Monday, February 28, 2011

now what?

Sonny's progress has been fluctuating a bit lately... I'm sort of feeling lost.  I know he's a special dog and he's not going to wake up one day and just jump on the couch and start cuddling, but it's been a month and there have only been slight improvements, and more than anything, I feel bad for the poor dog.  He's so anxious most of the time, and I can't bare watching him be so terrified so often.

He seemingly doing better in the house... he's coming out of his crate more to check things out, and at night he comes out of his crate to collect the toys in the living room and bring them to his crate for safe keeping.  He also will come out of his crate and play bow at Buster.  That's usually when I talk to him, and make "woo-woo" noises at him, and he makes them back at me while play bowing.  It's adorable, actually. But it's usually short-lived and if Rob and I are on the couch when he does this, all we have to do is move a muscle and he runs back to his crate and stays there.  He is still much more comfortable with me than with Rob, and I don't see him "coming around" anytime soon.

We take daily walks, and of course he's always looking around at noises and we avoid all people since they make him nervous, but overall the walks have been very successful .... until recently.

The long and short of it is there is a guy up the road who is a total jerk to his dog.  He's always yelling at him, giving leash corrections while yelling, etc.  Honestly, I'm not sure why he even got a dog to begin with.  He's 3 houses up from us, and since we live on a dead end, walking by his house is sort of unavoidable.  So, I just go outside and check for the guy before we go on our walks.  Cumbersome, yes, but definitely worth it.

The other day we were on our walk back from our walk, and approaching this guy's house.  I noticed him on his front stoop with his dog and wife, and I stopped and started to turn Sonny around and just walk away.  But it was too late -- the guy decided right then he wanted to go inside and started yelling at his dog to "get in the f***king house!" and "move!" And this guy is YELLING. It was totally unnecessary.

We were between 1-2 houses down from him, but Sonny went into immediate panic mode.  He looked over his shoulder in the general direction of the yelling while he immediately pancaked and flopped down on the ground.  He was cowering, and started leap-frogging to get away.  He literally would get down into a crawling position and leap up and away. Once he realized he was still on leash, he looked at me with this awful look that broke my heart.  This poor dog was absolutely terrified and was looking to me for guidance and reassurance only to realize he still wasn't quite sure if he could trust me, because, after all, I'm a human and he's still not sure about humans.

We quickly moved away from the situation, and the guy and his family went into their house, but it was a struggle to get Sonny to walk back in that general direction.  Every noise he heard was frightening him.  Tree branches touching, leaves moving, flags flapping in the wind, car doors closing (but not even in sight) all set him back into panic mode.  Once we got back to the house, he was back to his not-so-normal self.

The next day we were on a walk, and I chose a time that our jerk neighbor isn't around, and Sonny was on high alert the whole time.... so much so, that he popped a squat and while he was going, he heard a screen door close and the poor dog jumped up and started running WHILE he was pooping.... it was a mess. And of course, it made a mess all over him, which meant he needed to be bathed when he got home, which is an awful experience for him seeing as he doesn't like being touched.

We've tried natural supplements... Rescue Remedy, L-Theanine, Happy Traveler, Valerian Root, Melatonin... they don't seem to make a difference in him.

But with the warmer weather around the corner, there are going to be more people, and more noises out there... and Sonny needs exercise, so we have to be able to take walks and runs or else his anxiety is even worse.  After some exercise, he at least will settle down and relax even while we're around.  But without exercise, he's a giant ball of very anxious energy.

So I've emailed the woman in charge of vetting at our rescue, and asked about meeting with a vet and discussing the potential of medication for Sonny.  I was really hoping we wouldn't have to go that route but I'm not sure what else to do.  I just hate to see him feel so anxious.  I don't know anything about anxiety medications for a dog, so I'll need to do some research and talk to a doctor, but we'll see what's next...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

i guess sonny is feeling more comfortable

Well, Sonny has been more interested in playing lately, and last night he was even brave enough to run in and out of his crate when only Rob was home (huge!).

