Monday, October 27, 2014

In Which Nicki Rescues Moonlight

Having a rescued dog in your family opens a whole world of information you never thought you needed. You learn things that never even briefly occurred to you before. And then you find application for them all the time! How is it that you never needed this information before, but now it comes into play almost every day? And NOT in direct relation to your own dog? Astounding.

The other day Nicki and I were headed to the Post Office. We go when they close for lunch. The boxes are still available; only the window closes. That way, Nicki can go into the Post Office with me without upsetting anyone.

As we headed down the street, a young woman carrying a child was walking up the street towards us. She kept looking over her shoulder. When she got within speaking distance, she told me that her dog had gotten loose and was somewhere in the neighborhood. Since I was out walking my dog, she asked that I keep an eye out for her dog, named Moonshine. A little black Lab with a bright pink collar. Of course, I agreed. "And if I do find her, where will I find you?" She gave her address - just down the street a bit. Just then, I spotted Moonshine walking through a church parking lot right next to where we stood. The woman called out to her - and Moonshine, recognizing that the game was afoot!, immediately began running off.

That's so common. I once watched a guy chase his off-leash dog around mine and my neighbor's yards for about 10 minutes. It was all a big game to the dog. My Border Collie, who was off leash in our yard but had a terrific recall, immediately forgot everything she knew and began running with the other dog! Terrified, I screamed out her name and fruitlessly commanded her to sit. She didn't even hear me; there was a friend to romp with! Luckily, she dashed right by me at one point and I was able to reach out and grab her in mid run. Yes, I was faster than a Border Collie. Fear is a great motivator. Our BC was not a rescue pup; we'd raised her ourselves. The yard had always been our home, and it was where all her training took place. so she was accustomed to listening to me there - until that day. The owner of the loose dog inexplicably gave up, got back into his car, and drove away, leaving his dog loose in the yards! I put Daisy into the house, grabbed a leash, and came out to try to corral the loose dog, but it, too, was gone.

Nicki, of course, is another story. For her, recalls are a haphazard event, and totally pointless unless she smells treats. Also, since New Spirit 4 Aussies sends home LOTS of excellent information with their adopted pups, I knew that the first year(s) are a dangerous time for rescue dogs. Not having adapted to their new surroundings yet, they are apt to run off. They're not actually running away from their new homes - they just take off because they don't yet have that home "feel".

Anyway, that means that Nicki is never off leash outdoors. It's just not safe for her. Her tie-out is very unobtrusive, and on a long trolley, so she feels fairly unrestricted in the yard. Nonetheless, Nicki used to be a bit of a door darter. If we weren't vigilant, she'd push through a barely-opened door to get outside. It only happened twice when it was scary. In both instances, my panicked call of her name brought her to ground immediately. Then, a few months ago, it kind of happened again. We were getting ready to go outside to hang laundry. With the basket on my hip, I opened the door, and Nicki and I walked out into the yard. In about 5 steps I realized I'd forgotten to clip her tie-out on. I calmly set the basket down, turned around, and patted my leg, calling her to follow me back into the house. She complied as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Wow - what a huge step. Nicki had remained by my side because it was just where she wanted to be, open door or no, tie-out or no.

Back to Moonlight. That's exactly how Moonlight had come to be exploring the nabe. She had door-darted. Nicki and I headed down the street as we had been, which was also in the direction Moonlight had been headed. I kept scanning homes and backyards. Pretty sure some folks thought I was up to something. Then, out of nowhere, Moonlight was at our side, sniffing noses with Nicki. I stopped walking, spoke quietly to her, reached down calmly, and slipped my hand into her collar. All the while, Nicki held her attention. I didn't really need all that training this time - I just needed Nicki. Moonlight didn't come to me; she came to Nicki. In short order, Moonlight's mom headed down the walk towards us, leash in hand. I held on until I was sure she had attached the leash. Then Nicki and I said goodbye to Moonlight and her mom and finished our walk.

