This is part of our weekly Editorial series. Normally, we let the dogs do all of the talking! Join us every weekday for a dog blog written by rescue dogs Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake at www.2travelingdogs.com
Have you ever had one of those moments? You may know what I am talking about. You look at your dog and wonder how you ever lived without him or her. You think about the life you have had together and maybe you even think about when you first met each other. You know the moment. You realize that your dog means more to you than most people, ok, all people, and you can’t imagine a life not together.
I remember that moment with my dogs and all of the moments thereafter when these feelings kept getting stronger. I also remember the increasing worry that came with these feelings and the overprotective nature that I began to manifest. And it didn’t get better, even though I knew my feelings weren’t balanced. So when the opportunity and decision came up to travel the country in an RV with my dogs and hit the open road, the worry became more, and the enjoyment of the upcoming adventure became less. Because I knew…I just knew…they were not going to like this. Nope. No way. What was I even thinking? How could I do this to them?
Things were hard at first. It was an adjustment to living life on the road.
Some days it was easier than others, but we all had to make adjustments. Once we all settled into a routine, it became very clear to me that if I would have not given my dogs the chance to decide whether they liked to travel or not, they would not have had all of these experiences.
What would we have done if they did not like it? If you know us, you know that we would have stopped the trip all together. We are glad that didn’t happen, but we are glad that we allowed them the opportunity for such an amazing adventure, because our lives have never been the same.
We all have to step out of our own comfort zones at times. For me, I have a problem with social anxiety and crowds. It takes a lot of effort on my part sometimes to even go to the grocery store. So to live life on the road where privacy is rare was something I did not know if I would like. And sometimes, I still have problems with this side of my personality. But if I had not given myself the chance to decide this, I would have missed out on time with my dogs and this wonderful life. But you see, I had that choice to make. Our dogs can’t vocalize what they want to do. And often, we let our own fears decide that for them. Often, we let what we think is their “rescue story” to stick with them their whole life and not give them the opportunity for growth. They deserve that.
When we first adopted Digby from the shelter, he had severe sickness from riding in the car. I won’t soon forget that first car ride home and the mess I had to clean up. If I would have let that decide his whole future of going anywhere with us, what would have happened? Oh, of course he would have adjusted. But instead, I tried little trips with him to get take out food. I started him out slowly, and by the second week, we were driving him to dog daycare. And now…well, I am sure you will agree, he is a most excellent traveler.
There have been times on the road where the boys have been afraid of something that I thought they would love. For Digby, a fear of waterfalls became obvious. For Brickle, a fear of wooden or metal floors were his triggers. He also came to dislike the jacks being lowered or raised in the RV. And I could go on and on. If I let my guilt take over me instead of making adjustments, those old feelings start coming back. I think about how maybe we should have never went on such a trip instead of altering our situations. Letting one episode determine the rest of their lives is not acceptable to me. Making them happy is. And yet, it takes work on our part to figure this out. Our dogs all are telling us their likes and dislikes every day. But are we listening? And what do we do about it?
I have never claimed to be a dog trainer or having any professional accolades. No, instead, my job is taking care of my boys in their own, individual way. And giving them a little bit of freedom to perhaps walk another way on a trail or where they want to take a nap may mean nothing to others. But to me, I recognize their individuality. I recognize that they have likes and dislikes. And it matters. It really matters.
So when you adopt that dog that they tell you hates all men, or that dog that hates car rides, or that dog that won’t eat anything besides one brand of dog food…stop. Think rationally. Is this truly the case, or can a safe approach be made to find this out? Can your dog be helped? Can your dog be given a chance to grow and learn? If this is the case, make the effort to find out how you can do so.
I have said this, and I will say it again…when we recognize that all animals are true individuals with their own likes and dislikes, that is the day when there will be less animals in our shelter system. But to recognize this one fact, that all lives matter, is a big responsibility. Live up to yours.
So, can you give your dog the chance to try something new that you may be convinced he would not like? For me, it was giving Digby the opportunity to climb up a boat ladder in Charleston, South Carolina. I was sure he woudn’t want to do it. Yet, he climbed that ladder with a sense of duty. It was like he wanted to prove to himself he could do it. And when he did, his confidence soared. I was so proud, he was so proud, and that…that is a moment that I will cherish until forever.
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