GENTLEFACEOn Saturday evening I presented my shy dog talk at the Windham County Humane Society in Brattleboro, Vermont. In attendance was a local trainer who had kindly sent me a flower essence potion when Sunny first arrived to live with me. Perhaps in the presentation I had over-stressed my belief that owners need to have a reality check in regard to the challenges of living with a fearful dog because he reminded me that it isn’t all hard work when it comes to living with a fearful dog.

Deciding to keep a dog with serious behavior problems is usually life altering. On the surface it changes how you live on a day to day basis. If your dog is reactive to other dogs or people you might find yourself walking your dog in the wee hours of the morning or at midnight to avoid potential encounters. Management of your dog can become a 24 hour job. Finding care for a fearful dog can be challenging and many owners chose not to travel rather than kennel their pets.

Most people are not looking to restructure their life to accommodate an animal which may never be able to fully participate in it. For many owners making the concessions and changes necessary to incorporate a dog without fear issues into their lives is challenging enough. It doesn’t seem fair to either the dog or owner to disregard how much time, energy, training and expense, a fearful dog can require.

I tend to steer away from believing that things happen ‘for a reason’. I might find a reason, but I’m far too much of a pragmatic New Englander to believe that some kind of predestination was responsible for getting my fearful dog into my life. But there is no doubt that my dog Sunny changed my life, for the better. Working with an animal that is damaged in any way can force us to draw on parts of our selves that may not get enough daily exercise- our ability to be patient, to be compassionate, to move beyond our current set of skills and learn new ones, to list a few.

It’s not uncommon to hear from fearful dog owners that they have learned things about dogs and about themselves that they might never have come to understand if their dog had not come into their lives. My goal has been to show Sunny that a world full of people isn’t all bad, and though I’ve had some late nights and frustrated days with him, adding him to my life has not only not been all bad, it’s been pretty darn good.