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(Guest Post) Expectations Lead to Disappointment

Expectations Lead to Disappointment (Original Post from Trizane Dog Services, by Reanna Ali) A story of true acceptance.

It’s taken me a while to get to this place with Amelia. It’s taken me over 3 years to get here, almost 4 years to realize this, and nearly a year later to post this. Before we get into it, you can also head over to my podcast to hear it, if you choose.

It’s challenging to live with a dog who struggles on a daily basis… pair that with your own expectations. I’m sad to admit that it’s taken me this long to learn.

I train with kindness, love and compassion, but sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve unexpectedly learned as time passed, that if you let go of your expectations you can no longer be disappointed. Amelia is not a disappointment to me in the least. She’s a brilliant dog. She’s good company, a wonderful companion, we trained together, we work together, she even graduated alongside me at Karen Pryor Academy (KPA), service dog coaching, and The Fearful Dog Project. She’s helped me to realize a lot of my dog training life lessons. She’s helped me to help other families and dogs, but it comes at a cost to her.

Circling back to being a professional dog trainer, it doesn’t mean we don’t have goals for ourselves or for our dogs and what we think we should be able to achieve in our partnership. Taking a step back now, I can see how far we’ve come as a team. Albeit not what I expected and a long journey to get here. I too, suffer from “my old dog”, “my other dog”, “my first dog syndrome.” I had these expectations and goals of what I thought Amelia should be and be able to do.

I think my turning point at true acceptance and realizing our path was in 2020. That year was not kind to Amelia. We’ve made significant strides and overall her quality of life living with anxiety (keeping her safe, below threshold, happy and calm), but that year was a doozy.

After spending majority of the year trying to “fix” her I realized that she needed time. She needed time to rebound from sensory overload. 2020 was our first year with COVID-19. We went from daily walks where we saw no one, I mean not a soul to be seen. You can imagine people were also going stir crazy at this time being couped up in their homes, they soon took to the parks, nature trails and parkettes in their area for daily strolls and exercise. As this happened more and more people began appearing on our usual route. After not seeing people for weeks, we started to encounter them. As the world re-opened, Amelia got sensory overload at this sudden influx of people. I tried everything. I tried training, not training, medicating, desensitizing, counter conditioning, a vet behaviourist even! – I exhausted all of my options. The last straw was medicating. Her personality changed. She no longer found joy in the small things she used to. This was not how I imagined her life to be. After weaning her off, I gave her time. That time grew into weeks, which grew into months, that grew into a year. Reflecting back I realized we were still out, we still did things! We still encountered people. That downtime allowed her to recover and unbeknownst to me, we were still doing everything we normally did, but on a much smaller scale. During that time I tried to bring back that joy, to make her happy, to see that sparkle in her eyes -the enthusiasm. I just wanted to make her happy, because ultimately when she was happy, I was happy.

Fast forward to January 2022 (I know, I know, it’s taken me this long to post a whole year has passed) – we are going for walks, we enjoy hiking, we go to the drive-thru, we visit neighbours. Who would’ve thought?! I certainly didn’t. Her behaviour and nuances elevated me as a trainer and person. I have a lot to be thankful for. Sometimes if you let life flow it will take you where you need to be. Trust the process even if you don’t know exactly what it means. Amelia is a magnificent animal and has shown incredible resilience. Will she ever be able to do things we all hope and dream and think every dog should be and do… no, but that’s ok. True acceptance comes from observing the animal in front of you and changing your expectations to meet theirs. To meet them at their darkest and support them. It’s not about us and our silly notions of what should be, abandon your beliefs and enjoy what you have. Even the smallest sparkle still shines. True acceptance.


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