From the day that Rugby came to live with me, he has always been a bit of a worrier. I attribute much of this to his instability of his first year of life. When I brought him home, I expected that once he had lived with me for nine months he would understand that I had kept him longer than any previous owner had. I honestly thought he would figure out that he finally had that forever home with a human who loved him and wouldn’t give up on him.
Trying to “make” him forget that previous owners abandoned him was easier said than done. Rugby is a worrier. He is a “Nervous Nellie”…never fully sure what the day will bring, and I just can’t fix that. I try to offer him stability and give him every good reason to trust me, but it’s really up to him to open his heart one more time, and believe that out of all of the humans who have already gone back on their words, that somehow, I won’t follow suit. *sigh*
This is the side of “Recycled Dogs” that we never really hear about. To be sure, sometimes it really does become necessary to re-home a dog, and as a dog trainer, I’ve been able to help in situations where that’s been necessary. However, when dogs become a part of the shelter system, and are returned over and over, eventually, there’s a point where a dog simply is euthanized, because he becomes unadoptable.
For the first several weeks, I think Rugby was just distracted by being someplace new, and learning a new routine, family and surroundings. Once he started to settle in, he wasn’t as easily distracted, and then he just sort of worried about things. I’ll admit, there were things about that first house that made me worry too! Our neighbors and their roaming dogs would often pop up at an awkward time and startle both of us. It was so hard for me to see them before Rugby did, because he spent almost every waking moment checking to see where they were!
On walks, he always quickly scanned his landscape from left to right on walks, just sure that someone or something…real or imagined….would eat him before he could escape. Once scared by something on a walk, he remained worried that he’d get scared again. No matter how many good experiences I gave him on walks, he was excited to go, but worried every step of the way.
To be sure, I’m not sure what is at the root of all of Rugby’s worry. I do firmly believe that a good lot of it is due to his unstable first year. An easy going puppy who has had a great start in life might be able to cope with all of the change and various homes. Rugby is much too high strung to cope with all of it, and it finally took a toll on my speckled puppy. I’m pretty well sure that if I had returned him, he would have been euthanized as unadoptable.
How do you tell a little furry worrier to relax and trust the one on the other end of his leash? That’s been a work in progress since December 1, 2007. I’ve had my work cut out for me far more than I ever thought I would when I drove home with my little puppy in the back seat of my car. I still remember how rich I felt driving home from Atlanta with Rugby in my back seat. I was so very excited to be a dog owner again, and I just knew I had found a buried treasure covered in speckled and spotted fur! I’ve never ceased to be proud of him, and I’m so glad he’s mine.