Me & Rosie

photo of a person and a dog

Me & Rosie

This first week of me and Rosie has been full of ups and downs.  I lost my temper with her yesterday.  It didn’t involve hitting, but it involved anger and Rosie knew it.  My day wasn’t going well and Rosie was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I apologized for my outburst immediately.  But I felt like a shit for doing it.  She forgave me, but I’m not sure I can forgive myself.

What did she do?  I wanted to go for a walk.  She was reluctant, mostly because she’s unhappy on a leash.  She’ll come along but not enthusiastically.  I needed her to go on leash for the first part of the walk because we had to thread our way through cows.  I needed her to keep up and didn’t want a 40 lb dead weight on the end of that leash.

I yanked.  She cringed.  I yanked again and demanded that she come.  She cringed some more.  And then when I caught myself — when I realized I was the one being the jerk, not her — I had to make it right.  She watched closely as I reached into my pocket for a doggie treat, but when I bent over her to offer it she flattened herself to the ground.

She expected to be hit.

I don’t hit dogs, but how would she know that?  It was my fault, dammit.  I was in such a bad temper, though, that I could not continue on the walk with Rosie.  So I took the leash off, told her we were going back to the house, and she followed just fine.  She licked me when I sat down on the porch stairs to apologize.  I felt like an even bigger shit.

I have to remind myself that she’s had five years or so being treated one way, and I’ve had a week of my way.  There are no instant results when training critters of any kind, not unless there’s fear or pain involved.  I know that.  I just have to keep remembering that the memory of pain and fear is a very loud one.

Meanwhile, Tux and Lili and Rosie are working out a kind of detente.  I still don’t trust them alone with each other, but I’m talking to them a lot, asking them to get along.  Tux is still the king of outside, but inside he’s not in his own jurisdiction.  Lili and Rosie seem to be getting along okay — no love there yet, but they’re well into toleration.  Neither of them has any desire to share the house with Tux, but if Rosie is going to have access to the yard then everybody knows Tux will come inside.

Always the challenges.  But there are successes, too, or at least signs of progress.

Rosie occasionally chews on the dental bone (gotta deal with that tartar, don’t you know) but is flummoxed by the ball.  I bounce it and she watches it, but that’s all.  She’s still wary of the horses — and rightfully so — but is now willing to go near the horse pens.  She doesn’t pee in the house, doesn’t go in the garbage, and after being told only twice that the slippers were mine and not hers to chew, she left them alone.  In the evenings when it cools down, she gets a sudden burst of energy.  She drives me crazy pestering me for attention, licking whatever body parts of mine she can reach.  She does a kind of little dance when she sees Tux at the door.

And she barked yesterday.  I had run the neighbor’s cows off my property (I really need to fix the fence but that’s so low on the To Do list) but missed two calves that decided maybe they’d come into my yard instead of following the grownups.  Rosie barked at them, twice, before skedaddling back into the house.  The calves weren’t impressed with that bit of noise, but I was.

Rosie is claiming her space.  I like that very much because it means she’s feeling like she’s home.  Rosie is finding herself, but she won’t be able to leave her past behind just like that [snaps fingers].  Part of it is just time but mostly it’s on me.  Human-animal relationships aren’t about making the animal do things as much as the human controlling her own thoughts, feelings, and actions so that the animal can respond willingly.

The good news is that I’m trainable.  The better news is that I think Rosie has faith in me.

 

< Rosie, day 4 (visit to the vet)

Rosie update – day 4

sleeping dog

Rosie napping after a visit to the vet
2019 Lif Strand photo

Just a quick report on Rosie’s veterinary visit today.

She was such a good girl!  She had to be helped up and down stairs — she seems to not have had to deal with them before in her life — but did not squirm or object to being lifted.  She spent a lot of time giving me, the vet, and his assistant kisses, and cooperated so nicely that Rosie earned a treat for her efforts.

Dr. Duncan said that most of her scabs are from fly irritation, and as he poked at them some scabs fell off so they are about healed.  The lump under her chin is a scar from an abscess, now healed, probably several months old.  She has several other old scars.  None of them appear to be from fighting.  What I thought was a hot spot on her foot is also an older scar, but she has been licking it and irritating it.  I’ve got to watch that so she doesn’t make it worse.

