I had not moved in almost 20 years.
Moving is incredibly stressful, but moving with dogs, one of whom is old and infirmed is next level stressful. Dogs hate change, and our little 13-year-old Frenchie, Dixie is no exception to that rule. Not only have we left the suburbs of CT for a downtown apartment in Sarasota, FL, but there is no yard, no quiet cul-de-sac neighborhood, no familiar routine, and what is this going potty in the street?? Insanity!
When we made the decision to take the plunge and move, we not only decided to move 1,200 miles away, but also to shake it up and live in downtown Sarasota as opposed to the beach or a house in a neighborhood. My husband and I are city folks in our souls. We met and lived in Manhattan for a decade before we had kids and moved to the burbs. Our kids are off to pursue their own dreams, so for the first time in a long time we can make decisions based on what we want. But wait! What about the dogs?
We have talked more about how this move would affect the dogs than I think is healthy – and that is coming from a complete dog lunatic! How can we do this to Dixie? Will she even make the move? Will she decide that it is time to cross the Rainbow Bridge before we go? If she does make it, will she be so stressed when we get to our apartment that the rest of her life will be terrible?? The conversation goes on and on.
Fast forward a few weeks to a newish normal and some semblance of a routine. Dixie is hanging in there, and we are figuring out how to make her remaining days peaceful, calm and full of love –oh and snacks. Stevie is another story, as finding off leash exercise has been a challenge. Yes, there are several dog parks in our area, but any enclosed space is not really Stevie’s thing – she needs to have an exit strategy. She is a thoughtful dog who never jumps into unknown situations with abandon, and I respect that about her.
The first field trip we took was to a dog beach, which sounded fantastic! It was going great until I carried Stevie into the water to let her try a short swim back to shore. I did not see that there was a drop off in the water, and before I knew it, she was totally submerged and then so was I! It was stressful to the say the least and she immediately wanted to go back to the car. I am not giving up because it is one of the only places where she can run freely, play with other dogs, and hopefully one day, enjoy swimming.
Ultimately, I know everyone will be okay. I am working on giving myself a break if every day is not picture perfect. I also must acknowledge my own stress. I was ready for this move, and excited for this new chapter. That does not diminish the overwhelming sense of uncertainty and the big question: was this the right choice for our family? Time will tell, but in the meantime, these are some of things that I am focused on for both myself and the dogs:
1. Routine! That is all the dogs have to rely on in this new environment, though I am working hard to strike a balance between routine and flexibility.
2. CBD! I am a big fan, and Dixie has been responding quite well to a new treat that she started taking about a week ago. She is less anxious and much more relaxed.
3. Trying out a new walking route every day. Stevie and I are out every day investigating our new neighborhood. This is good for both of us. Meeting lots of people and dogs on our walks is great mental stimulation for Stevie, who is a very social creature.
4. Stevie and I are working on her leash skills and apartment building manners. Going from a house with a big yard is a huge change, but it is good for me as a trainer and Stevie as a (hopefully) well-mannered part of the canine community. We are going back to some basics such as wait for the elevator to open and see who is on the other side of the door before rushing out. Of course, our building is dog-friendly, but that does not mean that everyone wants my dog in their face.
5. Giving myself grace to work through all of this. Change is good, as growth cannot happen without it, but it is also hard. Leaving a life that I built over 20 years is not easy, but what lies ahead is exciting, and that is where I will put my energy.
Until next time!