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.
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
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.
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?