My sister’s dog, Rocky, is appropriately named because we believe he had a “rocky” start. Rocky’s owners dropped him off at the animal shelter where my nephew works one day saying they couldn’t keep him anymore because he was too mean. We don’t know what happened to Rocky during his first 5 years of life, but something did. He couldn’t stay at the shelter because whenever he was around other dogs or people he barked constantly and sometimes attacked and bit them. Obviously, these behaviors were not ideal for finding a forever home.
My nephew often brings home dogs that have behavioral challenges so they can get loved up in a safe environment while getting used to people. Rocky was one of many dogs that ended up at my sister’s home, but one of the few who never left! Sadly, he did not get much better around other dogs or people, but he started to trust my sister. This didn’t come as a surprise because my sister has a huge heart and can find a place in that huge heart for even the most challenging dogs. (And people, but especially dogs.)
It took a lot of patience and perseverance, but over time Rocky became more and more comfortable with her. Over the past 3 years, they have developed a deep affection for one another. He still growls or nips at her once in a while when he feels threatened, but she ignores it and keeps loving him anyway. Now that the two of them have bonded so deeply, you’d better not get too close to my sister. Rocky will defend his human no matter how much bigger you are than he is. The last time my brother visited he learned the hard way not to hug my sister in Rocky’s presence. You can understand why I was a bit trepidatious before my visit to see my sister last week.
Before arriving in Florida, I decided I wanted to experience a miracle with Rocky, a shift in perception from fear to love. My goal was to win him over by the time I left. As expected, he barked at me when I first arrived. Even though my sister and I have been vaccinated, I refrained from hugging her and started talking to Rocky in a soft voice. I set my bag down and moved slowly to the couch across from my sister. She handed me a few tiny dog treats to give to Rocky to help the situation. He had no problem accepting the treats from me. It didn’t take long for him to stop barking and start sniffing my hand. After a minute or two, he gave my hand a quick lick before jumping on the other couch with my sister. We were off to a good start!
Over the next few days, I continued to speak calmly with Rocky, once in a while using my secret weapon…the “puppy massage.” Having been a massage therapist for over 15 years, I learned that most dogs really enjoy having their hips and shoulders rubbed. Let’s just say Rocky warmed up to me even more quickly after a few puppy massages. There were very few occasions where he barked at me the rest of my visit.
One exception was the evening my sister and I returned from a shopping excursion. Among other things, she purchased a beautiful light gray upholstered chest for the foot of her bed. While loading it into her car, I cut my thumb on an exposed staple protruding from the bottom. I applied pressure to it with a tissue on the drive home, but I must not have stopped the bleeding completely. When I moved the chest from the car to her bedroom, I noticed a small drop of blood on the brand new fabric. I was so mad at myself for dripping blood on her brand new furniture I screamed, “OH NO!” at least three times!
Rocky began to bark at me furiously as soon as I shouted those words. It shocked me how quickly and deeply he tapped into my angry, upset energy. I did my best to calm him down while simultaneously calming myself down as I grabbed a wet paper towel to blot up the blood before it left a stain. Once the catastrophe was averted, I sat with Rocky to reassure him that everything was okay. It took several minutes but we both eventually returned to peace.
After that incident, it became crystal clear to me that Rocky is extra sensitive to the energy of humans. He probably had to be in his first home to know if he was safe or not. I’m convinced that he warmed up to me because I did my best to remain peaceful and calm around him. The whole experience was a powerful lesson. Once I decided to see him not as an aggressive dog, but one who needed a little extra love and kindness, everything shifted.
I received confirmation that this is what I should write about this week while listening to Brené Brown’s latest “Unlocking Us” podcast. Brené was talking with Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry about their new book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing. This book invites us to ask a better question when dealing with difficult people (and as I learned this week, difficult pets.) Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you?” a better question might be, “What happened to you?”
Is there a difficult person in your life who may have had a “rocky start?” Perhaps they would benefit from a little extra love and kindness. I’m not suggesting that you put yourself in harm’s way. I certainly didn’t with Rocky. I maintained a safe distance while changing my mind and finding a place for him in my heart. It truly was a miracle! For the record, it’s possible to do this without ever speaking a word or being near that difficult person.
I would be honored to help you shift your energy around that person or situation so that you too can experience more love and kindness. Please look around my website for more information about my Life Coaching programs based on the strong principles found in A Course in Miracles. I offer 4, 8, and 12-week packages to suit your needs and budget. You can also shift your perception and deepen your understanding with a group or private Family Constellations session. I have several online events coming up in the next two months to help you heal relationships with your parents, your children, and to help you release whatever no longer serves on the next full moon. Visit the Events page on my website or send me an email for more information.
Until next time, I encourage you to find a place in your heart for those difficult people, but most importantly find a place in your heart for yourself!
The only judgement involved is the Holy Spirit’s one division into two categories; one of love, and the other the call for love.
A Course in Miracles ~ T-14.X.7:1