February 13, 2016
Today is a sad day for our family. My mother’s 16 year old poodle was blind, deaf, and had developed canine dementia. Her body was failing her in ways that could not be fixed. She told my mother that it was time. With a very heavy heart, they said their goodbyes, and while standing by her side, holding her paw, my mother let her go. Although I wasn’t there, the scene has repeatedly run through my mind today. I am so sad that it was her time and that she cannot be with us longer. I am heartbroken for my mother, and for our family, who have all loved and been loved by her for 16 years.
Selfishly today, my mind goes to my own dogs. They are 9, 8, 7, and 5 years old. I know the day will come, far too soon, when we will need to make the same act of love for them. I don’t want to think about it, but my mind keeps going there.
As I contemplate the life and death of our beloved dogs, I have a peace that although sad, I find lovely. The peace comes from knowing that because of positive, science-based, force free training, I have no regrets. I know that I haven’t wasted time worrying about who goes through the door first, worrying that potty accidents were acts of vengeance, or that jumping up on guests was an act of dominance. I have not spent one second of my time with our dogs handing down punishments for unwanted behaviors, or worrying that any of their behaviors were indicators that they wanted to dominate me, be alpha, or take over our world.
What I have spent time doing, is being with my dogs, focusing on the bond, and the relationship. When training, it has been done with as much repetition, love, rewards, and consistency as needed to help my dogs understand the behaviors that would help us all live together happily and successfully. I have spent time building trust and a loving relationship that involved many changes of my own behavior.
Using positive, force-free training methods, I have no regrets. When it comes time to say our goodbyes in this life, I will be unbearably sad, but I will know that as I look into the trusting, loving eyes of my dogs, I helped them live a life as free of stress and anxiety as I could. Our lives have not been perfect, but as I hold their paw, I will know that they will close their eyes for the last time knowing the love of a family who knew that training could be done without pain, fear, or intimidation.
In loving memory of Carmel. Rest peacefully, sweet girl!
Written by Laura Clawson, Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT), Educator with Family Paws Parent Education (FPPE), and member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG)