How do you repair broken trust? If the issue is big enough, there is no remedy – no second chance. If the relationship is important enough, then a way must be found to restore trust. But how?
Normally, I think of this regarding someone who has broken my trust, but not this time. About four months ago, I was the one who broke trust. Garnet came to us as a rescue dog with deep fear and distrust that I thought had mostly resolved through the years in our home. I had the best knowledge of a situation and acted accordingly, but I didn’t consider Garnet’s feelings. My well-meaning actions damaged her trust in me. First, I took her for a walk down the neighborhood trail that my other dogs love. The skateboarders and bicycles that passed her startled her, but I thought she handled things well. (See Garnet in a post about happy walks, here!
Then a few days later, I took Garnet to the groomer. She didn’t want to go, so I took our poodle and then came back for Garnet. She greeted me excitedly, thinking she had dodged the bullet. I reached for her, picked her up, and took her to the groomer. Garnet was a puppy-mill rescue, and I know that she dislikes being confined. So for the past six years, I’ve taken her to a groomer ten minutes from my house. I take her when the grooming starts, and I pick her up as soon as she is done, to minimize the amount of time she waits in a crate. I took her to the usual place and the usual groomer, but Garnet would not get over it. What I did wasn’t bad by most human standards, but Garnet has her own values.
Her loss of trust was immediate and profound. She would not let me approach her. When the other dogs were getting the routine treats with medication, Garnet ran away. Eventually, she would eventually let me come close to give her a treat, but she would not take it from my hand. After I had dropped it at her feet and backed away, she would take it. Mostly, she ran from me a lot. She wouldn’t sit on the bed with me, insisting on staying on the floor. I was devastated. I understood that in her mind, I had betrayed her trust. How was I going to earn it back?
stopped taking her for walks, but I couldn’t just let her hair go wild. Since she’s a schnauzer mix, Garnet’s hair keeps growing, and I keeping it groomed avoids mats in her hair that pull and hurt. It grew to the point that it started to mat. I didn’t want to take her to the groomer, as much as she needed to go. The pet sitter who was so kind and helpful when my father died last year just started a mobile grooming service, so I called her and made an appointment. She brought her specially outfitted van to my home to groom Garnet. The van was pretty spiffy and had all the water and equipment that she needed for her work. I told her about Garnet’s anxiety, and I was allowed to stay the entire time. As she worked on Garnet’s coat, the groomer explained that after a dog gets washed, many grooming businesses put the dogs in a box cage with three high-powered blow-dryers shooting at the dog from different angles. She said it is traumatizing for many dogs, and after feeling the power of her hand-held industrial blow-dryer, I believed it. It wasn’t at all like the one I use at home on my hair. I had no idea they would do that to my dog, and I was beginning to understand Garnet’s problem with the pet shop groomer. I heard that many dogs die each year due to grooming incidents, such as forgetting a dog under the heated blow-dryers where they then overheat, or due to respiratory distress. I began to feel ill.
During the session with the mobile groomer, I held and petted Garnet wherever I could without being in the way. The groomer took her time; she was gentle and kind to Garnet the whole time. I had to watch across van during the bath, but Garnet seemed comforted by being able to see me. Otherwise, I was close to her, touching, soothing, and speaking to her. She left the van feeling and looking good.
After that appointment, Garnet’s demeanor totally changed. She occasionally takes treats from my hand and has returned to snuggling with me when I’m meditating or on the computer. Most importantly, she sleeps all night on the bed with me, something that she had never wanted to do before. She would stay for a little bit, but never all night, until now. She seems to be much happier with me, and more affectionate. (See how loving she can be in Heart-toHeart Resuscitation) I still invite her to walk with me, making clear it is her choice. She has gradually gotten to where I can approach her while discussing a walk, even petting her when I ask if she wants to go. Instead of running, she allows me to approach, but pins her ears back and cowers. So the answer is still “no.” I accept her choice and leave her home, taking another dog.
I recognize now that Garnet will never be as robust as my other dogs. She’s a sensitive soul and her needs are complex. Now, a question for my readers, many of whom are pet lovers. How can I take her for walks again without upsetting her? Garnet isn’t food-motivated, so I can’t just give her treats if a bicyclist passes us on the sidewalk. Do I need to go to areas that avoid bicyclists? That’s pretty hard in this area and severely limits our choices. I’m open to suggestions about how to help Garnet further, just leave me a comment! Thank you!