Today is Bring Your Dog to Work Day. My office is at home, so I’m lucky to have my dog at work with me every day. It’s one of the extra benefits of becoming an independent Speech and Language Therapist.
So, two years ago, when I left my council job and set up in independent practice, Tom and I also welcomed a mutt named Rolo in to our home. As a nervous rescue dog with a difficult start to life, he’s had a lot of things to learn along the way. It came as a surprise how much I also had to learn. So, in honour of this day, I thought I’d share these things with you.
It’s harder than it looks
Before Rolo arrived I was quietly optimistic about dog ownership, wilfully deaf to those warning me of the challenges. How hard could it be? I had read the books and understood the principles; it didn’t seem such a leap to put it all in to action. But we soon discovered that the reality of
this mutt was an individual who behaved in quick or unpredictable ways. I had to accept that helping someone to learn and behave in this world is never quite like the manual. Even when I knew the theory, it was tough to act it out.
Everything is a lesson
Far beyond the recommended half hour of daily ‘training’, every point at which we responded to our dog was teaching him what to expect and how to behave. The challenge was to be consistent not only in training sessions but in every situation.
Tiny progress is worthy of celebration
Rolo’s difficult start made it hard for him to adjust to everyday life. Things we expected to be easy have been a surprising challenge. It took time for us to adjust to this, but now our mindset has shifted. We realise he will always be learning in tiny steps and we delight in his success.
If in doubt, go outside
It’s staggering how much can be improved by a good dose of fresh air. In that first year, we found ourselves visiting the forest twice a day, running hard and playing about in the tall grass. When something seems insurmountable from the perspective of the kitchen table, we always feel better after blowing off some steam in the great outdoors.
Sometimes you just need love
Dogs understand very little of what we say, but they have a deep sense of how we feel. After the long months in concrete kennels, surrounded by the unknown, Rolo seemed happy to bask in the quiet peace of affection. I understand that he finds things scary or frustrating. Ultimately he needs reassurance and patience.
Ignore the haters – you are doing an awesome job
There’s no shortage of advice out there, ranging wildly in approach. People are natural problem solvers, which means that some can have a tendency to suggest your approach is wrong, or explain how it should be done differently. Rolo has taught us to trust our gut, be resilient and never give up. We all need to remind ourselves occasionally that we are trying our best. And actually that’s a pretty great place to be.