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.