New regular posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, extra ‘news flashes’!
Wednesday October 7th 2015
Isis has a beautiful waterfall of a tail. At this time last year it was much shorter. She had bitten it and torn at it so frequently that there were only a few of the very long strands left. By the middle of autumn I had trimmed all of the tail to an even length.
Now that there is a ‘last year’ dimension to my time with Isis, almost every day I find myself engaging in ‘now’ and ‘then’ comparisons, looking back to the despair I so frequently felt when she had yet again flown into a ferocious rage spin and viciously bitten her foot or tail. The battle when I attempted to clean the wound or even touch the leg or tail. How, not infrequently, we would both end up bleeding and desperate.
Burned into my memory is the time when the leg was infected and the vet suggested self-adhesive bandage. And how, as I fought to secure it, Isis growled and snarled and then ripped it off in one screaming tear and bit herself again.
On one very bad day last year when we were walking with G. and Conchobhar, I shortened the lead to try to stem her constant twirling. She flew into one of her rage spins and bit her tail badly. As she walked, blood welled up on her tail and was flicked over her back and flanks.
How she twirled constantly in the garden and in the house,’fly snapping’. And my anxiety that the twirls would morph into spins and the spins into biting rages.
And then there were the violent awakenings from sleep and the concomitant snarling, snapping and biting which went on and on and on. The only way to prevent her from injuring herself was to restrain her and restraint, of course, made her even more frantic. Often I had to hold her for ten, twenty, thirty minutes until she had worn herself out.
Almost always it was her back left foot which she attacked, grabbing it in her mouth and biting down hard on it. Ever the optimist, I fantasised that her foot would become so infected that it would have to be amputated, that she was brain damaged and would develop fits, that the rages would become so severe that I’d be advised that she should be put to sleep.
I remember my friend S. asking me, when I’d had Isis for six or eight months, whether I would have adopted her if I had known the psychological problems which she would have. I am ashamed to say that I said, “No. I have thought about that. No. I wouldn’t have.”
How was it I didn’t realise that a little animal who was blind and virtually deaf and who, in all likelihood, had spent her first years tied up and severely sensorially deprived would not act out these experiences? What did I expect?
A year is nothing in such an animal’s life and the adjustment she has made is phenomenal.
She still hasn’t bitten herself for over five months.
She no longer attacks herself when corrected, amazingly, even when pulled away from a tasty snack she has come across in the park. She resists but then waits for her reward for being a good dog – although I guess she would be less compliant if she found a piece of steak!
She still wakes from sleep as though emerging from horrible nightmares. If I am present, she seldom progresses beyond the growling stage as I am able to pat her very gently until she subsides and goes back to sleep.
If she is downstairs alone, she goes through a chilling sequence of loud, prolonged, growling, vicious snarling and high pitched yelping. Nowadays, though, I don’t have to go downstairs to her. As soon as she is fully awake she comes upstairs where her night terrors can be very quickly dissipated.
This acceptance of reassurance is very recent and immensely rewarding.
She must be a very strong little dog to have survived her past and been able to adjust to such a demanding new environment, and to be so full of desire for play and adventure.
I love her very much and am very glad I adopted her.
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk