Ever since I have seen the topic for this ADBC it has caught my attention.
For the longest time I had no idea what I wanted to write about. There are so many regrets and so many good things about having a guide dog. There’s no point in focusing on the bad because you can’t do anything to change life. However, the further it circled in my mind the more it became clear how different things could have been.
Lilo is my first real dog. Yes, I had dogs while living at home but in my mind I knew if I didn’t feed them someone else would always be there to check up on me.
I was never one who put my responsibilities on someone else. It was a big thing for me though. This hit home very hard when one morning I wanted to fill the water dish and found it completely dry. It wasn’t just empty, it was dry. It is seven years down the line and I will never forget the fact I was to lazy or preoccupied to give my dog fresh water. I don’t think I have ever forgiven myself. It’s these little things that make you wonder if you should have ever gotten a dog in the first place.
The only other real regrets I have is not enjoying my dog sooner. It was so important for me to get everything just right. I conveniently forgot the fact she was and would always be just a dog. Yes a dog with a very important job, but first a bouncy, wagging, barking, always happy pup.
Come-on she is a Lab after all.
The next one is that I didn’t try to understand her sooner. Li is a very strong willed dog. If she wants to go somewhere she goes there. I always tried to match her temperament with my own. If she didn’t want to sit I made her. If she wanted to walk fast I slowed her way more than was necessary. If she walked me in to an overhead branch I’d make her work it again and again after I gave her a correction. This was the way I learned to teach dogs. It was everywhere so It was right. Wrong. After I came across and learned more about positive reinforcement and clicker training our lives turned around. It was brought home to me the day she walked me in to a tree again. I wasn’t going to give her a correction because I had convinced myself there were better ways. She didn’t know this and was expecting one. So when she walked me in to the branch, she immediately sat down waiting for the worst. Needless to say, I sat down right next to her, hugged her, and just cried.
From that day our lives turned around. It didn’t happen overnight. There was so much to undo. We built a stronger bond than ever before, for one. I taught her so many things with positive reinforcement. Once she learnt that a click meant a treat and she could make the click happen the sky was the limit.
Lilo is turning 10 on the 26th of June. Many people thought she wouldn’t make it past 7 due to her HD. I’m just glad we have managed to enjoy these years we had together. My dog will do anything for me. It shames me because I feel I don’t deserve such a very good and brilliant dog who put up with so much. I understand she probably half forgotten. I haven’t. It will stay with me forever. But I’ve made a choice to handle my animals with the love, respect and kindness they deserve. It is not always the quickest because it might take longer for them to learn. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar after all. As long as we remember that, and live one day at a time, everything will turn out for the best.