The past day has been happy, and I just want to share. Yesterday afternoon, we met Soca and Anne-Claire for a walk in the woods. Spencer and I were there early enough that he was already on his long lead by the time Soca showed up, so they could play together from the get-go without Spencer being frustrated by being on a leash. They played really hard, running all over like maniacs, jumping in muddy ponds and playing chase behind trees. Spencer let Anne-Claire feed him cheese twice during the walk. And he was really good with other people and dogs going by. The only sour note of the whole afternoon (which was sunny and unseasonably warm) was while we were waiting and some horses went by, setting Spencer into a frenzy, even though they were at what used to be a safe distance. Soca wore Spencer out so much that he’s been sleeping most of the day. I figured the fact he was so calm would be useful because he had a vet’s appointment for his annual check-up and a vaccine. I left early enough to take him around the park first. There were a zillion people since it was a late Friday afternoon with the gorgeous weather I mentioned earlier. It was particularly crowded because they’re doing some major construction (uncanalizing the underground river) and most of the park is actually closed. Spencer navigated it all really well and then we reached a small open lawn in the middle. We had to cross the lawn, which was a challenge since there were people pretty much everywhere, and in the middle was a very small dog that caught Spencer’s attention. He stopped, which had me slightly worried since there was a family coming up behind us with some kids on kick-scooters. But then he did something that completely surprised me. He sat down to watch the small dog and then very deliberately laid down. These are calming signals that dogs use to communicate non-threatening intentions. The little dog came over, there was some sniffing, and then they started to play chase, which was a challenge since Spencer was on a short leash and there were still loads of people around. The small dog kept being a little coy, but Spencer kept sitting and laying down. I was so proud of him because he usually can’t control his excitement well enough to perform calming signals. Finally, the little dog left, and I was able to convince Spencer to head toward the vet’s office. Once there, he was great. He got right up on the scale on command and sat there immobile while I weighed him. While he was nervous in the waiting room, he did a good job containing it, even though lots of people came in. When the vet finally came to get us, he walked right past a complete stranger. And then he was quite calm around the vet, letting her examine him, and he didn’t even flinch when she gave him his shot. Getting out of there was a challenge because the door is right next to the reception desk, and loads of people were coming in. But Spencer was great. I asked him to step behind the door, sit and let people go by. The only tiny, wee slip-up was when we left. He burst out the door, totally frustrated by how long it took us to finish at the reception, and there was a woman practically right in front of him. He barked at her, but it was really just frustration because as soon as I steered him around her, he totally forgot her, and then he paid no attention to the other two women right behind her.
Spencer is sad. Now that he has become adventurous, his ideal schedule would probably be an hour of walking followed by an hour-long nap, followed by an hour of walking, and so on throughout the day, with the only interruptions being food.
But that’s not happening at the moment. He has a wound — probably an infected tick bite. It’s not terribly serious, but it’s located on his shoulder in a place where all his harnesses rub and rip off the scab. (Too much information, I know.) Continue reading
One of the puzzles of a lot of traditional approaches to dog training is their implied assumption that dogs are mechanistic. They have little to no recognition of individual personalities and seem to think that dogs are going to respond the same way every day. But think about it, is your behavior that consistent? Don’t you ever get grumpy when you’re tired or sick?
I’ve wondered if Spencer has been fighting a cold recently. His eyes have been really runny and he’s been sleeping even more than usual during winter. Still he seemed excited at the prospect of a walk at midday, and since the weather and my schedule won’t allow a lot of major walks this week, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of today’s nice, mild weather.
The first sign that something was up was when he hesitated to climb into the car. But he didn’t hesitate that long, so I didn’t think much about it. Then he whined when we got near the park. I thought this was strange, but didn’t know what to make of it.
Looking back, I think he was saying he didn’t want to go on a big walk. He was awful. He was more reactive than I’ve seen him in months, and his safety zone, which had shrunk considerably was suddenly huge. And he was pulling terribly on the leash.
