Ugh, my heart has been hurting the last little while. I love this job, I love it so very much. But because of this job - I have signed myself up for heartbreak after heartbreak... and honestly it scares me a little. This is going to be a very emotional post for me and will probably be all over the place as it is just coming straight from my heart. Trigger Warning we talk about dog death.
Since officially starting Dog's World Walking in 2015 we have had 4 of our furry family members pass away. Those are 4 of my best friends, gone. We all know when we bring a dog into our family, we are signing up for inevitable heartbreak. That is the price of admission: devastating heartbreak. Why on earth do we do this to ourselves? We get a companion, love it unconditionally, depend on it like a family member, only to lose it. We know damn well how bad it is going to hurt... but we do it anyway. WHY! I will tell you why.. because that love is so worth it. It is worth every heartbreak in the whole damn world. It is the only love that I will ever have where I need to willingly subject myself to excruciating pain. The pain of loss, is worth it and so much more in exchange for the love we get out of it.
This brings me to Marty. Oh Marty.
Marty came into my life when he was just 1 year old. Marty had a lot of trust issues with dogs, because when he was a baby he almost went blind in one eye and needed emergency surgery. That in itself is a very traumatizing start to life. On top of that, the recovery required isolation - and Marty missed out on a lot of epic socialization. He had a set of friends, but outside that circle he didn't really trust anyone - and wanted A LOT of space. A challenge you say? I'm in. His dad was a friend of one of my closest customers, and so it was a no brainer to take him on. The plan was that I would ease him into groups and help get him to trust other dogs (and me). Well, we definitely went to plan there... but so much more came out of this relationship.
When I started walking Marty, I wasn't a dog trainer. It was before I even took the Certified Dog Walker course at the TCCE through Dog*Biz. At this point, I was pretty oblivious to a lot of things. Things did go well for the first few weeks, and it was THEN that I took that fateful course just mentioned. I learned so much about body language, positive reinforcement, counter conditioning, and working WITH dogs over one weekend course, and half of the time I was relating to everything I heard to my own dog Sadie (we all know this story), but also to Marty. My scared little guy with a snippy disposition. Once I finished the course, I was so ready to approach Marty's care with a new mindset. I started really watching him - I noticed in elevators his body got really tight & his cheeks started to puff, like he was holding his breath. I realized how scared this little guy was, and I knew exactly what kind of advocate I needed to be for him. I noticed the things that made his body loosen as well (treats, attention from humans). I decided to use those things to show him that those scary things aren't so bad. Long story short, in time Marty wouldn't hold his breath in elevators. He loved meeting new dogs. He still didn't like dogs getting to close to him in front of his front door, but hey! We all have our quirks. This is one of my favourite pictures of Marty - it was the moment I truly realized what my work with him had done. I could see a lightness in him that I hadn't seen before.
So, that alone makes our relationship so incredibly deep. BUT, of course, there is more. With the way Marty was scheduled, I would walk him in the afternoons with my dogs and Teddy their best friend. I realized how comfortable and happy Marty was with them, and because his dad was in school until later I night - I decided that some days I would steal him for a few hours. Pick him up, give a little walk, and then have him come and hang out at my place for a few hours before taking him home. We got pretty close.. but I fell in love with Marty by stealing him without permission LOL! His dad asked me to do a little daycare session with Marty on Canada Day, I obliged. I was to drop him off around dinner time. Here are two pics from that special day.
Ok.... But... what if we took a little nap? I wasn't feeling well, and a nap sounded ideal. So around 4pm we rested our eyes, Marty right by my side. Flash forward to 2 am where I check my phone and don't even have texts like "WHERE IS MY DOG????"... nothing! LOL. I was like omg I just stole this dog... the next morning when his dad woke up he was like "well I saw he wasn't home, and when you didn't reply I figured you guys just fell asleep!". It was really special, the cuddles were epic - but it showed me how much his dad trusted me. Marty really was becoming my part time son. And omg he was such a brat. Most of the time he was good when we left him, but sometimes he really got into things. But not like normal things, he went after the things you loved the most. He would find a way into my makeup bag, and throw my makeup all over the house. Once, he ripped a speaker from my tv stand - and peed on it like at least 5 different times (I could tell by the spray patterns, CSI shit up in here). At his dad's house, he would select the DVD he would like to watch that evening. And he destroyed about 1000 remotes and controllers. BRAT AF.