Rob was throwing Buster's ball, and after Buster ran into the kitchen, Sonny would run after him. Then he'd follow him back to the living room and go back in his crate.  But he kept peering out, watching Rob and then following Buster back into the kitchen.

When I got home, Sonny was even brave enough to come within a foot of Rob's feet and attempt to smell him, and even ventured towards the TV, which is further than he's gone before.

And then he collected all the toys in the living room, one-by-one, and carried them back to his crate.

Then, I woke up to this... Sonny's bed, with a giant hole in the bottom of it, with the tag torn off.  The picture I wish I'd taken was him in his crate, on his bed, with stuffing surrounding the bed, like an ocean of fluff.  But he doesn't like when people hover near his crate, so I didn't want to make him wait there while I took a picture.

Now I'm trying to figure out ways to exercise this boy more.  Walks aren't cutting it, and I can see his energy starting to come out.  It's difficult because he can't be off leash in the yard because he climbs fences and seeing as he isn't likely to come back, that's not safe.  I've been bringing him out on the retractable leash to give him some more room to run about, and he chases Buster around a bit... but his play style is different than Roxy and Buster's.  Roxy and Buster run a little, then wrestle and bite and romp.  Sonny is more of a run-and-play type of dog, where he wants to chase, chase, chase, and maybe play bitey-face a little.

I may have to take up jogging in the morning and take him out with me. Not exactly my idea of fun, by any stretch of the imagination....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

a wiggle butt in disquise!

Every morning I leave the bedroom with Roxy and Buster running and leaping towards the backdoor for our morning potty break.  With the addition of Sonny, nothing changed initially because he was sick and we were going out separately; so I crated and fed them while taking him out the front door.

For the last week and a half, I leave the bedroom and Roxy runs to the backdoor and Buster runs to Sonny's crate.  I approach his covered crate, (he's usually laying down,) and as I approach, he presses himself up against the far side of the crate, watching me intently.  So, I open Sonny's crate without talking, without looking at him, without making any noise or providing encouragement in any way.... I walk away and ask Roxy and Buster, "Want to go outside?" after I've sufficiently turned the corner into the kitchen. That's when I hear Sonny's paws scramble to follow us to the backdoor.

He's been slowly relaxing when I approach his crate, because only good things happen when I come near him.  I only approach his crate for feeding, opening/closing the door, and random acts of yummy kindness.  He has been quicker to leave his crate, and he now seems to know what "Outside?" means, so he's more comfortable with the process.

Today, however, we experienced a small (large) miracle.

I walked towards his crate, and he stood up for the first time while I was that close.... and I heard his tag, bang-bang-bang on the side of the crate, and I saw his butt and tail WIGGLE with excitement.  He ran out of the crate as soon as I turned away, and scampered past me towards the back room with Buster....

When I got there, he play bowed to me, in our normal morning-play-before-we-go-outside routine... and he offered the first noise I've heard him make yet, a little woo-woo-woo growl while he bowed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

a play bow, a hike, and little victories for sonny

I'm slowly getting to know Sonny's personality, and I'm totally in love with him.  He's adorably playful and he's starting to show some excitement when he sees me in the morning.  He bounds out of his crate and follows me to the backdoor, where we commence play session #1 for the day.  He bows. I bow. He half-jumps, with his front paws in the air like a puppy who has no clue how big he is, or even what balance is, for that matter. I put my head down and he comes over and nuzzles my head a little, licks my fingers, and runs back a couple of feet and play bows again.  At this point, Buster usually runs to me, half tackles me for the morning cuddles, and then Sonny runs over and licks my toes.  He's totally adorable, with his mouth open just a little, his ears relaxed, and his tail up. And the whole time he's observing, watching what's going on and trying to figure this "home" thing out.

