Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Original post : February 21, 2014 Under the greyest of skies, brilliant light breaks through

Original post : February 21, 2014

Under the greyest of skies, brilliant light breaks through

One of the saddest things about adopting Nicki was the realization that, like many chained dogs, she didn't know how to play. I didn't know that was a common result of chaining dogs until I saw a post by Gordy and Friends about this phenomenon. I had noticed that Nicki didn't seem to know how to play and didn't know what to do with toys, but had no idea that this is one result of prolonged and persistent neglect and abuse.

Nonetheless, I got toys. I had food toys that required interaction, and of course there's always the frozen stuffed Kong! But Nicki's interest in those toys ended with the last bite of food. I tried a "stuffed" toy that used crunchy water bottles to provide chewing satisfaction. After I added training treats to the uncapped bottle inside, it became something of a success. Eventually, Nicki chewed through the toy three times (and the bottles twice), after which the toy was D.O.A.

I tried a Martha Stewart toy that I found on sale. A little plush trash can with crunchy hidden lining, and two stuffed raccoon faces that could be pushed into the trash can through an opening. The idea was for the dog to become curious about the toy and pull the raccoons out of the trash can. Then you shove them back in and the dog pulls them out again. I'd read that a Border Collie has even begun stuffing them back in by herself!

None of that went anywhere with Nicki. She would mouth the trash can a bit, but not for long. Once again I tried putting treats inside the toy to pique her interest. As it turns out, Nicki is small enough to just nuzzle her way past the obstacles of the MS toy and pull out the goodies without molesting any raccoons. Hmmm. So I jammed other toys in with the raccoons! Another soft, fabric covered ball. Still not enough. Added a small rubber squeaky bone. Ah - now we were getting somewhere. I finally jammed a pig's ear into the trash can toy and piled all the other toys in on top of that. She became VERY interested in getting that pig's ear! But rather than pulling out the toys, she started to tear the trash can apart. Luckily, MS uses some quality workmanship. The multiple layers of stitching slowed the toy's demise. It's not dead yet - and that's why I can write this.

I never leave Nicki alone with these types of toys. She can be fairly aggressive in chewing. It wouldn't be safe to let her just have these. But she still showed sporadic interest in the toy, so I kept it around. This morning, I heard a bark from downstairs. Nicki's pretty quiet, so her bark always gets my attention. I went to the top of the stairs - to see her barking at the trash can! She pounced on it! She flung it up in the air, then pounced again! I praised her - but stayed on the stair. I've learned quickly that inserting myself into toy play either ends it immediately or ends it soon after. My involvement sends signals that Nicki can't interpret. "Is Mom happy about this? Does Mom want the toy? Did I make a mistake?" When nobody plays with you, you have no idea how to react. So I stood on the landing, smiling like an idiot, cheering for my kid from the sidelines again. And Nicki continued to play.

There's always hope, isn't there?

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