I sent a little video to one of my clients of her dog having a great time playing while he was with me. She loved the video and seeing him have so much fun, then she said, “I heard you call him weird on the video. Is he weird?”
Um, yes. Her dog is indeed a tad bit of an odd ball as far as dogs go. But so aren’t the majority of dogs on my string. They’re all rather peculiar and a bit skewed on the normal scale for dogs.
And I love them for it. I like working with the dogs that have quirks. I find it fun and challenging. I like that they make me think outside the box, they create a puzzle for how to best meet their needs and make them feel comfortable. I like striving to create opportunities for growth for each of them.
Right now, I 100% accept that in my life it wouldn’t be a great situation for me, the family or the dog if I had a dog 24/7/365 as my own a few clicks to the side of normal. Trust me I’ve had a number of them in my lifetime (to be honest Tom and Zora are as close to normal as any dogs I’ve ever had. I mean they are really easy dogs, Zora can be a bit of a nutter at times but all told she’s rather low on that scale. It shocks me often quite frankly). So I get my fix through my client dogs when they are here for boarding.
The boarding dogs and their peculiarities are really what prevents me from jonesing too bad for a puppy or a 3rd dog. I don’t really want a puppy. I don’t really want a 3rd dog. Ok I don’t want a 3rd dog at all. What I want, what I really crave is the challenge.
Now that Zora is 3 and pretty much grown up, and Tom is and always has been Mr Perfect, there isn’t really much challenge. I mean I can create training challenges and teaching them new skills. And that’s super fun. But there really isn’t much life challenge if you know what I mean. I don’t have to do much micromanaging, or hyper vigilance on a moment to moment basis. I don’t have to think about when the mail truck will arrive, or what windows are open at what time, or make sure all socks are in the hamper, or that the gate to the basement is shut, or remember to be prepared when I turn the tv on in case a dog appears on the screen, or even where the dogs are in the house at any given second. Which I mean all around yes is a good thing, but my controlling nature likes the excuse that a dog with challenges gives me for micromanaging. Tom and Zora don’t need me to do that anymore. They both are overall good at self regulating, and all the elbow grease I put into Zora as she was growing up has paid off.
Most people breathe a sigh of relief when they get to this point with their dogs. It’s their goal all along. I’m glad we are at this point but mostly it’s because I like how happy my dogs are when they are at this stage. Where they trust life is going to go well, and their needs will be met and they can respond appropriately with no to little stress to the various events of life, where they feel confident and safe, where they feel comfortable self regulating and that hyper arousal isn’t necessary. I like that they feel safe to relax and enjoy their life. That is the part that makes me happy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss the role I had in getting to this stage. There are times where a year ago Zora would have needed my help and now I start to go ‘oh!’ and she’s already taken care of it appropriately. Sigh, ok then.
Which is why I love my overnight guests. I love that they are all a little weird. That they all have different needs. That they all need me to think outside the box and plan and remember certain things to set them up for the most success possible. I love watching them feel safe, confident, relaxed, playful. I enjoy being a part of their positive growth. I enjoy giving them a safe place and outlets for their weirdness.
In part they help me to be grateful for Tom and Zora. But mostly they give my desire to be needed an outlet. And one that doesn’t require we get another dog. Which my husband, Tom and Zora (and ok honestly me too) all appreciate I’m sure.
Video of Ted (one of my favorite odd balls) and Zora swimming. Apparently it is an anomaly for a shih tzu to love swimming so much. Isn’t he adorable in his life vest?