The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

July 2012: Inner Alpha

Posted on Jul 18, 2012

The middle of July caught me quite unawares. Here it is a few days past, and I hadn’t given any thought to writing a blog entry. Normally there are numerous thoughts tumbling around in the agitator of my mind, but today I find myself wondering what it is I wish to write about.

Like last month, there would appear to be an obvious choice: our new dog—which could explain why blogging was the furthest thing from my mind. We brought home a 2 year old mutt (mainly a crossbreed of German Shepherd and Heeler—aka Australian Cattle dog) on July 2nd. Life has definitely been an adventure ever since.

A few things come to mind as I consider what to say about life with a new dog. Overall, she is well-behaved and already well-trained. She knows her basic commands and learned her new name, Elsa, very quickly. Being very affectionate, she is a joy to have around. Being very energetic, she requires plenty of exercise and stimulation. And as anyone familiar with canine behaviour knows, one must establish being pack leader to ensure life with a dog is a pleasurable experience. As renowned Dog Whisperer, Caesar Milan, notes: a dog needs exercise, discipline, then love to be balanced. I know a thing or two about being unbalanced myself!

So I am once again on a journey to find and assert my inner Alpha. Our previous rescue dog had similar issues to our new one, so pack leader status was hard-earned in that instance also. Hard to believe what we had all forgotten from our early years with Gracie. We are once again reminded daily of what it takes to be a pack leader—but with the knowledge that a beautiful, long-lasting relationship is the reward.

This need to establish Alpha coincides with my own personal journey to be strong and be my own person. Maybe it’s not a coincidence after all. There is a part of me that believes Elsa is meant to be a part of this small family. While it would be easy for me to stay in my familiar, unassertive ways, Elsa requires me to find within the calm assertiveness to be pack leader. Not an easy task.

There are many times my inner anxieties surface—which only fuel Elsa’s. She then believes she must take care of me. Of course, the irony is I am anxious about Elsa’s behaviour around other dogs whereas she only knows the anxiety, and thinks it is an external threat and not herself that I worry about. I must first convince myself that I can handle the situation before I can convince Elsa she also can be well-behaved around other dogs. Elsa is, in a way, forcing me to deal with my anxieties—discover their root sources, triggers, and eventually an antidote!

Some days I wonder what I have gotten myself into—especially with health concerns that are exacerbated by the physical and mental energy required to contain an excited dog. I remind myself that everyday there are improvements in the balance of home and dog—she is a very quick learner. There is also the reminder of the rich reward of relationship that we experienced with our previous dog. And hopefully there will also be the personal reward of tapping into my calm and assertive self.

It also helps to have understanding neighbours who walk past our place with their own dogs. Maybe in the very near future, I will be able to write about the success of our attempts to socialize this very excitable dog. In the meantime, I will have to discover ways to replenish my depleted energy resources—both mentally and physically—as well as manage those anxieties that surface.

May your day have moments of resurgence to counter the drains on your own inner resources.

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