We learned quickly that Bullet was great at learning tricks, loves swimming (so much I'm convinced he'd swim until he'd drown if left unattended). He loves Brandon with the fierceness of a thousand moons, he listens to me on the first command, and he loves (and puts up with a lot of forceful hugs and tugs) from our babies.
But it would be the lie of my life to not admit that for the past five years, it has been a struggle with Bullet. (and that's putting it lightly to an almost laughable degree).
Bullet has extreme prey instinct, herds cars and quads, has an almost unbreakable focus when something grabs his attention, also he's 85 pounds of pure muscle. Words people who have met Bullet have used to describe him: maniac, idiot, freak, 'this is why people don't like pitbulls.'
At the beginning of this year, we had a tragic event in our house in which Bullet got access to our two cats (remember: prey instinct) and our sweet Jinxy cat perished. That was the last straw, and I demanded that Bullet be seen by a vet for aggression and a trainer to get help. Vet gave him the okay and said that she never wants to put a dog down, but she understands how I feel with three kids in the house and she'd support whatever decision we came up with. This is where we were at, friends.
And then she asked us the most incredible question, "What is he? A Malanois?" We stared at her blankly and said that we were always told that he was a pitbull and I think she laughed. We went home that night and did some googling about Malanois and other Shepherd breeds and it was like we had a secret door opened for us.
"...excessively high prey instinct, unshakable focus, energy level among the highest of all dogs, easy to train, working dogs (usually trained for military and police dogs)..."
All those years we were looking at Bullet baffled and frustrated like, "What kind of demented pitbull are you!?" and he was looking back at us like, "Why don't you understand me?"
I'm not making excuses for Bullet. It has been a long, hard, sometimes scary road (some days it still is). And I'm not making excuses for us either. We have not been diligent parents for him. He's been part of our family for six years, so we love him - but I'd be lying if I didn't say that had we had known what he really was a Malanois/Shepherd mix and the intensity in which Bullet needs trained, watched, and exercised...six years ago, we were just a young couple moving towards growing a family, so truthfully we probably would not have adopted him with full understanding that we aren't the ideal family for Bullet.
But alas, we did. And he is our family and so we're all trying to understand each other a little better. We've made some significant changes to our life to help support Bullet and support our family as a whole. The dogs take a 'naptime' in the afternoon where they stay in our bedroom to sleep while the kids and I play downstairs and let our cat, Lola run around, and regular visitors that naturally come during that timeframe (like mail carriers, water meter readers, etc) don't cause a huge disruption to our day.
We have done a lot of training ourselves, for the kids, and working with Bullet on commands like "Easy," and using the pinch collar to redirect his focus. We've even expanded to socializing him and successfully introducing him to a lot of new people.
But the biggest change, for both Bullet and I have been jogging together. After learning more about Bullet's breed mix, it was obvious that we needed to give him extra exercise to help burn energy that was making him act out. Thus began the Mum and Bullet jogging adventure.
I try to get us out at least three or four times a week, just me and Bullet, to jog the trails behind our house. We have grown a lot over the last seven/eight months. Bully has been practicing focusing only on me even if he sees distractions while we jog (deer, turkey, humans) and I can jog without totally hating life for about 2.5 miles...after that until about three miles Bullet and I both just keeping looking at each other like, 'dude, this sucks and I'm bored.'
If we can't jog together (because no one is home to watch the kids), we'll load up the crew and take walks together which helps at least to give Bullet new things to smell and pee on.
These have all been baby steps towards getting every living thing in our home on the same page. Sometimes it feels like an incredibly annoying orchestrated dance that I'm in charge of - dogs in our room, let cat upstairs, kids outside, why are you both in your underwear? close the cat door, let dogs downstairs, Greyson feed the dogs, Violet get out of the dogs dishes, put dogs outside, Gemma why are my high heels at the bottom of the steps?, dogs back inside, where's Violet? (crawled to the top of the steps, of course)
where are all the living things at every moment? but we are getting there. the key to all of life is a routine (at least I think so, haha) and so we are getting there - pushing towards a routine that works for everyone. every one of the members of Team Studer. And an added boost of exercise and alone time for the mumma is nothing that I can complain about. I'm totally the martyr type and I'm not going to carve out my own fitness time on my own - there are too many other things that need my attention! - but the guilt of knowing the Bullet is one of the things that need my attention and jogging with him is doing him good...well then, you can bet I can get my lazy butt moving for that. (so sad, so true.)
Am I skinnier or more toned? no. Do my clothes fit any better? infinitesimally (and that's being generous actually). But you know what we have done? Added another mile (however slowly paced and with twenty pee breaks for Bullet) more than we had yesterday.
30 miles is our goal each month. We haven't done it yet - but each month we get a little bit closer to reaching it. My reminder in the upper right corner of each day of my planner is a little "1+" If we can get in just a mile and some as many days as we can fit it around the kids schedules, laundry, playdates, and life muck - then we're chipping away together.
I'm working on my fitness. Bullet's working on his behavior and we're doing it one jog at a time. Slow and steady, right? We'll get there Bulls-eye. Wherever there might be. But we'll get there together.