A post should appear each Sunday!
Sunday February 27th 2022
The night/ early hours barking is fading. She only barks on two nights, and there are only two outbursts each time.
On Monday S. the engineer comes to replace and re-route the pipes connected to the fire and the hob. It’s a challenging job, and he works in the kitchen for five hours without a break while Isis and I stay in the front room.
When he leaves, we go for a late walk, arriving home not long before dog’s tea time.
I serve Hairy’s tea, switch off the kitchen light, and retire to the backroom where I hover ready to remove her food dish as soon as she begins her regressive meal time cacophony.
Nothing happens for a minute or so, then a cowed white shape passes through the doorway and joins me on the day bed. I check her bowl. Her meal has not been touched, even though it contains a fat sardine.
I guess that she doesn’t feel secure enough to eat in the area where S. has been working all day. To her highly sensitive nose, his scent must be oppressively strong. She, of course, has no way of checking whether or not he is still there. She’s not about to risk being attacked and robbed of her food.
She curls up beside me and goes to sleep. I know that she must be extremely hungry as it’s nine hours since she had her breakfast. Poor little thing. I feel very sorry for her.
In case anyone wonders why I don’t feed her somewhere else, it’s because she becomes extremely anxious and disorientated if her food bowl is relocated; I do, however, take a handful of food from the bowl and offer it to her. As I expect, she turns her head away.
I text the Cornish Oracle, my long time animal expert mate N. He advises me to ignore her and let her eat when she’s ready. This I do – well, I stroke her and talk to her in a sing-song voice, hoping that she’ll pick up soothing vibrations!
At ten o’clock, thirteen hours after she had her last meal, she takes herself into the kitchen and quietly eats her tea.
That night she barks a couple of times, then settles.
By Tuesday she seems to have recovered, and we have another raucous breakfast time.
It has occured to me since we spoke to the veterinary nurse, that Isis is stressed because she picked up my stress following the gas leak, emergency call-out and ensuing days without heating or hot water. And the foot and leg chewing, biting swatches of hair off her side and tail, and the hysteria around food are simply her default responses to stress.
I determine to be very relaxed around her at all times, not to communicate any negative feelings whatever she does, but simply to go through the usual routine: invite her into the kitchen to eat, make sure she sits and waits, give her the ‘eat it’ signal, then move smoothly away. If, or, currently, when she lets out a furious bark, I walk calmly into the kitchen and gently confiscate her food stand. She loses it completely, spinning around in frenzied circles, growling, snarling, snapping, barking and scissoring off swatches of her hair. Sometimes, after this hysterical display, she sits in the doorway and barks for several minutes. When she stops, I return her food stand, and we try again.
Often, we go through this process three times before she finishes her meal. Several times she comes into the kitchen growling and barking before I’ve even put her food in place. When she does this, I stop my preparations, leave the kitchen, and do something else. It is only in the last few days ago that I remember this ploy and how well it worked years ago.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting there.
Now, apart from our mealtime challenges, Isis is her sweet self again. Even straight after a feeding kerfuffle, she bears no grudges, but trots happily into the porch to have her harness and lead put on for her walk.
The fact that she never displays aggression at other times, makes me think again what horrible experiences she must have had before she escaped from her home and was rescued by Aeza.
Chained up and unable to see or hear animals or people approaching her, she’d have struggled – and mostly failed – to defend her food from other animals, including birds. She would have been very, very hungry.
So I guess she deserves some tolerance.