She got vaccinations including rabies.  Her heartworm test (done right there at Dr. Duncan’s mobile clinic) was negative (yay!).  He gave her a dewormer for regular worms, too.

Dr. Duncan looked at her teeth and said they’re in good shape other than a little tartar.  There’s some wearing of the incisors indicating she’s around 5 years old.  He could find no evidence of Rosie’s having been spayed, and in fact it looks like she’s coming into or going out of heat right now.  He thought she’s had at least one litter, possibly more.  I got the number of SNAP in Silver City, a place that helps out with the cost of spaying, so I’m going to give them a call.

As for what she is, breed-wise:  No guarantees, but she is more like an American Staffordshire Terrier than an American pit bull.  She’s more delicately built than a pit bull, with a less broad head and jaw.  Which is not to say that she couldn’t be pure pit bull, or a pit bull cross.  But I’m going to tell people she’s a Staffie and avoid the stigma attached to pit bull.

Rosie is sacked out now after such a stimulating day.  She deserves the rest, and when she wakes up there’s another yummy treat waiting for her.

[Edited to add info about SNAP:  They help low income people with spay and neutering, but the dog has to be brought to Silver City.  The participating vets there do surgery before they open in the a.m. so that would mean a 3 1/2 hour drive one way plus an overnight.  The cost for that would equal the savings in the cost of spay.  So much for that!]

< Rosie, day 2            Me & Rosie, one week >

Rosie Day 2

Rosie the dog sitting and looking at the camera 2019 Lif Strand photo

Just look – where is the big pit bull smile?  Rosie is too uncertain still, though she has smiled for me once or twice.

Yesterday was Rosie’s first full day with me. She was, of course, on her best behavior. Rescue/rehome dogs are like that – they tiptoe around, not knowing the rules and not wanting to get busted for breaking one.

Then they start getting more relaxed as they figure out that the new digs are safe. That’s when they start testing the boundaries, which is a way of zeroing in on the rules of the new place. Or sometimes it’s not so must testing as being clueless.  Today, day two of Rosie, is the day of clueless.

I’m pretty sure Rosie is not house-trained. If she lived in a backyard all the time, why would she be? Yesterday she was still too intimidated to test any rules or do much of anything at all except lay on her bed and look around. In the evening she tentatively checked out a radius of maybe twenty feet from her bed but hesitated to do more.

Knowing she might not tell me when she needed to go potty, yesterday I took her on walks every few hours. The last one was pretty late in the evening.  Didn’t matter.  This morning I woke up to find two pee puddles on the floor. One was right next to Lili Kitty’s litter box, so Rosie gets points for that. The other was near the kitchen door that she’d been in and out of, so she gets points for that, too.  She wasn’t sure it was okay but hey, the cat did it there, and the door she had gone out to pee was there…. I sprayed the spots thoroughly with enzyme spray (if you’ve got cats – especially males — you need that stuff) while she watched. But I didn’t say a word to her about it. I just did it and moved on to the next thing that needed doing in my house.

The thing about living with animals is that you have to learn to communicate. For most people communicate seems to mean that the critters have to learn to understand English. For me it doesn’t. For me it’s about body language, intent, and maybe a little bit of ESP.

Animals are masters at reading body language, which makes sense given that their verbal abilities are limited by physiology, if nothing else. Horses are so good at reading body language that some of them have become money-earners for their owners. A hundred years ago Clever Hans could do math problems, and a couple decades after him, Lady Wonder could not only type messages but read minds.

Read minds?

Except that it turned out both horses were just experts at reading human body language. When they were asked questions, the horses could give correct responses nearly 90% of the time when the questioner already knew the answers, but less than 10% of the time when the questioner had no idea — which is not to say that what the horses were doing was any less incredible. They could read body language whether or not the questioner intended them to, including when other human beings could perceive no cues at all.

Dogs can howl, bark, groan, whine, whimper, yip, grunt – but they don’t have spoken language like humans do. Humans can make the same noises dogs do, but humans don’t really know what the sounds mean. They’re just noises to us, not words.

