So your pup is going off to college… Waggleview with Helene Tragos Stelian, author, blogger, mentor, and mom.
The Dog Owner: Hélène Tragos Stelian is an author, blogger, mentor and mom who has put her parenting experience, research savvy, and planning skills to good use in her books:
She mentors under-resourced Chicago teens through the college admissions process with the nonprofit Chicago Scholars, while navigating the same journey with her twin daughters, who are currently seniors in high school.
In her blog, Next Act for Women, she shares stories of women who have reinvented themselves in midlife and provides resources for those on similar journeys. You will also find her work on sites such as Huffington Post, where she writes about midlife, women, parenting, and college.
Dog type and Name: Rocky, 11-year old Cockapoo
Q: Why did you choose this dog?
Well, Rocky actually chose me. I went to a breeder in Northern Illinois and he was the first of the puppies to come nibbling at the shoelaces on my sneakers. He looked like a big fluffy ball of cotton. It was love at first sight!
Q: If Rocky were going to college this fall, what advice would you give him if he gets homesick?
I would tell him it’s perfectly normal to feel homesick and that the feeling will pass as he gets more involved on campus and makes new dog friends. I’d encourage him to check out clubs and other activities where he’ll have the opportunity to meet other students. And I’d remind him that it won’t be long before we visit him for parents’ weekend!
Q: Do you talk to your dog? If so, what do you talk about?
Of course. All the time. Because I work from home, and am alone a lot during the day, Rocky and I spend many hours together. I ask him questions. I tell him what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling. I narrate what’s going on. I let him know where I’m going if I have to step out and how soon I’ll be back. I tell him how cute he is or how funny—or naughty. He looks me in the eyes like he really understands me, or at least really wants to, and he always seems to be hanging on my every word.
Q: If he could talk to you, what would he say?
Why do you sit at your computer all day long? What’s so important about all these midlife women’s stories that you work at them for so many hours?
Where are you going? When will you be back?
When can I get more food?
Q: If your dog had a job or career, what would he be doing?
A bodyguard? Rocky has to know where I am at all times and follows me around. He is a wonderful companion.
A security guard? Rocky barks like crazy whenever anyone comes near our front door, or any dogs dare walk past our home in Chicago. But I’m not sure how effective he’d be because as soon as visitors are in the door, he is all smiles and wagging tail.
A nurse? He is such a caregiver in his own way, and always seems to know when one of us needs a good snuggle.
Q: What lesson in life has your dog taught you?
To go through each day with optimism and joy, affection and gratitude.
Q: How does your dog inspire you?
He sets such a good example of living in the moment, and with joy. I love his great big smiles—I mean full-on, teeth-baring grins. All while wagging his tail so his cute behind shakes to and fro. Just pure joy.
And of course I love that he is nonjudgmental. As long as you are kind, Rocky will be your friend. It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you’re from. I wish all humans could be that open and generous of spirit.
Q: Where is your dog’s favorite place to go with you?
Rocky is a bit of a homebody. While he gets excited for walks, he prefers they be short. So I’d say his favorite places are in our home. He has three:
- In his bed at my feet, by my desk, where I work most of the day.
- On the extra-large beanbag in our family room, while we’re watching TV. We thought we’d have it in this location temporarily but he’s taken it over. It’s so funny because the bedding matches his fair coloring exactly so you can only see his black nose and eyes when he’s lying there.
- In our bed at night; he sleeps at the foot of our king bed, between my husband and me. We were not planning on having him sleep with us but one too many nights of him crying during a thunderstorm and we rescued him from the kitchen and brought him to our bedroom. He’s been with us at night ever since! Good thing he’s small…
Q: Who or what does your dog find the most interesting?
Rocky is fascinated by all animals, especially other dogs, and pulls frantically at the leash to get closer during our walks. But then as soon as we are there, meeting another dog, he gets very shy. I haven’t figured that one out.
He is a big sniffer, has to sniff everything on our walks. I know that is the way dogs get to know the world around them but it can make for a very slow walk; so I let him sniff to his heart’s content for a few minutes then I let him know it’s time to walk faster and get our exercise.
Otherwise it’s all about food! When I am cooking or anyone in the house is preparing food, he is right there sitting at our feet and staring at the floor so he can pounce on any morsel that may inadvertently be dropped. He has a sensitive stomach so we never give him human food but he never seems to lose hope!
Q: What is the most annoying thing other dog owners do?
It makes me sad and angry to hear of dogs who have been mistreated or neglected by their owners. And of course people who don’t pick up after their dogs are a real nuisance.
Q: What does being a responsible dog owner mean to you?
I believe people should get dogs only if they understand the long-term responsibilities involved and are committed to caring for their dog and making them part of the family. It’s key to invest the time to train dogs to address any behavioral issues right away. It’s also important never to feed dogs from the table, which sets them up for begging. Dogs thrive on routine so regular healthy meals and exercise are critical. This helps avoid a common problem—overweight dogs with lots of health issues. Oh and of course have your dog spayed/neutered and micro-chipped.
Q: Do you ever dress up your dog? If so, as what?
Nope, not my thing. Rocky barely tolerated the little holiday bow I tried putting on his collar this past Christmas. We tried one of those Thundershirts to help him with his fear or storms but he hated it and it did not help him (apparently it does help many dogs, same concept as swaddling a baby to make them feel secure). So we wrap our trembling buddy in our arms and hold on tight to help him through it.
Q: How has your dog changed your life?
I grew up with German Shepherds but Rocky is the first dog I have owned and cared for myself (with the help of my family of course). He brings me such companionship and affection, I can’t imagine not having him in my life. And he gets me “up and at ‘em” in the mornings!
Q: Does your dog have a philosophy of life?
Live in the moment. Obey the Golden Rule.
Q: I love my dog because he is loving and silly and always up for a snuggle.
Q: Have you ever made dog treats for your dog? If so, please share your recipe.
WAGGLEVIEW™: These interviews are focused on leaders in business, the arts, the community, or at home. My hope in doing this is to present remarkable and respected people in their community with their beloved pets. Who can resist reading about pets and what these people do? This is a platform for people to display their talents; their own business, a new book, a deeply loved passion for a charity or their own job. It also shows their love for their pet!
Thank you Helene for taking the time to participate in the Waggleview™.
So what’s your advice for your pups who are going off to college…What advice would you give them if they get homesick?
Please comment below.