Thursday, January 28, 2016

It Must Be Frustrating

Last week, I wrote about how Barley's progressing with the challenges in her new agility class.  Emma commented, "It has to be so frustrating with all the issues she has." When I read that, I started to type out a reply, but it kept getting longer and longer, and I decided that maybe that was a sign this should just become a whole post.

I've mentioned that I often quote Charlie Brown in saying, "Why can't I have a normal dog like everyone else?" I've spent a lot of time talking about the challenges of life with Barley: her hatred of the dog next-door, her reactions to new classmates, and having to realize that there are things she can't do. It can be frustrating.

But mostly it's not. Mostly, it's rewarding. Barley has come so far in the 4.5 years we've been working with trainers. When I first got her, we couldn't walk by a house with a dog in the yard--whether or not the dog was barking or paying attention to us--without Barley getting a mohawk, snarling, and jumping up and down. Now, we can walk by yards with multiple dogs barking and bouncing around and Barley stays calm and focused on me. When we started agility, Barley would get so distracted that she'd regularly leave my side to explore the room. Now, even with extra distractions, it just takes a quick 8-jump warm-up drill and she's ready to work (with the occasional reward in the difficult areas).

Our proudest accomplishment: passing the CGC test in 2012.

If Barley wasn't a reactive dog, we never would have signed up for agility or noseworks. We never would have taken our tricks and games class. We never would have met our wonderful, supportive group of trainers and classmates.

Barley and all of her challenges have made me a better a person. She's taught me patience. She's taught me the value of hard work and helped me see the rewards that come from really giving my all to something. She's made me more forgiving and more humble. She's helped me to be present and really become aware of my surroundings. She's made me a more responsible pet owner.

It would be a lie to say that life with Barley is never frustrating. There are times I've been angry and been heartbroken. There are times I've wished that she could be like other dogs.

But then I spend time with other dogs, and I realize that I've got my perfect dog. We're a team and her successes are my successes. My failures are her failures. My childhood dog was my very best friend and in life before Barley I couldn't have ever imagined having a stronger relationship with an animal, but Barley and I are off the charts. She might not be easy, but every single second and every single heartbreak and frustration have been worth it. And I wouldn't change a thing about my crazy girl.



Be sure to check out all of the other posts in this week's Barks and Bytes hosted by Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs.

Heart Like a Dog

14 comments:

  1. ~hugs~ You and Barley are doing amazing! I just love her!

    I can't tell you the number of times someone has said something along the lines of "Why in the world would you want a dog like that!?" (Phoenix). Or "Zoe is so perfect, I love her best, she's my favorite... Why did you get such a messed up dog when your first one is so perfect?" What people don't realize is that behind that reactive, naughty, pain in the butt is a brilliant canine companion. She is one of the smartest dogs I've ever met and she is the most loving dog I've ever had. Even though there are some issues I don't regret adopting her. I also wish that sometimes she was a little more normal but if she was I would of never learned all the amazing things she's taught me. I think Phoenix was probably the best thing to ever happen to me.

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    1. This is so beautifully stated! I think unless you've had a reactive dog, it's hard to understand that relationship, especially since I've had one for years and still struggle to put into words exactly what that relationship is like. I'm so glad you understand what it's like!

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  2. You have done such a fabulous job with Barley. I did not realize you got her CGC. You are right that is something to really be proud of. Love this post. Thanks for joining the hop.

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    1. Thank you! She worked really hard at the training for her CGC, so I have it hanging above her crate, so even on the tough days, I get a good reminder of how far she's come.

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  3. That's right, stay positive. It's so much more important to recognize what you have accomplished versus what you have not. Most people would have handled the situation very differently where you proactively made a decision to give Barley a better life. Some people would have given up on her, but you did exatly the opposite. This is a great first post for me to read on your blog!

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    1. Thanks for joining us! We've been lucky to find really great trainers to help us make the training fun, so most of the time it doesn't even feel like work and it's so exciting to see her gain confidence in situations that would have made her react negatively in the past.

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  4. This is such a positive post and you gals have come a long ways! Thank you for sticking by each other!

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    1. Thank you! We have definitely become an inseparable team and I don't always take the time I should to look back on how far we've come and appreciate all the work we've done :)

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  5. She is the perfect dog for you! :-)

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    1. She's just lucky to have such a good Aunt L as part of her village.

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  6. Very well said! I am also often frustrated with Luke's fears and reactivity. But I love that it has lead to new adventures for us, tricks and training, and I am learning so much about dogs that I never knew.
    I think that what is the most frustrating to me is not Luke and the things we deal with, but having to explain him to people who don't understand.
    I think having a challenging dog definitely leads to a special bond that many people will never comprehend. I also tend to think that dogs like Luke and Barley can be the most loving pets out there. That's what I try to explain to people - that he is so loving and so affectionate with us, and how smart he is.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. I agree--Barley has taught me more about dogs than I ever even knew it was possible to learn! Explaining is one of the most frustrating parts--I know how loving and fun Barley is with me or really any adult human being, but trying to explain to people who have seen her react to other dogs and showing them that she's really a wonderful, well-behaved, affectionate dog is a challenge. I think my favorite part of the blog has been getting to know other dog owners like you and Lauren who understand what it's like to live with a reactive dog :)

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  7. You have such a wonderful attitude and I truly believe we get the dog we’re supposed to have, even though they might be a little challenging at times. Haley was a pretty reactive when she was younger, but she’s come a long, long way and I feel honored to have helped her with that. She’s also taught me so much. I’m sure you feel the same way about Barley and you must be very proud of her.

    I love what you said about connecting with even one or two people. A meaningful connection with a few people is more valuable that a superficial connection with a thousand.

    I have a feeling you and Barley are going to have a fantastic 2017!

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    1. Thank you for such kind words! I'm definitely proud of how far Barley has come--especially in the last month as I've been working with her to introduce her new sister!

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