Thoughts of a Dog Therapist – Judgement

I have recently acknowledged that I have a massive fear of being judged. It’s not that I’m desperate for people to like me because I’m actually not that worried about that anymore, I know I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea just like some people aren’t mine. My fear is based more around what people will say about my ability to care for my dogs or my ability to help my clients and what that then means for my business.

I have been forced to acknowledge this and start working on it because its something that keeps showing up in various ways in my life and I know that it will continue to do so until it is resolved.

I cant really remember when it first came about, I got a lot of backlash after the media work I did when I was fundraising for Bella. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on how I lived or whether I should have all of the dogs I’ve got. I constantly have Kevs friends questioning why I ‘need’ so many dogs and questioning why I don’t get rid of some, they never seem to understand that its not about needing them, I love them.

I also remember when I was younger and my Nan and Grandad had 5 dogs and a friend was really excited because we were stopping at their house on our way back from school and she would be able to see the dogs. As she was telling another girl about it I heard the other girl say ‘I wouldn’t be that excited if I were you, I bet the house stinks with that many dogs’, so I’m completely paranoid about how much my house must smell with 18 dogs in it.

I double check every photo and video I put on my social media. If I think that something in the background will cause a negative comment then I will edit the photo and crop it out, I’ve cropped out curtains because they looked like they needed a wash, carpets because they were muddy or had a stain on them, towels that were waiting to be washed after I’d wiped the dogs down.

I listen back to all of the videos and if I’m breathing too heavy or one of the dogs tells another one off while I’m filming then I’ll take the sound off before I post it. I’ve told Kev off because of things he’s posted or photo’s and video’s he’s sent to people because our house has been a mess in the background and don’t even get me started on live video’s!!!

I’m constantly being told by sales and business coaches that I need to go live on my pages but I’m terrified to do it in case the dogs make a noise and people think I’m no good because I can’t control that for the time that I’m recording, which is ridiculous because I don’t even want to control my dogs!!! My clients come to me because I believe in allowing our dogs to be dogs and to express themselves freely. I teach them to understand their dogs and manage emotional levels and situations so that the dog feels happier, safer and more relaxed, which then means they don’t need to behave the way they have been because they don’t need to constantly fight to be heard.

This doesn’t mean that they’re not going to snap at another dog in the house if that dog sits on them, or that they’re not going to make a noise because they’re excited when they’re playing or while their dinner is being dished up. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to bark when someone knocks at the door or when Kev comes in. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t have accidents in the house that causes a patch of carpet to be a different colour once its cleaned up.

I live with 18 dogs and this is real life, it’s not a fairy tale where you go round rescuing all of the dogs and live in peace and harmony forever. The experience of living with these dogs and their quirks is what makes me able to understand all of my clients situations and problems and gives me the experience to help them.

Recently I was asked to take part in a pilot for a new TV show and straight away I was terrified. All I could think of was the negative comments I received for Bella’s fundraising and the idea of going through all of that again filled me with dread. They wanted a video of my house so I told them that I couldn’t do it, I was embarrassed by my house. We’d just come out of a very wet winter which had turned our garden into a mud pit, I had to wear wellies every time I went out there and I had 18 sets of paws dragging that mud through my house every single time they came in from going to the toilet.

Because of how muddy the garden was I also had a couple of the smaller dogs that didn’t even want to go out there and they had taken to balancing on the back step until I let them back in and then toileting by my back door instead. My cooker is wired in right next to my back door and with it being metal, the continued urinating and then subsequent mopping and cleaning had started to cause the bottom to rot out and it was being held up by a dog bowl.

I would do the basic cleaning like running the mop round the kitchen floor (only for it to be muddy again the next time they went in the garden), hoovering, washing up, doing the washing, cleaning the bathroom etc. but with looking after the animals, running my business and helping Kev with his business the proper deep cleaning had taken a major back seat and it showed. Even I was looking round my house and stressing about how much I had to do to give it a proper clean and I was starting to get embarrassed and apologise for it when people came round.

When I worked for Pets at Home I used to use my holidays throughout the year to go round and give my house a full clean. I’d do the walls, door frames, skirting, pull all the furniture out and clean behind and underneath. But I haven’t taken any time off since being self employed because if I do then I don’t get paid. So for the last 4 years I’ve just had to fit the deeper cleaning jobs in around everything else that I do and I had really fallen behind and I knew that there was no way that I could show the house on TV without some major backlash.

