I was recently asked by a client, “Is dog training just common sense for you because you make it look so easy?”
After a contemplating pause I answered, “Yes and no. It is now, but only because I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. It didn’t come naturally; I made a lot of mistakes early on, but I learned from them.”
Over the past few months I’ve had one of the most challenging “cases” of my career. It’s also been one of the most rewarding!
Big dog? Little dog? Aggressive? Fearful? Rescue?
None of the above. You see, it’s not the varied issues Luigi has that cause me to ask myself, “Am I really making a difference?”
My mission for The Problem Pooch is: Teaching People and Helping Dogs. I am always confident that, at least for a few minutes, I was able to Help The Dog. However, I am never sure if I was effective in Teaching The People.
Did I explain it so it makes sense to them? Were they listening? Will they follow through? Are they going to give up? Is it too much work for them? These are examples of the questions that race through my mind after EVERY appointment with EVERY client – not just the difficult ones.
If you are a regular Facebook follower of The Problem Pooch you are somewhat familiar with Luigi’s plight to find a permanent home. Luigi is a male Anatolian shepherd who is nearing his first birthday, and has not had an easy time of life. To be brief, he is a complicated and misunderstood dog.
Now, I hope you will stay with me here. I have felt a strong spiritual connection to Luigi. It’s beyond my comprehension; I just trust my proverbial gut instinct to do all I can for this boy.
So when I received a text message from his owner that his euthanasia appointment had been made, I was crushed! “Am I really making a difference?” I felt like I had failed Luigi. I lost sleep, but our spiritual connection called to me, “You can do more, Peter.”
I don’t have an answer. I can’t save every dog. I’m so sorry, Luigi. You don’t deserve to die. I’m sorry.
My wife pushed me to dig deeper and try harder than I thought could give Luigi. It worked because a potential resolution came to me: I reached out to a past client, whom I had helped before with their female Anatolian, Maggie.
Her family agreed to take Luigi. His life was spared. He was given a third, maybe a fourth chance to live.
I spent many un-billed hours helping Luigi adjust to life with his new family. It was the least I could do for the family, in gratitude for saving his life. Luigi began to thrive and began transforming into a different dog – he was happier. But remember, Luigi is a complicated and misunderstood dog.
After several weeks, his new family wanted and needed to re-home him.
Dammit! I failed again. Am I really making a difference?
Once again, Spirit spoke to me. “Stop being a dog trainer. Live your motto: Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant. Peter, just be a friend.”
I stopped instructing. I stopped teaching. I stopped being a business owner. Rather, I asked questions and I listened intently. I held late-night text conversations with Luigi’s owner. I didn’t make suggestions; I offered ideas.
I was simply the person my parents raised me to be, and not a dog trainer.
The end result: Luigi’s family is implementing a new strategy and giving him another chance to be a loved and welcome part of their family.
I saw a Facebook post this morning from Luigi’s mom which had the 2 pictures I’ve included in this post.
I received the answer to my question, “Am I making a difference?”
Pardon the cliche, but a picture of a child’s smile is worth a thousand words (and all I need.)
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.
Note: photos used with permission.