Friday, October 1, 2010

Annabel and dogs and school and misunderstandings

As I was coming down to the final days before adopting Annabel, several urged me to write a blog about the experience. I could not imagine how you could do that. Thankfully google made it very easy and I started writing, A sister for Grace, as that was the focus, adopting a sister for Grace. I don't think I am the exception in not fully understanding and/or appreciating just how valuable each addition to a family can be. My primary goal was to ensure that Grace had a "family" in case something happened to me and a sister seemed to be the best solution.

Two years later I can tell you that not only does Grace have a sister, but I have an amazing daughter who continues to overwhelm me with her huge strides in learning, her kindness, her energy, her humor, and thankfully now, her love.

Part of what has amazed me about Annabel is her relationship to our dogs.

I write about them some, but to explain where and how they came about adds to this story.

Two and a half years ago I had to have my dog Buster put down right before Thanksgiving. It was very sad, but with the addition of Grace in my life, my priorities and focus had shifted to her instead.

Two days after Thanksgiving, while visiting the mall, we came across the SPCA exhibit and the cutest terrier looking dog, just the right size, was out there wagging his tail, hoping someone would love him and take him home. Unfortunately I was with my sister Lisa, who has become a dog nut, not a doughnut, and she urged me to check it out.

The people who run these exhibits are VERY smart and when they had us hooked in with the cute terrier, they pulled out his sister, who looked more like a dust mop and was considerably smaller and seemed a little psychotic even from the start. How could I consider taking one without the other???

So we "adopted" Nina and Ollie and almost immediately I knew why their previous family had taken them to the shelter: they were just bad dogs. They both bark constantly and bite every chance they get.

Only if your daughter is adopted and the term "adopted" has been used on these animals, how can you take them back? I mean, how much would the psychiatrist bill be for permanently scarring my daughter making her think that if she did not work out, I would take her back.

So we persevered. A dog trainer was called and this is when I knew these dogs were smart. They behaved PERFECTLY while she was here. But the second, I mean the very second, she got into her car, they started back to their old ways, barking and biting.

A second visit was no better and she could not understand what my problem with the dogs was so we persevered.

Then as the time to travel to China got closer, my Dad, for just the second time ever, shook his finger at me and told me I had to get rid of those dogs before I brought Annabel home as they would scare her to death and terrorize her and who knows what else!

I couldn't, but I did take Nina to a dog therapist who agreed to put her on medication for her biting, which has helped, some....

Anyway, we return from China, I go pick up the dogs, and inside the house Annabel is waiting.

We have no common language and it has been difficult to try to act out that we have these dogs and they live with us in our house and they are not dinner.

We all held our breath as the scene unfolded and they made a beeline to Annabel.

Certain that I would be calling 911, I lunge forward to put my body between she and the dogs, but she has dropped to her knees and hugging and petting these wild and crazy dogs.

I call her the "dog whisperer".

She has been their best friend they could ever have and they were there for her when she could not tell us what she felt.

This week she gave Ollie a bath. That night she wanted Ollie to sleep with her because he smelled better. Much of the time he smells like the locker room of an elementary school gym, but she had even put the deodorizer on him.

So that night she is yelling for him to jump up on her bed, but Nina jumped up first and Ollie would not then because Nina will growl at him. So Annabel tries to get Nina off her bed, but now she is growling at Annabel, not really, but it makes for a better story.

So I have to call Nina to get her to jump off because she always wants to be with me and about the time she jumps off, then Ollie jumps up on Grace's bed, so Annabel is still fighting to get Ollie and so Nina jumps back on her bed.

It went on for quite a while with the wrong dog being on the wrong bed and Annabel continuing to try to lure Ollie on hers. It was quite amusing! Finally they both just got on her bed and she was satisfied.

Annabel carries each dog around like it is her baby, which amazes me when I think about how mean they originally were. She rocks them and swings them as you would a baby and won't put them down even while trying to do multiple things, as if they cannot walk on their own.

OK, obviously I need to get some pictures of this, but I think it says a lot about Annabel's inner self that this really bad dogs tolerate and LOVE her for all she is for them.

School for Annabel has not been as easy and while she does amazingly well, 7th grade is just harder. Early in this school year I realized that their math seemed like where I left off in high school and I was no help.

They had a big math test this week and part of what I love about this school is that the teachers want the children to learn. There is no emphasis on the annual state testing, the focus is on learning, so when they don't understand the concepts in class, they are given another chance, by going to school on Saturday, where they can get more one on one and if needed, re do their work, including a test that did not have a passing score, which is what happened for Annabel , and put her in a miserable mood tonight. And I can't say I blame her because I hate for her to have to go, but so glad she has the opportunity.

I'm trying to put a positive spin on it and the only thing that has helped is that we will go to McDonalds for breakfast.

Trying to catch up with all the "lingo" that makes English so difficult to learn at times makes for some really funny conversations.

My brother in law is a state trooper and from his job we have learned the slang term "black and white" as what they call their cars.

Recently we were driving along and Dad asked if I had seen that the Dallas Police were going with black and whites.

Annabel immediately shouted, "POPPA! DON'T BE RACIST!!!"

When you are laughing so hard it is really difficult to explain that he was only referring to their cars.

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