Darn that Dream

If you read my earlier post about how #adoptdontshop was ruining my life, then you’ll know I was searching for a dog.

On a Saturday morning I got in the car, entered an address into my GPS, and nervously drove out to meet 10-month old “Perth”. A mutt with a strong case of “Cur”.

Just a few days prior, I got a call from a woman with a southern accent to tell me about Perth.  He was currently down in Georgia with her, ready to be transported to the Pacific Northwest to get adopted. Him and his siblings were unsocialized and underweight, dropped off at a kill shelter before they were saved by her. She wanted me to know every detail she could tell me about him before I met him, good and bad. He was nervous at first, but warmed up quickly. He did not like crates, and shouldn’t be crated if I could help it. He was affectionate once he got to know you, and his leash skills needed work, but were improving.

When I arrived to the home of the rescue volunteer, there were a few other dogs there that had been transported up with him. I knelt down and Perth immediately came up to me, and while it was short, let me pet him. By the time I had taken him out by myself, he was letting me give him more and more attention. He seemed to be a chill dog, which I could appreciate, and I decided to take him home for a “trial-to-adopt” period.

He did not want to go in the car. He didn’t even want to be near the car. He slammed his crooked-tailed behind into the ground with stubborness and strength and refused. The rescue volunteer had to eventually pick up his solid, strong, thrashing body and quickly get him in while I waited in the driver’s seat, slamming the door behind him. This was my first worry. I like exploring with my dogs, I like taking them places and socializing them. How was that going to be if he hated the car?

Then we got home, and he again did not want to come in the front door. He eventually followed me in but was definitely not coming near my boyfriend. He would cower and scurry away anytime Erich put his hand out. This was my second worry. How am I going to have a dog that can’t be social, when one of my favorite things of dog ownership is being social with other dog owners? Or just simply being social myself and having visitors?

I decided after he had been there for a few hours to take him for a walk. I wanted to get a sense of his leash manners, which the rescue in Georgia said he needed work on. He was a little wild on the leash, but I did not imagine the biggest challenge with walking him: he was terrified of cars. As we walked along, he would bolt away from the street as a car passed and try to pull himself out of his collar. If he didn’t do that, he’d stop in his tracks and cower. This was my third worry. How am I going to walk him in my somewhat busy neighborhood if he’s afraid of the cars?!

But he did take to me. He spent most of the weekend cuddling with me on the couch. When I left for work in the morning, my boyfriend texted me to tell me that the dog was howling, crying, yelping, and barking for an hour. My last and biggest worry: he has separation anxiety. When I was in the house, he would follow me to each room. Waking up out of dead sleep just to follow me into the kitchen for a few seconds.

If I had been a first-time dog owner, this would have really overwhelmed me. Knowing what I know, I set out to try to control, improve, or stop the behaviors that worried me.

I immediately took him on a walk the next day. When he saw a car I would make sure he was paying attention to me, and give him a treat. I eventually started throwing them on the sidewalk so that he would continue walking as cars passed by. It took a total of one day for him to get over his fear of cars.

As often as I could, I would pick him up, no matter how much he resisted, and get him the car. I’d go to fun places like drive-through coffee stands, where I know he’d get a treat. We drove to my parents so that he could meet their dog and them. We drove to the dog park. I wanted to show him that being in the car didn’t always have to be traumatic, and in fact, he usually would lead to something fun. By the fifth day, he was willingly jumping into the car by himself.

Seeing his quick progress led me to believe he could be a confident and obedient dog with just a little bit of patience. When our two week trial period was up, we decided to adopt him. His name now, is Dexter (you may or may not get the title reference from his name).

Dexter still has a little anxiety when I leave, but knowing that I consistently come back for him has shown him it’s not that scary, and he has brought down the crying to some whimpering for a few minutes after I leave.

He also still has a hard time trusting people. I regularly take him to public places so that he can see a variety of people and learn that they aren’t all scary. He gets showered with treats, so that he knows being around people is fun, because he gets treats! For those willing to practice patience with him (usually other dog people), he learns that other people will also give him treats if he will trust them — temporarily at least.  It takes him less and less time to warm up to a new person, so I am hoping with continued work on this, it will be like he never was terrified of people.

Dexter, my little Georgia peach, has made a lot of good strides since finding a home with us. As it turns out though, him being “chill” is a defense mechanism. As soon as he got comfortable with us, he’s been absolutely crazy. My boyfriend really appreciates that (not really). Oops!

He’s crazy, silly, a little clumsy, but a rockstar in his training classes – and he’s all ours!

Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His "grandpa" is proud.
Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His “grandpa” is proud.

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