This went on for about 1.5 years, every day our bond growing deeper and deeper. On the friday of a long weekend, I was heading home to my parents (as I do every year). I was supposed to have one of the girls on my team walk Marty for his afternoon walk so I could get out of town quicker - but for some reason that morning I decided that I wanted to walk him (probably because I would be gone 3 days and that is a long time without Marty).
So I dropped him off, and I made a point to give him a goodbye kiss. His dad was home, so I told them to have a great weekend and that I loved him! I went home, and long story short - Marty passed away the next day. I don't want to talk about that part of the story as it is very personal, but my life was rocked. I was in no way prepared for the hurt that was about to overcome me. I literally scream cried on and off for 72 hours straight. I didn't know it was possible to cry that much. Even to this day, nothing in my life has made me cry the way this has. I don't know if anything ever will. I had family dogs pass in my lifetime, but it was nothing compared to losing Marty. Marty was a HUGE part of my life. He was the dog that made me realize that holy shit - I can make a real impact in a dog's life. He made me understand how important it is to work at a dog's pace. He taught me that a bad reputation doesn't define who you are. He taught me patience (not only was he a brat but he was also KING OF THE BREAKS on walks). Who I was as a person, was in part thanks to Marty.
He changed my whole world, because he let me change his.
I was not actively blogging when this happened, and to be honest - I don't think I would have been ready to talk about. It has taken me 2 years to write about this - and I think that's because I have needed those 2 years to work on my feelings. To work on healing that Marty sized hole in my heart. One thing I learned is that the hole never fully goes away. It will shrink over time, and the pain will be less constant... but it does not go away. You hold on to that smile with the crooked teeth. You hold on to the memory of his rancid gas. You still smile when you think about the time he was obsessed with locking himself into rooms. That stuff never leaves. But you also hold on to the pain, just a little bit. It will always be there. And that, that is the price we pay. And as I am sitting here typing through tears upon tears, I know damn well that I would do it over and over again. I will gladly go through this devastating and earth shattering heartbreak, if it means getting to impact a life in the way that I could with Marty. I would do anything to smell one last stinky fart. Or god what I wouldn't give to see that smile one last time. It sucks, but, so worth it.
Here is the video slideshow I made 2 years ago... I think it is a really beautiful showcase of his life. I will miss you for god damn ever, Marty. And for those of you who ever wondered why I have the word "brat" tattooed on my arm... well now you know. My brat. My Marty.
Hi everyone, I hope you are all getting excited for Doggy Yoga (aka DOGA) taking place this Saturday (July 13th) at 10:30, in Liberty Village Park. This is a free community event, and you are welcome to come with our without your dog.
To see my first DOGA tip, click here.
Today's tip is multi faceted, so buckle up!
Bringing a "pacifier" to DOGA
We know our dogs, and we know bringing them to an outdoor event with lots of humans & other dogs might be a little overwhelming for them. While I gave tips on how to teach your dog to settle (you can see it on the event facebook page under discussion), I wanted to also mention using a pacifier to help keep your dog nice and settled.
What is a pacifier? Well, we all know what pacifiers are with human babies - so why not apply the concept to our dogs. At the school I teach at (When Hounds Fly, they are the bomb), they started a new practice for group classes where dog parents are asked to bring a "pacifier" to class. They are instructed to give the dog the pacifier while the instructor is, you know, instructing. These times can get boring for the dogs, and that's when you get a dog that demand barks/whines/etc. By having the pacifier ready, you are able to appropriately prevent the demand/boredom behaviour from happening in the first place. (If you wait until the dog is barking/whining and THEN give the pacifier, you are reinforcing the undesired behaviour - so the key is to be one step ahead of your pup and "pacify" them when you know they will likely become a little stir crazy).
