I have a friend who calls her dog “recovering reactive.” I like that term. It's a nice nod to the past while simultaneously acknowledging the progress her dog has made. Despite this, I have never felt comfortable claiming the label as our own; I didn't feel that Maisy was at the point where I could call her “recovering.”
Well, I think it's time.
First, she relaxed in class. Then, she realized that dudes really aren't that bad. Plus, who can forget her laid back evening with a pack of dogs and a bunch of people?
And now? Well, today she was awesome.
It started out with a trip to the vet for her annual exam. We walked in, and there were three very fiesty Westies in the waiting room, barking their fool heads off and straining on their leashes towards us. Maisy glanced over at them, wagged her tail softly, and then smiled at me. We walked up to the front desk on a loose leash, and she sat by my side, still wagging softly, her eyes barely leaving my face. We went into the exam room, and Maisy laid down at my feet while we waited for the doctor. She continued to be calm and relaxed throughout the appointment, even when she had a bunch of blood drawn.
I was proud of how she'd done, and if the day had ended there, I would have been quite happy with her behavior. But it didn't end there. On the way home, I stopped to see a friend at a conformation show. I left Maisy in the car, and when I returned to check on her, I was happy to find her pretty relaxed. Although I hadn't planned to bring Maisy in- she'd had quite the day already with those Westies, after all- when I got her out to stretch her legs, she pulled me to a mud puddle and began drinking out of it. I decided we'd best go inside to get a drink of (clean) water.
We walked past this:
And down this hall:
And the whole time, she was gently wagging her tail and smiling at me. I even carried a full bowl of water in my leash hand without spilling any! If you saw her, you'd never know she was reactive. We weren't inside for very long, but still- that was a pretty overwhelming environment for Maisy, and she had to walk right by several big dogs
I was so, so proud of her. In fact, I was so proud that I think my friend got tired of me saying, “But she walked past all this! And she was calm!” Meanwhile, Maisy was out in the car for another couple of hours, still pretty relaxed when I returned. Wow.
So, that whole reactive label? It's a thing of the past. From now on, I will think of Maisy as a recovering reactive dog. I think it's time.