Getting to know Lucas

getting to love Lucas

It has been exactly a week since Jeff and I picked up Lucas from the farm, and boy, have our lives changed! We have been enjoying the start of being a family of three, but there has also been a rather steep learning curve during these first seven days. In a nutshell, I could not have even imagined Lucas to be more different from Maris than he turned out to be – and even as an experienced dog mom, I felt like I had run out of tools and tricks within the first week of having Lucas. But he has also filled this house with giggles, laughter, and love… simply bursting out of our seams.

On food and treats: Maris was always hungry and she was not picky… and she was this way from the day we brought her home. So it made two things very easy… 1. training to do #2 outside (as soon as she ate, it was time to potty outside, then reward); and 2. train her to do pretty much anything else. As for Lucas, the moment I put him into his car seat, I handed him a small puppy treat. I wanted to reward him for sitting in the car seat without making a fuss. He sniffed it and turned his head away. I thought that perhaps he is still shocked from being torn away from the farm. Seven days later, I now know that he is a picky eater. He only eats his dry kibble completely soaked in water over night and spongy. And when he does eat his food, he grazes… so I have no idea when his insides are full of “you know what” in order to take him outside for #2. Sorry so graphic.

He also doesn’t eat regular doggy treats, but I have discovered that he likes cheddar cheese. So today, I went to Costco and bought a gigantic bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese. Cheese is cheese, and I love Mozzarella! But it turns out that Lucas only likes cheddar. So now I am stuck with a Costco-sized amount of shredded Mozzarella cheese. I can almost hear Jeff’s hurrah as I type this.

On personality: Maris was an independent little spirit. Of course, she was needy and baby-like when she was a puppy, but she was speedy in learning to self-soothe and overcame separation anxiety pretty early on. That independent spirit went along with her task-oriented breed – in her adulthood, she was all about her tasks. Stoic, all business, no-nonsense. And then came along Lucas. He cannot have the mesh wall of the baby playpen separate us – if he is inside it, and I am just outside it, the world will come to an end. Even if he can see me, through the mesh, it isn’t good enough. He is also all about rubs, cuddles, and kisses. He likes being held, which is new to me. The attachment was immediate and forever!

On the crate: I know that there are different opinions about crate training, but I crate-trained Maris with great success, so I am trying to repeat it with Lucas. Or am trying to… you see, the first night of Lucas’s stay, I slept inside the playpen with him, just so that he didn’t feel lonely (see above on personality). The second day, I made the crate very attractive… so attractive that he took a nap in it with the door open. And then in the evening, I shut the door after he fell asleep in it. In the middle of the night, Jeff and I woke up to this wailing that just would not stop. Hours of it. I thought to myself – he needs to learn to self-soothe… and then my heart broke, so I took him out, and then we slept in the playpen in the living room. For now, I have decided that he is simply too young to be training so hard on separation. So we bought a bigger playpen for the bedroom, put the crate inside it as a “safe space” with the door open, and I am still sleeping inside the playpen with him at night. Poor Jeff… but he gets to make jokes like “it’s like I have two pets!”

On training: I love watching dogs think. You can almost see the wheels turn. It was that way with Maris, and I was having so much fun that she learned to sit, lay down, stay, and was potty trained within two weeks of being with us. Later she learned rollover, stay, wait, etc. I think the training process helped us to communicate well in other ways, and that’s why I feel like she was more than a domesticated animal to me. Lucas is no different. Yes, potty training is challenging because of his picky eating patterns (see above), but with cheddar cheese in hand (ha!), I have been able to teach him to sit, lay down, touch, respond to leash pressure, and ring the doggy doorbell. A HUGE thank you to Aussie Academy, which I have been attending since mid-November to train myself first! And of course, I have an Aussie that is smart as a whip!

To sum up, the first week was a humbling experience. I was so confident about training this dog, and the Korean mama in me had set such an ambitious schedule. But Lucas’s picky palette threw out the most powerful tool I had, and his stubbornness wore my heart down. I have realized that the journey with Lucas is unique on its own, and I am keeping a completely open mind. And while he is so small, and so young, I am just enjoying his kisses and cuddles. Training will come in time, and I am willing to sleep in that playpen for as long as it takes.

Sweet slumber achieved inside the playpen

Stages of life

and the dogs that define them

Maris was the first dog that was truly mine. Before Maris, there were dogs in my life, but they belonged to my parents because they were responsible for adopting them. Nevertheless, these dogs are a part of my life’s journey in the roles they played, how I felt about them, and who I was at that time. Let’s just say that these dogs, pre-Maris, were background characters, and when I think of them, I am instantly taken back to the person I was at that moment in my life. Geez, get a load of these canine time machines!

