Two Weeks as Dog People

23 Sep

It’s been two weeks and two days since Mosley came to live with us. I am now almost accustomed to the recurring odor of dog fart.

He’s a pretty great dog! He caught a frisbee in his mouth, plays fetch very nicely, and wears himself out chasing squirrels. (Though I do feel bad for the squirrels, who used to have free reign in the yard.) He’s not afraid of storms, even when they bring golf-ball size hail. He has now gone to sleep three nights in a row without protest barking. And he hasn’t growled at Andrew in at least a week. He and the cats are slowly making their way toward each other–we’ve had lots of sniffing, a little bit of hissing, and some tail-wagging. (And one mishap where we let the dog and one of the cats outside at the same time, which resulted in–you guessed it–the dog chasing the cat and the most intense puffing and hissing I’ve maybe ever seen in a lifetime as cat people. But the dog wasn’t hunting the cat. The dog was playing. The cat was…not playing.)

On the other hand, he’s been expelled from two different doggie daycares already. He’s fine with other dogs. He doesn’t actually like people. So that’s been tremendously stressful. The first time we took him, I watched the phone all day. We thought he was going to be fine. Turned out the PetsHotel people couldn’t deal with him so they left him inside a cage all day, alone, without walking him or taking him out to pee, he had messed on himself when we got there, and they didn’t bother to call us until 6:15. There’s not actually anything we could have done about it if they’d called earlier, but what if we could have? So we were not pleased.

I know that I can’t get an accurate picture of his behavior because I’m his security blanket–the minute I walk into the room, he calms down–but he can’t be that hard to deal with. He’s a 40lb dog who’s ridiculously food-motivated. Get a treat, get down on his level, and chill the eff out.

We tried another daycare on Tuesday. We took him first on Monday for an evaluation to make sure it would be all right, and he did fine–they took him to the back with the other dogs, and he was a bit shy, but all right. So I wasn’t thrilled when they called less than 20 minutes after we dropped him off on Tuesday morning to say–you guessed it–that they couldn’t work with him and he was miserable. They were kinder, though–when we got there to pick him up, he was outside in the play area by himself, and the lovely woman had been trying to play with him, even though he wouldn’t have it.

We’ve found a good short-term solution to the problem. The woman who fostered him is keeping him for us on the days we have to work away from home. When we dropped him off on Thursday, he was so excited to see her that he peed.

But here is the problem: Mosley needs to be in the same room with me. He usually won’t leave the back deck if I’m not outside, and he won’t walk on the leash with Andrew yet. He’s become very loving toward Andrew, and hasn’t growled in well over a week. But I have to be there for him to do, well, anything, and I didn’t exactly plan to take care of a young dog alone. I had imagined that I might walk him in the morning, and Andrew could take him out before bed and tuck him in, but that’s not happening. Last night is the first night of uninterrupted sleep I’ve had since we brought him home. But that’s progress, right? It’s only going to get better from here. Right?

For the long term, we’re going to have to find a person. Ideally, this person will be female (dog’s preference), and will come here to visit him in the afternoon while we’re at work twice a week, and sometimes house- and dog-sit for us when we’re away. And we’ll have to pay whomever we hire to come spend time with him while I’m here before we can leave him to her care, since it would be a disaster to have him freak out when she comes in on a given afternoon. I’ve been looking into a few resources, but really, it’s like a much less intense version of finding childcare. Which is to say, tiring and stressful. It’s no doubt true that one minor factor in our not having children is our lack of support network. I hadn’t quite realized that I also needed one to have a dog.

Still, all told, he seems very happy here with us, even though he’s got a little patch of poison ivy on his tummy and maybe
sort of still happy-tinkles on the floor now and then. He jumps on me badly enough that once or twice he’s almost knocked me over, but lovingly so. That’s all going to subside, at least a bit, in time and with a little training. (He can catch a frisbee, for shit’s sake. Certainly he can learn to stop knocking me over.) I’m sure the last week has seemed harder than it really was because I’m not getting enough rest, so I’m not quite lucid. I’ve only had less productive weeks when I’ve been sick, and I’m completely disorganized. It’s a lifestyle change, in the way that an effective diet is a lifestyle change: Now I am a person who gets up at 7 a.m. and takes a fairly long walk. Okay. That works. I just have to get the rest of the day to work, too.


2 Responses to “Two Weeks as Dog People”

  1. Carolyn Burns Bass September 24, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    As a dog person and a cat person (who doesn’t presently have any cats), I’ve been following your saga with interest. Mosely sounds as if he’s been abused in the past and has fear and trust issues. Your continued patience, diligent training, and ongoing kindness will help him overcome his mistrust and codependency. It’s a long, but heartwarming journey for the whole family.

    • Victoria Barrett September 24, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Yeah, we think that’s likely. He’s also probably got abandonment problems. As far as we know, he was in the pound, pulled out by the rescue organization, fostered in one home, adopted out, returned, and fostered in the home from which we adopted him. So even without abuse, that’s a lot.

      He gets notably better every day, and he clearly wants to make us happy, so we’re sure we’ll get there.

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