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Happily Ever After

This is part six of a six part series called Our Story. 

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In the last post, Michga miraculously came back to me after almost being sold. From this point on, she was really my dog (and of course I’m her human).

To complete the basics of “our story”, here’s a basic summary of the last six years.

I was still in high school for these first two and a half years, and Michga came with me back and forth between my mom and dad’s houses. My mom didn’t want her staying there at first, but I convinced her to let her “just for one night.” My mom fell in love with her too, and spoils her whenever she’s there.

Michga was quick to learn to sit and lay down, slow to be potty trained and learn to come back when you call her. She is a terrier, after all, and just try to keep them from chasing after a squirrel when they see one. It’s not easy work. Especially since, I admit, I find it pretty cute when Michga tries to chase a squirrel up a tree. Does she think if she barks at it long enough it’s going to decide to come down?

We noticed pretty quickly that Michga’s fear of strangers often manifested as aggression. She barked and growled at people, but she wouldn’t go near them and often hid behind my legs. Not a very scary picture, but still a little concerning.

grr michga is a ferocious guard dog

grr michga is a ferocious guard dog

I was, and still am, pretty inexperienced with dog training, so I made ineffective efforts to make her stop acting aggressively. My reluctance to ever tell her ‘no’ or make her do something she doesn’t want to do did not help with this.

Those two and a half years past, and then it was time for me to go to college three hours away. Unfortunately, there were no pets allowed in dorm rooms, so that meant Michga was going to have to stay with dad instead of coming to school with me.

After spending a year without her (besides visiting home, which I did at least once a month), I was determined not to be in a dorm again, and finding an apartment that allowed pets became my priority. Michga now lives in an apartment with me, and I’m never letting her go again.

She still has the same fear of and sometimes aggression towards strangers. I figured that with this blog, it would be a good time to start trying to help her with this fear. That’s going to be one of my goals with Paw Print Diary, to document my progress with this.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this series!

To read Our Story from the beginning, go here.

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I Almost Lose Her

This is part five of a six part series called Our Story. 

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Don’t worry, she didn’t almost die or get sick or anything.

Honestly, at first I didn’t even want to write about this. It scares me to think about how close I came to not having Michga. But it’s an important part of our early story, and perhaps it sealed our mutual attachment.

Michga and her sisters were around six weeks old. Dad wanted one puppy, his girlfriend wanted another, so he wanted to sell the third. And Michga was “worth” the most money (because of her coat, she’s more chocolate colored than the others).

I begged and begged dad not to sell her because I loved her, and she was so attached to me, she wasn’t going to be happy with someone else. But money talks, I suppose. I didn’t have $800 to offer for her, and so she went home for a trail run with a potential buyer.

Those were a couple of rough days without her. I kept worrying about how she was doing, not trusting anybody but myself to understand her. I wonder if I cried. I can’t remember.

But this is one instance where Michga’s fear of strangers was a blessing. She refused to play with the kids in the family she went home with. She’d cower and hide, and so after a few days, I came home to find her playing out in the yard with her sisters again. That was probably one of the happiest days of my life.

I got my baby back

I got my baby back

The next post will be the last in this series, and then I’ll be starting my regular pattern of blogging!

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Imprinting

This is part four of a six part series called Our Story. 

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It was not exactly imprinting, but Michga did start following me around like a duckling.

Michga has a bit of a protectiveness issue. Plus she’s afraid of strangers and she has a mild separation problem (she doesn’t bark or whine when I’m gone, but my mother, who watches her sometimes when I go away, tells me that she mopes). I fear that I contributed to these issues with my coddling tendencies.

When she was a month or so old, I had her out in the yard. I’m not sure where her sisters were, we must have taken them out separately for some reason. The neighbor boy had a couple of friends over, and they came over and wanted to hold Michga.

she's adorable, who could blame them?

she’s adorable, who could blame them?

But Michga wasn’t very keen on the idea. She shrunk away, trying to make herself smaller, obviously a little scared. So I went over and picked her up. I told the boys she was shy and carried her back inside, cradled in my arms.

That’s around the time Michga became especially attached to me. I’m no expert on dog training, but my guess is that this was not the correct way to handle the situation. I probably should have tried to encourage her to get over her fears, instead of unconsciously encouraging them. I don’t think this single event controlled her personality or anything, but I doubt my overprotective behavior helped.

I love my little princess, personality faults and all, but I do believe she would be happier if she didn’t have this fear of strangers, so I’m trying to work on it. But it’s slow going to reverse a trait she’s harbored for the past six years of her life.

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The Princess Rescues Me

This is part three of a six part series called Our Story.

IMG_1747Most of us pet owners know what a positive effect dogs have on us. The love and the loyalty you can see in their faces every time they look at you, and the love you have for them in return, adds so much to our lives. We can see this in our own experience and in others’!

