I was slowly figuring out the right questions to ask where Rugby was concerned, and I felt so comfortable with my decision to keep him. There were so many things that I really loved about him. And I knew if I didn’t keep him, he would never get a better home….and most likely he would be put to sleep…alone and scared in a shelter somewhere. The bottom line for me is that I couldn’t fail this little dog, even if I could never “fix” him….but I simply couldn’t be one more human to fail him and let him down.
Once that hard decision was made, it was simply a matter of slogging through every day life, and trying to figure out how we were going to do it together. I honestly stayed stuck on working through nagging feelings of failure where I was concerned. Most of those feelings ended up generating questions that had “What is wrong with me?” at their heart. It really took me a very, very long time to be able to focus on what was right with me. Like so many things in life, it was a process, and it just took time to sort it all out.
Part of the problem is that I honestly felt pretty unlovable for a good long while. My confidence had been shaken to its core, and I just didn’t know what I believed about myself anymore. It seemed as if every time I turned around all I saw was someone else who was more successful, thinner, younger, better looking….well basically fill in the blank with anything, because I thought everyone else had great lives. I felt like I was the only one who was a hot mess.
All of my dog training peers had really great dogs who were so well behaved and helped them with lessons. A few years ago, that had been me with my Corgis. I just was not at all used to being the one with the “problem” dog. I didn’t like having to apologize for my dog’s behavior….especially when people knew I was a professional dog trainer! I was definitely feeling insecure, and wondering if I really did have what it would take to train difficult dogs…especially when my own difficult dog didn’t improve!
I went out to train dogs and it was always so awkward when clients would say, “I’ll bet your dog is really perfect, isn’t he?” I hated having to answer that question! When I told them a little bit about Rugby, their faces would fall, and they’d say something polite, like, “Poor guy! He’s lucky you rescued him.” It was nice that they seemed to understand, but in reality, it only added to my insecurities. I was reminded that I had failed in “fixing” him. And that shook my overall confidence as a dog trainer in general.
I found that I just struggled with feeling shame overall. I was afraid to let anyone know that my best friends had dumped me, because deep down, I think I felt huge fears that it was my fault somehow. I was ashamed that I hadn’t been good enough for them. And when Rugby continued to have reactive behavior, and little progress was made, I felt ashamed that I wasn’t a good enough trainer to work through his behavior.
I felt like I was leading a secret hidden life of shame and I was afraid to be myself or let anyone get to know me for fear of more rejection. I didn’t want anyone to know about Rugby, because of the rejection I would experience as well. Rugby and I lived a hidden, closed life, that was predictable and safe….for both of us.