Lizzie, Another Real Dog

Dream Dog Awakening
By Karen Sodrick, August 2012

The process Laurel Seville went through with Ainsley is so similar to mine with Lizzie that it’s eerie. Although Lizzie is not a rescue, she went from getting her CGC and therapy-dog certification right after her first birthday to barking and lunging at strangers, especially strange dogs, two years later. Although she never really enjoyed therapy visits, I pushed her because I wanted her to be good at it. My dream was for her to be a canine Mother Theresa. When it became obvious that she was not going to be, I too cried, got mad and tried to pretend I could manage it without really fixing it.

Somewhere along the way, I reread Suzanne Clothier’s Bones Would Rain from the Sky, then had my epiphany: she was what she was and would never be my dream dog, and I needed to accept that. It was hard to listen to family and friends, and have them give me “that look” when she acted out. Like, For this you go to training every week? I was the family’s dog-whisperer—how could I not have a well-behaved dog? Then I followed Seville’s route: I scoured the Internet, spent a fortune on training books and DVDs, bugged the heck out of my training buddies, and am still hooked on Yahoo dog forums. Basically, I made her worse before I started to make her better. Now, I never leave the house without a clicker and a pocketful of treats. My favorite line in the essay is “a dog who is trying hard to sit still and look for treats even though she wants to be Cujo.”

Perfect! I hope Saville contributes again to Bark.