Then we go outside, and he eliminates right away; something that was previously took upwards of 30 minutes. I've been taking him out back in the yard on the retractable leash to give him some space because he seems to prefer to go further away from me, rather than closer.  Lately I've been taking him out with Roxy and Buster, now that our introductions are done... and they go off running and he so badly wants to join them and play.  He bounds and leaps after them, with that same goofy, puppy-antic-style leaps and bounds, and I do my best to keep up, but when they start running under and around bushes, I can't follow and neither can Sonny because the leash will get tangled.  I feel awful when he wants to run with them and can't.  But he can't be off-leash, not even in the yard.

The problem is, Sonny has shown that he's easily capable of jumping and climbing 7+ foot fences.  My fence is only 3.5 feet tall. So there's no way I can trust him.  So far, the only way I've got him to approach me is if I'm squatting down and loving on Buster and Buster gets super excited.  So I have that as an emergency backup plan, but I'd really rather not have to go combing the woods in the middle of winter (or any season, for that matter) with Buster, my 3-legger, hoping Sonny will come to us.  I can't risk it.  He's way too much of a flight risk. 

Yesterday, Rob and I took Roxy and Sonny for a hike.  I took Buster for a long walk earlier today, but the hike would have been too much for him, especially with all the ice. Plus, I wanted Roxy and Sonny to be out there together; walking together, getting treats together, and smelling stuff together.  Sonny did really well, overall.  We avoided the few people that were out there, but he was taking treats and drinking water with us right there, which has previously been difficult for him to do.  He even took a few treats from Rob.

Roxy struggled a bit when we saw some people with dogs, unfortunately, and made me realize how far we still have to go with her.  I was actually quite a bit surprised by her behavior, because she's been otherwise doing great when we see other dogs.  But this was a new environment, and Sonny was there and his anxiety probably didn't help.  I can't wait for the weather to get nicer so I can do some more work with her.  It's been so cold I haven't been able to find anyone else outside (with or without dogs) to do some desensitization and counterconditioning.  We also walked her on her flat collar because we figured the halti head collar would get frustrating on her face for 2 hours or so, and boy, do we need to start working on her heel.  She's great on the halti, but once we get on the flat collar, she pulls like a freight train! So rather than having her try to learn "keep the leash loose," I'm just going to train her to walk next to me (in a heel position) all the time.  I think she needs more exact instructions about where she should be walking, as opposed to the general "loose leash" work we've been doing.

Sonny, on the other hand, seems to be leash trained.  Go figure...

Monday, February 14, 2011

sonny, week 2

Sonny has started spending less time hiding in the closet and more time trying to interact with Roxy and Buster, now that his medical quarantine is over.

He seems overwhelmingly more comfortable outside than inside, and he's still fearful of Rob, but is getting more curious about him, which is good news in my book.  He's also progressed to feeling comfortable enough to eat while Rob is in the room.  There were a few days early last week that I was worried he was becoming more fearful of Rob, but it seems like his behavior is fluctuating back and forth a bit.

He is very excited in the morning, and wants to play with not only Roxy and Buster, but also with me! Today I got several play bows, sniffs, and licks.  And, when I go into the computer room, he'll follow and lay on the bed.  He'll even come in there if Rob is in there, but he goes to the far end of the room, the closet, to watch everything rather than go to the bed, which is closer to Rob.

Overall, Sonny is a million times more comfortable when there are other dogs around.  He is great with other dogs; he shows lots of appeasement gestures, he play bows, he plays gently and appropriately, and overall his body language is much more relaxed when he's trying to play, while he's playing, and after he's played.  Even when we're outside, when he spots Roxy or Buster, his tail immediately goes up, and when they're close to him, his tail is wagging like crazy.

We have a long road ahead of us, but seeing even just the smallest amount of progress brings great hope.

play bows and tail wags

This past week was a very "progressive" one for Roxy.  I've been noticing how different she's been lately.  Her tail seems to wag a lot more, and faster, for a longer period of time.  She seems overall happier and more relaxed.  Sonny's presence has definitely brought her up one level in anxiety, but that was to be expected and her and I have been working harder to keep her comfortable and happy.

