Tails of a Dog Therapist – Episode Nineteen

It’s the simple things in life that make me happy and lately that’s been seeing my dogs enjoying their lives.

I was pottering around the garden the other day, watching Frank doing zoomies in an attempt to get another dog to play with him, any dog, he didn’t care who. Brian and Bo were chasing each other around with smiling faces and wagging tails. I remembered the days when Brian was too scared to even step foot in the garden, we had a children’s sand pit in the house for weeks that he used as a litter tray. Seeing them living life like this reminds me of why I took them on in the first place

Now please tell me that I’m painting the perfect picture of happiness and tranquility. Yes?

Good, then enter the bombshell that is Paddy!!! This is the dog that has come along to shatter my tranquility, the one that always makes me wonder why the hell I took him on.

Out of all the dogs I was asked to take between November and January (and there were a lot), why did I say yes to him?

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love him, he’s the sweetest, most loving dog I could ask for but he’s also an absolute nightmare. I’m so glad I never actually rehomed him because he definitely would have either been returned to me or passed around from home to home.

He’s got the typical Jack Russell bark, that high pitched yap that goes straight through you, and it’s constant. If he’s excited he yaps, if he’s frustrated he yaps, if he wants attention….. well actually if he wants attention he either bounces to almost face hight in front of you, or he just climbs all over everyone else to get to your lap and makes it known that he’s there.

He can’t be trusted with the other dogs when we’re out because he will start a row over anything. He also can’t be trusted with toys ever because he’ll eat them, and he doesn’t eat little bits, oh no…. he rips off big chunks and swallows them!! After making him sick twice and seeing the size of the pieces he threw up I’m glad I’d seen it happen and could act on it because that would have been a massive vet bill when it got stuck in his gut 🤢.

He can’t be crated when we go out (well he can but we have to cable tie the crate together) because he knows how to collapse every crate in on himself without getting trapped so that he can get out, he then jumps the 80cm tall dog gate, wanders the hallway and meets me at the front door when I get home. If the postman comes during the time of his wandering I then also have a bit of chewed (and possibly eaten) post. Also if a cat happens to be standing at the doorway with me when I open it then we’re in big trouble because he wants to eat them too.

You can’t have a window open in a car while he’s about because every noise he hears causes him to try and jump out of it in a frenzy, and believe me when I say that there’s lots of noises in the country lanes as the bushes catch the wing mirrors. That’s without what happens if we stop and one of us gets out, Kev went in the shop the other day and he was desperate to get out the window and go with him. I got severely scratched trying to hold him back as his feet were flying everywhere!

Then there’s the sheep! He’s pretty good with the ducks and chickens, I wouldn’t trust him if he got in with them but luckily he doesn’t try to enter their pens.

The sheep and the goat on the other hand are a completely different story!! If he’s on a lead and he sees them he turns into a screaming banshee and desperately tries to pull you in their direction. He then fights you all the way to the front door because HE……WANTS……THAT……SHEEP!!

If I pick him up then out come the talons he calls claws again and I’m scratched everywhere.

The other day he was in the garden and I needed to feed the sheep and the goat, so I thought I’ll just shut the gate between the garden and the kitchen and the one between the kitchen and the hallway and run out and do them quick. I left the front door open because I like to be able to hear what my dogs are doing when I’m out the front of the house. Paddy was paying no attention at all he’d just come back from his walk and was sniffing around the garden so I thought I was safe, rookie mistake to make I know 🤦‍♀️

As I got to the sheep field gate I noticed that one of the ewes had put her head through the fence at the back of the field. Something she does several times a week, usually she does get her head out again, but this time the wool on her neck had wrapped around the wire and she was stuck. I put the food out of the reach of the others and headed over to help her. As I reached where she was and started to explore my options for freeing her I heard that high pitched yap and it wasn’t coming from our garden, it was coming from the farm lane.

I panicked, Kev wasn’t about and as you can imagine, with everything else he does I haven’t actually started work on his recall yet so within seconds he could be anywhere.

