Reactive Owner/Reactive Dog

Never mind the dog, beware of owner. There are signs and shirts and clever little sayings for that statement. I know, I’ve seen them. Luke and I both come with a badge, it sums it up in a neat package worth a giggle. They say a picture is worth 1000 words so this may be a good place to add one.

We both have one, enough said.

I look back on our journey together and I can’t help but think of all of the ways in which I have contributed to Luke’s issues. I’m a reactive person with a reactive dog. I can admit this. I’m still working on sewing my Asshole Merit Badge to the Velcro so I can stick it on my gear. Fun fact, these are called Morale Patches when on gear.

I work and take public transit. My job has a level of stress associated with it, that is the nature of business. My day at a glance is alarm at 5:00am, second alarm at 5:15am. Let dogs out to pee and collect food dishes, make sure Luke goes to his spot and pees or else he will hold it! (See previous posts for issues around his “pit”). Make coffee, feed the hangry cat and feed the dogs before Luke barks for it. Try to eat, drink coffee while getting dressed and brushing teeth, check time and dash to bus for 6:15. It shocks me that this all takes an hour. On occasion I have forgotten my wallet, keys, glasses and phone.

Work. All that comes with work. At the end of this is waiting for a bus and as long as there is no major issues (accidents,bus breakdowns) I am getting in the door at 6:15pm on most days, 7:30 ish on Fridays. Then we begin again with feed the hangry cat, tell Luke these pants gotta last, change into evening attire so Luke can be walked, spend 10-30 minutes running around and take Luke out. Home is between 8:30-9:00. Now time for dinner, am I even hungry? Do I want to cook? No. Cereal it is because I need a shower, I want to watch tv and target bed time for my sleep deprived brain is 10:30 so I can do it all again tomorrow.

Weekends there is always something so anything I wanted to do for me is deferred. Back burner life. This equates to a high level of frustration. It feels like it was never this complicated before. Life that is. We are in an increasingly high speed, must go, no time world. Change. Change management. The change cycle. Must do multiple things and juggle it all.

STOP!!!

For the love of god. Stop. There is a point where you just don’t want to do anything anymore. I buy my weekly lotto tickets and pray to be struck by lightening multiple times consecutively. Not because I care about mass amounts of money, because I just want time to be mine so I can fit it all in. All the deferred. Time is so precious. I am reacting to the world around me. To the rush, to the people on my bumper with their high beams blinding me in front and behind. I curse them and allow myself to no longer feel like I need to speed up for them.

What about Luke? How does this affect him?

All of my stress has an effect on Luke. I am sure of this. He has grown up with bad dog park experiences and an explosive home life. My partner has complex ptsd and I do not read the triggers well. This isn’t the type of energy you want to feed your dog. If I swear at a driver on my bumper Luke reacts because he knows that word is no good. The answer is so obvious right?

I need to change my own reactivity.

I find this is not an easy task. I have always been reactive myself. I take what I can and when I have taken too much I will explode. When we drive out for our walks I am trying not to react to the high beams and tail gating. I can’t change the behavior of the person behind me but I can choose not to swear. If I am stressed out and in a bad headspace I put on my Mary F and fake it until I make it while I walk him. If I am on edge he will be 20 more times on edge. If I can act happy he will follow my lead.

It sounds so easy but it really isn’t. It’s like walking on eggshells trying not to say or do the wrong thing. Maybe with time that too will get easier. Cutting out the dog parks was a good move. It was too frustrating trying to get in 5 minutes of ball and off leash without someone walking in, even late at night. Luke is happier on his leash walks and so am I.

He’s been hyper vigilant the last couple of weeks. We have passed more people and dogs in the dark and he has growled and a few days ago went into an all out barking frenzy as one dog walked past. The other dog didn’t make a sound but the owner asked if we were ok. I had a hand on the leash handle and a hand on the short handle as well as his upper vest handle. I said yes and let him bark because he was under control, despite the barking. I guess he needed to shout about it. That’s why he has his badge. He can be an asshole, so can I. At least I didn’t get defensive about his barking and lash out. Over time I am hoping he will stay calmer. Maybe when he can see people coming a mile away because we still have daylight. Walking in the dark freaks me out too and he probably picks up on that.

I’ve been trying to finish this post since January 26. The long and short of it is that I have to change me while I work on my dog because I am half of the problem and we are both cut from the same cloth. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror at yourself and ask how you have contributed to the problem. There’s no shame in that and hey, we both wear our merit badges on our gear when we go out now because I did indeed get mine finished in the time it took me to write this, I had a whole month!

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