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When I met Finn, he catapulted himself at me with such velocity that I fell flat on my back. Yet, I didn’t think, “Man, I don’t know this dog. I should worry he could bite me.” When I slept on the basement floor with him because the crate I got for him was too small, I didn’t wonder if he’d guard or growl his new belongings in the middle of the night.

However, years of training dogs and pushing down my fear after I left the house of a dog whose aggressive tendencies scared me took its toll. I never allowed myself time to process my emotions because I often had to hop back in the car, drive to a new puppy client’s home, share their excitement, and help them teach their new puppy to happily and readily accept the wacky things in our world.

On Gavin’s first day in my home, I gauged his play style with a few of Finn’s old toys. Gavin quickly got riled up and started tugging one of the toys rather than chasing and dropping it. I didn’t want to encourage tugging since we didn’t know each other yet and I was alone, so I went to grab another toy to entice him to drop, and when he went to get a better grip on the toy, his giant head hit me square in the nose and blood squirted everywhere.  

As Gavin followed me, mouth pursed, staring at me, I finally wondered, could this dog hurt me? It wasn’t until later that night when friends came over to meet him and he immediately rolled on his back for belly rubs, that I started trusting him.

As Gavin’s healed from stomach surgery, I’ve learned to trust him again. Equally important, I must learn to trust myself and my decisions for him again. I didn’t let him out of sight the first week or so. I was so worried that he’d eat the carpet again if I went outside and to the cellar to do a load of laundry. I didn’t come into our apartment while he was outside to clean and refill his water bowl because I was afraid he might try to eat the astroturf.

And I realized the toll it was taking on both of us. I could move a Mack truck with the tension in my shoulders that I was creating with my fretfulness, despite my intentions of not wanting Gavin to hurt himself again.   

Gavin’s turned so many good corners in the past week and a half. I’m starting to see my dog again, happy and wiggly at times, snoring and stretched out at other times, and eager yet not frantic to see me when I walk back upstairs from closing the blinds for the night. And I’m not a ball of nerves leaving him out of my sight for two seconds. 

We have a lot of work to do, but I know, love, and trust this dog, and he’s worth every effort it takes to continue his happy-being-alone-again process. For today, I’ll practice gratitude that he’s laying next to me while I type and there are no poop berries to clean up. 

May your day and weekend be filled with love, trust, and deep knowing that, no matter what, everything will be okay.