Healing Through my Relationship with Sully

We packed our bags, Christmas presents and road snacks into the car and made our way northwest to Idaho for Christmas.  Scott’s parents retired in Idaho and his whole family decided to meet there for the holidays.  Since we were driving, I decided to bring Sully along for the adventure.  

As we were planning for the trip, I decided to trust that Sully would be able to handle the change in environment, his interactions with the other dogs and all the new stimuli.  Even though he had been doing so well with other dogs since our move to Boulder, this trip was too much for my guy to handle.  When left alone in new environments, he became stressed inside his mesh crate, broke out of it and started barking.  Since he was at a heightened state of anxiety, his interactions with the other dogs were short, stiff and grumpy.  He would guard the front door from the other dogs and seemed tense and unable to settle down.  

This sent me into a frenzy, for a variety of reasons.

  • I was disappointed that I put him in a situation that I could not “control” and we were going to have to make the best of it for another 6 days!
  • I was disappointed in him for not being able to handle it.
  • And lastly, I was embarrassed in front of Scott’s family since my dog was acting out and I’m supposed to be a dog trainer?!?!

I decided to clear my head and “reset” Sully by taking him on a snowshoe hike.  He was so happy to be romping in the snow off leash.  All his worries disappeared while mine seemed to explode.  I used that time to reflect on the situation.  Why was this happening?  What could I learn from this and how can I grow as a person and dog owner?  I came up with this list.  

This situation was a great opportunity for me to:

  • Accept an uncomfortable situation.
  • Trust that no one was judging me.
  • Love my dog deeply even though he wasn’t showing up the “way I wanted him to”.

It was a hard few days for me.  I was triggered big time!  As I settled in so did Sully or vice versa.  He started to play with all the dogs in the snow and get used to his surroundings.  Even though it was a hard time for us both, it was a wonderful learning experience.  I was able to let go of my expectations for both Sully and I and stay in a hard situation, trusting that we would be fine no matter what.