It takes a village to help a fearful dog.
Lyra and I took our first puppy classes at DogGone Right! Margaret Pender (owner/trainer) and Blanche Axton (trainer) introduced me to positive reinforcement training — while Lyra had a blast playing with the other pups. Margaret and Blanche also came to our house to give an assessment and additional training; they continue to be a great support, and Margaret went out of her way one summer to help Lyra feel safer in a car. I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon her training centre. We are also lucky in our vets and their staff, who treat Lyra patiently and who listen to my concerns.
I’m deeply grateful to my husband, who had to deal with his own fears about getting a dog in the first place; who quickly warmed to Lyra; and who is now firmly committed to her well-being in spite of the huge demands on our time and resources. Our children, too, are wonderful helpers; they play with Lyra outside while I vacuum the house (to spare her the sound); they encourage me when I get frustrated (which happens a lot!). On the whole, family and friends have been patient — considering that Lyra took over my life, and that she can be difficult company. I’ve spent many hours talking on the phone to my sister about every idiosyncrasy and symptom that perplexes me. I’ve had invaluable support from dog owners — in person and online — and border collie enthusiasts.
I mention all of this out of gratitude — but also to make a point about the demands of a fearful dog on the owner and family. I had no idea how much Lyra would impact all our lives. We visit family less often; we hardly ever go to concerts or shows together now; our bank account is emptier — all because of this dog. Not only can we not bring her places; it’s also hard to find people willing or able to look after a “difficult” dog, and a kennel is out of the question.
For me, it comes down to an ethical question: If you want to keep a fearful dog, you must put in the work to limit her fears. It affects all the people in your life, costs money, and requires you to ask for a lot of help — whether you find this easy or not (I don’t). Having said this, Lyra is also a gift in my life, and I want to thank her too <3