Working With Dogs and Their People
by Deb McBride - Harmony 4 Dogs
I work with dogs and their people. I run dog classes, offer individual sessions and run programs for groups across NSW, QLD and Victoria.
I get called a dog trainer, a dog behaviouralist, a dog whisperer and even an animal therapist. The truth is my work involves being all of those things.
I was fascinated, so I invited friends and their friends to come to see me for free and I would ‘read’ what was going on for their dogs, like a dog whisperer would. I had quite a few people turn up and then the local paper did a double page spread on me and suddenly I had clients!
I took the work very seriously but found that I could very easily be elated one minute and angry or frustrated with my client the next. Anger and frustration are very common emotions amongst humans when it comes to living with dogs. However, to fall prey to that myself . . . clearly I had a lot to learn.
– but I wasn’t quite prepared for my own dog to develop liver cancer. She was in top shape physically, always fed a raw diet, exercised, socialised. She worked alongside me on the programs I delivered for groups and she was a great 10 year-old dog . . . then suddenly this?
I was devastated and very emotional about it.
However, as I lived those last few weeks with her I could see that she was not emotional about it at all. She would walk on the beach in the mornings with me, same as usual – a lot slower, but same routine. She would eat her dinner and chew on her bones . . . even walk after the odd golf ball (she couldn’t run any longer). I couldn’t help but see the grace she was still living her life in. Nothing changed because she was dying.
She lived everyday the same as she had done when she was in top health. It was the most amazing experience to be with her whilst she was dying and particularly during her last 24 hours where I saw that she had no resistance, no need to fight – she just left her body and that was that. Such grace.
The experience with Golden, my dog, taught me a lot about what it was that my job was really offering people and it humanised me enormously, brought me back from always trying to be in control to working with people from a place of equality.
There are often a lot of tears and a lot of laughs during dog classes and sessions. People are amazed at what a dog can understand and communicate back to them but I have to also be very clear with people that a dog is a dog and therefore they need to master being a dog in this life.
To treat a dog like a human is to suffocate them and to do them a grave injustice. This is where most of my work is – helping all of us to know how to live with a dog, how to train them, what to expect from them and how to best support them to be able do their job whilst allowing them to be 100% a dog, to have independence, and to know the boundaries between dog and human.