Monday, April 4, 2011

Getting to know you.....

Getting to know you,

Getting to know all about you.

Getting to like you,

Getting to hope you like me too....

(song from The King and I)

That old song was running through my head this weekend as Jessie and I get to know one another. No description from a previous home or shelter or foster is ever completely accurate in a new environment – while it may have been true for that person in that space, substitute another person and another space and the behaviour may be different.

Jessie came from bad beginnings – a puppy mill – and through a couple of very unsuitable homes before landing with Broken Promises Rescue, for whom I am fostering. Jessie is about 1.5 years old, a bearded collie, and very, very timid. My primary task is to gradually expose her to new situations in a way that will increase her confidence.

Her biggest nemesis is a car. She is terrified of cars – especially of going in cars. The trip up island in my van was one of drool and nonstop quivering.

Jessie, soaked with drool

Her greatest ally is her crate. Unfortunately she is a wee bit picky about crates – loves plastic ones but not wire ones. And I only have wire ones. Yesterday, I started asking around for a plastic one to borrow, but after some initial resistance that even liver treats couldn’t overcome, she is finally adjusting to the wire crate with a sheet covering the sides. (As I write this, my friend Else is bringing over a plastic crate for Jessie - a better choice as Charley believes all wire crates are her personal property but won't be caught dead in plastic.)

Settling in

Because she is such a timid dog, it is important for her to have a place she feels safe and secure. As I’ve written before, on the post about crate training, a properly crate trained dog sees a crate as a den, a haven, not a cage or jail. Jessie is one dog who really needs a haven.

Jessie has some other challenges on which we are already working. She doesn’t know how to ask to go outside to go to the bathroom. But she is learning, and a quick “uh uh – outside!” results in her running to the door with me to finish the job on the grass.

She also pulls like a Trojan. While I was told a quick “uhuh” brings her back in line, this hasn’t been my experience so far. Once she has done her business and received her treat, she practically drags me back to the house. That is a problem for me (I have a spinal/hip problem that makes it impossible for me to walk heavy pullers), so I will need to work with her indoors on leash heeling, where the door to the house is not a distraction. And I’m making arrangements to borrow a ‘no pull’ harness for her.

And at the moment, “ Walkies” is not in Jessie's vocabulary. Our one foray outside of the fenced back yard, just onto the driveway - resulted in her having a meltdown - a quivering, shivering, hunkered down, not-going-anywhere sad-little-muppet meltdown. We shall try again in a couple of days, this time leaving through the gate on the other side of the house, away from the car and driveway. Our journey of exposing Jessie to the outside world will be taken with baby steps.

Jessie has a lot of really good traits.

She has a lovely “sit”. She will sit for anything. Because she has a tendency to paw and jump up for attention, the rescue was teaching her she only gets attention or treats when four paws are on the ground. We are continuing with that training – not even a pat on the head unless all paws are down.

She is, so far, a very quiet dog. In the house, she is silent – no barking or whining at all. This morning, for the first time since her arrival on Saturday, she let out a joyous WOOF when we headed for the back yard at six AM. She has a very clear WOOF, not a bark or a yip or an arf - a clearly articulated contralto “WOOF”. There’s nothing more annoying than a yappy dog, so I consider a contralto woof to be a good trait!

I'm quiet, but I know how to WOOF!

She is a quick learner. Initially, she trembled violently each time I picked up the leash to take her into the yard. The very sight or sound of the leash was enough to send her running. I think she was afraid I was going to take her out in that puke-producing metal box on wheels again. So I left the leash clipped to her Martingale collar and let her drag it around for a day, and now she is just fine with it.

She is great with other dogs, cats and people. She is a bit of an attention hog, but that bodes well for her to become attached to a future companion, and also makes training that much easier. She wants to please.

I'm smilin' now!

Jessie will be a work-in-progress. But for the right home, this muppet of a dog will one day soon be a great companion.


georgia little pea said...

I know Jessie is in a good place now. But what on earth could have happened in just 1 and a 1/2 years to make her this way? So sad to read - she seems terrified of everything! :(

I didn't realise you had a bad spine/hip. That would make walking a puller VERY hard indeed. I've just more or less recovered from a meniscopy and find walking G quite tough. Though she's no puller, she's a fast walker. My poor Other Half has just been diagnosed with gout and osteoarthritis in the last month, so you can imagine what our walks are like these days! I hope Jessie learns to walk more calmly soon. You're a champion for taking her in with your condition! :)

I read a lot about crating in dogblogs. I don't know anyone who uses them here, though I can see it would have been very handy in G's early destructo days.

Look forward to reading about Jessie's Progress. Have a great day! BTW, I love that 3rd pic of her - gorgeous eyes.

Anonymous said...

Jean she sounds a lot like Tess when I got her. Walking her with quiet calm Archie did her a world of good and bosted her confidence.
If Sadie isn't up to it, I can bring Archie or Tanner down to walk with her and see if that helps.
I hope Sophies crate works for her.


Caroline said...

what a beautiful dog!
I don't know if you have heard of anxiety wraps but I have one for my girl who tends to be afraid of loud noises. it took about a week of her getting used to the anxiety wrap but now she loves wearing it. The effect this wrap has had on her has been amazing! So maybe something like that could really help Jessie as well.

Jean said...

GLP, not sure why she is so terried of cars in particular, but she is quickly becoming comfortable in the house now, so that is a huge improvement. As for the spine/hip - I have had a degenerative disk problem for years and years, but really got screwed after a car accident in 1995 that left me with seven pelvic fractures, including both hip joints - and, of course, osteoarthritis. Maybe that's why I'm so sympathetic to senior dogs with mobility problems!!

Else, Jessie won't be ready to walk with Archie or Tanner for quite a while yet - first we have to get her to the end of the driveway without having a meltdown! She might, however, be ready for a backyard playdate with one of your dogs by the weekend.

Caroline, when Lucy was here I used a dog jacket as an anxiety wrap and that certainly helped. Thanks for reminding me to try it with Jessie.

georgia little pea said...

You've just been elevated to sainthood in my books! That sounds terribly serious and excrutiating, even to read.

What is an dog anxiety jacket?

Jean said...

GLP, a dog anxiety jacket (or anxiety wrap or shirt)is a snug piece of dog wear which provides a constant, gentle pressure and seems to help calm anxious dogs - the concept is much like that of swaddling a baby to help keep the baby calm.
One can purchase dogwear specifically designed with this in mind (for example, the Thundershirt) for about $30-40 Cdn., but I have found a snug fleece-lined dog coat, soft snug dog sweater or even a child's small teeshirt works equally well.

Anonymous said...

Jessie is beautiful - lucky to have landed with you for a while, Jean.

I hope the anxiety jacket (your version) works for her.

I saw the retail ones for the first time last week at Harvey's in Langley, had never heard of them before.

Good luck to you both!