First, Roxy did amazing at her agility class.  The training facility's owner came by, and he's a big, loud, scary, "walk-with-a-purpose" sort of guy, especially to a dog who's unsure of herself or unsure of people.  Roxy hadn't met him yet, and he was walking along the line of dogs and had been saying hi to most of them as they approached him.  As he came nearer to us, I told him Roxy was fearful, and he said no problem, and stopped within smelling distance for her while interacting with the dog next to Roxy.  Roxy immediately approached him, sniffing and wagging her tail, and after her sniff, she turned her butt towards him, happily asking to be petted.

This is HUGE progress for her. Contrast that to 7 months ago when, if someone had even walked in her general direction, she would have backed up with whale eye, scared and unsure.  And, if she had chosen to sniff the person, there would be no petting allowed, as per her lack of a request.  And if the person moved unexpectedly during the sniffing process, it would have been game over; she'd have scampered away, never to return.

It was seriously a huge moment for her and I.  The walk-in, informal class has a lot of the same people each week, and the people who are there frequently were giving her lots of complements on how far she's come.

Sunday's walk provided another victory.  I had Roxy and Sonny out on a walk and it was a little chilly so I wasn't expecting to see too many people.  But there was apparently an open house down the road from us, so there were a good amount of cars on our dead end street...

As we approached the open house, there was a couple getting out of a car and Roxy spotted them.  We had stopped and turned around to avoid stressing Sonny too much; Roxy, on the other hand, turned and watched the people carefully as she immediately and feverishly began wagging her tail and whining to get closer to them... I couldn't believe it.  She whined a lesser version of her "Mommy's home" whine.  It was an "I want to say hi!" sort of whine, and she's never done that for anyone aside from a few choice people she already knows and loves.

She's also been more interested in playing with Sonny, who she previously was very happy to ignore completely.  She is overwhelmed by playing with Sonny and Buster at the same time, so I've been doing lots of 1-on-1, mixing it up with the three of them.  Sonny play bowed and play-growled when we came in from our morning potty break yesterday, and Roxy immediately perked up, as if she was waiting for him to make that noise. She ran right up to him, slammed both her front paws on the ground and rolled her head around and let out a small growl, which is what she does with Buster when she's excited and really wants to play.  Sonny was so happy, as if the girl he's been pining over finally noticed him, and Roxy and him played for a good 10 minutes before I decided to end it on a good note.

Roxy has really come so, so far compared to where she was, who she was, when I adopted her. All the desensitization and counterconditioning work that her and I have been doing is paying off, and I'm so excited that I want to scream and tell the world how proud I am of her!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

one step forward, two steps back

I've discovered that Sonny is pretty much terrified of men.  He's been here a week tomorrow, and he's still very skittish and spooky, which I totally expected, but he's starting to approach me for treats, and if I'm on the couch relaxing he'll come over and put his paws up to look around.  He's not ready for petting or snuggles yet, but he's getting more comfortable with the idea of being in the vicinity of me and will sometimes come right up to me to take a treat from my hand.  I'm still tossing treats 99% of the time, just so there's no pressure on him, but he's getting closer and closer to me, and starting to smell my hands and lick them.  Which is a HUGE step for him.

But when Rob is home, he's so much more uncomfortable.  Today we were outside and Rob came out to ask me a question and, from 35 feet away, Sonny hid behind me.  Later on, we were at the super market and when we came home, Rob opened Sonny's crate and walked away, not expecting him to come out, but still giving him the option, and a few minutes later Sonny blew his anal glands.  Poor guy pressed himself up against the back end of the crate as far as possible and just sat there, frozen with fear until POP goes the fish-smell.  If Sonny walks into a room that Rob is in, he quickly makes a u-turn and bee-lines for his crate or one of his other safe spots.

