Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Enigma


As Jessie's personality unfolds, she is proving to be somewhat of an enigma. She is, without a doubt, the smartest dog I have ever known (uh-oh, better cover Sadie and Charley's eyes when I write that!), an incredibly quick learner with an excellent recall of what is expected of her.

But as she comes out of her shell, she also shows more and more fear. She is the most timid dog I have ever known. We need to pay a visit to Oz to seek out some courage from the Wizard.

The hum of the exhaust fan on the pub a block away, the noise of a truck unloading at the grocery store the next road over, a child's voice shrieking in excitement two doors up, visiting dogs barking behind the fence across the lane - these are certainly a few of her least favourite things. She trembles. She shakes. She cowers and quakes. Her tail is tucked in so tight you can't see it. The noise, foster mama, stop the noise! Unleashed in the fenced yard she paces madly and constantly between me and the back door; leashed to my side, she pulls me right over in her attempt to bolt from everyday sounds.

Even in the house, outside noises send her racing back and forth down the hallway. Unexpected movements by visitors produce loud barking and a two-step "I'm gonna get you, oh no I'm not" reaction. Yet when visitors are still, she is the first of thre three dogs to lean against them and lift her happy muppet face or huge fluffy paws in an attempt to coerce some pats from them.

When all is quiet, completely quiet, she is amazing. She has quickly learned to fetch a frisbee, sit and wait at each door, stop in the mudroom and lift each paw for wiping (this is soooo cute - I just call 'Muddy Paws' as she enters the house and she plonks her bottom down and lifts her paws - and doesn't move until I've wiped them!!!).

When it is completely quiet in the house or yard, she heels on leash perfectly. She has learned to stop barking, on command - one "Enough!" and she quits trying to scare away the innocent pedestrian walking down the street. When I say "crate" she runs right in; when she needs out she runs to the door and rings the poochie bells hanging there. She figured out the I-cube (a toy in which balls are stuffed for the dog to pull out) in about two minutes flat. I show her what I want just twice, and she has it.

Unless..... unless there is a noise outside. Any noise. The slightest noise. And then she doesn't hear. She doesn't sit. She doesn't fetch. She doesn't heel. She doesn't stop. She doesn't even glance at the wonderful, yummy, smelly, highly prized liver treat in my hand in front of her nose.

The only thing in her world is fear.

And that is the challenge we face.

It is a challenge beyond my level of competency. Broken Promises Rescue, for whom I am fostering, will be working with me to figure out a plan for Jessie, a solution that works for all of us. That is what a good rescue does. That is their job. Mine, for now, is to keep her safe.

Three dogs in a row


Cathy said...

I know that you will have no end of help regarding Jessie's sound sensitivity: desensitization to specific controllable sounds, high drive dog sports and these days, drugs etc.

Having lived with a sound sensitive Border collie, my advice to you is to train yourself to hear as she hears. Learn about that boundary between her being able to eat a treat and not. Play with that area, building up the noise = treat expectation.
I look forward to hearing about her progress.

Jen said...

Poor Jessie! I understand a little bit what that's like- Spike, when I rescued him fro the SPCA cowered at noises too and still has a certain level where he shuts down and can't tolerate it. It took time, repeated, gentle exposures and I am sure a certain amount of time/patience/dumb luck because I sure didn't know what I was doing either!!

She's lovely; here's hoping a plan emerges so that she can get on with the life she is meant for! :)

Jen and the black dog crew

georgia little pea said...

I hope Georgia doesn't catch me typing this but...I think I may have a dud here. Shhh.

Happy Easter to you, Charley, Sadie, Jessie The Genius (and whatever other critters may be living with you at the moment) xox

Dom said...

I have found that smart animals are the hardest to build confidence with. A dumb animal you can trick, even if something really is scary, but a smart animal will find reasons to be afraid. Ozzy was like that when I got him and it was quite a struggle to get him brave. I'm no dog expert, but I hope you'll have the same success.

Dawn said...

Well Jean, you know what worked for my Daphne. Lots of exercise and other interests. She doesn't seem to have any anxiety at Toni's.

I agree about smart dogs. Some are too smart and it gets them in trouble. A dumb dog doesn't worry.

Caroline said...

Could Jessie possibly have autism? That does exist in dogs, though rare.
I found this on it