The day my dog let me down was an eye-opening experience. You see, I often hear clients, friends, family members, or people I meet walking their dogs complain of their dogs lack of perfection. I’m guilty at times of the same complaint. This story may help you ease up on your four-legged friend.
A few years ago I went through a life changing physical ailment. As many of my loyal readers will know I went through a couple of brain surgeries as a result of a tumour. I also had to go through radiation therapy. It was really at this stage of my life that I knew I had a passion to work with dogs and really began to find a path for myself.
While undergoing radiation therapy I became very weak. I was determined not to believe that I was weak and would often fight through the fatigue, sickness, and pain. In the early stages of treatment I went to gym EVERYDAY. Now, I’m not sure what I was trying to prove but for some reason I would haul my weak ass out to gym, pale-faced and all and try to ride the exercise bike. I couldn’t even last 5 minutes. My goal wasn’t a marathon or to set any records, my goal was to last 20 minutes on that bloody stationary bike. I worked at it and struggled through the motions. Each stride took more effort than the last but I eventually achieved my goal. It took a few weeks and I still don’t know why it was important to me to prove that I was physically okay. After each session at the gym I’d drink a chocolate milk and walk home. Well, one day I just couldn’t do it. I looked at the kilometer walk to the gym as an incredibly daunting task. I just couldn’t imagine torturing myself with the walk to and from the gym just to ride a bike… it didn’t make sense to me anymore. It was at this time that I befriended a family members dog named Buddy. Buddy was an old husky /german shepherd mutt with attitude. He was old but playful and loved going on walks. Buddy was also extremely protective and could really be counted on as your “right hand man”.
I developed a real bond with Buddy and we would go on a daily walk after my radiation therapy to the park. He and I would sit side by side on the ground and just stare of in the distance at the mountain view. Sometimes I’d have a coffee or tea. It was a really peaceful time of my life amid all of the fear, stress, and confusion of going through the illness.
I grew to really feel that Buddy had my back! So even though I weak and vulnerable I always felt secure.
One day on one of our walks through the east side we came across quite a commotion, and Buddy was on high alert! We came across an elderly chinese woman yelling and being yelled at by two women who looked like they were on or had been on a variety of drugs. In my normal state of being when I am healthy I’d have no problem stepping up to them and protecting the old woman. But, I was not normal. I could barely handle a 20 minute bike ride at the gym. My legs felt like lead. So did my arms. My head was spinning. I was a shell of my normal self. I thought it through, and made brief eye contact with Buddy. He had my back. I knew it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way over to the women and shouted weakly ” Hey, leave her alone and just go!” I think that I may have caught them off guard because they stopped swearing at the old woman. They eventually cursed some profanities at me and said something to the effect of “Don’t be a hero”
Well, I was determined to be a hero. Big mistake. The two women started making their way towards Buddy and me.I glanced down at him and he looked poised and ready to go. This was it. He gave them a snarl and with that I suddenly felt very secure.
The ladies continued to curse me as the came near and I didn’t like the looks of what was in their hands. Out of nowhere a brick came flying at us! But it wasn’t from the menacing women it was thrown by the old chinese woman from the top of her stairs! Now she was feeling brave and continued to yell very quickly in mandarin so I have no clue as to what she was saying but it definitely sounded angry!
The other two ladies were now near enough that they had their anger focused at me. I let go of the snarling Buddy to take them on and hopefully run them off. He gave one final growl… and then started wagging his behind. He became friendly with them! sigh. So much for my loyal “protector”. I successfully chased them off on my own, but not before they got to pet Buddy. The police showed up shortly afterwards and I had to give a statement. I was seething. Why did he let me down? I just couldn’t understand. After going through all of the motions of ferocity he dropped the ball. Or did I just misunderstand him?
Once home and having the chance to reflect, I realized that perhaps I placed these large expectations on him with out ever truly taking the time to teach him. Buddy died a few months after that having suffered with a tumour himself. I miss that guy.
I adopted Vegas a few months afterward and spent hours of one on one time training him.
So just remember, that for all of the lofty expectations we have on our dogs, how much time, and I mean really, have we spent teaching them?