Living with any dog is going to have its ups and downs. That’s a given. Our dogs are living, breathing, thinking creatures, and they have good days and bad days just like humans do. However, living with a special needs emotional dog can make those downward spikes deeper and longer, and the upward spikes fleeting and elusive at times.
It’s been a tough few months for Rugby James. For most of July, we had some sort of crisis with fireworks that went on for days, and some severe storms that caused trees to damage our house and backyard fence. For about ten days, we had contractors in and out of the house and yard which left Rugby in a tailspin. He was an absolute mess. He started to rub a raw spot on the top of his nose and barked himself hoarse. Even though I was always nearby, the constant traffic of strangers, the noise, the daily change….all of those things just did Rugby in. He seemed to make a good recovery from all of that, but August has been another really difficult month for Rugby.
From the very beginning, Rugby has always had intermittent resource guarding issues with food and water. We’ve always had ups and downs with that, and for the most part, he’s vastly improved with it. The problem with aggression, is that dogs learn to use that as a way of problem solving, and it’s a tough behavior to fix.
So for much of August, Rugby has had some aggressive episodes that have been very concerning. He has consistently snarked at Michael over absolutely nothing, he got very ugly resource guarding a very large rock that he found in the yard one night, and he gave me a pretty strong nip on the calf of my leg when I was carrying a hot pan and stepped on fringe of his tail fur as he was underfoot.
And such is life with Rugby James at my house. I have hit a really rough patch with him of late, and this always makes me more sad than I can say. This is precisely why special needs dogs often get surrendered. Living with Rugby can just be relentless at times, and of late, he’s been pretty relentless, but it’s been far more aggressive than typical, and that’s a serious cause for concern!
Rugby will soon be ten years old, and he is who he is at this point in time. There’s only so much I can train with a ten year old dog, and after all of these years, he’s not likely to completely stop being aggressive. When nasty episodes emerge back to back, I can feel a bit hopeless, and usually, I’m a hope dispenser!! I love giving hope to other dog owners, but Rugby’s behavior can have a side to it that leaves me feeling bummed and sad and without hope at times.
I was commiserating about life in general to a dear friend, and she gave me wonderful advice and lots of encouragement. When I hit these big speed bumps in the road with Rugby, it’s so hard to look past the negative behavior. Keep in mind that I’ve lived with Rugby since 2007, and we have had many of these types of occurrences, but Rugby has never nipped me like this and he has never been consistently this ugly with Michael. All I could see and feel was fear about Rugby’s future, and hope just vanished into thin air.
To be honest, at times I get very tired of the cycle of good behavior….bad behavior…..figure out how to fix the bad behavior…..train through the bad behavior……good behavior once again treadmill of life with Rugby. Since 2007, we have lived on this emotional roller coaster for several years, and on a rare occasion, I find myself just bummed about it, and wishing I had a magic wand that could “fix” things once and for all.
My friend gave me the very best advice. She told me the key to hope was to stop looking at all of the negative things Rugby had done or all of the things that he would never be able to do, and stay focused on the good things that he currently was doing. It resonated with me immediately, and days later, I’m still feeling that little flame of hope starting to grow again. Of course. What great advice!
No matter how naughty Rugby can be, there are always great things that he does, and that’s what I need to remember and see…even if I have to force myself to see them for right now! I just needed to adjust my lens to see him in the right light and with the right attitude. He tries so very hard….he really, honestly does. And I do know that he has trust with me, and as long as he still trusts me, I have a foundation where I can build and grow with him, no matter how old he gets.
As I thought about hope, it occurred to me that when I allow myself to feel hopeless, I’m really just giving up on Rugby. I’m losing faith in my own little dog to improve and change and grow. He didn’t get a good start in life. He had many strikes against him when he came into our house for the first time. He didn’t choose me…I chose him! He lost a lot in life at a very young age, and really didn’t ever get to have the big life that I had hoped to give to him. But I know that losing hope means that I’m letting his world get even smaller, and that’s just not fair to him or to me.
So…the story will continue! I’ve put things in place to get his behavior turning around, and I can see things starting to improve after two weeks of time. We will get through this just like we’ve gotten through the other rough spots in life. I’m committed to him for as long as we can have him, and I want to give him the highest quality of life that he can have. Armed with hope….anything can happen, and that’s the right kind of attitude that’s necessary for any owner of a special needs emotional dog!