A Good Dog | My Heart Dog

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I didn’t want to leave this blog on such a sad note. Of course losing Rufus has been one of the hardest times in my life and not a second goes by that I don’t wish he was still here with me. My heart is broken right now and anger is still winning. Luckily (or not so luckily at all) I’m kind of a veteran when it comes to grief, so I know that time really does heal just about everything and one day I will remember all of the good times over those last few weeks of pure confusion and pain.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have changed my handle over there. As of right now, that is the only place I’m currently writing but if that changes, I’ll be sure to keep you updated via that account so stay tuned. I wrote a post explaining why I made the change and what the future holds for me as a crazy dog lady that just needs to share her passion for all things canine.

Here is the post:

I’ve been thinking of ways to honor my heart dog during this time of mourning and this phrase keeps coming up again and again. Rufus had behavioral issues which included fear reactivity, defensiveness, and he even nipped a few times when he was extra stressed. However, through training and recognizing his triggers, our relationship never weakened. Of course there were times in which I was extremely frustrated with him, but I knew all of these moments were teachable ones. Rufus was a good dog regardless of these moments. He adored me and others he let in his circle, learned from his mistakes, and was always willing to try my way…even when he really didn’t want to. ūüėČ He was a good dog because he was meant for me. He made me a behavior nerd, nutrition obsessed, and taught me a whole new level of empathy for those going through their own struggles. He taught me so much in such a short period of time and I will be forever grateful for that…even when grief just wants me to be angry and bitter. Rufus was a good dog because he was exactly the dog I needed during our time together and he taught me so much about myself and what makes me light up in life. And there’s nothing bad about any of that.

 

Loving Rufus came so easily to me…even when he made it really, really difficult. I had fostered many dogs before him, worked with hundreds of dogs in just about every animal-related field, and then fostered pups after his adoption was finalized. And do you know that I never connected with any of those dogs the way that I did with Ru? Sure there were/are my favorites and there are dogs that absolutely make/made my day brighter whenever I got to work with them, but Rufus was the dog for me. Fostering and then adopting him changed me in a million ways. Our connection was so deep that even those that witnessed it would comment on how we communicated effortlessly without a word being said. He was my litmus test on how I was feeling at any given moment. He was my heart dog and it’s been incredibly hard to even consider loving another dog that way again. And who knows? Maybe I won’t.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. I was put on this planet to work with dogs, to nurture those that have been broken or let down by other humans. This kind of connection brings me so much joy and I’d be a fool to let go of all of that. And having my own dog to nurture fully? Well that has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in this life. And I know that I will give my heart to another dog one day and that Rufus would have wanted me to move on and share that love again. It seems close to impossible at this moment but I know this moment will be gone in an instant and I look forward to the moment I lock eyes with a pup who needs me….and who I need just as much.

I’ve felt it before and I will feel it again. It’ll just take time. Because boy oh boy, did I hit the jackpot when I found him.¬†

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Help! I want a second dog but I don’t want to mess up.

(…just so this blog doesn’t get too wordy, I’ve thrown in some photos of Mr. Ru for good measure.)

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It’s true. I struggle with these conflicting feelings on a pretty consistent basis. The dog lover in me longs for a second companion, especially as I see Rufus grow older and slow down a little bit. We just moved to Colorado, so hiking is back in full swing. And while Rufus can still hike with the best of them, I know he’s going to require more TLC as the weather heats up. If I don’t have a dog to hike with, it’s a whole lot less exciting. The dog is like 80% of the fun!

But as soon as I get in full second dog mode, the doubts start creeping in.

What if she has separation anxiety or other behavioral issues? Even if we go through a foster-based rescue, those traits can sneak in very easily. I should know. I had many fosters with severe separation anxiety. And now that we live in a full-blown complex, the idea of a screeching pup stresses me the heck out! And let’s not even get into the idea of having another reactive dog to manage…

What if she’s too high energy? You know. The kind of dog who can’t settle. The pup who needs a job to do 24/7. I’m all for training and tricks and excitement, but we are a super chill family. Like…we need a pup who knows how to Netflix hard on Sundays just as much as they need to love the outdoors.

