This past summer we opened our hearts and home to a rescue dog. Our family was thoughtful in this decision and searched for several months before finding our girl. No sooner did she cross the threshold of our front door and proceed to vomit from the travel and excitement, we knew she had found her forever home (vomit and all). As we sat and discussed some of the issues that Nora had with the rescue worker, we knew there might be some challenges ahead. We didn’t bat an eyelash and signed the adoption papers immediately. It has been a wonderful rollercoaster, mostly of blessings, since that time.
Within about a week, I knew there was something truly special about Nora. Certainly my lack of objectivity clouded my judgment some, but her overwhelming love of people caught my attention. I thought that a dog with so much love to give would be an ideal therapy dog. I mulled this over for a few weeks as Nora and our family got acclimated to one another. Eventually I came to the conclusion that instead of wondering if she could be a therapy dog, why not actually explore that option in the real world? This is where Maggie Marshall Dog Training came in the picture. I figured if nothing else, Nora would have to at minimum, learn some manners and improve on behaviors that were at times difficult to manage. After doing research online, Maggie seemed like the best fit for our training needs and we set up a time to meet.
In that first meeting I felt instantly at ease. I didn’t feel judged because Nora was slightly out of control, and I didn’t feel embarrassed that Nora had little to no manners. All I felt was supported. Maggie calmly evaluated Nora for her temperament to see if being a therapy dog was possible, and helped lay the groundwork for her training. Turns out that yes, Nora has lots of great qualities like exuberance and love, but these same traits are what cause her to quickly lose focus and...well...you know how it goes. I learned so much in that first session. Along with the basics of training, I learned why structure was good for not only me, but for Nora as well. Dogs need rules and consistency to help them feel safe. I was surprised that Maggie never once said ‘never’ to me. She made me feel like change was possible for Nora and I was the person to help Nora succeed. Believe me, I don’t think of myself as a dog trainer. In most areas of life, I have a hard time standing up for myself and am not very assertive. Therefore, getting a wild-at-times dog to listen to me seemed like a stretch. And, it was, and, it still is...but, here’s the thing...Nora is improving.
I started training her in mid-October of 2017. Since that time and with Maggie’s indispensable support, Nora is more polite, barks less and her leash walking has improved tremendously. She certainly has a long ways to go to therapy dog, but as a well-behaved citizen of our household, she is crushing it. She’s not perfect, but she is much more manageable than those first, few untrained months of being in our home. Keep in mind, she is five years old and I am trying to undo a lifetime of bad habits so patience is the key. Patience, consistent practice and acceptance of where we are each day help me stay centered on the training path. Some days she is a rock star princess on the leash, other days she loses her mind when a new person approaches us. I’ve had my ups and I’ve had my downs with her, but I let the bad days go once I stop wishing her to be different. She is a loving little girl that wants to be loved by the world. Maybe I really don’t want her to change that much after all.
One of the hardest parts of this whole process is dealing with the judgments of the outside world. There are some days that I am so embarrassed when Nora acts up and nothing I do gets her under control. When these moments of self doubt arise, I remember why I started this process in the first place. This is all for Nora’s tremendous untapped potential. Underneath everything she is a diamond. I simply am guiding the way for the world to catch a glimpse of her sparkle.
Written by Diana DeVaul
Diana, in addition to being a dog trainer extraordinaire, is a freelance blogger who lives in the Jacksonsville area. She is a married mother of two boys and is blessed to have two awesome dogs. If you see her and Nora out and about, feel free to say ‘hello’. Nora will be overjoyed to meet you.
You can learn more about Diana and her family at writesforallmommies.com