It Ain’t All Bad

GENTLEFACEOn Saturday evening I presented my shy dog talk at the Windham County Humane Society in Brattleboro, Vermont. In attendance was a local trainer who had kindly sent me a flower essence potion when Sunny first arrived to live with me. Perhaps in the presentation I had over-stressed my belief that owners need to have a reality check in regard to the challenges of living with a fearful dog because he reminded me that it isn’t all hard work when it comes to living with a fearful dog.

Deciding to keep a dog with serious behavior problems is usually life altering. On the surface it changes how you live on a day to day basis. If your dog is reactive to other dogs or people you might find yourself walking your dog in the wee hours of the morning or at midnight to avoid potential encounters. Management of your dog can become a 24 hour job. Finding care for a fearful dog can be challenging and many owners chose not to travel rather than kennel their pets.

Most people are not looking to restructure their life to accommodate an animal which may never be able to fully participate in it. For many owners making the concessions and changes necessary to incorporate a dog without fear issues into their lives is challenging enough. It doesn’t seem fair to either the dog or owner to disregard how much time, energy, training and expense, a fearful dog can require.

I tend to steer away from believing that things happen ‘for a reason’. I might find a reason, but I’m far too much of a pragmatic New Englander to believe that some kind of predestination was responsible for getting my fearful dog into my life. But there is no doubt that my dog Sunny changed my life, for the better. Working with an animal that is damaged in any way can force us to draw on parts of our selves that may not get enough daily exercise- our ability to be patient, to be compassionate, to move beyond our current set of skills and learn new ones, to list a few.

It’s not uncommon to hear from fearful dog owners that they have learned things about dogs and about themselves that they might never have come to understand if their dog had not come into their lives. My goal has been to show Sunny that a world full of people isn’t all bad, and though I’ve had some late nights and frustrated days with him, adding him to my life has not only not been all bad, it’s been pretty darn good.


3 comments so far

  1. Lizzie on

    I do believe in fate. I know that if I hadn’t lost my previous Lab, Lucy I would not have Gracie in my life. I believe things happpen for a reason, and I also believe that I was meant to have Gracie. It may sound egotistical but with a dog like Gracie it can be stressful and it is very time consuming, something not everyone has the luxury of.

    When I saw Gracie’s photo out of all of the Rescue Centres list of available dogs I just knew she was the one. Don’t ask why, I don’t know my self, it was just instinct.

    I had no idea she was as fearful as she actually is, and I had no experience in dealing with a dog like Gracie but, like you say Debbie, it is a challenge and I have learnt things about dogs I would otherwise not have done and she has a good home, something she may not have otherwise had.

    My predominant feeling when I look at Gracie is shame, that some other human being probably caused her to be the way she is, and she’ll most likely never experience the happy go lucky feeling that my other two dogs do 😦

  2. Laurie on

    Like Lizzie, I had no idea how fearful Chewy was until I got her home. They just kept coming and coming… It was quite overwhelming at times and frustrating at others. I could never predict what it would be. “Almost everything” would be a good summary.

    As you said, Debbie, I walked her late at night and at 4:00 in the morning to avoid traffic, people and dogs and noise.

    But I’ve had to become extremely self aware during this journey, which has been a good thing. How I carry myself, my voice, facial expressions, gestures. All of these had a profound affect on her.

    I’ve become a keen observer and better-able to anticipate and take appropriate action rather than react.

    One of the things she taught me about myself is that I wasn’t smiling enough.

    As a border collie, she tends to stare at me alot. In the very early days, I recall her doing this one night and not knowing what she wanted.

    After going through the list of the usual possibilities with no reaction from her, I finally just looked at her and smiled. She very gently wagged her tail and came right over to me for a pat.

    I began using this as one form of reward for a job well done or even just when we’re sharing a companionable silence on a walk. Not a word, no treats necessary, just a big smile. And she still always wags back.

    As for me, I’m smiling a lot more.

    • fearfuldogs on

      And that story made me smile! Thanks so much for sharing it.

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