There will be no post on December 27th or January 3rd. Isis and Human are taking a break.
Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday December 20th 2020
Hurray! Hurray! Last night, for the first time in months, Isis sleeps without her Elizabethan collar. It is with some trepidation that I leave her and go upstairs. I can’t quite believe that her tail will survive unnibbled.
There’s no commotion during the night; nevertheless, when I wake her this morning my eyes scan her bedding for blood. No. No sign of any. What a relief.
Over the last week or so, I’ve left her collar off in the day time as long as I’ve been downstairs, but have replaced it if I need to spend some time upstairs. Since Thursday, I’ve been even braver and have left her downstairs for an hour or two without the collar. (Even with the radio on I am able to recognise a loud, angry ‘RAFF-RAFF’ when I hear one.)
But no, not a sound. This is wonderful.
Give the vet her due: she was confident that the treatment would be effective. Never the optimist, I was very sceptical. I couldn’t believe that the dermatits would heal, that there’d be a time when Isis would stop her incessant scratching and nibbling.
It’s now six weeks since we last saw the vet. Tomorrow evening I’m taking her for an anal gland check. (Isis, that is, not the vet.) It’ll be interesting to see whether the change of diet has had any effect on that problem.
This dog is on her way to sprouting a halo. Not only has the self-harming ceased, there has also been a huge improvement in her dining room etiquette.
When she became ill at the beginning of September, I had almost completed a series of posts detailing seven eventful walks. But not quite. There’s still one post missing. I’ll return to it one day.
At this time, too, I commenced yet another attempt at eradicating the hysterical mealtime barking which, for some reason best known to Isis, had crept back into her daily routines again.
O.K. Taking away her food until she was quiet had ceased to be effective. She was just becoming more and more irritable at meal times, and the effects of the ‘training’ were wearing off more and more quickly; additionally, to be honest, I was getting fed up to the back teeth with the whole pantomime.
“It’s not working.” I tell her some time in August. “We’ll have to think again.”
Yes, well, reward, as every educator knows, is much more likely to be effective than any negative action.
But how do we go about it?
Right, I decide once she is feeling a bit better, every time she eats without the vocals, I’ll give her a Markie.
Thus, on the infrequent occasions she manages to eat without ranting, I rush out into the hall the minute she leaves her bowl, shower her with praise and reward her with a Markie.
She likes this, but, unfortunately, when she isn’t the perfect diner and is not, therefore, rewarded, she loses her temper. She flies into a ferocious spin, snarling and attacking her tail.
Hmmm. Perhaps my idea is not as good as I thought.
But we’ll persevere.
Then Hairy One becomes ill. For days it’s all she can do to creep out to her dining area, let alone leap about barking when she gets there. She just eats in silence, then skulks back to bed. Even so, I give her her treat.
As she comes round, the training is resumed. As before, when she’s not rewarded, she goes into a cacophanous strop. Resisting the temptation to throttle her, I gently block her spinning, and, without a word, put her back into the Elizabethan collar.
It’s not long, though, before she changes her tactics and adds a new dimension to the proceedings. As soon as she’s finished eating, she only gives me a few seconds to appear with her Markie before she begins to bark imperiously.
This is the latest addition to her vocals. It’s not an angry bark. It obviously means, “Get on with it.”
I am not amused. “I BEG your pardon,” I announce loudly, “WHAT was that you said to me?”
Her ears twitch up and down. I stand next to her. She lifts her head and waits quietly. She gets her Markie.
It seems that, at last, Isis and I between us have succeeded in sorting out mealtimes.
We’ve both learned, and there’s a bit of give and take. If she barks once because I’ve thoughtlessly turned on a light, or opened the blinds, I overlook the bark and she still gets her Markie.
If, as happens this evening, she loses her rag – whatever the reason – no Markie.
Tonight, when I peer round the kitchen door to investigate the cause of the riot, I find a still spreading pool of water on the floor. Isis is paddling in the pool, sniffing for bits of food. There’s a trail of wet paw prints from the pool to the outside door and another set back again. Her feeder/water stand is askew, and has travelled about a foot from its usual position.
So what’s happened here?
I put on my deerstalker, and attempt to reconstruct the crime scene.
Here’s what I deduce:
Isis finishes her tea, and decides to have a drink. In the dark, she misses the water and crashes into the water bowl. The stand tips, and water cascades all over the floor. Isis is very cross with it. She retreats to the far end of the kitchen to ponder. Then she smells bits of dog meal which were previously under the feeder. Now the feeder has been knocked aside, the bits are within easy reach, and she is retrieving them.
Fair enough. But that was a hell of a kerfuffle. I commiserate but I don’t give her a Markie, and it’s clear that she doesn’t expect one.
I’m very pleased with this latest training effort. At the same time, I’m not entirely sure how we achieved such a positive result. It’s definitely not all me. It feels as though we’ve achieved resolution by taking cues from one another. Once again, I have underestimated Isis.
It’s so pleasant. After her meal now, she doesn’t even demand her reward. She just sits between the kitchen and the back room waiting – unless, of course, Human forgets. Then, we both agree, a gentle reminder is quite in order.
*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