Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday March 5th 2017
Unsurprisingly, in view of her early experiences, Isis has always found grooming an ordeal.
Lately, things have looked up. At least she no longer attempts to bite me, and I no longer have to reward her with a treat every time she manages a few minutes without snapping, snarling or growling.
However, she is still resistant and more than a little grumpy.
As soon as she becomes aware of the presence of brushes and combs, potential instruments of torture, she tries to hurry past me and into her safe place – her dog bed inside a huge cardboard box. Once or twice I’ve stupidly made a grab for her, trying to block her escape. As one might expect, she’s become very agitated and the grooming box has been returned to its shelf in the kitchen.
And tackling the bits of her which are most in need of attention, particularly in the vicinity of her back legs, chin and whiskers, has remained a serious challenge.
Although it’s nice not to be bitten, it’s very irritating and not a little alarming when your dear little fluff ball snarls and clamps her teeth onto the brush or comb.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve learned that the best approach is to replace the brush in the box and walk away. A few times, admittedly, I’ve hurled it into its box and stomped off muttering very rude words. Fortunately, she can’t hear me. She probably senses my displeasure, though.
Has Isis won the battle? Well, the grooming stops. But when I replace her collar, signalling that the session is over, and she climbs into her bed expectantly, she doesn’t get a treat.
I’m sure she’s registered this, and, indeed, other cause and effect lessons.
So have I.
Over time, I have learned what she finds worrying, and have at last worked out a routine with which she can cope. As a consequence, she is much more tolerant of grooming nowadays.
Even so, it is only this week, thirty months after she came to live with me, that, finally, without a growl, snarl or brush grab, she allows me to remove the mud from between her back legs, and from under her chin and whiskers.
This breakthrough occurs today.
After a very long prance in the park and a dip in the stream, her face, her back legs, and the fronds around her bottom are soaking wet and dirty.
I consider putting her in the sink, but she hates this, so I decide to dry her and see what happens.
Being dried used to terrify her, and, even now, she doesn’t enjoy it and keeps trying to walk away. This, I’m sure is my fault: in the early days, it didn’t occur to me that putting a towel, however gently, on a dog who couldn’t hear or see would terrify her.
I have learned.
Today, she is magnificent.
As usual, I let her sniff the towel before gently placing it on her back; then I put my arms around her and wait for her tail to wag before wrapping her in the towel. Next, she accepts a towel-enclosed hug.
After this, for the first time ever, she stands still and allows me to dry her all over.
In the evening, I bring in the grooming box and sit on the floor. As she attempts to slide past me into her den, I place my hand gently on her back to restrain her and begin grooming.
Her back was the first part which she ever allowed me to touch, so we always begin there and work our way to the more sensitive areas. As we move from area to area, I start with the soft brush, then if she’s O.K. continue with a stiffer brush. When necessary, we finish off with the comb.
The last areas we tackle are her face and under her chin. I place my hand beneath her whiskers and carefully brush them against my hand. In this way, I prevent the bristles from catching her mouth. I do the same when brushing her chin.
There are still a few groups of whiskers bound together with damp mud. Finally, the mud is eased along to the end of her whiskers and drops out onto the rug.
As soon as her collar is replaced, she pops into her box and lies down. She knows that she has earned her treat and waits patiently while I fetch a tasty Orlando dog sausage.
You deserve it, little dog.
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 email@example.com or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk