In some ways time flies by, and in some ways it feels like forever.
Yesterday we celebrated Gaci's 8-year birthday. We got up, played outside, she came with us for a birthday drive and she even went to Blue Ribbon Pet Supply to pick out her own present. In we go, on her harness, and as soon as we get in the door we are met with a little Doxie running about. No big deal, I ask Gaci to follow me and off we go to the bone section. I let her sniff out all the different chews and treats, when a big dog comes barrelling around the corner at her (turns out, I had forgot that it was the Nail-Clipping Clinic that day, so it was doggy overdrive!). She looks up at the other dog, stands up, then immediately sits and looks at me again. I smile at her, and reach down to scrach her ears.
A lady approached, and immediately bent down to say hello to Gaci. I ask the lady to give her a treat or two, and then I call Gaci back to my side, which she happily scoots over to do. We continue on to look for her birthday treat, and we head to the back to find her favorite - a frozen raw bison bone - Yum! As we were coming back up front a little Shih Tzu lunged to the end of the leash, whining and trying to reach us. We walked on by, walking by the Doxie (who was heading out back for nail trimming), and then got into line to buy her purchase. She sat patiently while we waited our turn, we paid, and off we went.
Sounds like a casual visit to the pet store on a busy Sunday morning. What's beautiful about this is that not-so-many years earlier, it would have looked so much different. It would have been pre-planned, well thought-out, and I would have been preparing her Gentle Leader, necessary rewards, and I would have gone into the store before bringing her in to scope out who was indoors. We would have been setting ourselves in places where we could easily leave the area if needed, or to put a visual barrier between her and what she feared. I would have had to stand in front of her and said "Please don't pet her", so that she wouldn't bark and scare the friendly, but totally unknowing, strangers who keep reaching towards her (she is cute, after all...she attracts more people than any of my other dogs!). I would have had to move to aisles that didn't have dogs, because most people do not pay attention to what their dogs are doing and let their dogs say hi to just anybody, and heaven knows that Gaci did not make good decisions when it came to interacting with other dogs. And at some times, I would have just left her in the vehicle so as not to have to worry.
It's hard to see the day by day progress through life with a dog who lives with fear aggression (past aggression directed towards dogs only, but reactivity to people as well), as you have your ups and downs, your good days and your bad days, but as I left the store yesterday, dog trotting happily with me, her present in my hand, it really struck home how far this little dog has come. Then it got me to thinking of all the other seemingly little things that would have been a "big deal" once upon a time - strange dogs coming and going from the home, and sharing her home; going to agility trials and being in close quarters with dogs, children, adults; being part of a stable group of dogs without having to micromanage every behaviour and mood, so that tolerance wouldn't quickly turn to anger and a bite injury in the blink of an eye.
But even more: it struck home how one little dog, with such a big attitude, can change the world around her, can change the lives of others for the better. She gives hope to other families with difficult dogs, she has changed my life immensely in ways I cannot begin to put into words, she has shown me how to enjoy the simplicity in life, and in turn I have helped her learn that life doesn't have to be all that scary all the time.
Happy birthday sweet girl.
May you continue to age gracefully.....*cough*.........you show me everyday that becoming a "senior" is a mindset, not a number.