Monday, September 12, 2011

remembering to celebrate little victories

With all the time and effort I spend working on Roxy's existing fears, I sometimes forget about her old fears.  The fears we've overcome and tucked away in blog posts, hoping they're gone for good.  But I think it's important to sometimes be reminded of those fears and recognize progress based on them.

The other day, Roxy and I were visiting someone we hadn't seen in a while.  We were in a neighborhood that we occasionally visit, but not often enough to say it's a familiar area.  We were walking down the street and a woman we know was dragging a trash can down the road, from one house to another.  When she saw us, I waved, and her initial response was, "Well, here comes Roxy, she's going to be afraid of the trash can..."

Well, we stopped to chat, and Roxy didn't flinch at the trash can.  She didn't look at it while it was moving towards us or while it was making noise.

Two years ago, Roxy would have avoided the dragging trash can, putting her body on the side of me that was furthest from it.  About 1.5 years ago, she would have barked at the trash can.  One year ago, she would very cautiously explore the trash can with some encouragement, making sure to leave all her weight on her hind legs while she slowly leaned in to sniff.  If the can moved during that time, the can would have been "scary" and required some major desensitization and counter-conditioning work.  But just a few weeks ago, Roxy completely ignored the trash can.  She ignored it upon approach, and she ignored it while I chatted with the woman.  In fact, while we chatted, Roxy was more interested in saying hi to her friend than anything else.  Oh, and she ignored the trash can when we started walking in the same direction as the woman, with trash can in-tow, rumbling and scraping on the pavement directly behind her. Two years ago, if something was behind her making that much noise, she would have been panicked, looking over her shoulder and attempting to get away from it.  Even a year ago, she would have struggled with that scary noise.  But a few days back, Roxy wasn't even curious about it.  She was relaxed and enjoying her walk as if there was nothing different going on.

Now, this may not seem like a huge deal, but remember, Roxy avoided the evil bush for over a month, after just one unpredictable incident.   Her other behaviors consisted of cautiously investigating falling leaves (occasionally barking at them), barking at the trash can in the back yard when it was in a different place than normal, running from the sound of the dishwasher turning on, avoiding the house's attic fan, and backing away and cowering when strangers moved in her general direction....

Obviously her behavior has progressed since we've had her, and even more so since we've been working specifically on her fear issues, but sometimes I am so focused on working on her current fear issues, in the here and now, that I forget that she has come as far as she has. But this little encounter with the garbage can was a wonderful reminder of just how far she has come, and has reminded me of a variety of other little victories that I have since forgotten.

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