I named her Elsa for two reasons. The primary one being that there is a lovely true story called Elsa the Lioness. It’s about a pair of handlers training a lion that was raised in captivity to learn to live in the wild again, and they in fact successfully released her. I thought at the time Elsa’s would be a dog version of that, except backwards. She came from living in the woods. I forgot the part where Elsa the Lioness met her untimely demise but details, details.
Second, I find little old lady names hilarious for dogs. I once knew of a Pit Bull named Louise and that just grabs me right.
Our first few weeks together were quiet. She wasn’t sure of me and I wasn’t sure of her. The SPCA could obviously offer no real background on her because she was in essence just an incubator for the litter of puppies she had. Puppies adopt for $375 and generally go inside of a day or two. Moms are whatever. What she wasn’t was feral. Feral dogs don’t go gently into a crate, then quietly for a car ride, then come directly out of their crate and stretch to smell the people around them. She was, however, quite scared but content enough to lay down on her blankets and stare at me. So that’s what we did. I sat on the other side of the room on my computer and she studied my every move from her safe zone.
This is the most rudimentary and important step for fearful dogs. Whatever they do is their choice and you just stay out of their way. You don’t interact with them, you don’t talk to them, you don’t even put even the seemingly smallest amount of pressure on them by looking at them. It seems counter productive to a person. We want to be proactive, but here proactive kind of equals out to inactive. Forcing yourself on a scared dog can have catastrophic results, but at the very least it’s counter productive to scare the shit out of a dog to teach them.. not to be scared any more.
Essentially for the first few weeks all I was to Elsa was the thing that came in, stayed some time, and left behind food. She had potty pads set out though I didn’t really pretend they would do much of any thing for her. I couldn’t exactly show her how to use them, but ah hell the apartment has concrete floors in most of it and I was keeping her in a smaller area of it while she settled in. She had bed, food, water, and an unwanted house guest every so often. I don’t remember a specific time frame, but it really wasn’t very long before she was laying right next to me. She’d take her time after I came down but eventually would make her way over and lay touching my feet, not taking an eye off me but eating up the treats I threw her way. And then another short amount of time later she was laying touching my feet and going to sleep. Then finally this:
She was starting to accept the food machine. I want to stress that it’s important just to be the food machine in the beginning. The idea behind letting the dog make their own choices is for them to be able to relax and be able to make their own choices. I needed Elsa to know that every moment is a holiday and every decision she made resulted in a reward. Even smelling my feet meant she got a treat. Food is, after all, a universal language- dog and human alike- and a fearful dog eating in your company is a good conversation.
I’d write more in this entry, but I Just watched Shambles pick up an empty bowl, carry it across the entire living room before pausing behind Jack and ultimately sending it clattering to the floor right behind him. Things are gonna get dicey.