I have a wonderful dog. I mean wonderful. I got her when she was 4 and she is 10 now. Her name is Sunshine. She is a mix of either a Yellow Lab or a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd. She is a little smaller at 60 pounds, has the markings of a Shepherd, but instead of white blond she is golden and black. I knew the day I picked her out that she was the dog for me. I went to a shelter that fostered all their animals during the week and only had them at the shelter on weekends for adoption. They had a very detailed questionnaire to help determine what personality, breed, size, activity level, etc. of dog you would be best suited to. They showed me 3 dogs, but when I saw Sunshine, I knew she was the only one. When I got her home that day, she was very withdrawn and very shy. Almost as if she was afraid to do anything, even move, without permission. Even when I took her on walks, she didn’t want to go and would do her business almost as soon as we stepped outside and immediately want to go back in. She didn’t know what toys were, and didn’t know how to play with them or with us.
After a few years with us, my kids and I have taught her to ‘unleash her inner dog-iness’ and she has grown into a wonderfully sweet and gentle and mellow girl. She plays with stuffed toys with squeakers now, alone and with us, and she plays with us sometimes too–dashing at us and pretending to nip at us. She looks forward to her walks now, and instead of rushing back inside, doesn’t want to come home. She now must smell everything thoroughly and actually pulls against the leash to reach more. But still, she rarely barks at any person, unless they startle her or she has decided they have done something suspicious. She allows anyone to approach her and pet her, and especially loves when children come to say hi. She adores small dogs, enjoys playing gently with them and acting like a mother hen when they get too rowdy. She puts her paw on their shoulder to calm them down a notch. Big dogs her size or greater are the one thing she consistently dislikes with great zeal. Big dogs are the only thing I must beware of when walking her, as once or twice I have let her get close enough only to find out that she sees them all as great threats and will attack. Well, I guess that is not a very bad flaw when in all other ways she is gentle and yielding, and when we all have our own weaknesses as well.
Ok, so what’s the point here? what am I leading up to? Well, recently, Sunshine has started to behave differently, in ways I’ve never seen from her before. Now, when I take her for a walk, she is still excited and frisky and prancing around and trying to run as soon as we get outside. But now, sometime during the walk, she is acting strangely. The biggest thing I noticed so far is she will just stop walking, stop smelling, stop looking around and just stare into space. I call her name, I whistle, I clap my leg, clap my hands, tug on her leash, and she just stands there. I end up having to literally drag her home by the leash. Sometimes that is a long way. Then other times, she acts like she doesn’t know what to do, even though she does it all the time. Like, we were walking through the apartment complex and had to step off the landscaped curb into a parking area. We needed to pass between 2 cars and then cross the lot to get home. So, she was walking ahead of me, but when we got to the curb, she balked and refused to keep going. So I thought, ‘OK, I’ll go first, and she’ll follow then.’ But no, I step between the cars and still she balks. Won’t budge. Looking at me like I am so crazy and like she is so confused. So, I walk back to her and try to tug her forward by her collar. She sits. So, I think, I’ll just give her a nudge on her bottom, and that’ll make her go forward–but no! Instead as soon as I try to nudge her bottom, she collapses into a curled up ball and ends up on her side on the bottom of the curb. I am so startled, so surprised, I go to her to see if she is hurt or in pain. She cowers from me, hiding her head and her ears down. I try to gently lift her, to get her on her feet again. After several attempts, where each time she struggles as if she doesn’t want to be touched, she finally manages to get herself righted and on her feet again. But now, she is acting so scared of me, she won’t come. Again. I was forced to grab her leash short and pull her home the rest of the way.
So, this new behavior of balking, cowering, staring off and just standing, baffles me. She has never ever done these things before. I don’t understand why she is doing them now, or what is prompting this. I know it shouldn’t, but it just makes me SO MAD! I got so mad at her after the cowering in a ball thing that when I got her home, I didn’t even want to take care of her, didn’t even want to see her. I was so ANGRY with her behavior. And this is not the first time I have become furious after she acted like this. I HATE it! HATE IT! The whole reason I got Sunshine in the first place was my psychiatrist recommended getting a pet as an Emotional Support Animal (which also is exempt of pet rent at apartments as well as pet deposits. Also, they can travel with you on planes, trains, or cabs if you will be staying overnight somewhere. And wherever you stay, they have to allow the animal as well–even hotels!). So, Sunshine has been my perfect ESA since I found her. And she has always been very helpful to me when I’m angry, sad, stressed, anxious…I love her SO MUCH!! I depend on her, count on her, and adore her. And it really makes me feel like crap when I feel angry with her behavior. Like, it makes me feel like I must have done something to make her act that way, like it’s my fault that she is acting scared, or balking or just standing there. But I know I didn’t do anything to hurt her, or scare her. I would NEVER do that! So it infuriates me when she does something that makes me feel that I caused it, and THAT makes me feel worthless, like crap.
I don’t know why she is doing these new things. I don’t know what makes her do them. All I know I is I can’t keep being angry at her, because its just no good for her or me. I am so upset, I don’t even know what to do or where to start. I’m afraid if it keeps happening, I won’t be able to keep her. Because I don’t want her to have me angry at her all the time, and stress her out and make her scared. And I don’t want to be angry all the time either. But I don’t want to lose her. That would leave a big gaping hole in my heart to give her up.