It goes without saying if you have read our blog at any time over the past seven years that well, our dogs don’t always exhibit the best behavior although they certainly look innocent…
Sometimes, they surprise me with manners and calmness, and I beam with pride thinking that I somehow had something to do with this. Sometimes, they surprise me by barking at random dogs, humping puppies at dog parks, or growling out of nowhere. And it is in that moment that I remember. Yep, our dogs are not the picture that any dog trainer would use for anything. Anywhere. Anyhow.
But as embarrassed as I get sometimes about random behaviors, it occurred to me this week as we were walking on a popular trail that my dogs were not the only ones who were being…dogs. Sometimes.
As we started toward another dog and his persons on the trail, they got off of it to make room for us. They appeared not only cautious, and courteous, but embarrassed. Again, I never know what Brickle and Digby are going to do, so I gave them room as well. But my dogs seemed to sense that they should probably stay away. And as we got a “safe” distance from them, one of this dog’s persons asked me if I was the one with the car in the parking lot with dog faces on it. Uh, yeah, that’s me.
Then, they both asked if I was a trainer, I laughed, and said no, we were just travelers advocating animal rescue across the country. And that is when they started to tell me a story. A story about their dog rescued from the streets with behavior issues, and they apologized many times to me as they tried to talk over his barking. And it struck me. Why were they apologizing? Why did they feel the need to do so? I certainly was not upset at the dog. I certainly was not upset at them for trying to help their dog, rescue their dog, and not give up on their dog. So apologizing? Why? Because the dog wasn’t perfect, because the dog was barking, or because the dog was growling?
I suppose before our passing on the trail that many people had made them feel bad. I suppose that their frustration also was at a high point. And I cannot say that I blamed them for that. Having fostered a dog with random aggression and mental disabilities, I know the feeling. And I had apologized back then as well. But now, after having visited 48 animal shelters across the country, I can say this. The dogs aren’t the ones that should be apologizing. The persons aren’t the ones that should be apologizing. The ones that should be apologizing are the ones that are giving the looks of disapproval, judgement, or irritation. Why? These dogs need our help, not our anger. These dogs need our love, not our judgement. And the persons trying to help these dogs? They don’t need to apologize. Ever.
I think of it this way. Maybe we have been in a grocery store and a child is screaming. Maybe we have been in an airplane with a crying baby. How many people blame the parents right away? What if that was you in their shoes? How is it right for us to judge when we don’t know circumstances or health issues? And even if we did, do you still have a right to judge or perhaps could you…help?
Helping does not always have to come in the form of an answer. Truth is, I spoke to the persons on the trail, I listened, I gave some simple thoughts I had on treatments or help like CBD and training techniques. But I did not have the answers, because I did not know them well enough. I didn’t live in their home, nor did any of us know truly what this dog had been thru. Was it the dog’s fault that he was stressed on the trail? Were any of these issues the dogs’ fault at all? I think that all of us forget one simple thing with dogs. Some dogs won’t change. Some dogs can’t change. Sometimes, the best we can do is live with the situations we are dealt. Sometimes, we can’t have that cuddly dog we envision. Sometimes, we don’t care. Because we love them.
I suppose that many might argue with me that I should have dealt with Brickle and Digby’s quirks nine years ago, or some might say that I should have hired a trainer. Some may not know that I tried. For our family, we personally decided that we were going to let them be them. We don’t put them in situations that we know they are more likely to get stressed out and then act out. Can we take them everywhere that we want? We sure can’t. But for us, that is how we live with the so called imperfections.
With dogs, they can’t speak and tell us what bothers them, or why they are acting the way that they do. Imagine if you hated going to a certain store for example, but you were brought there every day? How would you feel if you could not voice that?
Our dogs might be rescues and have went through things that we can’t even imagine. Some of their stories, we may not know. Perhaps, some dogs don’t have a story, but we have imagined one in our mind. Whatever the case, don’t apologize for your dog to others. Do the best that you can for your dog. Be cautious, be safe and be proud. Because many dogs don’t have someone that loves them, takes care of them or cares about them. And perhaps with time, that may be your answer. If not, embrace the dog you have as they embrace us, without judgment. Without hate. Without disapproval. Unless dinner is late.