It's funny, as a child and young adult I was always more partial to cats. I wasn't particularly interested in the dogs. It wasn't until I was in my twenties, when a bad break-up and a birthday present for said ex resulted in my acquiring a puppy, that I became a bonifide dog lover. That dog was Tessa. Over the years I have learned a tremendous amount about dogs, especially Border Collies.
I started out with two books purchased from Chapters talking about how to train a puppy. I picked up more strategies (most of which I've since discarded) from the ranchers who I rode and roped with. My dog became my traveling companion, out of necessity going where I went. (I had no one to care for her.) I became a champion problem solver, using whatever resources were available to me, tapping into student "puppy sitters" so I could meet my professional obligations and my new found pet parenthood obligations. I quickly learned my former lifestyle wasn't going to work and adapted accordingly.
I have learned that there is no magic answer for problems, that all animals are individuals and should be trained and treated as such. I took hours of lessons trying to master the challenge of developing a herding dog. A journey I'm still very much on. I've made mistakes. And I've learned from each and every mistake I've made. I can only hope I've learned enough to not repeat them!
I've learned that books and the Internet experts aren't always right. This latest lesson has been most clear after having the opportunity to watch my puppies grow into teenagers. Case in point: Zoey was the most assertive female pup and she is the best socialized and friendliest teenager. Ryder was my most active and hyper pup and he has grown into a calm and easygoing adolescent. Diva has turned into a bold and brave young dog. If I had picked a pup based on their traits at 8 weeks (and based on what I had read), I would discover those traits did not hold true to who they are today.
I've learned a tremendous amount about dog language and behavior. I've had the opportunity to giggle as Diva slithers up to a sleeping Ryder and requests some play. I've stared in amazement as Reba, Tessa and Ryder slept peacefully at my feet. I've felt severe amounts of frustrations as Reba and Tessa go to war. I've learned how to deal with problems using positive strategies. I've learned oodles about the care both medical, physical and emotional for the dogs. I'm a continued student about Border Collie quirks, genetic features and breeding.
And most of all, I've learned about myself. I've discovered a deeper self-awareness. It becomes increasingly clear that most of the time when I have trouble with the dogs my ego has gotten in the way - creating it. Or I've skipped steps. Either way, I've learned.