Sunday was a sad and joyful day all at once… Faith returned to her home after being with us and having 9 days of intense rehabilitation. She got a chance to hang out with an extremely balanced group of people and pack of dogs. Faith went from being very withdrawn and one-dimensional in the social dog world to opening up and enjoying being around the crowd.
None of Faith’s problems had anything to do with Stewart & Arlene, her owners. They are 1000% committed to doing whatever it takes to have Faith learn to live in their pack, and expand her possibilities as a dog. Because of her issues, they could have just as easily – after 3 weeks – given her back up because she is too much work and “a dangerous dog”. For that, and the fact that they picked me to help them with that, I am extremely honored and incredibly grateful. Faith taught and challenged me, she taught the pack, and more importantly the pack taught her that while she bit every one of them in the beginning (mostly all in one morning walk) it didn’t mean that they held a grudge against her. Even our cat doesn’t hold a grudge simply because Faith initially got her mouth around him to bite him before I stopped it. Now, they get along as if they’ve always lived alongside each other.
It’s said that the pack teaches faster than the human can and I’ve seen that in action many times, but with Faith the pack – by its Exclusion of her rather than its Inclusion – taught her that the fun starts with being balanced. It never happened again after Faith’s owners went on vacation and Faith stayed at Kamp K-9 for a week and a half. She had rituals – not “I’ll show you” type of exercises, but those designed to bring out the dog in her – every day. And even when I had another dog along with Koa, within one day Faith began inviting the dogs to play with an intensity I have never seen before… as if to say, “I have 9 years to make up for; let’s get started NOW!” It was hilarious!
This morning on the pack walk Arlene and Faith walked with us, not separate but WITH us. This was as much for Arlene as it was for Faith to be back with the pack. She sniffed, explored with the boys (Koa, MC and Atticus), she inserted herself and walked along with the human pack, and even started to try to get into the wrestling match between Koa and MC to rough play with them. Incredible transformation in a short period! Of course, the humans are the ones unsure about a response because we live in the past whereas dogs live in the present. I’m looking forward to the day where Faith – at 9 years old – gives the whippersnappers a run for their money in the rough housing department! And that will be sooner rather than later…
So what do we take away from this? Being calm, patient, living in the present, seeing what you want rather than what has happened, and allowing yourself to trust the dog (and, in turn, showing the dog that the pack leader expects trustworthy states of mind), are the keys to the doors we have yet to open with our dogs. Even balanced dogs (and sometimes Pack Leaders) need direction and reminders of limitations, but humans can’t look at that as a failure on the part of the dog. It is no failure at all; that is the lifelong responsibility you take on when you decide to own a dog and assimilate them into your family.
Look at your dog right now… go on, do it. Go into the other room, or turn around in your chair as I am doing to look at your pack member resting comfortably, playing, or eating or whatever, and think: Is this little/big creature a joy or a chore? Do they make my life better or worse? How much better/worse would my life be if they suddenly were gone? Look for the positive, joyful things your dog brings to your life and remember that when they misbehave. That only means that really need YOU!
Until the next time, stay calm and enjoy the dogs in your life!