Since we returned from the weekend Cauta seems subtly different. He stays closer than usual, leans in more than usual.  He makes it painfully clear how disappointed he is when every dog he meets either ignores him, doesn’t want to play, or actively avoids him.

In the park, after being rebuffed again, he stands a little apart from the group of dogs in play. The human equivalent would be the playground child no-one wants to play with. I attempt to engage him, and he half-heartedly plays with me, switching his eyes toward the other dogs and looking wistful. The awkwardness of meeting a new group of dogs and humans is palpable, and I can understand the sense of being on the outside looking in.

Since we have returned other changes are noticeable too. He frightens more easily. Children and scooters make him flinch; he seems off centre, more fragile. At times he looks unsure, lost and sad. He backs away from the house where he has daycare, looking up with soft, worried eyes.

He regularly offers much, much more eye contact to me and a much, much slower walking pace. He needs reassurance often and if pushed feels the need to growl, a non-negotiable request for space. He seems calmed by touch, food and voice. He stops in the street and needs to lean heavily against me as a group of rowdy kids approach. I detour him so we disappear down another street rather than face his fear right now. I mentally note this recent development.

The questions form, is he ill? In pain? He barks in the night but calms immediately if one of us stays with him, and then drifts into a deep sleep. He seems more responsive than before, we tackle parks that have been previously off-limits because of his ‘work in progress’ recall. With liver paste and an understanding of the ‘wait’ cue he aces the busy park, not mithering other dogs and recalling away when asked.

He remains in this state for the first half of the week.

Then, enter Sonny, a little black terrier who we randomly meet one morning. Sonny and Cauta are gold for each other. They chase, bound, wrestle and jump around together. I feel an absolute pleasure and relief that he has found someone to play with. Cauta glows with happiness and returns home satisfied and sleepy.

A sneaky idea starts dangerously growing in my mind…..does Cauta need a dog friend to live with? Crap. Now I’ve said it. It’s been growing like an untended flower in the corner of my mind for weeks now. There are many reasons why this should be filed in the overflowing box labelled ‘very bad ideas’. And it’s not something to rush into, but despite this, the thought is bubbling….

 

Cauta after some rough and tumble with Sonny….

 

…and back at home, so snozzed he forgot to reel his tongue in…