I didn’t always like my dog.

I always loved her. Her award-winning smile. Her goofy nature. Her velvety-soft coat and too-big-for-her-head ears. I knew she was supposed to be mine.

But I didn’t like her right away. In fact, she absolutely turned my life upside-down. She also wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I brought home my first dog. Taking her anywhere was a nightmare. Even just going outside for potty breaks was a major pain in the butt. She bolted from people and was afraid of the poop can in the courtyard. Walking her was misery. She pulled, tried to chase prey, wanted to run off, barked and lunged at dogs. . .

I almost hated doing anything with her. I was fortunate that she was a good house dog. Never stole things. Rarely destroyed anything. Pretty quiet overall as well.

She also frustrated the heck out of me. There were times I felt like she had no connection with me at all. That I might as well not even be there. I was just the anchor holding her back. Through tears I threatened to just drop the leash and walk off since she didn’t want me around anyway. Outside I was invisible. Outside I had no idea how to make this dog do what I wanted her to do. Walk nicely on a leash. Stop being so afraid of EVERYTHING. And stop acting like she’d lost her mind around other dogs. I wanted to help her. I just didn’t know how to do so.

Seven years later, she’s like my right hand. I’d be lost without her. She’s just so easy to be with. We just get each other. We know what to expect from each other now. I really know her. She really knows me. Risa knows I will do my best to keep her safe. She can trust me. And I can trust her too. It’s wonderful to be this comfortable with another being.

I tend to forget how hard it’s been sometimes looking at the dog I have now. It was not until I began fostering that I remembered how difficult it is adding a new family member. I’d forgotten the daily struggles I faced with Risa and began facing them again with new dogs. I’ve been fortunate that none have had the myriad of behavioral difficulties I faced with Risa. Yet they were still all dogs who did not know me, had no reason to care about me, and behaved like dogs do when they have no concept of human rules. It’s been frustrating. And it’s really MY problem more than theirs. I simply forgot that all relationships are work. I don’t have to work that hard with Risa anymore; we have an established bond.

I think it’s important for us all to remember that owning a dog is like having a relationship with another being. We all have to work hard to maintain our bonds with family, friends, and significant others. If you don’t put forth the effort, it’s never going to work out. Yes, there will be frustrating times when you want to just scream, cry, or walk away. But, in my experience, the hard-fought battles pay off a lot more in the end. And the bonds forged through adversity are the strongest.

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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