I have always been a dog-lover and for many years dreamt of the day I would be able to own one of my own. Three years ago that dream finally came true when I bought a dog called Max. However, like a lot of dreams the reality has turned out a whole lot different to what I expected. Not worse, but very different!
Max came from a rescue centre and the staff knew very little about him as he had been found as a stray. All they were able to tell me was that he was between four and six years old and originally from Scotland. Over the three years we have had him we have been able to piece together a bit more information about Max’s past from his behaviour and it has often been quite sad.
A major factor in my dreams of being a dog owner had involved long relaxing walks through parks, woods and beaches, but for the first few months we had Max it was all we could do to get him to walk round the block. I had no idea that dogs could suffer from agoraphobia but Max was displaying all the signs; pressing himself against walls and lying down and refusing to move.
At first I got quite stressed about this and would watch TV show The Dog Whisperer obsessively in the hope of finding a solution. After weeks of watching dogs with just about every other issue under the sun, the show finally highlighted a dog exactly like Max. Barely able to contain my excitement I pressed record on the VCR and looked forward to Cesar Millan providing me with the perfect solution to my problem. But this time the solution seemed even more stressful than the problem! Apparently I was to attach the end of Max’s lead to his tail, to hold it in an upright and therefore confident position, and I was to put on a pair of roller blades when I took him out so he could feel as if we were on some kind of mission. Hmm – the only mission I would be going on if I donned a pair of roller blades would be to the nearest Accident and Emergency ward. I decided to resort to the constant coaxing with sausages method. It might have taken longer but at least I didn’t end up in hospital – or court for GTH – Grievous Tail Harm.
Another thing Max has a phobia of is football! He only has to hear the thud of a ball being kicked and he becomes a quivering wreck. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if my teenage son Jack was into ballet or stamp-collecting, but he is a complete soccer nut. At first I thought this might help Max to face his fear – if he saw Jack (who he adores) playing keepy-uppies in the back garden it might help him realise that not everyone is going to kick balls at him (we are sure this is what must have happened to him in his previous home to have prompted such terror). However, our plan for rehabilitation badly back-fired. The morning after Jack tried to get Max to play football with him, we came down to find a huge dog poo balanced on top of the ball! We got the message and my dream of taking Max down to the touchline every Sunday to watch Jack play flew out of the window.
In the end a mixture of love and patience - and sausages - has meant that Max will now walk pretty much anywhere. He still hates footballs, but at least he hasn’t crapped on any in a while!
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