A dog that hasn’t been asked to learn words, that is, a dog that hasn’t been trained, isn’t going to understand the meaning of any words at all. But they can get by just fine without it. They can read body language as well as a horse can.  Better than a human, too.

A rescue dog has way more incentive to be accurate in that reading than a dog that’s comfortable in its own home. I didn’t tell Rosie she was bad for peeing in the house because she would have no clue what the words mean.  While she might not be Border Collie smart, though, she’s smart enough to understand my tone of voice and my body language. I wasn’t happy when I sprayed the pee spots but I didn’t tell her that – I was careful to say nothing at all.  I didn’t have to. Just my having paid attention to her pee made her so nervous that for the next couple hours she cowered anytime I walked near her.

I ignored that, too.  I didn’t want to make a huge deal, I just wanted to make it as clear as I could that yes, there was something about peeing in the house that was different than eating, sleeping, and all the other things that go on in a house — but no more than that.  It was not a punishable offense.  Rosie was not a bad dog.

It was the same with how I wanted her to know that looking too intently at a cat in the house was a thing in itself, and that licking the hot spots on her paws is another  thing. There will eventually be a whole bunch of things that will be differentiated over time, but we’ve started with just these few.  These will become the words in the language that both Rosie and I understand.

Once she learns to differentiate between actions — to identify that there are differences — then those actions become units of understanding.  Meaningfulness, if you will.  After meaning comes learning whether actions are permissible or not.  And from that comes understanding of the rules.

So has Rosie become house-trained, just like that? Not likely!  At best Rosie knows that that there’s something going on.  If I’m lucky she’s already made the connection between peeing in those spots and me being unhappy. She doesn’t know what or why, not yet.  She’s still learning to trust that I won’t hurt her, that I will behave in predictable ways, and that I expect her to behave in certain ways, too.  She doesn’t know the ways, mind you. Heck, she doesn’t really know her name yet.

We don’t have communication established, not yet — but we’re getting there.  It’s early days still.

Oh, and about that ESP?  Next time.

< Rosie, day 1              Rosie visits the vet >

Here I go again

I just picked up — and by ‘just’ I mean a few hours ago — a rescue dog. I know nothing about her except she was abandoned by renters who skipped out on her, another dog, and the rent, too.

Nobody knows the dog’s name.  I call her Rosie, because she looks sweet.  She appears to be a pit bull cross, on the smallish side. She’s adult but more than that I can’t tell.  Her rescuers picked her up yesterday from the back yard where she had been left, took her on a three hour drive — possibly the first in her life, as she had no idea how to get into a vehicle — treated her for fleas, fed her and kept her overnight, then handed her over to me today to deal with.

She’s not starved, but she shows indicators of poor nutrition. She’s got scabs in her ears, hot spots on her paws, a few sores that look like infected bug bites on various parts of her body. She’s got a soft lump under her jaw. She’s got a big pot belly, soft poop, and she farts — though the soft poop and farts might be due to the change in food, and/or the stress of being taken from her yard by strangers and handed off to yet another stranger. I assume that belly does not indicate pregnancy (I pray she’s not pregnant!) because there’s no sign of teat/mammary gland development.

Mostly I’m concerned because she has such labored breathing. She sounds like she’s snoring even when she’s awake.  That could be a symptom of late stage heartworms, but then again, the collar she was wearing was so tight it had to be cut off — it’s possible Rosie’s windpipe is damaged.  It’s possible that the lump under her jaw is doing something.  It’s possible she’s got a respiratory infection or maybe that’s just the way she breathes. I have no clue.

Needless to say, Rosie is going to go to the vet soon as I can snag an appointment.

My tomcat, Tux, took one look at her and it was all-out attack:  furred out like he’d stuck his paw in an electric outlet, fangs, claws, and the Kitteh Voice of Doom.  I have no idea why.  Tux wasn’t like that when I came home with the last dog, Bella.

Rosie, sweetie that she is, just hunkered down and tried to get away.  I got her inside, and shut the screen door (and baby gate) between the two.  I thought Rosie was going to have a heart attack.  Tux spent the next half an hour yowling and snarling and growling before finally, reluctantly, slinking away because it had started to rain.

