Daisy joined our family three years ago as of June 27th. We rescued her from Best Friends Los Angeles after volunteering there for several months. Her predecessor was Claudia. Claudia lived to be 19 years old and was the love of our lives, center of our world, our everything and quite honestly, I was devastated after her passing. Right or wrong, we brought Daisy home very soon after Claudia’s passing. We were still very much in mourning when Daisy came home with us. However, my husband and I had volunteered and worked directly with her for weeks before we brought her home and we thought we were ready, or at least we could handle it. As much as we missed Claudia, we had a huge hole to fill.
The first day we brought Daisy home was full of joy as well as anxiety. We were good at walking dogs in the shelter and could handle ourselves very well in most situations around dogs. However, no one told me what to expect or how to integrate Daisy into our lives. All we knew was that we had just lost a very senior dog and we were ready for some real dog action. Well, we got it. Daisy is the sweetest, most loving, most snuggly dog I have ever met. She is so full of love for my husband and I. She is very demonstrative which is what I was craving. Claudia loved us, but she was like a cat and would show you affection when she was good and God damn ready. You can imagine me begging for her affection for 19 years right?
In addition to being a huge love marshmallow, we also quickly learned that Daisy has very serious dog reactive aggression issues. She would flip out, spin circles and has redirected a bite on my calf more than once just because she saw another dog. She is also desperately scared of any other human besides my husband and I. We were beside ourselves. We had no idea what to do. I was concerned her lack of socialization was due to her being deaf. We had a real mess on our hands. Long story short, we called a lot of expensive trainers, tried a bunch of different collars and control devices but nothing really helped. We never gave up on Daisy, but were obviously very concerned.
Then a strange thing happened. My corporate job was restructured and I found myself in the position of being a stay at home dog mom (yes, there is such a thing!). I was able to spend every waking moment with Daisy and I got to know her very well. Doesn’t that sound weird? I got to know my own dog? But it’s true. I had Claudia for so long that it never occurred to me that I would have to get to know her replacement and that would take time. It should have occurred to me, but it didn’t. I didn’t know Daisy’s body language. I didn’t know what triggers scared her the most or how to make her feel better when faced with one.
I would say the first thing Daisy taught me is that our relationship would take time to develop and couldn’t be rushed. Daisy had been through a lot, and honestly, so had I before we met and now we would have to figure out who we were in our new life circumstances, but we trusted each other and knew we could move forward.
The second thing Daisy taught me is acceptance. When we first brought her home, we spent a lot of time and money trying to “fix” her. How could I fix her before I even knew her? And by the way, what really needed to be fixed? I didn’t know the answers to those questions until I accepted Daisy for who she was. She did the same for me by the way. She never held it against me that I walked her with a prong collar for a bit. I was desperate and scared and she was miserable in the thing, but she never lost trust in me.
Once I accepted Daisy for who she is, it felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I no longer had to find a new torture device to control her or had to pay a trainer to reprogram her. I had accepted that she had fears and insecurities and was dedicated to helping her have a full life while avoiding those triggers and fears whenever possible. We have mutual respect for each other and she knows who runs things, but I don’t have to dominate her, scare her or intimidate her to do it.
No one tells you when you adopt a dog that it might not be all butterflies and rainbows. I consider myself to be fairly dog savvy, but Daisy gave me a very good run for my money. In the end, I realized my expectations of what life would be like with a new dog were totally unrealistic and quite frankly unfair to Daisy. However, Daisy has taught me that there is no perfect dog or perfect dog experience. She is very loyal, loving and is the best sidekick I could ever ask for. I am so glad I didn’t give up on her.
Three years later, Daisy is still crazy, but she is absolutely more relaxed. She will always be afraid of people and dogs will always send her into orbit. But we have figured out how to deal with it. We found a wonderful harness that I know she can’t get out of and allows me to have control over her when she goes nuts over another dog. I’ve learned that if we cross the street or pivot and turn around to avoid contact with another dog, we will usually avoid an escalation. I know her limits and her body language and better yet, she depends on me to keep her out of those situations. She lives a very fulfilling life. Sure, I’m disappointed we won’t see you at the dog park, and she will never be able to go to the coffee shop with me, and will always have to be kenneled if strangers are over, but she is happy and safe. That is what is the most important thing to me above anything else.
I think a lot of dogs end up back at the shelter because of unrealistic expectations. I keep sharing our story to let everyone know that there is no perfect dog, perfect dog owner or perfect dog experience. People don’t consider their adopted dog may be less than perfect or as an owner they may be in over their head. Commitment, perseverance and truly understanding your dog is the key to success. Daisy and I still have days when she is disgruntled and pouts because I won’t let her chase a bunny or squirrel, but I just can’t because she can’t handle it.
It has taken years, but Daisy has finally become a full blown dog versus being in 100% survival mode at all times. I’ve watched her relax, build trust and finally be able to enjoy the little things like a bone or a simple sun spot. It’s been so rewarding and she has taught me so much that I know I will keep rescuing and will always have a dog in my life. While it may not always be perfect, it will be perfection.