Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday January 15th 2017
Isis enjoys increasingly longer periods of freedom in both Kings Heath and Highbury Park. I recall that twice, a few weeks ago, she came to find me when she appeared to have lost her bearings.
This week she doesn’t lose her bearings.
On two consecutive days Bev. is the first to notice that Isis is carefully sniffing and looping her way towards me from the opposite side of the old bowling green. “She’s ‘looking’ for you,” Bev. alerts me.
Hairy One approaches and I lean forward to place a hand on her back. She wags her tail and then makes her way back to a dancing space.
Several days this week, in Highbury, I set her free in an area with which she is familiar, and she selects her own play space. I notice that she is widening her parameters. She doesn’t trot off in one direction, as she did once or twice when we first experimented with off lead time, but the circumferences of her play areas are expanding. On one occasion she elects to play for about fifteen minutes behind a large holly bush.
Fortunately, being mostly white, she is easily monitored. At one point, she ventures a little further than I feel is safe. I am just about to fetch her when she seems to feel she’s overstepping the mark, and retraces her footsteps.
Both dogs and their owners stop to stare at the flying apparition. Quite a few dogs keep their distance; others take a chance and approach to within a metre or so. Some come up and sniff her.
Sometimes it is necessary to rescue her from very young puppies. On Thursday little Pixie rushes up and leaps on her. But Isis deals with her very effectively. “Woof! Woof!, she orders, and off Pixie runs.
As we know, dogs are clever beings, and it is very rare for an adult dog to harass her. Soon after she has seen off Pixie, Archie arrives. He is a huge, full on, adolescent standard poodle and he races up to her with his usual enthusiasm. But he virtually skids to a halt in front of her, and gently sniffs her nose before leaping off to play with another friend.
We are all very impressed, not least Archie’s lovely owners.
At home, we begin our efforts to get Isis to make her way down the stairs supported, but not carried.
This is prompted by one of my more dramatic trips.
It’s Wednesday and Isis and I are on the steep bank by the hedge which divides the old bowling green from the level above. Having four sturdy little legs, Isis is fine. For bipeds, however, steep banks wet with melted snow are not the best places to frolic. I’ve just put Isis back on her lead and am about to walk her down the slope when, swoosh, THUMP! I stride into a patch of exceptionally sticky mud and land a metre further on in a tangled heap. There are so many hot flashes of pain shooting up and down my body that I need to lie dead still for about a minute in order to ascertain which bits still work. Fortunately, there is no one else around yet to witness my downfall, and I soon ascertain that everything is still working.
I have been amazingly lucky. But what if I’d broken something and could no longer carry Isis downstairs?
On Saturday, I wrap Hairy One in a padded harness, and, grasping it firmly, manoeuvre her onto the stairs. She’s petrified, poor little thing. But we persevere. She is still very frightened when we reach the bottom step. Although she recovers as soon as she reaches terra firma, this approach, clearly, will not do.
We must, as Polymath has suggested, tackle the training in very small chunks. Today I carry Isis downstairs as usual until we reach the penultimate step. Then I set her down gently. She freezes in horror. I carefully ease her down onto the hall floor.
We’ll do only one step each morning until she relaxes, I decide.
This is definitely going to be a very long haul.
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
Oh my, so glad you weren’t seriously hurt!! I once fostered a blind hound puppy who would happily trot up my stairs, but would NOT go back down. I carried him for months, but he finally got so heavy it was dangerous for us both. I was about to have to seriously search for a solution when he was adopted. Oddly enough, from day 1 in his new home he had no problem going up AND back down the stairs!! My elderly setter Boo, now blind, goes down the stairs willingly though somewhat gingerly, but once in a while she stumbles and falls down a few. The Vet told me I really should restrict her to the first floor, but I hate to do it 😦 I do think it’s important for you both that Isis learns to navigate them on her own; good luck!
Thank you Amber. I wasn’t seriously hurt, although I did think, “You’ve done it this time!” And as there was no-one around, I was able to take my time and check that my limbs were still attached before I got up. Although I was rather sore that day, the only other ill-effect was a reawakening of my sciatica – but I was very lucky, and I’m fine now. AND I descend the bank more cautiously.
I am glad to know that your little Bo is still with you. Is she still biting herself?
And I value your advice about persisting with the stairs. I think that the fact that they are very steep and shallow makes it particularly difficult for Isis as the poor little creature is virtually vertical when she tries to step down. She will allow me to lead her down other steps.
Yes, I’m sure you are right about the stairs – mine were rather narrow and enclosed by walls. I think the blind pup actually had a bit of peripheral vision in one eye, so when he got to his new home where the stairs were wider and unenclosed and there was plenty of light, he was fine! Boo is doing pretty well, actually. Not biting anything at all right now, and hasn’t for months. Now that I think about it, she’s been fine since I moved here where we just have a concrete courtyard and dirt beds, NO grass. So I wonder if she was allergic to the grass or some type of weed…
Think so. Stopped harrying her to walk down the last two steps every morning as she just freezes with fright and normally she’s a brave little creature. Back to the drawing board. Delighted to know that Boo isn’t biting herself any more. It’s so distressing to see them hurt themselves. So when you next move you’ve got to prioritise no grass!