Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunshine and Roses ...

I suspect if you read this blog you may think I have perfect dogs - probably because I think I do too! However the journey we are on is not always smooth; nor has it always been easy.

Let's step into a time machine and travel back to January 2001. Brody arrived on our doorstep with LOADS of baggage. Crated hours and hours on end, living with a family that was afraid of him he was a "bit of a mess". With all that baggage to unpack it was a good thing he was moving in for awhile. He was not house trained at all. He was not people oriented at all. He didn't play and he had no manners. (His saving grace? He was just as cute as he is now!) When people left our house they were at risk of having their ankles bitten. It took Big T a full year  - and maybe a little more - to appreciate Brody. Brody had incredibly selective hearing and a full set of teeth he wasn't afraid to use if, for example, his feet were touched. He still is a pain to groom and I wouldn't inflict him on anyone else. He threatens Sampson if they are going through a door together and he is cranky when awoken  but he is a perfect dog for us.

Sally is Sally. She's perfect for us but not a dog many people might chose to live with even now. An agility friend of mine pointed out at a Webb seminar that Sally was a Whole Lot of Dog and she was glad she didn't have to live with her! Sally is opinionated, loud, an incorrigible glutton who eats anything and everything she can find - on the road, in the fridge, in a garbage can, out of a bag of food ... if she thinks it can go into her stomach it does! She is insane when guests come over - she will fly into her kennel or onto a mat but she spins circles as she does so and screams her joy on the way there. She actually ripped my father in laws arm open with a nail leaping around him on the lawn. She is NOT well behaved when horses get ridden past our place nor are all of her chosen jobs easy to live with. If anything in life gives me gray hair it's Sally!

Thea, Thea is pretty easy. Always has been. Deserves to be the Princess she is. But even she can be shrill and bossy - and she has some odd fears (the dishwasher is a recent one!)

Sampson is proving to be a delightful mix of pleasure and learning. He learns, we learn. In another training realm, at another time, I would find him incredibly difficult. He had a difficult start before he came anywhere near us and rebuilding relationships is much harder than starting from scratch would have been (luckily genetically, or is it emotionally,  he seems to be a pretty sound dog). He had learned the keep away game, the leaping at people with mouth agape game, the  Don't Wanna Don't Hafta  (to borrow a term from SG) game and the I own every toy in sight game. Repurposing some of his "games" has not always been the most fun thing about living with him. He has come a long way and I know we will continue to grow together.

Many of the foster dogs over the years have come with SERIOUS issues. I don't know a lot of people who wear ski jackets in the house so bites don't draw blood; nor have I met too many dogs who break though windows to try to overcome separation anxiety. Pablo and Blondie, and many other fosters contributed to our household's understanding that a dog is not clearly good or bad but that behaviour can be changed, over time with a positive, thoughtful approach.

As humans I think we fall into the trap of seeing things in black or white sometimes. This dog is good.  This dog is bad.  This dog was SO bad.  This dog is better than that dog.  This dog is worse than that dog. And so on.

Perfection is a state of mind when it comes to dogs, maybe when it comes to life too. Helping your dog be "perfect" is a journey for you both - no matter how you define perfection. Can every dog work in every home? Sadly, no. But many, even most, dogs can fit in well to a house. Sometimes the trick is in redefining perfection, sometimes in finding the already present perfection. If you and your dog aren't working together to find the perfection - stop and assess who is working harder. Like all partnerships the play (or work) balance should be about equal. At various times one or the other of you will have to work harder but overall there should be equity. Make the commitment for your pooch, let them find pleasure in the work you ask them to do and I'm pretty sure you'll find yourself on the path to personal perfection!


Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

What a great tribute to your dogs and a wonderful reminder to be patient and love the dog in front of us.

Sara said...

Perfection is boring! Life is richer because of challenges.