Tuxedo kitty looking through the screen doorRosie is currently sleeping on a little bed I made for her.  Before I brought her home I was all stressed about needing to bring in a crate for her to sleep in, about her chasing cats, about you name it.  Then I got her home and stressed out about Tux hunting her down and attacking her if I put her out in the dog run, or her going after Lili (my 17 year old inside cat) if I wasn’t watching Rosie every minute.

I forgot that some dogs react to this rescue business by being afraid to do anything lest it is the wrong thing.  Rosie is that dog.  I am not petting her or even talking to her very much.  Reaching for her makes her shrink away and drop her head.  I only pet dogs that want to be petted and she’s not ready for that yet.

She does take treats, though.  A good start.

 

—–

Later:  I took Rosie out for a walk to my property gate and Tux followed partway.  He sat down and watched us.  When we came back and Rosie saw him, she stopped.  Tux hadn’t moved.  So I asked him to be nice to Rosie.  I asked him to let her go back into the house.  He meowed a few times, then turned and walked through the compound gate.  We followed.  Tux settled under the truck and watched us walk by.  There’s hope!

Rosie, day 2 >

Isabelle the Traveler

Dede and Isabelle NM January 2019

Dede and Isabelle on a hilltop in New Mexico

Update on Isabelle.  She doesn’t live with me anymore.  Aha — bet that comes as a surprise.  But there’s a story to it (of course there is) and when you know it I think you’ll agree that not only is Izzy a traveler but that it’s right that she’s now called Bella.  I believe she’s going to be very happy in New York instead of New Mexico.

If you read about my anxieties prior to going to Grand Canyon, you’ll remember that one of them was about Izzy, who by that point I’d only had for three weeks.  I was concerned she’d feel abandoned by me.  In the Grand Canyon post, though,  I did acknowledge that my sister and brother-in-law love dogs and were looking forward to spending time with Izzy.  That she would be loved on. That she’d get to go in the truck with them, go on walks with them, and would sleep near them at night.

Hah!  Little did I know how right on I was!  Rather than feel abandoned, Izzy decided Dede and Jeff were the best thing since cats’ kibble.

My sister and brother-in-law own property south of Pie Town and they love to visit it and hike all over it whenever they are in New Mexico.  While they were here they kept Izzy with them all the time.  They took her back to my place to feed horses and cats, she went with them into town, and her bed was set up next to their bed.  Not only that, but they took her on long hikes on their property.

Izzy knew a good deal when she met one.  In this case, two good deals:  two people who loved on her and fussed over her and who made her forget all about wondering where I might be.

I was keeping in touch with Dede & Jeff from Grand Canyon and didn’t pay that much attention when Jeff mentioned having fallen in love with Izzy.  I thought, well of course, she’s a lovable dog.  But then Jeff casually mentioned he was thinking about not flying back home to NY with Dede, but instead driving back with Izzy.

Ha ha.  I thought he was joking.  But he was not.

Isabelle, navigator in Jeff's truck

Isabelle in the navigator’s seat, with Jeff on their way to New York

Laura and I got home on Friday afternoon.  Saturday morning Jeff took off with Isabelle.  He said he needed to get back to work on Monday but I think he really wanted to leave right away in case I changed my mind.

I don’t think they believed I’d let her go, not when I loved her so much.  Fact is, I love her so much that I would let two people I love have her because they love her, too.  And because Isabelle said she wanted to go with them.

So having traveled from Oklahoma to me in New Mexico, Jeff and Isabelle took of from New Mexico headed for New York.  She started out in the back seat, but you can see from the photo how long that lasted.

So now the traveler dog has a new home, a new life, and a new nickname, Bella.  Izzy is a kind of sharp sounding name, but Isabelle is such a lovely and sweet dog that a lovely and sweet name seems to fit her better.  So Bella is what everyone is calling her now.

I am happy for Dede and Jeff and, their family, including their older dog, Yuna.  I don’t feel that Bella has been lost to me, but that she gained more of me.  She gained family that I love.

And of course, Bella’s biggest gift to me is still with me.  She got me over the hump of thinking I could never open my heart to another dog again.