Rolling with the punches: or, how I came by this black eye

June 21, 2011 § 14 Comments

I’ve just gotten beat up by Grad School.

We would break up…but I know it loves me. It didn’t mean to beat me up. I’m to blame. It just loves me so much. And I just made it so mad. It really needs me. How could I leave it now?

(Have I covered all the cliched and borderline offensive bases? Yes? Good. Moving on.)

Yesterday morning at 8 a.m., I was informed that my plan to complete my paperwork for graduation the first week of August was ill-fated. In fact, as it turns out, the woman I spoke to in February (a mysterious, nameless individual who has inadvertently taught me the lesson of asking for names and writing them down) misled me. She allowed me to believe that I simply had to be done by August 5th in order to walk* in the August 6th ceremony. From February to yesterday, I planned the progress of my dissertation according to this August 5th advice. Yesterday morning, I learned that the deadline is actually July 29th. To some, this is not a big difference. To those in the academy, particularly those who know my specific committee members and their special needs (in one case), the difference is stark and obvious. A week eliminated means a week less spent on reading and commenting on drafts. A week eliminated means a week less spent on revisions based on those comments. A week eliminated means the difference between graduating in August…and not.

I panicked.

I e-mailed my committee chair, who responded in a doubtful (but still maybe kind of sort of hopeful) way. She said it would depend upon the rest of my committee members. So I lobbed it out to the committee. And by the afternoon, I heard from one of my readers. The one who has the most explicit special needs. He requires more time to read because he is seeing impaired. It requires a great deal more of him to get through a document that’s over 200 pages. He told me this new deadline would be extremely difficult to meet. We might be able to make it to July 28th. Which would give me a single day to work on revisions. As I began to weep (no, no…literally), I came to the realization: I’m not going to walk in the August ceremony.

I spent the rest of the day sobbing. Robert came home from work, and I rehashed the entire saga to him. And we talked for nearly three hours about my options. In order to make it to August, I would have to give up everything else. I’ve already limited my social life to the point where I’m saying “no” more often than “yes.” It’s devastating. I’d have to exchange sleep for work. And my eating habits would follow those of a graduate student under intense deadlines. (Picture a poor, young person shaking the library vending machine in hopes a bag of chips might fall. That’d be me.) I might gain massive weight. Or worse, put my body through hell. And I am just not willing to do that. Despite all those physical and social sacrifices, I cannot guarantee my committee would approve the dissertation.

Moving graduation to December only gives me time. I could take my time churning out pages. My committee could read the dissertation more slowly, giving higher quality comments. I could spend more time thoughtfully responding to comments and producing a draft worthy of approval. Worthy of pride.

After our talk, I sent my committee chair an e-mail detailing the highlights of my conversation with Robert. I cried off and on for the rest of the night. This morning, I awoke to an e-mail response from my chair, and she agreed with my reasoning. I wrote back that I was disappointed in myself, but that she was right. I made the new plan official shortly thereafter by e-mailing the rest of my committee members, as well as some important people in the graduate school and English department.

I struggled with feelings of failure and disappointment. How could I work so hard since January and still not meet the deadline? How could I have made such confident claims that I would graduate in August…only to have to rescind those claims just a couple of weeks later? How could I allow my parents to make financial commitments (in the form of invitations, a hotel banquet room deposit, etc.) when I wasn’t actually guaranteed to graduate?

My chair e-mailed me back and invited me to lunch where we could talk. She was extremely supportive and sympathetic. But she agrees with my decision to postpone graduation to December. When I expressed my disappointment in my production, she was speechless. She said she didn’t know how I could have produced any faster. I’m forbidden from punishing myself for not writing more and faster.

I spent the rest of my day with V, which cheered me up beyond belief. I came home laughing and smiling.

I know I’m going to be okay.

This is the right decision.

It’s going to be okay.

Onward…to December.

