Installment #6 of ISCP member Rowena’s learning processes after adopting Cauta, a Romanian street dog.

Me of little faith, sounding off on the way to class: ‘I just don’t know how a human can ever be more interesting than a dog in Cauta’s eyes. I don’t think it’s possible.’

Cauta and I in the class. During the first exercise the tutor has a job to get him distracted away from me. In the second exercise a German Shepherd is next to Cauta, separated by a fence.  I whistle. He immediately tears toward me so fast he overshoots and I scream whilst waving around a fur covered dummy. If only mum could see me now…

I stand corrected.

We still have a way to go, but in three weeks the difference is startling. At this point I doubt he is ready for ‘real life’ situation as yet, but in the meantime we are carrying this dummy everywhere we go…

The next morning. We start on a magical patch of fenced in green Cauta found a few weeks ago. It’s usually empty and seems to have been parachuted in by the God of all dog things. You want to practise recall in a deserted secure place? You want it within walking distance to your house? Well here you go then.

We do a few rounds and things seem to be working well.

We move on to the street. Having recognised that Cauta is often one big ‘fool around’ signal when he is anxious or unsure, I am trialling this way of focusing him, with added whistle. As he usually neither fights nor flights when in alarm mode ‘fooling around’ is his default position. Like the kid in class that plays the clown when feeling insecure, Cauta turns madcap. Here is our inspiration:

https://www.choosepositivedogtraining.com/single-post/2014/07/01/The-Practice-of-SelfInterruption-The-EngageDisengage-Game

With each interaction C-dog seems more fluid, easier to flow into my steps, rather than a block of granite eyeballing the dog across the road. I am in shock when, on the edge of the park he trots toward me instead of charging toward an off lead large dog. I feel the dried chicken feet may have tipped the scales in my favour. These things look like the withered claws of the devil, but act as a magnet to Cauta.

The combination of carrying round parts of other animals (rabbit’s fur, chicken feet, liver sausage) and my increased aliveness seems to keep Cauta in my circle. I start to believe that yes, perhaps he could want to return to me. And yes, I do still feel slightly ridiculous. Like a wayward novice shaman wandering the streets…

There is a growing glimmer of hope that maybe we could do this. The tutors that stick with you, and help you see what could be possible, and the friends you meet along the way are gold dust. Their words help keep hope alive in the twilight. Sometimes the frustration and despondency that comes with sleep deprivation and general wear and tear can feel like an overwhelming tide. But then there are moments like these and something shifts.

Classes become of a different coloured hue. Cauta becomes more dog than firework. We come into focus. He starts, sometimes, to lean into me when unsure rather than falling to pieces. One day we randomly try him going through a tunnel. Galloping through to me (and the treats) on the other side is surprising and joyful in equal measure. An idea starts to form of a future with agility in it…

When I walk without him I start to feel somehow less, there is an emptiness to the side and front of me. Perhaps both of us are forming an attachment, and both feel the loss when without the other.

This is the temenos, the crucible of our learning. Sometimes I think of all I used to do before he was here, how life has changed immeasurably for us. A pang of loss creeps in, but then I realise what I thought could be lost, still exists in an altered form between us. As we grow together, what is yet unknown, lies in wait.

 

Yes Cauta, you are right here.