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Happy Third Birthday, Topher!

Tomorrow, Topher turns three! Last year, on his second birthday, I mused something very specific.

So this year, I am wondering what the next year will bring us. Though, I know now that we can handle it, I do kind of hope it’s a little less eventful. Or, I hope it’s eventful in entirely new, different, and less trying ways. We’ll see what happens. I think it’s going to be great.

Well, has it been great?

We’ve settled into a routine, in the last 365 days. That alone is so much better than our start to 2014, and how we spent much of Topher’s second year. We go to reactive dog group classes, Topher spends time at his trainer’s house twice a month, and most importantly, we all just spend time together, as a silly little family.

Finally Accepted

Nothing is more adorable to me than watching our two cats finally, fully accept Topher’s presence in our house. Not that Cooper and Karmina didn’t accept Topher before, they certainly tolerated his goofy existence.

Now, they play and interact with him, making mischief like any cat must. Karmina steals his bed, his toys, and his warmth—when he lets her. Meanwhile, Cooper enjoys riling up Topher for a good round of play fighting, punching him in the nose if he gets too rough. They each have their own way of showing that Topher is a part of the family, and it’s pretty amusing to watch.

Happy 3rd birthday, Topher! We love your silly face.

Progress is Progress

Last October, we were still scratching our heads trying to figure out where we might go next in Topher’s training. A year later, we’ve made major progress, though not in the ways I’d anticipated.

Over the past year, I’ve learned that rehabilitating a reactive dog is a non-linear process. When there are victories, they don’t usually happen in an order you can anticipate.

Through going to his trainer’s house for day camps twice a month, Topher’s made some amazing strides. He’s gone from being unable to feel safe approaching just a single dog, to playing and interacting with a group of up to five dogs in a yard. This is huge!

Just the other day, I dropped Topher off with his trainer and he jumped into the backseat and sniffed the dog investigating him from the front seat, like it was no big deal. (I also tried not to make it a big deal, because being nonchalant is my own challenge these days, so Topher won’t react to my own slight-nerves at these interactions.)

Topher is still highly reactive on leash, and not as successful in group classes. This is because these scenarios are still harder for him to deal with than being in an environment he knows is safe (aka, his trainer’s house).

But progress is progress, and the more we can learn and work with Topher, the more progress we’ll see. Even if it isn’t always what we expect. And I hope we can keep working together for many, many years to come.

Lucy Bennett

Lucy is a writer, artist, and Hufflepuff currently living in Atlanta, Ga. When not making things, she enjoys costuming, tabletop games, and digging in the dirt.

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