*In terms of graduation, there are two ways to get across the stage on that magnificent day. You can graduate outright, which means you’ve met all deadlines in time to have your paperwork processed so that your diploma has time to be printed and will be handed to you in person on the day of graduation (after the ceremony; there are many people who graduate). If you graduate outright, you will also see your special name printed in the special commencement program. The other way to make it across that stage is to walk. Walking requires the completion of all paperwork by a super-secret, unpublished (but still super official) deadline. People who complete their work and forms between the published deadlines and the unpublished deadlines will walk in the ceremony. Their diploma will be printed by the next graduation ceremony (so, if walking in May, the degree will read “August”). Their name will not appear in the special commencement program until the following graduation ceremony.

I’m Sorry Dad: Happy Father’s Day

June 15, 2011 § 10 Comments

Yesterday, I went to Hallmark to purchase our Father’s Day cards. As I tried to find a humorous card for my father-in-law and a touching card for my father, I came to one conclusion: the humorous cards are lame and the touching ones are pitiful.

Dad, the miles may separate us
And we don’t tell you we appreciate
All you do for us

(open)
But today is your day.
Happy Father’s Day.

Father, you go unappreciated
Every day
We may not tell you
How much you mean to us
But on this day

(open)
We want you to know
We love you
Happy Father’s Day.

They may as well say, “Dear Dad, sorry I’m a shit daughter. Here’s a card. Hope it helps.”

I ultimately gave up on my efforts to find a humorous card for my father-in-law and miraculously located the only two non-apologetic Father’s Day cards and headed to the register miffed.

For Mother’s Day, the racks are awash with “you’re a superhero, Mom” and “you’re the best” and “we wouldn’t know love if we didn’t have you” cards. The trouble I have when choosing a Mother’s Day card is narrowing down all the wonderful choices and choosing the one that feels like it’s talking about my mom.

For Father’s Day? Year after year, we’re offered cards jockeying for the most apologetic, the most shamefaced. I realize that not all of us have an ideal relationship with one or both of our parents, but is it appropriate to approach Dad with our tails tucked between our legs and heads low? I figure that if you recognize your relationship with your father is strained (perhaps because of physical distance or not expressing gratitude), then you can deal with that in person. Don’t put it on a freaking card! How passive-aggressive. How empty. How lame.

For instance, my dad and I have always had a strained relationship. We just have. On my end of things, I’m trying to be more patient when he pushes my buttons, and I’m trying to avoid the temptation to push his. I’m trying to contact him more to let him know about my academic progress.

But those efforts and associated feelings of guilt don’t need to be on a freaking card. It’s an empty gesture. “Hey Dad, I obviously owe you an apology, so I’m going to do it on a card. See you next year.”

This Father’s Day, why don’t we focus on the positive things our fathers have done for us rather than the negative? And if you just don’t have a positive element to focus on, then perhaps it would be best not to say anything at all.

The satisfaction of an e-mail sent

June 13, 2011 § 9 Comments

I guess my new habit is to take weekends off from blogging. Maybe I’ll change my PostaDay button to read “PostaWeekday” haha.

Anyway, another super short blog post to clue you all in on the things happening in this corner of my world:

1. My third reader, who was a bit of a wild card because he had not read anything as of a week ago and because he is super-smart and intimidating, has said of my first chapter: “Excellent. I have no revisions.” I’m happy-dancing to the brink of whirling like a dervish, friends.

2. I have just submitted the second draft of my third chapter to my other two readers (one of whom is my chair). I can feel the end coming upon me, and I’m ready for it. This week and next will be dedicated to writing the fourth chapter’s first draft and sending it out to my chair. In a month or so, I’ll hopefully be finished with most revisions and will be sending the final full dissertation to my committee for last-minute scans before my defense (hopefully at the beginning of August).

Time to sprint to that finish line!

Quickie before bed

June 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Get your minds out of the gutter. This quickie won’t be very exciting or sexy. Just a typical blog post done on a phone.