Rob's frustrated. He doesn't understand how a dog can still be terrified of him after a week of nothing bad happening.  It's not easy trying to explain to someone that it's not personal.  I went through this with Roxy; no one understood that she didn't specifically dislike them.  It's strange, Rob understood it then, when it wasn't him the dog was afraid of; but he's struggling to understand it now.  I think he's sort of hurt. Most of the dogs we've fostered just plain love me. Not because of some innate difference between Rob and I, but because I feed them, I walk them, I train them... I meet their basic needs and then some. They know who snaps on their leash and gives them their kong, and we bond while we train. Rob doesn't have any interest in any of that really, and ultimately, that's a huge part of why the dogs bond with me.  But Rob wants him to feel safe and comfortable, he just doesn't quite understand it's not a short process...

So, right now I'm sitting here with Sonny on the futon to my right, laying down, alert, but comfortable.  He's graduated from hiding in the closet to laying on the futon, occasionally sitting up to listen to what's going on in the other room.

When it's just me, him, and my two pooches, he is much more relaxed dog.  Obviously, he still has a long way to go, and I've got all the time in the world, but it just breaks my heart watching him run in paranoid circles trying to get away from someone that just wants him to feel safe.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

sonny, day #3

So, Sonny is doing okay. Sort of. He's starting to adjust.  He's less panicked than he was on Sunday night.  He's still jumping at unexpected noises and movements, which we're not expecting to change for a long time; but he's walking closer by me, and allowing me to move about without bolting.

The weather sucked today so I worked from home and Sonny spent most of the day in the closet pictured, next to my computer.  It's about 4 feet from me, closer than he's spent most of the last few days.  He slept and snored there for a few minutes.  And throughout the day, he was venturing close to sniff me, then turning and running back.  And I can feel him watching me, absorbing everything we do.  He won't take treats from my hand, but if I give him something yummy and walk away, he'll snag them as long as I'm not watching.  If I accidentally look at him while he's grabbing those treats, he stops and puts his head down.

We're still working on the routine, but I think he's house trained. Which, honestly, breaks my heart the most. This poor dog has probably been through hell and back, yet he's house trained. Someone took the time and energy to teach him to do his business outside, but couldn't just plain be nice to him? And, although he's house trained, he's still terrified to go.  When he's going, he looks up at me, as if to check to make sure I'm not going to do anything. If I move while he's going, he freezes, stops mid "go."  He's been here 3.5 days and has only pooped twice and peed 3 times.  He didn't poop for the first day and a half, despite eating all his meals (only when there's no one there to see him or hear him).

He's definitely more scared of Rob than me. It's no fault of Rob's, but he's much taller than I am, has broader shoulders, a deeper voice, and he walks with more purpose than I do. Plus, I'm the one feeding Sonny and taking him for walks, potty breaks, etc.

He absolutely adores Buster. We found out he has giardia, so I'm trying to keep him separate from Roxy and Buster, but sometimes he will just freeze and won't move. I've got a leash on him so I don't have to get close and freak him out, but sometimes it's not enough.  So I call Buster over and Sonny immediately perks up, and is likely to follow him. And Buster will go wherever I ask, for the most part.  He's been a great helper.

Roxy is none-to-pleased with the whole situation.  She's doing okay... the first day was fine, but the last couple of days (prior to knowing about the giardia), Roxy has been raising her hackles when he gets close.  He likes to run up to Roxy's face and kiss her, and Roxy's not a fan of that.  So I've been doing some body blocking to prevent him from getting too close to her face, and doing a lot of marking and treating for her.  She seems to like him, but just not like that he's a total mess.

Today we were outside, and I was bent down on the ground loving on Buster and Sonny came up on the side of me and sniffed my hat (while it was on my head!) and then offered a few licks and walked away.  I was so proud of him.

He's still a huge flight risk, so we are on leash, even in the yard.  I think we'll be that way for a long time.  He does, however, seem to really enjoy taking walks.