Climbing out of last week’s vat of worry, I am tentatively relieved to report Cauta seems to have settled back into his skin again. He is much less jumpy, less likely to flinch, less anxious and has had no on lead incidents for nearly two weeks. So what happened?
As how it always seems to be with these things, there doesn’t seem one major switch, but an intertwining of internal and external shifts that have led to this.
The first was the unexpected messages of support and good thoughts that came back in response to last week’s post. It was hugely reassuring and supportive to hear from others, and helped boost us to keep going when we couldn’t find the light switch. Thank you to all who got in contact. So the human community made a big difference!
Another contributor was a new environment for Cauta to stay in when we are at work. His trial run bounding around in the Mendips with a group of likeminded dogs ended with him in one of the calmest states I have ever seen him in. Perhaps it really was asking too much for him to stay in a more traditional home environment, the transition from street stray to busy house perhaps put a strain on him that couldn’t be borne.
Another change has been within the dog community. We have somehow fallen into pools of other dogs. Previously we would turn up at deserted parks, or wait for long stretches of time, Cauta desperately scanning the horizon for another dog to play with. And then when one would arrive Cauta’s bombastic play style didn’t go down well. He would return dejected and despondent.
Then, somehow, we shifted into what can feel a very strange reality. We go to the same parks, at similar times, but randomly we start meeting dogs of his kind, dogs that want to race and wrestle and are just as eager to play as him. As I talk to their carers we discover a network of dogs like him; the young, hungry for play type. I start targeting parks at the times I have heard others will be there. Accompanied by a slightly ridiculous feeling that the dog has a more detailed social life than I do. But in the last week his ‘playometer’ has been at full charge. There’s Flash the year old husky labrador cross, Zeke the malamute puppy, Reggie the young black lab, Lexie the spaniel puppy and, of course, Sonny, the tiny puppy terrier, who was the first to change Cauta (and my) world.
While playing he looks the happiest I have seen him and it is worth it just for that. But it also requires a heightened sense of vigilance from me, monitoring the play. Are both partners equally enjoying this, is he pushing or being pushed too hard, is it time to call him out…? By and large the encounters are full of good natured rough and tumble but I am very conscious that this could easily tip over. Luckily, calling him out from play is greatly helped by handfuls of chicken, and at times he can regulate himself, flopping down on the grass near me and receiving copious amounts of praise and treats for taking some time out.
On return home he sleeps more deeply and soundly than ever before. I wonder about his need for play and company being so powerful, something I couldn’t have known from meeting him as a lone stray, or growling at any dog that came in close range to him at the shelter.
It’s a change for both of us, from living a previous somewhat nomadic existence, this is the first time I feel some kind of a sense of community, the geography of our area and who lives there. (Although knowing their dog’s names rather than the human names might be a bit of a stumbling block.)
And for Cauta, from a stray with no-one to claim him, to me on the end of the leash, not able to lose me no matter how hard he tries. 🙂
Best foot forward now, Cauta