I have been extremely exhausted lately. I can’t help but feel like I’m definitely an imposter these days–utter exhaustion and not enough work to justify it. I am trying to click along, though. I’m probably only about 40-50 pages away from a complete dissertation draft at this stage. I do take comfort from that, but of course the sense of urgency is still ever present. Graduation is less than two months away, and my entire committee is taking vacation at four separate intervals all through July. Therefore, I must get my dissertation to them by the end of June before they start leaving. I’ll defend sometime between August 1st and 4th, and graduate on the 6th. If I can pull this off, then I can boast that I wrote my dissertation in six months. Not that I’d recommend it to anyone, but a girl’s gotta boast when she can, right?

Rest assured

June 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

When I’m excited about something, truly excited, I tend to not allow myself to enjoy it. I’m superstitious, you see. I’m afraid of jinxing my source of excitement.

Take graduation for instance. If I get too excited about it, then I might do something to screw it up. How can I know for sure that I’ll graduate when I haven’t graduated yet? How will I know that it will absolutely happen without the power of clairvoyance to tell me so? How can I rest easy when something that I want so terribly bad hasn’t happened yet and still might not?

The trouble with this line of thinking is that it can lead to self-sabotage. If I’m scared I might not graduate, then I might actually sabotage myself so that I don’t. I really struggle with feeling excited when so much hinges on a single factor.

But here’s what I’ve finally landed on.

If I don’t graduate in August, I will be sad and disappointed.

I will be sad and disappointed if I don’t graduate and was excited throughout this summer.

I will be sad and disappointed if I don’t graduate and wasn’t excited throughout this summer.

So if the outcome is the same, then maybe I should just let myself feel excited, right?

I just wish it were that easy. I told my mom that I needed to feel more excitement from everyone about graduation. Up to that point, I had been hearing from many people “if you graduate in August” and “maybe we should push graduation to December” and that sort of thing. It was disheartening…as though I wasn’t getting encouraged to try to graduate in August. But as soon as I told my mom what I needed, she responded in kind! Invitations have been ordered and will be delivered soon. People have made travel arrangements. Hotels have been booked. Restaurant reservations have been made.

And now I’m freaking out.

What if I don’t graduate? What if everyone has made all these plans and I just screw them all up?

The biggest question, of course, is why am I like this? Followed swiftly by “how do I change it?” I want to enjoy this process. I want to feel happy and confident and excited. I don’t want to be on the other side of graduation and look back at these past six months with regret that I didn’t have more confidence in myself.

Rest assured, though, that I will likely not rest assured until the degree is in my hand. And even then….

Smells like spam to me

June 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

WordPress.com has a deal with a spam-catching mechanism called Akismet. I think I have a growing crush on Akismet because it catches the craziest crap comments. I technically don’t have to read them–I can just delete them all permanently without giving them a single look, if I wanted.

But sometimes I do read them because they’re just too funny. Here’s the latest. And what’s really brilliant about this spammy comment is that “feels” real:

“This ought to have taken a long time for you to compose, want I was as committed as you might be!I’ve discovered your weblog to become really informative. As somebody new to blogging, I am going to a variety of internet sites to learn about a lot more about blogging in common and just how I can monetize my weblog. I will have to bookmark your site so I can visit it from time to time.”

Two things. 1. This was posted on my “Need a Password” page. Really? It should have taken a long time for me to compose a quick-off about how to request passwords? Fishy…. 2. The name used to sign in for the comment is associated with a website advertising workout machines with a page titled “workout machine for tops.” Now, folks, you have to understand that my mind is constantly on sex (it’s the nature of my dissertation). When I see the word “tops” in any context outside of shopping, I immediately think “the man on top.” I’m sure this webpage isn’t aimed only for the tops, but I’m not about to click on that link to find out. Surely it means “torsos” or something to the same effect.

I love Akismet for catching crap like this. If anyone is forced to scan the comments, I’d rather it be me than an unwitting visitor to my blog. And worse, can you imagine what you might be exposed to if you clicked a link out of curiosity? Thank you, Akismet. In this case, censorship wins the day.

