Re-activating happiness | The beginning | Walking into disaster

Fred was named after Mercury. But he turned out to be my Beethoven. No, not the movie giant… The composer. My favourite composer of all times, if I am to be precise.

Far beyond the similarities in hair style, Fred resembles Ludwig in the way he acts… From the gentleness and sensitivity of a being able to compose Moonlight Sonata to mourn the love that was never meant to be, to the madness and outbursts of a man slapping the piano lead, declaring “For such pigs, I do not play !” and storming out of the room.

That’s my boy… The loving, intelligent little boy who became reactive in August 2018…

It took me such a long time to share this. People asked. A lot. And I thought about writing notes for months, too. But a part of me did not want to dissect my pup’s life like a case study because I didn’t want people to misunderstand and perceive him as a “troubled” dog.

And then I realised that whilst I knew what I was dealing with, there were a lot of dog parents out there who had no idea of reactivity or ways of managing it, making dogs feel worse, not better.

I also felt that my diary might be helpful for people who found themselves in a situation similar to ours and are doing their absolute best to get through it, without feeling isolated and alone.

It will take me a few posts to cover everything we’ve done because dealing with reactivity is a multidimensional process. I am not even going to constantly refer to it as “reactivity”. Instead I will focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. The positive ray of sunshine however faint and remote. It’s out there. Hence, it’s not about “going through reactivity” but “re-activating happiness”…

In your dog, in you you, and the life you share together.

So let’s start from the very beginning…

The day it happened… I still remember it. We decided to explore a new beautiful walk, with the woods and the views. The utter perfection in every way. We had such a wonderful time.

We headed back. Excited, happy, tired… Boys were on their leads because we didn’t know the area well. We took the path stuck between a steep, almost vertical heel on one side and a fence – on the other.

The dogs appeared suddenly. Three labs and a boxer. Off lead. Sprinting towards us, no owners in sight. They quickly formed a circle around me and the pups and started bouncing, trying to push the boys to the ground. I tried to cover them with my body, but it wasn’t enough… My husband tried to pull the dogs away, but it was impossible, so he run off to find the owners.

There was growling, but luckily, no biting… And then I heard Fred scream… Like he never screamed before.

Next, the owners run into the scene, still staying away and calling the dogs, “come! come!” – not making any effort to get closer. The dogs ignored them, yet again, so eventually one of the women came over, held them by their collars and told us not to worry because “they wouldn’t bite”…

It was over in a matter of minutes, but that moment changed everything…

We got back to the car. Fred seemed back to his normal self, Coop was breathing heavily and I felt like I could do with a drink, or two, or a sedative… At that point I thought Fred would be find because the boy was so resident and acted relatively calm. I was afraid for Coop known to be extremely sensitive. And deep inside my brain was pulsating three words… “The fear period”… The time in life of every pup aged 8-10 months when any ordinary thing can suddenly look scary… Fred was 9…

As we drove home, I ordered some calming remedies for the boys, just in case we needed them. Upon return we crushed on a sofa, the boys relaxed and fell asleep.

The morning that came seemed no different from any other morning. And so was the next one. In the afternoon we went for a walk and saw our friends with their dogs. Just as usual, we rushed over to say Hello… As we got closer, Fred suddenly stopped and screamed, then barked… and barked again… He tried to hide behind me. The boy who loved his furry friends suddenly felt afraid of them…

It was frustrating, it was frightening, it was very, very upsetting… It was the moment I discovered reactivity. And from that moment on I had to find ways to deal with it.

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: this photo was taken by me during the walk that lead to the disaster…

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