Sometimes life gets in the way

It’s been a few weeks. We have had some upheaval at home that has been causing stress and has therefore not been a good influence on my diet or general happiness.

It all began when two of my dogs, Ruby and Lily, decided to cast aside  congeniality in favor of waging a Hatfield and McCoy style feud. Happily willing to comingle as recently as a couple months ago, they now refuse to reognize each other’s right to exist. Lily seems to have no idea that Ruby outweighs her by 40+ pounds and there are moments when Ruby would just as soon maim her as look at her. At this point both are instigators, but even if Lily is equally happy to start a fight, but Ruby could (and would) finish it. Since the day Ruby grabbed Lily by the neck and started shaking her, we have kept them completely seperated.

On their own, each dog is incredibly sweet. Sending anyone away is not an option.  We don’t do that here, but we also want everyone (people included) safe. These are not just pets, they are family members.  As a result, I’ve researched more than I ever wanted to know about dog on dog agression and we’ve spent upwards of $1000 on animal behaviorists, vet appointments to make sure no one is sick, kennels and training over the past few weeks. Home life sometimes seems like a neverending series of checks to see who’s in, who’s out and who needs to be put in management while the other gets situated. It is like that scene in The Others where Nicole Kidman says that no door can be opened before the other has been closed, except for that it is not with children and sunlight sensitivity but dogs.

The behaviorist says the prognosis is fair to good that we can eventually work some situation where they will be able to be loose in the same room, it we do the work and are consistent. Considering Ruby’s age (she is 11; average lifespan for a dog in this country is about 12.8 years), I wonder if there will be enough time.

It is sometimes hard to know what to do or who to listen to. The whole situation is, frankly, hugely depressing. I am able to rule out any form of treatment or training that is not compassionate simply by listening to my own ethical system. Living things are to be treated with kindness. On that I am and always will be unwaivering. Still, even within a framework of kindness, there is a lot of room for contradictory theories. 

My vet (whom I love -we’ve been going to him for 20 years) says we need to establish one as the dominant dog, the tech/trainer at the vet’s office says we need to (kindly) let them know that we are the bosses here and they need to worry more about us than each other, and the behaviorist sees it all as an issue of reactivity and not dominance. I’m not 100% convinced of that. There is some reactivity (they’re historically more likely to get snippy in specific areas and situations), but a lot of it is jealousy, who gets to go first, etc. I think a lot of it started with Lily being jealous and a pest and Ruby being old and finally having enough of her, but who knows what really goes on in their furry little heads?

The dumbest part is that 95% of the time, they would probably ignore each other. As recently as a month or so ago, the still had moments where they would calmly lay side by side. It’s that 5% when the snarling and shaking (a prey behavior, not a dominance one) begins that’s the problem.  Then, it becomes dangerous because of the size difference. While I’d rather be spending my energy and money on something else, I don’t mind doing it. I just want everyone to be safe and content. They are both good dogs. They’ve both brought me a lot of joy. I couldn’t turn my back on either of them.

Despite the stress they are causing me, they seem to be pretty happy. As a champion worrier, I worry about that too. We have finally settled into a routine that is admittedly a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes, but still manageable and the dogs are getting more one on one time with us than they used to. It is quieter. There is still a lot of work to do, but we haven’t had an incident for a few weeks now.

So what does this all have to do with diet?

I have learned that life happens, that situations that at first seem untenable can become routine. Now matter what my project of the moment is, be it diet or something else, life will always be there. I won’t always respond to it perfectly, but I also can’t just eat it away. That’s really true of any kind of addictive, numbing behavior. The important thing is that when an interruption derails your plans, you don’t forsake the journey altogether. You regroup and hop back on the train. Well, since train rides do nothing for your cardiovascular system, maybe in this instance you walk or bike down the path, but you get the idea.

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