We made it all the way to the canal, so he could have a drink. Then I turned him around and headed back to the car because I was not having any fun, and I don’t think he was either. He was calmer on the return, partly because we saw fewer people.
Despite an abbreviated walk, he has curled up and gone back to sleep. While he always snores, it does sound like his nose might be a bit stuffed. So I guess I’ll just let the sleeping dog lie.
So yesterday at lunchtime, I was really surprised that Spencer didn’t come out of his bed when I started cooking. Then he didn’t react well when I gave him a bit of yogurt on my fingers. This was surprising. This dog does not usually say no to food.
I called him to give him his essential oil drops, whcih are usually delivered on two little treats. He ate them obediently, but certainly didn’t savor them.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered his breakfast regurgitated in the sunroom. Super. Trying to get as close to outside as he could despite the closed doors, Spencer threw up in the track of the sliding glass doors. Double super.
I encouraged him to drink to rinse out his mouth, and he did so very obediently. And then threw up in the living room shortly thereafter. Only a quick reaction on my part saved the sheet music books.
So I let him sleep most of the afternoon, working nearby so he felt less alone.
By the time Greg got home in the evening, Spencer had eaten a little kibble and seemed his usual energetic self. By bedtime, he had had enough kibble to rebuild his energy.
This morning when I took him down to the park, he was a little edgy (he tried very fiercely to chase away a woman who was clear on the other side fo the street and whom WE overtook), but then he played nicely with other dogs at the park and threw himself at the feet of Neron’s mistress to have his belly rubbed. So I thought the edginess might be due to the fact that he hadn’t really had any of his essential oils (Bach’s Flowers) in 24 hours.
I noticed that he didn’t have the same endurance as usual, but I just chalked that up to not having eaten very much the previous day. However, he refused his breakfast.
I called over Marylène (neighbor with 5 dogs) to help me take his temperature. He was fairly interactive, and she said that while he clearly wasn’t himself, it didn’t seem to be anything too serious. He seemed puzzled that she had come alone, so when she left, I went with her and picked up Epona, her bulldog who is Spencer’s friend. And, although he threw up again after her arrival (thankully outside this time), he seems quite pleased she’s here.
But that, as the Hammy Hamster narrator says, is another story…
I don’t have time for another blog. But I have a psychological need for one. On 21 April, we adopted an (estimated) 18-month-old Cane Corso from the shelter. We knew that he needed surgery for his Harder’s glands. We knew that he was big. But we had no idea how much our lives would be turned upside down by the arrival of Spencer.
In the past three months, Spencer has had 4 surgeries, a punctured eye and an infection in one of his eyelids. He’s gained back 7 kg. He’s learned how to play. He’s also tried to chase friends off our property and annex the alley to our house as part of our territory. (Update February 2015: based on our increased knowledge of what research is teaching us about dogs, we now believe that his behavior in the alley is not because of territoriality but because he feels threatened by strangers in such a confined space.)
We don’t know his full history, but in the month before his adoption, he spent one week at the dog pound, and three weeks at the shelter. His former owners had dumped him — half blind because of the severity of his Harder’s gland problem — in the street to fend for himself. We have no idea how long he was there before being picked up.
Nor do we know what inspired us to adopt a dog out of the blue after 12 years of conjugal bliss.
We thought we did our due diligence before Spencer’s arrival. We researched the breed, the surgery, the cost of doggie health insurance, etc. I had dogs as a kid. But we were totally unprepared for the upheaval that Spencer would create in our lives. Our naiveté was probably a good thing for him, because we probably wouldn’t have adopted him otherwise.
This blog will be a log of our journey together, with some history to fill in the gaps since we brought him home. I am writing it to help us look back and realize the progress we make since it’s so easy to getted bogged down in everything there still is to do. I am writing it because I think my Facebook friends are getting tired of me going on and on about the dog, but I need an outlet. This is a difficult psychological journey. I am writing it because there might be other people like me going through this who want to know they are not alone. I am writing it because, despite everything, we can’t imagine our lives without Spencer.
This is what our puppy looked like the day we brought him home.
And here he is three months later.