First there was Joy, whom I have discussed in a previous blog post. She was a tragic character in my life – she endured neglect in a way no dog ever should, and in my memory, she represents a similar neglect that I experienced throughout my teenage years. As a human, I grew up to be an independent person with problem solving skills; as a canine, Joy was just simply neglected. As I have said before, the story of Joy makes me wince and cry. She and Maris had similar coloring, and I felt like I was making it up to Joy when I treated Maris the best I could. Then there were other dogs that joined Joy in our backyard. I won’t go into the details of how then a whole family of dogs ended up neglected on our property, but let’s just say that the dogs in that yard represent a difficult time for our family and the dark side of immigrant life. Perhaps that is a story for another time.

Then there was the mighty pug, Bokdori. His name meant “bundle of blessings” in Korean, and he was such a cutie pie lap dog who loved to cuddle all the time. My parents adopted him when I was in grad school for music, so I only really saw him once or twice a year. But boy did we bond when we were together! He would come sleep on the bed with me instead of his crate – what luxury for his snorting majesty! As long as I was in my parents’ house, he wanted to be by my side, and we were joined at the hip. True buddies! One year, after I went back to school, he clawed his way out of the pool house net cover and went out into the neighborhood in search of me. When I think of him, I remember the early years of my musical endeavors when I was getting used to the world of classical music (some good and some really catty) and trying to shed the geeky math student persona. To me, Bokdori represents a happy but confused part of my life – I was so happy to finally get to sing and dive into something I loved, but also very uncomfortable in a new world where I stuck out like a sore thumb.

The next dog in my life was Sonja. I am spelling her name that way but really, it was an anglicized version of when Koreans call out the name “Sunny.” So “Sunny-ya” became “Sonja.” She was a squeaky Maltese, who was very protective of me. Like Bokdori, Sonja was attached to me whenever I would visit home, and I loved to play with what I called her crazy conductor hair. You know, where orchestra conductors like to grow out their curly and frizzy hair and whip it around when they are passionately gesturing to the musicians… Either that, or Sonja’s hair made her look like the abominable snowman. But the important thing here is that she let me play with her hair and groom her because she trusted me so completely and truly loved my attention. One of my favorite memories of her is that she would sit in front of the guest room door, waiting for hours for me to come out on days I chose to sleep in. Another memory: one day, my mom got very angry with me and began to yell (this was a frequent occurrence… I probably deserved some of it, but not all of it). Sonja got in front of her and started barking at my mom. Funny because technically, Sonja was my mom’s dog, but she was protecting me. Sonja knew who would freely give her the sweetest love… a true dog lover. To me, Sonja represents the time in my life when things started to get really turbulent in my inner world. In my late twenties, I struggled to steady my rudder amidst the turbulence in my mother’s sea storms. The responsibility of finding my life’s purpose loomed large while navigating the tricky waters of my misguided mother who believed that she had the God-given right to the lifetime that was allotted to me. The internal struggle stemmed from my love and compassion for her, and nothing more. I knew I had to use my life wisely; it was just a matter of trying to keep my mom in it. Sonja’s protective barks from that time represent the very boundaries I would need to build in my family relationships to journey toward a fulfilling life.

Then came Maris, and you all know about my life with her. I think the reason why she is so precious to me is not only that she was a special dog. This amazing dog met me at a time when I needed her the most. I needed her more than she needed me. And she saw me through so many changes that would come into my life. Starting from the outside and moving inward: a head full of black hair to what I would consider a distinguished (ahem!) salt and pepper look; a career change and a mountain of heartache that went into it; hundreds of hours of studies for multiple designations; unlearning singing out of desperation and re-learning how to sing with joy; and discovering eternity by focusing on the present moment. Maris accompanied me through the most profound stretch of my life so far.

Starting on December 3, 2022, another phase of my life will begin which will be defined by Lucas. He finds me a little more mature than Maris did 11 years ago… hopefully. I need to be excited about what adventures may lie ahead of us, what Lucas will teach me, what we will experience together. We will play games, we will train hard, and we will explore the best that northeast Ohio has to offer. But I must admit that I am a little nervous. I lost my best friend who has all those memories of where I’ve been. And now I have to start all over again with this little wild-haired munchkin that doesn’t know anything about me. As much as I have been looking forward to dog-cuddles, sweet faces, and puppy laughs, there is some anxiety about how this relationship will pan out. I guess there is only one way to find out. Dive in!

I promise I will be a good boy and connect with you. Maris has been training me from the Rainbow Bridge. I already know so much about all your joys and sorrows.