Stop Letting Your Past Dictate Your Future

The other night I spent 2 hours awake in the middle of an anxiety attack worried about my puppy Porter.  He had a little incident at the dog park.  He got scared and he started to growl and snap at the other dogs.  Now intellectually I know that he’s young and, with all of the restrictions of Covid, he hasn’t been socialized as much as he needs to be. This is something that we can fix and we’re already in the process of doing just that.

My brain, on the other hand, went immediately to “See, I told you so.  It’s happening again.” 

Porter is a rescue and he’s not our first.  My husband and I have always adopted rescue dogs and, while the majority of them have been wonderful, we did have one we couldn’t help. She was a bit of a crazy puppy and she’d been terribly abused and neglected before we got her, but we felt like she’d turned the corner. 

Unfortunately, however, over the next 2 years she became more and more aggressive.  We had to keep her separate from our other dog or she’d try to kill him.  Then she started to growl at people.  She’d do it on walks and then later at times at home.  We took her to trainers, behavior specialists, veterinarians, but no one could help.  Our vet recommended euthanasia. We tried to work with the adoption agency we’d adopted her from, but they literally stopped taking my calls. 

Then one day when I was walking her, she managed to slip out of her gentle leader (it’s like a halter that dogs wear on their face for more control) and almost out of her collar while barking and growling at a family with 2 small children and a dog across the street.  I got her home, but I was so upset that I didn’t realize our other dog was out of his crate.  She went after him.  Fortunately, my husband was home as he was the only one of us strong enough to get her off of our other dog and back into her crate.

I sat there on the floor crying hysterically.  I was both terrified and so sad.  I knew we couldn’t keep living like this.  I knew our vet was right.  It was only a matter of time before someone got hurt.  So the next week he came to our house and put her to sleep.  I had failed her.

Even now as I type that I feel overwhelming shame.  I still hold on to the belief that there was something else I could have done and my brain is more than happy to start telling me that I’m about to repeat that experience with Porter.

The interesting thing, though, is that now I know my brain is wrong.  I don’t know if there’s more I could have done for our previous dog, but I do know that second guessing myself is only causing unnecessary suffering.  I also know that the events of the past are now circumstances in my life and I get to choose how I think about them and what I make them mean. 

The only power the events of your past have over you today is the power you give them by how you choose to think about them.

I’m choosing to learn from our past experiences and I’m 100% committed to making sure Porter has everything he needs to become a well-adjusted and well-socialized dog.  In fact, we’re off to his first puppy behavior and socialization class this afternoon.

If you’d like to learn more about how to stop letting your past experiences run your life right now, I’d love to work with you.