Tails of a Dog Therapist – Episode Fifteen

I have often said that my dogs aren’t perfect, they’re living beings with their own thoughts and their own emotions and they’re entitled to have off days. I don’t like barking commands at them, I like them to be able to be themselves. I would also like to add to this and admit that I’m not perfect either.

This week I was the worst dog mummy in the world…. I broke my dogs toe!!

Little Charlie is completely deaf. He came to live with me in 2018 after his obsessive shadow chasing became too much for his previous mummy. When I say obsessive I don’t mean that he just chased the movement of a shadow or a light for a little while. He literally stalked people waiting for their shadows and they couldn’t get him to calm down and settle.

When I first went round to help his family they were trying not to open curtains or put lights on, they literally avoided everything that would cause a shadow, it really wasn’t a healthy way to live.

For me the key was in keeping him calmer, dogs pick up and take on board all of the emotional changes that the household go through each day. So if you have a highly emotional household then you’ll have a highly emotional dog and they will express this in ways that we see as a bad behaviour.

Charlie’s mummy had a lot of emotional baggage at the time that I did his session, and as much as she understood what I said to her and tried to work through it with him she made the heartbreaking decision that she couldn’t keep putting him through the emotional turmoil and that she was going to have to give him up.

She had already sought advice from the vet and from different rescues and they suggested that the kindest thing would be to put him to sleep. This is because they believed that being deaf meant that he probably had neurological problems as well and that the shadow chasing was a manifestation of this. Thankfully I knew this wasn’t the case and that it was just because he had too many built up emotions in his little body and couldn’t cope, so when his mum contacted me and told me of her decision I drove straight round, picked him up and bought him home.

Two years on and he still has his moments. If the excitement builds up in the pack at any point, so if visitors come or dinner is being served, then he will run around as if he’s searching for something to chase. If I’m in the garden picking up the daily mountain of dog poo then he’ll follow me around and for some reason insist on circling me as I do it. I still can’t understand why he gets so emotional about the fact that I’m picking up poo because I’m sure as hell not that excited about it!! (It’s on my to do list to ask him). But the main thing that Charlie does that drives us mad is run through our legs and from room to room as we open the dog gates.

I have dog gates on almost all of my doors in the house, I like to know that if I open the front door then no dogs are going to be charging up and greeting the poor unsuspecting visitor on the other side of it. It also comes in handy for introducing dogs or if I need to keep any of them separated, but Charlie has this knack of getting through them as you open them no matter how much you try and stop him. He doesn’t even go anywhere he just runs up and down in the next room as if to say ‘yay I did it again’ then runs straight back into the original room as soon as you point in that direction, his tail wagging in celebration the whole time.

The other day I was carrying an armful of stuff through the gate and he did just that, he shot through my legs nearly knocking me over and started running up and down our hallway. I couldn’t give him the normal hand signals to get back in because my hands weren’t free and after a couple of minutes of sternly telling him to ‘come here’ and ‘go in there’ I remembered that he couldn’t hear me and went to chase him back down the hallway and into our kitchen. As I went to put him back in, one of the others went to come out and I shut the dog gate quickly, catching Charlie’s back toe in it as I did. The squealing was ear piercing and I immediately opened up the gate and dropped all of the stuff I was carrying to check on him. He had a cut either side of his toe and it was already swelling up, I had broken his toe and felt absolutely terrible.

I started to get angry, if only he didn’t keep running out there like that. If only I’d put the stuff down sooner and then got him back. If only I’d stepped back through the gate first and blocked the others from coming out or had just told them to stay there as I opened it rather than still telling the deaf dog that couldn’t hear me to ‘get in’!! I felt so guilty that evening that when we went to get our weekly takeaway I took him with me and let him share my meal.

He didn’t even care though, he was over it as soon as I released his foot from the gate and when I connected in with him to apologise properly and ask if he was ok he just said ‘I don’t know why you’re worrying, just forget about it, it will heal and I’m fine’. He’s so resilient and wise and his foot is absolutely fine. It will obviously take a little while to heal but you wouldn’t think it the way he carries on, he was back to his normal self instantly. Has it stopped him charging through the dog gates? Of course not!! He did it again the very next time I opened one.

As I said at the beginning, for me this made me the worst dog mum in the world, nobody wants to injure their own dogs. But accidents happen and we can’t constantly beat ourselves up over it, all we can do is move on and make sure it doesn’t happen again. (Although Kev did ask Charlie if he’d like him to call the RSPCA lol)