Monday, December 28, 2015

A year of Lucinda the dog

We brought Lucinda home from PetSmart Beaverton / Washington Square Store #1532 on the Saturday after Christmas 2014, on December 27. We fostered her for a week, and then had the option to adopt her from the rescue group that brought her up from Mexico. And we did. Here's the whole story.

So we've now had her for a full year.

It is glorious to have a dog in our home and in our lives again.

I offer this blog entry in particular to those who are thinking of adopting a dog.

Lucinda amid the DafodilsLucy has come a long way in the year she's been with us, in terms of her fear of... well, everything. She doesn't bolt and run as fast as she can away from a loud noise or me falling down, though she's still very skittish of those things. She is no longer bothered by bins put out for garbage day - she no longer thinks they are daleks, about to come alive at any moment and chase her. She's no longer scared of the garage door, and will even sniff it when it rises, as opposed to trying desperately to get away from it as soon as it starts to move. She'll now greet people that she meets for the first time when we're out on a walk even if they don't have a dog - now, we have to work on her wanting to jump on people she likes. She does NOT like clapping in the house, but is fine if you do it at the dog park to call her when she's far away. She'll come about 40% of the time when she's in the yard and I call her, which is up 40% from a year ago. Or even six months ago. But she will NOT come to me in the house unless I have a dog treat and tell her, "Lucy! Want a dog treat?!"

She now sleeps in our bedroom most nights. She did that her first two nights for us, then refused to even come into the bedroom anymore for a few months. It all changed when we kept Harry the dog for a few days; Harry is about 12 or so, small, very laid back, and quite fearless: he's only too happy to go tromping absolutely anywhere, including into the crate in the bedroom that Lucy refused to go into for months and months. As soon as he got in, and then out after a few minutes, in she went. And she's been oh-so-happy to sleep in the bedroom with us ever since.

She sings for her breakfast each morning. She waits for Stefan's alarm clock to go off at 6:15 a.m. on a weekday and, when it does, she begins her Chewbacca / bugle noises as she waits for him to get up and let her out and then feed her. He feeds her most weekday mornings - it's part of our Stefan-is-not-scary campaign, which is ongoing.

Jayne, Stefan & Lucinda at University Falls, Tillamook State Forest, OregonShe LOVES to go hiking. LOVES it. Most recently we took her to Stub Stewart State Park for a post-Thanksgiving Day Hike. She's also hiked Bayocean Beach in Tillamook, Wilson River Trail in Tillamook National Forest, and University Falls Hike, also in Tillamook NF (that was her first - pictured at left).  We're cursing the record-rain in Oregon in December which has prevented us from taking her on even more hiking trips. We've taken her camping only once, to Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but we're hoping to do a lot more in 2016. She loved all the walking around the campground, and seemed to like sleeping in the tent - but she wasn't happy about just hanging out at the campsite, and would make herself into the tiniest ball on a blanket, waiting for us to either go hiking or go into the safe, cozy tent.

She's skittish but willing to go when walking inside PetSmart or Wilco or Ace Hardware - we haven't tried Home Depot yet - and I make a point of taking her when I go to any of these places, if at all possible. She hates walking to downtown Forest Grove or on the campus of Pacific University - she hates so many people walking and standing around, she hates the cars, she hates all the movement - but I make her do it regularly. We even dared to take her to the Forest Grove chalk art festival. She wasn't happy about it, but she tolerated it. In 2016, I'm going to try to take her to the farmer's market at least twice a month.

Our dog trainer has given us lots of tips on how to get her to be less skittish, and so many of her tips have helped Lucy in certain situations that used to give her a complete emotional meltdown when we got her a year ago. I so highly recommend you take your dog to an obedience class, no matter the dog's age - it will help you bond SO much. But you have to work with your dog every day.

Lucy & Murree at playGeesh but Lucinda loves other dogs! And people with other dogs! She plays SO well with other dogs - she's super gentle with smaller dogs or older dogs, and she loves to pounce on dogs that far out-weigh her, like Apollo the Rottweiller or Muree the 200 pound Newfoundland. When she knows and loves a dog and they get play time, she growls as they play like she's killing something - it sounds awful. And the other dog just completely ignores it and goes right on playing with her. She does it only with dogs that really know her and love her, which is a good thing, because if she did it with all dogs, she'd never have any friends - did I mention it sounds awful? For Lucinda, when it comes to dogs, familiarity breeds love - she is ecstatic at seeing dogs she knows, even if that dog has never been all that thrilled to see her, and bounces all around with joy. There are really only two dogs I've found that she doesn't like, and that's because she's scared of them - they're bullies.

