Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Belated Anniversary Post

September 7th was Nicki's first anniversary with us, but we were too busy to write about it! Some people refer to their fur kids' adoption date as their "birthday", especially if they don't really know the real birthday. We don't. And we don't care. Life with Nicki began for us on September 7th, 2013, and no matter what we call it, it's a great day!

Nicki has made so much progress in this first year. We've learned so much about her, and from her. She's learned a great deal from us! This is one sharp little cookie. It always amazes me that she picked up on some things so quickly - almost automatically - without being formally taught. Two quick little hand claps means "time to get off Mom's lap/ Dad's lap/ the couch / the bed/ whatever." A light tap on the haunch means "please stop cleaning yourself so vigorously on the furniture!!" And Mom looking like she's about to sit down means "hurry up and jump before she actually lands!"

Recalls are, well, a work in progress. So is leash pulling. But we're working on those. The usuals (sit, lie down, wait, stay, off, stand) are down pat - but Nicki still needs to be in a cooperative mood. That happens more often these days.

But there are other, deeper, more wonderful signs of change. Nicki now allows most men to approach her, and even to pet her. When she first came to us, she was very fearful of men. The strength of her fearful reaction shocked and saddened me. She wasn't just hesitant; she was terrified. On many occasions, she'd pee submissively in fear. I've learned to stop myself from wondering what men had done to her before. There have been some signs (she's still fearful of loud, sudden noises, anything falling or being dropped in her vicinity, and feet being extended towards her in other than a normal walking step) but I don't really want to know. I can't go back, find these guys, and thrash the bejeezus out of them (although I'd love to) so I try to not allow myself to think about it. The best thing I can do for Nicki is to make her future so good that she eventually forgets her past completely.

Now, when I call to her and say "Nicki! Daddy's home!" she runs to the door to greet him! No more fearful pee, no more cowering. Many mornings, she'll crawl up in bed before the alarm goes off, kissing my husband's nose. And he loves it. He always thanks her for "such sweet kisses".

We go out in public without fear now. Nicki has learned to navigate the aisles at Bass Pro Shop, Runnings, and the new Field and Stream store. We usually spend 15 minutes when we first get in the door being greeted by every kid and dog lover in the place. And in those stores, there are plenty of both. Nicki takes it all in, sitting politely and enjoying the attention. It keeps happening as we move through the stores. She's always calm, stays close to me, and is neither fearful nor aggressive. If you want to know whether your dog is well socialized with people, hit up one of these stores! All will be revealed! And yes, I keep an eye on the kids. No sudden moves, thank them if they ask before petting, caution parents of tiny kids to keep the child in their arms. Nicki is smarter than a lot of parents we've met, that's for sure!

As far as socialization with other dogs, she's much less reactive. She's still not actually dog-friendly, but she no longer bark-warns other dogs for being too close for too long. That's at least partly due to me being more aware of her comfort zones in time and distance for contact. I know to help her keep distance and end the customary "checking of ID" before things get too close for comfort. Every time I get it right - which is most of the time now - Nicki comes away with a positive experience in meeting another dog.

It's amazing what a year of love, patience and consistency can do. That's the whole point of this blog. If you know of someone considering adopting a rescued dog, steer them here. I hope that reading our experiences will help to open a window on the adoption experience. Every situation is different, but some things are universal. Like how much ALL creatures need to be loved. Happy Anniversary, Nicki!

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