Sweetness and Light

June 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

There have been moments in my life when I’ve been described as “sweet.” Sometimes those descriptions were condescending. Sometimes they were genuine. There have been a plethora of moments in my life when I’ve been described as stubborn, bull-headed, temperamental. In those moments “sweet” lies beneath the surface of consciousness.

And I’ll own up to it. I am stubborn and bull-headed and temperamental. I have a spark in me that, once ignited, can turn my life into a conflagration.

But sometimes I am also sweet.

And Leonore over at “As a Linguisthas rewarded my sometimes good behavior with the Sweetness Award:

Sweet!

I am required to reveal seven facts about myself and then pass the award on to an unspecified number of other worthy sweet bloggers.

I’ll reveal the seven facts now, but I’ll pass the award on tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday. One day this week, it’ll move on.

1. Before I started dating Robert, I had never been to Colorado. Man, what a world I was missing! We love it out in Colorado and have had the opportunity to visit once a year since we started dating. Last year was the first year that we didn’t go. And, I’ll tell you, I totally missed it.
2. I have this habit of really disliking a new product before developing an obsession with it. Case in point: any Apple product. DVDs. Laptops. Hybrid cars. At this point, I think it’s fairly accurate to assume that if I vehemently dislike something (and can’t come up with a good reason why), then you can bet I’ll turn around in a few months and suddenly start focusing all my efforts on obtaining it.
3. I would rather watch television on the couch than do just about anything else in the world. That’s probably going to change in the future, but for now, it’s the top of my list. (I’m telling myself that it has everything to do with my senioritis toward my dissertation and nothing at all to do with my incredible laziness. Riiiight.)
4. Robert is the only person who has ever successfully calmed me down during take-off and landing. To my mind, flying would be fine if it weren’t for the taking off and landing. The first time we flew together, Robert told me about the time he was in Belgium and bought the world’s best chocolate. He described the chocolate for the entire time it took us to reach altitude and level off. When we landed, I had him tell me the story again. Robert and chocolate. What more does a girl need in this world?
5. I hate keeping secrets from people. When the silence is mostly self-imposed, it’s the hardest secret for me to keep. But when my friends ask me to keep secrets for them, clamming up is no problem. It’s a strange double-standard, I realize, but the bottom line is this: ask me to keep your secrets, but don’t expect me to keep my own.
6. I sometimes fantasize about having children who are able to quote Shakespeare. Back in ancient China, it was common practice to require children not only to recite classic poetry at banquets but to actually compose their own poetry on the spot! This was for boys and girls. Why not incorporate some of that in modern America, hm? 😉 Seriously, though, I do feel a little bit sorry for our future children…they’re not going to be able to escape the Shakespeare thing.
7. Robert just turned 28 yesterday, and we’re as happy as we’ve ever been. I never imagined that my life would look like this at the age of 29, nearly 30. I’m an incredibly lucky girl.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the announcement of the next recipients for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. 🙂

Unexcused absence

June 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

Well, my faithful daily readers, you must have noticed a dearth in updates Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There’s a reason:

I purposefully took three unexcused absences from my blog this weekend.

After a whirlwind week of intense proofing, editing, and revising, Robert and I went to my parents’ home to celebrate his real birthday (today! :D). At first, I had every intention of blogging those days. “The people will want to know my thoughts, surely,” I convinced myself on the two-and-a-half-hour drive on Friday afternoon. But after we settled in, I pulled out my laptop to finish making those last-minute revisions that I had previously run out of time to do (there’s a reason, but I can’t go into it right now–maybe later). I also e-mailed copies to my committee members of the introduction, chapter one, and chapter two. This week will be devoted to drafting chapter four and starting revisions on chapter three. For some reason, I feel like I’m way behind. Anyway. Just as I was hitting “send” on the e-mail to my committee, my mom and dad made it home (the former from work, the latter from a haircut). After that moment, I just wanted to be back in my parents’ home, relaxing and with as few responsibilities as possible.

