October 22, 2012 by Julia West
As many of you know, I moved from New York at the end of April. My husband had a new job in Maine, so we sold our house and I left my job at Cornell. The next week we traveled to Kentucky to pick up Delta.
For the first month, I was happy that I hadn’t found a new job because Delta’s thrice nightly wake up calls had me exhausted. Once Delta started sleeping through (most) of the night, the hunt for a job became a larger focus and the lack of progress became more frustrating.
Last week, I received a call that I had not been chosen for a position that I really wanted. After many months of searching and lots of “it wasn’t the right fit” interviews, it was so discouraging to hear that I hadn’t gotten something I felt was a good match and a promising opportunity. I cried, I moped, I hugged my dogs. I wanted to shrink away from the world for a while.
But that night I had my last obedience class of the session with Delta. We did Beginner Novice run thrus. Since neither of us is a wallflower, Delta and I went first. The heeling was good and I was getting a feel for our rhythm. A man who’d be flirting with Delta earlier was a figure eight post and it only took a little encouragement for her to ignore him completely. She kept her little butt planted during the sit for exam, looking at me as the instructor touched her back… she looked so different from the pup who started class 6 weeks earlier, the one that couldn’t help but stand and wiggle when a friendly person approached. She craned her head as far as she could during the sit stay while her feet remained still as I walked around the ring.
And finally, the recall. There is something really beautiful about a good recall. When the dog reacts with joy, speed, enthusiasm… and just enough to precision to avoid knocking the handler on their ass. It was always my favorite exercise with Xena. She may have struggled with other things, but she always nailed the recall. She’d come bounding up to me with a grin and I had to smile back.
That night last week, when I had been feeling so low, Delta gave me the gift of a beautiful recall. My not-so-little pup sat eager and alert as I left her. When I gave the command, she sped towards me with a smile. She gathered herself just in time to skid to a stop at my toes and fold into a sit. When I heard “exercise finished”, I exploded with praise. I had a flash of a memory, or maybe several memories, praising Xena for her good work in the ring. I hugged Delta and enjoyed her kisses, and I left the ring feeling energized and happy.
Through these last 5 months, my dogs have given me a schedule when I had none, a reason to go outside when I might have cloistered myself indoors, company during hours that would have been spent alone, and they’ve kept me connected to a wonderful community of like-minded dog people. Most importantly, they have given me comfort and success during a time when I’ve struggled with anxiety and rejection. They have given me balance during a very unbalanced time.
(Also seen in Boxer Daily‘s inaugural quarterly print magazine, July 2013)