I could imagine people saying that I shouldn’t have the dogs because of the state of my house, or that they wouldn’t use me and my business because of the urinating and I really didn’t want to put myself through that, so I explained all of this to them and said no.

They came back and told me that these were the things they wanted to help me with and that the show wasn’t about ridiculing people, it was about helping deserving people and because of my work with the dogs they really wanted to help me. We went back and forth for about a week and in the end they talked me into doing it even though I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted to.

After sending in the video of my house and completing the application form, I then had to have an interview via zoom which could be submitted as my casting tape. Then I had to have a video call with a member of their mental health team. I had messages and visits from various producers and bought up my concerns with all of them and was told the whole way along that I wouldn’t be ridiculed or made to look like I couldn’t cope with my dogs.

I was told time and again to stop cleaning my house and not to touch anything else until after they’d filmed which just stressed me out more because I know how bad it gets if I don’t clean for a couple of days and that would be filmed and shown. There were also a couple of occasions where I actually lost my cool with them and told them to forget it and find someone else because after saying the focus was going to be around the fact that I have so many dogs, they then wanted me to ship them out and put them into kennels every day and that just wasn’t an option for me. We finally compromised and pens were made for them in the sheep field next door, but I believe these issues occurred because I was still wasn’t sure about doing it and I was creating reasons to back out, which of course never happened.

When the filming started I was horrified, I’d had to let people into my house to look around and straight away they started doing what I was promised they wouldn’t. In my eyes I was being run down and ridiculed on camera. They were commenting on the smell of my house and calling it unhygienic and they were really acting up over it. So much so that I actually rang the editor and told him to get them out of my house and forget it but again I allowed him to talk me round and the filming carried on.

As I spoke to the people off camera I found that they were really nice and they explained that for them they found the doggy smell overpowering and that obviously that smell is in my carpets and furnishings so is something that is always there even though I may not notice it so much. This is something that I can completely understand because there are times when it’s been raining and I’ve let the dogs out and then bought them back in and gone to work and when I return a couple of hours later the smell of the dogs just hits me as I walk in and I have to get doors and windows open.

It was the comment about it being unhygienic that really annoyed me because although I’d admitted that my dogs sometimes have accidents indoors and the cooker was a result of this, I always clean it straight up and use disinfectant. I also deep clean my carpets with a carpet cleaner every couple of months so it wasn’t as though I was leaving urine all round my house and I objected to the fact that I felt this was being implied. However when we actually spoke about it they explained that for them it wasn’t about the dogs having accidents, it was about the dogs (and us) bringing the dirt in constantly and spreading it round all of our rooms in the house and all over our sofas and our beds. They said for them it was about the bacteria that was in that dirt and because I had fallen behind with everything I wasn’t removing it regularly enough and therefore they felt it was unhygienic.

I couldn’t really argue with any of that and felt better for discussing it and realising that it wasn’t a personal attack on me by someone that didn’t know me or my situation. After spending a week filming with them they shared that they completely understood my situation and were happy to have been able to help me. They also said that they loved the way I was about my dogs but wished that I’d put myself first a bit more often because if I burn out then who would be there to look after the dogs. I think this was the biggest comment they could have made to me and it really hit home.

I still don’t know how I’ll be portrayed when this show airs, I don’t know whether I will be shown as the dog lover who just hates the tediousness of cleaning so puts it behind her animals and her business, or as a complete scumbag who lives in squalor with her dogs because she can’t be bothered to clean. I don’t know if people will relate to my struggles or whether they’ll judge me and say I shouldn’t have my dogs. I don’t know whether it will harm my business or boost it.

But what I do know is that I had to put myself through it and face up to the risk of judgement, because if I didn’t then there’d just be another experience involving it later. That’s how life works, we have to face our fears and insecurities and work to overcome them otherwise they just keep playing out time and again. If I’m honest I quite enjoyed the week of filming and the experience in the end.

I truly believe that my dogs are the reason this has all happened, they created the dirt, they caused the embarrassment around the house and they are the reason the TV crew got in touch so they are the ones asking me to step up and be seen without fear of judgement and once I do, who knows what opportunities await!!! I just have to trust and believe that my dogs are leading me to amazing things.

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