We’ve all gone through some difficult times lately, and sometimes it’s tough to sit down and try to think about the things we can be thankful for. There are times when I don’t have a positive thought in my head, and I look up and my dog Reggie is watching me, and I realize, “Oh yeah, there is love in the world.”
So many times, I go to a client’s house because of dog issues, and I’m told, “My other dogs were perfect. I just don’t know about this one. I just don’t know what went wrong - I just never had these problems before.” I hear this almost every day and I know what they mean. We all have selective memories, tend to remember the better times, and forget the early problems we experience when we just get a dog. But I do know what they mean.
It's tough dealing with a dog who has serious issues, and as you get older it’s even harder. It’s like when your kids were all perfect, but the youngest always would end up in the principal’s office. But we can learn so much from a dog (or a kid) who isn’t perfect. We learn about patience, consistency, taking things in steps, sharing excitement and celebrations, forgiveness, and did I say patience…?
I became a dog trainer because I had a crazy reactive dog - Reggie. I realized when I took him to The Academy of Dog Training the first time, and he got away from me, raced across the room, knocked some old lady down, and pinned her German Shepherd to the floor that I was going to either have to get him trained… or something bad was going to happen.
He was a problem child, and although he was very funny, he wasn’t often cooperative. He wasn’t like my previous dogs, who were all perfect. Because of Reggie’s behavior, I decided to learn how to train dogs.
When it wasn’t clear if I was going to pass dog trainer school with him as my partner, I thought about using a friend’s dog but decided to stick with Reggie - sink or swim. I worked twice as hard with him, studying him to figure out how he thinks and learns, and we ended up doing swimmingly well - passing the course with flying colors.
We still had some rough days ahead. The time he lifted his leg and peed on my foot, I was pissed (literally). The day he caught my (ex) girlfriend’s cat, and held him in his mouth like a new toy, I was frantic. The day he bit me on the face, I was seriously ready to quit being a dog trainer. I thought I was a failure. But I forgave him, and we moved on.
Now Reggie is 12, and we’ve been through so much together. We’ve performed a comedy show up and down the Mid-Atlantic area for kids and families, and for seniors. He helps me when I work with other reactive dogs. He’s been on TV three times, and wherever we go, people love him, and he loves them back. We’re a team. We’re family. Reggie has come such a long way - but it’s taken time, consistency, lots of positive training, patience, and forgiveness. Without him, I would not be the person I am now.
So I’m thankful for the imperfect dogs, the dogs with issues, and the dogs who need our help and guidance. They follow us, they love us unconditionally, and they believe in us when nobody else seems to. They need us, and we need them. They teach us SO much about the world, and about ourselves.