Dogs and Suffering

I am only competitive in one area of my life. My business. I guess it’s a good thing -not 100% sure. I don’t care about materialistic things at all and don’t care to keep up with the Joneses, but when it comes to my business, I will do whatever it takes to be the best. It’s my baby. It’s me in business form. The business name is Maggie Marshall Dog Training. I am not concerned with how much money I make or how the public views me; only what my clients think. This is what keeps me going. I want each and every client to feel that he or she is the only one. This is incredibly hard to pull off. At one point, I have had 31 clients, and most of them are quite complicated and needy. I live with my husband, who also owns his business, my son whom I homeschool,  my almost two year old grand-daughter, my dog and I dog sit for 5 of my clients year-round. Time is a commodity that is precious in my family.

I give this background, not for empathy, but for understanding. I am juggling a lot and I am not a juggler. I’m not sure anyone truly understands the life of a business owner unless he is also a business owner. Personal life and business life happen at the same time, no matter how hard we try to keep them separate. It’ s impossible. I have taken a client’s call while on route to a funeral. I have stepped in my backyard while on the phone, so I could hear my client speak above the dogs and kids in my house. I took a call this morning in my bed that awoke me after an 11 hour work day the day before. I receive calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, twitter messages, Instagram messages, Linked in, Next Door, you name it…I get it. It’s not easy folks. There are no boundaries unless I set them.

This was a hard week. Two clients of mine put their young dogs dogs down this week after several sessions with me. How do I I feel? Much like the owners of the dogs I imagine….guilty, like a failure, sorry, responsible. You name it, I feel it. They called me for help, paid me and their dogs are gone. No nice way around that fact. Doesn’t feel good.

I did receive the most amazing and generous notes from each of the owners telling me how thankful they are to have had my help.  My help?? Your dog is gone. How did I help?

Dogs are animals that have behaviors. Behaviors are encouraged or discouraged by the environment. I am part of the dog’s environment for about 2 hours every other week. My influence is greater upon the owner than the dog. I can’t live in the house with the dog. I can’t take the dog to my house. I have to help in a way that makes sense. I coach the owner to live with the dog she has chosen. I get called in when the problem is too much to handle. I begin working at the worst possible time – I am working against the current the whole time. I’ m not a miracle worker -there are no miracles with dogs. It’s hard work. It’s schedules and protocols and work. Then there is reality. The soft, furry, cute puppy you have fallen in love with is growing up and you are afraid of it. You took at it at 6 weeks because you didn’ t know it was too early. You felt bad when you heard of its rough beginning and thought a good home would help it, you bought it from a “breeder,” so it must be a good pup. Good people make what seem like good decisions; only it doesn’t work out.

Getting a dog is complicated by all kinds of stuff -the knowledge and feelings you have about your previous dog(s), the way you think dogs should or should not behave, the relationship you had with your previous dog…these all dictate the way you think and behave with your new dog, only the new dog has NO idea about all that stuff.

I train about 100 dogs and families a year. I see things you can’t imagine. I am covered by bruises and bites on a regular basis. What you think about dog ownership, I do not. I think the worst. I think about the bites, the claws, the unexpected. I see it. You don’t. Then we meet. You have one to 6 dogs in your life. I have over 1000. We aren’t even on the same wavelength. Then, the worst happens. Your dog tries to bite you. This changes everything. Dogs are aggressive. People are too. It’s normal. We don’t want to see it, but it’s part of life with anything that is alive. Until we take it seriously, we will never learn. When you enter a relationship with a person, a dog, an employee, what have you; you risk being hurt. When you bring a dog into your home, no matter how you prepare, the outcome is in nature’s hands.

I hate a sad outcome, but it happens. We are not in control of much in this life. How we think about acquiring dogs and their roles in our lives needs to change. Dogs are dying. People are suffering. We put more effort into buying our cars and houses than we do the thing that share our lives and our beds and this needs to change. If we truly value what an animal brings to our life, then we must honor it by choosing our animal carefully to fit into our lives.