Thursday, July 1, 2010

A whole year with my girl, Dori.

I thought it might be time to blog a Dori update. On July 12th, it will be a year since we brought her home.

To anybody else, it may seem that the things we get excited about with her are very minor. So, let me remind you of what it was like the first couple of days. Dori had been at the shelter four months before we adopted her. She had been rescued from a property miles from no where, that had 200 dogs all fighting for food, water. I can't imagine she had any human contact. Dogs were tied to whatever, there were no trees, a few travel trailers or non-functioning vehicles. There was no grass visible to me in the videos.

Dori came into the house and tried to hide in Maggie's kennel. Maggie wasn't happy about that, but let her. If Dori was taken out of the kennel, like for a walk outside, Maggie claimed her kennel back and Dori was out a hidey hole. The next day, Dad brought home a kennel he found on Craigslist, and then they both had their own hidey holes and all was just fine. She wouldn't leave her kennel, wouldn't go into the next room, the kitchen, for food or water so her dish was placed next to her kennel. The dish has the ability to have a bottle attached so she doesn't run out, but it scared her, so, no bottle. She wouldn't come when called, unless leashed, and then she goes where ever she is lead with tolerance, not necessarily willingly. Because she can do zero to sixty in seconds, she could never be let off-leash. She stayed in her bed all day, never leaving, never roaming. No touching, no eye contact and never talking. If the 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan told her that, she faithfully followed his training: She wouldn't touch us, she wouldn't look at us and she never vocalized anything to us. The one shining, brilliant, bright spot: We took her to a park we liked and immediately it was apparent that this was Dori's park.

Those first few months were agonizing. I read books on dealing with shy dogs. The most helpful was to give her food from the palm of my hand. Also, yawning. Apparently, it is dog-signal to be calm or that things are calm and OK. It took weeks to unlearn putting my hand in front of my mouth when 'yawning'. Covering my mouth was defeating my purpose. I'm sure to her it looked like I was hiding a signal to be calm, how confusing! As much as I love watching 'Dog Whisperer' I wasn't really learning much as he deals with aggressive breeds more often than nervous. I'm still watching whenever he's on, because I need the attitude infusions, but I have to pay more attention to her, herself, and what she's telling me.

After a couple of months, I wanted to get her out of the kennel and more involved in what is happening in her home. So, we took both kennels out to the garage, and I brought down a comforter she had been sleeping on upstairs but had given up for a dog bed in a different corner with a blanket or an old towel on it. She stayed on the comforter in the corner of the living room for months. One day, she must have gotten cold so she walked out of her corner and up onto the loveseat next to her bed. We were amazed because she finally had moved. It had been more than six months. From that point she watches everything. She watches Dad walk around the house, she lets me sit next to her and knit, if something makes her uncomfortable she jumps down and back to her comforter. That's where she gets her treats and her dog dish is still there beside it.

One thing that I was afraid to do was bathe her. I was terrified I would botch it and it would be so mortifying an experience that should would never let me do it again. So, one night, after she'd become extremely oily, when Maggie and Dad had left the house, I went upstairs and called her. I 'yawned' over and over, puttering around the bedroom, gently, nonchallantly closing the doors so if she became frightened she couldn't escape, gently approaching and scratching the chest area between front legs and unclipped the collars, picked her up and carried her to the tub in the bathroom, let her sniff around, then turn the water on low pressure, and let her check that out and the puddle forming a pool, showed her the shampoo bottle and let her smell the open end, scooped little handfuls of water over her back then a little shampoo in my hand and started lathering her up. All very slowly, never saying anything but little whispers 'yes, yes' (trying for positive assurance). Slow, gentle massaging, starting to rinse when the water was starting to chill. At one point she put her paws up on the edge of the tub, it felt that she was looking for escape over my shoulder but, not seeing one, she just rested her muzzle on my shoulder instead. I almost cried. I know I teared up. When I thought I had all the soap off of her, I wrapped her in a towel and picked her up out of the tub. I sat on the floor of the bedroom and rubbed her with the towel for a very long, slow time, maybe half an hour, because she allowed me to and I think it was very calm, comforting for both of us. I never gave a dog a bath before so for me, this was a very positive experience I could do again.

After that, there may have imperceptible changes. She 'tags' me. She walks up to me when she thinks I'm not looking or not paying attention and touches her nose to the calf of my leg. At first I tried to reach down and pet her in return but she has always been afraid of anybody reaching for her in any way, whether the direct bending down to her, crouching down to her level or the recommended non-aggressive sideways approach. So, I just let her touch me and then make a point of eye-contact with her so she can see me smile. Sometimes, I blink my eyes and 'yawn' and she seems content with that. I have also found that she is completely comfortable to my leaning down, usually sort of sideways, and just hanging my hand, the back of it to her so she can smell, usually she does touch her nose to the back of my hand, making contact with me that way. We will do that several times a day now, mostly when we walk. I think we 'make contact' this way, her way, gently, non-aggressively, calmly maybe 20 times a day.

