I've heard dogs mirror your energy. I believe it. When I first got Milly I would worry about her being anxious a lot. And guess what, she was anxious a lot--when I'd leave, when we saw new things, being around other dogs, etc.
I have to admit, amongst other things, I watched some episodes of the Dog Whisperer. I realized that we transfer our energy to our dogs. If you've ever watched the show or if you do, most of the dogs issues are just mirrors of the owner's issues. In one episode he had a woman visualize/channel her inner queen (Cleopatra specifically) when she would walk the dog to exert dominance over the dog and to promote the right energy for the dog.
I started using that type of energy when I walked Milly. I may or may not have channelled my inner Cleo. I may or may not have gotten more cat calls than usual on 700 East. It felt good and Milly started showing more confidence herself. We even started walking at the Cottonwood dog park off leash. Sometimes I still get a little nervous if I see some big dogs coming (because I assume Milly will be nervous, which she will if she senses it from me), but I check those feelings and channel my confidence and calmness to Milly. Maybe that sounds weird but it makes sense once you've done it.
I think I've actually felt a change in my own confidence and energy even when I'm not with Milly. Because I've been checking my energy when I go out with Milly, now when I go into a social situation or just anywhere and I feel some anxiety, I check myself and pull that calm, confident energy out. Confidence is all in your head. So, it's been good for me.
Dogs like consistency and routine. Milly doesn't have any idea what a weekend is. When it's time to potty or eat, she let's me know even if I'm still trying to sleep (she's learned a good, cold nose to the armpit, gets me up quick). Consistency is not a strength for me, so I'm a work in progress for that one. Before Milly, I had a hard time keeping my plants alive cause I forget to water them.
Some days I don't feel like I have time to deal with her needs, but I have to set the time aside to take her for walks and take care of her needs first.
Actually the biggest self control issue I've had to conquer is giving her discipline before affection. I've been a bit of a pushover, but sometimes I need to assert my dominance as the pack leader. Part of it is I feel so bad that Milly had such a crappy life and was abused before I got her that I want to make up for that. But I have to remember that I need to give her what she needs, discipline, to make her "happy".
Along with the self control to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, I've had to give up some of my wants to take care of Milly. Before I got her and was thinking about getting a dog, I decided I would be totally committed to it emotionally and financially. She's cost me a little more in medical bills than I would have liked, but what would I have done with that money? Spent it on stuff for me. Eh.
Sometimes I would have rather just gone running somewhere on my own or biking, but if I don't have time for both, I take Milly for a walk or slow jog. Sometimes I even have to give up my "training" time to give her the walk. (According to Cesar and many dog experts, the most important thing to dogs is exercise, discipline, and then affection.) It's not that much a of a sacrifice. Walking Milly is one of my new favorite activities. It makes me so happy to see her run and show her new found confidence. She has come so far from that scared, sad little rescue dog when I first got her.
I learned how to tell if a dog is dehydrated--tacky gums and lack of elasticity in the skin. I learned that if you have to get saline shots to rehydrate your dog, it's very expensive. I've learned what a seizure in a dog looks like--dilated eyes, disoriented, they paw the air, and may start running into things. I also learned that it's common in dogs and not to panic unless it lasts longer than 5 mins, happens multiple times in 24 hours, or is accompanied by a fever.
I've also been reminded of the joy of running. I "train" a lot so I go for a specific distance at a specific pace and forget that joy and freedom I feel when I run. The first time I saw Milly run, it was a thrill to see the grace and joy in her little body. Her whole energy is different when she runs. It's good. When I walk or jog with her, it makes me smile sometimes to see her running. It's a good emotional release for me.I don't know who has benefited more from our new pack, me or Milly. Well, from what I know of Milly's past, probably Milly, but the past 6 months has been a grand adventure with my little companion.