You can see in the photo accompanying this blog, our beautiful German Shepherd Radar. At the time of writing this he is 11.5 years old, which is really impressive.
We have had him since he was 3 months old and it has been a whirlwind. He was a rescue dog. He and his puppy sisters were rescued from a breeder who had no conscience. His Mum was mistreated and the pups were taken away very early and separated from her due to circumstances outside the control of their rescuers.
We had only lost our old dog of 15 years a couple of months before. Our kids were pestering us to get a new dog and decided they wanted a rescue German Shepherd puppy. Naively I told them they would not be able to find one.
My son came back to me pretty quickly and said they had some puppies at a local rescue shelter and “could we go and see them”? We did and the rest is history. Radar joined our family.
Now German Shepherds are high on the anxious spectrum. It makes them great police dogs. Super loyal and very protective.
Of course I had no idea how crazy Radar was going to be. With my deep knowledge of what causes anxiety, I can now look at him and understand all his seemingly crazy behaviours with fresh eyes. But at the time….
Right from the get go he loved to chase. Chase balls, chase people, chase the garden rake, chase the beam from a torch. He was really OCD. Loved to have structure, needed things done in a particular order to feel comfortable and relaxed. Only liked certain people and kept his social circle very small – keeping everything safe. Just like any person who has experienced trauma.
His nervous system was dysregulated. Adrenaline and cortisol coursed through his body at really high levels. When he was only 4 months old, our vet told us his heartbeat was dramatically irregular due to the raised levels of adrenaline. His prognosis was that Radar would not live past 10 months old.
At the time, being in high anxiety myself, I obsessed about him dying. Every day I would dread coming downstairs in case he had died during the night. But as you will already know, he defied the odds and has lived a full life.
We love and adore him.
Of course, I have since then overcome anxiety and trauma myself. Unfortunately, you can’t explain to a dog how to re-regulate their nervous system. Radar can’t listen to hypnotherapy audios to calm himself & install new healthy neural pathways. And I haven’t been able to work with him to address his emotional and mental blocks and grow his emotional literacy!
I do think how amazing it is that I have had this crazy, anxious dog during this period of my life. As he ages he is still wacky but much calmer and more sure of himself. His journey mirrors mine in many ways. One of resilience in the face of challenge. Of being an overcomer.