Even though I didn't need any of the information I'd gotten about finding and "catching" loose dogs, it's still good to know.  Here's an excellent video to help you understand why your dog may run from you if they get loose. While Kat Albrecht explains this method from the point of view of catching a timid or scared dog, your dog may respond the same way to these behaviors, thinking that you mean to play. That's what Moonlight was doing. She didn't feel threatened; she was playing a game.These calming behaviors can also work to draw in a dog which has entered play mode in less-than-optimal surroundings, giving you the chance to help your dog back into a safer situation.

Nicki Goes Camping!!

Well! With the kitchen renovation STILL in progress, the Hubby decided it would be a good idea to take a break and visit friends. Yes! Awesome idea! Ummm...all of their extended family is also visiting. No Problem! Let's GO! Um.....and they said there might be floor space for us.

Wait - what? Floor space? We're OLD! And...CRABBY! Or at least achy. Hmmm. There's gotta be a solution to this.



Ok - back to Plan A: LET'S GO!

So we pack up the tent (a ginormous circus-y thing left over from the days of the Girl Scout Troop), the air mattress (the REAL double. Air mattress manufacturers do not have the same specs as regular mattress manufacturers. In the camping world, "Double" = single, and "Queen" = just barely the Double you have at home.), the sleeping bags, various and sundry accoutrement, and Nicki's crate.

Yes, crate. You may think that's mean. I used to. I tried "crate training" our beloved Border Collie, Daisy. She HATED the crate. But, as it turned out, maybe not because it was a crate, but because we had an all-metal cage-style crate. Yup - that sounds awful. But for Daisy - the awful part was the metal. I didn't learn that until much later. Daisy was extremely sound sensitive, and anything metal was automatically a no-go. She wouldn't even retrieve a toy that landed on our metal heating grates in the floors. A quick paw swipe and victory would have been hers - but the metal was as much poison to her as a crucifix to a vampire.

But I digress.

When we brought Nicki home from her final foster home, we initially put her into a brand new, very open but not fully metal, crate. Of course, halfway home, I brought her into my lap in the front passenger seat, where she finally relaxed and fell soundly asleep - safe at last.

Our pups know when they're safe with us. Doubly so for our rescued pups.

Still - for the first few weeks, we put Nicki in her crate at night and closed the door. In that way, she had a safe place near us (the crate was in our bedroom) where she could rest and be safe, and we could know that she wasn't scouting the rugs for a midnight pee.... 

Eventually, we'd leave the bedroom door closed, but her crate open. That extended her "den" to our entire bedroom. No peeing in the den. And it also allowed for cuddling in the bed with us - when she finally became comfortable enough with us!! A major coup! Still, even with the crate door bungeed open, Nicki often heads into the crate to take her personal time. It is her space. We respect it.

But - back to camping. Whenever there's a situation in which Nicki might either come under stress or be unsure of appropriateness (like peeing inside the tent), putting her into her crate and closing the door solves all problems. She does not feel restricted. How do I know? Because a dog that has been mistreated lets you know when she's being mistreated - even if it's only in her mind.

We set up camp in our friends' yard, and set up the inside of the tent almost the same as our bedroom at home. Nicki's crate was positioned so she could see us all night, but the door was kept closed to keep the possibility of negatives down.

And with all that set and ready, Nicki had a great time camping! She got to cuddle with us on our "bed" in the mornings, took long walks down the roads, and showed not one inkling of getting into the bay. No swimming for her! There were kids visiting, and Nicki loves kids. Bonus! There were lots of extra people to charm, and charm she did. One friend even told her husband that she wanted to get a Mini Aussie. Of course, I suggested New Spirit 4 Aussies . When people meet Nicki, they're always surprised to learn that she's a rescued dog.

We all got to hang out by the bay, spend hours talking with friends, and just relax. And Nicki got to do something that all dogs want to do, but rarely achieve: she got to spend two entire days outside with us! Dogs often only get to be outside with their people for walks. Or, unfortunately, as Nicki had been with the guy from whom she was rescued, they're tied out all the time - alone. These few days, we all spent as much time outdoors as possible - together.
Well! This is ..... different .....

Staying on the land side, thanks.
So many new things to smell!!

A quiet moment by the bay.

Once you've got one, there's no place like home!