One of my online students lost her dog to cancer. Her lovely dog was four years of age.
A vet check showed that she was fine; a young and healthy dog!
But she was not fine. Not because the vet was incompetent, but because we can’t know everything; modern medicine is simply not that good. The nature of life when working with a non-verbal creature is that we often have to guess about the animal’s internal state by their behavior. But that only works if we’re willing to listen – even if we don’t truly understand the underlying reason.
This dog? Not much interest in tug. Not much interest in food. Not much interest in play. Not much interest in work. Frustrating.
Over time, this lack of enthusiasm took a toll. What does one do when the dog doesn’t seem to share the interests of the humans? The owner is stressed – nothing seems to work. The instructors are stressed – trying to help but the results seem inconsistent and slow to come by.
And that is when people start to make bad decisions.
“She knows this!” “She needs to know that she doesn’t have a choice.” “She did it yesterday; are you going to let her work only when she feels like it?” “The vet said she was fine.” “Only feed her when you train; she’ll work when she gets hungry enough.” “Crate her when she doesn’t want to work.” “Make her do it!” “She’s blowing you off.”
While my student grieves, I’m glad that she is only grieving the loss of her bel0ved pet, and not regretting her own behavior.