Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Are you living with a dog who drives you a bit dotty?
Are walks or barking at home a drag?
Does it feel like your dog copes by ensuring that you don’t?
Will you allow me to tell you a story?
Chips is my dog. We got him ten years ago after seeing a sad little face on the internet; he was to be the (now) husband’s dog as he’d never had a dog of his own. But he is mine; he made himself mine.
He arrived with kennel cough and a tendency to squirt. The kennel cough wore off, but the squirting didn’t. He even got on the coffee table to sprinkle on a drink in week one. Depending on the audience, we still tell that story now, to hilarity or disgust.
Despite many years working with dogs, I was unprepared for Chips. I knew little about anxiety in dogs; I had no idea about reactivity. I had worked with military dogs and hearing dogs previously. Military dog reactivity was a blessing for the protection dogs and none-problematic for the searchers. Hearing dogs went off to a new home at the first sign of unpredictability.
So Chips was an enigma. He was a bold terrier with a bolder voice, or so I thought. He wasn’t, though, and he still isn’t. My beautiful dog was a bundle of anxiety, sound sensitivity and worry.
It’s because of Chips that I started to study dogs. I was one of the kids who didn’t meet their potential at school. Homelife was chaotic. But I plugged on as an adult, determined to work with dogs. I never studied, though. I thought it was way above my capacity to learn complex things.
Chips changed all that; I needed to learn for his sake. So I read and studied—course after course, certificate after certificate, all the basics then the not so basics. I researched and wrote my way through the past ten years or so.
Chips is the dog who has changed everything for me because he started changing things through me. My awkward, barky dog gifted me with the knowledge to gain certifications I never thought I would. Chips prompted me to write courses and to write books. He made me so determined for dogs like him to be heard, really heard.
Why am I telling you this?
Chips is (we think) around 13 now; he’s a whiskery wizard now, and he has arthritis. Our boy walks one day and does physio the next. He shakes when he stands still or does too much. Chips can’t hear me when I talk from behind him (or when he’s barking in the garden at 1 am and I have to go and scoop him up to save our reputation).
He’s in his senior years now and the sweetest he’s ever been. I know he will leave me relatively soon compared to how long we have had already. I know he will hit me with shards of pain.
I’m telling you this because I want you to recognise that you may have your own Chips in the dog who drives you dotty. You may have a dog showing you what you need to be doing with your life. A dog who barks at the wind, lunges at the most inappropriate moment, or embarrasses you regularly is a lesson. Your dog will not only teach you to live with a single troubled dog but to help other troubled dogs.
A troubled dog in your life is a gift to your knowledge, humour, and heart.
I’m telling you this because no matter what’s going on for you now, whether it’s frustrating or exhilarating, your dog will be old one day. Your dog will leave this life, leaving behind a new and improved you, if you let them. Your dog loves you with all his (or her) heart, and they are trying their best.
Make the most of every moment because they get old so fast.
Take a moment now and tell your own “Chips” how special they are. Ask yourself if you recognise their lesson. Realise that they won’t be around forever. And I urge you to love them, love them and be grateful for them every single day!
A troubled dog is a gift, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be chosen by mine.