Massive Mistake Yields a Deeper Bond

Massive Mistake Yields a Deeper Bond

Scout was my first dog (first dog as a bona-fide grown-up that is). She was also the inspiration behind DOG iD (more on that here). We loved Scout more than words can capture…and she returned that love so honestly and beautifully.

When Scout passed away in 2019, we were emotionally wrecked. We missed her more than words can articulate. She was such a big part of our lives…and that part was suddenly gone. 

After many dog-less months, we decided that it was time to bring another furry companion into our pack. A local rescue led us to Molly…

In the process of inviting Molly into our hearts, I made a MASSIVE MISTAKE.

I was trying to replace Scout with Molly.

Our experience with Scout was magical. When she joined our family, she was ready to be adored…and we were ready to adore her right back. 

Our experience with Molly was…well…a bit different. 

Unlike Scout, Molly had a defiant and independent spirit. She’s a bit of a loner, suspicious, cunning, and has a zero tolerance policy for deer, coyotes, and the gray heron that feeds in our backyard pond.

And, for many, many months, she flat-out refused to come inside at night. This was a significant problem because we have neighbors - and those neighbors kinda like to sleep at night. If I couldn’t find a way to coax Molly inside, she would inevitably wake up the neighbors when she began barking incessantly at a coyote or a deer at 2 am or 3 am or 4 am (sometimes all three). So, every night at 9 pm the chase was on. After about 20 exhausting minutes, I would inevitably give up…only to begin the chase again at 2 am, or 3 am, or 4 am. You get the idea.  Writer’s note: I can only hope my neighbors' rage at being woken up in the middle of the night was offset by the hilarity of seeing me run around the yard like a shirtless madman.

And, while chasing my dog around our yard may seem funny to you, the reality was that Molly’s defiance was driving a wedge between us. Yes, I loved her. But, I was also quite pissed. And, while totally unfair to her, I wondered why she wasn't more like Scout. 

At peak annoyance and out of ideas, I recalled what I learned from Vicki - our dog obedience trainer.

Over the course of many training sessions with Vicki it became evident to me that obedience training had very little to do with “dog training.” Vicki never said it outright, but we weren’t in her class to teach the dog how to be obedient. It may have looked like that on the surface. But, what Vicki was really doing was training us humans…not the dogs. She was giving us the skills needed to better communicate with our dogs. Armed with the right communication skills, we could create a better understanding, establish expectations, find common ground, and build trust with our four-legged companions. All of this helped us build deeper bonds with our furry family members.

By reflecting on my time with Vicki, I realized that trust was the missing ingredient between Molly and me. 

In hindsight, it’s no wonder she didn’t trust me. Before she was rescued, her previous humans had left her for dead - freezing in a barn, starving, and covered in maggots. 

In an attempt to build trust with Molly I started spending more time with her. Some of that time was spent practicing the skills we learned in obedience class. Some of that time was simply spent giving some much-appreciated belly rubs.

The transformation in our relationship came pretty quickly.

In a matter of days, when I called her inside at 9 pm, she would actually pause for a moment and look at me. I could almost see her brain processing her decision. Then, she’d dart off into the darkness daring me to give chase. But, that momentary “pause” was progress.

Within a couple weeks, she not only paused to look at me, but she also chose to come inside to greet me with a wagging tail.

Trust was won. A deeper bond was built. 

All Molly needed was a bit more of my time and attention. What we both needed was a more trusting bond.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Probably for a few reasons…

First, if you ever find yourself in a position where you lose a treasured furry family member, I don’t want you to make the mistake I made. Don’t try to “replace” them. All dogs have an endless capacity for love. But, like humans, they have their own unique personalities. And, they deserve to be loved for their uniqueness.

Second, our core purpose at DOG iD is to help you deepen the bond between you and your dog. Molly has helped me understand that a deeper bond requires some effort and intentionality. Here’s my hot take…

No matter how much we love our dogs, chances are that they do some things that annoy the crap out of us. If we’re not careful, those annoyances lead to friction…and that friction can keep us from having the type of dog-human relationship that we truly desire.