When you work a job that’s Monday through Friday, you can feel a bit of excitement when Wednesday shows up on the calendar. Why is that, you ask? Well, when Wednesday rolls around, the weekend is in sight. There’s the promise that the long work week will somehow finally end, and you can relax and have fun.
When you share your life and home with a special needs or challenging dog, every day can feel like Monday. You can feel a lot like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” where you keep living the same exact day, played out over and over. It’s just so hard to have hope when every day has some really hard challenges.
I’ll let you in on a secret that works for me when I’m training dogs. Some dogs that I train don’t do a whole lot to make me love them. Some dogs are just not breeds that are easy to work with, and sometimes they have behavior and attitudes that are challenging, and as a result, the training process with them isn’t always fun.
When I’m working with a client’s dog, and I’m finding it hard, I look at that dog’s eyes. I catch him when he’s not paying attention to me, and I really look at his eyes. Dogs have amazing, expressive eyes! And when I look into the eyes of any dog, and I really see who that dog is, I always find the grace that I need to tough it out. It gives me the patience that I need to see that lesson through. I fall in love with who that dog is, despite how they are behaving or learning.
I do the same thing at home with Rugby. He’s a wonderful dog in so many ways, but some days he’s so needy, and clingy, and sometimes just simply annoying!! And these anxious days of his always seem to come on days when I simply don’t have time to mess with a nutty dog. If he’s having an anxious day, he’s much more barky, and he wants to be held. My patience with him on those days is often not what it should be, I’ll be perfectly honest.
When I’m working at my desk, he often wants to be right in my lap. He really doesn’t fit very well. Not at all. It’s okay for a 5 minute snuggle, but he’d rather spend the afternoon this way. And the longer he stays, the more uncomfortable both of us get, and he morphs into grousing and growling when he gets uncomfortable and I’m shifting him into a new position. It rarely ever ends well, so I allow short snuggles only, which hurts his puppy feelings, and he starts barking because he’s anxious….and…well, you get the picture! After several hours of this, I’m forgetting how much he means to me because I’m constantly being interrupted!
It’s times like this, when I think it’s so important for all of us to take a step back and breathe some deep breaths. When it’s one of “those” days, I push my chair back from my desk, and I invite him to come up on my lap, and I sit with him and I stroke his silky ears and the side of his face from the corner of his mouth back to his shoulders. Long, relaxing strokes that calm both of us. He’ll usually look up at me with his eyes of melted chocolate, and he really searches my face with them. He looks subtly left and right at my face, and he softens his eyes, and I know that he is telling me how much he loves me in those moments. It’s Rugby’s prescription for stress relief, hidden in those beautiful, expressive eyes of his.
Sometimes, I think he’s so much smarter than I am. He knows when I feel stressed with too much on my plate for the day, and he often insists on being the center of attention in those times. He’s so good about calming me, and I always think I’m the one calming him! The longer I live with this little speckled nutter of a dog, the more in sync we become with each other, and I wonder how I ever managed a boring, calm, life with a “normal” dog. Our difficult dogs can teach us so much about life if we take time to learn from them.
This week, on those tough days with your own dogs, try Rugby’s prescription of love. Take a break to really look into your own dog’s eyes and see what’s behind them. I promise that you will fall in love with your dog all over again.