Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why me?

Warning:  This is going to be one of those posts where I feel sorry for myself...I feel that I can do this from time to time, right?!

UGH.  Today was one of those days with Oscar where I didn't feel any connection what-so-ever.  The dumb ass neighbor with his beagle came out this morning and while Oscar jumped on the fence to peek over, he didn't bark at the guy or his dog (a big YES! in my book).  Aaron then left to take him for a walk and as they were going down our driveway, one of our neighbors was passing by and stopped to chat with Aaron.  Oscar did well, but for whatever reason he barked and lunged in the lady's direction after they were talking (I wasn't there, so I don't know what the hell happened).  Then Oscar had another episode when Aaron was picking up his poop.  Aaron's back was to Oscar while he was picking up the poo and during that time, a lady with her two dogs came out of their house and walked directly at Oscar and Aaron.  Oscar made his presence known.  In my book, this was excusable.  Oscar is bred to alert to S.E.C.'s (sudden environmental changes).   The good news is that Aaron and Oscar saw the same lady and dogs later in the walk and both of them did fine.  

Then there was this evening's extravaganza.  The stupid neighbor takes his dog out again and Oscar, jumped on the fence.  No barking again (AWESOME!).  But then I didn't hold on to him long enough (or simply remove him from the backyard!) and he charged the fence again, jumped on it and barked a few times.  This time the stupid neighbor faces his dog and says, "Boss, say "HI!"  Boss, say "HI!"  Well, then his dog barks and Oscar gets amped up and starts barking at him with a lot more gusto.  Yay for that!  UGH!

It's embarrassing having a dog that is reactive.  Plain and simple.  The majority of people out there don't realize the time, effort, patience and perseverance it takes to work with such a dog.  All they see is the dog who is barking/lunging/growling.  They don't see the dog who is exhibiting self-control in situations that are scary/nerve racking for them.   Today was one of those days when I doubted why I even got a second dog in the first place...and, especially, another shepherd.  I love the breed, but Jesus, they are a lot of work.

Oscar has pure moments of brilliance at times...and lately they have been far outweighing the butthead moments...but still, today I so desired that I could come home to an EASY dog.  A dog that wouldn't have me walking around the backyard or neighborhood with a treat pouch on.  A dog that doesn't need to be on anti-anxiety meds.  A dog that doesn't need a ridiculous amount of home-cooked food each day.  A dog that happily walks over to our fence to greet the neighborhood visitors.

I know I sound incredibly selfish when I type this, but why me?  I give so much effort to both of my dogs and admittedly, the majority of that is to Oscar, and I feel like I get nothing in return.  I would throw myself in front of a bullet for this dog.  Doesn't he know that?  The blank looks I got from him today.  The inability to hear me when I was talking with him.  It's incredibly hurtful to have moments with your dog where there is only one being present.  (Here I go again...almost starting to cry!)

Yet I also know this is part of our journey, our dance together.  Today was not Oscar's day to shine.  I know he was doing the best he could, but what made him feel so unsafe that he had to act that way?  I'll never know...I can only look forward and move that next step toward making our life together better.  Dwelling on this won't help, but it is incredibly therapeutic to (once and a while) sit alone in the dark and just say, "Why me?"


  1. Awwww. *HUGS* I have been there. I lived that every day for a long time. And, if I'm painfully honest with everyone, I still live it. I don't go on walks without treats in my pocket. I'm always scanning, planning, and avoiding when we're out together. There is no normal dog stuff with Risa. And, if there is, it was highly planned and properly executed. Not a matter of her being "normal."

    It gets easier. I know people say that and you sit down, cry, and say they have no idea. And most of them don't. But it does get easier. Eventually, you get a system going. You learn to read your dog well and they learn to read you. You become a team. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes years. YEARS. And a lot of hard work and effort. I know you know this. But, sometimes, it helps to hear it from someone who's been there (and is still there).

    There are many times I wonder WHY I got this dog (especially as my FIRST dog!). Why did I get a fearful, dog reactive mutt with GI issues? I never wanted a project. I wanted a companion and a dog sport partner. I got all three. . .with a lot of hard work.

    Breathe. Smile. He knows you're doing your best for him. As time goes on, you'll see that he comes to trust you more and have fewer reactive moments. It's likely he'll never be cured. But that doesn't mean he still can't live a relatively normal life.

  2. You have Oscar because YOU are what he needs. Who else would have put in this much time and effort with a reactive German Shepherd? In most other hands, he would have been taken to the shelter (if he was lucky, and it was a no-kill shelter), or WORSE.
    He is teaching you to be a better trainer. You have the experience and knowledge to help others with the same issues. He makes you think and makes you sharp.
    It sounds like there were quite a few successes. Let's celebrate those. So he barked at the neighbor dog... so what. He is a dog bred to protect home and hearth. Doing his job, ma'am. Give him a big Thank You, and move on.
    Bagley will bark at dogs walking by. That's his job. (Kobe is no kind of guard dog)
    Celebrate the successes (you have more than you realize I'm sure), and give you and Oscar a break when he does react. Will he ever be a dog that thinks "Ho Hum, someone at the fence" NO. He isn't wired that way. I don't know, but it sounds like you are more upset about it than your neighbor was.
    We need another walk and talk...

  3. Thanks for your support Jamie and Cheri. It was just one of those days and I felt a little silly even writing the post because I always preach to myself and others that everything happens for a reason and you have to deal with the dog you have in the moment. Yesterday was just hard and I did my best to focus on the positives...they were just outweighed by the "negatives" and I needed to vent a little. Oscar was a total sweetheart last night after he released all that icky energy...slept in bed with Aaron and I for the first time in a long time. @ Cheri - I would love to do another walk and talk with you and Bagley soon! :)

  4. Laura my dear friend, yours is the lament of all of us with reactive dogs. Tears cleanse and heal, so embrace them and the healing that they offer. On a recent 3 hour session with Kathy she helped me to realize that Phalen is a gift from God, I may not always understand the gift, but he is a gift. He has led the way to an amazing journey that I would have been too much of a chicken shit to take on my own. In a perverse way I owe him big time!

    I did a private lesson on Sunday with a reactive dog owner that just need to say she was pissed and how it frightens her. She was so relieved to say it out loud that she scheduled another private just to talk, she said I was cheaper than a therapist! So relax, feel what you need to and forgive yourself and Oscar. Have a nice glass of wine and know that you are not alone, Oscar is not a monster, you are freaking awesome and someone in Indiana loves you very much!

    1. Hi Dee. Thank you, as always, for your kind and inspirational words. Like you and the other two ladies said, Oscar truly is a gift and he has led me to do great things in my life (pursing my desire to become an official dog trainer is just one of those things) and I often times forget that. This past Saturday I had meltdown...there was just too much for me to keep in and, believe me, I need you guys to help keep me on track! :)

      And I seriously cannot wait to work with Kathy in June!!!!