Friday, August 3, 2012

Focusing on the positive - Update on Chief

Recently, I have started feeling that there is a void somewhere in the atmosphere and I have somehow walked right into the middle of it.  There are many contributing factors to this void, and all of them are having a greater impact than I'd like.  There are many things going well, and as always KIC serves as a bright and shining beacon helping to fight the fringes of darkness threatening to move in.   Some days, it's pretty hard to focus on the things that are going well and power through the day.  I feel like my big girl panties keep getting stretched thin in an effort to maintain my normal facade.  I'll power through it, I always do, and come out stronger on the other side. 

I did want to talk about a huge bright spot in the Shoup House.  You may remember my post about Chief where I talked about where he came from and the stresses of living with him and his behaviors.  We had gotten to the point where we no longer invited people who didn't know Chief to our home because it made our lives incredibly miserable.  We were fearful that an opportunity for KIC to have wonderful experiences would be denied as a direct result of Chief's behavior.  It's only a slight overstatement that we had become prisoners to Chief's behaviors, no matter what we did to try to control them.  He had improved significantly in that there was no more pacing and whining, no more relentless play and longer periods of restfulness, but we knew there was more he needed.  Much more and we just didn't know how to give it to him. 

I am ecstatic to say, we have found a wonderful trainer, through a training company in Northern Virginia, who has changed much of that fearfulness and unhappiness in our house.  Much of what had to change to make Chief successful was me.  The trainer has empowered me to be in charge again and not feel guilty about it.  I continue to learn valuable life lessons from Chief:  I may have experience, but there's always room for growth.  Chief has learned to calm down in the presence of new people.  He's learned he doesn't have to take food and he has gained respect for the "alphas" of the house.  He continues to be a work in progress, but oh my, how much progress he's made.

We recently had a canning party (I know, Martha Stewart, right???) with people Chief had seen before as well as people he'd never met before.  Jennie, who has met Chief at his worst, said that if we told her we switched Chief out for another dog, she'd have no problem believing it.  Julie, who had never even met Chief before, couldn't believe this was the dog I was telling horror stories about.  Kathryn, who thought she'd never be able to let him out of the crate during her days here, has sent me pictures of him snuggling  and content with her on the couch.  To be fair, the snuggling came well before the trainer, but the peacefulness wasn't there.   And finally, KIC no longer has to fear his lightning quick reflexes to steal her food and he respects her when she tells him no.  Doesn't stop him from begging, but we're taking baby steps.  Chief is a different dog and the Shoup House is so so so much better for it.

The hell that we have gone through, the people who have been hurt because we fostered Chief, and the relationships broken, never to be mended (who needs neighbors that like them anyway???) have tested our fortitude like nothing else ever has.  There are many things I wish I could take back, one HUGE thing in particular (TME, I can't ever express how sorry I am), but to be in the place that we're in now is nothing short of a miracle.  And that's a spot that will only get brighter. 

Hoping, if you're reading this and struggling with your own void, you find your bright spot and hold on with all your might.  That one bright spot might just attract other, brighter, spots helping to pull you out of the void.  That's my hope anyway.  I'll keep you posted.

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