Anyway! Appropriate pacifiers for dogs are stuffed Kongs, treat dispensing toys, or long lasting chew sticks (like bully sticks/yak cheese sticks/beef tendon etc). These are all wonderful at keeping our dogs busy and pacified. I highly recommend you bring along a pacifier if you know your dog may be getting a little antsy (which like, fair enough haha this is a very exciting day).
Being SAFE with our pacifiers - resource guarding
It would be irresponsible of me to ask you all to bring pacifiers without talking about resource guarding. I am planning on doing a very in depth post/video about resource guarding - but for the purpose of today's post I will keep it simple.
Resource guarding is where our dogs have an item that they see valuable (aka their pacifiers) and will do what it takes to prevent it from being stolen. At the most minor level this involves either gulping the item down, or turning their head away. At a more severe level, this involves growling and even biting in order to protect the resource. Dog's will resource guard from us humans, but also from other dogs. When it comes to us, we can offer our dog a trade in order to get the pacifier back ("hey! here's a handful of treats!" and while dog is eating treats, you remove the pacifier). However, when it comes to other dogs - they don't offer any sort of exchange or trade, and so we need to make sure we have safety protocols in place for our pacifiers to prevent any dog to dog resource guarding.
When we first get to the event, there will be a lot of moving around with people coming in and out. During this time, please just periodically reinforce your dog using treats. Keep the pacifiers safe and tucked away. Once everyone is settled and on their yoga mats I will instruct you that it is time to give your dog their pacifiers. Only then may you give your dog the high value item. It is also critical that you keep your dog ON LEASH, and don't let fido stroll over to another dog's pacifier. We don't want any thieves and we don't want any drama over resources. Keep your dog in your station, and everyone will be set!
So in summary:
Sigh, you guys know how much I hate when you move. Why do you keep doing this to me? Last week we had to say goodbye to our dear sweet Paddy boy, as he and his family left Liberty Village. Paddy meant a whole lot to all of us, and was probably one of your dog's best friends - so I thought we would do a special post to send him off in style.
People always say they are jealous of my job, and I get it. It is amazing. I get to hang out with dogs, but even more than that I get to know and understand them. We become a team, a team that works together to make our days better. I fall in love with every single dog we walk. It really is great. But when the dogs leave? It sucks. It hurts, a lot. These dogs are our best friends, we often spend more time with them than our families and actual human friends. So it is really hard to see them go! And when Paddy left last week, that was definitely the case.
Paddy started walking with us over a year ago, and he VERY quickly stole my heart. 1) Those teeth. Come ON! 2) Every single time I picked him up, kisses were mandatory before putting on his harness and collar. Even when his parents were home, kisses were had. 3) He was a trouble maker, and you know how I love me a good ole trouble maker. Paddy was SO friendly, but when you're that friendly - you're likely to be a very exuberant group walker. He always wanted to play, say hi to all the dogs and people we passed, or hump (LOL). Now there is nothing wrong with any of these things, I encourage the dogs to have a good time and foster time for play - but when it is constant, it makes things harder because the flow gets broken up. But lucky for me, Paddy fell in love with me right back. And he and I started to become this unbeatable team. Every SINGLE friggen time Paddy looked up at me, I reinforced that! YES PADDY YOU'RE SO SMART, HERES A TREAT BUDDY! And I would sing songs for him, so he would think that I am just as cool as all his doggo friends. And pretty soon, he did think that. He never lost his friendly and playful side - but he was able to focus and walk & save the play time for breaks. It was pretty magical. His parents noticed it too, when they let me know they were moving they thanked us for making Paddy the amazing walker he is. He's checking in with THEM, too. And this, this is why I do it. To help make a difference in not only the dog's lives - but in their human's lives as well.
When Maddie joined the team, she also fell right in love with Paddy. Because I mean, those teeth. That personality. You couldn't NOT. We were both very emotional on Paddy's last day. He's probably one of the happiest, if not THE happiest, boys I have ever walked, and I am going to miss that magnetic smile every single day. Keep in touch! Maddie literally sends me at least one video of Paddy per week saying "crying", and if that isn't MOOD I don't know what is. We feel very lucky to have known you, and to have been your dog walkers.
And for the rest of you, please don't move. Thanks.