I haven’t had the chance to talk about how Shiva handled our ten-day house guests until now. The title of this post should be a not even remotely subtle hint that it didn’t go well. The one bonus is that with it being Thanksgiving and all, no one paid attention to how much wine I guzzled. You probably all think I am a lush at this point – which isn’t a total exaggeration – and my only defence is that…
Nevermind. I have no defence.
So yeah. Shiva barked a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. My family was as good about it as anyone could be. It’s hard not to jump twenty feet in the air when a dog lunges at you out of nowhere with a woof that would startle even the most seasoned dog trainer. Especially when she does this just seconds after licking your hands and soliciting pets.
We’ll be patching the holes in the ceiling for months.
It’s not Shiva’s fault, of course. It was to be expected. I had just hoped she would eventually adjust to their presence and calm down after a day or two. It pained me that this didn’t happen.
It’s not my family’s fault either. They are dog people and they followed all instructions, dropping treats and giving her space. They waited until she approached them before reaching out to pet her. As far as I could tell, they did everything right.
So it follows that it was my fault. Well, that’s how I took it anyway. During those ten days, I learned just how personally I take reactions to my dog’s behaviour. I’ve always been slightly over-sensitive to criticism from my parents. Because I see Shiva’s actions as a reflection of my training and our relationship, when she does things that others deem inappropriate, I feel I have to own that.
This combination of my continuing parental issues with the way I view my dog as an extension of myself caused a lot of deeply personal reactions to Shiva’s regular bouts of barking. I found myself constantly apologizing for her which only served to upset my family further.
I felt awful that my dog wasn’t comfortable in her own home. I also felt awful that my parents weren’t comfortable in their daughter’s home. Then, I felt awful for vocalizing these awful feelings and making everyone else feel awful.
In truth, it probably wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. My parents did enjoy their stay and I am sure they had a wonderful trip to Nova Scotia. Shiva is resilient and made up for any anxiety by sleeping for several days straight after they left. Nobody died, my dog got to eat lots of turkey, and we had a lot of laughs.
I could spend the next year analyzing the reasons for Shiva’s behaviour – our house is laid out in a way she doesn’t know someone is entering a room until they are right in front of her, we are anti-social and never have house guests so she isn’t used to others being around, karma for all the headaches I gave my mother as a child – or I could get over it and move on. Now that I have written this post and put it all out there, I think that’s what I am going to do.
Thanks for listening. What would I do without you?