There have been a few mishaps. She is afraid of the dark and loud noises. I work really hard at 'ignoring' her fears. I 'yawn' and keep going the direction we were headed. But, occasionally, I don't think she takes full advantage of the last walk before bed and a few times she has urinated indoors. The training of the pack leader! We try to be more considerate of giving her more opportunity to get her business done. Another thing we found is that riding in the truck for very long, maybe more than 5 minutes makes her sick. We have tried a couple things to help her, like holding her on my lap so she can see the world pass her by, feel the wind in her face. That seems to help some. For longer trips, we make sure she has her kennel hidey-hole, and half an over-the-counter motion sickness pill. When we first brought her home, she still had a little rib showing, by now she has filled out a bit. She has been fighting tapeworms ever since we brought her home, this last time we treated her with something prescription strength from the vet at the shelter. It seems apparent to me that she probably had them from before the rescue by the shelter, being walked by every different shelter personnel they may not have noticed she had worms and never treated her for them. The vet suggested that maybe she was being re-infected and I said 'I didn't think that likely as the other dog hasn't had them and they are not outside dogs.' I think I may have been defensive, but I was more concerned about her than placing blame. If this stuff finally does it, like everybody else seems so confident it will, then she may put on a little more weight, and finally the gaunt rib look will disappear.

We try to make a point of walking every day. She insists on walking as far in front of me as the leash will allow. That bothers me, but I have not yet figured out how to overcome it completely. In the last three weeks, after being completely worn out from Dori's pulling out front (we just don't walk fast enough!) and Maggie's dragging behind like an anchor, finally getting home and needing a nap myself, I decided to tether them to each other. That seems a little better, it forces Maggie to move more with the rest of us instead of her own independent speed, and it has slowed Dori down. In fact, on the way out she is beside me while we walk, where she should be, I guess. On the way back, Maggie's brakes are lifted a bit, she knows we are on the way back to Dad and breakfast, and she is more compliant with the pace. I take them for a long hour in the morning, then, if the sun hasn't set and it's not raining, we go for a short walk in the park as soon as we can get there after closing the office. The afternoon walk is all four of us, something she recognizes when it's about to happen and we are nearly ready to go, she begins to make squeaky whining noises. If she is on the loveseat, she stands up, tail curled up over her back and almost talks by whining. She still has a difficult time moving herself out the door, we are trying to patiently wait her out, however, on occasion we have to put the leash on her to get her out the door. It is very cool when she goes all the way out the door and lets us leash her then. It is also a treat for us to finally hear her making a noise of any kind.

When we come back from the park, I would get out of the truck and take her with me, walk through the house out to the patio, where I take off her leash and open the gate to the patio. We wait for the engine to turn off then I say, 'Where's Daddy?' and we run around the truck to where he steps out and says, 'There's the pretty girl!' Her tail is up and she runs back to the patio and paces circles, tail up, until we let her in the house. A few times, I left Dori in the truck, but when I opened the patio gate, I can see her head, she is leaning her paws on the console of the front seat, to see me when the truck is parked. She has also done that the few times I've stayed in the truck until it's at the patio and parked, to see we are home.

So, a few months back, we went away for the weekend. Hard to find someplace to go that will let the dogs come but internet searching finally yielded a few different options. So, we loaded up some camping gear, gave our little girl her half a little pill, finally got into the truck without stepping on the Dancing Maggie too many times and went. We stayed in a little self-contained cabin, nothing outstanding for us, but for Dori, it was totally new. When things seem to settle down in the evening, she roamed around the cabin. (This was something she had not done at home. Ever.) She sniffed everything, cleaned out her food dish and had a little water, checked out what Maggie had in her dish and sampled. Maggie doesn't touch kibble when she's on adventure, so that was OK with everybody. Her kennel was beside the bed, so when we went to bed, she slept in her kennel comfortably. We walked a lot that weekend, she enjoy the trailwalking everywhere we went. So, adventuring was an adventure for her too.

Something really new that I wish I could get a picture of: Sometimes when I look over at her after having walked or come in from somewhere, I will see her with her head up, high, her mouth open and almost smiling. When I can catch that I will post it, because it is about as cool to see her do that the sun set or a completely blue sky after months of rainy winter.

In the last few weeks, I did a bad thing. She's actually emptying her water dish more frequently now, so, I thought I would put a bottle on it again, but instead of the big scary two-liter bottle I would put the little innocent 8-ounce one we came home with from somewhere. Well, that little thing was pretty scary too and she stopped drinking her water. We thought if we just waited a couple of days she would get used to it. Nope. She began to roam the house looking for other sources of water. Maggie's dish has the gi-normous two-liter bottle on it, really scary, but hey, her food is tasty too. So, rather than taking the bottle off the dish, I put a bowl of water on the kitchen floor wwwwaaaaayyyyy over on the other side of the room. She walks around the rooms a little more now, usually in the evening, and has even gone so far as to step into the office and take a look around. I'm not taking that little bottle down. I just heard her drinking from that bowl . . .

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