barney was buried alive. If you look closely you will see his feet sticking out from the dirt along with Chance and Blaze who in their digging frenzy say they "accidentally" buried Barney in the process. Here's what the Front Dogs have to say:
Jean: "Chance and Blaze, can you tell us what happen here?"
Chance: "I love you, You love me, We're a happy family. I love you, You love me..." Blaze: "Chance, SHUT UP!!"
Jean: "It seems Chance is in some sort of Barney trance. Blaze, can you tell us what happened?"
Blaze: "Well, we were trying to dig for squirrels and Barney opposed the idea, being the "loving fool" he is. He started singing that stupid song over and over, trying to stop us, until Chance joined in with him and well, that's when the milkbone crumbled. I just kept digging and looking for squirrels. I don't know how Barney got under all the dirt...!"
Jean: "And there you have it Tom, right from the dog's mouth. All Barney wanted to do was share his love with all of the woodland creatures only to come to his own demise trying to express that love. Children everywhere will be heartbroken as they remember this sad day for the rest of their lives.
Blaze do you have any last words?"
Thanks to Life with Dogs, The Two Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume.
We are working on designing a new header, so I decided to try and get some shots of the dogs. I started with Zappa and Fiona, because my chances of getting all four Back Dogs in a shot are about as good as winning the lottery. So I figure I will start with the pairs.
These turned out pretty good, except I couldn't get either to look at the camera at the same time. Then I had it. The perfect shot. Zappa was sitting down and Fiona was lying in front of him...I had it except my perfectionism played tricks with me as I fussed around trying to center the picture around a bucket on the ground that could have been cropped out when Zappa move and the moment was over. I'm still kicking myself for that one.
So then I took a wild gamble and tried for all four Back Dogs together. I couldn't believe it, they were all together in one spot. Nobody was moving, Brut didn't know if I had treats or not, I had their attention except for Fiona. Just keep shooting, she'll turn around. Moments like this don't come along every day....INTERNAL MEMORY FULL! WHAT?? You've got to be kidding me!! I didn't have my SD card and I couldn't move to go get it. ...NOOOOOOOOO!! I couldn't believe it. It was the best shot I've ever seen of the four of them together and I only got two shots. All I could do was give them their treats and watch as everyone scattered. The moment was blown and there was no going back. I tried a few more times to get everyone together, but it just wasn't going to happen. :( Maybe tomorrow?
One last chance for a good shot with my trusty Front Dogs, Blaze and Chance. I think this photo says it all of how my photo shoot went:
How many of us have been ridiculed by non pet lovers? How many of us have been told, "They are just dogs," or "It's just a cat or horse or fill in blank." How many of us have went home after being chided about our love for our pets and held them tight knowing their value is worth more than money? How many people just don't get it and feel the need to express their dismay at this strange relationship between human and animal?
I think we have all been there at some point. I read two post on the same theme. Buddy Wilson's Ponderings and Jet's Furkid Palace.Buddy Wilson's Ponderings who is sacrificing everything for her dogs, some who are fosters that would have been put down otherwise, has been bombarded by negative comments by others who feel what she is doing with her dogs and the number of dogs she has is a waste of time. Jet's Furkid Palace stated something similar how others don't "get it," referring to her relationship and bond she has with her dogs and why. We have received many of those same comments (How much is that doggie? and Throw Away Dogs)with those shaking their heads about the time, money and energy we waste on our pets. How many of us have gotten those looks that state we are crazy for our investment in these furry little creatures and devote a blog to them? Yes, we are certifiably insane and proud of it!!
I could devote an entire post of all the reasons why we are dog, cat and animal crazy in our house, but they still wouldn't "get it." Unless you've experienced the unconditional love of an animal and form that everlasting bond that comes through love, training and emotional healing and teaching you aren't going to "get it." That is the magic of the these pet blogs, because we get it.
