I was looking forward to my scheduled 2-week vacation, after months of busy work. I didn’t really plan anything, except bonding with Alpha, then 3.5 month old German Shepherd dog. Maybe some boosts in design knowledge and practice as well.
A few days before the vacation time, my husband Yanbin discovered that my father-in-law needed urgent treatment for bone pain in one leg. My father-in-law lives in China, while both Yanbin and I are in the United States. The distance is not a big deal when everything is fine… yet, this was not the occasion.
Over the phone, he coordinated with his sister and family for taking my father-in-law to the hospital, doing checkups, and making decision for a surgery. He then booked flight ticket back to China. This was two days before my vacation started. I didn’t expect that I would have been with Alpha all by myself.
I sent him to the airport shuttle. I went home, looked at Alpha and thought, “How can I handle this naughty nugget?” It was Yanbin who has been primarily setting rules and training her, since I have a very busy work schedule.
I wasn’t quite sure about the question in my head, but I’m grateful about the timing: I can be with Alpha during this most critical time period, when she has the need to explore and experience the world, people and dogs. Even though it’s just two weeks. It would have been terrible if I had to go to work and leave her at home, or in an all-day-play daycare.
Yanbin didn’t know when he will come back, maybe a few weeks, maybe a month. I can’t bring Alpha to work because she’s too young and easily get into trouble. I had to work out ways to coordinate her life for the time I was away. I can’t just left her at home for 12 hours straight.
Other than that, I had many things to do. Alpha was going to start her training class over the weekend. She needed to see the world as much as she can — visit places, and get socialized with other people and dogs, because she was in her optimal socialization period. Besides that, I wanted to work on some design stuff, after all, I’m a designer and this would be a great time to recharge…
Two weeks was a pretty long period, I think. I should be able to get them all done. Boy was I optimistic. I was all in into Alpha’s training.
At the halftime of my vacation, I became anxious about not being able to do anything for myself, or anything design related during this period.
I did a pretty decent job of training Alpha in the first week. I could just send her to daycare and boom! I would have had the entire five days all by myself.
I just can’t do that, unless it’s absolutely necessary. I wanted to be a responsible dog owner, that doesn’t get her puppy over exercised, and takes her time to bond and play with the puppy. I knew I would have so much less time once I’m back to work.
I ended up sending Alpha to daycare for one day, and explored new places with her rest of the week. Some mornings or afternoons I left her at home and went to library to read books — that was good quiet times.
During this two weeks, I accomplished a number of things — most related to Alpha and very little for myself:
- Alpha and I visited a different place every day for the first and half week — a local hike in open space, a morning hike in wetland, local human society office, a beach, two days of dog daycare, a puppy social event, three training class, a couple of different dog parks (went into waters!), met friends at home
- Alpha got ticks from a hike, and I learned how to check and remove them.
- Alpha now knows “Sit” (verbal + hand signal), “Down” (verbal + hand signal), “Up”, “Speak”, “Leave it”, “Drop it”, “Let Go”, “Come”, “Stay” — some of these still need more work
- Alpha started changing teeth
- Alpha now loves chasing tennis balls and knows how to get it back
- Alpha met her mama Corona
- Now I better understand Alpha, know when she wants to go home during our walk (lessons of getting bitten…), her body language, her love for beef bone soups
- Alpha’s photos and videos on Instagram (@miss.alpha.gsd) boosted because I’m her dedicated PR person
- I drew a number of doodles on Alpha and posted to Instagram (@yingyingzux). I captured a number of things Alpha has taught me there.
- I finished reading/listening to 3-4 books
- I listened to many podcasts related to dog training — recommend FDSP podcast (Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast)
- Nothing related to design practice was done
I don’t like to be the kind of doggie mama that always wants to be together with her puppy. I truly don’t. But I wish I can find more ways to make her life fun. I want to give her life a purpose. I don’t want her to be a couch potato. Because that’s not what a German Shepherd is supposed to be. That’s why I ended up spending more time with her together than with myself.
In the end, Alpha has taught me to be a better leader for her. I’m calmer, firmer when I give commands. I have learned much more knowledge about dogs. I have a better bonding with her. I know I still have things to improve but hey, I’m a first-time dog owner.
I think the time was very well worth it, and I’m on my way to grow her into a happy doggie. There’s no way I can get Alpha’s puppy time back once time passes. I missed the time that I could have used to boost my own work skillset/knowledge, but that’s probably can be done at a lot more times.