Life Lessons from a Dog: Luna and the Cone

January 22, 2020

Luna and her Cone

Luna is our newest family member.  We adopted her in August, a couple of months after our oldest doxie, Angel, passed away.  Molly, our remaining doxie, was quite lonely without her lifelong pal and our 9-year-old son had desperately wanted a dog to be both a cuddle buddy and a playmate. Our lifestyle doesn’t accommodate large dogs, despite my dreaming, and my allergies are often a source of contention. So, when we found Luna, a 3-month-old shih-poo (shih tzu mixed with poodle), she was a perfect fit for that tall order. Her energy has been a source of stress for Molly and Reba, my dad’s dog that joined the household a couple months later, and she has kept us laughing as she has learned to be a dog from them and find her place in the family. We continuously work on her basic commands—she’s a total work in progress.

The week we brought her home – she wasn’t much bigger than our Guinea pig

Last week, she reached the 6-month milestone, and it was time for her to be spayed, plus she had a toe that needed tended to, so this was the perfect time. She came home, groggy, and unhappy, and in a cone with orders to wear it for the next 2 weeks until she returned to have stitches removed.  We, like many houses, call it her “Cone of Shame”, much like Dug from Up.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick clip of Dug and his Cone of Shame.

The ride home from the vet after surgery. I was not her favorite hooman

In typical puppy fashion, when they don’t like something, the struggle to escape it—and she struggled hard.  After a day or two, though, she stopped and accepted it, learning to do all the things she loved with it, and even adapting it to her advantage for scooping up toys, treats and food. It even proved a great assistant for digging, her favorite hobby.

As I sat with her this morning, it occurred to me how much I can learn from this little fluffy ball of cuteness and energy, which brings me to this posting.  Life rarely goes as we envision it. The older we get, the more our conversations shift from our dreams and aspirations to the things we always wanted to do but had to sacrifice. Sometimes it leaves us frustrated, sad, or even bitter because of the void of what we feel is missing from our lives. I know I get that way from time to time, especially after all the obstacles 2020 brought us.

It’s always a good time to play – bringing me her toy this morning, in the hopes of a good tug and toss session

And then I realized that, if we embrace our challenges like Luna, accepting it and learning to use it to our advantage, we can be happy just the way we are, possibly happier.  I dreamed of traveling this beautiful country and around the world, but life keeps changing the course of that plan, no matter how hard I try to get back to it.  But life is pretty good most days. I have my faith, family, friends, a career I love that makes a difference, however small, and amazing memories of travels I have experienced, as well as books, movies and shows to watch to continue to learn about all the places I dream about. And I have a puppy, that is growing into one amazing dog, to sit beside me while I enjoy them, walk with me while I explore locally, and beg for a bite of every tasty experience I enjoy.  Thanks, Luna, for teaching me something today and inspiring me to share it with you.

Life and Teaching – Reflecting on 2020

Sonya Barnes                     December 24, 2020

I haven’t written in a while.  So much craziness has happened in my life this year, and most has nothing to do with Covid-19. My oldest son graduated college, transitioned into a new career field, and is looking to move out on his on now with his friends. My mom decided to move out on her own now that her health has improved, and she is retired so she can enjoy life at her pace a bit more.  My dad moved in with us and my stepmom moved with my brother, sis-in-law, and niece as they transition from one duty station to another, but not yet to Florida, like we hoped. Which means our move to be closer to them was pushed back, as well.  Projects around the house ensued.

We lost our 15-year-old doxie Angel, and welcomed a new Shih-poo, Luna and have been working on training her and helping our remaining doxie transition from being the little sister and everything buddy to the big sister with an annoying puppy.  And did I mention that my dad brought his rescue, Reba with him?  We also built a chicken coop and are raising 8 backyard chickens that have been a great source of eggs, a consumer of leftovers and scraps, and have brought hours of entertainment for us and the dogs.  Oh, and did I mention the extra-large Guinea pig, Java, that joined our family?

But we have family meals together daily, go for walks, play games and have family movie nights. We’ve been creative on travel with camping or focusing on outdoor areas. We have learned how much we enjoy being around each other all the time and how much busyness we had in our life that was unnecessary and we didn’t miss when we cut it out.

Around all of this, I have continued to gain more experience as a virtual teacher and my husband has slowly but steadily grown his handyman business and found a balance between work and family time. Add all of that to the pandemic and everyone facing unexplored territories, I didn’t feel I had the knowledge to guide anyone since none of us knew what we were doing or for how long—or the time!  But as time passed,  I realized a few things.

A rainbow right before it grew into a double rainbow just before sunset–a beautiful sight on one of our walks

One, I miss writing immensely. There is something powerful of taking an idea, expanding on it, and sharing it with the world, along with all the vulnerability that comes from that.  Two, it’ a great way to focus my thoughts and get time to myself—events that are very rare in my day. Three, and this is the big one that brought me back, so what if I am not an expert? So what if I don’t have great insight that will change your life? Right now, we need to share ideas, hear ideas, and explore new options, even if that means failing at something and starting over a new way. 

So, here’s the morsel we all need to hear: how is what you are doing in your classroom helping your students? Are they learning skills they will need in future classes or careers? Great! Are they learning techniques for adapting to new ways of doing something? Super! Are they exploring a way of life that could be an option for them in the future by working at home and learning to be self-motivated? Fantastic!  Are they getting a voice and your focused attention because a Zoom or Teams call can minimize distractions by muting people or viewing only the speaker? Gold! Maybe this is the chapter of their life where the lessons come from the relationships being built and learning to handle boredom and self-management, skills that are lacking from our always on lifestyle we live.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chance to talk to my students, whether it was about what they were learning, how to use it in school, how they may use it someday in life, or what is happening in life right now.  I’ve sent a text just to check in or to remind them of something due. I’ve even spent time just talking to their parents.  They needed someone to talk to that didn’t live under their roof about what they are dealing with or how to help their kids and, sometimes, I was the call at the time that they needed. It created a great bond and helped them through a challenging time, even if it was simply sharing a quick tip on balancing their schedule, answering a question or a weekly video snippet that gave them insight on the work due for the week. Those moments may be brief but can be very powerful.

So, as you enjoy your holidays and start thinking of your return to school and what you can provide that is meaningful to your students, remember to make time to take care of you and to teach them how to take care of them. What they learn from this major life event will shape the rest of their lives—how can you make that meaningful?

From my family to you and yours, whatever and however you celebrate, just celebrate.

Happy Holidays and all that jazz.

We grouped our trees together this year, kept the ornaments in the box to enjoy just the lights, but couldn’t forget my son’s train that he loves so much.

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