Adjusting our expectations

Welcoming a new puppy into our home we are filled with excitement, love and anticipation for all the potential a new puppy brings. At the same time, we experience anxiety about getting things right, getting the correct training and advice, and ‘doing right’ by our new addition.

This turmoil of emotions is normal, as are the overwhelming feelings of protecting our puppy.


We inevitably begin our puppy training journey with the promise of our puppies developing into our faithful and loyal companions. Alongside this positive anticipation we may have considered what goals we want our puppies to achieve. 


Our desires could be for our dog to become our perfect pet, well behaved, an agility competitor, a winning show dog, an amazing gun dog or the next talent on a TV show.  


We may also bring our personal needs into the relationship.  Our dogs can help our recovery or adaptation from illness, grief, loss. They can help us to adjust to new life circumstances or provide an opportunity to love and nurture another being.  Our dogs can increase our social opportunities, provide hobbies.  They might consolidate our family unit or be with us ‘just because’.


This combination of emotions, circumstances and ambitions can make negotiating those early months with your puppy seem daunting and possibly cloud the bonding process. 


Within the plans and dreams we make we rarely consider a disability – rightly so!  We push negative thoughts to the back of our minds, we can’t plan for the unseen or unknown.  We often ensure we have the financial ability to manage accidents or illness but it would be futile to plan emotionally for all possibilities.   


Poppy, our beautiful girl arrived as a tubby 8 week old bundle of mischief to join our busy family. Our young dog Max instantly accepted her and the kids adored Poppy, she was bright, beautiful and a bundle of fun.  


Puppy training came and went successfully. Poppy loved food, toys and attention. The only issues we dealt with were Poppy’s overexcitement, difficulty toilet training and her ability to execute a HUGE jump over fences and go for a wander.  


In adolescents the toilet training issues increased and resulted in several treatments for bladder infections which resolved the issues. Then behaviour changes became evident (barking, anxiety, overexcitement) as well as a difficult first season, phantom pregnancy and following her second season pyometra and an emergency spay.  Finally Poppy’s life settled down, or so we thought!


By the time Poppy was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy she had passed her KCGC Silver Award, was competent at agility and was shaping up to be a pretty good gun dog.  


Yes, we cried. We were devastated, scared for her future and desperate to get her condition under control.


Epilepsy takes time, and trial and error to stabilise.  Regular vets visits, recording of seizure type, length and frequency is needed.  Managing the raw heartbreak you feel as your stoic dog copes with such forceful seizures that they cause muscle damage is tough.


Finding the time to support and care for her post seizure and restricting / adapting a two year olds dog’s activities to minimise risks is not always easy.  We were warned that epilepsy can intensify and increase and result in death.  We were also advised that Poppy was unlikely to make ‘old bones.’ 


Poppy is fast approaching her 12th Birthday. She’s snoring on the sofa next to me as I write.  My heart is full of love and admiration for this very special dog with a BIG heart.  


Poppy didn’t fulfil my ambitions, reach her training potential, get on a shoot or compete in agility as I’d hoped.  Poppy taught us to appreciate her just as she is, to keep life small for her, be close by and listen to her when she tells us, “today’s not a good day.”


Poppy is a central member of our family, she loves everybody and everyone who knows her smiles at the mere mention of her name.  


She has and is living a fulfilled, active and happy life.  Her epilepsy has been incidental to her amazing life.  Adjustments have been made to accommodate epilepsy but it has neither dominated or dictated her life.  


Poppy has wiggled, bounced, wagged and lately, plodded through life claiming a special place in the heart of all who know her.  


The adjustments have been ours to make, and those will continue with reduced eyesight, hearing loss and arthritis as we do for all senior dogs.


Acceptance, acknowledgement and adaptation have been the key to ensuring this amazing dog has lived a life fulfilled on her terms.  


Here’s to the next few years of Poppy!

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