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Learning Life Lessons from Your Dog

by | Peak Performance, Personal Growth, Purpose | 0 comments

My partners Katie and Laura just wrote a couple of amazing posts on thriving. Reading them made me reflect on my experiences and what I’ve learned to date about what is required for thriving. I think you need real honesty and the right setting to thrive. Here’s why. (And stick with me – this has a happy ending!)

Several years ago, on vacation my husband was scrolling through his social media feed and came across Potcake Place, a dog rescue organization based in Turks & Caicos. They take in litters of street puppies, get them healthy and vaccinated, and then put them up for adoption. The majority of adoptions are by tourists who then fly home with a brand new pup. How fun! (And cute – these little mutts are freaking adorable!)

We were hooked. Fast forward two years when I was taking a break from the corporate world to figure out what I wanted to do next, getting a puppy seemed like the perfect thing to do. 

Since the timing did not coincide with a planned trip to the Turks & Caicos, Potcake Place found a volunteer family to serve as courier on their way back from vacation. So, on a Saturday afternoon in late March 2018, we picked up our new puppy from Logan Airport. 

Then the fun began.

Sammie was a VERY energetic puppy. The combination of training her and making sure she got enough exercise every day was a full time job for me. 

About 5 months in, when life should be getting back to normal, the real work set in. 

Sammie evolved into a reactive dog. If you don’t know what that means—and neither my husband nor I did before this experience—it means a dog who overreacts to things in their environment with behaviors of barking, lunging, and growling. As much as she loved us and was bonded to my husband and me, she could not handle meeting new people or new dogs. 

So, being the driven, can-accomplish-anything-type, I set to work. We went to one trainer. Then another. We tried a new vet who put Sammie on meds. Then another vet. Back to training, now attending reactive dog classes in addition to one-on-one training. 

I was exhausted. And heartbroken. I was turning my life upside down for Sammie, and yet, she was not improving. 

Here’s the truth of the matter. Reactive dogs struggle to live in cities. There are so many noises, people and other dogs, their stress is running at full tilt all the time. This makes training incredibly difficult. 

We live in downtown Boston. When it was time for a walk, Sammie would run to the other end of the condo instead of wanting to go outside and deal with the overload of stressors. 

I couldn’t change this. (Well I could, but I guess I did have a line I wasn’t willing to cross for her.) 

So, we worked REALLY hard. For a REALLY LONG time. Though it took quite a while for us to admit it, we ultimately realized we needed to rehome Sammie for her benefit. Thankfully she was officially adopted by a wonderful and loving new mom. She now lives in rural New Hampshire. The new environment has allowed her to be removed from stressors and to finally relax. She is making new friends with other dogs and humans. She is THRIVING. 

Life lessons abound for me from this experience. It took me a long time to admit that the city of Boston was not a good fit for Sammie. Being honest was tougher than trying harder, putting more effort in. 

And the setting. Sammie needed something different. So did I. Now, we’ve both moved into thriving zones. 

Honesty and the right setting. Thanks Sammie.

Sammie thriving in her new home.

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