A post should appear each Sunday!
Sunday January 30th 2022
Over the last two years, Isis has changed quite a lot.
Her dislike of sun and bright light both outside and indoors remains, but she has become much more tolerant; for example, when she smells the coffee I’m making, she knows that I’ll drink it in the front room, and goes in there to wait for me. Whereas she used to chunter, bark and spin as soon as she arrived, now she lies quietly on the rug until I sit down in my armchair. Only then does she spin on the rug until I close the blinds. Very sensible, I think, for what’s the point of staging a tantrum if there’s no-one there to respond?
Outdoors, she is still very reluctant to walk when the light is fluctuating or her path takes her through alternating patterns of bright light and shade. Her body language exudes fear, but, as Kerry told me many years ago, Isis is a brave little dog. The more our bond strengthens, the more she seems to trust me to look after her, so we are able to develop coping strategies. Now, when the light menaces her, I put her on the lead, and she immediately becomes more confident.
At last, after years of mealtime hysteria, she no longer finds it necessary to defend her food from imagined predators. It is the norm now for mealtimes to be quiet and relaxed, the only sound to be heard being contented crunching.
She is still very nervous of other dogs, except for Blitzi, Wesley and Scamp, and, of course, Rufus and Nancy, whom she has known since she was first taken into the park, more than seven years ago.
To my surprise, she remains fearful of people, even those whom she often meets in the park. However much I try to reassure her, however carefully they approach her, she does her best to avoid them. Apart from Bev, Ji., Adopted Niece and the people who care for her at Hollytrees Kennels, she has made no new human friends. She’ll not accept treats from anyone else, nor will she tolerate any adult stroking her: on rare occasions, though, she has allowed very small children to pat her.
From time to time, new behaviours appear.
Quite recently, she refines her homecoming routine. She deduces that it is not safe for a dog to walk straight into the house when she returns home from her walk. In fact, it is not even safe to set a paw in the hall. Not when one is still wearing one’s harness and lead.
Human will grab the lead, force an innocent dog down the hall, into the kitchen, and then, horror of horrors, whisk her up into one of the sinks and give her a BATH.
In order to preempt this unspeakable cruelty, Isis devises the following strategy: she waves her tail – note waves, not wags – when she steps into the porch. Then she stops and waits to find out what Human will do. If Human opens the inner door and steps forward while little dog is still encased in her harness, with lead attached, a horrible feeling of apprehension descends on the small animal. Her tail disappears between her legs, her ears droop, and she licks her lips anxiously. Time to flatten herself on the mat.
On the other hand, when she feels fingers carefully removing her harness, she unglues her tail, wags it joyfully, pricks up her ears and almost smiles. A year or so ago, she would have bounced down the hall as soon as the the house door was opened. But more recently, she perceives that this can lead to another unwanted outcome: Human might close the door behind a naive animal, re-open the porch door and leave the house.
Clearly, this possibility gives Hairy One food for thought. Now she never rushes forward as soon as she is harness free. Now she either waits in the porch until Human begins to walk into the house, then follows close behind her, or moves forward just enough to enable her to place her front legs in the hall while keeping her hind legs in the porch.
Sometimes, this can become complicated; if I leave something behind – a key, phone or letter, for example, and attempt to step back into the porch to retrieve it, we can find ourselves trapped in a complex dosey-doe, as I attempt to squeeze past her to reach the item, and she swivels on the spot and presses herself against the glass of the outside door. Fine, I can leave the house if I want, but she is coming with me.
It’s not a very large porch, and manoeuvering two bodies and six feet around it is extremely difficult without someone’s foot, usually mine, being trodden on.
To be fair, when I have to leave her behind, she doesn’t make a fuss. She plods sadly down to the back room door and vanishes. I know because I check through the letter box and feel sad. It’s her resignation which upsets me. She’s not a giving up sort of dog.
When I return she’s always asleep, unless I fiddle about upstairs or in the kitchen long enough for my scent to reach her. When she doesn’t stir, I sit down gently beside her and place my hand next to her nose. Then, depending on how she is lying, she either stretches out all her legs in a leisurely fashion, or sits up straight and allows me to cuddle her for a (short) while.
But I am only allowed to go so far. And only, as we will see next week, when she feels like it.
To be continued ………………………….
Isis came from Aeza cat and dog rescue in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.dogwatch.co.uk.