I immediately left the sheep and did everything I tell my clients not to…. I started frantically screaming his name while thinking of all the different scenarios of what could happen and forming a plan in my head about who I would ring and report it to when I couldn’t find him. I followed the sound of the yapping and for once I was relieved that it seemed to be getting louder.

As I stepped out from behind the rows of cars Kev keeps in the field there he was, happy as larry having a game of chase with our lamb. The lamb wasn’t looking so happy about it though and with his Mum stuck in a fence and the goat and the other sheep staying well out of the way, it was down to me to catch the poxy dog and stop it.

I didn’t have time to calm myself down because I didn’t actually know what he would do to the lamb if he caught it, so still in my frantic state I tried to act calm and call him to me. Like that was ever going to work!! He completely ignored me unless the lamb zigzag’d past me and then he just did a wide circle to keep out of my reach and carried on with his game of chase. I helplessly chased him around for about 5 minutes with Dastardly and Muttley’s ‘catch the pigeon’ tune going round in my head. Obviously the word pigeon was switched out and I was singing ‘catch the Paddy’ to myself. (That’s that time stuck in your head all day…. you’re welcome 😉)

Then it suddenly dawned on me, why don’t I just catch the lamb, that’ll stop the chase and if the lamb is in my arms then he’ll have a reason to come to me. I was a GENIUS!! Or so I thought.

Just as I was about to put my plan into action and grab Shaun (the lamb) on his way past me his Mum came out of nowhere and head butted Paddy. It turns out if you leave her long enough while her lamb is in trouble she’ll work out how to get her own head out of the fence.

Paddy was fine just had a bit of a bruised ego and came over gingerly to tell Mummy what had happened, at which point I went against what I tell clients to do yet again and sternly told him it was his own fault and he deserved it without any praise for the fact that he actually finally came to me. I then shut him in one of the cars, fed the sheep, collected him back out of the car and shut him indoors while I sat on the doorstep calming down and chastising myself for all the things I did wrong in that situation and therefore all the extra things I have instilled in him now that I have to correct.

– I allowed myself to stress and worry and because our dogs pick up on our emotions from several feet away from our body, he was noticing that and feeding off of it.

– Frantically screaming his name wasn’t helpful either, firstly he was so over emotional at that point and intent on his game that I was just background noise. He was basically the toddler having a tantrum in the toy shop, there was no point even trying to talk to him until he’d calm down  and let’s be honest…. I wouldn’t have come back to me at that point either. We have to be the person our dogs would want to come back to and the screaming mess really isn’t it.

– running around after him just made it look like I was joining in with the game so of course he was going to carry on!

– then when he eventually came back, instead of being thankful that in his moment of need he turned to me instead of sticking his tail between his legs and running off to find somewhere to hide. I was stern and angry with him. Again would I want to come back to that in future? Hell no and I’ve probably given him a reason not to now as well.

As I sat there thinking about it I started laughing, what idiot leaves a front door open when she knows the dog can clear the dog gates?

Practice what you preach? Yeh right! That didn’t happen did it!

Then I found myself wishing that it had all been on camera so I could post it to my social media and show people. You see when I first started out I did it out of desperation, my dogs were misbehaving and I needed to know how to fix it.

I had trainers and behaviourists in and I felt so self conscious about it, especially when I became friendly with the last one and used to pop round her house and see her perfect dogs.

But that’s not life, well it’s not my life. I took Paddy on 3 months ago, he’s still a puppy and he’s a working progress. I’m sure one day I’ll sit in my garden watching him while he calmly potters around and I’ll look back on all the things he currently does and be amazed at the dog he’s become, but that takes work, time and patience.

That’s why I want my clients to see these things happening to me. They need to see that these things are perfectly normal and that there are moments when even I get it wrong, we’re all just human.

The important thing is to enjoy this stage because it’ll all be over too soon. Our dogs aren’t with us long enough for us to worry about what other people will think of us, we need to enjoy every moment of them.