As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, we can get wrapped up in making sure we have a gift for our loved ones or getting a reservation for that fancy restaurant. Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark” holiday, but it can also serve as a great reminder to show the ones that are in our lives that we love and appreciate them.
As a reactive dog owner, I want to take this time to thank those people in our lives that have been allies. An ally is someone that forms a connection with you. They show kindness and understanding, but most importantly, they have your back.
Allies are key when you’ve got a pooch with reactivity and/or behavior problems. You unknowingly or knowingly welcomed a dog into your home that has some issues and those issues have a wide range of severity. Having a dog like that in your home can be trying and some days, it’s just really damn hard. But you love that dog to pieces and would do anything for them. Not everyone understands that though. Not everyone would spend hundreds of dollars on training, or go see specialists, or never entertain at their house again, or feed a special diet, or put up with the barking.
Our allies, however, understand why we care so much about the dog we asked to be part of our family. They may not want what we have, but they get it. They are going to hold your hand through the tough decisions, they are going to sit with you at the bar on a rough day, they aren’t judging you (though they may be concerned for you), they are going to tell you its ok, they are going to listen, and sometimes they will just simply acknowledge you exist.
Allies Come in All Types
Family: Not everyone in your family may be supportive of you and your nutty dog(s), but if you’re lucky, they do. My dog loves my family and my in-laws and they really like him. Our families get a front row seat to what we deal with, so they know the love and effort we put in. They may not want to take Mo home with them, but I know that if anything ever happened to me or my husband, Mo would be ok.
Friends: Unlike family, friends don’t have to love us. You may find that you have friends that aren’t such good friends with a reactive dog in the picture. That’s fine because you’ll find your friends who are right by your side. I have a friend that so bravely suggested that our dogs meet and they did so well together, but I will always be thankful for her willingness to trust me and my ability to handle my dog. These are friends that are cool with always hosting the party because having more than a couple friends at your house could potentially be disastrous. Hang on to these people!
Pet Professionals: Pet pros are not all created equal, so finding the ones that you and your dog loves is important so you can add them to your ally bank! We have been lucky enough to find a trainer that will answer all my questions and loves my dog even if they are disrupting class with their barking. We go to a vet that gets down on the floor to pet my dog and showers with him treats. We use a dog walker that is flexible and looks forward to seeing our pups. These people make our lives easier and allow our lives to be filled with less anxiety. If there were ever an emergency, we know these people would be comfortable and kind to our dogs, and that means the world to us.
Strangers: This is probably my favorite type of ally. These are the people on the street that see you struggle or hear your barky dog. I’ve been on walks with Mo and I’ve had a stranger feet away just nod and smile at me. Not judgmental, just I get it and I see you doing a great job. I’ve had a stranger ask to pet him as he was barking his head off and they don’t even flinch when I say just stand still and let him sniff. Maybe that stranger has had reactive dog experience of their own or maybe they are just kind people. Whoever they are, they have the power to heal hearts.
Thank you to everyone who has treated us or another reactive dog and owner with kindness. Your acceptance means we aren’t isolated. We have allies that are willing to help us, stand up for us, and care about us. We are doing the best we can for our dogs and that can be a difficult and challenging road. We think that it’s worth it to help our dogs have healthy, happy, and long lives. We are thankful you support us!