One of the things I work really hard, and very consciously to build and honor in my relationship with my dogs and the dogs in my care is trust. By that I mean, fostering a relationship where the dog feels confident that if they ever turn to me with a problem, question or concern I will honor it in the way that they need to feel safe and taken care of, that we can always work together to solve problems, and that if I ask something of them they can trust that it is something they can do. I try very very hard to follow the motto “Don’t set people or dogs up for failure.”
I very much value that when in doubt, in times of trouble, or times of uncertainty my dogs will come to me first. Seek me out. Ask me to be a part of solving the problem.
With all of the hundreds upon hundreds of dogs I consulted on for behavior problems this was hands down one of the places nearly all, if not all, of them struggled with when their owners and I began working together. And one of the key tenants I encouraged and helped clients to build. Because I find it is so very important in helping dogs survive and thrive in our current society. “Don’t solve problems alone, trust a human to support, help and give input.”
And it makes my heart sing when the realities of that pay off in such a big way.
The other day on one of our usual walks in the woods. All of the sudden Zora came running out of the woods right to me. She was shaking her head and pawing her face as she came, but she was making a direct bee line to me none the less.
As she got to me, I realized she was being attacked by wasps. She must have run over a nest when she was off the trail in the brush.
She came to me, I swatted them off, called to the other dogs and my friend to RUN WASPS! and we all booked it up the trail. Zora had been stung a number of times, but when I said let’s get out of here, she trusted me and ran up the trail. She had every right to want to stop and deal with her hurting ear, face and paws, but she took my word for it and ran. Once we reached a safe distance, I examined her more closely to assess the damage. Her ear was starting to swell, and she’d been stung on the face and foot also, but she otherwise seemed ok. Thankfully.
Unfortunately I didn’t have any benadryl in my backpack (I do now!), but we knew there was some mud up ahead. So I encouraged her to wallow once we reached the deep mud. And benadryl once we got back home. Within an hour the swelling was gone.
When I replay this in my mind I realize how much Zora’s trust in my ability to help her problem solve prevented this situation from being so much worse.
Zora was at least 15′ off the trail when she ran into the wasp nest. Had she not immediately come to find me, it would have been any number of minutes before I thought to call her. In that time she would have been stung more times, or potentially run away from the nest in a panicked random direction becoming lost. The wasps would have had time and chance to really swarm her, and by the time one of us found her we also would have been swarmed.
Instead because her first notion was to seek me out, most of the wasps stayed with their nest and didn’t follow her. She was only stung 3 times and no one else was. Her trauma was minimal as was everyone elses. All in all a situation that could have been so much worse wasn’t.
It’s times such as these that I’m entirely grateful my dogs trust me to help them. I’m so grateful I’ve learned the value and importance of such trust. And will continue to do my best to honor and build on it for their lifetimes.