I think her love of other dogs comes both from her breed mix and from growing up in dog shelters. She's always been around other dogs - we took her away from that when we adopted her, and of course adopting her was for her benefit, but I feel oh-so-guilty if she doesn't get to play with a dog every day. People will say that her fear of humans comes from being abused, but I don't think she was ever truly abused. I don't think she associates humans with abuse. I think humans are just these strange creatures she wasn't around much at all for the first seven months of her life - certainly not without lots of other dogs also being around. And I think it's in her DNA: when it comes to dogs, some aspects of temperament and behavior are carried on genes, and dogs have been bred specifically to produce certain temperament and behavior - that means that, no, not all of their behavior comes from how they have been treated.

She loves chasing squirrels. "Loves" doesn't really describe what comes over her when she sees a squirrel. Thanksfully, she understands that, when she's on a leash, I get to decide if she gets to chase or not - and when bark-at-the-tree time is over. She will walk away when I tell her it's time - I don't have to drag her away.

May she be off leash? I'm still really scared to let her off-leash much - she still won't always come when called, and until she does that, EVERY TIME, I'm keeping her on leash. I'm also pretty sure she'll bolt after a squirrel or rabbit and become deaf to me if she's not on leash. Inside the dog park or our back yard or an enclosed area or in a house, sure, she's off-leash. There's a big empty field across from us, and if there's a dog there, I'll let her off leash a bit for a bit to play - but I have to watch her like a hawk, because she'll eat just about anything off the ground. But when we're hiking, no, I won't do it - she stays on leash. I still don't trust her not to run away, or to bolt into traffic in pursuit of a squirrel or to run away from something scary.

Just recently, she's started picking up socks or other small clothing items off the floor and taking them in the middle of the living or dining room or into her crate for a chew. I've caught her most of the time - so far, she's destroyed only one sock - and I don't get mad, I don't say anything, I just walk over and take whatever it is she's not supposed to have. And that's been the right approach - she doesn't run away when she sees me approaching her, and just stares as I take away whatever it is she's not supposed to chew. She LOVES to chew up paper, or small plastic things, so we really have to make sure there's nothing on the floor for her to chew up when we leave her alone.

I've spoiled her rotten by working from home. ROTTEN. I sometimes leave JUST so she can remember that, yeah, sometimes, no one is here.

She will go to the back door and bark when she wants to go out into the back yard. That's HUGE. She's trained us in that regard. She won't pee in the house IF we hear her bark and let her out. We put her on a leash and take her out in the front yard after 9:30 p.m., before we go to bed - for some reason, she won't always pee then in the back yard - so that she can make it through the night. During the day, she can't be inside without a pee break more than seven hours. You probably don't need to know any of that... this part of the blog is more for me, so a year from now, I can compare where she is, pee-wise.

She is joyous to come to Stefan when it's time for a walk, though she can get so overwhelmed at the idea of going on a walk, with him or with me, that she runs into her crate, her refuge - but she doesn't shrink away in her box if you reach in to put the leash on, or just to pet her. She has a much bouncier step on walks if Stefan is walking her instead of me. She is happy to come to him and cuddle with him when they are on a walk together, yet, in the house and the back yard, she's still afraid of him, and will come to him only if it's time to go on a walk and he's in the utility room calling her. Otherwise, she runs from him. It's really hurt his feelings at how afraid of him she is inside the house.

Stefan, Lucinda & HarrySo we have a ritual that we started several weeks ago: after Stefan gets home and we've finished our supper, we go into the living room and sit on the carpet, and cuddle with Lucy. I call it worship-the-dog. Because that's what it looks like. We try to say the word "cuddle" repeatedly, because we're hoping she'll come to us eventually when we use that word. She still doesn't respond to the word when called - but she is loving the Lucy worship - and recently stayed with Stefan to cuddle even though I got up - probably because Harry the dog was with us and she wanted to make sure he didn't get petted as well. She initiates cuddle-time, walking onto the carpet in front of her living room bed and looking at me. I walk over, sit next to her, pull her into my lap, and she leans against me as I pet her ears and shoulders. And after a few minutes, Stefan walks over from his chair, and the worship-of-the-dog begins...

She not only loves the dog park (if there are dogs there), she also loves trying out all of the obstacles loves trying out all of the obstacles - except the tunnel. I really should train with her every day - she is soooo trainable.