So, I played blog hookie.

I figured you’d understand.

I accepted the Post-a-Day challenge because I wanted to make sure that I was composing something every single day. And I will still live up to that. As of now, I am four days down from being able to say that I wrote every single day of the year. But, to be perfectly honest, there have been (and surely will be in the future) days when I wrote multiple entries so that I could take a couple of days off; I merely set those posts to automatically publish on particular days. Even though my blog appeared to be participating in the Post-a-Day challenge (there was a post for each day, you know), I myself was still writing when I felt like it and not writing when I didn’t feel like it.

I am not giving up on this project, however. It has served a purpose and keeps me motivated.

I will still claim that I am a member of the Post-a-Day challenge, and I will not feel even one single trace of Catholic guilt over that.

In the meantime, you, my faithful readers, may be in for a load of boring posts. Life is about to go into hyperdrive for ol’ A.Hab. as she races toward graduate school deadlines in order to graduate on August 6th. If you don’t want to read boring posts, you have two options. The first, of course, is not to read them. 😉 The second, and certainly my preferred option if I were given a preference in the matter, is that you will consider making a post request at “Help A.Hab. Win the Post-A-Day Challenge!” Think of me as improv funny man Ryan Stiles and yourselves as the Whose Line audience. Shout out the scene you’d like to see A.Hab. perform for you, and she will do her best to delight! 🙂

In the meantime: let’s all wish Robert a super-duper HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

A battle of wills, part two

June 2, 2011 § 4 Comments

Dog training is not a one-and-done situation.

A switch does not magically flip.

There is no clear-cut demarcation of “the past bad dog” and “the present good dog.”

Dog training is a constant practice. Dogs are credited with having the capacity for unconditional love; what comes with that unconditional love, though, is a requisite present-focused mind. Know why your sweet pooch loves you even though you punished him? Because he doesn’t remember being punished. This is not to suggest that dogs can’t learn. Of course they can. But the learning becomes an ingrained piece of their personality pie through repetition, reinforcement.

Key to reinforcement, of course, is patience. Many of us struggle with this one. We wish our dogs could speak English or at least had a little white matter in those frontal lobes with which to reason.

“Spot, the reason I don’t want you on the couch is because you smell really bad, and I have company coming in two hours.”

“Oh, Spike, hissing is a warning from your feline buddy. She doesn’t want to play; she wants you to leave her alone to luxuriate in that sun spot.”

“Rascal, it would be terribly helpful if you would refrain from piddling all over my luggage. I promise I’ll return home in a few days.”

“Milton,” I might say if he could understand me. “Would you mind not getting so ramped up over food? It happens every day, twice a day. You are guaranteed to eat. I’d really like it if you approached your bowl more calmly. And, while we’re at it, it sure would be nice if you would back away from your bowl and sit when commanded, as well.”

Sigh, if only.

But no, this is not the case with dogs. (Or cats or birds or monkeys or anything else that lacks a human adult brain. …and even then…)

Our dogs rely upon us to reinforce the positive behaviors we want to see and to consistently discourage those behaviors that are not acceptable.

This means two things: requisite patience and specific expectations.

1. Requisite Patience
Spot has a behavior you want to change. You create a particular command that has a clearly intended result. Spot learns this command and performs the desired result over a few more days. You feel proud. You begin to believe that Spot has changed. Spot repeats the unwanted behavior.

Here is where you self-evaluate. The last time that Spot was given the command, did he really perform the way you wanted him to? Was he just a little too excited? Did it take him several times to hear the command before he responded? Did you have to approach him or touch him in any way to encourage the result you wanted? If so, I have bad news for you. Spot hasn’t learned the command.

Another possibility, of course: maybe Spot has learned the command (particularly if his naughtiness happens after a long period of appropriately responding to the command) and is instead pushing his limits and boundaries. Dogs are toddlers. Tell yourself that, embrace it. It’s true. They are toddlers. You cannot reason with a toddler (anyone ever try? This sound familiar? “But why???” or “NO!”). Don’t waste your time on the reasoning. Just remind yourself that you must return to this command over and over and over, regardless how well you think Spot has learned the lesson.

