I know, I know. It’s been too long. I bet some of you were probably even wondering if I just stopped writing blogs all together. The answer is no and I will be making more of an effort to write more! Now, before I go further, most of my “clients” are facilitated through rescue organizations to help their fosters acclimate to a new a dog they are bringing in their home or to help a new adopter. I never automatically assume I can work with a dog based off a story I hear and there have been plenty of times I’ve had to walk away and offer a trainer with more experience than me due to the dog being above my ability level to work with. However, I am still able to help many dogs and the rescues, shelters, foster and owners that are responsible for them! With that being said, here’s the story of Eleanor and Hammy aka “Bark Hamill”.
So back in May I was at an Angels for Animals (angelsforanimalsrescue.org) adoption event and I met a girl named Eleanor. She had seen my post that I would be there and decided to come introduce herself. As we got to talking, the conversation quickly shifted to her dog, Hammy. Eleanor was having issues with Hammy and asked if I could help her. She had been following my foster stories for a while and took a chance in asking. I agreed to meet Hammy and this is their story…so far.
When I first met Eleanor, I noticed a very friendly girl. Not just regular friendly but like “Snow White” friendly. How could you not want to be friends with this girl? Our first conversation was pleasant and it was not awkward as some first meetings can be. But when she started talking about her dog, Hammy, her whole demeanor changed. Her shoulders slouched a little bit and her voice got a little quieter. Basically, she felt like she had no control over her dog and literally had problems stepping out of the front door due to the cats or dogs that would sometimes be out there. And anyone out there with dogs knows that no matter how big your dog is, if your dog decides they want to go after something it can be very hard to handle and become somewhat embarrassing to the point that you feel everyone is watching you the second you’re out with your dog. I know, I’ve been there. We all have had that feeling of being under the microscope and feeling like nothing we do is right. Now when you throw a dog
into the mix, that dog now starts to mirror the person holding the leash.
Now when I first met Hammy, he growled at me. Even though Eleanor and I had met once before she seemed nervous when I walked in and Hammy confirmed it for me. So I started to make “small talk” with Eleanor until she started to loosen up and once she did, Hammy came up and sniffed me as if to say, “Sorry about the growling. I just felt like I had to protect my mom. She feeds me and takes care of me. I can’t have anything happen to her.”
Eleanor walked me through her whole walking routine with Hammy. His “unpredictable” nature sounded quite the opposite as she broke down exactly what would happen almost every step of the walk. And sure enough, when she showed me her walking ritual, all the bad things she said would happen, happened. Almost as if she was projecting it to happen.
I’m going to go off track here but I promise I’m going somewhere with this. When I got my 6th concussion, something as simple as putting on my shoes became a task. I never had to think about it much because I had been practicing putting my shoes on for so long I just kind of did it and went about my day. So after this head injury I had so much trouble balancing that instead of teaching myself a new way to put my shoes on, I insisted on doing things “how I’ve always done them” and because that I became frustrated which led to me not starting my day at all or getting so frustrated during the process of putting my shoes on that I ruined my whole day by self-sabotaging it. But once I slowed down, took the time and figured out a new way to put my shoes on, the rest of my day became much more pleasant. You see, my day started way before I walked out of the house.
Back to Hammy…before Hammy ever leaves the house, he needs to be calm. Even as he’s “putting his shoes on” he needs to be calm. And if he gets too excited, Eleanor needs to stop and slow down so that Hammy can understand this process. Hammy needs to learn how to behave through every step of the process. It doesn’t matter if a quarterback can throw pin point passes from 70 yards away, if he fumbles the snap, he will never get to the part where he gets to throw the ball. The exchange between the center and the quarterback which is referred to as “the snap” or “hiking” the ball is the most important part of any play.
So Eleanor and Hammy practiced “their snap”. And they practiced…and practiced…and practiced some more. And she focused solely on this one thing until she became so good at it that it became as easy as putting on her shoes!
I kept reminding Eleanor that she can’t change the past or predict the future. And if she’s thinking about any of those things then she’s not paying attention to what’s in front of her. And if she’s not paying attention to what’s in front of her how would Hammy ever feel safe in her presence? Hearing those things can be hard but the thing I love about Eleanor is she’s so devoted to Hammy that she is willing to do anything. Even if that meant changing everything she was doing, her way of thinking and working on her own fears and insecurities.
Fast forward to June and now Eleanor is smiling from ear to ear when you ask how her walks have been. She stands a little taller and when she talks she’s assertive, but calm. She knows what she wants and she’s teaching Hammy exactly what makes her happy. Hammy has his “moments” but he is no longer dictating the walks. She is. In fact, he is learning to trust and respect her so much that she’s now teaching him to swim in the pool. Something that Eleanor was sure he wouldn’t learn to do!
What was seen as “aggression” was actually fear and insecurity. Eleanor isn’t telling Hammy to “not be scared”. She’s just telling him to trust her. That’s she’s got this. And he believes her because she’s everything a leader should be which is calm, cool, and collected.
In the words of Linn Boyke, founder of “School of Dog Psychology “, “It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Just take the time”.
Thank you for taking the time, Eleanor.