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canine grief

Shane the Grieving GSD and some random ponderings by Charlotte

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See Spot Sit Dog Training & Behavior Modification added 4 new photos.
Published by Charlotte Kay Watkins (Mallion) · 1 hr · Edited ·
Shane is very large, 2 year old, German Shepherd who had been deemed vicious after he became very unstable when his human passed away in Shane’s presence and Shane stay with him and waited for mommy to get home and watched over his dad. Here’s another human, mom, had not been all that involved with Shane because the dad had been his main guardian. As is always the case when there is a death in a family there were many people coming and going and mom was crying an awful lot and in a very anxious and stressed state of mind. Shane was grieving his own loss and was feeling very stressed and anxious himself while also believing he needed to protect mom because she was so weak. This is a German Shepherd, a dog we as humans bred to be a guard dog so he is a hard wired by DNA to do that job. Shane sadly was deemed vicious after biting someone, actually five people, but the last one apparently was serious enough that mom decided to report it because she is very honest.
Shane is all that mom have left and dad and is committed q helping him but I’m able again andy the dog he use to be and he is also committed to beginning his later he can provide him with strong stable guidance and leadership.
I spent a few hours with him yesterday and it was a humbling and extremely fulfilling experience. I was reminded that it hasn’t been that many years ago when people still believe that dogs were “just dogsc and very few people understood and were knowledgeable about the truth of the matter which is that dogs feel emotion and understand death when they are in the presence of it and they certainly understand the lost and they grieve. that is a fact.
Dogs feel many of the emotions we do, however they process them and express them in the way their brain is created to do which is different from the human brain. They can only use the language that God gave them and when we as humans, either out of lack of knowledge or lack of consideration, do not respectfully respond to the messages they are giving us (like when they ask us to please back off because they are feeling overwhelmed or frightened or anxious or stressed or all of the above), they have no choice but you move to a higher level of communication which often includes biting. Many times they have asked us in more polite ways, growling, stiffening, lip curling and snarling or even, attempting to avoid by moving away, tapping out, or displaying many other signals meant to increase the distance between them and the offending trigger, which is often a human who does not understand their language or just refuses to respect it.
Yesterday Shane learned many valuable tools, including redirection and alternate behavior when a particular red truck would drive down their very long gravel driveway. His conditioned emotional response was to bark loudly and seriously at the truck because the owner of the truck is uncomfortable with Shane and Shane responds negatively to that energy. He would rather not deal with it so he barks at the truck saying go away go away go away. He is now learning that instead of doing that, he can just turn away and walk further from the truck and play with a toy. He also learned not to go in and out of doors until mom says OK so that he does not knock her down smile emoticon
This journey with Shane and his mom has just begun but I believe it is going to be full of landmarks and joy and probably some tears along the way because they’re worse some yesterday, and the end result will prayerfully be that Shane looks to mom for his ques as to how to respond to meeting new people, new dogs etc. Mom will be able to focus her energy on becoming Shane’s leader and I pray and hope that this will help take her mind off of her very profound grief for at least some portion of each day and will bolster her with the confidence he is going to need to carry on.
I know I am looking forward to next Wednesday and spending more time with Shane in his world. I will have to take him a new stuffed cow because I am quite sure he has already eaten the one that I gave him lol
Post Script: I often ponder the fact that humans hold dogs (animals who are driven predominately by the instinct to survive – often including the survival of their human pack) to such a higher standard of behavior than we are willing to hold ourselves. It just baffles me. We expect them to be perfect and never behave badly in the face of trajedy, loss, abuse, neglect, betrayal, confusion, pain, and a myriad of other negative and hurtful emotions and situations, but we allow ourselves to behave badly if we stump a toe. Sometimes we behave badly and hurt others just because we are in a bad mood. When humans face loss and trajedy, we excuse their behavior (and that is as it should be, so please do not use this statement as an excuse to accuse me of being uncaring or insensitive to human emotion) but we do not stop to consider that dogs are faced with many of these same situations and emotions, often times concepts they don’t even understand. For instance, tjey would never find themselves in a shelter or dumped on the side of a road or in a trash can if we had not incorporated them so deeply into our human world. We even fail to properly punish humans who do horrible things to animals just because they didn’t feel like putting the time or effort needed into helping their dog live in this human world and abide by our rules, refuse to neuter their dog because of some misguided sense of macho – ridiculous – code, do not spay their female dog because they are too lazy to go out and find one of the many, many free or very low cost programs offered and end up with a litter of puppies they cannot and are not willing to take responsibility for.
How is this okay? Why do we get to be jerks for just any ole reason, but dogs must be picture perfect no matter what they have to face?
“We are forever responsible for what we have tamed.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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