Originally posted October 2011
I know a lady who got up at three o’clock every morning to walk her dog in the middle of the night because the dog was terrified of people. She did this for eight years. I know another lady who moved house, build a room in her home and kept her dog quietly at home because going out the front door was overwhelming to him. Yet another person I know has spent thousands of dollars and countless hours on training, physio-therapy and medication to help her traumatized dog to recover from a car accident.
I am blessed to live in the company of people who care and care deeply about the dogs they live with. To be fair, I chose a career that would throw me into their company, but I never imagined that I would meet the people I did along the way. I have met dedicated, loyal, caring people who put their dogs ahead of many of their own needs.
I write a lot about things that I see that I would like to make right. I would like the injustices in the world all go away, and I speak my mind passionately when I see something going badly wrong. I am equally passionate about my students. They are truly incredible people who I deeply admire.
The dogs we work with help us along in so many special ways, but they don’t come through my door all by themselves. They come in the company of people. Some of the people they come with are hard to get along with, but it is important to realize that these people have made sacrifices on behalf of their dogs and have brought them in for help. Sometimes they come along in the company of charming and interesting people, who enrich me beyond dog training; this is just gravy on the potatoes. Everyone who brings a dog to me for help is a special and wonderful person because they care beyond themselves and they take steps to make the lives of their dogs better.
In our field, we sometimes see bumper stickers belonging to trainers that read things like “I love your dog-you not so much”, and I feel sad for the trainers who miss looking at both ends of the leash. I don’t love all dogs or all people, but I have incredible respect and caring for those who live with the dogs who need my help. At the end of the day, the difficult dogs go home with people who have to walk them and feed them, who have to enrich their environments and keep them safe. We have the luxury of liking these dogs because we don’t have to accommodate their foibles, and those who do live with these dogs need our care and support and respect.
I like people. If I didn’t, I think that in the final analysis, I would be a crappy trainer and behaviour consultant. I like dogs too, but it is important to remember that the dogs don’t come without their people. So here is my salute to my clients.
Thank you for caring about your dogs enough to build ramps so your old dogs can get into the car, for caring enough to buy a manual can opener so that your dog isn’t stressed by the noise of the electric one you used to use, for picking up all the rawhides so that resource guarding doesn’t happen, for walking your dogs on muzzle so that they don’t eat dead things. You go above and beyond what so many of us do, and you are my heros.