Sunday, June 9, 2013


My dog is a source of distraction, of amusement, of love, and of frustration. She helps me enjoy the good times and get through the bad, but she's always had a few issues.

When we found her, she showed clear signs of neglect and mistreatment. She was never shy with the affection, but occasionally she'd show her fear, and her teeth. We overcame most of her anxiety and behavioral issues with time, save for one big problem.

We noticed early on that she was shy about food. It's progressed, however, into food aggression. She growls, shows her teeth, and snaps at any feet or dogs that come near her bowl. She doesn't go for hands, so we must be doing something right, but we've been doing a whole lot wrong for it to have gotten this bad otherwise. She's been an only dog thus far, and we haven't had a lot of opportunity to expose her to other dogs, so I've been working on her issues with feet at every meal for the past month. I've taken my cues from Cesar Milan, I was obsessive about watching his show when we first adopted our dog, and we've been making slow but steady progress.

Enter: the new dog. A friend is unable to care for her 2-year old terrier mix. He's submissive, and sweet, and is somewhat of a scaredy-shadow. So, we're fostering him until a better situation comes up, or we can afford to keep him on our own dime.

Their first meal together, I was nervous. I didn't think anyone would get hurt, but he's such a shy little guy, and she can be scary when she gets into snarly mode, so I was afraid she'd traumatize him and he'd be afraid to eat around her. My boyfriend took charge for the first meal, I knew that my anxiety would only hurt the situation, but I've handled all the food since then and so far, everyone is doing great. With only mild and infrequent correction, our dog is eating calmly, and everyone's got their eyes on their own plate. I don't think this venture is over, we'll still be monitoring them very carefully, but her improvement is remarkable, and I'm so relieved.

My terrible migraine streak finally eased a bit last week, and I've been able to hike our hill with the two dogs. (But, these guys are such fantastic motivation to keep moving, on all but my worst days, I'll force myself into at least a short stroll around the property.) We walk her with an often dropped leash, to give her a little freedom but keep it easy for us to catch her if she takes off after a critter. He has the most incredible recall I've ever seen, and I trust him completely without a leash. Twice now, he's started after something in the forest, and twice, he's skidded to a halt and came straight back to me at my first word. Recall is something else our girl isn't awesome at -- she comes at first command only about half the time, and much, much less if she's got something to chase -- but walking with him, she's much calmer and less interested in taking off after the first squirrel she can spot. We've been working on walking off-leash with her for months, and we'd made strides, but again, she's made her biggest leaps now that another dog has joined the household. And it's only been a week!

We've still got a lot of work to do, he's so submissive and fearful that she likes bossing him around when we're not watching, so they haven't been left alone together for more than a few minutes since he's come to stay with us, but I have faith that we'll get there.