There's no way around it--only through it.
Updated: May 17
We obviously needed to leave our fort and venture out into the world. I made a list of everything she was terrified of. Remember, the only tool in her tool box was "a good defense is a better offense." The list was not short. It included: big dogs, medium sized dogs, little dogs, cats, squirrels, rabbits, all people, geese and all birds on the ground (when they took flight apparently that was allowed), horses, trucks, cars driving by, cars pulling up next to us at a red light, skateboards, bicycles, the vet, the six vet techs it took to get her into the vet, plastic bags, discarded water bottles and yes, even her shadow. Literally. Her shadow. Oddly enough, the only thing that didn't make the list was goats. Goats will forever be a mystery.
Moving into a new neighborhood, and one which had an active face book page, the last thing I needed was for her to be labeled and then a knock on the door. For every outing (and there were 3 a day-every day) we loaded up in the garage and drove to where nobody would know us or see us. I found that new neighborhoods under construction were ideal. There weren't any residents (i.e., people and people with dogs) yet but the sidewalks were down. Her "walks" (if you can call it that) consisted of her being on her back two legs as she was held with a harness, two leashes (one around my waist) and a collar. I was becoming an expert of having eyes in the back of my head and on high alert for any perceived danger (i.e., anything on her list). For her, perception was reality. I was becoming hyper vigilant for her and she was hyper vigilant as always. In essence, we had a paranoid-walk scenario going on. I knew there would be no short cuts and that we needed to put in a massive amount of hours of training, and money. We needed a very specialized trainer for dogs who suffered such severe trauma.
Being new to town, I wasn't connected to anyone I knew in the field of dog training. I googled, "Reactive Dog Trainers". "Reactive dog" is a watered down marketing word used to get dogs with severe issues adopted. It's a nice way of saying the dog is a hot mess. I quickly learned that advertising alone doesn't make one an expert in the field. We went through a couple of trainers at their facilities who literally hid behind walls and in their bathroom for her private (not cheap) lessons. My only beef is that there's nothing wrong with only wanting to train puppies in all of their cuteness. That wasn't us. We cut our losses and kept looking.
Finally we found her trainer, Jess. Jess and Jessie--it was meant to be. Her training technique was to teach dogs "calmness". She explained that there's a lot of dogs who know a lot of obedience skills, yet are not calm. Jessie only needed a handful of commands to accomplish our goals. Jessie was super smart but the calm part? I could not envision the path to get her there.
I had Jessie in the basement when Jess arrived at my house. She calmly said, "Let her out."
"Are you out of your mind?" I said in disbelief. I brought her up from the basement, holding onto her harness as she went absolutely ballistic. The result of our hour MMA session was a floor with every excrement one dog could release from its body: foam from her mouth, blood from scratching her face in her flurry, urine, feces. It looked like a crime scene when it was over. Jess said, "There's no short cut. There's no way around it. Only through it." At the end of our time, Jess calmly gathered her things and said, "I'll see you next week at the same time."
"You're coming back?" I said in disbelief.
She was a gift from God. We had a plan.