-What if Rufus feels betrayed? Ok, this isn’t a real fear. Despite his grumpy nature, Rufus is pretty easy to match up with the right dog. His type: mostly females (or submissive but confident males), a little feisty but not hyperactive, under 70 lbs, and not too fluffy. Yes that’s right. My dog hates super fluffy dogs. He’s the worst/best. So as much as I’d love to pick out our second dog, I know Rufus will get the last word.

-What if we don’t connect? I have had fosters that were perfectly fine pups but I never really connected with them. And while I didn’t hate my time with them, I was very happy to see them go to their forever homes. It turns out I’m just as picky as my dude, which is fine but also a little scary when going into finding a second dog.

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So…I guess what I’m realizing is that I should probably foster for a little while before diving into the “forever dog” territory just to see how it feels. I think that’s the best solution, right?

I would love to hear from those of you who have had similar struggles when adding a second (or third or fourth) dog into your home. What doubts did you have? How did you overcome detachment feelings if you had them? Am I just being an over-dramatic weirdo?  Seriously, guys. I want to hear it all!

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Help!

The Many Faces of Ru

Maybe this isn’t the most popular thing to say, but having a reactive dog often feels like a burden. With behavioral issues that even I don’t fully grasp sometimes and often seem like they come out of nowhere, Rufus is complex to say the least. Despite all of this , I love him with my whole heart.

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I think that those of us who have fallen hard for reactive dogs are drawn to the “virtual platform” of sharing because it’s our way of showcasing our complex pups in all of their glory. We get to share those moments of pure bliss when our dogs are 100% themselves. Nothing is making them tense. Nothing is making them unsure. They are just dogs. Wonderful, uncomplicated canines.

And sure – progress happens and there are even times when he just plain surprises me with his intuitiveness in certain situations, but I’m just being real about the bigger picture. Rufus is a tough cookie and he makes me reexamine our training techniques over and over again. For years now, guys! Years! Ugh…

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But then there are the moments when it’s just the two (or three) of us. And I remember why I adore this guy so much and why I’m so happy he came into my life. Screwball behavior and all.

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This is still a dog blog |Road Dog

It’s been a crazy few weeks. We’re in the middle of packing up our house and moving…somewhere. Still trying to figure that part out. We really like to fly by the seat of our pants and it always turns out as a pretty awesome experience, but right now? I’m a bundle of nerves trying to figure out the logistics. :deep breath:

 

So here’s a photo of my beautiful pooch with his southwest-inspired bandana looking all kinds of cute. Maybe that’s a hint? Maybe not….only time will tell!

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P.S. If you’re following us on Instagram, you already know that Mr. Rufus had a pretty severe tail injury a few weeks ago. We’re still in the healing process and things are looking ok. Unfortunately this kind of injury can take weeks or months to show any kind of real progress, but we are doing our best to avoid surgery. Fingers crossed!

I hope everyone is having a great week!

My Cautious Canine #2 | Training on-the-go

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A lot of people with reactive dogs feel as though they have limited options when it comes to traveling with their furry friends.

-No busy cities or tourist spots

-No public stays such as hotels

-No way am I taking my dog on “vacation” when time away from home with them is anything but relaxing.

But the one thing I’ve been pretty diligent about¬†is making sure I include Rufus in as many activities as possible, which has included his fair share of trips and vacations.

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Over the weekend, we took Rufus out of town with us. I knew this would be a great opportunity to work on his reactivity. And with the right tools, it was pretty stress-free.

We stayed in a very pet-friendly hotel. And because they were so accommodating, we actually had a personal entrance so that we wouldn’t have to walk through the main lobby. However, we did run into other dog owners and I’m proud to report this dude did pretty well with all of our encounters.

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My two tools:

  1. Lots of treats
  2. Head halter/gentle leader

That’s it. It has been years since I’ve used the head collar on him and wow! I can’t believe how wonderfully it¬†worked this time around. Having control at that level made it so easy to get his attention and gently correct him when he was getting too excited. It was kind of like magic. Honestly, I feel silly that I waited so long to try this again. It’s a total game changer! He was calm, relaxed, and willing to work the entire weekend.

And at the end of every day, he was pooped. He wasn’t sweatin’ it.

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I know I’m lucky that Rufus is incredibly motivated by food. He will LITERALLY do anything for a nibble. It makes life and training so much easier.

And while we still have a long way to go, I have to say that I couldn’t have asked for more from this amazing dude. I love traveling with him and he made our trip so much more memorable. After all, he is my best friend.

Good boy, Rufus.

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