How training an incorrigible puppy helped an internationally renowned animal behaviorist recover from “multiple traumas.”
During her 25-year career, McConnell (For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend, 2006, etc.) has trained both aggressive dogs "voicelessly telling me how frightened they were" and their owners, many of whom were unable to understand their pets' signals without her direction. As the author notes, throughout her career, she has “used science, art, and empathy to help ‘problem dogs’ have a voice; to listen to what they are trying to tell us and help them and their families be happy together.” She has always felt tremendous empathy for these “fearful, frightened dogs,” whose self-expressions were often misunderstood. McConnell explains how she could never let her guard down because she was scarred by painful events in her past, including sexual exploitation and witnessing a man fall to his death in front of her. She carried these scars into adulthood, resulting in a constant sense of hypervigilance; her “startle response,” she writes, was set to “PANIC.” Though she had her hands full living with three older dogs in varying states of frailty, she decided to adopt Will, a border collie puppy who was alternately a snuggler and a terror. She had no way of knowing for sure, but she believed that Will shared similar prior experiences of shock and trauma. Will gave the author firsthand knowledge that aggressive dogs are often fearful and misunderstood, and they don’t have a reliable method for expressing it. McConnell’s constant struggles to soothe Will finally gave her the courage to speak about her suffering and begin talk therapy and other methods of healing and relaxation. In addition to information sure to appeal to dog lovers, the author provides a compassionate account of the reclamation of her life from abuse and shame.
An uplifting story of hope about how both dogs and humans need "a sense that they are not helpless victims."