I woke up Sunday morning to the most interesting message that had been left at Bella's Facebook page. It was from the hu-mom of a dog in Australia named Miles and Miles, it seems looks a LOT like Bella. Acts a lot like her too, from what I can tell.
See, Miles' hu-mom had been writing on a local shelter board to find stable, 'bomb-proof' dogs that would be willing to help Miles get over his fear of dogs when our friend Jet over at jet's furkid palace told her about our Bella.
Miles has dog-reactivity just like Bella does but with a slightly different story. I haven't yet asked permission to share his story here so I'll save that for another day but I wanted to write about one of Bella's recent stories to give Miles' mom some encouragement about what these fearful dogs can do with a little time and a lot of patience.
|Hi Miles! Nice to virtually meet you!|
I've written recently about Bella' shoulder injury that had us traipsing all over town for various treatments and examinations. Back in March, we took her into Boston for the first time to visit noted neurologist, Dr. Allen Sisson at Angell Animal Medical Center. I had never been to Angell before and have to say, I was incredibly impressed.
The place looks like a well-funded big city hospital: big, clean, modern, high-tech. The waiting areas for the animals are spacious and separated: dogs in one area, cats in another, yet a third for birds and exotics. Even better, there were two areas for each!
I, now the master of scoping the world for imminent Bella danger, chose the area to the left of the entrance which was empty and hoped against hope it would remain so until we could get Bella into an examination room.
We were soon joined by a couple whose beautiful yellow Lab was waiting with them on a gurney. Poor old guy was really sick (although we did see him leave of his own volition later in the day) so I knew he was no threat to Bella. She knew it, too. But they were soon joined by another yellow Lab whose owner was more interested in talking to the sick dog's owners than watching her own.
I knew what was coming and knelt down in front of Bella to get her focus on me and doing our training. "Bella, look." Click. Treat. Good girl. "Bella, down." Click. Treat. Good girl.
I'm doing all this quite loudly and obviously - trying to make a point to the other owners that my dog needs special attention when all of a sudden, I feel the telltale sign of a dog's breath on the back of my neck. Not MY dog, this lady's dog. He's so close to us, I can actually feel him sniffing my hair!
"Bella, look." Click. Treat. Good girl. "Bella, down." Click. Treat. Oh you remarkable girl!
And finally "Can you PLEASE get your dog away from my dog?"
|Insert gratuitous picture of pretty dog here.|
I am not one for conflict. In fact, I avoid it at all costs. But in my time with Bella I have learned that I am the only advocate she has so I have learned to speak up on her behalf. I'm sure many people have decided I'm just plain rude. Surely this woman with her beautiful, stable, friendly Lab walked away with that impression.
But here's the kicker. This dog, in this strange and stressful place, got within a couple of feet of Bella, with me in between and how did Bella react? With a small, quiet growl. As soon as I spoke up, she stopped, laid down and looked at me.
Oh Bella, you are a remarkable girl.
I was so proud of her.
The folks in the waiting room probably thought we were the most awful people they'd ever met with a dog who didn't deserve to be out in public. But I was over the moon with pride at how my little girl handled herself. Was she happy? No, not really. Was she scared? Yeah, probably some. But did she handle it all without causing a scene? Absolutely. And I couldn't have been prouder.
So Miles' mom? I know you're going through some difficult times right now. I'm sure you want to die of embarassment at times, weep in frustration at others. Hang in there, though. You can do this and so can Miles. Patience and practice.
And if you ever need encouragement, stop in here or a few of the other blogs we know who are dealing with similar issues: Life with Desmond, Rescued Insanity, Oh My Dog! and Adventures of a Cattle Dog. We all know the pride and heartbreak of life with a crazy dog (or two or three).
If nothing else, you'll discover you're not alone. Maybe you'll even decide to start your own blog letting us follow Miles' progress. In any case, please drop me a note again someday to let me know how it's going. I have a lot of faith in you, your boy and your dog. You can do this. And I know Miles is worth every frustrating minute of it.