We enjoy joining in our friend Brian’s Thankful Thursday blog hop. As Brian says: “I know, sometimes it can be tough, but the thankfuls are always there if you seek them out.” This week, I was having one of those tough times. I already had one story I thought I’d tell, but I was having a bit of a hard time with it. We’d had some up and down training issues with Luke lately, and sometimes it’s difficult to share about all that, even though things came out OK in the long run.
Then he challenged me once again, and on those days when your reactive/fearful dog drives you to tears? Those are the days you really have to search harder for something to be thankful for. I’ve been having some stressful times lately, trying to learn a new job and balance that with everything else going on. While I enjoy having different things to do, farm, blog, painting at my sister’s, and my new bookkeeping position; it can be tough trying to figure out how to make it all work together. I’ve felt like I haven’t had a lot of time for the dogs while I’m figuring things out.
Yesterday morning dawned bright and beautiful, the snow is melting, and I couldn’t wait to take the dogs for a walk. Dadz had the day off, but he was off running some errands, so Luke, Cricket and I headed out into our woods on our own. We weren’t far from the house when our neighbor decided to do some target shooting (I guess that’s what they’re doing). Luke doesn’t like the shooting (who can blame him?), and depending on how the wind is blowing, it can sound closer than it is. We have 17 acres of land encompassing three different lots, and our house sits on the center lot. We were headed to walk on the furthest lot, away from where they shoot.
I thought Luke would be OK, since we were so far away from it, and I thought the walk and smells would be a good distraction for him. While he would stop and sit every so often (and I’d see him shaking), he seemed to do OK with some encouragement. I did consider going right back to the house, but I was afraid he would take that to mean he really did need to be afraid. If we went to the house, we would still hear the shooting, and he would still be scared anyway. So we continued on.
It was going OK as we looped around away from the house, and the shooting seemed to stop. But as we headed back towards the house (and obviously in his mind, towards the direction of the shooting, even though it had now stopped for several minutes), he didn’t want to go. He parked his butt on the ground and refused to move. No amount of cajoling on my part would get him to budge. The only time he would move was if we headed in the opposite direction from the house (which was going to make it difficult to get back home!).
I tried everything – tugging gently, saying all his cues for going with me, talking nicely, talking firmly, and as a last resort even dropping his leash and walking away to see if he would follow. I unhooked Cricket and let her go further away to see if he would follow her (I didn’t want to let either of them loose, but I didn’t know what else to try). Tears came as I realized I just didn’t know what else to do. I wish I’d had treats with me to bribe him (I don’t usually bring any in the winter since our walks are shorter and we won’t work on training because it’s too difficult with gloves on). Though I honestly don’t think they would have helped.
The only thing that finally saved us was my hubby coming home. We could see our street from where we were and saw his truck turn onto it. I said “Daddy’s home, let’s go see him!” At first that didn’t work….Luke barked but still didn’t move. Perhaps it was the truck door slamming or my hubby talking to himself, but finally Luke realized that Dadz was home and wanted to go (and proceeded to drag me that way without stopping).
I can’t help but wonder what I would have done if my hubby had been working. I guess I would have tried to walk away from the house and loop back in a different location, though I don’t know if that would have worked because I did try that. At least I didn’t have to work until later, so I could have tried waiting him out too (though Cricket was getting tired of going nowhere).
There are times like this that I honestly just don’t know what to do with him. While everything I read says we need to expose him to his fears slowly and work with him, I just don’t know if that’s the answer with Luke. I feel like most times we’ve tried that he’s just gotten worse (though we did have some good progress with having company over recently). Simply letting Luke live in his small, safe and comfortable world seems to be better for him. I don’t know; as my title says, some days I’m just at my wit’s end. There seems to be an endless list of things I need to work on with him; and not enough hours in the day. When we make progress in one area, something like this comes up elsewhere.
So as I sit here writing this with tears still in my eyes, what on earth can I find to be thankful for here? I commented to my hubby once Luke was happily safe back in his own yard that I can see why dogs like Luke sometimes end up in shelters. Not that I would ever, ever, consider that, but there are certainly people that don’t have as much love and patience as we do. There are people who aren’t willing to turn their whole lives around and upside down for a needy dog.
What if Luke had ended up with a family like that, maybe a family that was active and outgoing and weren’t happy being homebodies like we are? That’s my thankful today; as ironic as it might seem as I share this story; I am thankful that Luke ended up with us. While I think there are probably people out there who would do even more for him, who have more patience, more smarts, and maybe even more time than I do; who might do better with training or have the answers I don’t, there’s a good chance if we hadn’t chosen him, he may have ended up in a shelter.
When we chose Luke from the rescue, there were two litters and 22 puppies to choose from (since we wanted a male, that narrowed it down to 9). It seems quite fateful that Luke was the one we ultimately chose, and honestly, there are days I wonder why! I often feel he could have found someone more suited to training a reactive dog than we are. However, I can’t help but feel that no one could love him and understand him more than we do. Maybe we’re not equipped to “fix” his issues, but we are equipped to at least try to understand and to love him in spite of them.
Thank you to Brian’s Home for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop. Please visit other blogs through the links below!