2. Specific Expectations
This is the one I personally struggle with.

What are you trying to get out of your dog, really? Should she be absolutely perfect and angelic, practically a statue of a dog rather than the real thing? Or are you looking for something that is “good enough”? Something that “will do”? (Now, don’t start to pooh-pooh my idea just yet…hear me out.)

You are not going to receive perfection from your dogs. You can’t expect perfection in yourself, so how is it fair to expect it in animals? Instead of perfection, identify the specific result you desire.

Is Precious piddling all over the house?

Well, first self-evaluate: what are you doing wrong? Are you ignoring her pleas to go outside to potty? Are you giving her enough opportunity to potty when she’s outside? Is she just plain not letting you know, or have you maybe not learned her potty signs?

Once you’ve identified the issue (which obviously takes a great deal of time in and of itself, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to breeze through it here), then it’s time for you to establish for yourself and Precious exactly what you want her to do. Plan a command for going outside (ours is “potty”) and say it over and over and over as she sniffs the ground. When she goes, praise the hell out of her: “good potty!” But you must have the expectations that she will sniff the ground. Some dogs (especially puppies) need to sort of “walk it out,” so you have to be ready to go on a tour of the yard or even the entire neighborhood for a potty break. If you’re not willing to make this commitment…then you might reconsider the commitment to owning a dog. Just sayin’.

The Point is This….
My point is this: patience and appropriate expectations are key to training a dog. But you must also approach every single “naughty” encounter or moment of struggle as a training opportunity. For Milton, every single meal (two meals a day every single day) is a new approach to the bowl. His memory isn’t that good…he’s a dog. He recognizes patterns and gets into habits, so we are attempting to recreate his current habits and shape them into positive ones. (We’re the only ones placing judgment, remember. Dogs don’t know what’s going to be considered “naughty” or “good.”) But every time we prepare to have a meal, both Milton and I (and Robert, of course) must approach the bowl as though it’s a brand-new day. I cannot hold a grudge against him because he growled at me the previous meal. He doesn’t even remember doing it. And he was punished already. It’s done. We’ve moved on.

I firmly believe that approaching each encounter as a new opportunity to reinforce will make each subsequent encounter a little less harrowing, a little less difficult. Because your dog will create new habits…which look like “learning.”

But we cannot hold our animals accountable for a level of reasoning that we expect from other adult humans. They are not thinking about or plotting how they will come into this new encounter. That’s our responsibility as the owners. We must self-evaluate (are we feeling anxious, scared, angry, impatient today?), reassess our expectations, and prepare to reinforce from the very beginning exactly what we’ve been doing all along.

Along those lines, just because your dog has a behavior that you are trying to reshape into something else does not mean that you have a bad dog. Milton is a very good dog. He’s great with cats and with puppies. He’s awesome in big groups. He’s good with kids and will be a great “helper” when we have our own children. He’s attuned to what’s going on around him so that he is able to alert us when something is out of the ordinary. He’s also possessive over food (and sometimes toys or me, even). This is something we’re working on, but it does not negate all the positive qualities that make Milton who he is.

Training animals is not as difficult or “special” as some people make it out to be. You do not have to be a celebrity or have a facility or certification in order to train your dog. You do not have to have been a dog owner for most of your life in order to train your dog. (Hello: cat person, over here. Milton and Annie are the first dogs that I’ve ever lived with, and we’re doing just fine.) Sure, you may consult resources to help you answer questions for sticking points, but you do not have to aim for perfection. Aim for what is right for you and your dog.

And always remember to approach every single encounter with your dog as an opportunity to reinforce.

A battle of wills

June 1, 2011 § 19 Comments

Milton and I are currently embroiled in a battle of wills.

