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In a reflective mode this week. Thinking about the changes that have gone by in Cauta so far.

From the first sighting where I peeked out from a doorway, as his emaciated form approached everyone for food, skittering forward and back.

To now, when he generally ignores most people, actively avoids children, and seems wary of most humans, only just tolerating being touched. It seems clear that he was actually terrified of people, and forced himself to approach humans to survive, for the slim chance someone would throw a scrap down for a starving dog.

He deeply loves those who he knows, and are his family, racing up to lean against us, and sinking down into wiggly tummy rubs. But strangers, particularly men, he veers away from, or barks defensively at, only plucking up the courage to approach if they have a dog.

I grimly realise how I spoke/wrote too soon about some of the positive changes we saw recently in him. I thought we had found a place to be, time at the park with groups of other dogs. Unfortunately the honeymoon wasn’t to last. Turns out he couldn’t really cope with certain groups of other dogs at all, and playing can easily spill over into growling and barking.

The dynamic seems to be that if there are too many other boisterous dogs, Cauta targets the one that initially seems open to play with him, but when the other dog says enough, he does not and will keep pushing.

In other words, he resorts to bullying.

It’s not a nice feeling, being responsible for the dog that isn’t welcome, and for good reason. We don’t see this behaviour much anymore with individual dogs, he easily comes away and seems to be able to read the other dogs signals.

But in some big groups the requests get bulldozed and physical intervention, i.e. me wading in to pull him out is required. Shamefaced I head home with him in tow, the bubble of thinking we had a safe place to be well and truly burst. As we walk homeward he suddenly explodes into barking at a muzzled, on lead dog, approaching from the opposite direction. My attempt to cross the road to avoid this fails miserably, as we are flanked by cars. We button up and trudge on.

For now it’s back on leash, other locations, back to the search. Perhaps one day we can re-join this group, but for now he has made it clear he can’t cope. It feels like catch 22, he is desperate to play, but when he does, can take it too far. Even with being called out and having rest periods, it seems the adrenaline involved scorches out all his previous learning.

So for now it’s only groups he has a history of being calm with, and longer walks to green spaces further afield. Star Ship Voyager here we come…