Just because my husband and I decided not to have children, doesn't mean I go around berating everyone that does. I'm sure we all know people who we don't understand the way they live and why, but I don't feel the need to let my ignorance be known by butting into their lives with such rude comments and remarks. We all need life, love and purpose so please give us some respect especially when you obviously don't know what you are talking about.
For those that feel the need to express their opinions at the cost of others for things you can't understand, here's a monumental saying I learned when I was in third grade: "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." Try it out, you might help make some one's day.
When I started working with Chance on his leash training, I had Blaze in my thoughts all along to train her as well. Blaze is cut from a completely different cloth than Chance. Chance is a worker, very task oriented and is more stable minded than Blaze. Blaze is higher strung, has a shorter attention span and is smart as a whip. You can almost hear the gears winding in her head as she does everything in her power to outsmart me. She gets bored easy and will often just do as she pleases. We tend to have a bit more clashing between the two of us than I do with Chance. Must be a female to female thing and that we are more alike than not.
I have done a couple of trial runs of leash training in the yard to get a feel of what I need to differently with her in order to create success. I've come to the conclusion that I need to use a no-pull halter for a while in order to help. I would prefer not to use one, but Blaze's drive, being that she's in training for pulling sleds, is powerful. Between her strength and wits she has more of an advantage than I do to get her attention and this is where the no-pull halter comes in.
I have used the no-pull head halters in the past and have gotten good results, the problem is I didn't really train her properly when using the tool. I was under the impression that the tool did all the work and that I would just walk her while she wore it. Although I didn't use the head halter with Chance, I got practice in teaching him commands and using consistency with him, that I feel I will help in my success with Blaze while she is using the head halter. I am deeming Blaze my summer project. I have already started the process with getting her used to the head halter, little by little. I am taking my time and not rushing into it like I did before by just putting the halter on and taking her for a walk. I'm am doing what I don't like to do, having to follow instructions and I'm already seeing results! Imagine that! :)
My confidence is up, thanks to the amazing strides that Chance has taken and my willingness not to give in. My relationship with Blaze has improve immensely as recently our bond has grown deeper. I have been training Blaze in other areas that have also taken our respect for each other to a stronger level and I am feeling rather hopeful in our success during this period of our lives. Sometimes that's all it takes for a great accomplishment, is the right timing and this time I think Blaze and I have it!
I'll be posting our successes and challenges so please feel free to follow along!
Our lives have been in heartache, pain and joy for the past three years. When Alex died we were devastated, then six months later Silver gave birth to ten healthy puppies. In three months all of the puppies found homes, and we were left with what we now call the Back Dogs, Daddy Dog Brut, Mommy Dog Silver, and their two puppies, Zappa and Fiona. Things were just starting to simmer down, when four months later one of our puppies from our litter, Blaze came back home from an abusive owner. Suddenly our home was in chaos again as we had to separate Blaze from the others because the Back Dogs wouldn't accept her. Thankfully Chance, another puppy from our litter came back home four months after Blaze and they would be known as the Front Dogs. What a blessing as Chance and Blaze's owners were related and Chance and Blaze practically grew up together.
The Front Dogs
The experience was overwhelming and painful as we did our best to help in healing the Front Dogs wounds from their previous owners as well as heal Brut and his aggressions. It was a rocky and winding road with many twist and turns. It was a difficult time and we struggled with knowing what to do sometimes. Then there were days when everything seem to fall in place and there was peace that let us know everything was alright and that we were doing the right thing.
Looking back it was a stressful time but a wonderful time of growth and healing for all of us and what seemed so strange in the beginning has become our normal. Six dogs divided into two packs, a divided house and yard have become a natural way of life. Our family is beginning to settle into our routines and we are finding stability and grounding in our home that has been in upheaval since Alex died. We have been able to really sit back, relax and enjoy our time with our two packs. I don't know if they will ever be integrated but we are OK with that because for now we are enjoying our family right where they are at. We are really beginning to savor this new stable period and enjoy the progress everyone has made. It's like finally being able to breathe a quiet sigh of relief, soak in the happiness and take some time to enjoy our odd family. And isn't that what family is all about?