An Example

Before I get into part three of my Michga story, I want to share a clip that demonstrates the amazing ability that dogs have to make our lives better. Some of you may have already seen this (if you watch as many dog documentaries as I do). It’s from The Secret Life of Dogs. This clip tells a four and half minute story about a dog who gave a man his life back. I won’t say any more because I think the story is very well told on its own, but as a warning, you may want to have a tissue or two handy.

This is the story of a very heroic dog that saved a man’s life, but it’s not always in such a significant way that dogs help us. Dogs are there for you, no matter how big or small the problem. Sometimes it’s just petting your dog after a long day, or that little nudge they give you to try to cheer you up.

In My Case

I first really experienced this power of dogs when Michga and her sisters were three weeks old. My grandfather, whom my brother and I called Poppy, passed away. It was the first time anyone I had really known had died.

One thing you should know about me, I am a crier – but usually only for the little things. Sad songs make me cry; inspirational quotes; one time a candle commercial brought on the water works.  But big things, like a death, tend to make me feel numb. I wish I could cry when I’m really sad, I need the catharsis, but that doesn’t always happen right away.

Like this time. Two days passed after Poppy’s death, and I couldn’t cry. I didn’t go to school the first day, and I mechanically went through school the second. I saw and heard the world as I usually do, but it was as if I couldn’t feel it.

Then, that second day I came home from school to my dad’s house and went into the puppy room.  There they were, crawling all over each other, not able to take more than a few steps without stumbling over their own paws.

this is the only picture I have of them as puppies

this is the only picture I have of them as puppies

I sat down and picked up Michga, who was slightly bigger than my hand now, and deposited her gently on my lap. Molly and Ginger came over to the edge of the little fence we had around their bundle of towels, so I picked them up too (Their mother remained laying down, no doubt grateful for the break).

I sat there giggling as I watched the puppies crawl around on my lap. I’m not sure how long it took, maybe a couple of minutes or just seconds, but eventually my giggles transformed into tears. Soon, I was sobbing and laughing at the same time. The joy of puppies finally brought out the pain, and I experienced them both at the same time.

This was the first time, of hundreds to come, that Michga has made me feel better just by be being there. If you have a pet, you know what I mean.

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That Name

This is part two of a six part series called Our Story. 

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When I tell people my dog’s name, the same question usually follows: “what does that name mean?” Most people have never heard of the name Michga. In fact, when I named her I thought I made it up, but I believe it is an actual name, albeit a rare one.

I named all three of the puppies, Michga and her sisters, when they were born. Michga was the easiest for me to name. I had recently been spending more time with my Jewish great aunt and uncle, and had picked up a couple of Yiddish words.

Mishpokhe means family, and mashugana means a silly person. At the time, I didn’t know how to spell either word, or that mashugana is a lot more pejorative than I thought (I believed it was more of a playful name). So, I sort of smushed these two words together and shortened them to come up with Michga.

I’m not sure exactly what my thought process was in giving her that name. I just seemed to pop into my head. I think it fits her perfectly; a name that’s as unique as she is.

I don’t usually give people this long winded explanation when they ask, though; just a shortened version.

Her sister’s names were simpler, though neither of them stuck. Babs was my original name for Molly, and Stephanie for the one who is now Ginger.

she does look more like a molly

     she does look more like a molly

Both of these first two parts took place when Michga was only a day old. We travel forward a couple of weeks in part three, coming tomorrow!

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A Princess Is Born

This is part one of a six part series called Our Story. 

Part One: A Princess Is Born

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this is her royal robe

I had always had pets growing up, and I always loved them. But it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really appreciated what having a dog was really about; the immeasurable joy, and sometimes pain, that every dog owner goes through. I’m happy when she’s happy and I’m sad when she’s hurting, even if she just gets a little splinter.

I want to tell Michga’s story, our story. I’m going to do this in a series of posts, a post a day for the next six days. Starting today! I regret few things more at this moment than the fact that I lost my old camera, and all the pictures of puppy Michga with it. Here, have this grown one as a substitute.

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Our story starts once upon a time, when I was 15. Our dog (my dad’s dog, really), Sophie, was pregnant. My dad’s girlfriend’s dog was left alone with her for too long.

I wanted desperately to be there for the birth, so it figures that when my future princess was born I wouldn’t be home.

I got the phone call from my dad that Sophie was in labor while I was at the mall with my friend. Thankfully she understood my need to be there and her mom drove us home. I ran inside the house, but I had already missed the first birth.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was to be Michga. This squiggling, 10 minute old, less than half a pound bundle of puppy was going to be my dog, the first dog that I could really call my own.

She was the first born out of three, and also the runt. I’m a sucker for the underdog – who can resist the smallest of the litter? Maybe I felt she needed me the most, but at any rate, her paw prints were already all over my heart from the moment I saw her tiny little slimy self.

I actually thought she was a boy at first, such was my inexperience. Turns out that was just the umbilical cord.

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