Believe it or not, but I am celebrating my first anniversary with RugbyJames.com! Yes indeed! An entire year of blogs….some 323 posts to this page. That astounds me. A year ago, I never would have guessed that I would be where I am as a blogger in just a short year!
Two and a half years ago, I decided to start a Facebook microblog about my dog, and named it…what else….”Rugby James.” I was interested in having a different sort of pet page. I didn’t want to sugar coat Rugby’s emotional issues, nor did I want to hide the fact that as a professional dog trainer, I’ve been unable to “fix” my own dog. I simply wanted to share what a terrific dog he is, and help the world see what happens when dogs get re-homed multiple times…especially as young puppies. Puppies, like children, need stability and consistency to feel safe in the world and trust the humans who are running things. When they don’t get that critical foundation, it definitely takes a toll on them, and Rugby is living proof of that.
I wanted to share that it’s possible to have a great life with a difficult dog…to help people make a courageous decision to keep those dogs when it’s possible, because truthfully, it’s not always possible, or good for dog or owner, and I completely understand that. I’ve helped clients with difficult dogs make some very awful decisions, which is all part of my job. It’s definitely something that I think needs to be addressed on a case by case basis with the help of dog professionals.
But for those dog owners who can keep their difficult, special needs dogs, I wanted to help them understand that they really can give those dogs a terrific life…despite the inevitable weird behavior that these dogs often have. I wanted to offer help, support, and encouragement for owners who had their own version of “Rugby James” at home. I wanted to share my own journey with Rugby…things that have worked for us, and where we’ve hit bumps in the road too. Rugby has changed my life and how I train dogs, and that’s something I wanted people to know. We’ve built quite a team over the years, my little speckled and spotted dogger and I!
So….I launched Rugby’s Facebook page on November 19, 2013. And that page has grown! Facebeook, wonderful platform that it is, has its own limitations, and over time, I found that I wanted to do more than post cute photos and offer short captions. I started with writing Rugby’s story on his Facebook page….in installments, because there was a lot to tell. SO many people were encouraging and kind and loving!! It was overwhelming to me at times, and I was often in tears reading the kindnesses of others in comments to my posts. Those comments also confirmed what my heart told me: There are many other dog owners with a “Rugby James” in their homes too. Sharing Rugby’s story brought them out of the woodwork, and suddenly gave them a place to feel safe to share, and find support for their own journeys.
When I finished Rugby’s story, I started a regular column of training tips to offer professional help to Rugby’s friends. I’ve purposefully kept those training tips simple and general in nature, because specifics are best left to professional trainers who can direct dog owners more accurately, depending on the individual dog and his specific situation. I’m a really great dog trainer, but let’s face it: there’s only so much help I can offer in training support when I’m not in the same room with the dog, holding his leash!
What I really wanted to accomplish with the training tips, and even on Rugby’s Facebook page to some extent, was to help dog owners see things from their dog’s perspective, and this is where it was so helpful to have created Rugby’s voice. He’s a caring little dog with a big, big heart. I see this every day from him, so it’s easy to guess what he would say in given situations about his life. He gets irritated with me, just as often as I get irritated with him. But, at the end of the day, we are always hopelessly in love with each other. We’ve forged a very tight bond in our eight and a half years together, and that’s what I want to see happen in homes all over the world. Dog ownership is all about relationship with our dogs at the end of the day. Rugby has been able to help dog owners understand situations from a dog’s perspective, and I love being able to do that!
I’ve been able to really share who Rugby is….a little dog who is both delightful and a stinker….all rolled into twenty-three pounds of fluffy speckled and spotted fur. We have a small world together, because that’s all that Rugby can cope with….and it makes me so sad for him, because all dogs should have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential….whatever that looks like.
When I brought Rugby home on December 1, 2007, I had grand dreams of how he would help my dog training clients when I needed to have a demo dog for a given lesson or group class. I really wanted Rugby to be able to help rehabilitate damaged dogs, not knowing just how damaged my own dog really was until much later. At that time though, I just knew that Rugby would be a dog who would team up with me to help dogs and clients, and I was so excited to have that opportunity.
When I realized that I was going to have to let go of that dream, because Rugby just wasn’t “that” dog, I really was adrift with him for a good long while. I didn’t know how to work through the crazy, reactive behavior, because he didn’t respond to things the way that he was “supposed” to respond. He marched to the beat of his own drum. By doing so, he forced me to become a terrific dog trainer, by thinking out of the box. Until he came along, I was perfectly content being a pretty good dog trainer, but my little dog knew that there was greatness in me that needed to come out. And he believed in me….and taught me how to really see the heart of a dog.
If I had succeeded in reaching my original goal of transforming Rugby to be a demo dog working with my local clients, he might have helped a good many dogs over his entire lifetime. But because that dream never happened, a new dream grew up in its place. A dream I never could have imagined. And because of that new dream, Rugby is able to help thousands of dogs and bring joy, laughter, and most importantly….hope to their owners. This dream is bigger than I ever thought I was capable of, but somehow, I think Rugby knew bigger things were in store for us. This blog is just the beginning….and we’ve only just begun!