At every single meal, he and I challenge each other for dominance over the food bowl. Annie merely waits patiently on the sidelines, occasionally whimpering when Milton gets in trouble. (Sometimes I fear she’s being traumatized…but she doesn’t seem to be frightened of me, which is a relief.)

Milton has food possessiveness issues. I hesitate to call them “aggression” because he does respond to corrections…most of the time. I have been bitten a few times at meals, which is where we are right now.

Last night at dinner, he bit my thumb. I have two red marks that would have bled had he clamped down just a little bit harder. This morning at breakfast, he threatened to bite again. I practically sat on him to pin him to the floor. Last week, he bit my hand. In the past, before we really started on retraining him, he had bitten my arm if I attempted to take his food away from him or even to toss a stray kibble back into the bowl.

One day, there will be children in this house, and I will not tolerate a dog who will bite at people.

We’ve been working on his behavior for several months now. Sometimes we feel triumphant and proud of Milton’s progress. Sometimes we want to scream.

My technique is imperfect, but I’m doing my best. And for the most part it works to at least snap him out of the biting headspace.

Last night, for instance, Milton was eating out of his bowl when I told him to “leave it.” “Leave it” means step away from the bowl and sit down. Wait patiently until you have been given permission to continue eating. Milton ignored the command that he knows. I bent over to offer him a correction on the side of his ribcage. (A firm but gentle “nudge.”) Milton hunkered down over his bowl and growled at me. I commanded “leave it” again. He bared teeth and turned his head toward my hand. Faster than I could react (really, I was thinking, “It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t bite me. Again.”), Milton turned around and clamped on my thumb by his side. With my free arm, I blocked his head and pushed him down to the ground so that he was laying on his side. He continued to fight me, kicking at me and “hissing” (more like a gator, less like a cat). I pressed his head down with my forearm against his bottom jaw. We sat there until I felt his body relax and his breathing slow. I examined my thumb and started to shake at the reality: had I not stopped him, he might have caused some real damage. My thumb was really sore.

When I felt like he was ready, I stood up, commanding him to stay down on the ground the way he was. I eventually allowed him to come to a seated position, but we moved farther away from the bowl. I made him wait several minutes longer, ignoring the long trails of drool coming from the sides of his black lips, waiting for him to stop shaking. He finished his meal half an hour after we began it.

I was livid.

I’ll admit that I did call him names. And I did raise my voice when I told him “NO!” as he was biting me. But after the meal was finished, I took him to go potty. And we spent the rest of the evening cuddling.

This morning, he threatened me when I corrected him, but as soon as I reached out to pull him down to the ground, he practically collapsed on his own. We sat there, waiting for his breathing to slow down. It was 7:15 in the morning. Way too early to be getting so worked up, especially over food.

Currently we feed Milt and Annie separately. Annie eats in the kitchen (slowly, and patiently–she allows me to mess with her face, put my hands in her bowl, pick up her bowl, everything. In fact, when I go to mess with the food, she’ll sit without much of a command, although I do say “leave it” for good measure.). Milton eats in the living room. He can hear Annie’s license hit her metal bowl as she chows down, which I know upsets him more. But I couldn’t really care less about that. Milton has it in his head that the food in the plastic blue bowl is his food. We’re trying to teach him (and Annie, too) that it is our food that we are allowing them to eat.

Quick proud story: Annie always finishes eating before Milton, often before Milton has calmed down enough to eat in the first place. She’ll walk around the house, sometimes coming rather close to the plastic blue bowl. She will look at the bowl and sniff the bowl, but only twice has she actually snuck a kibble from the bowl. When I see her look at the bowl or sniff it, I command her to “leave it” because I want her to understand, just like Milt, that this is not “her” food.

Note: I say “I” a lot in this post, but I mean to say “we.” Robert is involved just as much as I am with this initiative. Although the biting tends to happen when Robert’s either not in the room or not in the house. I think it’s because Milt doesn’t respect me as a master the same way he respects Robert. But I fully intend to win this battle of wills.

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