Lucinda and Gray Max - caught in the act of friendshipShe and Gray Max the Cat have a love-hate relationship. In the mornings, when I let him in from outside or from the guest room, she nibbles the top of his head, and he loves it, and pushes his head against her teeth. They will even sometimes - though rarely - sleep near each other (usually when supper time is approaching). Max eats on an upper level of his kitty platform, and Lucy doesn't bother him during such, and is fine with him drinking out of her water bowl. They don't play - Lucy tries, so hard, but Max will have none of it. If there's no other dog in the house, Lucy pretty much leaves him alone - maybe a sniff here and there, and he's fine with that. And when she's on leash and we see Max out in the front yard, they sniff each other and then ignore each other as they walk side-by-side to the door. All is well. But if we're dog-sitting Harry, or she sees Max out in the back yard, she LOSES HER MIND and chases after him in an absolute FRENZY. It's scary to see. My first dog, Buster, was the same way - tolerated cats, even liked them, when it was just he and a cat, but if another dog was around, he lost his mind and raced after the cat.

She will play with a laser pointer in the house, or with Harry when he's here inside the house, but that's it; she won't play with a toy in the house, or with me in the house. It's actually really hard to get her to play with me even outside. She'll play with another dog, and she's happy to join in if I start playing with that dog, and she'll even play by herself with a toy outside - it's hilarious to watch her pretend a toy is something fierce - but she seems overwhelmed if I try to play with her outside, throwing a ball or toy for her to fetch.

I say all this because it's taken a lot of work to get her to this stage, a lot of trust-building. I've worked on it every day in some way shape or form. It hasn't been easy, but it's been so worth it. In addition to all that work on our part, so much changed, for the better, after her stay at the dog camp, when we came back from our motorcycle trip to the Yukon: I think that, when we took her to the camp, she thought, okay, another shelter, another new home, that's that. But when we came and got her two weeks later, and she returned to a place, for the first time ever, she realized, oh-my-gosh, I belong to Jayne and Stefan! They are mine and I am theirs! Wahoo! She became MUCH more affectionate. And, okay, more needy - but I love that she is willing to be needy now for petting and comfort - it sure is better than trying to coax her from out from under the couch!

Oh how I love Lucinda the dog. I didn't think I could love a dog as much as I loved my very first dog, Buster. To think I could ever love a dog as much as Boo seemed to mean I didn't really love him as much as I thought I did. But what I found is that I loved each dog I got after I got Buster - Wiley, then Albi - just as much. It was just different.. I've had four dogs since 1990. All were "rejects" - unwanted by their original owners or never owned by anyone. Lucy is my first puppy. It's a LOT of work, but I love it.

Years ago, I decided that I would always have this purpose: to give a loving home to a dog or cat that wouldn't have a home otherwise. If I've done nothing else in my life, I've done this. And I've received so much as a result. Please consider welcoming a dog or cat into your life. Visit area shelters and local pet stores that host dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups. And PLEASE spay or neuter your pets! Also, consider an older dog or cat: they are often already house trained, and settled - I've had an amazing experience adopting older dogs. If you want to donate money, give such to the nearest animal shelter or rescue group to you, and/or to the wonderful Mayhew International, which I got to know in Kabul, Afghanistan - they not only help spay and neuter dogs in several countries, they also host classes for communities in those countries, like Romania, to help change attitudes about stray animals.

And one last thing: Why I hate ASPCA TV commercials: they never suggest that you spay/neuter your pets, never tell you "Adopt a shelter pet today!," never tell you "Don't leave your dog outside at night" or "Never leave your dog outside on a chain ever ever ever" - they just say, "Send us money because look at these poor animals!" PetSmart does a better job of encouraging animal shelter and rescue group adoptions and kind, humane care of your pets!

Also see:

Video: Lucinda the dog's first video

Video: Playtime with Murree & Lucy (3 short clips)

Video: Lucinda the dog with her toy Olaf

Video: Lucinda & Apollo playing (2)

Video: Lucinda and Apollo playing (1)

Video: Lucinda, Apollo & Ziggy play time

Video: Lucy jumps obstacles in dog park in Thatcher Park in Forest Grove, Oregon

Video: Lucy climbs an obstacle at the dog park

Video: Lucinda sees running horses on Bayocean Beach, Oregon

Video: Lucy in the Wilson River

Video: daisy dog and lucinda the dog

Reasons to Adopt a Dog & Myths About Shelter Adoptions (& please do NOT give up on your dog!)

A broad sometimes abroad: February Lucinda the dog update

A broad sometimes abroad: April Lucinda the dog update

Major Lucy triumph

A broad sometimes abroad: Our own not-so-viral dog videos

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